Like many young believers, I had difficulty in understanding the Psalms. On the one hand there was so much pastoral language and on the other, many calls for vengeance. I was greatly helped by J. N. Darby's introduction to the Psalms in his Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. Darby explained that the Psalms "express the feelings, not only of the people of God, but often...those of the Lord Himself." However, "a maturer spiritual judgment is required to judge rightly of the true bearing and application of the Psalms than for other parts of Scripture; because we must be able to understand what dispensationally gives rise to them, and judge of the true place before God of those whose souls' wants are expressed," and this is often "difficult as the circumstances, state, and relationship with God, of the people whose feelings they express are not those in which we find ourselves." This helps us understand how "They teach us thus that Christ entered into the full depths of suffering which made Him the vessel of sympathizing grace with those who had to pass through" the sufferings.
Those two features, the pre-eminence of Christ in many of the Psalms, especially His entering into the sufferings of others, and the dispensational import characterize this book on the Psalms by Hamilton Smith. In many ways, this is an unique volume with its clear teaching of the prophetic aspect of the book while at the same time including the practical lessons of piety which are essential for God's people in any age. Smith always brings out the moral beauty and suffering unique to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hamilton Smith is a beloved English expositor of the Scriptures who died in 1943. He wrote on many different portions of the Bible but is probably best known for his character studies of Abraham, Elijah, Elisha, Joseph, and Ruth which have been published in several languages. Those familiar with his style will value his terse, pithy language in this book. One of his effective teaching methods is short, profound comparisons and contrasts. In this book, he helpfully expounds on the many quotations on the Psalms in the New Testament. For these reasons, I can recommend this volume especially to young Christians who are studying the Psalms.
Scripture quotations are from the King James Version. Those marked "JND" are from the Darby translation of the Bible.
Believers Bookshelf is thankful to be able to publish the first complete edition of the Psalms by Hamilton Smith. We are indebted to the John Rylands University Library of Manchester for providing a copy of the original manuscript. Portions of Psalms 1 through 105 appeared in the British periodical "Precious Things" from 1957 (volume 1) through 1962 (volume 7).
May this volume provide the reader with a greater understanding of the Psalms and of the empathy and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ and His glory.
The godly man in the midst of an ungodly world, waiting for the government of God to deal with the wicked, and bring the righteous into blessing.
The moral character of the man who will inherit earthly blessing through the government of God.
The psalm sets forth principles that are true of those who fear God at any period during the rejection of Christ. Nevertheless, in its strict interpretation, the psalm has in view the godly Jewish remnant who find themselves in the midst of a nation in public revolt against God and His Anointed. It sets forth the moral traits of this godly remnant, and the governmental dealings of God, by which the wicked will be judged, and the godly established in blessing upon the earth. This moral character was seen in all its perfection in Christ Himself, who identified Himself with the godly remnant of the Jews. Thus, while the psalm does not refer to Christ personally, it presents Christ morally.
(v. 1) The ungodly are viewed as in the ascendant. They have their counsels; their way of carrying out their plans; and they sit at ease in the place of power, scornful of the authority of God. In such circumstances we have depicted the outer life, the inner life, and the prosperity of the godly man. His outer life is marked by complete separation from the world around. He has no part in its counsels, its ways, or its godless ease.
(v. 2) His separation, however, is not merely outward and formal; it is accompanied by an inner life of devotedness to God. His delight is in the law of the Lord; and the Word that he delights in becomes the subject of his meditation day and night.
(v. 3) Further, his life is one of dependence upon the unfailing sources of supply in God like a tree drawing its sustenance from the rivers of water. Moreover, this separation from evil, devotedness to God, and dependence upon God, leads to a fruitful life. It develops a beautiful character that is fruit in the sight of God. Further, before man, his profession of godliness, set forth by the "leaf," is not marred, or withered, by any inconsistencies. Finally, he is blessed in all that he does.
(vv. 4-5) It is far otherwise with the ungodly. They may appear to be established in the place of authority, sitting at their ease. Nevertheless, in the government of God they will be driven away like the chaff before the wind. For the present the wicked may prosper, and the godly suffer, and thus the government of God may appear to have failed. This manifests the important principles that, for the full display of God's holy government, whether in blessing the godly, or dealing with the wicked, we must await God's intervention in judgment in the day to come. Then it will be seen that the ungodly will not stand in the judgment; whereas the godly will be established and come into display, and blessing, in the congregation of the righteous.
(v. 6) In the meantime the godly soul has the comfort of the secret approbation of the Lord. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, and that which the Lord approves will abide-all other will perish.
The counsels of God as to the Messiah, rejected of men, yet, appointed of God to carry out His government, whereby the wicked will be judged and believers brought into blessing.
The counsels of God as to the Messiah, made known by decree, and fulfilled by power, in spite of the counsels of men. "The vanity of resisting Him, and the blessedness of trusting Him."
(vv. 1-3) The psalm opens by presenting a world in revolt against the authority of God. The nations are seen in a state of "tumultuous agitation" in opposition to God and to Christ, vainly seeking to throw off divine authority and restraint. They say, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." Men seek to banish all public recognition of God in order to pursue their lusts which, conscience tells them, will not bear the light of God. The Spirit of God in Acts 4: 26-27, applies this Scripture to the rejection of Christ by "the Gentiles, and the people of Israel." This confederacy against God and Christ was formed at the Cross; it is still the principle that governs the world; it will be fully developed and meet its due judgment after the removal of the church to heaven.
(vv. 4-6) From a world in revolt we pass to the calm of heaven to learn God's thoughts of man's vain efforts. The great men of the earth-its political leaders, its scientists, its philosophers-may combine to cast off all recognition of God, but, unmoved by all their efforts the Christ of God "sitteth in the heavens," and holds man's revolt in derision. Men rage on earth; God laughs in heaven. Human ideas are employed to convey to us heaven's contempt of man's folly.
Moreover, God not only holds these efforts of men in derision, but the time is coming when God will "speak to them in his anger." For long ages God has been speaking in grace, and keeping silent in the presence of man's rebellion against His authority. God, however, has not been indifferent to "all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." The silence of God is going to be broken, and when God speaks it will be in anger, manifesting "His fierce displeasure and men will be silent in terror."
Further God's counsels for the One that man has rejected will surely be fulfilled. In spite of all that men say, or do, God has set His King upon His holy hill of Zion. So surely will God's counsels prevail that He can speak of them as if already accomplished-"I have set my King upon my holy hill." Divine power accomplishes divine counsels. Rebellious man will come under judgment, and God's Anointed will reign.
(vv. 7-9) In these verses we are permitted to hear the King speaking as He declares the decree of God concerning Himself. The decree tells us the glory of His Person, the extent of His inheritance, and the greatness of His power. He is the One born in time-"to-day," and as such owned by Jehovah, as Son of God. This is not His eternal Sonship, but rather His relationship to God as Man begotten in time, by divine generation. Man said, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" God says, "That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
The decree then passes from the glory of His Person to speak of the greatness of His Kingdom. Men reject the claims of Christ in order to claim the inheritance for themselves (Mark 12: 7). They act as if the earth was at their disposal. In their vanity they leave out both God and the devil. They forget that though the devil for a time may be permitted to give the kingdoms of this world to whom he will (Luke 4: 5-6), yet God has kept the ultimate disposal of this world in His own hands; and that Christ has only to ask, and God will give Him the nations for an inheritance, and the ends of the earth for a possession.
Finally the decree warns us of the resistless power with which Christ will root out of His Kingdom all things that offend. The kingdoms of man will be broken, like a potter's vessel dashed in pieces, beyond all possibility of reconstruction.
(vv. 10-12) Founded on the warnings of the decree, there is an appeal to the great ones of the earth. Before Christ comes forth to reign in righteousness the nations are invited to submit to Christ, and be reconciled to the Son lest they perish when His anger is kindled but a little. Judgment indeed is coming for the nations, but there will be those amongst them who will put their trust in the Lord. Such will be blest.
While it is true that the Spirit of God applies the first three verses to man's rejection of Christ at the Cross, the full development of this rejection is yet future. Again heaven's derision over earth's vain efforts to cast off the claims of God does not express God's present attitude towards the world. Nor is the appeal to submit to the King the gospel that is preached today. For its complete fulfillment the psalm looks on to the day when the true Church of God has been removed from earth. Then the nations will combine to cast off the authority of God, and heaven will hold their efforts in derision. Then, too, the gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed before the judgment falls upon the nations. Those who receive this gospel will be preserved for millennial blessing (Rev. 14: 6-7).
Confidence in the presence of enemies as the result of faith in God, when outwardly all is against the soul.
Confidence in God when outwardly all is against the soul; when the enemy is in power, and apparently there is no help in God.
(vv. 1-2) In Psalm 2, the world takes counsel "against the Lord;" in this psalm the godly man says, "Many are they that rise up rise up against me." Enemies on every hand, with no public intervention from God on behalf of the godly, become the occasion for the enemy to say, "There is no help for him in God."
(v. 3) In spite of outward appearances, faith sees that the Lord is a shield for the godly; his glory, the One in whom he boasts; and who, in due time, will lift up his head, though for the moment the enemy seems to triumph (Ps. 27: 5-6; Ps. 110: 7).
(vv. 4-6) Having this simple faith the soul confides in Jehovah-cries to the Lord, and is heard. The result being he can lie down and sleep though the circumstances are unaltered. Moreover he can awake and face ten thousands of opposers and not be afraid.
(vv. 7-8) He looks to the Lord to arise and act on his behalf, anticipating the time when all his enemies will be set aside in judgment, and the Lord's people reach their final blessing.
The experiences of the soul, and the desires expressed, clearly show that, primarily, the psalm contemplates a godly Jew who is waiting for the earthly and millennial blessing, which will be reached through the judgment of the living nations. The Christian, whose blessings are heavenly, looks to reach his full and final blessing, not through the judgment of his enemies, but by the coming of the Lord to take him to heaven.
There are, however, principles in the psalm which can well be used by the Christian in meeting troubles, while passing through a world from which Christ is absent. There are times when we are called to face not single trials but many. The troublers and the troubles are "increased." In the presence of troubles, whether single or multiplied, the believer can find in the Lord his "shield." This defensive piece of armor is held between a man and his enemy. Blessed when faith realizes that God is between ourselves and all our troubles. It matters not then if the enemy be multiplied to "ten thousands of people." Be it a question of ourselves and the enemy, one is too strong for us: if it is a question of God and the enemy it matters not if it is one or ten thousand against us.
The One who is our shield against the enemy becomes a resource for ourselves. As we avail ourselves of this great resource-as we cast our cares upon the Lord, He fills our hearts with His peace. The effect of prayer is not necessarily to change our circumstances, but to change ourselves. In place of being distressed and distracted we are kept in peace and sustained in the trial (Phil. 4: 6-7). This is blessedly seen in the experiences of the psalmist. In the midst of his trials he cries to the Lord, has the consciousness of being heard, with the result, that, though the trials continue as before, he is kept in peace; he sleeps and is sustained; he awakes to the full consciousness of the trial but can face it without fear.
Confidence in the presence of enemies as the result of conscious integrity, and the experience of God's mercy.
Confidence in God, in the presence of enemies, flowing from the consciousness of integrity, and the experience of God's mercy in former troubles.
(v. 1) The psalm opens with a prayer that expresses the confidence of the soul in God. Conscious of a walk in separation from surrounding evil, the psalmist can appeal to God as One who knows the righteousness of his walk, and who is, at the same time, the source of his righteousness. Moreover his confidence in God flows from the knowledge of God's mercy proved in former trials. Experience had taught the psalmist that seasons of pressure had been occasions of soul-enlargement. Thus the soul is encouraged to look for God's mercy in present trials.
(vv. 2-5) Having stayed his soul in God, the psalmist turns, with appeals and warnings, to the ungodly. The expression "sons of men" indicates men of high degree, and alludes to the great ones of the earth who have rejected God's Anointed (Ps. 2: 2). The King was Israel's distinctive glory. In rejecting the King, the sons of men had turned the glory of the godly remnant into shame. As a result the nation was given over to vanity and a lie. Their own counsels and ways would prove but empty deceptions. The rejection of God's Anointed leads to the strong delusion under the man of sin (2 Thess. 2).
Further they are warned that in opposing the godly, they are setting themselves against those whom the Lord has set apart for Himself, and whose prayer the Lord would hear.
Finally they are warned to "Tremble and sin not" (JND). Let them tremble before a righteous God and forsake their sins. Let the loneliness of the night watches be an occasion for self-judgment. And having repented of their evil let them offer sacrifices of righteousness, and put their trust in the Lord.
