Practical Reflections on the Psalms - Book 3

Psalms 73 - 89

J. N. Darby.

<17003E> 124

Although Psalm 73, which begins the third book of Psalms, refers directly to the temporal judgment of God in Israel, as satisfying the anxieties of heart among the faithful; yet, as these anxieties are of all times we shall find something to note here. We see the ungodly having their way, so that God seems to have forgotten, and the heart is envious. But it shews in our case too often that the heart would yet have its portion here - at least a portion here as well as one to come. The sorrow at the power of evil in the world is right, but it mingles itself in our minds with liking to have one's own way and judgment in setting it aside. When the will mixes itself up with the sense of the success of evil, it is either irritated or disheartened so as to give up perseverance in good. The ungodly prosper in the world. What a riddle! Where is God's government? What is the use of good? No doubt it was more directly trying where temporal blessings had been made a sign of divine favour. But Christians are seldom separated enough from this world not to feel the success of wickedness, and a desire to take vengeance on it. Mere indifference to it is utterly evil. Thus the path is narrow, and grace must work in the heart to lead us in it to feel the evil in itself, to feel God's glory cast in the dust by it; but to abide God's time and way, as Christ did when He suffered.

125 There is no place of learning but in the sanctuary. There the will is bowed: there God is known: there the eye is not obscured by the passions of the world, and an ignorance of how to do what God alone could do - make allowance for any good, have perfect patience with evil, so that judgement shall be simply on evil, and be true judgement on evil without excuse. Our impatience would be nothing of this, even where the evil as such is justly judged. But in the sanctuary the will is silent and God is listened to. His ways are right, and we see things with His eye. The evil is worse, the compassion right, the patience adorable, yet the judgment sure; so that the sense of righteousness is not crossed in the heart, though the will of vengeance is; for the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. The judgment is righteous because patience is perfect - far more terrible because there is no passion in it. It refers to God. When we desire that fire may come down from heaven, self is in it. We do not know what manner of spirit we are of; yet, in one sense, they really deserved it. When God awaked in His own just time, they are as a dream. Their pride, pretensions, all is as a departed image. Faith has to believe this, and leave them there.

But another blessed truth comes out here. He had been foolish, ignorant - "as a beast," so he says, "before God"; yet there had been integrity and conscience. If he had let his thoughts loose when half disposed to say godliness was no use, he would have offended against the generation of God's children. This checked him. How beautiful to see in the waywardness of man's will these holy affections, this conscience of putting a stumbling - block in the path of the weakest of God's children, check the heart, and shew where the affections really are, and that fear of God which shews He is lovingly known - that the new nature is there! It is a great mark of good that God is owned. But what he knows of himself is that he was as a beast in his heart's reasoning as it did. But, then, mark what is seen. He comes to see that, in spite of all this, while owning his folly, he was continually with God. O how the full knowledge of self, when we know as we are known, will shew the patient unvarying grace of God waiting on us all the way in adorable love and interest in us! Through all his foolishness he was continually with God, and God had holden him by his right hand. Blessed grace! God loves us, cares for us, watches over us, is interested in us; because of His sovereign love, we are necessary to His satisfaction. He withdraweth not His eyes from the righteous. This is a wondrous thought of constant grace. But He is God, and not man. And so the heart here counts on Him.

126 Up to this, through all his shortcomings in faith, he could say, "Thou hast holden": now he says, as in communion, "Thou wilt guide me by thy counsel." This is not merely holding up unconsciously; it is the mind and will of God guiding us in communion. Hence it is seen when he has judged himself and is in communion; it is not that God does not guide us - make us go according to His own counsels, when we are not in communion, holding our mouths - with bit and bridle; for He does. But the soul does not understand it, then cannot speak, as here, in the knowledge of His doing it by Ms counsel. This He does. Here we meet, in the full force of the passage, the plain distinction of the Jewish position. "After the glory, thou wilt receive me." It has been altered to make more of it for Christian ideas, and the true meaning is lost. Compare Zech. 2:8.

After the glory, when this is set up, Israel will be received but in that glory we shall come with Christ. The heart is now set right by this visit to the sanctuary: "Who in heaven but the Lord?" We, indeed, may have our thought expanded by the knowledge of the Father and the Son; still the truth abides, only better known. Who in heaven but God, the centre and source and all of blessing? On earth, where with such as us not thus fixed on God, there might be distracting desires, there is no source of delight with Him; that is, He is the only one. Singleness of eye is complete. As we are in the world, it does make us feel alone, but alone with God. So the blessed Saviour. "All ye shall be offended in me this night." "Ye shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me." In one sense the heart accepts the dominancy of evil and is blessedly abstracted from all to God. See thus the blessing of this seeming evil. Were all peaceful and good, prosperous in the present and imperfect state of things, the heart would sink into that imperfect state and be really worldly; but the prevalence of evil, though pressing on the spirit (the will checked by the feeling that one cannot dissociate oneself from God's people), drives to the sanctuary of God. The heart is weaned from this world, and, in a world where evil does prevail, looks up to God, has Himself for its portion alone in heaven, and so nothing along with Him on the earth. He holds the one sovereign place in the heart. Nothing competes with Him at all. As in the New Testament, "Christ is all."

127 But this brings in another blessing. This endures. Heart and flesh fail; surely they do. God is the strength of my heart. He stays with divine strength and goodness and sustains the heart, and is not only a present stay, but an everlasting portion, our portion for ever. This leads to a sweet and earnest conclusion. It is good for me to draw near to God. There we learn truth; there we find comfort. He has put his trust in the Lord Jehovah, in One sovereign in power, abiding and faithful in promise. He who does will surely have to declare all His wondrous works. He will be in the place to see and experience them, have the heart to notice and understand them, the joy of testifying the faithfulness of One the heart has trusted. In verse 20 we have only sovereign power in the last verse, covenant faithfulness also.

