Practical Reflections on the Psalms - Book 1b

J. N. Darby.

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In commenting on Psalm 22 our part here is not to unfold the blessed doctrine contained in it, in the introduction of grace on a wholly new footing (namely, redemption, and the death of Christ), which rose above and closed all mere human responsibilities in grace. We have rather to pursue the feelings and thoughts of Christ. For the piety of this part of the Psalms is the piety of Christ Himself. Nor is anything more instructive or sanctifying. Nothing deepens our own piety so much. This then shall be our subject now. The Lord enable us to tread reverently here!

We find what called out the special cry of the Saviour - a cry which, till that bitter cup had been fully drunk, could not be heard. There is progress and completeness in the utterance of these sorrows. Violence, unrestrained and full of rage, surrounded Him - bulls of Bashan, ravening and roaring lions. It was no haughty strength of man which met this. He must meet and feel it in the meekness of His nature, and know the weakness of human nature, though never the sin, save bearing it. He was poured out like water. All His bones are out of joint: His heart melted like wax in the midst of His bowels. His strength is dried up like a potsherd: His tongue cleaves to His jaws. But here there is no stopping, nor could He do so, at second causes. He is down in the dust of death; but Jehovah has brought Him there. The point here is His state, the dust of death: only He looks at the real source of all, at the thoughts and counsels of Jehovah. This is perfection in this respect: entire sensibility as to, and moral perception of, the character of the enemies, who are the instruments of our suffering; but looking, through it all, to the ways and wisdom and will of God, and God in faithful relationship to us, the true source of all. But, besides the violence which, instrumentally, had brought the gentle and unresisting Saviour, dumb as a sheep before His shearers, to the dust of death had violently dragged away and mocked Him whose simple presentation of Himself had made all fall to the ground - there was the manifestation of the character of men, when, through His own giving Himself up, He was in their power. Dogs encompassed Him - creatures without heart or conscience - without shame or feeling, whose pleasure was in the shame of another, and insults offered to Him who made no resistance, in outrages to the righteous. They were wicked as well as violent, They stared and looked upon Him. How must the Saviour have felt their shameless and heartless insults - His exposure, naked to the hardened eye of those who rejoiced in iniquity and in His shame! They amuse themselves with appropriating His garments. The vesture of the Innocent was an affair of dice or casting lots. No eye to pity, none to help. Trouble was there: He looks on Jehovah, entreating Him not to be far from Him, and, if He has no strength, Jehovah as His strength to be near.

41 And here we approach the deeper part of this solemn hour. In the utmost trials from man, when no eye was there to pity, no hand to help, He looks to Jehovah, the covenant God of Israel's and Messiah's faith. But here, O mystery of mysteries! there was no help either, but only infinite perfection (for infinite it now must be) in the Blessed One. He is still associated here with Israel as to His place in the psalm, whatever the efficacy of that work, in this great turning-point of divine history, this central definition and solution of the question of good and evil, that in which it was settled for eternity. The God of Israel was to leave Him, and destroy the enmity, and rend the veil which, in Israel, concealed God; that, in the full result of divine love by righteousness, grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, for every believer, Jew or Gentile, and for the complete glory of God in heaven and earth. We still, remark, find the necessary difference of Christ in the Psalms and in the Gospels. There it is as Son (save in His forsaking) He speaks, saying, "Father, forgive them"; and afterwards, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." Here it is, "Be not far from me, O Jehovah." He seeks help for Himself from the God of Israel, His God. And such is the result. It is the remnant gathered, and then all Israel, the millennial nations, and the people to be born - those who are the called and blessed fruit of this work. We do not rise up to heaven. Having made this remark, as important to the right use of the Psalms, which we find has its place even in what is said of the cross itself in the Psalms, I turn to the character of faith and piety found here in the Blessed One, in His trust as come in the midst of Israel, in Jehovah. For of Israel, "as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is God over all, blessed for evermore."

42 There is the deepest consciousness of His own outwardly abject state and desertion, and that in painful contrast with every faithful soul - a circumstance wonderfully calculated to produce in the human heart irritation and despondency, that is, a forgetfulness of what God was, if this had been possible with Jesus. "I am a worm, and no man, a scorn of men, and despised of the people," Nor was this all. The blessed Saviour, He who had been cast upon Jehovah from the womb, whose hope Jehovah had been from His mother's breast, who had sought His will and glorified His name, had to declare before all, and in presence of the taunts and mockery of His adversaries, that God had forsaken Him. How deep this trial was morally, none but He could tell who passed through it. It was in the proportion of the love He enjoyed and lived in, and His faithfulness to it. We speak of trial and piety, not of expiation, here.

In all this, and through all this, the blessed Saviour is perfect towards Jehovah. First' His trust is perfect. He says not Jehovah; for the relationship was not then in exercise as it was with His Father in Gethsemane; but He says, "My God, my God." Whatever the dreadful forsaking was, His perfect faith in God and devotedness to God, as the only One He owned, remains absolute and unshaken, His is perfect, absolutely perfect, as Man, subjectively.

But this is shewn in another point. Whatever the sufferings of Christ - notwithstanding the fact that in His path there was no cause for His being forsaken - His testimony to God, His sense of the perfectness of His ways and nature, remains the same, yea, more elevated. "But thou continuest holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." Let God abandon the righteous, the righteous One is sure He is perfect in doing so. Nothing can express more completely the perfection of Christ as man, His position as such, how He had taken the place of "my goodness extendeth not to thee." He is not here contemplating the counsels of God, and understanding their accomplishment, which He had Himself undertaken. It is the dependent man feeling the trial as it reached Himself as man, but perfect and faithful when, as regards His feelings, there was no answer of God in trials wherein He counted on it, and it alone was to be counted on,

43 We can answer the question, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" We shall answer it, who believe in Jesus, with everlasting adoration, But it is of the last importance for us, not only to know that Christ has by Himself purged our sins, having drunk the cup of wrath, but to know Christ as suffering personally under this forsaking of God - His own entrance as man into the sense as regards Himself of this forsaking - His own personal sorrow in it; because, though He were wholly alone in it, it leads us to that joy which He felt in entering, again and more than ever, into the full unclouded light of His Father's countenance - consequent on, and according to, the value of redemption, and the full resting of the necessary delight of God in Him and His acceptance, as having perfectly glorified Him when sin had put all in confusion. So that all that God was, as brought out by sin (for sin brought out sovereign love, righteousness, truth, vindicated majesty), was perfectly revealed and glorified. His own sufferings, I say, lead us to that joy into which Christ entered with His God and Father as man; and which, as all this was accomplished in a work wrought for our sins, He communicates to us, introducing us into the full blessedness into which He is entered as Man. In the work He was alone; but it was for us, while for the divine glory; and He introduces us into the blessedness, as that which He enjoys in consequence of it.

This is the second part of the psalm, as to which I will only now refer to the sentiments of Christ. He has been heard from the horns of the unicorn, transpierced by the power of death, God's judgment against sin being executed and passed.

I have remarked elsewhere the very instructive fact, that Christ never speaks in the gospels, during His life, of God as His God, but always as the Father. This was the impression of Ms own personal relationship, the name too that He revealed to His disciples. He never directly calls Himself the Christ in the Gospel history; not that He was not presented as such to Israel, for He was, but it is not the place and name He takes Himself with God and His Father, which is the way we have to know Him. When the Jews say to Him, "If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly," He says, "I have told you already"; but as revealed to us, He is Emmanuel, the Prophet that should come, the Son of man, the Son of God. The word He uses with and of God, is ever Father and My Father; with His disciples, Son of man. In the psalm we are studying we read, My God, My God. He is man with whom God deals in judgment, but man, even if forsaken, perfect in His own relationship with God in faith; He says, My God.

44 Now He declares the name of God to His brethren, and employs both these titles - man gone to the extreme of trial with God, standing as regards all that God is in righteousness, truth, majesty, love. My God, all that God is in His own perfection and majesty and claim, He is necessarily and obligedly, though in the delight of His love, for us as in Christ doubtless according to His own counsels, but righteously, and thus necessarily, and unalterably for us. What He is as God, He is as our God, for through Christ - Christ proved on the cross - He is for us, and that, sin being put away by Christ's sacrifice of Himself. The cloudless perfection of God shines out on us in His own proper blessedness, as on Christ, in virtue of His having glorified Him, in the perfection in which He thus shines out.

His name (that is, the true reality of His relationship) is declared to us. The gracious name and nature of God was declared on earth by Christ, who was the only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father. But with that sinful man, at enmity with God, could have no part or association. The light shines in darkness; the darkness comprehended it not. Yea, man saw and hated Him, and His Father. But Christ was made sin for us, stood as man responsible before God, with God in all these attributes in which He dealt with sin, but was perfect there; that love might righteously have its free course. Hence He says, "I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" For He was that love - God in Christ reconciling, till it could flow out according to the perfection of God in righteousness; but it could not flow out freely where sin was. This, through the cross, through Christ's perfection, when He was made sin for us, it could yea, love was exalted, and the very character of God made good in and by it, His name (the very name which was to be revealed) made good by it. Hence Christ could say, "therefore doth my Father love me." But then Christ entered in a still more supreme degree into the joy of His Father's love, and all this as man. He does so when heard. It was publicly made good and evident in resurrection. He was raised by the glory of the Father. Then He declares this name to His brethren. For now sin being man's only place with God out of Christ, he who believed had in Christ Christ's place as raised from the dead, in the relationship in which He stands with the Father; and, death having come in, no other. Go and tell my brethren, said the Lord, "I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." Now, He employs both titles, and applies them both to us, both because all that God is He is in righteousness for Him as Man in glory, and He is re-entered into the joy of His Father's communion, and places us, in virtue of this work wrought for us, in the position in which He is, as His brethren, partakers through grace of the favour and heritage which is His.

45 I have entered more into the doctrine connected with the psalm than I intended, though it has been practically: for the feelings and affections of Christ are my object now. Remark that the first thought of Christ, when heard from the horns of the unicorn, is to declare the name of God and His Father to His brethren - now glorious, but not ashamed to call us brethren. Perfect in love, attached to these excellent of the earth, He turns (when once He is entered into the position of joy and blessing through a work which gave them the title to enter) to reveal to them what placed them in the same position with Himself. Thus He gathered them; and then, having awakened their voices to the same praise as that which He was to offer, He raises the blessed note as Man, and sings praise in the midst of the assembly. Oh, with what loud voices and ready hearts we ought to follow Him! And note' he who is not clear in acceptance and the joy of sonship with God, in virtue of redemption, cannot sing with Christ. He sings praises in the midst of the assembly. Who sings with Him? He who has learnt the song, which he has learnt to sing as come out of judgment into the full light and joy of acceptance. Ephesians 1:3-4, shews us this place. Here we have the saints led by Jesus in praise according to His own joy. The grace of this position is perfect. The further results of the work I do not enter on here, save to remark that all is grace, no judgment (it is founded on it), and nothing goes beyond earth here.