(vv. 6-8) The psalmist closes by unburdening his soul before the Lord. Looking at the prevailing evil and the apparent prosperity of the wicked, many would be tempted to say, "Who will shew us any good?" Faith, however, sees that the favour of God-the light of His countenance-enjoyed by a suffering remnant, is far better than the outward prosperity of the wicked. The favour of God brings gladness into the heart which far exceeds the enjoyment of temporal blessings. In the enjoyment of this favour the soul can lie down in peace and security, untroubled by over-anxiety as to the evil of the world. The enemy, as in the last psalm, may number ten thousands, but "Jehovah, alone" can make the godly dwell in safety (JND).
Prophetically the psalm looks on to the circumstances described in Psalm 2-the future apostasy against God and Christ-and describes the experiences of the separate man of Psalm 1 (cp. Ps. 1: 1-2 with Ps. 4: 3-4). Practically the principles of the psalm hold good for the Christian in passing through a vain world where evil is in the ascendant in that which professes the Name of Christ on the earth. When "evil men and seducers...wax worse and worse," unless confidence in God is sustained, the believer may be tempted to say, "Who will show us any good?" The way this confidence is preserved is very blessedly set forth in the psalm, so that the soul may learn, in the midst of failure on every hand, God has set apart the godly for Himself; He hears their cry; and He alone is able to sustain the soul.
Confidence in God, based on the knowledge of His righteous government, and immutable character.
An appeal to God, based on God's righteous government, and immutable character, to execute judgment upon the wicked, that the godly may enter upon their blessing.
(vv. 1-3) The psalm opens with an expression of the soul's daily dependence upon God. "In the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and look up." The appeal to God as "my King" involves the government of God, even as "my God" suggests the character of God.
(vv. 4-10) In the prayer that follows there passes before the soul the character of God (4-6); and need of the godly (7-8); and the evil of the ungodly (9-10).
The psalmist thinks first of God, for his prayer is based on the fact that the righteous character of God makes it impossible for God to pass over sin, and the government of God demands that God should judge the wicked. God's character is such that He cannot take pleasure in wickedness, or allow evil to exist in His presence: hence in God's government the man that does evil must come under judgment, and the abhorrence of God (4-6).
As for the godly man, the psalmist recognizes that he can only enter into God's house-the presence of God-on the ground of mercy. Nevertheless, in the presence of his enemies, he looks to God to lead him in righteousness, and that God's way may be made plain before his face (7-8).
The ungodly are marked by corruption before men and rebellion toward God. Flattery is on their tongues; rebellion is in their hearts. The godly man looks to God to execute judgment upon them (9-10).
(vv. 11-12) The judgment of the wicked will be followed by the blessing of those who trust in God. In the meantime the favour of the Lord is a shield for the godly.
The psalm clearly indicates the distinct character of the earthly blessing of the godly Jew, in contrast to the heavenly blessings of the Christian. The Jew, having his portion on the earth, "looks for the removal of the violent and deceitful man, in order for his own comfort and rest. Not so the Christian. He leaves the violent man here and goes to heaven" (JND). This accounts for the prayer for judgment upon enemies found in this psalm, and many others. The Christian is to pray for his enemies. The psalm, therefore, does not present Christian experience, though the righteous character of God, and the principles of His government, set forth in the psalm ever remain true.
The exercises of a godly soul who identifies himself with the chastisement that has come upon God's people; though, by humbling himself, he shows his moral separation from the nation.
(v. 1) In the previous psalm the godly soul had owned that God had no pleasure in wickedness; now he recognizes that the nation has incurred the "anger" and "displeasure" of the Lord. While bowing under the rebukes and chastenings of the Lord, so justly incurred, he deprecates the Lord's displeasure and seeks His favour. The following verses give the soul's experiences in reaching the sunshine of God's favour.
(vv. 2-3) Having owned God's righteous dealings in chastisement, the soul pleads for God's intervention, first, on the ground of mercy, and, second, on the ground that God cannot be indifferent to the distress of His own, He will put a limit to this distress. Therefore faith can ask, "O Lord, how long?"
(vv. 4-5) With increasing confidence the soul looks to the Lord to return in blessing, and deliver his soul from going down into death and the grave, that he might live on the earth for the praise of the Lord.
(vv. 6-7) Though submitting to the chastening of the Lord, the soul realizes that the unrepentant mass of the nation is opposed to him as his enemies. To stand alone in the midst of an opposing nation, as Jeremiah in his day, causes the soul acute anguish.
(vv. 8-10) Through these exercises the soul reaches the sense of the personal favour of the Lord. He realizes that the Lord is not unmindful of his tears; has heard his supplications; and received his prayer. This, however, he foresees will involve the shame and defeat of his enemies.
The exercises of this godly soul while prophetically setting forth the experience of the remnant in the midst of the guilty nation of the Jews in a day to come, has a bright expression in the remnant who submitted to the baptism of John the Baptist. There, too, the Lord, by identifying Himself with the remnant, owned that the nation was under the rebuke and chastening of the Lord. Immediately the heavens are opened and the Father's voice expresses His infinite delight in the Lord. The repentant remnant, identified with Christ, enjoy this favour and escape the displeasure that rests upon the nation.
The principle of owning the chastisement of God's people, and casting ourselves upon the mercy of God, is right in any day of failure; and yet the experience of the psalm is clearly that of an earthly saint. The Christian looks for his blessing in resurrection, beyond death, in a heavenly scene. The psalmist looks for blessing on earth without going into death.
The confidence of a godly man that commits the keeping of his soul to God, when suffering persecution for righteousness sake.
(vv. 1-2) The confidence of the soul in God when persecuted by an enemy that, blinded by hatred, acts in violence, without mercy and reason, like a lion.
(vv. 3-5) The expression of the soul's conscious integrity, and more, the consciousness of going beyond the requirements of righteousness by showing kindness to those who, without cause, were his enemies.
(vv. 6-7) Basing his appeal on the knowledge that God has commanded judgment for the wicked, the soul pleads that the time is ripe for God to act against the raging of His enemies, and for the sake of God's persecuted people. In result Jehovah would dwell in the midst of a praising people.
(vv. 8-9) The judgment of evil will establish the reign of righteousness among a people who will not be merely outwardly righteous, but morally in accord with the righteous God who "trieth the hearts and reins." The soul longs for the reign of the wicked to come to an end, and that the righteous man may be established.
(vv. 10-16) While waiting in the midst of abounding evil for the intervention of God, the godly soul is sustained by the knowledge of the character of God and His governmental dealings. God saves the upright in heart; God is a righteous judge; so far from being indifferent to evil, God is angry with the wicked every day. God gives space for repentance, but if the wicked "turn not," the sword of judgment is ready for its work in regard to the one who labours with iniquity, who conceives mischief, and utters that which is false. In the government of God the one that devises mischief will fall into the pit that he has dug for others.
(v. 17) The intervention of God in judgment upon the wicked will turn the prayer of the godly into praise.
In Psalm 6 there is the recognition of God's chastisement and, therefore, the appeal to the mercy of God. In this psalm it is suffering for well-doing, and hence the appeal is to the righteousness of God. Prophetically it sets forth the experience of the godly Jew under the persecution of Antichrist, who is distinctly in view in verses 14 to 16. Christ is the only One who in perfection suffered for well doing-"Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed Himself to him that judgeth righteously." (1 Peter 2: 22-23). The Christian is called to suffer for well-doing, and thus have the sympathy of Christ even as the Jewish remnant will in a day to come. Thus the Christian can in like circumstances take up the confidence expressed in the psalm, without using the call for judgment upon his enemies (1 Peter 4: 19).
The psalmist, representing the godly remnant in Israel, anticipatively celebrates the universal dominion that God has counselled for the One that Israel rejected as their King.
The second psalm sets forth the rejection of God's anointed King and declares, that though rejected, He will lose none of His glories as the King. In God's time He will be established as King in Zion. Psalm 8, however, tells us that God has yet wider glories for His Anointed; and that the rejection of Christ as King, by Israel, becomes the occasion of disclosing to us these greater glories. Not only will He be King in Zion but His dominion will extend to "all the earth"; yea, His glory will exceed the glories of earth; it will be set above the heavens.
(vv. 1-2) The remnant anticipate the praise that will flow to their anointed King when He enters upon His wider glories as Son of Man. The praise commences with the despised remnant, figured by babes and sucklings. God takes up the praises of the weak and despised to still all opposition to Christ, whether coming from adversaries within the land, the enemy without, or from the malice of Satan-the-Avenger (JND).
(vv. 3-9) The remainder of the psalm reveals, and exalts, the glories of the One who is going to reign over the whole earth as the Son of Man.
His glory is unfolded by contrasting the Son of Man with mortal man. Compared with the vast stellar universe (lit. 'feeble,' 'mortal man') man is very insignificant. Compared, however, with Christ-the Son of Man-creation becomes very small, for He is set over all the works of God's hands, and all is put into subjection to Him. It will not be with the Son of Man as with others who may be exalted to a place of authority, and yet those under them continually in rebellion and in subjection. The Son of Man will not only have dominion over all, but all will be perfectly subject to Him. Compared, too, with the angels, the Son of Man has a glory that exceeds the angels. It is true that for the suffering of death He was made a little lower than the angels but, in result, He is crowned with glory and honour far above angels. Thus when other names are forgotten His Name will be excellent in all the earth.
A prophetic forecast of the effects of the coming of Christ to vindicate His rights, execute judgment upon the wicked, deliver His people and establish His reign in righteousness over the earth.
In the first eight psalms we have presented the principles of God's government (Ps. 1): the counsels of God as to His Anointed-the Messiah (Ps. 2), a world that has rejected God's Anointed, and ignores His government, with the consequent exercises of the godly (Ps. 3-7), until the day of Christ's glory as the Son of Man (Ps. 8).
The principles of God's government being established, we are permitted to see in Psalms 9 and 10 the circumstances in which the godly remnant will be found under the oppression of Antichrist and the godless nations, during the time immediately preceding the coming of Christ to reign.
(vv. 1-2) The godly Jew anticipating the deliverance from all his enemies by the brightness of the Lord's coming, recounts the marvelous works of the Lord, and celebrates the praise of Jehovah as the Most High.
(v. 3) The blessings of the psalm are introduced by the presence of the Lord, and the brightness of His coming in glory. In the days of His humiliation His enemies "went backward and fell to the ground" in His presence; in the day of His coming glory they will not only stumble at His presence, but will stumble and perish.
All that follows in the psalm is the result of Christ's presence. "Thy presence" is the key to the psalm.
(v. 4) The first effect of the presence of the Lord will be to vindicate the godly and maintain their cause. The temporary progress and triumph of evil, whether at the Cross, or during the absence of Christ, or, in a supreme degree, during the last days, might give the impression that God is either indifferent to evil, or powerless to stay its course. The presence of Christ in glory, and the consequent destruction of His enemies, will make it apparent that God has not been indifferent to the way men have treated Christ and those who are His. The remnant not only express what is true for themselves, but what is true of Christ, when they say, "Thou hast maintained my right and my cause."
(vv. 5-6) Further effects of the presence of Christ will be the rebuking of the nations and the destruction of Antichrist. The word "wicked" in verse 5 and verse 16 is in the singular and refers to Antichrist, the enemy whose destruction will come to a perpetual end.
(vv. 7-10) Antichrist destroyed, and his reign over, the reign of Christ will be established. His reign will be a rule of righteousness for the whole world. The oppressed will find a refuge in Christ. Those who trust in the Lord, and seek Him, will find they are not forsaken.
(v. 11) Furthermore, the coming of Christ will call forth praise to the Lord in Zion, and a testimony to the Lord among the nations.
(vv. 12-14) This praise and testimony will be rendered by the persecuted and afflicted remnant, to whom the Lord will show mercy in lifting them up from the gates of death to show forth the praise of the Lord in the gates of Zion.
(vv. 15-17) In contrast to the godly, who are raised up for blessing, the nations sink down in the pit they have made. By their rebellion against Christ they have sealed their doom, and the God to whom they refused to be reconciled is made known through judgment. Antichrist (the "wicked" of verse 16) and the nations that follow Antichrist (the "wicked" of verse 17) are turned into Sheol together with all the nations (those outside the sphere of Antichrist) that forget God.
(v. 18) The nations may forget God, but God will not forget the needy and the poor among the nations; their deliverance will be involved in the destruction of the wicked.
(vv. 19-20) In view of the deliverance of the godly the cry goes up for the Lord to arise and act in judgment.
The expression of confidence in God on the part of the Jewish remnant in the time of their greatest distress, under the reign of Antichrist.
Prophetically the psalm presents the position of the godly Jew in the land of Israel, in the midst of an apostate nation, under the rule of Antichrist at the close of the age.
(v. 1) The distress of the remnant is occasioned, not only by the wickedness of Antichrist rising to its height, but also by the fact that, when it does so, he appears to prosper exceedingly while the godly are allowed to suffer. Moreover, God apparently hides His face as if alike indifferent to the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the godly.
