We come now to another group of Psalms that are all intimately linked together, and this time instead of an octave we have a septenary series. In the oldest Hebrew text there would be only six, for originally Psalms 9 and 10 were one. We do not know just when they were divided into two, but we know them as 9 and 10 instead of simply as 9. Then, if we add to them 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15, we have the series of seven.
In these first two Psalms, 9 and 10, we have the people of God in great distress and a sinister character oppressing and persecuting them. He is called, in the last verse of the 10th Psalm, “The man of the earth.” That is very significant for our Lord Jesus is called, “The Second Man, the Lord from Heaven,” and all through Scripture we can see hints in the Old Testament getting clearer and clearer as we move on into the New, of the man who in the last days comes out in vivid contrast to our Lord Jesus Christ. This man of the earth embodies in himself all earthly and carnal principles as our Lord Jesus embodies in Himself everything that is heavenly and spiritual. You remember when He was on earth He said to the Jews, “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43). He is undoubtedly referring to one who appears in many different parts of the Old Testament, the same one here called, “The man of the earth,” the one who is spoken of in Daniel as “the king” who does “according to his will” (11:36); who is described in the prophet Zechariah as “the idol shepherd” (11:17) who left the flock and instead of tending and caring for them really persecuted them.
When you go farther on into the New Testament you get the name of this person, or perhaps it is more proper to say, his title. John says, “Ye have heard that antichrist shall come” and then he adds, “even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). But he shows that there will be a personal antichrist in the last days. The Apostle Paul speaks very definitely of him in the second chapter of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians and calls him distinctly, The wicked one (2 Thess. 2:8). Our version calls him, “That Wicked.” It should be “That wicked one,” or really, “The lawless one,” and he is also called in that chapter, “That man of sin” (Thess. 2:3). In the book of Revelation he is spoken of as “the false prophet” and as “another beast,” the beast that comes up out of the land, that is, the land of Palestine, who “had two horns like a lamb and he spake as a dragon.” The book of Revelation is the book of the Lamb, for you read of the Lamb twenty-nine times, but in the thirteenth chapter you have an imitation lamb, one who looks like a lamb but who speaks like a dragon; that is, he is energized by Satan. One of the oldest Christian fathers of the second century of the Christian era called him “Satan’s firstborn.” That is the imitation Christ. As we study these two Psalms I think we can see the shadow of this sinister personality falling across both these records, and we can get some idea of what it is going to mean for the remnant people of God in the land of Palestine after the Church of God has been caught away, in the time of Jacob’s trouble, when the antichrist is reigning. His principle will be to rule or to ruin. If people will not own his authority, if they will not recognize him as their leader, then he will seek to destroy them. Therefore the people of God in that day will be suffering terribly under his hand. We have had many forecasts of this personality. There have been, all down through the centuries both before the Christian era and since, persons who largely answered to the description of the antichrist. If one is familiar with the history of the people of Israel between the two Testaments he knows something of what the people of Israel suffered under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian tyrant who has been called the Old Testament antichrist. Unless the Jews were ready to worship his false gods, to offer incense at his altars, he slaughtered them b) the thousands and made the land run red with their blood. In the centuries since Christ was here on earth how many of these terrible tyrants there have been! No wonder that the early Christians thought first of Nero as the antichrist, later on of Domitian, and then afterwards when pagan Rome had fallen and papal Rome took its place, think of what Christians suffered under the papacy. Luther was firmly convinced that the papacy was the antichrist, that instead of one individual, that the man of sin was a system, the system of the papacy, seeking to destroy God’s humble, loyal people who loved His Word and would not acknowledge papal substitutes. Then in later years under the awful tyranny in Russia, we are not surprised that poor, suffering Christians, hundreds of thousands of them martyred under the soviet government, have thought of Lenin and now of Stalin as the antichrist. In a certain sense all of these men were antichrists because, after all, the word just means, “opposed to Christ,” and so wherever there is a tyrant who hates the gospel and hates the people of God and is opposed to Christ, he is in nature an antichrist. But all of these are just figures of the great antichrist yet to come. With that in view I think we can enter into the feelings of God’s people in the coming day as we look carefully at these Psalms.