As to Psalm 74, for our present purpose I have only one remark to make. We find in it confidence in the faithfulness of God (when as to outward circumstances, the power of the enemy seemed to make all hopeless) and on the ground of confidence in Himself; but then what He is for His people. Redemption has proved His deep and profound interest in them. They are His own. He has,, though taking them up in sovereign grace, now bound Himself up (though in grace) with them. And the heart says, "Arise, O God, plead thine own cause." This is very blessed. So Moses continually. "Thou hast brought them out." Hence if the people be brought utterly low and the tumult of enemies rise higher and higher, this is only an additional motive, because it is grace, and faithful grace; and power over all things is with Him, The heart calls on God to remember the attacks and reproaches of the enemy instead of being alarmed by them, for the reproach is on His name. And this is true. For the world's enmity is really against the Lord in being against His people. Were they not His people, they would not trouble their heads much about them. God's people have to remember the same thing, and in their own weakness to remember what is in question.

128 Psalm 75 is the certainty and righteous government of Christ's kingdom. Only remark, faith gives thanks before it is set up, warning the presumptuous wicked, for God is the judge. Human pretension is no use against Him. Remark too that, when Christ takes the kingdom, all is confusion, the earth and its inhabitants are dissolved. Our hearts should even say God's name (for us the Father) is near; that is, all in which He reveals Himself is close to us. So that we can ever trust and not be afraid. The ways and dealings of God are according to His name. We believe in His name of Almighty and Most High, and that He will avenge the persecuted church on Babylon and its power; but it is not God's name directly with us. This, as I have said, is Father. Hence, save of His children, it is not government. Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. All the power that is in that name so displayed, or all the grace and faithfulness of it for those who are risen with Him and loved as He is, that which is ever near to us; and that wondrous work of Christ's resurrection declares it, were death itself upon us.

Psalm 76. The general subject is still judgment executed in connection with Israel. But there is a general principle we may notice. First, that the seat of God's blessing and throne, or its manifestation on earth, low as it may fall, is more excellent than all the might and violence of man. At God's rebuke these fall, and man has no strength. When God arises, what can man do? But God's execution of judgment on the earth has an immediate effect and purpose - the deliverance of the meek. He saves all the meek of the earth. His love and faithful goodness are even here in exercise. Then comes another principle, applicable at all times by faith, and an encouraging and consoling principle. God makes the wrath of man to praise Him. He turns everything to His own glory and purpose, and then stops all the rest. Where faith is in exercise, it counts on God through all, sure that God will have the last and final word in the matter.

129 In Psalm 77 we have some instructive points to notice. The complaint goes farther, perhaps, than that of any Christian ought to go. The seventh verse for us would be simple unbelief; whereas for the Jew, whose people are cast off as regards all their privileges, the question justly arises, as in Romans 11, "I say then hath God cast away his people?" But if we keep this in mind, there is much to instruct us as regards the time of deep trouble, as when the pressure of very adverse circumstances or even our own fault may have brought the soul into deep distress as to that which surrounds it. The subject of this psalm is that he actually and actively sought the Lord. It was a direct appeal of the heart, not merely a wish nor submission. He went with his voice to God about it. This is more important than we are apt to suppose.

I do not think it altogether just, that "prayer is the soul's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed." I surely admit that there may be a sigh or a groan where the Holy Ghost's intercession is, and that the lifting up of the heart to God will never find repulse or coldness there. All that I admit; but there is an actual carrying a known want or trouble to God, the expression of the need we are in. The heart expresses itself in a distinct application. Thus it brings itself before God, and this is very important in our relationship with God. There is truth in the inward parts, and true confiding dependence. Up to this there was gnawing trouble, the working of the heart on the trouble, the soul refusing to be comforted. The will was at work, and could not get what it wanted. The soul thinks of God, but no comfort was there. There was but its own thoughts of Him; there was complaint, not prayer, and the spirit overwhelmed. So, when awake, he cannot be occupied naturally with ordinary matters, he is silent through trouble. It is a strong picture of a thoroughly distressed soul; only fully realised when a soul, through the chastening hand of God, has lost the sense of divine favour, or does not yet know peace, but which in a certain degree of not looking to Him may be the case with any one. But the soul turns to God. It has enjoyed mercy and songs in the night. Would the Lord cast off for ever? For the Christian this question has no place; but when the shield of faith is down, and the fiery darts of the wicked have reached the heart, a terrible and sore chastisement. The only thing like it is when a soul has lightly received the gospel in its mercy (without, however, being insincere), and the work of conscience goes on afterwards. When, instead of communing with self and reasoning with its own misery, it looks to God, the heart sees all this in itself, not in God. This is the turning-point.

130 But the Christian does not go back to former mercies (as the Jew would, and rightly would), because he always stands in present favour, even if Satan have got hold of his mind for a time, and he returns into the sunshine of it, when the cloud that arose out of his own heart is passed. The Jews had early sovereign blessings, and are right to remember it when they have been cast off, though it be not for ever. The Christian is never cast off. Hence he has not to remember but enters again into the enjoyment of divine favour which has never ceased. In the rest of the psalm the Christian learns God's way is in the sanctuary. Let His favour be ever so unchangeable, His way is always according to His own holiness, though for the very same reason according to His own faithful love. Whenever Israel turns back, it is to sovereign grace and redemption. God's way is in the sea - untraceable and in power. All the movements and power of what seems ungovernable and not to be got through are in Ms hand. On the whole, the psalm is the contrast between the working of the soul in restless anxiety in thus indulging its own thoughts, and turning, when it has recollected God, to cry to Himself. If the Christian apply it to interrupted favour, he is all wrong. But he may learn, in respect to overwhelming sorrow when the will is at work, that there is no rest till the soul remembers God and cries to Him.