46 Psalm 23 is so ordered by the Spirit as to apply to a dying Christ, or a saint who follows His footsteps, or the preserved remnant. It does not consider the sufferings of Christ from God, or from man, nor those of the faithful, save as mere facts and occasions of Jehovah's care. Its subject is "Jehovah is my Shepherd" - the constant unfailing care exercised by Him. It is a life spent under His care and eye, come what will, the experience it affords, and the assurance that Jehovah's love gives to the end and for ever. It is not what He gives which assures the heart, but Himself. "Jehovah is my Shepherd; I shall not want." Power, grace, goodness, interest in the faithful One, all assure; and assure in all circumstances and for ever and always. He has undertaken and has charged Himself with the care of His faithful ones. These cannot want. We have not to think of what may come, or what means may be employed. The Shepherd's care is our assurance. The natural fruit of this care is fresh and green pastures in security the peaceful enjoyment of the sure refreshings of goodness. But in fact man, specially the remnant, and Christ Himself, are in the midst of oppressing sorrow, and death, and in presence of mighty enemies. Is the soul troubled and bowed down? He restores it. Does it go through the valley of the shadow of death? does death cast its dark gloom over the spirit that must go down into its shade? He is there, greater than death, to guide and sustain. Are powerful and relentless enemies there to alarm and threaten? They are powerless before Him. He dresses a table for His beloved, where they sit down in safety, and secure. Divine unction is the seal of power when all is against us. Human weakness, death, and spiritual powers of wickedness, all are only the occasions to shew most evidently that Jehovah, the Shepherd, is the infallible safeguard of His people.

Christ was not, of course, a sheep, but He trod the path the sheep have to tread, and trusted in Jehovah. He is the Jehovah-Shepherd of them that are His. He loves us, as Jehovah loved and cared for Him. It is then the sure care of Jehovah through all that besets human nature in its path through this world. The natural proper fruit of this care is green pastures in the security of peace; but, in man's ruined state and the path he has to tread in the midst of the powers of evil, an infallibly sustaining power. Hence the heart, as it trusts to the unchangeable Jehovah, reckons on the future. It is as certain and secure as the past. Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and the house of Jehovah receives me for ever. Confidence is in Jehovah Himself; and therefore all circumstances, and the whole power of evil, and difficulties of mortal man included in them, are but occasions of Jehovah's power, interested in infallible faithfulness, in carrying the faithful through.

47 It is interesting to see this care of divine power, holding its place in infallible certainty over all the special sufferings and trial and death of the Lord. This is the faithful man's blessing, when the earth is not Jehovah's, when the power of evil, and death, and mighty adversaries are before it. Jehovah is the secure dwelling place of faith.

When the earth is Jehovah's (Psa. 24), who shall ascend His hill, or stand in His holy place? Here, remark, the door has become open to all. Only Jacob has the place of acceptance and proximity to Jehovah; but blessing and acceptance in favour from God, who is their salvation, are the portion of every one that has purified himself to seek God who has placed His blessing in Jacob. The character of such is given, but the Gentiles who have it have access in Jehovah's holy hill. Christ Himself enters there in triumph as Jehovah.

Psalm 24 closes the whole series which speaks of the association of Christ with the excellent - the saints that are in the earth. We have in it, Christ in the path of life with the saints - Christ in the path of righteousness in the midst of an evil world; Christ suffering, the centre of all Israel's history, and the object of Jehovah's interest when identified with Israel; Christ suffering as witness to the truth, object of the remnant's thoughts and affections; Christ suffering as forsaken of God; Christ taking personally the path in which the sheep had to walk, and so unfolding to them the care of Jehovah, though Himself the true Shepherd (compare John 10); and Christ, when all own Jacob and the God of Jacob, entering into the temple as the triumphant Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts. Though the blessed One be largely a pattern for us in much of this, yet the true effect on the piety of the heart is wrought in seeing Himself truly man, treading the path before our eyes, and engaging every affection of the soul in the contemplation of it.

48 In what follows we have again the thoughts and feelings of the remnant in their sorrows, in connection with this place of Christ: but we shall find large instruction for our hearts in a path which is always one of sorrow, and essentially the same as long as evil reigns. In looking back to the psalms which we have studied, there is, I think, progress in their character. Thus, in the first psalms, from 3 to 7, we have the general principles and condition, shewing that righteousness does not yet reign by judgment (this is founded on the great foundations of Psalms 1 and 2): the righteous man in the midst of the wicked; judgment yet to come; and the counsels of God as to Messiah announced, but not yet fulfilled, in Psalm 8; in Psalms 9 and 10 the circumstances of the land and the Jews in the last days; and then, Psalms 11-15, the relationships, judgment, and principles of the remnant looking towards Jehovah in this state of things, Psalms 16-24 having given the whole position of Christ in respect of Israel, introducing Him amongst them, and shewing the result. We have now much more of the experimental exercises of the saints in that day. This we have now to consider. These could not but be founded on the intervention and sacrifice of Christ. It is not meant thereby that they are clear as to this, or that the expressions of the Psalms suppose it or suit a soul which is in liberty. But such exercises could not have place without His intervention and sacrifice; and the Holy Spirit, in the remnant, and in every soul, works in virtue of them, and with a view to their full recognition.

In Psalm 25 we have, for the first time, the definite confession of sin. This, with Psalm 26, the declaration and consciousness of integrity of heart, form the subjective basis of all their experiences; the two following the objective - Jehovah light and salvation, and present distress through the pressure of the wicked still here with confidence of heart in Jehovah. But the more we study the Psalms, the more we shall see that they apply properly to the Jews, and that almost universally; referring to the godly righteous man of the remnant, animated according to his position, whose thoughts are furnished by the Spirit of Christ speaking in the prophet. Many parts of them can be applied to Christ Himself, when all cannot. But this shews what I have already remarked, that the possibility of referring passages to Christ does not make them exclusively prophecies of Him, nor prove that all the psalm applies to Him; and, further, the real danger of taking the Psalms as the expression of Christian piety. They are not so. Often they furnish blessed instruction on confidence in God; but he who would take the form of his piety from the Psalms as a whole would falsify Christianity. Having said this, I turn to details.

49 The soul is lifted up to Jehovah in its difficulties - the true secret of overcoming them, and of having peace in the midst of them. The true heart has no other refuge. Another distracts it from this. It says, my God in them - it can now through Christ, and trust in God; and looks not to be ashamed, nor its enemies to triumph over it. This in difficulties is the first desire of faith. But it cannot confine itself when real to self. It is linked up by grace with God's goodness, felt in this very hope but then with all those who wait on Jehovah. It desires that the wicked (causeless transgressors, that is, those who love iniquity, not who fall in it) may be ashamed. This, as a general principle, is no way un-Christian. The Christian cannot desire that an individual enemy come under judgment; but he does desire that evil be set aside, and that the adversaries of good be made ashamed. He loves and desires righteousness, and that the oppressor of righteousness, and of the lowly and meek and just be put down, and put to shame. In his own case he can desire it as to result, without wishing evil to the individual. His trust in Jehovah prevents his taking the smallest step for the injury of his enemy; but he refers his case to Jehovah, and leaves it in His hands, looking for His deliverance.

But there is another characteristic of the saint whose heart is turned towards Jehovah in repentance. He seeks Jehovah's ways, His paths - to be led in His truth and taught. Remark this very definite character of good in the upright soul. It is not simply a right way, but Jehovah's way he seeks. His spirit is returned to Jehovah, thinks of Him, estimates His character, is conscious of owing allegiance and service to Him, belonging to Him, and that all does, and delights in and seeks only His way. But this psalm presents a returning man (the Jew), not one first converted. Israel (and so the saint) does remember and recall, but looks to Jehovah's no more remembering his faults, and according to His mercy to remember himself, to remember him in that way; for he knew Jehovah to be merciful, and it was for the glory of His own name - he could ask it for His goodness' sake.

50 This shews, not known pardon, but the confiding of grace. This is not a purged conscience, yet it flows from the answer of God. But it is an acceptable way of approaching God. So the poor woman that was a sinner in the gospel. She came thus, she went away in peace. But there is a faithfulness of Jehovah to His own goodness - His own character, which is above evil, which (a ransom being found which maintains righteousness) makes Him act for the true blessing of the sinner thus looking to Him. As it is said even of Joseph, He was a just man, and not willing to make her a public example. No doubt other motives come in with man; still, as far as he has to act like God, this principle comes in. Good and upright is Jehovah. Good to us, He loves uprightness, loves to see it, and so will teach it in grace to those wandered from it. It is sweet to one that has wandered to count on this. Remark, it is not here His way. That was the expression of the state of the saint's heart; this is the revelation (or rather the confidence) of the saint in what was in Jehovah's. What "the way" was is not exactly the question - of course a good one; but He would teach them in it. His active love would be occupied with them for good. Yet the character of the way is not left out when the true character of the renewed saint is brought in. The meek will He guide in judgment, in the path which expresses God's mind. The meek will He teach His way.

But there is progress in other respects in this psalm. It divides itself into three parts, 1-7; 8-14; 15-22. In the first part the oppressed and tried soul, judging its past sins, but trusting God and looking to Him, pleads with God in respect of its wants and difficulties in presence of the power of evil. In the second part this reference to God has led the soul to speak about Him, dwelling on and declaring what He is in His ways. In the third the soul looks personally to Jehovah, as assured of His interest in it, and calls down the eye of God on itself and on its enemies and circumstances, looking for forgiveness in that, but confiding in conscious integrity, and finally applies its request to all Israel.

But there is also progress in detail, as to the condition of the soul in speaking of God. First, His goodness and uprightness lead Him to teach sinners uprightness in heart. They had wandered in their own ways; how terribly are God's ways forgotten! But the good and gracious Lord will not leave them unguided; their state draws out His compassion. He loves the right way, nor can He bless elsewhere. He teaches sinners in the way. But the effect of acknowledging sin and knowing the goodness of God is meekness, subduedness of spirit, and lowliness; the absence of haughtiness, of self, of what the heathens considered the spring of virtue. In this state God guides in judgment and teaches His way. Not only the way is taught to one who had wandered far from it; but, where there is lowliness and submission to God, He guides in the intelligence of His ways in their own spirit and mind. They are formed by His instructions to judge of what God's own way is. This is an internal and moral conformity which applies itself to discern and judge circumstances. And this moral conformity and discernment is very precious.