(vv. 2-11) A description of the wicked man, his evil and his prosperity. The word "wicked" throughout this passage is in the singular. The use of the singular would show that the description given is characteristic of any wicked man, though doubtless it will have its full expression in one man-the Antichrist. Thus the passage is a description of the character of the Antichrist, without being a distinct prophecy of him personally.
(1) His attitude towards men. The wicked persecutes the poor man that fears God. On the other hand he blesses the covetous man that the Lord abhors. (vv. 2-3).
(2) His attitude toward God. He has no fear of God; God is not in all his thoughts. (v. 4).
(3) His ways are without conscience of right or wrong. God's judgments as to right and wrong are far above out of his sight. (v. 5).
(4) His success over all his enemies leads him to imagine that he carries a charmed life, so that he will never be moved or come into adversity. (v. 6).
(5) His language is marked by violence, deceit and vanity. (v. 7).
(6) His acts are marked by craft, behind which there lurks the violence of a beast. His victims are the godly-the innocent and the poor. (vv. 8-10).
(7) His triumph over all these enemies, and the apparently defenceless people of God, deceive him into thinking that "God hath forgotten: he hideth his face: he will never see it" (v. 11).
(vv. 12-15) The faith of the godly in this terrible trial. They appeal to God to show His hand-"lift up thine hand." They plead for God's intervention; first, because of the suffering of His afflicted people; second, because God Himself has been condemned. For the wicked has said in his heart, "God will not require it." The suffering of God's people, and the vindication of God's character, call aloud for God's intervention in judgment. (vv. 12-13).
In spite of outward appearances faith knows that God has seen all the evil; God will require it with His hand; God is the Helper of the defenceless. (v. 14).
Hence the direct appeal of God to break the wicked, and root out all his evil. (v. 15).
(vv. 16-18) Anticipating God's intervention, the godly celebrate with praise His answer to their appeal. In result the judgment of the wicked, summed up in Antichrist, will introduce the everlasting kingdom of the Lord-"The Lord is King for ever." As to the godly, their prayer will be answered, their heart established, their sufferings over, and no more will they be terrified by "the man of the earth" (JND).
The resource of faith in a world that is out of course-the wicked prospering and the righteous oppressed.
(v. 1) In the presence of opposition the soul trusts in the Lord and hence the suggestion of human prudence to flee from conflict is refused.
(vv. 2-3) Verses 2 and 3 set forth the character of evil with which the godly are faced. The opposition is not open but working "in darkness" (JND). The upright in heart, and the foundations of their faith, are being secretly attacked. In the presence of these hidden dangers, what are the righteous to do?
(v. 4) The answer is found in verse 4. The Lord is the resource of the righteous; His holy temple is on earth; His throne is in heaven. The temple speaks of His dwelling place, and, however desolate and desecrated it may be, faith still recognizes that God has a place on earth. His throne-speaking of His government-is still in heaven where no evil can enter. He still rules over all. The effort of man is to rid himself of the presence of God on the earth and to throw off His government from heaven. In spite of these efforts the House of God and the Throne of God-the foundations of all blessing for men-remains (vv. 5-7). During the reign of Antichrist, however, the government of God is not in outward display. Evil abounds, the wicked triumph, and the godly are tried. Nevertheless faith knows that God hates the wicked and the violent, and that His favour is toward the upright. This will be made manifest by the judgment that will shortly fall upon the wicked, however, for the moment, the Lord refrains from dealing with the evil, and uses the circumstances to try the righteous for their blessing and His glory.
While the psalm looks on to the future trial of the godly under the reign of Antichrist, the principles apply to God's people at any time during the absence of Christ, when evil, like the leaven the woman hid in the meal, is working secretly undermining the foundations of the Christian faith. Nevertheless the confidence of the believer is that the Holy Spirit is still on the throne in heaven. The known character of God assures the believer that God must, in due time, deal with the evil and bring His people into blessing, though for the time He uses the evil for their good.
The Lord, and His words, the resource of the righteous in a day when the faithful fail from among those who profess the name of God, and when lawlessness and wickedness prevail on every side.
This psalm presents a contrast to Psalm 11. There, the evil is working in secret: here, it flaunts itself in public. The two conditions may be found together. A work of evil may be secretly undermining all that is of God while, at the same time, there may be a public display of the lawlessness of man.
(v. 1) The godly man appeals to the Lord, spreading out the evil of the times before the Lord. The soul is tried by the lack of "the godly"-those who fear God; and the "faithful"-those who can be relied on to maintain the truth among the people of God.
(vv. 2-5) The words of man betray their true character as marked by self-exaltation and self-will. They seek their own exaltation by flattering others, and boasting of themselves-speaking proud things. They express their self-will by refusing all authority: they say "who is lord over us?" As ever the man who is loudest in claiming liberty to speech and liberty of action for himself, is foremost in refusing liberty to others. He is the oppressor of the godly. Nevertheless the godly realize that the Lord will deal with the wicked and preserve the poor and needy.
(vv. 6-7) The words of the Lord. In contrast to the vain, flattering and boastful words of men, the godly have the pure words of the Lord in which there is no admixture of dross. Relying on these pure words the righteous are assured that they will be kept and preserved from this generation-those marked by the lawless spirit of the age-even though the wicked walk on every side in a day when godliness is at a discount and "vileness is exalted" (JND).
The faith of the godly remnant in circumstances in which they are apparently forgotten by God.
In the course of this group of psalms (11-15) the distress of the godly soul deepens. In Psalm 11 he sees the "foundations" going: in Psalm 12 the godly man ceases and the faithful fail from among the children of men; in this psalm (13) the soul reaches the deepest point of distress, for the circumstances would make it appear that God Himself has forgotten the soul.
(v. 1) Though tried by evil without and fears within, the grace of God sustains the soul. Hence the cry, "How long?" This is the language of faith that clings to God, knowing that He will put a limit to the trials of His people, and the evil of the wicked. Faith can ask, "How long wilt thou forget?" in the midst of circumstances which seem to say, "For ever."
(v. 2) Under the pressure of the circumstances the soul turns in upon itself-taking counsel in its own soul apart from God. The weary reasonings of the mind bring no relief. The result of self-occupation, as ever, is to fill the heart with sorrow, and to give the enemy an occasion to triumph over the soul.
(v. 3) Relief is found in prayer which turns the soul from self to the Lord, with the immediate result that the eyes are lightened-the spiritual vision is cleared. Turning in upon self darkens the heart with sorrow; looking out to the Lord lightens the eyes.
(vv. 4-5) With eyes enlightened the soul sees clearly the aims of the enemy, and that the resource of the godly is found in the mercy and salvation of the Lord. Occupied with himself he can only see his weakness and the power of the enemy in relation to himself. Having turned to the Lord, he sees the enemy in relation to the Lord. Whereas the heart was filled with sorrow when occupied with its own reasonings (v. 2), now the heart rejoices in view of the mercy and salvation of the Lord.
(v. 6) Having turned to the Lord, the faith of the soul realizes and trusts in the loving-kindness of the Lord, and not in personal merit, nor in the justness of his cause. This brings relief so that the soul passes from the distress caused by occupation with circumstances to rejoicing in view of the Lord's salvation. The joy of his heart finds an outlet in the praise of his lips. The soul breaks forth in a song to the Lord, because the Lord hath dealt bountifully with him. Occupied with the enemy's works he was plunged into deepest distress. Occupied with the Lord's bountiful dealings he breaks forth into song.
The resource of the godly when the evil of the world, in the last days, rises to a climax in the sight of God who is about to execute judgment.
The foundations are undermined in Psalm 11; the faithful fail from among men in Psalm 12; God apparently forgets, and is as One hidden in Psalm 13: the climax of evil is reached by the fool and the workers of iniquity coming to the forefront in Psalm 14.
In a few brief words this psalm brings before us the awful condition of the world during the reign of Antichrist when outwardly all moral foundations are gone; when the faithful cease; when God is hidden; when utter apostasy prevails, and sin lifts itself up against God.
(v. 1) The characteristic man of this terrible time will be "the fool"-the man who has no fear of God. In his heart he says, "No God"; and his corrupt and abominable life manifests the thought of his heart.
(vv. 2-3) The climax of wickedness being reached the world is ripe for judgment, and God looks down upon the children of men as about to act in judgment. It is not simply that all is under the eye of God, which is ever true, but this is the look that precedes judgment. The Lord came down to see before the judgment at Babel. Again He looked towards Sodom before its destruction (Gen. 18: 16); and yet again we read that the Lord looked upon the host of the Egyptians before their overthrow (Ex. 14: 24). God sees that the wickedness of man is such that there is no other way to vindicate His majesty save by judgment. None are left among the children of men that seek God. All are gone aside; all became filthy. "There is none that doeth good, no, not one."
(v. 4) God has looked upon this scene of unparalleled wickedness; now He speaks. He asks, "Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge?" Has man become stupid like the beasts? (cp. Isa. 1: 3). The way men treat the people of God answers the question. They ill-treat God's people in utter indifference to God, just as they eat bread without reference to God. Moreover man pursues his way in utter independence of God-they "call not upon the Lord." Thus the world is proved to be ripe for judgment by its own absolute corruption and filthiness; by the way it treats God's people, and by its utter independence of God.
(vv. 5-6) Nevertheless, when God speaks it becomes manifest that God is in the generation of the righteous. Then men will begin to fear, and the godly will realize that the Lord is their refuge.
(v. 7) Anticipating God's speedy intervention, the godly celebrate the joy and gladness that will flow from the deliverance of His people.
The character of the preserved remnant of the Jews, who will share in the blessings of Jehovah's dwelling, and Jehovah's government-the "tabernacle" and the "hill"-when the Lord shall reign from Zion.
(v. 1) The question is raised, who will be preserved through the persecutions and sufferings of the reign of Antichrist to enjoy the millennial blessings that will flow from the tabernacle and the holy hill of Zion? The psalm answers this question by presenting the moral features of the godly.
(v. 2) First his personal character is presented. He is marked by upright walk, righteous acts, and pure speech.
(v. 3) Secondly, his relation to his neighbours. He does not slander with his tongue; he does no evil to his companion; he refuses to "take up" a reproach against his neighbour. "Take up" has the sense of "adopting" the reproach in order to propagate it.
(vv. 4-5) Thirdly, his attitude towards evil men. A depraved person, whatever his position or natural abilities, is condemned.
Fourthly, his attitude towards the godly. Those that fear the Lord he honours, whatever their social position.
Fifthly, his attitude towards the world. In his business relations he will not go back on his word, and refuses usury and corruption.
The one that bears this character will never be moved. He will, according to the first verse, "abide" in God's tabernacle, and "dwell" in God's holy hill.
Christ identifying Himself with the godly in Israel, expressing the life of faith before God.
Psalm 16 is a prophetic description of the Lord Jesus in His lowly path through this world. He is viewed not in His divine equality with God, though ever true, but in the place of perfect dependence as the servant of Jehovah. It presents the inward life of faith before God, rather than the outer life seen before men. It is a life that has God for its object, so that it is a life lived to God, as well as before God.
(v. 1) Christ takes a place as Man, and expresses His perfect dependence and confidence in God. "Preserve me, O God," is the language of dependence: "In thee do I put my trust," is the expression of confidence.
(v. 2) Christ not only takes the place of Man, but He takes the place of the Servant. He can say to Jehovah, "Thou art my Lord." His goodness-His perfect obedience as the Servant-was not in order to give Him a place before God, or in order to secure benefits for Himself, but for the benefit of the saints. He became a Servant to serve others in love.
(v. 3) Christ, in His lowliness, not only takes the place of Servant, but, in grace, He becomes the associate of the godly remnant-the excellent of the earth-in whom He finds His delight.
(v. 4) Christ, though in grace the companion of the godly, was absolutely faithful to God. He would not hear of any god but Jehovah. In perfect faithfulness to Jehovah, He refused all that can be called "another god." He was the separate Man.
(vv. 5-6) Christ in His pathway through this world was not only separate from all that can come between God and man, but His heart was satisfied with Jehovah. The Lord was His portion; and while passing on to the earthly inheritance that God had purposed for Him, He tasted, in the cup, the joy of the inheritance by the way. In the sense of the favour of the Lord, He could say, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places."
(v. 7) Christ, in the path that leads to the inheritance, could bless Jehovah for His counsel. Instructed by the counsel of Jehovah, His own inmost thoughts gave Him light and instruction.
(v. 8) Guided by the counsel of Jehovah, and with Jehovah always before Him, He ever found in God His support.
(vv. 9-10) Thus supported, Christ could rejoice even in view of death, and pass through that dark valley with unclouded hope, knowing that His soul would not be left in Hades, nor His body suffered to see corruption (Acts 2: 25-28).
