Psalms (Book 4)

The fourth Book is not so markedly separated from the third, as the preceding three from one another; and specially the third from the first two, because the third, while prophetically announcing the blessing, describes a state of things which leaves the expectation of divine interference to bring in the blessing in full play. The first had given the great principles of the position of the Jewish remnant in connection with the history of Christ; in the second, they are viewed as outside Jerusalem; the third turns to the condition of Israel as a nation restored to their land, but not yet in the full blessing of Jehovah; the fourth, as I have said, completes this by the coming of Messiah. This connects the nation and Christ, as well as the nation and Jehovah. Thus the book is introduced with the nation’s connection with Jehovah, looking to His returning and finally blessing them, that His beauty may be upon them. The second psalm of the book shews Christ’s connection with the nation as man in this world; the third psalm (92) gives, in prophetic celebration, the great result, into the whole establishment of which the Psalms 93 to 100 enter; then some deeply interesting details as to Christ (Psalms 101, 102); while the general result, as displaying Jehovah’s ways, is treated in the praises of Psalms 103, 104, as to Israel and the earth; Jehovah’s dealings from the beginning, and Israel’s ways, on the contrary, with Him, in Psalms 105, 106, which close the book. {Ps 90}

The first psalm (90) of the book places the people—that is, the godly believing part of it—on the ground of faith in Jehovah, and expresses the desire of deliverance and blessing from His hand. First, the godly Israelite owns Jehovah to have been the dwelling-place of Israel for all generations, their shelter and their home; next, He was the everlasting God before the world was, and turned and returned man in a moment, as seemed to Him good: time was no time to Him. Now Israel was consumed by His anger. But this was not all. Though His power was absolute, its use was not arbitrary. It was true and holy moral government; and unfeigned confession is made, not merely of open faults, but of that holy government of God which sets secret sins in the light of His countenance (for so, blessed be God, He does). Their days were passed in this wrath. They look that the pride of their heart may be so broken, their feeble mortality remembered, that the self-sufficiency, so natural to our heart, might be done away with, and that heart applied to wisdom—the fear of God. This putting of man in his place and God in His, connected with faith, as Israel’s in Jehovah, is full of instruction as to the moral position suited for the remnant in that day—in its principle ever true. Thus Jehovah is looked to to return for deliverance, with the word of faith—how long? and, as regards His servants, that His work might appear, as the affliction came from Him; and that the beauty of Jehovah their God might be upon them, and their work established by Him. It is the true faith of relationship, but of relationship with the supreme God in His holy government upon earth. But, if so, Jehovah is the God of Israel. {Ps 91}

We have now (Psalm 91) another most important principle introduced; Messiah’s taking His place with Israel, the place of trust in Jehovah, so as to afford the channel for the full blessing of the people. Three names of Elohim (God) come before us in this psalm: one that by which He was in relationship with Abraham, the Almighty; another which Abraham through the testimony of Melchisedec may have known prophetically, the millennial title of Elohim when He takes His full title over the earth (compare Gen. 14:18-20), the Most High. Both, as all the names of God, have their proper meaning: one complete power; the other absolute supremacy. The question then arises, Who is the God who has this place? Who is this supreme God over all to the earth? Who shall find His secret place to dwell in? He who has found this shall be completely protected by almighty power. Messiah (Jesus) says, I will take the God of Israel as that place, Jehovah. In verses 3-8 we have the answer. Doubtless it is true of every godly Israelite, and they are in view, but led by the Spirit of Jesus, the one perfect faithful One who took this place indeed.

In verse 9 I apprehend Israel speaks (that is, the Spirit personifying Israel addressing Messiah): “Because thou hast taken Jehovah, which is my refuge,… as thy habitation,” almighty power shall guard thee. This continues to verse 13. In verse 14 Jehovah Himself speaks of Him as the One who has set His love upon Him. The form of the psalm is striking. The Spirit of God proposes the problem. He who finds the secret place of the supreme God (of the millennium) will have all the full blessing of Abraham’s God, the Almighty. Messiah says, I take Jehovah the God of Israel. Then the answer; so it was and He (v. 3-8) would enjoy the fruit of it. In verse 9 Israel speaks and declares by the Spirit He would have the blessings. In verse 14 Jehovah sets His seal on all this, and the solver of the great riddle of God will find the full blessing of Jehovah, on whom He had set His love, whose name He had known—even Jehovah the God of Israel. It is a very interesting psalm in this way. But we have to remark that all is viewed on earth, the character of God in all respects. How Christ, as a present thing, relinquished the title to deliverance flowing from this, for perfect obedience, trusting His Father absolutely, belongs to deeper views of the purposes of God and of the paths of the blessed One Himself. Satan would have just used this to take Him out of the path of obedience, and into that of distrust and His own will: blessed be God, in vain, as we know. The sure mercies of David were to be in an obedient and risen One—this point is treated in a psalm of unexampled beauty farther on—and thus deeper blessings and higher glories brought out. But He who went in that perfect path of submission, has not the less made good all the fruit of all that is here, for those who shall walk after Him in the place of this trust in Jehovah upon earth. This principle we see indeed, in various forms, all through the Psalms. Indeed the atonement of Christ was needed, which implied His resigning personally this blessing, in order that others might walk in that path in which He could personally walk, of course, without it. Psalm 21 gives a divine revelation as to the way in which the promise of life was fulfilled to the Lord. {Ps 92}