51 But verse 12 goes farther. We have one fearing God, walking in the consciousness of His presence, and responsibility to Him, referring in heart to Him as subject to Him. Here is not merely moral discernment but knowledge of the chosen way of God. The man who is guided in judgment will know what is right and do it, and avoid what is wrong, but the man of Issachar had understanding of the times. There was a way God chose in the midst of prevalent evil, and he who feared Jehovah should be taught in this way. He would find the path which issued in full blessing. This is a great privilege, and of which no surrounding darkness or confusion can deprive us. It is the way Jehovah chooses in the midst of it - a special covenant way for those who fear Him. So surely there is for the Christian in the confusion in which the church of God is. This is shewn with additional evidence in the words which follow. The secret of Jehovah (for He has a secret for the ears of those who hear) is with them that fear Him - His friends to whom He makes known His mind. Is it wonderful that Mary knew more of it than Martha? She could anoint Him beforehand for His burial - had the Lord's mind in the scene which was before. His word is always a guard against false pretences to this, but it remains ever true that the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. And, however, all seems to run against His sure promise, they see the result and progress towards it by faith, and will see it in full accomplishment farther on when His ways are accomplished. This is a great blessing and gives a tranquillity, a calm, in the path, which nothing else does. One has the Lord's mind in it. This closes the second part.

52 In traversing the evil, the trust of the soul is in Jehovah, and His faithful love. "Mine eyes are ever to Jehovah, he shall pluck my feet out of the net." This is the secret of all - Jehovah. One looks out of all the evil and trusts in Him who is above it all. Knowledge of Jehovah's secret is not insensibility to present evil, even as it affects self; nor coldness as to Jehovah's interest in ourselves, not only in righteousness (though He be ever righteous), but in ourselves. The secret of Jehovah, through His fear tends to give this intimacy and confidence. "Turn thou unto me, and have mercy upon me, for I am afflicted and desolate." There is a truth of heart with Jehovah. But this supposes integrity, and such is found here; and such in Christ is found in the true of heart, though they confess themselves in themselves the chief of sinners, and in their flesh no good thing. The heart can present all the hostility of its enemies to God, and leave that also with Him. It looks to be not ashamed, for it has put its trust in Him, Christ only had to go through the contrary for us, the upright soul never will. But the heart, though having this intimacy with God, and confidence in Him, does not forget His people Israel then; for us, the church. The heart is there and, if it is intimate with God, must be.

I have entered somewhat into the detail of moral feelings exhibited in the psalm, but it must be held in mind that all are founded on the presence in the heart of a deep consciousness of what Jehovah was for it, that the thought of Jehovah predominated and is the source of all that is felt.

In Psalm 26 it is, as already remarked, the consciousness of integrity rather than the confession of sins, but here, also, all refers to Jehovah, and draws from what Jehovah is and the attachment of the soul to Him the principle of separation from evil-doers, and final joy in His congregation when there shall be full deliverance from them. The spirit of the psalm is that integrity which has kept the soul by its own affections, and its attachment to Jehovah, and trust in Jehovah in presence of the power of evil (and for the time, as between them and the saints, evil-doers are always the most powerful, because they can act according to their will without restraint or conscience), apart from evildoers; and the conscience in presence of Jehovah looks to God's (not gathering it with sinners), when He comes in power, and on this it counts in faith. It is the expression of the path and desire of integrity in presence of evil.

53 Psalm 27 shows the heart confident in Jehovah, yet exercised before Him in the presence of the outward manifestations of evil. What would create fear more than distress of spirit? The connection of confidence in thinking of the enemies, and exercise of heart when looking to God, I think instructive, though at first sight it seems strange in this psalm. Confidence is not indifference or insensibility; but true exercises of heart with God, even when fear accompanies those exercises, shew themselves in confidence and boldness in presence of the hostile action of evil. Man would have spoken of fear when in presence of the enemy and confidence when with God. Whereas grace, working in true exercises of heart with God, gives boldness with the enemy. There is a real power of evil. The rightly taught heart feels it in its inward sources and reality (more or less spiritually), but feels it with God, and then is at peace in the midst of, and as to, the conflict itself. So Christ sweat, as it were, great drops of blood in exercise of soul before God, and was of perfect calmness in the presence of His enemies, yea, they fell to the ground at the mention of His name. This is full of instruction as to the difficulties and pains of Christian life. Where the heart, conscious of the power of evil, is exercised with and before God as to it, the evil itself, whatever its power, is powerless when it comes, assuming the exercise to be complete. "This is your hour," said Christ, "and the power of darkness." But He had felt all that with God, and took the cup, as to the fact, out of the Father's, not the enemy's hand, who had as to Christ no such power.

The psalm shows us the working of this in ordinary men according to His Spirit. Jehovah is the saints' light by faith, lightens up all around. There is no power of darkness for the spirit, when darkness is there in power. It rules in the enemies, but light is in the heart from the Lord, and it walks thus in the light. This is a great consolation. But the Lord is more than this - He is actual deliverance. This, till the cup was drunk, He could not be for Christ; but He is known to be so for the redeemed soul in the midst of the trial. The same revelation of Jehovah which gives light gives us in the light to be assured of the deliverance: I do not say necessarily to see the deliverance, for the how may be obscured, but to be assured of it. Because Jehovah is there in light, He will deliver; so the Father for us, and in His place of government, the Lord. But if it be God Himself, clearly there is nothing to fear. This is celebrated in thinking of the wicked, whom no conscience restrains - of war, where will is unbridled, however violent and mighty; if the Lord is there, all is provided for. But an important principle, or state of soul, is associated with, and is the basis of, this confidence - entire singleness of eye and desire, the looking to Jehovah for, and seeking one thing, to be with Him, in His presence where He is, and can be adored; to behold His beauty, and learn there His will and mind. But this, on the other hand, is connected with confidence in His goodness. The soul, defenceless in itself, knows Jehovah will hide it in the time of trouble in His pavilion. Who shall hurt or disturb it there? And what love in the Lord, what interest He takes in those He loves! The soul dwells with Him, and dwells in safety. It is not apparent deliverance, but the secret of His tabernacle. And it is wonderful bow Jehovah does when evil rages, and there seems no resource; the soul seeks none, it confides sweetly and quietly in Jehovah, sure of security in Him. Verse 6 counts on full deliverance and praise in His tabernacle, now not a hiding-place, nor a secret, but the blessed place of open praise.

54 In the following verses we have the exercises of soul with Jehovah while waiting on Him for help. Jehovah had called to seek His face. He could not turn it away. The soul recognises here the possibility of anger, and deprecates it, and counts on grace. This is important for the soul, for one might think it could trust in Jehovah if He had nothing against it. But not so; the heart may recognise that it ought to expect anger, yet trust grace. It has known a helping God, and looks not to be forsaken of One who is a Saviour God. This confidence is complete; more than the nearest ties of nature can give, and so indeed it is for him who knows Jehovah. It takes up its own matters between itself and God, looks to be taught His way, and led in a plain path, because its enemies watched for its getting out of the way. The pressure of enemies was great, and there will be such for the saints. There is a will of evil - false witness, then cruelty.

55 The goodness of Jehovah - no human means - is the resource of the heart, the goodness of Jehovah in His government. The result is, wait on Jehovah. He strengthens the heart. "Wait, I say, on Jehovah." This, indeed, is the secret of strength in the time of evil. There is, then, nothing to fear. We may have learnt that it is a Father's love in our path of children, and the care of Christ, that good Shepherd, but the principle of our confiding in the Lord is the same. It is remarkable how entirely absent is the thought of any other resource or help than that of Jehovah. And this it is maintains integrity, for Jehovah cannot help otherwise than in maintaining truth of heart. The wile of enemies is there. The soul knows nothing (no human means or strength, or wisdom, or plan), but seeking Jehovah's face; with Him all is settled, and so in truth in the inward parts and integrity. The enemies are then Jehovah's concern. This is the secret of our security and comfort in trial. Hence, grace being there, we can reckon on Jehovah at all times. If we have erred, bring it to Him. It is a true exercise of soul in His presence. He deals with it according to truth, between itself and Him; but grace and His secret place, and then deliverance, are its position.

Psalm 28. Though Jehovah be the great subject as of all these, as regards the faithful there is a special point - his cry to Jehovah, and the supplication addressed to Him. The heart connects itself with Jehovah in crying to Him. The cry implies Jehovah's interest in us, and our having this for our starting-point; also our avowed dependence on Him. Hence, crying and prayer to the Lord are important, and an index to the state of soul. We may desire from Jehovah, have faith in His goodness in giving, but crying to Him identifies us avowedly with Him, even before others. Here the soul is spoken of as in extreme distress - the pit of sheol open before it. But the principle is ever true, even in interceding for others. Here faith is shewn in crying, when all seemed to man's eye hopeless. This connection with Jehovah is distinctly marked here, in its being made the ground for not being drawn away with the wicked in judgment.

In Psalm 26 it was the integrity of the believer in his ways, which was laid as the ground for not being so drawn away: here it is this connection with Jehovah, shewn in calling upon Him. And though the wickedness of evildoers be the ground on which their judgment is looked for, yet their disregard of Jehovah is declared to be the ground of their destruction. The righteous has trusted in Him and been helped. But here is more, and much more in Jehovah's deliverance of us than the fact of being delivered. He has delivered us. The heart was attached to Him, adored Him, looked up to Him, believed Him, and He has not failed us. Oh! how true this is! and how it attaches afresh the heart to Him. So here (v. 6, 7), "MY heart trusted in him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth, and with my song will I praise him." This looking with confidence to Jehovah is a real entering into His character, and conformity to it, in the sense of estimating, delighting in, and honouring it, in counting it impossible to be otherwise. It appreciates Jehovah; and he who appreciates anything morally excellent is in a dependent way like it.

56 I have a friend of a noble, faithful self-devoting character. I am in circumstances where all is opposed to the probability or possibility of his coming in to help, but I am sure he will. I count with affection on what he is. It is evident that I hold fast in my appreciation of him. He is to my mind superior to all circumstances, governed by His own excellence; and this is what I appreciate and reckon on. Whatever circumstances may be, my heart goes with his in his conduct, though in the way of dependence, and his with mine. When he has acted, I rejoice in him, in my estimate of him. I say, I knew my appreciation was just; I knew him, and what he is. I rejoice in his excellence; I have reckoned on it as certain, and above all the circumstances. He has proved his interest in me in intervening. Thus, when God shall deliver the remnant, and when He delivers the Christian, they can say, "This is our God; we have waited for him."

This is what we can see in Job through all his culpable irritation. He reckons on God, and knows what he would be and do if he could find Him. The heart has trusted God's heart, and found it, and rejoices in it - has really honoured God, though only in waiting in assured confidence for Him. It is satisfied in what its mighty Friend is, and in His love. It rejoices in deliverance, for it suffered and was oppressed in weakness, but rejoices in heart - delights in the Deliverer. It has a friend that has formed the heart after His own excellency, and formed it to confide in it. In the Christian this will be calmer, because he is more instructed in heavenly things, knows God better, and has less anxiety as to what is here below, does not look on the things that are seen; but the principle is the same.