Although Psalm 78 be evidently a recapitulation of the history of Israel, convicting them of their disobedience and unbelief, the uselessness as to their hearts of all God's dealings with them, and then, so magnificently, His turning to His own sovereign grace to bless, yet there are some of the marks of unbelief, and warnings as to it, which it will be profitable to us to note. The great principle of the psalm which I have noticed is itself of the highest interest. Sovereign grace is the only resource of God, if He is to bless man. All dealings, however gracious, fail of their object. He loves His people, but He has no resource for blessing them but His own grace. If He acted on the effect of His dealings, He gives them up; they only turned aside like a deceitful bow. So ever. But when all was at the worst, He wakes in His love to His people, because of their misery and His love to them. Then He accomplishes the purpose of His own grace in His own way. He "chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion, which he loved … he chose David his servant."

131 Such is the general instruction of the psalm. But there are the characters of unbelief which are instructive. The past mercy and faithfulness of God will not give courage for a present difficulty. God must be known by a present faith. No reasoning from former mercies will give us confidence. "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?  … he smote the rock … can he give bread also!" Experience of goodness and power will not make man trust it, when some new need is there, or lust is at work. Nor was it better, though He commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, and rained down manna upon them. Nor did the correction of their lusts in the matter of the quails stop their unbelieving will. When under His hand, man remembers Him. A little ease brings forgetfulness and self-will. But He was full of compassion, and stayed His hand in judgment. "They tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel" - mistrust of God's power to effectuate all His grace, to do what is needed in any case for His people, and to carry out His purposes for them. The moment I suppose anything cannot be for blessing, I limit God. This is a great sin - doubly, when we think of all He has done for us. The Holy Ghost ever reasons from God's revealed infinite love to all its consequences. He reconciled; surely He will save to the end. He did not spare His Son; how should He not give all things? This, however, is goodness infinite; but doubt of power is doubting He is God. It hinders setting our hope in God. Experience ought to strengthen faith; but there must be present faith to use experience. The gracious Lord keep us from limiting God in His power, and so in His power to bless, and lead us not to remember Him only when His hand is upon us but for His own sake, and in the midst of present blessing, because the heart is set on Him! Then, in trials, we shall be able to count upon His goodness and have no disposition to limit His power.

Psalm 79 looks for judgment on the heathen. This I leave aside here. The only point I have to notice is the way, when brought very low, the heart turns to God. It does not even here avenge itself, but (the extreme of evil being come upon it) turns to God, and thus remembers its own sins. Nor has it any plea but God's own name. "Remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us … Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name! Deliver us, purge away our sins, for thy name's sake." Such is the effect of chastisement. It supposes that we know God. It produces lowliness of heart, true confession, no pretension to any title to deliverance but God's own goodness and name - what He is. Yet the soul rests on that. There is compassion - that God attends to the sighing of His prisoners; and (however strong the hand that holds those appointed to die) will act in the greatness of His power to preserve. The enemy had reproached the Lord in injuring His people. "Where is their God?" - their confidence. And the Lord shewed Himself; and this is looked for, and His people praise Him.

132 This too shews another point we may often notice in scripture - not that God simply is glorious, and must maintain His glory; but that He, having taken a people in the earth, has identified His glory with that people. Faith feels this, with deep sense of it and thankful entering into it, and reckons on deliverance and grace. God delivers and secures His own glory. But for the very same reason God allows no evil, because His name is connected with His people, as we see in Israel: "Thee only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for your iniquities." Here the punishment was on them, and the name reproached. So, humbling themselves, and looking for mercy and purging, they took for deliverance, because God's people were brought low.

Psalm 80 is bold in its appeals. It passes from Egyptian deliverance to the knowledge, not of Christ, but of the Son of man, Still it looks at Him as the branch which God has made strong for Himself. It is not "I am the true vine, ye are the branches," which makes the introduction of John 15 clear. Still it goes now far in owning the man of God's power, the Son of man, whom He made strong for Himself. But if, in this confidence in God, and looking to the Son of man, it speaks boldly and refers all to grace, it is thoroughly Jewish. It refers to the order of the tribes in the wilderness. It knows God as sitting between the cherubim. Israel was His own vine; but it takes the fullest Jewish light - the Son Of man. But it has no hope but God's turning them again. It is this expression, which characterises the cry of the psalm, which we must examine a little. It is found in verses 3, 7, 19. We may find it again in the same use in Jeremiah 31:18-19, and in Lamentations 5:21 a similar cry. This gives it much interest.

133 Mere discipline in itself does not turn to God. It may break the will, humble where God is working, and so do a preparatory work; but it does not turn to God. So they are brought here - and, in the desolations of Ephraim and Judah, when they are down to the lowest, because nothing less would do - to say, "Turn thou me," "Turn us again." It is not simply godly sorrow and the consciousness of sin. Nor is this exactly the thought or feeling here. There is the sense of belonging to God, being God's people, and the rebuke of God being upon them - "they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance." It is the dealing of God with His people, or a saint in his testimony as now, when God deals with him in it. There is the sense of being His; but God's work, which is repassed when it was carried out in blessing by God, is seen foiled and a witness of the enemy's power; but this power is not what faith rests on, but the rebuke of God. Faith turns to Him, to Him as the original source of blessing and power that wrought it; as the One whose work it is who is always interested in His people. It rests on the beauty and delight of God's work to Himself, as He had planted it, and now it was rooted up; and hence draws the conclusion of His present intervention in grace. But it looks for this first as a turning of themselves.

