An Outline Of The Book Of Psalms
(with special reference to Psalms 2-8)
"And [Jesus] said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." (Luke 24:44)
The Threefold Presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Book of Psalms
I have read this verse to you in taking up these psalms in respect of our blessed glorious Lord. There are three ways in which our blessed Lord is presented. In psalm 2:7 for instance, "Thou art my Son", that is, the Son of God, in verse 6, "yet have I set my king (or 'my anointed') upon my holy hill of Zion", that is, the Son of David, and in Psalm 8 we read of the Son of Man.
The Fivefold Division of the Book of Psalms
The book of Psalms is a collection of one hundred and fifty psalms, spiritually divided into five books, each of which has its own particular design. The first book of psalms, from psalm 1 to 41 answers to the book of Genesis, the second book of psalms, psalms 42 to 72 answers to the book of Exodus, the third book of psalms, psalms 73 to 89 answers to the book of Leviticus, the fourth book, psalms 90 to 106 answers to the book of Numbers, and the final book, psalms 107 to 150 answers to the book of Deuteronomy. You can search these things out for yourself. As Paul said to the young man, Timothy, "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them" (1 Tim.4:15), and, "Consider what I say; and the Lord [will] give thee understanding in all things" (2 Tim.2:7). If we give ourselves to these things the Lord will give His blessed response to our spiritual exercise. The psalms answer to the five books of the Pentateuch.
The Three Men of the Book of Psalms
I want, the Lord helping me, to say a few things relative to the psalms as bringing before us the Lord Jesus Christ, personally. Before I embark on this I want to draw attention to some things. In psalm 1 you get two men referred to, the godly man and the ungodly man. The psalms themselves are occupied with three kinds of men, the godly man, the ungodly man and the Man of God's pleasure, the Lord Jesus Christ. The theme of the godly man runs right through the psalms, and God's pleasure is centred in Him. The ungodly man is placed equally throughout the psalms, but eventually he comes under the just judgment of God. But what about the third man? I will not say that He fills every psalm, although there are many psalms that prophetically are related to the Christ of God. I could have said the Lord Jesus Christ, I could have said the Son of God, the Son of David or the Son of Man, but I have said the Christ of God purposely, as here and there, scattered throughout the books of psalms, are psalms that are spoken of by many as the Messianic psalms.
The Offerings Corresponding to the Messianic Psalms
The Messianic Psalms have to do with Jehovah's anointed, the Christ of God. First of all I would like to draw attention to the fact that psalm 16 answers to the second chapter of Leviticus and brings before us the wondrous beauty and perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ as the perfect meal offering which undoubtedly presents to us the perfection of His life down here.
Psalm 22, in which we have the deep darkness of Golgotha, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (v.1) speaks of our holy Lord as the holy sin bearer, the true sin offering. As you go down that psalm you learn about the raging of men against God, "the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet" (v.16). Obviously our blessed Lord is viewed here as the object of the hatred of man, but more so He is the object of the judgment of God sacrificially. He only suffered for sin on the cross, and having suffered for sin He has brought such glory to God, and now to you and me and to all is made available the rich and lasting blessing of God. God will bless us forever in regard to our reception of His blessed Son as our peerless Saviour. Psalm 22 pictures only blessing as a result of the cross.
Psalm 40 speaks of the burnt offering, "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God" (vv.7-8a). The perfection of Christ going into death according to psalm 40 presents Him as providing the sweet savour that ever ascended to God from the depths of darkness and distress that His Son entered into, not only for our blessing, but equally, and above it all, to bring glory to God. God is glorified by the work of Christ at Calvary whether sinners believe it or not. If God were to be glorified where man's sin had dishonoured Him that necessitated His Son going into death as He did at Calvary. He glorified God by the work that he did. Psalm 40 opens, "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God" (vv.2-3a). He secured a host of companions there by going down into the depths of death in order that the claims of God being fully met, God's will might be established, the purpose of God be effectuated and in consequence "many sons [are being brought] to glory" (Heb.2:10).
So far we have touched the meal offering, the sin offering and the burnt offering, now psalm 69 presents our Lord as the true answer to the trespass offering. Verse 5, for instance, reads, "Thou knowest foolishness; and my trespasses are not hid from thee" (J.N.D.), Christ is the trespass offering and as such He has dealt with all our trespasses. He suffers at the hand of man for righteousness' sake which suffering will eventuate in the righteous judgment of God on those who have inflicted this on the Man of God's pleasure
Further to that as we progress through the book of Psalms we arrive at psalms 116 and 118 where our Lord is presented as the spiritual counterpart of the peace or thanksgiving or prosperity offering of Leviticus 3. What is characteristic of this offering is the basis of communion of God and man in the satisfying of the righteous claims of a holy God by the sacrificial death of our Saviour at Calvary. So in psalm 118 we read, "bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar" (v.27), and in psalm 116, "I will offer to thee sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord" (vv.17-19). The grand issue of the finished work of Christ at Calvary is set before us here in that wonderful burst of praise which says, "Hallelujah" or "Praise ye the Lord".
