What we find written in the Psalms is primarily connected with the Jews, or the Lord Jesus Himself, and particularly as Messiah. They have a special reference to the godly remnant in the latter day. Many of their expressions wholly belong to the Jews, and cannot be used by the church. Hence, the true solution of those passages which have been such a terrible stumbling to Christians not seeing it. The saints of the present dispensation cannot rightly be looking for the destruction of their enemies, as a way of escape from their sorrows. But in the time of trouble, such as never has been, that is to come, it will be quite proper for the suffering Jews to look for judgments as a way of deliverance. They are God’s promises, and what their hope rests upon. But the church looks to be caught up, and escape from sorrow, by being with the Lord in the heavens, whilst it is quite true that she has His sympathy in her sorrow down here. But what the Psalms are chiefly occupied with is the suffering of the soul, the sorrows of the godly Jews and remnant, and God coming in judgment, as their deliverer, by the execution of vengeance on all their foes. Christ is viewed there as associated with Israel, and enters into all the sufferings of the holy remnant. Then there are certain psalms which belong personally to Himself. They shew out the character of the spirit of Christ, as the Gospels shew His walk and work. The Gospels display the one in whom was no selfishness. They tell out the heart that was ready for everybody. No matter how deep His own sorrow, He always cared for others. He could warn Peter in Gethsemane, and comfort the dying thief on the cross. His heart was above circumstances, never acting under them, but ever according to God in them. We see that He was always sensible to them, and often get in the Psalms expressions of what His heart felt in them: “I am poured out like water.” “My bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax.” He was the tried man; and, as man tried, I am called to follow Him. I should forget self, and the things belonging to self, in shewing love to others. The true effect of being near Christ puts me into fellowship with Himself about others, instead of being under my own circumstances. How can I be turning my heart to the joys of one, and the sorrows of another, unless I am living close to Christ, and getting my heart filled with Him instead of self? What we find all through the life of Christ as shewn out in the Gospels, is the total absence of selfishness, never acting for self in any way whatever. He could rejoice with those who had joy, and grieve with those in sorrow. He could cheer, warn, or rebuke, as need arose. Whatever love dictated, that He did. In Psalm 22 we see Christ alone, suffering under God, enduring the wrath due to sin, but continuing the righteous man, crying unto God, and justifying Him, even when forsaken by Him; or if we look at Him, as in Psalm 69, suffering rather from men, God is still His refuge. His heart goes through all the sorrow sin could bring on one who takes the sinner’s place. He passed through the deepest exercises the heart could endure, but He brings all to God. We find the greatest difficulty often in bringing our sorrow tc God. How can I do so, the soul of some may be saying, as my sorrow is the fruit of my sin? How can I take it to God? If it was suffering for righteousness’ sake, then I would, but I am suffering for my sin; and can I, in the integrity of my heart towards God, take my sorrows to Him, knowing I deserve them? Yes: Christ has been to God about them. This, then, is the ground on which I can go. There has been perfect atonement for all my sins; Christ has been judged for them. Will God judge us both? No; I go to Him on the ground of atonement, and God can afford to meet me in all my sorrow, because Christ’s work has been so perfectly done. In the main, all sorrow is from sin, and all help is grounded upon the atonement. There would be no possibility of my trusting in God, had not all His dealings with sin been put upon another.
God could not be indifferent about sin. Peter knew that, when He said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” The holy character of God has been fully exercised in putting away sin. He hath dealt with Christ about it, according to all that He is. I may have to taste the bitterness of its fruits; God may make me to feel the effects of my sin, because He is not going to judge me for it, that “as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ.” I get my conscience perfectly purged, through the blood of Christ shed in perfect love. The righteousness of the One who bore my sins is mine. I am declared righteous through the righteousness of Another. My heart is free: I can deal with God about my sin, because He has dealt with Christ on the cross about it. I can go to Him in all my sorrow on account of it. I can confess my sin; yea, more, I can say, “Search me, O God, and try me, … and see if there be any wicked way in me,” etc. Through grace I can take the place before God which Christ takes, and the ground for me is the atonement.
We find divine utterance in the Psalms for all our sorrows; and it is blessed to look at them in this way, Christ entered into the full effects of sin, as none other can, in a way we never shall; and, when He had been at the “horns of the unicorn”—the very transit of death, as it were—and had settled every question with God about sin, He could then say, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.” We shall never lose Him as our companion: what a comfort! We shall follow Him to the glory. I am going to be with Him. His presence will be my delight. What a place the saints are brought to in Christ— all sorrow passed!