Psalm 92 takes up these names of God, Jehovah and Most High; only it is no longer a secret place, known only to fidelity and faith. Almighty power secured blessing and answers faith; verses 7, 8 explain how. What is celebrated is not the disciplinary exercise of faith, but the answer to it, shewing that Jehovah (v. 15) is upright, and that there is no unrighteousness in Him. Psalms 90, 91, 92 go together as an introduction to the great theme that follows, Jehovah reigns. Already power had been displayed; and the full result in the judgment of all enemies and abiding blessing is looked for now, not merely as hope, but as founded on the manifested intervention of God. It is spoken in the place which Messiah had taken in the previous psalm, identified there in spirit with Israel in the latter days, Israel restored by divine power, but not yet in the full peaceful enjoyment of divine blessing, just as we have seen in Book in. Messiah takes therefore the lead in praises, and looks to His horn being exalted with honour (compare Psalm 75:10). But Jehovah’s thoughts are deeper. He sees far, even the end from the beginning, and accomplishes all His purposes and His word. This is what faith has to remember. {Ps 93}

Psalm 93 states the grand and blessed results. Jehovah reigns. Ever indeed was His throne established, but the floods had lifted up their voice. The waves of ungodly men had risen up high. Jehovah on high was mightier. Two other great principles complete this short but remarkable summary of the whole history of God and man in government. Jehovah’s testimonies are very sure. Faith could count upon them, come what would; but, further, another great truth came out as to the character of God. There could be no peace to the wicked. Holiness became His house. But I apprehend this last phrase describes the comely holiness of God’s house for the now lasting period for which the earth was established.

We have now the details of the coming in of the Only-begotten into the world to establish the glory and divine order in the world, introduced by the cry of the remnant in Israel. {Ps 94}

Psalm 94 gives us this cry, which is at the same time the expression of the fullest intelligence of their position, of the dealings of God, of the position of the wicked, and the result about to be produced, and, as all the psalms in this book, founded on known relationship with Jehovah. We have seen that Psalm 91 is Christ’s taking this place with the people, that full blessing may come on them as thus associated with Him. Psalm 94 addresses itself to Jehovah as the God of vengeance, and demands that He should shew Himself—lift Himself up as Judge of the earth and give a reward to the proud. The “how long” is made pressing and urgent. The conduct and impiety of the wicked is stated. Verses 4-11 address the unbelieving Israelites on the folly of this. Verses 12-15 give a most instructive explanation of the ways of Jehovah. Blessed is the man whom Jehovah chastens and teaches out of His law. This is the position of the suffering remnant, to give him quiet from the days of evil until the pit be digged for the ungodly.

No doubt, as indeed is expressed in the Psalms, the godly had sometimes well-nigh forgotten this (Psalm 73), not always (Psalm 27:5); but faith does not, and this is the true meaning of the remnant’s sorrows—of ours too under our Father. The heart in the midst of evil has to say to God, not only in submission, but as a cup given of Jehovah (of our Father). Hence the distraction and distress felt in meeting man’s will in our will without resource is gone; and God, the will being subdued (the great hindrance), teaches the submissive heart, which is in a true position before Him.63 For faith it was withal a settled thing that Jehovah would never cast off His people. But judgment would return to righteousness, and the upright in heart would follow it. This is the great and all-important principle of the change which takes place in these psalms. Judgment, long separated from righteousness, now returns to it. Judgment was in Pilate, righteousness in Christ. There the opposition was perfect—more or less everywhere else. Suffering for righteousness’ sake and divine righteousness established in the heavens may be, and assuredly is, a yet better portion. It is Christ’s as man, now glorified, but it is not the maintenance of righteousness on the earth. This will now be effectually maintained. But who shall be found to make it good? Who will take up the cause of the godly one, or stand up for the remnant against the mighty workers of iniquity? If Jehovah had not, their souls had soon gone down to silence. How true this was (as to men) of Christ, how fully He can enter into this, I need hardly say. Even when the remnant feared falling, Jehovah helped them. And in the overwhelming of thought, where all the power of evil was, Jehovah’s comforts delighted his soul. In verse 20 a most remarkable appeal is made. Were the throne of iniquity and Jehovah’s throne about to join together? If not, the days of the throne of iniquity were numbered. That wickedness was there, was now patent. But Jehovah, the defence of the godly, the Judge of the wicked, whose iniquity He would bring on themselves—Jehovah would cut them off. Thus the fullest review, as I have said, of the whole position and of Jehovah’s ways is remarkably given to us in this psalm. {Ps 95-100}