(v. 11) Christ saw the path of life beyond death, in resurrection, that leads to the right hand of God, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore (Heb. 12: 2).
Christ identifying Himself with the godly in Israel, in the maintenance of righteousness in the midst of evil.
Psalm 16 presents Christ as treading the path of life before God. Psalm 17 presents Christ as treading the path of righteousness in the presence of the temptations of the devil, and the deadly hostility of men. Psalm 16 is the inner life before God; here it is more the outer life before men. Only Christ trod this life in perfection, though others are associated with Him (see verse 7, "them," and verse 11, "us").
(vv. 1-3) The cry of God by One who can appeal to be heard on the ground of His perfect integrity. Only Christ could take such ground in an absolute way. His words came from unfeigned lips. Everything in Him was equal, or right, under the searching eye of God. His heart was proved, only to make manifest that His secret thoughts never went beyond His words. He did not say one thing and think another (JND).
(vv. 4-5) The men of this age, by their works, have fallen under the power of the devil, and receive their portion in this life. Christ walked in dependence upon God, and His Word, and thus was kept from the works of men, and the paths of the destroyer. The devil would have given Him all the kingdoms of this world if he could have moved the Lord from the path of dependence. Christ refused the portion in this life (v. 14), to receive a better portion in resurrection (v. 15).
(vv. 6-9) The perfectly upright One, because of His righteousness, finds many that rise up against Him. They are deadly enemies that would fain destroy Him (Luke 4: 29; Luke 6: 11; Luke 19: 47). Having refused the works of man and the temptations of the devil, and taken the path of dependence, Christ can look with confidence to God to intervene on behalf of Himself and the godly remnant associated with Him. The perfect integrity of His way gives perfect confidence in God, and the sense of His preciousness to God, so that He can say, "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings."
(vv 10-12) In contrast to the righteous One, verses 10 to 12 present the character of the men of this age that rise up against Christ and His own. They are marked by selfish luxury that makes them indifferent to the sorrows of others, and pride that exalts themselves. They watch the righteous One and those associated with Him in order to cast them down, and secretly plot their destruction (Mark 3: 2-6; John 11: 53; John 12: 10).
(v. 13) An appeal to God to thwart the secret plots of the enemy; to judge the wicked, and deliver the righteous. The wicked are but the sword of God for the accomplishment of His government. It is easy then for the sword to be turned aside from the godly and used for the destruction of the wicked.
(vv. 14-15) The character of the wicked having been presented in verses 10 to 12, we learn now their portion in contrast with the portion of Christ, the righteous One. Men are described as of this world, or "age," a word that signifies the transitory character of this world as belonging merely to time, and therefore passing away with the lust of the world. Their portion is in this life and in the natural things given by God. As for Christ, He not only had no portion here, but He refused to accept one either from the destroyer (Luke 4: 5-8) or from man (John 6: 15). He could say in the language of Psalm 16: 5, "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance." His portion is in the resurrection sphere-in the presence of God-as He can say, "I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." Such is the glorious end of the path of righteousness.
Christ identifying Himself with the sufferings of Israel, and the ground of all God's dealings with Israel, whether in past deliverances from Egypt or in the last great deliverance that will introduce the millennial reign of Christ.
In this psalm the circumstances in David's life-his sufferings and his victories-are used to present Christ and the deliverances wrought for Israel through His sufferings and victories.
(vv. 1-3) The psalm opens by presenting Christ in the circumstances of the godly remnant in Israel. He is seen as the One who is devoted to God-"I will love thee, O Lord;" dependent upon God-"In whom I will trust;" and calling upon the Lord when surrounded with enemies-"I will call upon the Lord."
(vv. 4-6) The trial deepens for, in verses 4 to 6, Christ is seen compassed by the sorrows of death, surrounded by the floods of the ungodly, with the grave and the snares of death before Him. From the midst of His distress He calls upon God and is heard. This introduces the great theme of the psalm. All deliverance for Israel turns upon Christ having entered into their sorrows, and in this place calling upon the Lord. Deliverance for others depends upon a perfect One having taken up their cause, and calling upon God. His deliverance, and the deliverance of those identified with Him, is in answer to His call. The psalm does not present the atoning sufferings of Christ, but His sufferings from the hands of men even to death. These are sufferings that the people of God have to meet, and into these sufferings Christ enters in perfection and voices in perfection the cry of God's people and is heard.
It is true that the atoning sufferings of Christ are absolutely necessary for the blessing of men. Nevertheless, in the ways of God in government on earth, He delivers and blesses with earthly deliverance on the ground of His delight in the godly. We see this principle illustrated in the history of Sodom. Abraham asks God to spare Sodom from temporal destruction if ten righteous men could be found in the city; and God was prepared to do so.
(vv. 7-15) In these verses we are taken back to the deliverance that God wrought at the Red Sea to learn the first great result of Christ having entered into the sufferings of God's people. The judgment upon Pharaoh and his host is described with the use of magnificent figures drawn from the convulsions of nature-earthquakes, fire, wind, thick clouds, hail and lightning.
(vv. 16-19) Into these sorrows Christ had been. Hence the spirit of God passes from Israel's deliverance at the Red Sea to Christ passing through death when surrounded by the floods of ungodly men. God sent from above, and Christ can say, "he took me;" "he drew me out of many waters;" "he delivered me from my strong enemy;" and "the Lord was my stay."
(vv. 20-24) These verses present the ground on which Christ is heard in the day of His distress, and delivered from all His enemies. It is in answer to His perfect obedience to the law. Thus there passes before us the path of perfect obedience that He trod upon earth. The answer will be seen in His exaltation and triumph in His millennial reign. Thus Christ can say, "The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me." Christ alone answered in an absolute way to the righteous requirements of God. He only could say absolutely, "I have kept the ways of the Lord"; "I did not put away his statutes from me"; "I was also upright before him."
(vv. 25-26) The principles of God's earthly government are clearly set forth in verses 25 and 26. In the government of God we reap what we sow. We find mercy if we show mercy; and will be righteously rewarded if we act righteously. This shows that the blessings of the psalm are not the answer to atonement, but the reward of piety.
(vv. 27-28) As the result of Christ's identification with His suffering people there will be, in the righteous government of God, deliverance for "the afflicted people," and judgment for the proud. Moreover, the godly will be enlightened, and enabled to overcome every obstacle.
"I kept myself from mine iniquity," verse 23, presents a difficulty in applying this part of the psalm personally to Christ. It is evident that the Lord could not speak of "mine iniquity" as referring to indwelling sin. It has been suggested that the Lord could use such language in reference to His special temptations that lay before Him in the path He had to tread (JND). Others have suggested different translations such as, "from perverseness being mine" (FWG), or "have kept myself from iniquity" (Perowne).
(vv. 30-42) In these verses we pass on to the future to see Christ in the exercise of victorious power subduing all His enemies. The power by which He overcomes every enemy is ascribed to God (vv. 30-36). In the might of His power Christ pursues His enemies until all are subdued under His feet, and driven away like the dust before the wind (vv. 37-42).
(vv. 43-45) Christ delivered from all His enemies is seen in the glorious reign that follows upon His victories, He is set over all, and all are brought into subjection to Him.
(vv. 46-50) Christ using His victories, His exaltation, and the subjection of all His enemies for the exaltation and praise of God.
The testimony of the creation to all the world, with the special testimony of the law to Israel.
(vv. 1-6) The first portion of the psalm presents a testimony to the power and wisdom of God rendered to the whole world. Three parts of the creation are used in this testimony. First the heavens, with the vast expanse; second the continual testimony of day and night; third the rising and setting of the sun.
The Spirit of God has thus taken the parts of creation which man cannot corrupt. The earth has been given to man and, in as far as it has been corrupted, it ceases to give a true testimony to the glory of God. The heavens remain uncorrupted, and the three parts of creation brought before us give a universal testimony to the habitable parts of the earth. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and to the end of the world.
(vv. 7-11) The testimony of creation is followed by the testimony to God's abhorrence of sin rendered by the law, especially appealing to the nation of Israel, and to the conscience of man. The testimony of the law is presented as that which is "perfect"-giving a perfect rule of life for man on earth. It is "sure," "right," "pure," "enduring;" of priceless value, and carrying a great reward to those who are subject to its precepts.
(vv. 12-14) The prayer of the godly to profit by these testimonies that appeal to the conscience. The soul desires to be so searched by the Word that it may discover that which God alone sees to be sin; that it may be kept from presumptuous sins; and, thus cleansed and kept, be acceptable in words, and heart, to the One who is his Redeemer.
The testimony of Christ-the faithful witness-in the midst of an evil world.
This psalm reviews the whole history of Christ in His path of suffering through this world. They see in Him the faithful witness for God, and that all their blessing is secured through Christ. Hence their only plea before God is Christ; His sacrifice and His petitions. It is no longer the witness of creation, as in Psalm 19, but the witness of a living Person-God's Anointed-come down into the midst of an ungodly people, and suffering at the hands of men.
The psalm anticipates the recognition by the godly Jews that the suffering and rejected Christ is the Anointed of God-their Savior. Simeon, in the gospel day sees in Christ God's salvation, while at the same time he recognizes that He will be rejected of the nation-One that is "spoken against" (Luke 2: 34). Simeon and those associated with him represent the godly remnant of the latter day, and anticipate their experiences.
(v. 1) The godly identifying themselves with the rejected Christ, see Him "in the day of trouble" surrounded by His enemies, and look to Jehovah to defend Him.
(v. 2) They see the trouble deepen. Gethsemane is reached, and they look to Jehovah to send Him help and strength (Luke 22: 43).
(v. 3) The cross comes into view, and the godly desire that the great sacrifice may go up as a sweet savor to Jehovah.
(v. 4) On the ground of the accepted sacrifice, they look to Jehovah to answer the desires of the heart of Christ.
(v. 5) The godly, realizing that their blessing is bound up with the deliverance of Christ from death by the intervention of God, express their joy and confidence in God. They say, "We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners." Owning that all blessing depends upon Christ, and not upon themselves, they say, "The Lord hear thee"; "defend thee"; "send thee help"; "strengthen thee"; "Remember all thy offerings"; "Accept thy burnt sacrifice"; "fulfill all thy counsel," and "fulfil all thy petitions."
(vv. 6-9) The assurance of faith that Christ will be heard, and that Jehovah will intervene with "the saving strength of his right hand," and deliver His Anointed in resurrection power, gives the remnant the confidence that all His enemies will be brought down, and His own raised up. Thus Christ, risen and exalted, becomes the resource of His people.
The testimony of the living Christ, exalted over all His enemies.
In this psalm we have the full answer to the desires expressed by the godly in Psalm 20. There Christ is seen as the faithful witness for God in the midst of His enemies; here He is seen as the witness for God in exaltation over all His enemies (v. 1). Christ in exaltation becomes a witness to the power and salvation of Jehovah. The godly can say, "The King shall joy in thy strength, O Lord; and in thy salvation."
(v. 2) Further, His exaltation is a witness that every desire of the heart of Christ was in accord with the thoughts of God, for the godly say, "Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips."
(vv. 3-6) Moreover, the exaltation of Christ is a witness to God's infinite delight and satisfaction in the One whom men rejected. Gazing upon Christ in glory the godly can say, "Thou hast met him with the blessings of goodness; thou hast set a crown of pure gold on his head" (JND). At the hands of men His days were shortened; at the hands of God He is given length of days for ever and ever. They heaped upon Him shame and dishonour; God has given Him glory, honour and majesty. Men surrounded His path with trial and sorrow; God has blessed Him for ever, and made Him exceeding glad with divine favour.
(v. 7) This exaltation and blessing is viewed as the direct answer to the faithfulness of Christ when suffering from the hands of men. "For," say the godly remnant, "the king confideth in Jehovah, and through the loving-kindness of the Most High he shall not be moved" (JND).
(vv. 8-12) In verses 3 to 7, the righteous government of God is borne witness to by the exaltation of Christ. It is only righteous that the One who was the faithful witness for God in the midst of evil should be exalted to a place of glory. In verses 8 to 12, the righteous government of God is borne witness to by the judgment executed upon the enemies of Christ. It is only righteous that those who have rejected Christ-the perfect witness for God-should come under judgment (John 16: 9-11). The One whom man rejected is appointed to execute the judgment (Acts 17: 31). "Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies." "Thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee." Not only will the wicked be dealt with, but the "fruit" of their evil will be destroyed from the earth. The utter impotency of all those who oppose the Lord will be manifested. The evil they intended, and the mischievous devices they imagined, they were unable to perform.
(v. 13) Finally the exaltation of Christ, involving the judgment of His enemies will lead to the praise of God by the godly, "So will we sing and praise thy power."