57 Psalm 29 does not call for much remark connected with the way we are now viewing them. It is a summons to the mighty of the earth to own and give glory to Jehovah - the honour due to His name. The only point I would notice is the connection of worship with this, and here owning Him in His temple, where He has placed His name. His name has been revealed. Glory is due to Him as revealed, to His name; a name which, while it is the revelation of Himself, is that also of His relationship with His people. There He has placed His name, so as to form a centre of association and a revealed place of worship. Thus, while His voice may proclaim the majesty of that name, they who know it are drawn together by it as a place of common worship. The glory of His name is made good by and revealed in what is declared in the last verses. Jehovah sitteth upon the floods, is above, and rules to His own purposes all the tumultuous movings of the mass of peoples. He sits too King for ever. As He is above the swellings of men, so He sits in sure unmoved government for ever. But then there is the connection with His people. He gives them strength; He blesses them with peace. Verse 10 is the possession of power over all and in Himself; verse 11, what He is for the people. It is the invitation of the mighty to own Jehovah, and the sure blessing of Israel.

The great truth of Psalm 30 is the practically deeply interesting one, that the joy flowing from the deliverance the Lord (in this psalm Jehovah) affords is greater and deeper than the blessing of prosperity, even when acknowledged to come from God. It may be that the deliverance is from sorrow occasioned by faults. With the remnant of the Jews it will surely be so; but it is complete and full; and when the sin or evil is fully acknowledged, the restoration and blessing is absolute in communion with God. Forgiveness, or the thought of it, in an unhealed soul, may have regrets. When the soul is healed, it will learn judgment of the evil assuredly, and a sense of humbleness, if it be recurred to - always more tenderness of spirit, more grace; but if the healing be full, the soul wholly searched out, no regrets, because what God, as such, is for us, will possess the soul. The soul will abhor the flesh, and the principles which led to evil; but self will be taken out of the abhorrence when the evil is really hated, and peace will be there. I do not say the psalm pursues these thoughts to this depth. It is more occupied with the outward circumstances, with the hand of God upon it for evil, than with the evil for which His hand is upon it. But these are looked at as His anger. The effect is that circumstances are looked at as a matter of His anger and favour; and on this the soul rests. It had been in prosperity, had owned its coming from God, but saw in circumstances its ground of confidence for happiness, though looked at as given and established by God. But, in so doing, however much it owned God in giving and assuring the blessing, it rested on the blessing, and that blessing ministered to self, instead of taking out of it. "I shall never be moved. Jehovah, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong." Though piety might be there, it might degenerate into "the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah are these." The psalm however supposes true piety. Only that God's favour has made the mountain - "my mountain" - to stand strong, instead of the favour itself being the blessing. Jehovah hides His face, and direct dependence is felt, direct blessing looked for. Chastening and exercises for faults come, and divine favour itself is felt to be the blessing needed. And what Jehovah is Himself is the source of joy. When His anger is on the people, this is felt; not merely the circumstances it is expressed in, but the hiding of Jehovah's face for sin. The soul is brought into an immediate relationship, though it is by anguish and distress. It is brought to think of itself, not as a self to be caressed, a centre of its own blessing, but as sinful, and God's favour is needed. Thus, though painfully, a most useful and important work is done through grace, when this self-judgment is wrought in the soul, so that there is spiritual integrity. The favour of Jehovah shines in upon it, and is enjoyed, and is become itself the blessing, while positive deliverance accompanies it in God's good time. The true nature of God in holy worship is entered into; He is not merely a God to serve man in blessing. The enemy does not rejoice over us, and the soul itself is healed. We see that if His anger be there, it is but a moment of discipline and instruction for the saints; and then they, being purified, enjoy Himself more fully. Here, literally, we see the remnant at the verge of the grave, and there delivered; but the true work is, even for them, with God.

59 I add these conditions of soul in which we may see saints now, of which this psalm gives an occasion to speak. First, what we may call in a comparative sense innocence, when a converted soul has no acquaintance with corruption and no great inward conflict. Here the grace of forgiveness is enjoyed, and the soul is cheerfully happy in the known kindness and love of God its Saviour. Such a soul, if walking close with God, may attain to the real judgment of self and deep acquaintance with God. Otherwise the soul is superficial, and the man of self little known, separation from flesh's sphere (the world on its amiable side) little realised. The next is where it has failed, and, gone through deeper exercises, has been brought thus to the knowledge of self in a humbling way. This is more the case of the psalm. Then forgiveness may be known, and there is the rest of this; but a certain shame of sin and want of open confidence with God, as naturally in enjoyment of Him, if there have been anything base or trifling with God. This is more difficult to attain; but self at any rate is not set aside. Thirdly, when the root that has produced the evil is really judged, the point of departure from God (not merely the evil itself), and self thus set aside practically, then divine favour is everything. The heart is so far whole with God, and, while humble, bold with men. It has its conscious link with God, His favour - God known to be with it in moral unison, and in positive sustainment and strength. The present is its place with Him, not the past.

Psalm 31 is the expression of entire confidence in Jehovah - God known in our relationship with Him, in the most terrible circumstances of trial and distress, and that where sin has brought it on; yet where faith is at work, the known name of God is counted on, and therefore His righteousness in making it good. It is not reckoning upon God with pride. It is Jehovah trusted in for what He is - His name, but with the fullest confession of failure, and that it is through sin that trouble has come upon him that cries to Him. It is not so much the confession of iniquity, but that the sorrow out of which the cry is sent up is due to iniquity; but the extremity of pressure casts the soul in confidence on God according to His revelation of Himself. The special character of the psalm is trust, and, from personal knowledge of Jehovah, the committing one's case to Him. This is a deep principle of true piety - such a knowledge of the Lord, such faith in what He is, that the soul can trust Him, and cast all on Him, when distress and hostility come to an extremity. And it is a principle of utter righteousness, because the soul cannot look thus to God but in righteousness. Jehovah is known as having considered the distressed one's trouble. He has known his soul in adversities. The sufferings were not God's forgetting the sufferer. God has known, recognised, followed; His heart owned the sufferer's soul, and thought of it in the midst of adversities; and the sufferer, as an owned soul (however faulty), looks through the suffering to Jehovah. It accepts the punishment of its iniquity, but in this righteous feeling trusts Jehovah; and in this spirit, in what is perfect in principle, commits itself entirely to Jehovah, and knows, and is content that it should be so, that all is in His hand (v. 15). It looks hence for His face to shine on it; but that through His appearing for it, it should not be finally ashamed, nor will any that trust in Him. He has laid up goodness for them that fear Him and trust in Him before the sons of men. His presence is a sure unfailing sanctuary, which makes human malice vain in its attempts. He admits that, in the pressure of distress, he had for a moment spoken as cast out of God. Still faith was shewn in the cry to Jehovah, and he was heard. Jehovah preserves the faithful, so that the saints may love Him, and be of good courage, whatever comes.

60 It is not every one that has to pass through such sorrows, as those referred to here; 'but, when it is the portion of the saint, it gives great intimacy and confidence. What a known God is is the ground of the psalm, and the cry founded on faith in it. I should not say that such is the brightest exercise of faith: this will be found, for example, more in the Epistle to the Philippians, the bright expression of normal Christian experience. Nor is it the commonest; but God, in His rich mercy, has in His word met every need, and made provision in His word for every state. And the state of soul here is one of much exercised depth and intimacy of confidence in God, only learnt through needed distress.

Psalm 32. But, in the midst of all the exercises of heart which belong to a renewed soul in the midst of its difficulties here below, there is one point which is the centre of all, a need to which an answer is craved alike by the heart and conscience - its relationship to God when it thinks of its sin before Him. It has need of confidence for trials, of deliverance and help. It is cheered by promises, and bowed in heart and will as to the ways of God. But it needs reconciliation with Himself above all, the unclouded light of His countenance; as regards its own state, forgiveness, and the absence of guilt. The entire removal of all guilt before God, and His complete forgiveness, is beautifully connected here with purifying the heart and inner man, the taking out guile, and this in the confession of actual sins. But it begins, as it must, with God, and finds its satisfaction in His thoughts towards it. And this is right. Thus only can the heart be really purified, and sin have its true character, and God His right place, without which nothing is right. Yet it is the conscious state of its forgiveness which first affects the soul, after conviction and distress for sin have been wrought and the soul brought to confession. "Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven." He has sinned against God - transgressed It is all perfectly forgiven. But it was sin before God and evil - a thing itself hateful in God's sight, and now in the soul's. It is expiated, covered; propitiation has been made. The present state is then put absolutely: Jehovah imputeth no iniquity to it; and now the whole heart is open before God. There is no guile in it; why should there be when all is open with God, all cleared, and sin gone out of His sight? And oh! what a blessing it is to have the perfect light of God on an unsullied soul, not an innocent one. This is a far less thing, and indeed the inshining of perfect light would be inapplicable then; but with a knowledge of good and evil, and knowing what light is (in contrast with darkness), and to have it shining upon one as white as snow is infinitely blessed. I do not deny that it is more personal relationship here, into which also I will enter; but for the Christian this is implied in forgiveness and covering and non-imputation of sin. As yet of course it is by faith, but not the less true for that. The ways of God in bringing the soul to it, and His ways after it, are also gone into in the psalm: no rest to the proud will which not confess (how gracious to pursue the soul thus!) - the most intimate guidance for the soul reconciled in communion, and care in the midst of trial.

61 The psalm, then, is the expression of conscious blessedness in the sense of being forgiven. And how sweet it is to be in the sunshine of God's favour in the sense that His love has been active towards us! The undeservedness of the favour, though it is not the brightest joy, gives great deepness to it, because it is God Himself who forgives; for so it must be in forgiveness when the soul is restored to Him. Then there is the consciousness of the sin being out of God's sight. This is a very great blessing indeed, and the consciousness of it most sweet - the thought that not one sin appears in the sight of God. But there is the special sense, not that there was no sin, but that God imputes none, that He has a determined fixed judgment - He does not impute it. The sin is not denied; that would be guile. In this part the feelings are not so much engaged, but there is the judicial certainty of non-imputation necessary for truth in the inward parts. This connects itself with confession.

62 But it is not only uprightness in word and confession, but in spirit. There was truth in the inward parts: no desire in the soul to hide, to conceal from itself the evil it presents itself before forgiveness, before non-imputation that is its connection with sin, not hiding it. He sees the sin truly, but sees, and because he sees, it is not imputed. But the phrase is absolute and general - "to whom Jehovah imputeth not iniquity." It is an absolute condition of the individual; it is not his iniquity or particular fault forgiven, though doubtless this is so too, but absolute non-imputation of any. The an exists before God as having no sin, according to the judgment of God. Then my heart is open and free before God; I have the consciousness of this, and look up to God as owning no sin, with the consciousness that He sees none. Hence there is no cloud, nothing to hide. This is not so however when confession is not made. Absolute non-imputation, that is God's actual judgment of me and manner of looking at me. No sin is there, none between me and Him. But, in arriving at the consciousness of this blessed truth, there has been confession. Till then, the pressure of God's hand was upon the soul to force it to come to this. How gracious this is, God's watching over a soul, and a soul going wrong too, to bring it to Himself. But he was brought by grace to this point - acknowledging sin to God, no excuse, giving it its true character, real spiritual uprightness, however humbling it may be.