We get in Psalm 16 expressions of the Lord’s own proper joy—the joy of Him whom God called His Fellow. Peter on the mount of transfiguration would have put Him on a level with Moses and Elias; but God said, No: He is My Fellow, not man’s. When the young man in the gospel went to Him, saying, “Good Master”—coming to Him as man—He said, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but God.” Goodness was not to be looked for in man, not even in Him if He had been only man. The saints are Christ’s constant delight, and the poor sinner who puts his trust in God has the Lord Jesus for his comforter; and He, having been tempted, knows how to help, as none other can.
In the days of John the Baptist all who repented came to the waters of baptism: Jesus did the same. He could not repent, but He would not be separated from them, and said, “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” I will take My place with you, with the saints in the earth.
What abundant consolation faith gives the man who hangs on God! Christ when down here could say, “I have set Jehovah always before me”; and should not I? In the details of life, do I not constantly need Him? How continually I get moved by circumstances! He alone can stay me. Christ once took a dependent place. He was raised by the power of the Spirit, through God the Father. He could have raised Himself; “death hath no more dominion over him.” The Son was the Father’s delight. The Father’s heart was bound up in the Son. The Lord Jesus Christ was all the Father’s delight.
Christ is in His presence as Man and for man, as our Forerunner and our way. It is so blessed to look at Christ as the way; it brings Him so near to us. As surely as I have, as a man, partaken of the first Adam’s nature, and the consequences of his sin, so have I as a believer a portion in the second Adam. The Lord Jesus Christ is in the presence of God for me. There are truly difficulties down here; but I shall be with Him where there are joys for evermore. God will be glorified as God, but He will be displayed as Man also; and, as in Christ, we shall share the glory. How gracious and truly blessed those words, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” He will be with His saints, and His saints with Him. They shall be conformed to His image; they shall be displayed in His likeness. We shall see Him, and we shall be like Him; and now, in the measure we are looking at Him, are we transformed into His image.
It is our positive portion, and in communion with Him we share what He is. His delight is with the saints. He entered into their deepest sorrow, and they shall share His joy and glory, as exalted on high. How am I acting towards Him now? Do I take all my concerns to Him? Do I make Him the uppermost thought in all my need, in every exercise of soul, and also in my seasons of joy? This is the way to learn Him, and to know the love that is in His heart.
There is no condition but what I may have Him for my companion in. He has gone into the fullest depths of my sorrow. “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts,” He could say. There is not a place faith cannot find Christ in. “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above the heavens, that he might fill all things.” But am I going on in the world with Him? Are my joys such as I can share along with Him? Am I walking with Him in my every-day life? If I am in sorrow, how far has He lifted me up? If I am resting on Him, He has lifted me up, and this is my positive privilege. The heart that is cast upon Christ finds constant comfort. The heart that keeps close to Christ gets nothing apart from Him. See Psalm 23. If I have a question of want, I can say, there is no fear, “the Lord is my shepherd.” Am I saying, I am in green pastures, but they will be soon gone? Nay, He maketh me to “he down “in them. Then there are “still waters,” but may they not be shortly troubled? How is that, when Christ leads me beside them? My heart is sorrowful; I have wandered away from Him. This is sad. But Christ “restoreth my soul”; and if I have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He will be with me, and will comfort me. Ah! but I am in the land of my enemies. What of that? Christ prepares a table for me in their very presence. “Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
How blessed it is to look at the Lord in this way! He is our present and eternal joy. The time will come when all our sorrow will be over, but our Friend will remain. He is our tried and true Friend. He has entered into the deepest woes of our heart, and will make us the sharers of His joy for ever. Our blessing, our safety, our hope are all grounded on the atonement. Is there a soul reading this who cannot rejoice in Christ, who knows Him not as his portion? Is there one who is saying, My sin is too great to be pardoned? To feel about your sin is right, but to be in despair about it is quite wrong. You are virtually saying, My sin is greater than the grace of God. You will not dare to say so if you are looking at Christ. Is Christ come short? Is grace beneath your need or above it? Christ is the portion of every poor soul who believes on Him. The atoning work is done. The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth from all sin.