The state they are in is connected with the ruin, though not the main thought; they cannot separate their own state from God's interposition. They needed it, but His first act must be restoring them, turning them. Blessing is their thought, but God's blessing them as He blesses hence beginning with them and turning them. But with this God's face would shine on them, and they would be saved. How well that we can look to God when our face is set wrong, that He may turn us, and His face so shine on us as to bring blessing and present deliverance on His people. It looks to God remark, too, returning and visiting the vine, but it does not look for the restoration of the original state of things (that is not God's way), but to the setting up the branch God had made so strong for Himself. And so we now; we look to Christ's being exalted even in details. If we have failed, it does not become us to look to God's setting it right as before, as if nothing had happened - this could not be for His glory - but to the coming in of Himself to shew His goodness in that which manifests His own grace, and hearing the cry of His people. "Let thy hand," says the faith of Israel, "be on the man of thy right hand." Here they see their strength and safety - their being kept right. "So will we not go back from thee." So it will be fully with Israel in the last day, and so with us practically. His presence is what keeps us. There is another thing that faith seeks. Dullness and death are in turning away from God, and going their own way. They need, in being thus turned to be quickened, the reviving life-giving power which calls the heart back to God. It then, with increased seriousness and new confidence, calls upon Him. In Israel it is really life from the dead. It is more than the prayer which cries in trial. It is the heart confidingly calling on God, as turned again to Him. The prophetic scene is clearly the restoration of Israel. God does not hide His face from His saints now - He has from Israel: but in their work, and service, and state, as a body, they may find these ways in government.

134 But I would turn for a moment to the connection of this with personal turning and repentance in the similar passages to which I have alluded, In Jeremiah we have first, "Turn thou me and I shall be turned." First then we have the action of God in grace turning the sinner round, converting him. He was looking away from God, had turned his back on God, and now in heart and will turns round towards Him. Repentance comes after this: "surely after that I was turned I repented." I set about, and as brought into the light, my heart towards God, I judged all my ways in my departure, my state of heart, and all. Instructed then in true blessing, having the mind of God as to good, one is confounded that one could have thought of such vanity and evil with desire.

But another thing is brought before us in the Epistle to the Corinthians. The turning of God brings into sorrow; 2 Cor. 7, The apostle's first epistle came with the power of the Spirit to their souls. It was not yet a full judgment of their state in the light, but the will being divinely arrested, there was grief in the sense of having gone wrong: conscience, not will, began to be at work; self may have partially mixed itself with it. Still it was godly sorrow, a broken will, brokenness of heart; the feeling - I have been following my own will, I have forgotten God. The illusion of a perverse will is gone, and the effect of having to say to God, the working of God's nature in us begins. It is not with fear where rightly felt; no thought that God will impute, condemn, but sorrow and grief of heart at the perverseness and delusion of self-will having been followed, This works a far more active deliberate judgment of evil, called repentance here. Godly sorrow worketh repentance which we shall never regret. The soul by being turned, having by the operation of God's grace been brought to grieve at having listened to will, now re-enters (or enters at first) into the natural effect and working of the new man at liberty. It judges with spiritual energy the whole evil as God judges it in principle. The sense of fault is not gone, but what characterises the state is judgment of the fault - of self as far as self is in it. The heart is clear of the evil when it judges it as God judges it, and separates it from itself as a thing external to itself as God does. And this is holiness, often deeper from better knowledge of self than before.

135 We see an example of this in Peter's address in Acts 2. Their sin was set before the people. They were pricked to the heart, and said unto Peter, What shall we do? The boisterous will was gone: no more "Crucify. him, crucify him." Sin has done its act, and can no more undo it. The folly of it comes home with distress to the heart. "What shall we do?" They are turned, have come to distress and godly sorrow. What are Peter's words? "Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins." Turned they were, grieved at heart at their folly in sinning, they had yet to repent. It is a larger, deeper, fuller thing of a soul brought into the light, and the new man exercising its judgment on what self had been. Not now as pressed on by God, and bowing in sorrow of heart to the effect of His grace and presence in the sense of the evil, but in our own spiritual rejection, with God, of the evil as such from the standing ground of the new man with God. This is accompanied with brokenness and lowliness of heart, but the soul has re-entered into its own liberty with God. True repentance is there when self is proved clear in the matter, when the new standing has possession of the judgment and will, and judges freely, as a rejected thing, all that the flesh delighted in and had been misled by.

136 From Psalm 81 I have only a few brief principles to state as to the government of God. On the restoration of blessing, the precious ways of God are considered. Had there been faithfulness, there would not only have been peace instead of trouble, but rich present blessing. Whereas the effect of not hearkening to God was, that God gave them up to their hearts' lusts, and they walked in their own counsels and soon came under the power of their enemies, ever stronger than the people of God on their own ground. God has delivered us. We have been delivered from the bondage and burden of sin. Answered by divine power when in trouble and distress under it (a power which, while manifest in its effects, had its source of operation in the secret of the divine counsels, we are, as regards present dispensed blessings, put under responsibility, yet in the place of fullest ministered blessing. "If thou wilt hearken" - truth of heart to God is that which is looked for; not merely avoidance of actual evil, but no idol in the heart. This tests the heart - truth in the inward parts with God, But God calls to this as being already our God - now we say Father - who has delivered and saved us; and calls us in the path, no doubt, of obedience, to open our mouth wide that He may fill it. It is to this we are called, to enlarge our hearts to receive blessing. God has largely and richly for us, and calls us to open our mouth wide. All His mind is to fill it from His own riches, those of blessings of grace from His own hand. The unsearchable riches of Christ are ours, and dispensed to our souls. But alas! very often we are like Israel, "My people would not hearken to my voice."