This was morally important, but is not all. "I will confess my transgressions"; the acts are brought up in memory. He resolved to take this course, and all was right. "Jehovah forgave the iniquity." 1 John 1 opens this out christianly. There also we cannot say we have no sin, and we confess our sins. The connection of the absence of all sin on the conscience and no guile in the heart, because it is entirely open through conscious non-imputation, is very instructive. It can be in no other way, only man is brought to it in truth by confession, and to confession through confidence. Thus only is the heart opened to God through grace, thus only is truth in the inward parts, though forced to the humiliation as regards our will, by forgiveness being known by promise. "There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared."

63 This revelation of God awakens the thought and feeling of all the upright and gracious - minded to look to God in the time when He reveals Himself as the forgiving God, when He can be found. So for Christ Himself, in Isaiah 49, it was the accepted time. When He had been perfect, when perfectly proved before God, then He was heard, for He had been made sin; and the apostle cites it thus, "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." The revelation of forgiveness and the joy of such relationship with God awakens the desire after and delight in such a God in gracious souls, and they seek unto Him. Supposing they have not the sense of sin at the moment, they know they are sinners, and God is so revealed - has a character which is their delight, and their soul links itself with Him. They seek to Him, not simply for forgiveness. It is in their character of graciousness they are spoken of here, but it is such a God - a God of this character, and of these ways - who draws their heart; and note, God so acting, so revealed, makes the time the finding time. This connection of the graciousness of the heart with the graciousness of God, and the power of attraction it has, is very beautiful; and it is very deep in the gracious mind. There must be the sense of need, of dependence, and in us of the need of grace as such in the whole character of our relationship with God. But it is withal a deep realisation in proportion to godliness, when the conscience is not bad, of the perfect and divine grace, of the loveliness yet the sovereign goodness of God's ways in this. Happy in goodness, we feel that this grace suits us and suits God; it draws us, as godly, to God. Hence we are there sheltered, come what will.

64 If we think of the remnant, the principle will be plain. Israel, the Jews, have been deeply guilty in every way. God holds out, as in this psalm, and everywhere in Moses and the prophets, forgiveness. This is felt; God is so revealed; the godly remnant are touched by this. Sins, no doubt, are confessed, but the heart of the godly draws to God, When the flood of judgments break in, they are preserved. In every case, the soul thus acquainted with goodness can count upon God. God Himself, thus known, is its hiding-place. In the end, songs of deliverance will be its portion.

But then promises come. We have to go through a wilderness in which there is no way; and, in the midst of snares and dangers of false ways, God guides and teaches. The eye of God rests on us and guides us. It is not a way marked out and left; it is God Himself who watches over and guides us in a way that suits Him and is the fruit of His wisdom, a divine way for us. God Himself it is that is brought before us here: God's goodness, God's leading, God interested in us to forgive when needed, to lead with the undistracted eye of love. But then it supposes that the heart pays attention to the eye of God. It is attention to Him, and the following it with understanding, that is the way; and thus the soul is inwardly taught in what is agreeable to Him, and is formed after Him in knowledge. This the New Testament largely unfolds. (Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-10; 3:10; Eph. 4:24.) Even Moses says, "If I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight."

It is the spiritual learning of God's way through His guidance, and communion with Him, founded on His favour. Hence they are warned not to be like an unintelligent beast, who must be outwardly held. God can guide us thus, does graciously sometimes by His providence; but there is no spiritual understanding, no moral assimilation to His nature, no growth of the delight of our new nature in Him, no increased capacity, by this means, for knowing God. The result is declared in the judicial ways of God in the last two verses; only that we have to remark, that it is in Jehovah Himself that the soul has to rejoice, not in the consequences, though they that trust in Him be compassed about with mercy. He Himself known by forgiveness, known by ever accessible kindness and goodness, as a hiding place for the soul, as one that guides with His own care, with His eye, was the one in whom the soul thus taught was taught to rejoice. So Paul Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." We joy in God through our Lord Jesus, by whom we have received the reconciliation. He fills the soul, and He is above all.

65 Psalm 33. I have only a few principles to note in speaking of this psalm. All the psalms, to the end of 39, unfold the moral state of the Jewish remnant in the last days. I say the moral state more than their condition under oppression; and the thought of forgiveness gives in general a brighter tint to the colouring of them, though the sense of their condition is found also as elsewhere. Psalm 33 follows on the last verse of Psalm 32, and, the thought of forgiveness having put a new song in his mouth, he can look out with clearer confidence on the principles on which men should act, looking to the word and works of God. The earth is viewed as under God's eye and direction - His government as applied to it. This, fully displayed at the end, has its application to the lower part of a Christian's life too. Compare Psalm 34:12-16; 1 Peter 3:10.

We get some general principles. The works of Jehovah are done in truth. I may perfectly reckon on His acting on the known principles of His holy will. Hence His word, which is essentially right, can judge me now. This is always an important principle. The Lord, though not visibly and publicly, does govern all things. Hence I can act on His word, and be sure of the consequences. I may, no doubt, suffer for Christ: this is a still better blessing, but the result of acting on God's word will be blessing.

From verse 6 the power of the word is shewn in creation. The earth should fear Him, "for he spake, and it was done"; again, He subverts the counsels of men, His stand fast. Another principle then comes in, the blessing of being the chosen people of God, His inheritance. This is Israel: still faith has to walk in the strength of it now. "Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved." We are not God's inheritance, but heirs of God; but the greater elevation of the position does not destroy, though it may give a deeper application to, the principle. We have to walk through the world as the elect of God; but this is a most blessed position. It is according to the foreknowledge of God the Father; but we walk in the consciousness of being the elect of God. He orders and fashions all hearts. What a thing to say, if I have to say to men! And He makes all things work together for good for me. Thus, while all human strength is nought, I can wait on the Lord with sure confidence. His eye too is never withdrawn from me. Compare Job 36:7.

66 But Psalm 34 goes farther. It takes up the case of sorrow and trial in the most beautiful way. Jehovah Himself, as ever, is the blessed burden of the psalm. In verses 1-4 it is the Spirit of Christ in an especial way which speaks, but as for the heart of every one so tried, and belongs to every one who has this faith, that every one may have it. The point of the psalm is "at all times." It is easy to praise Jehovah when He makes all flow softly for us; yet Jehovah is not as much praised really for what He is. In the midst of trouble the soul is seen humble and subdued in spirit. He has sought Jehovah and he found Him a ready friend. This made Jehovah intimate and precious to him. The saint's heart was tried, exercised; difficulty and wrong pressed upon it, and his will did not rise up in pride and anger, but he lays his matter with confidence on the kindness of Jehovah, and He interests Himself in him. It is not high and sovereign providence making things flow for outward blessing (no doubt we should be thankful for this) but the gracious interest of Jehovah in his tried heart. This is much nearer, the interest greater, the link more sweet and stronger. It was not pride of will in trial or in success, but an oppressed and humble heart finding Jehovah's ear and heart open to it. Thus consoled himself, he could console others with the comfort wherewith he himself was comforted of God. He was delivered from all his fears. Oh, how often this happens, even as to the removing not unreasonably expected evil entirely! This knowledge of Jehovah leads to the exercise of love in encouraging others, while the heart experiences it, and is filled with it. It is applied to the remnant by the Spirit in verse 5. They recall the case of Christ in verse 6. In verse 7 we have it as a general truth; in verses 8-10 his own blessed experience enables him who has trusted the Lord to assure others of the certainty of finding this help.

The experience of Jehovah's kindness is very precious. it is not only that one is assured of it for all trials, but Himself is known. He is blessed and praised. The heart dwells in Him, and finds its joy and rest in Him, and in the goodness of One who is alone, and none like Him in what He is. The blessedness is infinite and divine in its nature, as He who is the source of it, yet as intimate as what is in the heart can be - more intimate than any human being who is without it. We dwell in Him, and the Lord is our stay and the rest of our heart. There is nothing like it. None can be so intimately near us as God; for He is in us. Yet what an intimacy it is!

67 But there is another principle brought out here - what the walk is in which this blessing is found; v. 7-10. We have fearing the Lord, trusting the Lord, and seeking the Lord. Verses 11-16 take up what the character of this fear of the Lord is, in a passage most of which is quoted by Peter only. The end of verse 16 is left out as inapplicable now, though the general fact of government for the Christian is not. It is important that we should remember this. Not only is it true that God is not mocked - that what a man sows he will reap - that God has governmentally attached certain consequences to certain conduct; but He also watches over and directly governs His children - may cause them to be sick, to die; may deliver them from it, on confession or intercession. "The eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous, his ears open to their cry." Not only that, but "nigh to them that are of broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." Then there is a path marked out by God as the path of peace in a world like this; not simply in itself the path of spiritual power, but of quietness and peace in this world, going peaceably through it under God's eye. And that is very precious for us. Grace is a means of doing it, as the heart is elsewhere than in idleness and passion. The feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. As far as in us lies, we live peaceably with all men. This is true even of unconverted men. Those who walk in this way in general see good days, because such is the consequence of the public government of God. It becomes the Christian so to do, but others may do it. This government of God is always true, as we see in Job; only the saint should understand it.

But there is yet a word which remains. This government is not such now as that the righteous should not suffer (compare 1 Peter 3:14-17), still more for the name of Christ. But Jehovah watches over him. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father. It seems strange to us to hear, "Some of you shall they cause to be put to death  … but there shall not a hair of your head perish."

But the government of God now is applied - not the public government to the suppression of all evil but - to the case of the righteous under and through the power of evil. When Christ appears, there will be this suppression of evil. In general they who live peaceably will live in peace but in a world where Satan's power is, the righteous will suffer - have many afflictions, but none without the watchful care of the Lord. And in some way deliverance will come. Who would have said that, in the seemingly unbridled rage of men, when all (Jew, priests, or Gentile) were united against Christ - when to appearance they had all their own way, this psalm should be literally fulfilled in Christ? Not a hair of our head but is counted.

68 I doubt that this verse 20 in the psalm is exactly a prophecy, though literally accomplished in Christ. I should rather suppose that the passage in John's Gospel referred to Exodus 12:46. But Christ is a perfect example in any case of the declaration made in the psalm, as a great general principle, if the passage be not cited. God's care never fails, and is shewn in the smallest circumstances, and in spite of all man's thoughts, though God may allow many afflictions to come upon those that trust Him. These too will surely be a blessing. The soul, thus learning the Lord's ways and trusting Him, can bless Him at all times. Christianity indeed can teach us deeper fruits of spiritual life in this respect. But it is precious to know the Lord as one that watches thus over us in love - a Father's tender care, in which we can confide, and in which we can walk peaceably in this world, seeking the good of those around us.