In Psalms 9 and 10 we have the man of the earth oppressing, destroying, ruthlessly seeking to root out of the world everything that is of God. In Psalms 11 to 15 we have the exercises of heart of God’s people in view of all this. Of course we have those exercises in measure in Psalms 9 and 1 o, but these deal particularly with the tyrant of those days. Psalm 9 commences with a note of praise and, after all, no matter what God’s people have to suffer, the marvelous thing is they have always been able to praise even when in the midst of the fire. That is one of the wonderful evidences of the divinity of Christianity. People can go through the most intense suffering, trial, and difficulty, and yet their hearts can be lifted above all the pain and anguish and grief and they can praise even in the fires. What a picture you have of that in Paul and Silas, cast into the inner prison, their backs bleeding, their feet made fast in the stocks, and instead of grumbling, instead of finding fault with God, instead of asking, “Why does God allow me, since I am His child, to suffer like this?” you find them singing praises to God and lifting their voices together in prayer until all the prisoners heard them. Then came the great earthquake and then the conversion of the jailer. Do you know anything else that can enable a man to glory in tribulation like that?
Listen to David, for David is the author of these Psalms, and he knew what it was to suffer. With Saul on the throne, he knew what it was to be driven out into the wilderness, persecuted, hated, forsaken, and yet to love in return. Instead of grumbling and complaining, his heart goes out in thanksgiving, “I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart.” Not with half a heart. And think of the people of God in that coming day in the midst of the greatest tribulation ever known, taking up these words on their lips, “I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all Thy marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in Thee.” We may not be able to rejoice in circumstances, but we can always rejoice in Him, for God is above all circumstances. It is a bad thing when believers get under them. A brother said to another who he knew had not been well, “How are you, brother?”
“I am pretty well under the circumstances,” he answered.
And the other said, “I am sorry to know that you are under the circumstances; I wish you could be above them. The Lord is able to lift you above them.”
“Oh, yes,” said the other, “I was not thinking of that.”
We do not need to be under the circumstances. This man is above them all and he is rejoicing in spite of them. “I will sing praise to Thy name, O Thou most High.” And then he tells you something of his confidence in God, for even when facing the enemy he can say, “When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at Thy presence.” You see, faith counts on God to keep His Word and knows that God has promised to give deliverance from the enemy, and so takes it for granted that this will occur. He says, “When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at Thy presence. For Thou hast maintained my right and my cause; Thou satest in the throne judging right/’ No matter what conditions are like in the world around, the nations may rage, wars and rumors of war may cause the stoutest heart to tremble, but faith looks beyond it all and recognizes God as sitting on the throne, and knows that eventually He will bring out everything for His glory.
“Thou hast rebuked the heathen, Thou hast destroyed the wicked, Thou hast put out their name for ever and ever.” It had not actually happened, but faith speaks of the things that are not as though they are. And then he turns and defies the enemy, “O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end.” They are still carrying on the same bloody propaganda in Russia, but eventually God is going to arise for the deliverance of His people, and so here His saint cries out, “O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.”
In verses 7 to 12 the afflicted believer looks on and sees the Lord taking His great power and reigning in Zion. “But the Lord shall endure for ever: He hath prepared His throne for judgment. And He shall judge the world in righteousness, He shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee: for Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee.” What about us at the present time? We do not know anything as yet of what many of the people of God have experienced in times of persecution and trial; we do not know anything of what the remnant of Israel will have to go through, and yet how often our heads hang down like bulrushes because things go a little hard with us, because we are up against misunderstanding, and we get so discouraged. Let us rather take a leaf out of the book of these saints of God who in the midst of awful persecution and trial could say, “They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee: for Thou, Lord, has not forsaken them that seek Thee.” God has never gone back on His Word, and He has never failed His people. But someone says, “He has left them to die; He has allowed them to be tortured and afflicted.” Yes, that is true, but that was not defeat; for the very moment the soul left the body it was present with the Lord, and for all one ever suffered on earth He makes up abundantly yonder.