Christ, as the holy Victim, suffering the forsaking of God when making atonement on the Cross.
The psalm has a pre-eminent place in the Book of Psalms, inasmuch as it presents the righteous ground on which every blessing, described in all other psalms, can be made good to the redeemed.
(v. 1-2) The first two verses present the great theme of the psalm-the atoning sufferings of Christ. In the course of the psalm other sufferings pass before us, but only to lead up to this, the deepest of all sufferings, the forsaking of God.
Here then in the opening verses we lose sight of men, and the sufferings they inflicted upon Christ as the holy Martyr, and are permitted to learn His sufferings at the hand of God as the spotless Victim, when made an offering for sin. In the Gospels we have the outward history of this great work: here we are permitted to learn the feelings and thoughts of Christ when accomplishing the work.
Thus there comes before us One who is absolutely forsaken by God. In His distress there is no help for Him in God. The words of His groaning call forth no response from God. His cry receives no answer from God. The night season brings Him no rest from God (JND). Nevertheless, the One who is thus forsaken is the only absolutely righteous One on earth. Furthermore, this righteous One, though forsaken, maintains unshaken confidence in God. He can still say, "My God," and in the consciousness of His own perfection can ask, "Why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?"
(v. 3) That God should forsake a perfectly righteous man in his distress is entirely contrary to the ways of God with men. Yet we are assured there can be no unrighteousness with God. Thus we learn from the lips of Christ Himself that on this solemn and unique occasion, God was perfectly righteous in forsaking the absolutely righteous One; for the Lord can say, "But thou art holy." Thus the One who is forsaken by God is the One who entirely vindicates God. These words, however, do more than assure us of the holiness of God in forsaking Christ on the cross. They tell us of the deep necessity for Christ to be forsaken when bearing sins, if God's holiness is to be met, and man to be blessed.
Thus in this great psalm the cross is before us not as setting forth the wickedness of man that calls for judgment; but as setting forth the atoning work of Christ which maintains the glory of God, secures the blessing of the believer, and lays the basis for the fulfillment of all God's counsel.
In His perfect life of obedience Christ glorified God by setting forth perfect goodness. In His death He glorified God by being made sin and bearing the judgment due to sin, and thus for ever declaring that God is a holy God who abhors sin, and cannot pass over sin.
Moreover, by bearing sins and the judgment due to sin, and being made sin and enduring the penalty of sin, Christ secures the eternal blessing of the believer.
Further, by the atoning work the righteous basis is laid for the fulfillment of all God's counsel. God has counselled to dwell in the midst of a praising people. Here the praise of Israel is more in view, yet the same work that will enable God to dwell amidst a praising people throughout millennial days, will enable God to dwell with men, and to own them as His people, even as they will own Him as their God, in the new heaven and earth, throughout eternal ages (Rev. 21: 1-3).
(vv. 4-5) The unparalleled case of a righteous man being forsaken is made more manifest by contrasting the ways of God with all others who have put their trust in God. All history proved that the fathers who trusted in God were delivered. Righteous men may have indeed suffered martyrdom, but never before had a righteous man been forsaken by God.
(vv. 6-7) In contrast to the fathers, here is One who is treated as being less than a man. He is left to endure the fullness of man's contempt expressed in a sevenfold form. (1) He is esteemed as less than a man-"a worm"; (2) as of no value-"no man"; (3) He is held in contempt-"a reproach of men"; (4) He is despised by the Jew-the "despised of the people"; (5) He is an object of man's sneering ridicule-they laugh Him "to scorn"; (6) He is an object of insult-"they shoot out the lip" at Him; (7) He is the object of mockery-"they shake the head saying, He trusted in the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him."
(vv. 9-11) Nevertheless, the One whom men despised, and God forsook, was the only absolutely righteous Man: One who from the moment of His coming into this world was marked by perfect confidence in God, for He could say, "Thou didst make me trust, upon my mother's breasts" (JND). Moreover He was perfectly dependent, for He could add, "I was cast upon thee from the womb," and perfect in His subjection, for He says, "Thou art my God." And yet the only One whose confidence in God, dependence upon God, and subjection to God, was absolutely perfect from the beginning to the end of His life on earth, is found in deepest trouble with "none to help."
(vv. 12-15) The verses that follow present the trial as still from God, though viewed more especially as coming through the instrumentality of man. In verses 12 to 15 the deadly hatred of the Jewish nation is in view. In verses 16-20, the Gentile opposition to Christ is seen. Finally in the first part of verse 21, it is the power of the devil the Lord has to meet.
Like a bull using its great strength when blinded with passion, so the leaders of the Jewish nation, blind to reason and indifferent to right, with unrestrained violence and rage, used their position of power in deadly opposition to the Lord. As a roaring lion, bent upon the destruction of its prey, so they were determined upon the death of Christ.
Nor is the Lord spared any physical suffering, for in this terrible position the Lord has to taste every form of trial. The utter prostration, and straining of every member of the body, and the thirst, all pass before us.
Yet, in all this trial, the Lord looks beyond man, who is the immediate occasion of these sufferings, and sees the hand of God. He can say, "Thou hast laid me in the dust of death" (JND). It is not simply the wickedness of man that is before His holy soul, but rather the holiness of God, who is using man to carry out His will.
(vv. 16-18) In verses 16-20 the Gentile opposition to Christ passes before us. Like dogs, acting without heart or conscience, they deliver to death One whom they own to be innocent. Having pierced His hands and His feet, with brutal callousness that knows neither shame nor feeling, they stare upon Him, and gamble for His clothes.
(vv. 19-21 A) Twice in the course of the psalm the holy Sufferer has appealed to God not to be far off from Him in His sufferings (v. 1 and v. 11); now for the third time He turns from His persecutors and His sufferings, and looks beyond men to God, and can say, "But thou, Jehovah, be not far from me" (JND). Thus it becomes plain that if the opposition of men is brought before us, it is not so much to show the fearful evil of men that, in other psalms, calls for judgment, but rather to show that even in the suffering caused by men the Lord was without help from God. Thus the utter abandonment of the cross, in view of atonement, is brought before us. Nevertheless, in the forsaking the trust of Christ in God remains unshaken. While the sufferings inflicted by man are felt with all the perfect sensibilities of Christ, yet they are taken as coming from God (v. 15). Thus God alone is the One to whom the Sufferer looks for help and deliverance.
A threefold deliverance is sought; first from the sword of judgment, then from the power of man, and lastly from the power of Satan-the lion's mouth. Nevertheless, the judgment must be borne before deliverance can come. The word of the Lord by the prophet must first be fulfilled, "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 13: 7).
(v. 21 B) Thus every form of suffering has been endured-the enmity of the Jews, the shameless opposition of the Gentiles, the malice of Satan, and above all the forsaking of God when making atonement. Then when all is over, when the great work of atonement is accomplished, and the extreme point of suffering is reached, set forth by the horns of the buffaloes, the cry of the Sufferer is heard, and the answer comes. Christ can say, "Thou hast heard me." The resurrection was the proof to man that Christ was heard, and the work accepted. Nevertheless, Christ Himself was conscious of being heard and accepted directly the atoning work was completed. Therefore at once, we learn from the Gospels, the language of perfect communion was used by the Lord. No longer does He say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" but, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23: 46).
At once we pass on to resurrection ground, and in this, the second half of the psalm, we have the blessed results of Christ's work on the cross. The sufferings of Christ on the cross have a twofold character. He suffered as the patient Martyr at the hands of men; He suffered as the spotless Victim under the hand of God. The martyr sufferings call down the judgment of a holy God who cannot be indifferent to the insults heaped upon Christ; hence the psalms that present His martyr sufferings, such as Psalm 69, speak also of judgment upon His enemies. His sufferings as the holy Victim open the way for blessing to man. Thus in this psalm we have a river of grace flowing from the cross and widening as it flows.
(vv. 22-24) This blessing is connected with the declaration of the name of God. We know that this is the Father's name, that reveals the Father's heart and all the blessings counselled in His heart. This name is declared by Christ in resurrection to the few disciples that He had gathered round Himself on earth, of whom He speaks for the first time as His "brethren," in the message which said, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God" (John 20: 17).
A little later, when the disciples were assembled behind closed doors, the Lord appears in the midst of the congregation, and fills the disciples' hearts with gladness-He leads the praise. Nor is the blessing confined to the few assembled with the Lord in their midst. It is for all the godly in Israel who fear the Lord. They are to know that God has accepted the great sacrifice. "He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard." We may feebly appreciate the great atoning sacrifice, but our blessing depends not upon the measure of our appreciation but on God's perfect appreciation of, and infinite satisfaction with, the work of Christ.
(vv. 25-26) The river of grace widens still further, for now we pass on to "the great congregation." This is all Israel regathered and restored for millennial blessing. Christ will lead their praise, and fulfill every promise that had been made. Then indeed the meek will eat and be satisfied, the Lord will be praised, and no more will there be broken and empty hearts, but hearts that shall "live for ever" in the fullness of joy.
(vv. 27-29) Furthermore, the blessing widens to embrace the ends of the earth, and all the kindred of the nations. They will remember what Christ has accomplished on the cross, and they will turn to the Lord and worship. The One who was rejected by men will rule among the nations. The blessing will reach every class, the prosperous-the fat upon the earth; those who are in extreme need-ready to go down to the dust; and the poor who lack means to keep alive the soul.
(vv. 30-31) Finally the blessing will flow on through millennial days to coming generations. His righteousness-manifested in the atoning sacrifice, the exaltation of Christ, and in providing a feast of blessing-will be told to a people that shall be born. And the whole great company of the redeemed will delight to own that.
"He hath done it." This vast river of blessing that was seen as a small stream amongst a few disciples on the resurrection day, that has flowed on through the ages, and will yet flow through millennial days widening in its course to embrace all the ends of the earth, and extending to generations yet unborn, has its pure sources in the atoning sufferings of Christ-"He hath done it."
The answer to the cry "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" uttered in darkness on the cross, will come from the midst of a vast host of praising people, brought into everlasting blessing, as they look back to the cross and say, "He hath done it."
Christ, as Shepherd, the confidence of the godly while passing through this world.
The 22nd psalm presents Christ on the cross meeting the claims of God, and making atonement for His people. Psalm 23 presents Christ meeting the daily needs of His people, and leading them through a wilderness scene. The primary application is to the godly remnant of Israel who will be brought through every trial into millennial blessing in connection with Jehovah's house on earth. The ways of God with Israel, and the blessing into which they are brought, are, however, typical of the higher blessings that belong through grace to the Christian. Hence the psalm is full of instruction and comfort for our days. The great theme of the psalm is the confidence of the godly in Christ, the Shepherd, founded on the experience of what He is in all circumstances.
(v. 1) The psalm opens with the assurance of the godly that the Lord is his Shepherd. All that follows in the psalm flows from this assurance. The One who died for the believer is known as the One who lives, and cares for the believer. In this confidence the wilderness journey is faced and the varied needs are met.
First, there are "wants" connected with this scene, but, confiding in the Lord, the believer says, "I shall not want."
(v. 2) Secondly, there are not only daily wants in connection with this life, but also spiritual needs in connection with the divine life. These spiritual needs the Shepherd delights to meet. He satisfies the soul in green pastures, and leads beside the still waters.
(v. 3) Thirdly, there may, alas, be failure, and, if not actual sin, dullness of soul as the result of contact with things here. Nevertheless the Shepherd restores the soul, and leads in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake.
(v. 4) Fourthly, death may have to be faced. The soul may have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. Even so the Shepherd is there to direct with His rod, and support with His staff.
(v. 5) Fifthly, there are enemies that oppose. The Lord is greater than all our enemies, and can support us in their very presence; anoint us with blessings, and make our cup run over.
(v. 6) Sixthly, there is the future path, that may cause apprehension. The experience of what the Shepherd has been in the past gives unquestioning confidence as to the future. "Surely," says the psalmist, "goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."
Seventhly, there is eternity before us. But this has no dread for the one who can say "The Lord is my shepherd," for with the utmost confidence the soul can say, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
Christ as the King of glory, associating His people with Himself, as He enters upon His reign over the whole earth.
In Psalm 22 Christ is seen as the spotless Victim suffering for His people. In Psalm 23 He is seen as the Shepherd leading His people through a hostile world. In Psalm 24 Christ is presented as the King associating His people with Himself in His reign of glory.
The psalm very blessedly sets forth the threefold ground on which Christ takes possession of His kingdom. First, as Creator (vv. 1-2); secondly, in answer to His intrinsic perfection (vv. 3-5); thirdly, on the ground of His mighty work at the cross (v. 8).
(vv. 1-2) The kingdom of Christ will extend over the whole world and all that dwell therein. His first claim to all is that He is the Creator of all-"He hath founded it" (cp. Rev. 4: 11).