Psalm 35 is the direct demand for judgment of the Spirit of Christ in the remnant, so that I have not much to remark upon it. But Himself was the first to suffer what here will be judged, but, as we have seen, never personally looks for judgment. Still this psalm shews us the spirit in which judgment is demanded, It was after patience and unwearied grace, and when this grace was of no avail, when there was no self-avenging, but casting themselves on the Lord, that at the end the Lord is looked to for deliverance. This is important to remark, as regards the judgment looked for. (See verses 12-14.) And it was only when he would be swallowed up that he looks to the Lord Himself to interfere, and so He will. The poor will not always be forgotten, nor is it right that heartless, unjust, and cruel evil should always have the upper hand unhindered. It is right that the saints should be patient - bear all till the Lord Himself interferes; and such is the spirit of this Psalm, and then it rejoices in the Lord's salvation. There is a righteous feeling that the Lord's recompensing the cruel wickedness is right, and so it is. Besides this, what we have is the character and way of the wicked, and the preceding entirely gracious walk of him who found the wicked too strong for him.

69 Verses 26, 27 have a special application to Christ, but the whole psalm, in the mouth of any one forward in faithfulness, was to bring the tide of evil on himself. I would refer to one or two passages to shew the working of this spirit, and how far the Lord points to it as to the remnant. As to Himself, save to prophesy the fact, He did not ask for it. He never does. See 1 Samuel 24, 25, 26, for the spirit in which David was kept, though weak, yet still then the instrument specially fitted by grace to attune the mind of Christ in these psalms to the circumstances in which the remnant, cast out like him, will be; and rising up, when God pleased, to the prophetic declaration of what Christ Himself should pass through, and provide words, wonderful honour! in which Christ could express Himself (see particularly chap. 24:11-13, and the end of chap. 26), for so many of the psalms. So Abigail keeps him in this spirit through mercy, but there is no self-avenging but casting himself on the Lord.

The way in which the Lord directs His disciples in Matthew 10 marks the spirit, too, in which the remnant are to bear witness for His commission, and goes on to His return; v. 13-15. Compare Psalm 35:13. It is important that the Christian should understand that while the Spirit of Christ in His own walk in the world was quite different, and so ought the Christian's to be, from the desire of judgment expressed in the psalms, yet that the desire is righteous and right in its place, and that that desire of judgment is not self-vengeance, but an appeal to a delivering and righteous God after the perfect patience of the heart under unrighteous oppression, as bowing to the will of God, and learning the lesson He had to teach. Compare Psalm 94:12, and following. Still the Christian is on quite different ground. In this point of view this psalm is an important one. It is one in which the spirit of the remnant is exercised before God by trial, and, inwardly subdued, is cast upon God to look for deliverance, according to the way in which it was promised to Israel and to the remnant under the divine government revealed in the law and the prophets.

70 Psalm 36, while spoken in connection with what is a very great trial, is yet, and indeed for that very reason, full of very deep comfort. The trial is this, that the ways of the wicked prove to the heart of the servant of God that there is no restraint of conscience, nothing to reckon on in them, no check to malice by the fear of God. Flattering himself in his own sight, he is devising mischief, he has no abhorrence of evil. How often does this, alas! come before the saint when in conflict with the power of the enemy. It is hard to believe this absence of conscience and planning mischief in malice reflected or advisedly; yet so it is. The heart knows it is true. The word points it out as characteristic. But then the consolation is very great and blessed, while it casts the soul entirely on a faithful and all-gracious God, who is above all schemes of man, so that we can be perfectly peaceful. "Thy mercy, O Jehovah, is in the heavens." What can malice do then? Its schemes cannot reach there, nor frustrate the plans or government which are established there, nor come between the soul and their effect. Mercy is out of the reach of the wicked's devices.

But there is another quality in God - faithfulness. Mercy is the spring of and disposes His doings. That is a comfort. Upon His faithfulness I can count. It lifts its head above the machinations of the wicked. The immutable principle of God's government in faithful love, His dealing in righteousness, is as firm and towering in strength as the mountains; His ways of judging and dealing as profound but as mighty as the great deep. Not fathomable beforehand by us as to how or why, He is working above the power of evil, but beyond the reach of puny man, so that He can bring about His purposes of blessing by the malice of men. He preserves man and beast. The moment we introduce the Lord so known, all the effect of malice of men, unrestrained though it be by the conscience of God in the wicked, is to make us trust God and not man. This is a real trial, but it is perfect peace; a breach with man, that is, of the saint with man as alienated from God, but a knitting of him to God in confiding cleaving of heart. And this has the highest moral effect.

This effect is unfolded in verses 7, 8. "How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God." It is not merely now a defence against unconscientious malice that is found, but the positive goodness of Him in whom it is found. The children of men put their trust under the shadow of God's wings, because His lovingkindness is excellent. This is the right and fitting condition of the creature, yet it supposes evil and the need of this goodness, but this goodness as a resource. But this carries the saint yet further. The goodness which has sheltered and protected him becomes his portion. Such is the blessed effect of being entirely cast on God and driven away from man. Brought under the shadow of God's wings, they enjoy the fatness of His dwelling place. "They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures." There are joys and pleasures that belong to God's house, yea, to God Himself. This is characteristic of the joy of the saints, and can only be when we are made partakers of the divine nature. This must have its joys where God has His; and this is the special proper blessedness of the saints. And God gives us this in the fullest way. He gives us His own presence, He gives us Christ.

71 How rich is this blessing, to receive a nature capable of enjoying divine joys, and these having the fullest divine objects in every way, for it is in every way to enjoy! Looking up, our calling is to be holy and without blame before Him in love, to enjoy God and be His delight according to the divine nature imparted to us, and in relationship to be adopted as sons to Himself; our place of inheritance God's own house, our home, and, as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, all that is subject to Him. But this is the inferior part: but as it is redeemed and made perfectly happy under Christ, it is a divine joy. We have it, too, in fellowship one with another. All this the Christian enjoys in the highest way, because Christ is become his life, and that in the highest and nearest relationship with the Father. Hence - and that through the power of the Holy Ghost - we have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Our joy is full. I have referred to this on Christian ground. The principle is stated in the psalm; and, in principle, it is true of all saints, though not in the Christian degree, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. But in principle it is true.

The psalm continues, "With thee is the fountain of life, and in thy light shall we see light." Up to this it has spoken rather of what God is for us, looked at as shelter, and protection, and comfort - in a word, a resource; but having brought us into the fatness of His house and the rivers of His pleasures, it refers to what God is more intrinsically in Himself in blessing; still more as what He is for us than in us - that belongs by the Holy Ghost to Christians. What is in us is here seen in Him as its source. "With thee is," says the psalm; "it shall be in him," says the Lord, of the Christian. God is that, however, and so revealed here and known. With Him is the fountain of life - a word of great import, though never fully revealed till Christ came. In Him was life. There was a tree of life of which man never ate, an instrumental ordinance of man's life. In the patriarchal times life is not the subject., but what the Almighty is to His beloved and blessed ones. The law connects life as a promise with man's doing, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was to be one. Life is a living connection with the source of blessing, or at least a living enjoyment of His favour - not necessarily heaven. No law could give it or was it. God promised it to him who kept the law. God is the fountain of it, but the law given to a sinner on the principle of his responsibility could be no means of life, but a ministry of death and condemnation. It spoke of life - was with life in view, as promise on obedience, but in fact was found to be unto death. The psalms are where, though heavenly things are spoken of, the connection of the heart of the remnant with God is brought out, and all its throbs and beating in its need, and what God is for it are felt; and that according to the working of the Spirit of Christ, though temporal deliverances are, as for the remnant, the main desire. Life and resurrection as the hope of faith necessarily come in, though it be but in the depth of their most intimate thoughts; and they will meet the need of those who may be slain. It is not life and incorruptibility brought to light by the gospel; life in a Man, the Son of God, a quickening Spirit; life in us by His becoming our life. Still as Christ's Spirit speaks in the psalms, He who had life was sure of the path of it in this world; and, as it led through death in the purpose for which He came into this world, sure of the resurrection too, that His soul would not be left in hades nor His flesh see corruption, but here in dependence on God as being man.

72 So here, where the saint's heart is separated from man, as wholly separated himself even from the fear of God, not only protection and lovingkindness are looked for, but the fountain of life is seen to be with God. We know death is overcome, its power rendered void; annulled. We know that the eternal life which was with the Father is come down from heaven. We know it is communicated to us, that Christ is our life, that having the Son we have life, that we are quickened and made alive according to the exceeding greatness of His power, according to the working of His mighty power, in which He raised Christ from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places; so that life for us and in us (for Christ is our life) is final triumph over death, and reaches into heavenly places. This has been brought to light by the gospel, John giving us life descending and manifested here in Christ and communicated to us; and Paul, life more fully completed in result up there according to the divine counsels in glory. All this of course is not here entered into, and could not be till Christ's resurrection. There could have been even no righteousness in it. Who had a title to be in a heavenly place till Christ entered into it? In whom could it be displayed in glory till the Head so entered into it? Still the principle, source, root of it is seen and revealed here. The Psalms are not law, though law be yet owned: but the working of the Spirit of Christ and of life, in those who are under it or in Christ Himself, and in those too who have to confess themselves sinners under it, could not hope for life therefore by it, but whose eye is opened on mercy, forgiveness, and grace, if not on heaven; though this, so far as the sense of the joy of God's presence expresses it, is reached where life is most fully expressed, as in Psalm 16.

73 Hence the source of life is seen - a blessed thought - when all was condemnation and death under law. They could not say, The life has been manifested, and we have seen it; still less, our life is hid with Christ in God; but they could say, and are taught to say and know, With Thee is the fountain of life. Hence there is a drinking of the river of His pleasures. For where should this life be satisfied, or the cravings of the heart even unconsciously animated by it, if not at that river, the river that makes glad the city of God? We have in us who have drunk, come to Christ and drunk, we have drunk of the water He gives, a well of water in us, springing up into everlasting life: yea, through the Spirit, rivers flow out from us, and that from the inmost consciousness of blessing.

74 But all this is the power of life in the Spirit; but it is equally precious to know its nature is divine. I have remarked elsewhere, that what is spoken of as life and nature in Colossians is referred to the Holy Ghost in Ephesians. Here we have God as the fountain, a blessed expression; blessed to know that the fountain is God Himself. The Father hath life in Himself; this is true of Christ as Man; then we that have the Son have life. It shews, I think, that it is looked at as something flowing forth. What our hearts have to rest on is God being the source of life, that we may feel and know what life is - how divine a joy it is, that, having a life which is divine in its nature, this is capable of rejoicing. It is its nature to rejoice in what is divine. It can, indeed, enjoy nought else, save, as the expression of it, in goodness or truth, but finds its joy in these rivers which flow unexhausted from divine love, and in which we drink the blessedness which is in His nature - in a nature which, being spiritually the same, must and can enjoy it according to that nature itself in its own perfectness. We joy in God.