There is then, as chastisement, a giving up of the saint to eat the fruit of his own ways: a terrible judgment - sometimes to be humbled and feel the bitterness of the power of the enemy, sometimes, what is worse, to think one is finally given up. This is seldom the case when the soul has really been already emptied of self and subtle self-righteousness. Still the flaming darts of the wicked are terrible to the soul. It is not at all the same thing as the legal doubts of an exercised soul, but the dread of God as now against the soul; not the uncertainty whether He will be for it, whether it can escape. This last is legal doubt; the former, despairing doubt from Satan. If the saint walks faithfully, he has surely enemies, Satan and his machinations, to contend against; but the Lord really subdues them. It is, after the patience of faith, the encouraging proof that the Lord is with the believer in his way. Our adversaries are the Lord's: the consciousness of this is an immense force. Those that oppose us in the Lord's path are, at any rate in that respect, the haters of the Lord. They are found liars, and empty in their pretensions. And at peace through the Lord's power, the saint would walk in a constant path. "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever": he is fed with the finest of the wheat, with the most precious knowledge of Christ; and the sweetness of divine grace refreshing and satisfying the desire of the spirit.

137 On Psalms 82 and 83 I have no remark to make in connection with our present object in commenting on the Psalms. In Psalm 82 the reader will observe that God judges the judges, especially those who in Israel had the divine law to guide them. They fall thus, from wielding God's authority in the earth, into the place of responsible man, and God arising judges the earth, Here iniquity towards man, the separation of judgment entrusted to man from righteousness, is dealt with by God. In Psalm 83 it is the way in which man is guilty of active enmity against God, in his hatred against God's people using craft, conspiracy, and violence to destroy their remembrance off the earth, the result being that Jehovah alone (the God of Israel) is the most high over all the earth; for such is the effect of man's efforts. Oppression downwards in those who represented God in the earth, rebellion upwards against God shewn in hatred against God's earthly people: such are the characters of man, and the object of God's judgment on the earth.

Psalm 84. Though God be necessarily the centre of all our desires, the desires of the new man, yet it is not in this psalm the desire after God as such, which is spoken of as in Psalm 63. Jehovah is owned as the living God, but He is owned as a manifested God in relationship with His people. It is not "my soul is athirst for God"; but "how amiable are thy tabernacles, O Jehovah of hosts." They would not have been so, if He had not been there, if they had not been His. Still it is the enjoyed public relationship with Him, dwelling in the midst of His people, which is delighted in, not abstract delight in Himself The tabernacles of God are a resting place for the heart, as the swallow had a nest from God where she might lay her young. And this is just. The root and essence of personal piety is the soul's own desire after God. The secret of God is there, and the soul is kept in the holiness of His presence, and exercised in it before Him. But where God displays His glory, where He is worshipped, is the just resort of the pious soul. In His temple shall every one speak of His honour. There praise is drawn out.

138 It is not exercise, but the soul in its piety, as in the new man alone, goes forth in praise and worship where all do, where there is nought else, and with others of the same spirit also. For the altar of God is the centre of the heart's desire and outgoings. There God displays Himself, and there the heart is at home from exercises and trials. Hence it is known to the heart, that there they will be still praising God. They that dwell there have nought else to do. Such is the full accomplished blessing.

But there is another thing (verses 5 to 7) in which blessing is known - on the way thither, the way through this world, the valley of tears. The strength of him who passes with an undisturbed heart towards God's rest and dwelling-place is in the Lord. Hence he too is blessed. If the dwelling-place of God, where His glory is manifested and fills the place, is the object of the heart, where its desires tend, the way that leads there will be in the heart too. It may be a rough one, a valley of tears, a valley where the cross is found, but it is the way there, and the heart is in it, Besides, the heart trusts God - has His love as the key to all. Hence it says "by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit." They turn the valley of tears into a well, and find in the sorrow the refreshments of grace. For we need the will broken, the movement of will in the desires of the heart judged, that grace, that God Himself (that well of joy and blessing), may have His full place. And this the trials and exercises of the wilderness do. It is not called the valley of trial, but the valley of tears; that is, it is not merely the facts which form the well, but the exercises of heart which flow from them. No doubt the character of the valley was the source of this; but Christ perfect in His way was a man of sorrows, therein manifesting and exercising His love. We need humiliation and breaking down that we might get into this state, but this is what makes it a well to us. By these things men live, and in all these things is the life of the spirit. He had meat to eat in His sorrow as cast out by the well of Sychar which His disciples knew not of. But this is not all. There is direct supply and ministration of grace from above. God sends a gracious rain on His inheritance, refreshing it when it is weary. The rain fills the pools. The communication of the Spirit of God, the revelation of Christ to the soul, the Father's love, all refresh and gladden the heart, and fill it with that which makes the world a nothing, turning the heart elsewhere. The new man is in its joys, and goes cheerfully thinking of that through the valley. It goes from strength to strength. It is not accumulated strength, though strength is increased, but never in any sense so as to diminish dependence on God, but on the contrary to increase the sense of it.

139 Self is better known and more thoroughly distrusted; we are more simple, and have a more simple consciousness that power belongs to God. As Peter, "when thou art converted (brought back], strengthen thy brethren" - an extreme case, as to the means, but shewing how self-judgment and the lesson of dependence is the way of having strength, because strength is really in Christ. "My strength is made perfect in weakness." Thus the strength we have and feel at a point where we are brought to realise the grace and presence of Christ sets us forward on our journey across the wilderness; we use it (I do not say lose it) in travel, but it is not the conscious enjoyment of deriving blessing from Him, but employing that strength in the way.

This leads us to a further apprehension of our need of Christ, increased knowledge of self by what we pass through, but which is discovered not always in a judgment we form of ourselves, but in such emptying of self, and the decline of its deceptive power in our heart, as casts us more simply on Christ. We go to a further place of strength thus; Christ is more all. If there be failure, it will be in the positive judgment of self and restoring the soul. The result is our appearing before God, where no self will be at all, and in the place where He has set His blessing, and where all go up to worship and glorify Him. Even now there is a partial realisation of this, but it s accomplishment will be surely in glory - in the heavenly Jerusalem and the Father's house. But all this turns to supplication - supplication in the sense of divine majesty, but supplication in the consciousness of blessed relationship. He is Jehovah of hosts, but He is the God of Jacob.