(vv. 3-6) Moreover, the kingdom of Christ will be the answer, not only to His rights as Creator, but to the intrinsic perfection of His life. The question is raised, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord or who shall stand in his holy place?" The hill-Mount Zion-speaks of the reign of righteousness established in grace. The holy place speaks of the temple, and access to God in worship. Who then is morally fit to reign over men from Zion, and who can approach God in His temple?
The answer is given in verse 4. It can only be one who, in his walk and ways, is right with God and his neighbour. The one who, in God's sight, hath clean hands and a pure heart, and who has not deceived his neighbour. Who but Christ ever loved God with all His heart, with all His soul, and with all His mind? And who but Christ ever loved His neighbour as Himself?
Will all this perfection receive no answer, and have no recompense in the coming glory? Surely it will, for we read in verse 5 of such, "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation." If, however, Christ alone answers in perfection to these requirements, there is a generation that has also walked in godly fear, and that seek God. They, too, will be associated with Christ in His reign. This generation will be found in the godly remnant of Israel, as well as in a Gentile company of believers, of whom it is said, they "seek thy face (in) Jacob."
(vv. 7-10) The closing verses of the psalm celebrate the entry of Christ, as the King of glory, into the sanctuary in the midst of His people. The question is raised, "Who is this King of glory?" The answer tells us of the glory of His person and His work. He is Jehovah, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. For His people He gained the great victory at the cross, over every enemy. Thus we have not only His creatorial claims to the kingdom, and not only His rights as the perfect Man, but also the righteous ground of all blessing for His people, the mighty victory of the cross.
Again the question is raised, "Who is this King of glory?" And now we learn He is not only the Lord mighty in battle, but He is "The Lord of hosts." He is the One who associates the vast host of the redeemed with Himself. He is the One strong and mighty that maintained the holiness of God and gained a great victory for His people at the cross. He is the One who, as the Shepherd, led His people through the wilderness journey, and He is the One who, as the King of glory and the Lord of hosts, will bring His people into the millennial blessing of the kingdom.
The confidence of the godly remnant is the goodness and righteousness of the Lord, manifested by the confession of sins, and the unburdening of the heart before God.
In former groups of psalms there had been set forth the experiences of the godly in circumstances of trial, and in the presence of their enemies, in the coming day of antichrist. In this and the following psalms, the experiences of the godly remnant are again presented, but with a difference. Between these psalms and the former, Christ has been presented in Psalms 20 to 24, and therefore the exercises of soul depicted in this fresh series of psalms are the outcome of the knowledge of the grace of God acting in righteousness on the ground of the work of Christ. Thus the exercises take a more spiritual form, and for the first time there is the confession of sins.
(vv. 1-3) The psalm opens with the expression of subjection to the Lord-"Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul;" confidence in the Lord-"I trust in thee;" and dependence upon the Lord-"wait on thee." There is the assurance that such will never be ashamed.
(vv. 4-7) This expression of confidence in the Lord is followed by the prayer that the soul may be guided and led in a way that is in accordance with God's own nature. Thus it is the soul speaks of "thy ways;" "thy paths;" "thy truth;" "thy tender mercies;" "thy loving kindnesses;" "thy mercy" and "thy goodness."
(vv. 8-10) In verses 8 to 10 the soul recognizes that all God's dealings with sinners are according to His own nature, and therefore will be in goodness combined with uprightness: as we should say in the clear light of Christianity, grace reigns through righteousness. Those who receive the blessing are the meek and the obedient.
(v. 11) On the ground of these ways of God with sinners, the soul confesses its sins, and appeals to God for pardon on the ground of all that God is-"thy name's sake."
(vv. 12-15) Led by the Spirit the godly soul anticipates the answer to the confession of sins. He who owns his sin is one that fears God, and will be led in the way of God's choice. He will enjoy soul prosperity; inherit earthly blessing; know the secret of the Lord and escape the snares of the enemy.
(vv. 16-22) In the closing verses there is the unburdening of the heart before the Lord. Desolate, heart burdened, and in deep soul exercise; afflicted, pained and conscious of failure; surrounded by enemies that hate with cruel hatred, the soul, as in the beginning of the psalm, again expresses its confidence in God-"I put my trust in thee"; and its dependence upon God-"I wait on thee"; and again looks to God that it may not be ashamed while waiting for God to redeem Israel and end all his troubles.
The integrity of the godly man inviting the searchings of God, that, separate from sinners, he may worship at God's altar, and witness to God's wondrous works before the world.
In Psalm 25, there is confidence in the grace and righteousness of God with the consequent confession of sins. The result is seen in this psalm. Sins confessed, there is the consciousness of integrity before God; separation from evil associations; worship and witness.
(vv. 1-2) Conscious of uprightness of heart, the godly man trusts in the Lord, and invites the Lord to search his thoughts and affections, so that proved and tested by the Lord, all self-deception in his motives and affections may be purged away.
(vv. 3-5) The psalmist then states the grounds on which he invites the searchings of the Lord. First, the loving kindness of the Lord is before his soul. He realizes that there is grace with the Lord to meet all that the searchings of the Lord may discover. Secondly, his practical ways are such as become a godly man: he can say, "I have walked in Thy truth." Thirdly, he had maintained practical separation from sinners.
(vv. 6-8) In verses 6 to 8 the psalmist speaks of the results that flow from walking in the truth, and in maintaining separation from evil. First, he can, with clean hands, approach God's altar for worship; secondly, he can bear witness before the world of all God's wondrous works.
(vv. 9-10) Separation from evil, devotedness to God, and witnessing for God will call forth opposition from sinners and violent men, with their evil devices and corruptions. Thus the soul prays to be kept from such.
(vv. 11-12) Thus kept from evil, walking in integrity, redeemed from his enemies, and with the mercy of God surrounding him, the godly man, standing in an even place, would bless the Lord in the company of God's people.
The confidence of the believer when surrounded by enemies, and the exercises of his soul in the presence of the Lord.
In the first portion of the psalm (1-6) there is great confidence in the presence of enemies because of what the believer has found in the Lord-light and salvation. In the second portion (7-14) there is deep exercise of soul in the presence of the Lord because of what the believer finds in himself.
(v. 1) The first verse presents the ground of the believer's confidence. He can say, "The Lord is my light and my salvation," and "the Lord is the strength of my life." He has "light" from the Lord in the midst of the prevailing darkness; he knows the Lord will, in His own time, deliver him from all his enemies; in the meantime he has the support of the Lord.
(vv. 2-3) Having thus the Lord as his "light," "salvation," and "strength," the believer is confident in the presence of his enemies, whether they came as individuals attacking the soul like a beast without conscience; whether they come as "an host;" or whether the attack is prolonged, as in "war."
(v. 4) Set free from the fear of enemies, the believer can, with singleness of desire and purpose of heart, seek to dwell in the presence of the Lord, to "behold" His beauty, and "inquire" of Him.
(vv. 5-6) Thus set free from the fear of enemies and enjoying the presence of the Lord, the believer is supported in the time of trouble-"hidden" and "kept" (JND). In the future, when the trouble is passed, he will be publicly exalted above all his enemies to use this place of glory for the praise of the Lord.
(vv. 7-10) In the verses that follow we have the exercises of the believer in the presence of the Lord. In the presence of the enemy he learned the strength of the Lord; in the presence of the Lord he realizes his own weakness. Encouraged by the Lord to seek His face, the soul turns to the Lord, there to realize his own sin that merits the anger of the Lord. Nevertheless he learns the evil of his own heart in the presence of the grace that can meet it all, for has not the grace of the Lord said "Seek ye my face?" Though his sin calls for forsaking, yet grace will not forsake, though nature may (cp. Peter in Luke 5: 8-11).
(vv. 11-12) Made conscious of the Lord's grace the believer seeks to be taught the Lord's way, and to be led in an even path, that there may be nothing in his walk to give the enemy an occasion for reproach. Many indeed there are that are against the believer, ready to falsely accuse and violently oppose.
(vv. 13-14) Nevertheless, in spite of the wickedness of man, the soul has faith in the goodness of the Lord to bring the believer into the land of the living, beyond the time of trouble. For a while he may have to wait for the fullness of blessing, and during the waiting time the Lord will strengthen the heart.
The desire of the believer to be kept in separation from a world that is going on to judgment.
(vv. 1-3) In the midst of a wicked nation that is going down to the pit, the godly Jew appeals to the Lord to hear his cry that he may not be drawn away with the wicked, or deceived by the fair show they may make-speaking peace to their neighbours, but with mischief in their hearts.
(vv. 4-5) The godly Jew looks for judgment on the wicked. This judgment will fall, first, because of their sins-the works of their hands; and, secondly, because they slight the works of the Lord.
These are the abiding principles of God's ways in judgment. God cannot pass over sin, but God has made provision in the death of Christ to put away sin. If men neglect God's provision in grace they will fall under God's hand in judgment. This judgment, however, is not only on account of their sin, but also because of their neglect of Christ (Heb. 2: 3).
(vv. 6-8) The godly soul has the consciousness that the Lord has heard his cry. He trusted, was helped, and rejoices. The ground of his confidence is Christ, for he can say that the Lord is not only the strength of the godly, but "He is the saving strength of his anointed one" (JND). Thus the godly avail themselves of God's provision in grace and plead the Anointed One-Christ-who has intervened and suffered on their behalf, and was saved out of all His sufferings (Ps. 22: 21).
(v. 9) If the Anointed One has been saved out of His sufferings, those for whom He suffered will be saved. Therefore the psalmist can with confidence say to God, "Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance." Though for a time they may have to pass through suffering, and appear to be cast down, yet, even so, God will feed them and finally lift them up for ever, in contrast to those who go down to the pit (v. 1).
Encouragement for the godly when opposed by the great ones of the earth. The One who cares for them is mightier than the mighty ones of this world.
The 29th Psalm is not a prayer of the faithful, nor an unfolding of their distress, nor the expression of their exercises. It is a definite testimony to the strength and glory of the Lord, for the encouragement of His people when they find themselves oppressed by the mighty powers of this world in the last days.
(vv. 1-2) The psalm opens with a summons to the mighty ones of the earth to acknowledge the Lord: to give Him "glory" and "strength," and to worship Him "in the beauty of holiness."
The literal meaning of the word used for the "mighty" is "gods," a word, we are told, never by itself meaning "God," but always "the gods" (Ex. 15: 11; Dan. 11: 36). It refers not to angelic beings, but to those mighty men who are responsible to God as His representatives in government upon the earth (John 10: 34-35). Such have invariably failed, first by seeking to rule in their own strength, and secondly by using their place of power for the advancement of their own glory. Thus Nebuchadnezzar, the first head of the Gentile powers, boasts of the might of his power and the glory of his majesty, to his own ruin (Dan. 4: 30-31). So, in the near future, the last Gentile power, trusting in his own strength and glory, will be called upon "to worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." In spite of the judgment that will fall upon the nations, we know that men will not repent to give God glory (Rev. 14: 6-7; Rev. 16: 9). This refusal to give God glory will lead to the final overwhelming judgment of the living nations at Armageddon.
(vv. 3-9 A.) This great and overwhelming judgment of the day of the Lord is presented under the figure of a storm that sweeps through the land of Israel from North to South. It brings before us the irresistible power of the Lord in judgment. We hear the voice of the Lord in the roar of the waters and the thunder of the waves as the storm breaks upon the shore and bursts in all its fury upon the mountains of Lebanon and Hermon, breaking in pieces the mighty cedars. The forked lightning is followed by the roar of the thunder as it rolls away into the wilderness of Kedar. Behind these destructive forces of nature there is the mighty power of God that will overwhelm the nations in the coming storm of judgment. Isaiah in describing the judgment that ushers in the day of the Lord, uses like figures. He speaks of the cedars of Lebanon as representative of the great ones of the earth. He too, says the Lord will "shake terribly the earth" in the day of His judgment (Isa. 2: 12-13, 19).
(v. 9 B) In the latter part of verse 9 we are carried beyond the storm into the perfect calm of the temple of the Lord, there to find that everything says glory (JND). This, however, is the glory of the Lord. In His temple the glory of God is displayed.
(vv. 10-11) The closing verses give the blessed result for those who have been into the temple and worshipped the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Such realize that whatever the storms of this world, the Lord is above them. However great the might of the mighty ones, the Lord is mightier. They may be mighty for a time; Jehovah is "King for ever."
The One who is mightier than the mighty can give strength to His people and keep them in perfect peace.
The deliverance of Jehovah on behalf of the godly when in the depth of their distress.
The blessings of Israel, in contrast to those of the Christian, are mainly earthly and material, rather than heavenly and spiritual. In the days of their prosperity Israel has trusted in their material blessings rather than in the God that gave them. The godly man in this psalm gives the experience of his history and the exercises of his soul by which he learned that all true blessing is the result of the favour of the Lord.