But there is another thing. "In thy light we shall see light." God shines out, as well as He is a source. He has life in Himself, but with Him is the fountain of it. He is light, but He shines forth, gives light. So Christ; in Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And even we, Christ is our life, and we are light in the Lord. Here, no doubt, light is looked at more as comfort in the darkness of trial, when man, under Satan's power, was in the fullest sense manifested darkness; but this, as we have seen, has led to the discovery of what God is Himself. In the abstract principle nothing indeed in the psalms leads us more to what was fulfilled in Christ. Only here it is seen in Jehovah as its source, and the one in whom it is displayed. But this gives it its divine perfectness. "In thee is the fountain of life, and in thy light shall we see light." It is the confidence, in the midst of darkness and trial, that Jehovah in grace was a source of life, and that in His light they would see light. In Christ we get every way deeper truths; because, when the Life was the light of men, not for mere outward help, but shining in the moral darkness of this world, the darkness was darkness still - did not comprehend it. As long as He was in the world, He was the light of the world. Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

75 The closing verses return to the present hopes of deliverance by the government of God, and the assurance of its accomplishment. What characterises the righteous here is the knowledge of Jehovah and uprightness in heart: the enemies - pride and wickedness. He sees them, by faith, all fallen and unable to rise.

Psalm 37 is very distinctly in connection with the display of the direct government of God in this world, as it will be made good when the meek shall inherit the land and the wicked be cut off. We have already seen that the epistles of Peter especially furnish to us the application of this to the Christian estate as far as it is so applicable. The beginning of Matthew 5 gives us also, only with a much fuller evangelical character, though not going farther than the kingdom of heaven, the application in the way of promise, as far as the temper pleasing to God goes. But there are some most interesting and instructive exhortations in the psalm as to the spirit in which the believer is to walk and the character of his confidence in God in the midst of the evil which surrounds him. For though the time of the direct display of God's government be not come, and no doubt the power of evil will be displayed more oppressively just before it is put down, still it is even now the time of patience, and the evil is there. Till Christ comes, it is in principle the evil day, and the patience and kingdom of Jesus Christ go together in the heart - not His own kingdom and glory. They are all founded on the certainty that after all Jehovah is above all the evil, loves judgment, does not forget the righteous and those who trust in Him, and that, in the end, His way would have the upper hand. Meanwhile faith is exercised and all that is in the heart judged, which would by self-will mar the spiritual character and hinder the confidence in the Lord which becomes the saint.

The first exhortation is to peacefulness of spirit, and it is general and applies to the state of the mind. "Fret not thyself." When self-will and the desire of present satisfaction mingles itself with the love of righteousness, when one desires righteousness (and partly sometimes, through fear of the power of evil), and is selfish through peace-loving interests, one is apt to fret oneself because evil has its way. All this is the same spirit of unbelief with other desires. But it is unbelief and self-will. The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. We are neither to fret, which is distrust, nor be envious, which is even worse and self-interest. Then comes the positive direction in what spirit we are to walk. What is the resource against the power of evil? "Trust in Jehovah and do good." You will reap the fruit of it according to promise.

76 Next, delight thyself in Jehovah: He will give the desires of the heart. Holy desires, which have Himself for their object, will be satisfied. But opposition, shame, perhaps calumny, is there. "Commit thy way to Jehovah." How true is this! He has always, as men speak, the last word if we have only faith to wait for it. He will bring the result the righteous heart desires and make evident its righteousness.

Next, patient waiting for Jehovah in heart and desire, the surest character of trust. Circumstances may thus be in turmoil around one - violence and efforts. The soul waits for Jehovah's coming in when He will. The wicked may prosper; Jehovah has His own time, a time which is always right and sets all right. He may chasten for good, have plans bringing to maturity, patience Himself with the wicked, His own glory to bring out, which is our everlasting joy. Hence, no anger, no wrath, no fretting, no uneasiness. It leads to doing evil, indulging our own will in evil to meet evil. This is not the patience and faith of the saints. Evil-doers shall be cut off; the saint must not be among the number. They that wait on Jehovah shall inherit the earth. So of the meek, so of such as are blessed of Jehovah. This is Jewish undoubtedly; but, as we have seen, the government of God is still exercised, though not in public manifestation; and, when the soul has waited on Him in patience, it has its blessing even here. The latter part of the psalm is a careful declaration of this sure government of the earth to be publicly manifested in connection with the Jews, more secretly carried on in the time of heavenly grace, still very true.

There are one or two points of blessing to note in it. The steps of a good man are ordered by Jehovah, This is a vast and precious blessing, to think that in this wilderness, where there is no way in the midst of confusion and wickedness, our Father directs our steps. A young Christian may, in confiding zeal, not so much see the value of this; but through how many experiences will he pass? But when one has seen the world, its snares, what a pathless wilderness of evil it is, it is beyond all price that the Lord directs our steps. Also the humble young Christian is directed through grace, if he waits on the Lord, though he may not see the wisdom of it, nor the greatness of the privilege and mercy, till afterwards. But this is not all. Being so directed, the path is a good, a divine, path. There is indeed no other, and the heart is directed in it. For the Christian is led by the Spirit of God. His heart is in the ways; as Moses says, Shew me Thy way - not a way, but Thy - that I may know Thee. If I know a person's ways, I know him. God leads by His Spirit acting on and in the inner man, and the word sanctifies. Then God has delight in the saint's way. He delights in seeing a divine path trodden by a man in this world of evil. This Christ did perfectly, and God delighted in it. So far as we follow Him, the Lord delights in our way, has positive delight in it. It meets His heart.

77 Remark that there is no way but Christ. Adam did not need a way; he had to abide, enjoying God's goodness, where he was. In a sinful world there is no way; all is confusion and sin. But Christ was Himself, according to God, in the world, and in passing through it manifesting divine life and its path through the world when not of it. This was a wholly new thing, partially manifested in every saint in his walk of faith; but existing in itself and perfectly manifested in Christ. This is our path. We have to follow His steps and He is the way to the Father, and it is to Him we are going. It is an immense privilege to think our steps are ordered of the Lord, as a guarding from evil, and guidance; and then that the Lord delights in our way. What a path in a world like this! How fast should we hold it, and seek none else, and seek to keep it! Here the precepts, as in Colossians 3, or Ephesians 4 and 5, come in so preciously. There is another mercy - God watches over him. He may fall, that is, in trials, not carnally, but he is not utterly cast down (compare 2 Cor. 4:9 and following); the Lord upholds him by His hand. It may be a part of this government of God that he should be brought low, set aside; but the Lord's hand is in it, not he out of it, and that hand upholds him. The vessel may be broken or put to dishonour by men, the power is of God.

There is a moral reason for God's ways - He loves judgment; besides that, there is the assurance of sovereign love. He loves His saints. They are preserved for ever: but, then, according to the ways of this judgment, we have besides some traits of the righteous. He speaks wisdom, that is, the mind of God; and talks of judgment, the uprightness of the divine ways in God's sight, how God judges of right and wrong; his heart is in the walking in God's known will; his steps will not slide. We have then to wait on the Lord, and to keep His way. The end of the perfect and of uprightness is peace. And so it is, practically, with a Christian; he may be chastened for particular faults, for God's ways are through mercy unbending and right; but when a man walks with upright purpose of heart in his life, that life closes - if it close this side of glory - in peace. The fear of God and walking in His presence is a great means of peace. I speak not of peace for a sinner's conscience through the precious blood of Christ, but the peace of God filling the heart when all comes before Him. Finally Jehovah is the strength of the righteous in the time of trouble. This cannot fail. He shall help and deliver them, saving them from their enemies because they trust in Him. This is always true.

78 Psalm 38 presents to us a special state of soul. The relationship of the heart with God is known and felt, and that even in confidence, as the soul pursues the expression of its feelings. "In thee, O Jehovah, do I hope. Thou wilt hear, O Jehovah my God." Yet the soul is in the depth of sorrow and distress, and this looked at as the chastening of the Lord. It is under it, but deprecates it; that is, being in profound distress and sorrow, in loathsome disease, and friends abandoning, and enemies lively (as Job's state partially), Jehovah is looked to in it. The heart attributes it all to sin, but first of all looks to Jehovah and His hand. It is this that shews faith and a right mind.

The order of thought is thus remarkable: first, Jehovah judging, then sin as the cause, then personal misery, then abandonment of friends, then liveliness and ill-will of enemies, and the consciousness of all resulting in the heart confiding in Him that smote, turning to Him that smiteth it; and then comes out what at bottom was in the heart - hope in Jehovah, the consciousness of such belonging to Him as that the triumph of faith's enemies could not be, and that in the sense of the need of His intervention, because the poor sinning soul had no strength in self.

All this leads to the expression of unfeigned integrity of heart; acknowledgment of sin, not merely owning it to be the cause of judgment, but judging self for it before a trusted Jehovah, and thus able freely to look for help from Him. The soul, in disengaging sin from itself through grace, in judging it, can disengage, so to speak, its enemies from the pressing judgments of Jehovah; and, seeing them only in their own malice and hostility to the servant of Jehovah and to what was right, can now look for Jehovah's help against them. For the believer, though he had grievously sinned and been brought righteously low for it, yet really followed what was good. And though Jehovah used the malice of the wicked as a rod, it was not the evil which the wicked hated in the saints, but their connection with and owning the Lord. Yet the judgment was righteous. This will be the true history of the remnant when, under the terrible chastisement of Jehovah, they earnestly turn to what is right. But what an instruction also for us when under chastisement for what is wrong! Perhaps complicated chastisement for an extreme case is supposed here.

79 But what instruction for us when discipline comes upon us, where to look, where to begin! There may be the sense of God's chastening hand for sin and deserved wrath, but the reference of the heart to God's faithful love in relationship with us will lead to deprecate just wrath and His hot displeasure. There is a government of God according to His nature, and though the chastening hand of God does not destroy the faith and knowledge of our relationship (to us of Father), nor the reflective certainty that there can be no imputation to the believer, yet the soul does not quiet itself with this under the sense of the governmental hand of God in it. It is of immense consequence no doubt, and is at the basis of confidence - is a real sustaining, directing power to the soul, but it is not directly objectively thought of. God's holy nature, with whom we have communion, and what He is necessarily as regards sin, is before the soul. And the government of God is according to that nature; which indeed has been glorified by the work of redemption as to the imputation of sin. And though this last be true, the former point is what is rightly felt at the time: not a doubt of redemption, but a sense of the way God, in His very nature, and as Lord in His government, looks at sin with wrath; not reasoning about it, but because one has a nature that knows Him and an awakened conscience, one feels it, and feels it as to self, the goodness of God making self-judgment more terrible. It is not despair, it is not doubting justification; but it is not using this to screen the soul from the sense of the aspect sin has in the sight of God. It deprecates, because it knows the Lord, wrath and hot displeasure, which its sin had deserved, and, because it knows Him, looks to Him of whom it has deserved it. In the circumstances of the trial one looks to the hand and thoughts of Him who inflicts it, and interprets the ways of God because all comes from His hand, and looks to His thoughts in it. And hence, the conscious relationship being present, the heart gets into the power of it as a purifying, more than a wrathful process. It can say, Lord, all my desire is before Thee, my groaning is not hid from Thee.