140 But it goes yet further. Till we are actually in the courts of God, we depend on this majesty and covenant faithfulness - for us the Father's name in union with Christ - but also on God's looking on Christ; but this secures us till then - indeed in one sense for ever. We are assured, are confident, and pray because God looks on Christ. But this confidence on the way through Baca is connected with the desire to be in the courts. "Look upon the face of thine anointed: for a day in thy courts is better than a thousand." Better be at the threshold there, than enjoy all that the tents of the wicked can afford, with the right to abide there. God enlightens with His glorious majesty, and protects. He will give in perfect unhindered grace all we need in the trial of the way, and in our weakness, when it is sweet to count on His help. And He will in the end, when brought home capable of enjoying it, give glory with Himself. We can count on Him for everything. He is good; nothing good will He withhold from those who walk before Him. The soul closes in the conscious feeling - "Blessed is the man that trusts in thee." And how true it is! Nothing can disturb, nothing is beyond His power - nothing of which His love cannot take charge for us - nothing which His wisdom does not know how to deal with for blessing. And the heart knows His love to count on it, and that blessed is the man that puts his trust in Him,

Psalm 85 brings out a principle of great practical importance, the difference between the forgiveness of what belongs to our former state, and the blessedness into which the believer is introduced in the enjoyment of relationship with God. Here, of course, it is in the restoration of Israel to blessing in the land in accomplishment of the promises of Jehovah. I shall now speak only of the principle as regards ourselves.

Forgiveness is known as the fruit of Jehovah's goodness, and His sure goodness to His people, and hence full blessing is expected. But the two are distinct. So with us, forgiveness applies to all that we have done, looked at as in the old man and his deeds. We are brought back, and all the fruit of the old man is put away for ever by the sacrifice of Christ. We have thus full forgiveness. Wrath is gone as to it. All our sin is covered; but the distance from God and from the enjoyment of communion with Him is not removed. Fear of judgment and the Judge is gone; but the enjoyment of present blessing with God, His favour as upon those with whom is no question, and the going forth of divine favour in natural though righteous relationship, this is not entered into. joy there has been, great joy there is, in finding oneself forgiven but it applies to what we are in flesh, and is not communion with God in a nature capable of enjoying Him and none else, because coming from Him. Though forgiven, this distance, this want of enjoyment of God in the new and divine nature, is felt to be in its nature anger. It is not being brought to God. Nor can we rest without the enjoyment of His favour.

141 For this the appeal in the psalm is made. The captivity of Jacob was brought back, but he looked for more, to be turned to God, and that all anger might cease. This is a large word; yet knowing love and communion at least in hope, we cannot rest without it. We may have desired it, that is, the sense of favour, but we cannot get it by progress or victory; we must get it by forgiveness and deliverance, for we are sinners. But when we have found there is redemption and pardon, there is then not merely the need of the conscience by which we must come in, but the spiritual desires of the new man. "Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?" The soul is revived by the presence of the Spirit of God, and rejoices in God Himself.

So Romans 5; we have peace with God: not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the reconciliation. "Shew us thy mercy, but mercy from God known in relationship with His own - for us the Father known in Christ, "and grant us thy salvation." But the soul has learnt grace and listens for the answer, because it looks for grace. It is not legal agony, but desired knowledge of God in favour. "He will speak peace." "His salvation is nigh them that fear him."

Now this is all-important for the soul, not to rest in forgiveness (its first urgent necessity that applies to what it is as a sinner), but to understand that it is called to the enjoyment of God, in the cloudless communion of a new nature, which being, morally speaking, the divine nature, has necessary and full delight in God, though a dependent and growing delight - we joy in God. No doubt it is and must be founded on righteousness - divine righteousness, as we shall see. It would not be God, were it not so; but it is not the settling that point with a God who is calling it in question, but enjoying God's presence, communion with Him, according to the perfectness in which we have been placed before Him, enjoying Him in the divine nature of which we are partakers. This is thus spoken of in regard to Israel: "Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other."

142 It is mercy, for it is granted to sinners in pure and sovereign mercy; but it is truth, for it accomplishes all God promises to Israel. To us far beyond promise, for there was none of the church; but it is a stronger case. It is being in Christ and as Christ, and so before God according to the favour in which He is before Him as risen. Righteousness seemed against the sinner and was; but through the divine righteousness it associates itself with peace to the sinner. They kiss each other. Peace answers to mercy, righteousness to truth. They have - we have - peace through mercy; but righteousness by the faith of Jesus Christ brings us into the full enjoyment of the place He is in, or it would not be righteousness. Truth springs out of the earth; that is, for Israel all promised is accomplished there. With us, of course, it is sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. It is not, "glory shall dwell in our land," but we are in title and place in the glory of God on high. But in all cases righteousness looks down from heaven.* It is not for Israel or for us, righteousness looking up from earth to claim blessing from heaven. He has established righteousness in the very heavens. Christ is there. He is there by the righteousness of God. The righteousness was a divine heavenly righteousness; He, having glorified God, is glorified with God, and in Him, and this is divine righteousness. Our heavenly and Israel's earthly blessing both flow from it. Then comes conferred blessing too, and so surely it is all the produce of that heavenly country; its joys and privileges are made ours to enjoy.

{*Note how this sets aside legal righteousness, which looks up from earth.}

The last verse properly applies to earth. But there is a truth yet connected with this I have not noticed. The present government of God applies to this walking in divine enjoyment, not to forgiveness and peace. We enjoy this blessed communion, dwelling in God and God in us by the Holy Ghost given to us. If we grieve Him, we are made sorry, humbled, perhaps chastened. It is always our place; but its realisation and enjoyment depend on the revelations and action of the Holy Ghost in us, and these depend on our walk and state and obedience.

