The book of Psalms has a very wonderful prophetic character. It sets forth in a most marvelous way the counsels of God in relation to the earth, and the efforts of Satan to thwart those counsels. In the first book, Psalms 1 to 41, we see the conflict raging between God and the forces of evil, a conflict that begins with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into this world, that centers in the Cross, and then after the resurrection of Christ goes right on until His second coming. All the experiences, also, that His people pass through as associated with the rejected Christ come before us very vividly in this first book of the Psalms.
The second book of Psalms, 42 to 72, shows us that God’s counsels are going to be carried out in spite of all the efforts of Satan to hinder, and we see the people of God, the nation of Israel, scattered among the Gentiles and suffering terribly, as they have been all down through the centuries since the rejection of Christ.
Then when we come to the third book, Psalms 73 to 89, we see the remnant of Israel in the land of Palestine after they have been gathered out from the nations of the Gentiles, waiting for the Messiah but suffering terribly under the persecution of the beast and the antichrist. Their suffering comes to a climax in Psalm 88, where they cry out in anguish as the waves and billows of judgment roll over them just before the blessed Lord appears in grace for their glorious deliverance, as shown in Psalm 89, when the King, great David’s greater Son, comes to take the kingdom and delivers His people.
In the fourth book we see Messiah reigning in Zion, and the first man with all the sin and sorrow and wretchedness that he has brought into the world displaced, and God’s Second Man, the Lord from heaven, bringing in millennial blessing.
In the fifth book, 107 to 150, we have the celebration of the divine government, everything that has breath called upon to bless and glorify God because of the marvelous way in which at last righteousness has triumphed over evil; light has displaced darkness, and the blessed Lord Jesus Christ is reigning with every foe beneath His feet.
This gives us the prophetic outline of the book of Psalms, and it is a wonderful thing, as we read this Old Testament hymn book—for that is really what it is—to see the orderly way in which one Psalm follows another. If anybody has any doubt as to the divine inspiration of Scripture, it seems to me that a careful study of the book of Psalms alone ought to make clear to him that God has ordered all these things, even to the arrangement of this wonderful book. In our hymn books we have a beautiful collection of gospel lyrics and sweet and sacred hymns, but we could displace them; we could take them all, if we had the plates, and mix them up and then put them together again, and it would make very little difference. But if you were to change the position of one of these Psalms, you would dislocate the entire thing. Every Psalm is found in the exact place where God would have it in order to tell the story in a smooth, orderly way. But of course you need to have your eyes open to discern this. If you are thinking only of yourself as you read these Psalms you will never see what the book is really taking up, but once you understand something of God’s prophetic counsel, once you enter into His purpose in Christ Jesus for the people of Israel and the Gentile nations, you will realize how marvelously this book fits in with the divine program.
We saw that in the first Psalm two men stand out in vivid contrast and that these two are the first Adam and the last Adam. When I speak of the first man, I do not mean Adam alone but Adam and his entire race, because Scripture recognizes only two men. The Bible is the history of two men. In 1 Corinthians 15:47 we are told, “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the Second Man is the Lord from heaven.” Who was that first man? Well, you say, That is Adam. Very well, the Second Man is who? Cain? No. But was he not the second man? Yes, he was the second man to appear on earth, but as God looked at him he was only another edition of the first man, and every man born into the world since has been just another copy of the first man. It is just like an edition of a book. You might have 50,000 copies but they are all just the same book, and so you can have millions and billions of men who have been born into this world, but they are all just copies of the first man. Adam begat a son in his own image and after his own likeness, and every one coming into the world since has borne the image and the likeness of Adam. And so Scripture says that the first man, taking in the whole human race, “is of the earth, earthy.” And then it says, “The Second Man is the Lord from heaven.” And the moment poor sinners put their trust in Jesus they are linked with the Second Man. He is their head, and the link with the first man is broken forever. So then you see Christ in contrast to the first man in Psalm 1.
In Psalm 2 we have Jehovah’s determination to make Christ ruler over all things, to give Him the throne on Mount Zion and thus to make Him the Messiah expected by the people of Israel, who is to rule over all the Gentile world and bring in everlasting blessing. But when He comes into the world, it is not ready for Him, and you have the story told in a wonderful way in this Psalm.
It has been pointed out often that this Psalm consists of twelve verses, is divided into four sections of three verses each, and in each section there is a different speaker, so that in this second Psalm you listen to four different voices. Whose voices are they?
In the first three verses you have the voice of the world. Listen to it, “Why do the heathen [the Gentile nations] rage, and the people [the Jewish nation] imagine a vain thing?” “The people” is the term applied to Israel. “The nations” refers to the Gentiles. ‘The kings of the earth [that is, the kings of the Gentiles] set themselves, and the rulers [the rulers of the Jews] take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed.” And now Jews and Gentiles, acting through their respective leaders, express the voice of the whole world, the attitude of the entire world toward God. God hath set forth Christ to be the King, to bring in blessing for Jews and Gentiles. What is the answer to the love of God’s heart in sending Christ? Listen to the voice of the world, verse 3: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” That is what man says. We do not want to be subjected to God; we do not want God’s King; we do not want His millennium; we do not want to be subject to His righteous rule. They said that when the Lord was here on earth, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). In other words, we are not for this Man; we will not have Him to reign over us.