A Verse by Verse Outline of Psalm 2
I want to speak a little now on psalm 2 and also on the following psalms.
"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel against the Lord, and against His anointed, saying......" (vv.1-2)
The Gentiles ('the heathen' of verse 1 and 'the kings of the earth' of verse 2) and the Jews ('the people' of verse 1 and 'the rulers' of verse 2) agree together but only in the execution of the oppressive, persecution of the Lord's anointed. If we turn to Luke 23:12 we find, "the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together". What were they made friends about? They wished to extinguish the light of grace and truth which shone in the Person of the Lord's anointed, that brought them together and made them friends, those who were before at enmity. The chapter goes on to tell us that they go on together in perfect agreement in order that they might perpetrate the designs of hatred upon that blessed Man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
"......Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." (v.3)
The divine answer immediately follows.
"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision." (v.4)
This is one of the most dreadful statements in the word of God. What is He laughing for? He is laughing derisively against His enemies and those of that Person who is described at the end of verse 2 as "His anointed". He is going to laugh in derision.
"Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure." (v.5)
The psalmist, writing under the Spirit's inspiration, tells us something about God's reaction to the heathen and the rulers of Israel in regard to their wreaking their vengeance upon the Person whom He now speaks of in verse 6.
"Yet have I set my king upon the holy hill of Zion." (v.6)
In spite of all those opposed to God's will it is going to be established, God will anoint His King, not yet Israel's King, not yet the King of the nations, although He is that and will be manifest as that, but at this point of the psalm God is voicing His approval of that blessed Man against whom the heathen and the Jews have raged in their displeasure. Then Messiah speaks.
"I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." (v.7)
There are two important expressions in this verse, one is a timeless expression, "Thou art my Son", what the Messiah is to God who is His Father. This expression can be carried back into eternity, it is an expression of the divine intimacy and pleasure resident in the Father's heart in relation to this blessed Man who, in this first Messianic psalm, expresses His approval of Him in this way, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee".
If the first expression is a timeless expression, the second is a time expression. In other words, we have got what the Son ever was to His Father, He is the eternal Son, now in this second expression we have the entry that He made into this world, "The Word became flesh, and tabernacled amongst us...... full of grace and truth " (John 1:14).
This blessed Person who had eternally filled the heart of His Father with absolute unchanging delight stepped into the realm of creation and in stepping into that realm the Father voices His approval of Him in this way, "Thou art my Son". If we look at the gospels, on the bank of the Jordan as He was about to embark upon His public ministry, the voice from heaven said "Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I have found my delight" (Luke 3:22), and on the Mount of transfiguration in the closing scenes of His holy ministry here on earth the Father speaks again from the enveloping cloud of glory, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight: hear him" (Matt.17:5). So, if at the first He marks Him out and expresses His approval of Him to Him, He draws, at the close of His ministry, the attention of others to Him and says, 'Look at Him, This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, you listen to Him'. So here we have, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee".
The incarnation of our blessed Lord was an epoch making event in the history of eternity. I have used two words which do not agree here, history belongs to time, eternity envelopes, encloses or surrounds time, it is not bordered by time, time is bordered by eternity, but the whole sphere of God's ways with men is enveloped here by the intimacy of the Son with the Father and the blessed fullness of grace that has come to light in Him as begotten in the day of His incarnation.
"Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." (v.8)
What did He ask for? "The king" - the subject of psalm 2 - "shall joy in thy strength, O Lord; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips. Selah." - meaning 'pause' or 'meditate' - "For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head. He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever. His glory is great in thy salvation: honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him. For thou hast made him [to be blessings] for ever: thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance. For the king trusteth in the Lord, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved" (Ps.21:1-7, with J.N.D. correction of v.6).
The Most High is one of the most expansive names of God in the Old Testament. We come across that name first in Genesis 14 after the battle between the kings when Lot was rescued by his uncle Abraham. Five kings were killed in the fields of battle and Melchizedek being the priest of the Most High God came onto the scene. This expression contains in itself the blessed truth that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, all things sprung into being from Him and by Him and that Person is the Person who is spoken of in psalm 21 as "the Most High".
So here Jehovah says to the Messiah in psalm 2, "Ask of me, and I shall give thee......". He did not ask for the heathen, He asked for life and God gave it to Him, He raised Him from the dead by His own glory and set Him at His own right hand (that would lead us to psalm 8). The heathen, the uttermost parts of the earth are the prerogative of the Most High to give to whomsoever He will, and so He says to Messiah, 'Ask of Me, and I will give them to you'.
"Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." (v.9)
Then the Spirit, through the psalmist, makes an appeal.
"Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." (vv.10-12)
I want to say a word now about this word "Son". This word occurs twice in psalm 2, once in verse 7 and now again in verse 12.
The first occurrence of the word 'Son' is a reference to what He is by nature (Hebrew: ben). The second occurrence of 'Son' is the Hebrew word for 'son by inheritance' (Hebrew: bar).