And so the Psalmist can exclaim, “Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people His doings.” When reading the prophetic word (and the Psalms are as truly part of the prophetic word as the books that we think of in this connection, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.—the New Testament speaks of “the prophet David”) we should remember that whenever it speaks of Zion and Mount Zion it means exactly what it says; it means Mount Zion. We have a way in Christendom of taking a lot of these terms that have to do with Israel and with their inheritance of the kingdom promised to them, over to Christianity and spiritualizing everything and so speak of the Church as being Mount Zion. When I was compiling a song book some years ago there was one song, which is used often in connection with missionary services, that I was very eager to have; it was that beautiful song, “O Zion Haste Thy Mission High Fulfilling.” You know, Zion is not doing any missionary work at all, but I wanted that hymn, and so I changed the first line to, “O Christian haste thy mission high fulfilling.” But some day Zion will have a mission of blessing to the whole world. That will be when the Lord Jesus reigns on Mount Zion, and He will reign there, for God is going to fulfill that word of the Psalmist David who by faith sees antichrist destroyed and sees the Lord dwelling in Zion. “Declare among the people His doings.”
And then He remembers that God is never going to forget anything that His people have suffered. Have you had to suffer, and have you felt utterly forsaken and forgotten? God never forgets. You may say, “But others have treated me so badly.” He knows all about that. Look at verse 12, “When He maketh inquisition for blood, He remembereth them: He forgetteth not the cry of the humble.” He takes note of every sorrow that His people have to go through, and in the day of judgment there will be stern retribution for those who have caused suffering to His people.
Then from verse 13 to the end of verse 17 you have another distinct section in which the Psalmist tells some of his personal experiences. “Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death: That I may shew forth all Thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in Thy salvation. The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken/’ Is that not true today? How utterly helpless they are. They do not know how to get out of the pit into which they have sunk, but it will be a thousand times worse in this day of which we read, “The Lord is known by the judgment which He executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.”
And then notice those two queer looking words at the end of verse 16, “Higgaion. Selah.” You do not need to read them, for they are not part of the Psalm. They are simply instructions to the choir leader. “Higgaion” is a type of Hebrew music to which this Psalm was to be sung, and “Selah” is like one of those little rest marks that we have, to give the choir a chance to breathe before they go on. It comes in such a solemn way here for he is going to say a very serious thing in the next verse; but first he says, just rest a moment; pause a moment. He tells us something the world does not like to hear, something that men do not want to believe, but here it is in God’s Holy Word: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” There is something about that, that has a very strange effect on the child of God, for while his heart goes out in sympathy as he thinks of the awful doom toward which the wicked are sinking, yet it enables him to lift his heart in praise as he thinks of the judgment from which he has been saved. When I think of what hell means, it ought to fill my heart with great compassion as I look upon the multitudes about me. On the other hand, how I should praise the One who has redeemed me from such a doom!
Years ago when I was a Salvation Army officer we used to sing a song the chorus of which is:
“Let the white glare of Thy throne he cast
O’er each step of the way that I go,
And the red, red light from the lake of the lost
O’er each hour shed its lurid, awful glow.”
Often when speaking to God in prayer those words come to me, and I say to God, “I do want to live day by day in view of the great white throne and in view of the lake of fire toward which men and women are hastening in their sins so that I shall not be indifferent to the needs of souls around.” I do not understand how a child of God could ever harbor malice or ill feeling even toward those who are causing him suffering when he thinks of the doom toward which they are hastening. When the Psalmist thinks of the judgment to which the godless nations are going, his heart is stirred to compassion as he thinks of the grace that delivered him from it all, and his voice is lifted in praise. In the last three verses he thanks God for His mercies, and yet calls on Him to bring the sufferings of His people to an end.
“For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.” This is the time when it looks as though the needy are forgotten, but it will not always be so. “Arise, O Lord; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in Thy sight. Put them in fear, O Lord: that the nations may know themselves to be but men.” There is another rest, and then he goes right on into the tenth Psalm.
In the two opening verses he has the lawless one before him and cries to God as his refuge, “Why standest Thou afar off, O Lord? why hidest Thou Thyself in times of trouble?” This will be the time of Jacob’s trouble. We never would have people asking the question, “Will the Church go through the great tribulation?” if they could understand that the great tribulation is not the time of the Church’s trouble, but that it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, and the judgments of the tribulation are not to be poured out on the Church but on those that dwell on the earth. The Church is to be taken out of the scene before that time begins. Here you have in view the people, the remnant of Israel, the seed of Jacob, but this is the last trouble they will have to go through before the Lord brings them into the blessings of the kingdom. Here you see this wicked one who seeks to destroy the people of God in that day, “The wicked [really, the wicked one, the lawless one, the same one that Paul refers to in 2 Thessalonians 2] in his pride doth persecute the poor.” And there are others associated with him. “Let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined. For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.”