(vv. 1-3) The opening verses give the result of his experiences, the remaining portion of the psalm the experiences by which this end is reached. The psalmist is brought to praise the Lord, because in the depth of his distress-when surrounded by enemies and brought near to the grave-he was lifted up above his foes, and kept from going down to the pit.
(vv. 4-5) Others are called to rejoice with him; for though the Lord may chasten His saints, for their good, it is only for a short while. "A moment is passed in his anger, a life in his favour" (JND). The night of weeping will end in the morning of joy.
(vv. 6-10) The verses that follow give the experiences of the psalmist. In the day of his prosperity, trusting in his circumstances, and in forgetfulness of God, he had said, "I shall never be moved." He learned, however, that if his circumstances were as firm as a mountain, it was entirely owing to the favour of the Lord. The Lord had but to hide His face, and in a moment he found himself in trouble in spite of the apparent security of his circumstances.
In his prosperity he had forgotten the Lord; in his trouble he remembered the Lord, cried to the Lord, and made supplication. He found that in the presence of death prosperous circumstances were of no avail. In that sore strait only the mercy and help of the Lord would avail.
(vv. 11-12) In his distress he learned the deliverance of the Lord, who turned his night of sorrow into the morning of gladness, to the end that he might "sing praise" and "give thanks" to Jehovah.
The confidence of the godly man when in the depth of distress that he will be delivered from all his enemies by the righteousness of God.
The psalm voices the confidence of the godly remnant in Jehovah in the midst of their distress in the last days, when, for a time God is silent to their cry, and apparently they are left in the hands of their enemies. Into these sorrows Christ fully entered, and hence there are expressions used by the Lord, though there is no literal application to the Lord.
(vv. 1-5) The godly man looks to the Lord for deliverance from all his enemies, trusting in the righteousness of God. God, being absolutely righteous, becomes the rock on which faith can build, the defence against the enemy on which faith can depend. God being his rock and defence, he looks to God to be led and guided in conformity with His Name, to be delivered from every secret snare by the strength of God, and to be kept in his spirit, for he is one of God's redeemed.
(vv. 6-8) The confidence of the godly soul was not in any of the senseless superstitions of men, but in the Lord Himself and in His mercy: in One who had seen his affliction and known the troubles of his soul. In this confidence he realizes that so far from being shut up in the hand of the enemy, he stands before God in a place of freedom of soul.
(vv. 9-13) Nevertheless, as to outward appearance, the soul is shut up in the power of the enemy. The circumstances of this trial are spread out before the Lord. His whole body is afflicted by the trial; his life is spent in grief; his years with sighing; his strength fails because of his distress ("iniquity" can better be translated "misery" or "distress").
In relation to others he is a reproach among his enemies. His neighbours and acquaintances avoid him, for fear of sharing his reproach and trial. They prefer to forget him and treat him as a broken vessel that is flung aside as useless. He is slandered by many; the object of terror on every side; while some take counsel against him to destroy him.
(vv. 14-18) Notwithstanding this deep distress, the soul trusts in the Lord, knowing that his times are in the Lord's hands. Therefore he looks to God for deliverance from his enemies, and for the favour of God to shine upon him. He prays that, calling upon the Lord, he may not he ashamed, and that the wicked, who have treated the righteous with contempt, may be silenced in shame.
(vv. 19-22) The closing verses present the answer to the cry of the godly soul. He discovers that however dark the circumstances, the goodness of God is "laid up" for them that fear God, though for a time, apparently, the sons of men are allowed to have their way. Yet, whatever the outward circumstances, God can keep His people in the secret of His presence and preserve them from the strife of tongues, and finally show His marvellous kindness. Under the pressure of circumstances the soul had said in haste, "I am cut off from before thine eyes." Nevertheless, in the time of deepest trial, when God apparently was silent, the voice of his supplications had been heard.
(vv. 23-24) As a result of his experience, the soul calls upon all the godly to love the Lord, to be of good courage and hope in the Lord.
The blessedness of the man whose sin is forgiven, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
The full confession of sin to God, leading to forgiveness, is the leading principle of this psalm. As Christians we know that on the ground of the death of Christ-the precious blood-this principle is true whether it be eternal forgiveness in the case of a sinner drawing nigh to God, or governmental forgiveness in the case of a failing child drawing near to the Father. In the psalm, the forgiveness is strictly the governmental forgiveness of the godly remnant in Israel.
(vv. 1-2) The opening verses give the theme of the psalm-the blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven and whose sin is covered. The blessedness is not that there is no sin, but that it is covered-not imputed. The sin is not denied, or excused, or belittled-that would be guile; it is fully confessed.
(vv. 3-5) Verses 3 to 5 give the experiences of the psalmist by which this blessedness was reached. When the soul kept silent, refusing to confess his sins, God's hand was heavy upon him; day and night conscience gave him no rest. At length, under the pressure of God's hand, there is full confession. Sin is acknowledged to God, nothing is hid from God, with the result all is forgiven.
(vv. 6-7) The results of knowing God as a forgiving God follow. For that reason-because God is a forgiving God-the godly can ever turn to God in confidence, in a time when He can be found. There is a time coming when men will seek God but He will not be found. Today is the acceptable time when, on the ground of Christ's work, He may be found. But grace rejected will lead to judgment, when God will be no longer found of men, but men will be found out by God.
Turning in confidence to God the psalmist realizes how safe he is even though surrounded by enemies and difficulties like a flood of great waters. Acquainted with God as a forgiving God he confides in God and finds Him to be One that shelters from the storm, preserves from trouble, and gives "songs of deliverance."
(vv. 8-11) Furthermore the one that prays to God finds not only preservation, but guidance for the way. God guides in His way and with His eye upon us as One that is deeply interested in His people. Moreover God gives intelligence in His mind so that we should not be as the horse or mule, without understanding. They are indeed guided but with no intelligence on their part. If in the way that God would have us to tread we shall be compassed about with mercy; and uprightness of heart will lead to gladness in the Lord and joy.
The godly in Israel called upon to celebrate the intervention of God on behalf of the nation.
The psalm celebrates the full deliverance of Israel from every enemy, and makes manifest that this deliverance will not be brought about by the counsels of man, by victorious hosts, or human strength, but by the Lord Himself.
(vv. 1-3) Seeing that deliverance comes from the Lord, the righteous are called to "Rejoice in the Lord," to "praise the Lord," and "sing unto him a new song."
(vv. 4-5) This great deliverance makes manifest how "right" are the "word" and the "works" of the Lord. His word and His works declare His character; "He loveth righteousness and judgment," and goodness is combined with His righteousness.
(vv. 6-9) By His word He brought the creation into being. All the earth, with all its inhabitants, are called to own Him as the mighty Creator.
(vv. 10-11) Moreover His word and His works bring the counsels of the heathen to nought, and make manifest that the counsels of the Lord will not only be fulfilled, but will stand for ever.
(vv. 12-17) How blessed then the nation whose God is the LORD. They may have failed greatly, but God having chosen Israel, will carry out "the thoughts of his heart" in regard to the nation. Men may oppose but God has seen all the sons of men. He knows their hearts: He considereth their works. Men trust in their kings, their armies, and their "much strength," but the Lord disposes of all according to His counsels.
(vv. 18-19) In the meantime the eyes of the Lord are upon those that fear Him, and that hope in His mercy. He will deliver such from death, and preserve them through times of need.
(vv. 20-22) The psalm closes with the response of the godly to the goodness of the Lord as manifested in His Word and works. They wait for the Lord, and rejoice in Him.
The experiences of the godly remnant, expressed by the psalmist, through which they learn to submit to God in all circumstances, and thus bless the Lord at all times.
The praise of this psalm flows from a saint whose will has been broken. He has faced fears (v. 4); his way may have been dark (v. 5); he had been encompassed with troubles (vv. 6-7), and even want (vv. 9-10), but, having a broken and contrite spirit, his will was not at work secretly rebelling in thought against his hard lot. Hence there is no irritation and anger-the sure sign of self-will. Thus he finds the Lord better then all his fears.
(vv. 1-3) The first three verses give the theme of the psalm. The godly man blesses the Lord, boasts in the Lord, and exalts the Lord, and does so "at all times." This praise at all times is the distinguishing thought in the psalm. It is easy to praise the Lord when circumstances are favourable, when there are no fears to assail and no clouds in the sky; when there are no troubles to crush nor dangers to confront. To bless the Lord "at all times"-in dark days or fair-is an experience that can only be known by the saint with a broken and a humble heart (v. 18). It is this the psalm so touchingly unfolds.
(vv. 4-7) The following verses present the circumstances in which the psalmist learned to praise the Lord at all times. "Fears" assailed him; the dread of evils that looked imminent pressed upon him. But he sought the Lord and found deliverance from all these fears (v. 4).
Darkness seemed to enshroud the path of God's people; but they looked unto Him and were lightened (v. 5). "Troubles" pressed upon this poor man; but he "cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles" (v. 6). Dangers beset the people of God. All the unseen powers of evil are against them; but even so, they find the angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him, and delivers them.
(vv. 8-10) Having learned what an intimate friend he has found in the midst of his trials, and thus gained an experimental acquaintance with the Lord, he is able to call upon others to taste and see that the Lord is good, to "fear the Lord" and "seek the Lord" and thus find that those who make the Lord their resource, will not "want any good."
(vv. 11-18) The blessings, however, of which the psalmist speaks call for a distinct character of walk (vv. 11-17), and a right condition of soul (v. 18). This leads the psalmist to mark out the path of peace through a world of turmoil. If we would know this path then let us (1) keep the tongue from evil: (2) the lips from guile-uttering fair words with an evil motive; (3) let us walk in separation from evil, and (4) do good; (5) let us seek peace and pursue it. Those treading this path will realize that the eyes of the Lord are upon His people and His ears open to their cry. He is not unmindful of their sorrows: He sees them all. He is not indifferent to their cry; He hears the faintest whisper (v. 15).
Moreover the Lord is fully acquainted with all the evil, for the face of the Lord is against them that do evil (v. 16), and in the end of God's ways, the remembrance of the evil doer will be cut off, while the righteous will be delivered out of all his troubles (vv. 16-18).
Further there is not only a right path to tread but a right condition of soul suited to the path. This is found in "a broken heart," and "a contrite spirit." However correct the outward path may be it is not enough if we are to find true blessing in a day of trouble. If in the midst of trial there is irritation and anger, be it only in thought, it is the sure sign of self-will at work. The spirit may rebel in the trial, chafe at the perversity of men who pursue evil and refuse the right. The godly soul wishing it to be otherwise, may grow impatient and become disturbed in spirit because the way it knows to be right is not taken. When however the heart is broken by reason of the evil and entirely submits to all that God in His government allows, then-the will no longer at work-it will find great blessing in the trial, and will bless the Lord "at all times."
(vv. 19-22) Moreover if the righteous man thus finds great spiritual blessing, it does not follow that in an evil world he will not suffer. For, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous." Nevertheless, the Lord, in His own time and way, will deliver the godly out of his afflictions. In the meantime He will keep His saints-"He keepeth all his bones." Judgment will overtake the wicked: they shall bear their guilt (JND); the Lord will redeem His servants, and none that trust in Him shall bear guilt.
An appeal to God to deal with the enemies of His people according to the way the enemy has dealt with the godly.
(vv. 1-3) The psalm opens with an appeal to God that He would deal with the wicked according to the way they had dealt with the righteous. "Strive, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me." The soul prays that God would actively intervene against his persecutors, and on behalf of the one who is persecuted.
(vv. 4-10) In verses 4 to 10 the psalmist sets forth his plea for the destruction of his enemies. They have sought after the life of the godly man; they devise his hurt; they have hidden a net in a pit for the destruction of his soul. All this have they done without cause. When destruction comes upon them, the righteous will rejoice in God's salvation; and the Lord will be exalted. It will be said, "who is like unto thee."
(vv. 11-16) In the verses that follow, 11 to 16, the psalmist spreads out before the Lord the circumstances and behavior of the godly man in this trial. False witnesses laid to his charge things of which he was innocent. They rewarded him evil for good. In these hard circumstances there was no expression of indignation on the part of the sufferer; no reviling, no rebellion against the circumstances. On the contrary there was submission before God-"I humbled my soul with fasting;" and grace to the persecutors-"I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother." Nevertheless the enmity of his persecutors "ceased not;" and their enmity being all in vain, they gnashed upon the godly with their teeth.
(vv. 17-18) Having spread out his cause before the Lord, the godly man enquires, "Lord, how long wilt thou look on?" He knows there must be a limit set to the persecution. Faith looks to the Lord to rescue the soul from the destructive violence of the wicked. Then will the godly praise the Lord in "the great congregation"-restored Israel; and "among much people"-the Gentile nations.