80 This introduction of the Lord into His own chastisements, according to the full love and the relationship in which He is to us, is very beautiful. He is, according to these, the key for the heart of His own ways. And the heart recovers its equilibrium, as we see in the end of the psalm, where there is the consciousness of God being for it, as its resource against what before pressed on it, and as to which, in the sense of the sin which had caused it, it was deprecating wrath and hot displeasure. This is the effect of looking straight to Him and confessing simply, and in true depth of soul, the evil as against Himself, setting it between the soul and God; then it settles matters between the heart and the enemies with God. The secret of all is his looking directly to God Himself as He is in relationship with us, and this is the true confession of sin, but looking to and casting all on Himself. Confidence in Jehovah is the spring of every thought in all these psalms.

The relationship of Father in which God stands to us, and which is realised by faith, modifies in a measure the kind of feeling which the heart has. We have more sense of tenderness and graciousness in His thoughts towards us when we look towards Him, more of compassion and love; but this does not hinder its being substantially the same, and God as a God of government, according to the holiness of His nature, being before the soul and conscience, though His love be trusted. It will be remarked that the soul with its desire before God, is entirely submissive, and silent as to the mischief and wrong of the enemy; and that because it referred to God and hoped in Him, trusted in Him as having carried the whole matter in the spirit of confession to Him, and looks at it as coming from His hand. It would not otherwise have put Him between itself and the enemies. Verse 13 and following.

81 Psalm 39 is more the nothingness of man in presence of all the evil, and the pretensions of power in which it shewed itself, the heart referring itself to Jehovah. The heart kept a check on itself in the presence of the wicked, lest it should speak foolishly or rise up against it, as if it had strength too, whereas all in man was vanity. Then God's hand is seen in what the heart was undergoing, and He is looked to for deliverance, and all the pretensions of the wicked disappear, so to speak. Jehovah was correcting for iniquity. The believer in this world is a stranger, sojourning with God - for how long He alone can say. It does not depend on, nor is it to be vexed by, the bustling pretensions and arrogance of the wicked in their success. This would be to make ourselves of this world with a claim to something in it. Is that true? Verse 12 takes the place of Abraham and David, and all the walkers by faith, but looking as the believing Jew would for present sparing, though of God and as from God; and this in chastening (see verses 9, 10), the soul can now do. As to the government and ways of God, it is a New Testament wish.

Psalm 40. In all these psalms we have had the failing saint (the remnant), looking to a God known in relationship and faithful grace, though in failure. In Psalm 40 we have Christ taking the place of patience without failure, and so furnishing a ground for confidence even for those who failed, by taking His place with them (who after all were the saints upon the earth, the excellent) in their sorrows, and the path of integrity on the earth. Nor does He fail in this to place Himself under the burden of evil and sins under which Israel had brought itself. We. though this be in every sense true for the redemption of Israel, know it in yet a deeper way - such a glorifying of God as gives a heavenly place. This is not looked at here. But the way in which Christ identifies Himself with Israel, though in the integrity of the upright remnant, is profoundly instructive, and leads us into a wonderful apprehension of a special part of His sorrows. His death, and the sorrows of His death, are not viewed as atoning, or bearing of wrath, but as sorrows and suffering and grief. And so they were; though, besides that, atonement was in them, viewed as the drinking the cup of wrath. But there Christ does not bear sorrow with, but for His people; here God is viewed as helping Christ when in sorrow, in which He is, and in which He waits on Jehovah. It lay on the remnant, as in Israel's opposition, because of their faults and departure from God. Christ, who had been (as He states in this psalm) faithful to God in everything, enters into this sorrow in heavenly grace.

82 It is not His own relationship to God, but His entering into the remnant's as connected with Israel. His own had been perfect: theirs, though founded on Jehovah's faithfulness on one side, actually the fruit of sin. It is further at the close of His life. It is morally closed as to service. During that He had been doing God's will in the body prepared for Him, and faithfully declaring God's righteousness in the great congregation, that is, publicly in Israel. Now, and as regards man (and so it will be with the remnant - their trials will come on them from the proud, because of their faithfulness and testimony: only they will have deserved it, as themselves involved in the sins of the people), because of this faithful testimony, the evils come upon Him. So we know it was with Christ historically. His hour was come for it - the hour of His enemies and of the power of darkness. Here (as it is not the atoning character of His suffering and sorrow, but His association with the remnant - with, as I have said, not for), we have not, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" as in Psalm 22, where the foundation of righteous grace was to be laid.

It is Christ's perfect life, and sorrows at the close of it, in which He refers to the faithfulness and goodness of Jehovah, so as to lead His people to confide in it, instructing them in this in which His perfection was shewn. "I waited patiently for Jehovah"; patience had its perfect work - an immense lesson for us. Flesh can wait long, but not till the Lord comes in, not in perfect submission; and confiding only in Ms strength and faithfulness so as to be perfect in obedience and in the will of God. Saul waited nearly seven days, but the confidence of the flesh was melting away - his army; the Philistines, the proud enemies were there. He did not wait on till the Lord came in with Samuel. Had he obeyed and felt he could do nothing, and had only to obey and wait, he would have said, I can do nothing, and I ought to do nothing, till the Lord comes by Samuel. Flesh trusted its own wisdom, and looked to its own force, though with pious forms. All was lost. It was flesh which was tried and failed. Christ was tried: He waited patiently for Jehovah. He was perfect and complete in all the will of God. And this is our path through grace.

83 This is the great personal instruction of this psalm, save that Christ's own perfectness is always the greatest of all. Here He gives Himself as the pattern. "I waited patiently for Jehovah" - that is, till Jehovah Himself came in. His own will never moved, though fully put to the test. Hence it was perfectness. He would have no other deliverance but His. His heart was wholly right: He would not have a deliverance which was not Jehovah's. This is a very important point as to the state of the heart; it would not have another than Jehovah's. Besides, it knows that there is no other, and that Jehovah is perfectly right, when His moral will has been perfectly made good, and His righteousness vindicated when needed. There is the known perfectness of His will - His only title, and then perfectness of submission and the desire of only Him.

As this is a pattern for the saints, trial is looked at as such, and death is not spoken of save as it may be trial - a horrible pit, miry clay, images of distress, terror, and, humanly speaking, danger. The resource was a cry to Jehovah, and He was heard in that He feared. Here Christ speaks in His own Person, but in verse 3 deliverance enables Him to speak to the remnant - "a new song in my mouth" - even for deliverance from what had come upon them because of their sins. "Praise unto our God." "Many shall see it and fear, and put their trust in Jehovah." This would let in Gentiles. God had come in to deliver out of the effect of evil, and set His feet upon a rock above it and all its effects. This sure faithfulness of grace - the deliverance of God manifested in One who had gone to the depths of trials - would be a resting-place for the faith of others, the rather as He had gone into it as the consequence of the state of the people in the sight of God. Hence it is applied to the condition of the remnant, though thus true of every saint in trial by others' wickedness and the power of evil, perhaps brought on himself. "Blessed is the man that maketh Jehovah his trust, and respecteth not the proud," the high pretensions of man, and apparently successful wickedness, "nor such as turn aside to lies," abandon God for other false refuges, and the falsehoods of infidelity. Then, as man, Christ begins to recite how this most excellent proof of God's faithfulness to His people came in, though owning them to all others. They were numberless towards His people, "to us-ward." He puts Himself with them.

84 In verse 6 the special and glorious One comes in view, He who could discourse with Jehovah in eternity. The Son and Word (who was with God and was God and in the beginning with God), according to what was written in the roll of the book, has the place of obedience prepared for Him, ears dug, a body prepared, and according to the divine counsels (and love for us) freely and willingly undertakes the same place, the place of obedience; His delight (when He has taken it, and is man - has taken the form of a servant) is to do God's will. God's law is within His heart. Such is Christ as man, obedient, who in free-will had come, taking the body prepared for Him, and entered into the willing servant's place, the place of willing and glad obedience.

Verse 6 presents the thought and counsels of God, verse 7 His willing coming to do God's will according to these counsels. But we must remember He speaks when man, and verses 6, 7 are the revelation of what passed in the everlasting world (wonderful thought!) telling us how He became a man. But, as in verse 5, so again in verse 8, Christ speaks again as actually in the place on earth. "I delight to do thy will, O God; thy law is in my heart"; that is His perfectness as Man.

In verses 9, 10, we have the perfectness of His service. He has preached righteousness before the whole people of Israel; He has not shrunk from it, nor hid it within His heart: a lesson to all of us, though to be used with divine guidance. It was God's righteousness, His ways, nature, judgments, judgment of evil, what He was in judging it, His faithfulness too, and salvation - for Jehovah was this to Israel - His lovingkindness and truth. He had preached righteousness to man, and that perfectly; and he had fully declared what Jehovah was in all the perfectness of His nature and character towards Israel. All this was accomplished. He appeals to its full accomplishment. But now, He who had freely undertaken this service for God's glory towards Israel finds Himself in another position. It has brought the hatred of the nation upon Him, the wishers of evil against Him.

But this great controversy, and the need for the saints' deliverance, raised the question of the state in God's sight of those that were to be delivered. And without entering here on the ground of atonement, the governmental expression of the view God took of Israel's sin, in which the remnant had been involved, comes pressing on the soul of Christ, as it will really on the remnant. The iniquities of Israel will take hold upon them as reaping what they have sown - not condemnation (the burden of that Christ indeed underwent for them in atonement), but trial, distress, and felt (or, rather, making them to feel) the displeasure of God, but in which true faith looks for the loving-kindness and truth proclaimed and trusted; for the righteousness proclaimed is felt as a witness against sin, through the distress flowing from it, as with Joseph's brothers before Joseph.

85 Psalm 41. Psalm 40 presented to us the blessed Lord coming to take the place of obedience in the body prepared for Him, to be the poor and needy one on the earth, and waiting patiently for the Lord.

Psalm 41 speaks of the blessedness of those who could discern this place of the poor. The Lord was in it above all, and understood it above all; but we know in the beatitudes how He pronounces blessed those who through grace are like Him poor in spirit. For in truth these beatitudes are nearly the whole of them just a description of what Christ was, though given as a character to which blessing belonged: poor in spirit, meek, pure in heart, who was such like the great Peacemaker? In Luke we have more directly to His disciples: Blessed are ye poor. But He entered into the sorrows and place of His disciples, and, when He put forth His own sheep, went before them.

Although a psalm taking up a general character, it is specially fulfilled in Christ, who used verse 9 as specially fulfilled in Himself. It is indeed this identification with the remnant which gives such a deep interest to the psalms. This poor man cried. What is looked for in the psalm is the understanding of this place. With this we have the sure confidence that Jehovah would uphold him in his integrity, and set him before His face for ever. Blessed is he who enters into, and who has spiritual intelligence of, and interest in, this place of the poor man who waits, though in sorrow and lowliness, on Jehovah. If malice pursue him, he looks to Jehovah and His mercy in integrity of heart.