As recorded in the fourth chapter of Acts we find that the apostles, immediately after Pentecost, came up against this and recognized that the second Psalm was being fulfilled even then. They were having a prayer meeting; they were talking to God. Read Acts 4 beginning with verse 24: “When they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?” And then they applied it, “The kings of the earth stood up [that is, the Gentile rulers], and the rulers were gathered together [that is, the heads of the Jewish people] against the Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy holy Child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together.” Herod represented the Jews. He was the king of the Jewish nation though a half Edomite himself. Pilate represented the empire yonder at Rome. And then those high priests and leaders of Israel lifted their voices up against God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
But notice, they could go only as far as God in His sovereignty permitted them to go. “The Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.” They could not go one step beyond His definite permission. God did allow them to crucify His Son, to nail Him to a tree, to seal His body up in a tomb, but that was as far as they could go. Then what happened? Turn back to the second Psalm. Man now has done his worst; man has shown out all the bitter hatred and malignity in his heart toward God and Christ. He could not do anything worse than crucify the Lord of Glory.
Now listen to another voice, verses 4 to 6, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” They think they are having their own way, but God looks on in derision; He sees the end from the beginning. “Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.” And now you hear the second voice. It is the voice of God, the Father, and what does He say? “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.” They thought they had gotten rid of Him. They said, “We have no king but Caesar”; they cried, “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” and their will was carried out and His precious dead body sealed up in Joseph’s tomb; but God had not changed His mind. He is to reign in Zion yet. He is going to have the throne just as surely as He had the cross.
“Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.” He is looking on to the day of His return, to the day when the Lord Jesus will come back from the glory to which He has gone, and His feet shall stand again upon the Mount of Olives, and He will enter into the city of Zion and reign gloriously there before His ancients. Some of us believe that the day is drawing very, very near when this Scripture is going to have its marvelous fulfillment, when the world again will see the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is written, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” (Rev. 1:7).
In the next three verses we have another voice, that of the Son of God, the rejected Messiah. It is as though He is meditating on what the Father has said to Him. He is speaking out loud in order that you and I may hear what is going on in His mind. Verse 7: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.” That is, God is saying to the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘Whatever men may do does not change your relationship to Me. You are My Son, My begotten Son.” Of course, the begetting here refers to His coming into the world. He was begotten of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. God says of Him, You are My begotten Son and I am going to carry out the plans by reason of which I sent You into the world.
“Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen [the nations] for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy posession.” It is as though the Father says to Him, Your own people did not want You; the people of Israel rejected You, but I have something greater for You than to be accepted only by Israel. Ask of Me and I will give You a great inheritance, a great ingathering from the heathen world. “Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” That is, they are to be broken down by Messiah’s power, broken down before God in repentance and brought to accept and to own Him as the righteous Lord and Saviour. In a wonderful way this is going on even now. It is going to have its fulfillment in the millennial days when the nations everywhere will be brought to recognize the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. I never come to a missionary meeting but I feel as though there ought to be written right across the entire platform, “Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.” It is the will of God that His Son should have a great heritage out of the heathen world, the godless Gentiles.
But now we come to the closing part of this Psalm, and in the last three verses we listen to another voice, a very gentle, a very loving, a very tender voice. I hope you have heard it. If you have not, it is not because it has not called but because your ears have become so accustomed to the sounds of earth that they are not attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
We have listened to the voice of the world, the voice of the Father, the voice of the Son, and now we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit of God. Verse 10: “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.” It is a call to all in authority everywhere to recognize the claims of the Son of God. “Serve the Lord with fear.” That is, with reverence, with awe; not with dread, not as one to be afraid of, but reverential fear such as a dutiful son gives to his father or to his mother. “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.” Do you get the beauty of that? Here is the rejected King and He appears before men now not as a mighty conqueror coming to smite down His enemies but in all the majesty of His kingly authority. He reaches out a hand and as you look at it, there is a scar, for it is the hand that was once nailed to a cross. He holds out the hand of peace, and the Holy Spirit says, “Poor rebellious sinners, do not fight against Him; do not wait until the day when the wrath of the Lamb shall come, but now bow at His feet, kiss the Son, kiss that wounded hand in token that you surrender to Him, that you refuse any longer to fight against Him, to associate yourself with the world that is rejecting Him.” This is the day of His mercy. In that day of wrath it will be too late and you will perish from the way.
“The hands of Christ seem very frail,
For they were broken by a nail,
But only they reach heaven
Whom those frail, broken hands hold fast.”
Have you ever kissed the Son? Have you ever bowed at His feet, surrendering to Him?
Look at these last words: “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” And that is the message going out to the whole world and that will continue until the day of His wrath. What a wonderful thing to be able to say, “I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, trusting only Thee.”