From verses 4 to 11 you have a description of the wicked one, the evil character of this lawless one. It is really the antichrist himself that comes before us. “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. His ways are always grievous; Thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them.” He imagines that he is going to subject everything to himself. He knows very little of what God is doing or has planned. “He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.” How often tyrants of this world have taken that haughty position. We read that, when Mussolini was shot at and might have been killed, he laughed it off and said, “The bullet has never been made that can kill me.” He felt he was absolutely superior to all the efforts of his foes to destroy him. And so the antichrist says in his heart, “I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.”
“His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity. He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor.” Not he personally, of course, but through his agents. You can see this taking place in Russia: the secret police on the lookout for any who serve the Lord in order to entrap them. “He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net. He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones. He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: He hideth His face; He will never see it.” He thinks that God has nothing to do with these things and that he can have things his own way.
Now in the closing verses of this Psalm David again, as representing the remnant suffering under the hand of antichrist, lifts up the heart in prayer to God for deliverance, “Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Thine hand: forget not the humble. Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it. Thou hast seen it.” This man of the earth, this lawless one may think that God is indifferent; he may think that there is no God; he may be atheistic in his belief, but God has seen and God knows. “Thou hast seen it; for Thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with Thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto Thee.” Is not that a lovely verse? If you are in distress, will you not take it for yourself? “The poor committeth himself unto Thee.” That is better than committing yourself to the civic authorities. He will undertake. “Thou art the helper of the fatherless.” How often God has pledged Himself to be a Father to the fatherless.
“Break Thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness till Thou find none.” In other words, seek him out until he is destroyed and cannot do any more evil. Is that not a vindictive thing to pray? In those dark days when Japan overran China did you not feel like praying, “Lord, destroy the Japanese army so that it cannot do any more wickedness in China”? Think of the thousands of women, children, and babies who were destroyed. Would it not be right for Christians to pray, “Lord, put a stop to all that”? Surely it would. We have a kind of pacifist idea nowadays that we must just look on and not be upset by anything. But that is not the spirit of the Bible. We have a right to call on God to put a stop to wickedness. Then he says, “The Lord is King for ever and ever: the heathen [nations] are perished out of His land.” It is as though he sees all those nations gathered together in Palestine, as they will be, and sees the judgment of God executed and the nations perished out of His land, and His land is Emmanuel’s land.
“Lord, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble: Thou wilt prepare their heart, Thou wilt cause Thine ear to hear: To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress.” And the man of the earth is the antichrist.
And now in the last five Psalms of this series you have what might be likened to a little song book, a hymn book for the oppressed people of God in that dark day. Do you know why the people of Scotland love the Psalms so much? They learned to love them when they were being persecuted by those who sought to destroy the Scottish church; and when the Covenanters had to hide in the hills for their safety they sang these Psalms as fitting their exact circumstances, and how much they meant to them. There they were, driven out on the mountainside to hold their meetings for worship and for prayer and praise. It must have been a wonderful thing to hear a company of them lifting up their voices in one of these Psalms.
Suppose you were one of the remnant of Israel in the coming day and you have met with a few of His people while the agents of the antichrist are spying on you. How beautifully these Psalms would fit as you would lift up the heart to God. “In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?” Is it not strange that people would ever sing that old song, “Flee as a bird to your mountain”? It suggests that it is perfectly right to flee as a bird to your mountain, but that is not what David is telling us here. He says, “My trust is in the Lord—though the people may say, ‘Flee as a bird to your mountain,’ I will not do it; I will go to the Lord Himself for He is my refuge; He is my strength. I need to go to Him”—“for, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven: His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men. The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence His soul hateth.” The wicked are looking on; they know that the day is near when the Lord will be manifested and, “Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; His countenance doth behold the upright.”
All of these Psalms, up to Psalm 15, express the same thing, the suffering people, the afflicted people committing their cause to God and counting on Him to bring them through in triumph at last.