143 So in John 14 and 15 the enjoyment of divine favour and blessedness is made to depend on the walk of the saint. It must, if it is by the Holy Ghost dwelling in us; for how should we be enjoying communion in love in the midst of evil or idle thoughts? The presence of the Holy Ghost depends on righteousness - Christ's presence on high. The Spirit sheds God's love abroad in our hearts. We dwell in Him and He in us. But if evil is there, the flesh is at work, the Holy Ghost is grieved, communion is interrupted. It is not a question of title (that is settled: Christ is in heaven), but of enjoying the blessedness I am brought into, enjoying God. Here all our walk with God is in question, though it is by grace I do so walk aright. What I urge here is the soul's getting clear hold of the difference between forgiveness - grace applied through Christ's work to sin and all the fruits of the old man - and our introduction in Him in righteousness into the presence and communion of God where no cloud or question of sin ever comes. We may get out of this (not out of the title to it, but its enjoyment in spirit - not that peace is destroyed with God, but communion), but in it no cloud of sin can come. We are loved as Christ is loved. All depends on His work. But one is the forgiveness of that out of which we have been brought, the application of Christ's work to our responsibility as children of Adam in flesh. In the other we are not in flesh, but in Christ, in the enjoyment of that into which He is entered - our life for ever.

Psalm 86. This psalm, though it be simple enough in its expression, yet is full of important practical principles, as connecting the feebleness of a soul drawn to God with His full glory and power. It finds its centre, not in embracing first the extent of the glory in its feeble state, but in being centred in God, and so praising and looking for strength and final deliverance into glory.

The ground it rests on, as looking to God to bow down His ear, is fourfold. It is poor and lowly, not of the proud of the earth; it is holy, really set apart to God; Jehovah's servant (with us the Father's name must come in here, as we have ever seen, and Christ as Lord), it trusts in Jehovah, and cries daily to the Lord. This is the state of the soul - poor and holy, set apart to the Lord; a servant, one that trusts, and the trust is not idle, it cries in the sense of need and dependence. This last is dwelt on in confidence of goodness, and a sense of the majesty of the Lord above all pretenders to power. He alone is God, is great, and does what to us is wondrous. It looks, then, to be taught God's way, has no thought to walk in its own. The truth and word of God guide it.

144 But here there is another need - the tendency of the heart to be distracted to a thousand objects, and wandering thoughts, and it prays the Lord to unite it. How we need this - to have the heart concentrated on the Lord! Here is power; here that presence of divine things which puts the mind in what is heavenly, and in direct connection with divine sources of strength, When other thoughts come in, one is outside, in another world, from which we have to be delivered; not in the divine and heavenly one, so as to be witnesses of it.

The majesty and glory of God's name had been seen (v. 9), but this does not make the soul pass into the glory as if it was at home there. In a sense it is too great for one, and this is felt. How little we are! how we know in part! But it leads the soul to seek further concentration of all its affections, poor and lowly as it is, on God. And this is right, satisfies the soul, suits it. It is an affection and adoring thankfulness at the centre, through grace, of all this glory. Hence it continues - "I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with my whole heart." It is united here, and it can praise as it is called to praise, and as it sees, in result, will praise. We are called on to comprehend with all saints the length and breadth and depth and height; but we must first be thus brought to the centre - Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith and we rooted and grounded in love. Hence, knowing Him, we glorify His name for evermore. Our littleness has found, in His greatness, our place and strength. We are, as I said, at the centre of glory.

This turns to the view the great deliverance God has wrought. It is seen that supreme grace is the source of it all, It is not merely owning His grace according to nature, where all is in order, but grace, sovereign grace - the activity of God's love - which has come down and delivered us from the lowest estate. This gives a special character to our knowledge of God. All dependent on pure goodness, yet intimate in the character of our love to Him, because by our very wretchedness we know we are the objects of Ms love, thus known to be infinitely great. The soul thus confiding in God and occupied for itself with Him, its first affair, sees the enmity of proud men, who fear Him not, rising up against it. It looks for God's interference. This is a great mark of faith, but, confiding in His accepting love, it looks for more. It delights in the manifestation that God is for it. This is not only deliverance but satisfies the heart. It is all it asks - that God should shew Himself for it. It is this, the sure portion of every one who trusts God, walking with Him, which the Lord looked for (Psa. 22), and had not, lower than the lowest for our sakes but therein perfect in love and glorifying His Father, and so higher than the highest. Therefore His Father loved Him, and He is glorified as man in a far higher way. Helped and comforted in the trial, at that supreme moment, He was not; but there He stood alone. We trust and are delivered; He perfect above all, alone in this perfection. The Lord give us at least to have our hearts united, undistracted to His name and in the Father's love. There is our centre. We need not fear enemies there; Phil. 1:27-28.

145 Psalm 87. It is God's foundation which makes all assured. It is not that her foundation is in the holy mountain that calls out the interest, or assures the heart of faith, but that the city of God rests on God's foundation - so we. The sure foundation of God abides; and in the latter case it was when the church was going on so very badly that the saint had to judge its state and purge himself from many in it. But God's foundation abides sure. So we say, His calling and Ms inheritance in the saints. But the psalm brings out another point, hard for the activity of flesh. Faith attaches more importance to God's city than to all that man has built, The sentiment of the psalm is essentially Jewish. In writing up the people, the saints and Messiah Himself are reckoned to Zion. These are his grounds for glorifying in Zion - God's view of the city. For us, no doubt, the thing comes in a different shape, as to the church: Christ is of it as its Head, not as born in it. God's fresh springs are there. But, practically, when the church of God is despised, when it is formed of people who are of no account in this world, do we make our boast of it because they are precious in the sight of God, rich in faith? or do the grandeurs of the Egypts and Babylons, which God judges, eclipse it in our sight? Do we judge after God's mind, or after man's? Is the appearance and vain show of this world of weight with us? or does the faith of the Lord of glory lead us to estimate highly what God esteems, what is glorious? He has people whom He counts up. Is it the spirit of the world or the Spirit of God which forms our estimate of what is vile and what is valuable? Weigh the language of James's epistle. But may our souls especially feel the value of what in those heavenly places will be counted excellent by God!