So He who is Son by nature is equally Son by inheritance.
God has decreed that He will establish the mystery of His will through this blessed Man, "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of the times he might gather together in one all things in Christ" (Eph.1:9-10). It refers to Him as the Christ, the vessel of the pleasure of God in the establishment of the will of God throughout the universe.
Throughout the entire course of the history of men in the ways of God with men every distinct successive testimony of God has broken down in the hands of those to whom it was committed, but in Christ He has found a Man at last in whom He can gather up every testimony and concentrate the blessedness and the truth and the power of it in such a way that He might be glorified forever, and those who are the subject of that established will might for ever be brought into blessing. So He is going to "gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth". God tells us that our Lord Jesus Christ, who is Son by nature, is equally Son by inheritance, and not only Son in the blessedness of His deity but He is Son in the greatness of these heirships.
What then does the expression "Kiss the Son" mean? If you look it up in the concordance you will find it means this, 'Evidence your attachment to this Person, the Son'. Elsewhere in the days of Elijah the prophet, when he was bemoaning the fact that only he remained in faithfulness to the truth before Jehovah, Jehovah rebuked him and said to him, "Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him" (1 Ki.19:18), that is, every mouth that has not given evidence of attachment to Baal, had not kissed him. The same expression in psalm 2 in regard to Jehovah's anointed, "Kiss the Son," means to give evidence of your attachment to the Son, "lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little".
Who are those who "put their trust in him"? It is the tremendous concourse of the godly remnant in Israel. The psalms speak of earthly blessing, they speak of the feelings of godly men, they speak of the feelings of the Messiah, they speak of the feelings of the heart of Jehovah, but we are connected with the same blessed Person, the same God, in regard to higher blessing even than Israel, ours it is to be blessed "with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ" (Eph.1:3). If Romans brings before us in its teaching that we have died with Christ in regard to our guilt and sin, and Colossians that we are risen with Him, then Ephesians moves a step further and tells us that we are not only raised up with Him, we are not only quickened, given to live with Him, but we are made to sit with Him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. Think of it, dear brethren, the highest and richest blessings of the heart of God are open to you and to me through the infinite love that displayed itself in the death of Jesus on Calvary! So again, "blessed are all they that put their trust in him".
Brief Considerations of Psalm 3-8
"I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord: save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah." (3:5-8).
Psalms 3-8 describe to us the troubles of the nation consequent upon their rejection of their Messiah. These verses I feel so much, it touches me immensely, in spite of the concourse of enemies reared against the godly man he says this, "I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me". That is open to you and to me in our day, to lie down in peace and absolute serenity, confident that the God of our salvation will undertake for us absolutely all the way in grace and mercy and will lead us in our wilderness journey despite whatever opposition or persecution we might meet if we are loyal to Christ. God will never forsake us, so we lay ourselves down to sleep and we awake because the Lord sustains us.
"Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord. There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and wine increased. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." (4:4-8)
Are you ever sleepless through the night? How do you occupy your waking moments? Do you pick your Bible up and see what the Lord has to say? The psalmist seemed to do that, he says, 'Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still, be silent, give yourself to meditation. Think about this.'
"My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up." (5:3)
Somebody has written somewhere, 'Look in - distress; look out - distraction; look up - delight'. The psalmist knew where to look. He did not look up until he had looked to the One who was the object of his desires in absolute confident prayer, the expression of absolute utter dependence upon Him.
"Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face." (5:8)
Whose way do we want to travel? Do you want to take your own way? There is only one end to your way, that is disaster, but if you walk His way it will mean delight.
"I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies...... The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer." (6:6-7,9)
These are night psalms, dear brethren. Our Lord experienced the night seasons according to psalm 22, "I cry...... in the night seasons, and am not silent" (v.2). Here the psalmist cried in the night seasons, and it seems that he was heard. Messiah cried in the night seasons and was not heard. Why was this? Because He was there bearing that heavy load of sin, sacrificially, in order for the establishing of the will of God, and for the blessing, such as we have read in these psalms, of all those who trust in Him.
"Arise, O Lord, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded. So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return thou on high. The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me. Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and the reins" - it is the inner springs that guide us - "God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day." (7:6-11)
The day is coming when those who have opposed God and His Anointed and have opposed and persecuted and hated His people are going to reach their determined end, the wicked are not going to have all their own way for ever. The Lord Jesus said in His day, "This is your hour and the power of darkness". There is an end to that, and it is a very solemn and a very sad end, it means the execution of the wrath of God on those who have chosen that way. Yet judgment is absolutely sure to fall upon them for this reason, they have abandoned God, God is not in their thoughts, they have persecuted His Son, they have set themselves against the Lord and His anointed and they have persecuted His people. So in this psalm you have the godly man and the ungodly man, and the ungodly man is unlike the godly man, he is sure to meet with judgment at the hands of a righteous God. Praise God, the day is coming when our Lord is going to get His portion.