(vv. 19-28) In the verses that follow the psalmist pleads for the Lord's intervention on two grounds. First, because of the unrighteousness of the wicked; secondly, in order to maintain righteousness-whether it be the righteousness of the Lord (v. 24), or the righteous cause of the godly (v. 27).
The unrighteousness of the enemy is manifest in that they hate the godly without cause (v. 19). They stir up strife against those who are for peace-the "quiet in the land" (v. 20). They bear false witness, loudly professing to have seen some evil in the godly (v. 21).
The Lord, however, has seen the wickedness of these enemies, and cannot be indifferent to evil. Therefore the soul pleads that the Lord should intervene and judge the cause of the godly according to His righteousness, and not allow the wicked to triumph over one whose cause is righteous (vv. 22-26).
The Lord's intervention would result in the exaltation of the Lord and the prosperity of His servant, who would become a witness to the righteousness of the Lord, and a leader in His praise (vv. 27-28).
The character of the wicked contrasted with God and the blessedness of those who trust in God.
(vv. 1-4) The psalm opens with a description of the wicked. Their known character makes it impossible to trust in their statements. Their lives show that they act without fear of God; their boastful words, even when their iniquity is found to be hateful (JND), prove they have no conscience before men.
(vv. 5-7) In contrast to the wicked, the known character of God invites the fullest confidence of the sons of men. The heavens, with the sun and moon, are a continual witness to the mercy of God (Matt. 5: 45). The faithfulness of God to His own Word is witnessed by the bow in the cloud (Gen. 9: 16). His righteousness is as stable as the mountains, and His judgments are as profound as a great deep. God's preserving care is over all His creatures-"man and beast."
Moreover His loving-kindness has been revealed to man. Therefore, in spite of their sin, the children of men can put their trust under the shadow of His wings.
(vv. 8-9) The blessedness of those who put their confidence in God. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of His house; they will drink of the river of His pleasure-all the blessings that God has purposed in His heart for man. In His light they see light-the light of all that God is gives light to all else, for those that are in the light.
(vv. 10-12) A prayer for the continuance of His loving-kindness to those that know God; for preservation from the wicked who, it is foreseen, will fall to rise no more.
An exhortation to the godly to trust in the LORD, and not allow themselves to be disturbed by the passing prosperity of the wicked.
(vv. 1-2) The first two verses present the theme of the psalm-a warning to the godly not to fret in spirit because of the present prosperity of the wicked. Like the grass they will soon be cut down.
(vv. 3-11) Faith in the Lord is the way of escape from this snare. Thus the word to the godly soul is, "Trust in the Lord"; "delight thyself also in the Lord"; "Commit thy way unto the Lord"; "Rest in the Lord"; and "wait upon the Lord."
Instead of fretting let the godly trust in the Lord, and he will find that while the wicked "shall soon be cut down," the one who trusts will dwell in the land and be fed.
Instead of fretting because of evil doers, let the believer delight in the Lord, and he shall be satisfied.
Instead of being stumbled and turned out of the right way by reason of the prosperity of the wicked, let the godly commit his way unto the Lord. However rough it may be at the moment, the Lord will maintain the godly in the way, and make manifest the righteousness of the one who keeps in the way.
Instead of being impatient because for the moment the wicked man prospers in his way, let the soul rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Resting in the Lord the soul is preserved from anger and wrath when he sees the prosperous way in which the desires of the wicked are brought to pass. To fret would only lead the soul into evil. In the Lord's own time the evildoers will be cut off, and those that wait upon the Lord will inherit the land.
Moreover it is not for long that patience will have to be exercised, it is but a little while and the wicked will pass away and the meek be established in blessing.
(vv. 12-15) Verses 12 to 15 present the Lord's attitude toward the wicked. Over-occupied with the prosperity of the wicked, we may fret and become angry and impatient; the Lord, however, derides the wicked who plot against the just, for the Lord sees that his day is coming when, in the government of God, the wicked will fall by the very violence that they have used against the upright. They that take the sword will perish by the sword.
(vv. 16-20) The following verses present the Lord's attitude towards the godly. The little of the righteous is better than the abundance of the wicked, for with that little there is the support of the Lord-He "upholdeth the righteous." The Lord knows their days, and has secured an eternal inheritance for them. And though on the way to the inheritance they may have to pass through times of trial and days of famine, yet they shall not be confounded and left to want. The wicked shall perish and consume away.
(vv. 21-38) Verses 21 to 38 present the way of the godly, their present portion, and their end, in contrast to the wicked.
The wicked take without mercy, and come under the curse; the righteous shows mercy, giveth, and is blessed (vv. 21-22).
The steps of a godly man are established by the Lord. He may fall, but he will not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholds him (vv. 23-24).
The needs of the righteous man are met, and more than met, so that he is able to dispense to others. Let, then, the godly depart from evil and do good seeing that the Lord forsakes not His saints but preserves them for ever and brings them into the land of His choice; whereas the wicked will be cut off (vv. 25-29).
"The mouth of the righteous proffereth wisdom and . . . judgment," (JND), from a heart that cherishes the law of God. His steps shall not slide, for the Lord will not leave him in the hand of those who watch for his destruction. Therefore let the godly wait on the Lord and keep His way, knowing that he will inherit the land, while those who seek his downfall will be cut off (vv. 30-34).
The wicked man may, indeed, for a time make a great show of prosperity-like a green bay-tree-yet he will pass away and not be found. The perfect man may pass through trial, but his end is peace, whereas the end of the wicked is to be cut off (vv. 35-38).
(vv. 39-40) However right the walk and ways of the godly, let them ever remember that their salvation is of the Lord. He is the strength in trouble, and help in time of need, and the deliverer from the wicked of all that trust in Him.
The godly soul forsaken by lover and friend, and reproached by enemies, when suffering, under the chastening of the Lord, for his own sin.
Psalms 38 and 39 present the governmental dealings of the Lord with a believer as the direct result of his own sin and failure, and not, as in many other psalms, as the outcome of the sin of the nation. These experiences of the soul under chastening doubtless set forth the exercises of the godly remnant of the Jews in a latter day, while containing important principles applicable to a failing saint at any time.
(vv. 1-5) The soul fully recognizes that, on the one hand, his sufferings come from the Lord, and, on the other, are the direct outcome of his own sin. He can say "Thy hand presseth me sore;" and the chastening is "because of my sin;" and "mine iniquities" and "my foolishness."
(vv. 6-8) The failing saint is allowed to feel and express, the misery, humiliation, and feebleness of his condition as the result of his sin. He has to say "I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly;" "I am feeble and sore broken."
(vv. 9-12) Nevertheless his faith is not allowed to fail. The soul finds its resource in the Lord. He takes comfort from the fact, that, if his sin is before the Lord, so also his "groaning is not hid" from the Lord. He turns to the Lord when his own strength has failed him (v. 10); when lovers, friends and kinsmen forsake him (v. 11), and when his enemies take occasion by his fall to reproach him, seek his hurt, speak mischievous things, and imagine evil devices against him.
(vv. 13-15) Whatever the enemy may say or do, the godly soul is dumb and cannot utter any reproof, for he is conscious that he himself has sinned. He therefore leaves himself in the hands of the Lord, who can, if He sees fit, answer the enemy-"In thee, O Jehovah, do I hope: thou wilt answer O Lord my God" (JND).
(vv. 16-20) The enemy, with no love for good or hatred of evil, takes occasion by the slip of the godly to rejoice in his fall and to magnify himself. As for the godly, his sin has made him realize his own weakness, as one ready to halt. He is ever conscious of his sin over which he grieves. His enemies take occasion by his sin to persecute him; not, however, because of his failure, but because he follows that which is good.
(vv. 21-22) All may have forsaken him, but his confidence is that the Lord will not forsake him. He looks to the Lord for help and deliverance.
The silence of a godly soul, in the presence of the reproaches of the wicked, when under the chastening of God for his sin.
(vv. 1-3) In the presence of the wicked the soul remains dumb. Seeing that he is being chastened of God for his own failure it was not fitting that he should reply to their reproaches, even though he knows their motive to be hatred of the godly. He might have retorted; it would, however, have led him into sinning with his tongue. Thus he restrained himself, and held his peace, even from speaking good. Nevertheless, when keeping silence, his heart burned within him.
(vv. 4-6) When at length he speaks, it is to the Lord. His own failure, and the wickedness of men, who take occasion by the failure of the saints to exalt themselves, bring home to the godly soul the frailty of man. He would fain learn through this trial the shortness of life, the weakness of the flesh, and the vanity of the world. It is but a vain show, in which men put themselves to infinite trouble to heap up riches which they have to leave.
(vv. 7-11) The godly soul looks beyond the "vain show" to the Lord, the One for whom he waits, and in whom is all his hope. To the Lord he looks for deliverance from his transgressions, as well as from the reproaches of the foolish that they have entailed. He dare not defend himself for the Lord had sent the stroke. He who sent it can alone remove it. Under the rebuke of the Lord all the comeliness of man withers like the fleeting beauty of a moth.
(vv. 12-13) Having owned his sin and weakness, the soul looks to God to hear his prayer; to let his tears speak before God, that he may be spared and recover strength, before he leaves the scene of his pilgrimage.
Christ personally entering into the sorrows of His people, proving, for their encouragement, the deliverance of Jehovah on behalf of one who submits to God, and waits patiently for His help.
(vv. 1-4) The opening verses present the great theme of the psalm. Christ, having waited patiently for the Lord to deliver Him from the horrible pit of suffering into which He had entered for the will of God and the blessing of His people, is heard, delivered, established on firm ground, and a new song put into His mouth.
The result being that many will be encouraged to trust in the Lord. The path, taken by the Lord, meant, indeed, that in this world He was poor and needy (v. 17). Nevertheless blessed is the man who, encouraged by the example of this poor and needy Man, puts his trust in God and does not look on the outward appearance. Nor does he respect the proud.
(v. 5) Furthermore the ways of God with Christ make manifest how wonderful are the works of God, and His thoughts to us-ward. As we look at Christ become incarnate, manifesting a faithful witness for God in the world, entering into our sufferings; waiting for God; delivered and brought on to firm ground beyond all suffering, we see God's thoughts to us-ward.
(vv. 6-8) The unfolding of these thoughts to us-ward commence with the incarnation of Christ. He comes according to the eternal purpose of God to do the will of God. Christ having come, the whole Levitical system is set aside as neither meeting the desires of God nor the needs of men. In the place of these ineffectual sacrifices, Christ comes in the body prepared for Him, to do the will of God.
(vv. 9-10) In His path of service Christ was the faithful witness. He perfectly carried out the will of God in the midst of Israel-the great congregation. There He was absolutely faithful to Jehovah. He did not refrain His lips, or hide the truth in His heart for fear of consequences. He could say, "I have preached righteousness"; "I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy loving-kindness and thy truth."
(vv. 11-12) Christ looks to Jehovah that He might be preserved by the loving-kindness and truth that He had so faithfully declared, for, as the result of His faithful witness He was opposed by those who, in their hatred, sought to destroy Him, as He can say, "innumerable evils have compassed me about."
(vv. 12-13) Moreover the accomplishment of God's will led Christ into yet deeper sufferings. It is God's will that His people should be diverted through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ of everything unsuited to God. If this will is to be accomplished, Christ must bear the sins of His people. Here then we see Christ confessing the sins of His people as His own, and bearing the burden of them.
This passage does not carry us as far as Psalm 22, which speaks of bearing the wrath of God which the sins deserve-a work of the first necessity and which alone has been wrought by Christ, and in which none other can share. The 40th Psalm speaks of the confession and burden of sins, which others can know, though only fully entered into by Christ. It is right that the believer should confess and feel the horror of his sins; still he will ever feel how imperfectly he has confessed them: how feebly he has felt their horror. Nevertheless, for our comfort, we know they have been fully confessed, and the burden of all their horror has been fully borne. Confessing our sins as His own, the Lord could say, "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up." In this sore trial He became the perfect pattern for others, inasmuch as He looked only to the Lord to deliver and help Him.
(vv. 14-16) The verses that follow distinguish the godly remnant in Israel from the Christ-rejecting mass of the nation. Those who rejected the faithful witness of Christ in life and in death will be put to shame. Those who seek the Lord and His salvation will rejoice and magnify the Lord.
(v. 17) Thus the Lord closes His path in this world as One that is poor and needy. Yet, having perfectly fulfilled the will of God, He has the assurance that God thinks upon Him, and will be His help and His deliverer. This leads to the glorious end stated in the opening verses. Christ is heard, delivered, established on resurrection ground, as the Leader of a new song "unto our God."