146 On Psalm 88 I have not much to say. God is known and looked to according to His revealed name as the only Saviour, and it is just to this point that the soul is brought by the exercises spoken of in the psalm; cast by the pressure of all around to find it comes from God's hand, and, more yet, from God's judgment so as to be therein a pure and sovereign salvation from Him. "Jehovah, God of my salvation," governs the psalm. The state was this: affliction was present, nature could not find its account there, acquaintance put far from him, But this was but the negative and outward part, because nature found no relief, as it could from nature's sorrows more or less. The great point that pressed on the spirit was death and death bearing the witness of God's wrath upon it. To this the knowledge that the revealed God of promise was the only Saviour turns the heart; his life drew nigh to the grave. God's wrath lay hard upon Him. Still God was appealed to, It was nature without its sustainments, nature with death pressed on it, that is, its destruction and end. And God being brought in, and faith in Him, so far there as to own that all depended on Him, His wrath was felt in it all. And this is true. This is death when seen in its truth. So Christ saw it in Gethsemane, though He would not have said all that is in this psalm. So the convinced soul sees it, whose eye in its Adam state is opened upon God.

The psalm, however, does not look beyond this life. In this it ends in nature - simple Judaism. But the faith in the revelation of God which has made it so feel what death is, as wrath from God, makes it look to Him who has inflicted it as a Saviour. And this is the value of such experience. It shews us our true state, our true relationship to God in nature. Nor is there a way of escape, for it is our state by judgment before God. Hence self is done with if we are delivered. This makes deliverance known as sovereign grace, as God's deliverance, and the soul rests on revelation. And until the deliverance the soul cries to God. And when deliverance is obtained, the flesh, all that it is, remains as a judged thing under wrath. There is no deception so far as to trust it really, though we may forget its evil for a moment, and even have to watch and contend with it. But its status before God is ever counted as a condemned and evil thing. The psalm is the description of the process which brings the soul to this. Sometimes the soul only reaches this on its death-bed. This ought not to be, but it explains what surprises many in godly persons. When it is not gone through really, the soul is not free. It stands, if free, on the ground of God's salvation; in spirit, not in flesh.

147 It is not seeing this that has led many to live on experience, not on Christ. They speak of the Holy Ghost's work, and knowing the evil of the flesh, and the killing power of the law, which only means that they have not learned it. If they did, they would be dead to it. They are in this psalm. But they have not learned salvation and the gospel. They do not know that they are dead and risen with Christ. They are feeling death press upon them as wrath from God, according to this psalm - all well but they have not received the sentence of death in themselves, through Christ's having died in grace for them, so as to reckon themselves dead, crucified with Christ, to be nevertheless alive, yet not they, but Christ living in them, who had died and put away all this for them. They are under the pressure of wrath for what they are in nature - all true in its place - but have not learned Christ, and through Him, that they are not in the flesh but in Christ, in that He has borne and passed through this for them; and that now, through Him, they are free in the new man as risen in Him.

Psalm 89 has one remarkable character which it behoves us to notice here - reliance on the faithfulness of God according to His original word of promise, when externally all is contrary to it, but the expectation of fulfilment founded on mercy, in fact on Christ, in whom all promised mercies concentrate themselves. "I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever, thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens." The accomplishment of God's promises on earth shall be a source of praise for the inhabitants of heaven. Yet we see at the end that it was as if God had made all men in vain - a sad thought - the power of evil ruling, men its willing instruments, and the good having no place but reproach and sorrow. But God is called on to remember His saints' weakness and their reproach. Still there is confidence; and, whatever the state of things may be, He has wrought redemption, broken the power of the enemy; and has He not in a far better way than for Israel? His arm is mighty, His right hand high, whatever state they are in. Heaven and earth are His, though till Christ comes we cannot say Possessor of heaven and earth. Justice and judgment are the constant attributes of His throne. Mercy and truth announce Him when He goes forth. This form of expression is beautiful. God has a throne. There everything must be brought into consistency with it.

148 But in His active going forth tender mercy and goodness announce Him, and faithful truth will tell His people He is there when He comes forth. His activities are mercy and faithfulness, because His will is at work and His nature is love. Yet His throne still maintains justice and judgment. How truly this has been shewn in Christ! - will doubtless be so in the last days in Israel - but signally so in Christ, and even then because of Him. This apprehension of God gives the sense of blessedness in the midst of sorrow. "Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound. They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted. For thou art the glory of their strength, and in thy favour shall our horn be exalted." All this is realised in the heart in the midst of sorrows, so that it can be as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. This gives sweet blessing to the heart of the saint. Trouble does but increase it, because it makes him feel the preciousness of the faithfulness and favour of God, and that nothing separates him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The inward revelation of divine favour makes the path of sorrow full of sweetness. So Christ Himself was a man of sorrows. Yet He could say that they might have "my joy fulfilled in themselves."

The sureness of the promises in Christ are then insisted on. Read "of thy holy One" (v. 19), and remark that "holy" here is the same word as "mercies" in verse 1, not as "holy" in verse 18. Mercy, then, faithfulness, the character of the divine throne and of the divine actings, past accomplishment of redemption, what the title of God is, and the power in which He has broken the hostile power of evil, all to us known as the Father's love through the Son by the Spirit, brings the spirit in the midst of a trial into the enjoyment by faith, but the true enjoyment of the heart, of the light of God's countenance according to all the favour He bears us in Christ. In the psalm of course this is expressed as on Jewish ground. But Christ manifests Himself to us as He does not to the world. The Father and the Son come and make their abode with us. joy is possessed: full, final deliverance counted on.