From Psalms 95 to 100 we have the progress of the introduction of the Only-begotten into the world most distinctly brought out; but here, all through, seen as Jehovah coming from heaven in judgment, and at length taking His place between the cherubim, and calling up the world to worship Him there. It puts the setting up of Israel in blessing by power, in contrast with their old failure when first delivered. {Ps 95}

Psalm 95 summons Israel to come with joyful songs and thanksgiving before Jehovah (verses 3, 4 describing His excellency above the gods and as Creator). But Jehovah is Israel’s Maker, his God also; and now they may look for rest even after so long time and continued failure. Till power comes in to judgment, while it is called to-day—for in that great to-morrow no evil and no rebellious will be allowed—they are called upon not to harden their hearts as of old in the wilderness, when God sware that they should not enter into His rest. But now, after all, grace says To-day, and invites to come before His presence who is the rock of their salvation.

Psalm 96 summons all the earth to come in, in the spirit of the everlasting gospel. They are to own Jehovah; the gods of the nations are mere vanity. Psalm 95 invites as of the company—“Come, let us sing.” Now it is said to those who are afar off, Sing unto Jehovah, and His glory is to be declared among the nations. Jehovah is Creator (v. 5). His excellency is then spoken of, but He is known in the sanctuary in Israel on the earth (v. 7, 8). They are again summoned to own Him there, to worship Him according to the order of His house on the earth, for Jehovah reigns and the world is established, and Jehovah will judge the peoples righteously. This introduces a summons to a chorus of celebration of all this created world to rejoice before Jehovah, who comes to judge the world with righteousness and His people with truth; for Israel had the place of promise and the revelation of His ways. {Ps 97}

In Psalm 97 the coming itself is celebrated; Jehovah has taken to Him His great power and His reign. The earth and the multitude of isles are to rejoice. Clouds and darkness are round about Him, for it is the revelation of His judgments in power, not of Himself. Righteousness and judgment ever characterise His throne. The fire of judgment goes before Him and consumes His enemies. Jehovah, the Lord of the whole earth, comes forth out of His place. The heavens (for on earth there is none) in power declare His righteousness. The peoples see His glory. The effect of the judgment is then stated. Idol worship is confounded before Him, and all power and authority, from angels downwards, are now to own Him. But another fact comes out—this was joy and deliverance to Zion. The judgment of evil was her deliverance, for it was the glorious exaltation of Jehovah, her God.64 In verses 10-12 we see the blessed objects of the deliverance— the godly remnant. Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. It is a very complete statement of the character of the Lord’s coming to earth. {Ps 98}

Psalm 98 is the result celebrated by Israel on earth. Jehovah has made known His salvation, and remembered His mercy and truth towards Israel. All the land (or earth) is summoned to celebrate Jehovah as king. The heavens are not summoned here, as in Psalm 96. They are already filled with His glory, and the angels have been called to worship; but the sea and its fulness, and the world and its inhabitants are to rejoice before Jehovah, who comes to judge the earth and the whole world. {Ps 99}

Psalm 99, though simple in its character, embraces some important principles. Jehovah now reigns, not only in making manifest heavenly power, but in the establishment of that power as king upon the earth. He now sits between the cherubim as heretofore in Israel. He is great in Zion and high above all peoples. I have no doubt this word people (ammim), generally translated “people “in the Authorised Version, which confounds it with Israel, is used, not as goim (Psalm 98:2 and often) in opposition with Israel and the knowledge of Jehovah, but for nations not Israel, but brought into relationship with Israel, and so with Jehovah Himself. Israel is called goi (Psalm 43) when judged and rejected. Further, the King (Messiah, but still Jehovah) loves judgment, and establishes equity, executing judgment and righteousness in Jacob. Thus Jehovah, the God of Jacob, was to be exalted, and in Jerusalem.

But another touching and important principle is then brought out: Israel had utterly failed, cast off Jehovah, rejected Messiah, was judged and cast off. But Jehovah had never given up His faithfulness and grace. Hence the Spirit turns back here to recognise the saints under the old covenant who had, through grace, been faithful (the remnant was always acknowledged; in one aspect we are it still, all children of Jerusalem the desolate, and waiting under discipline and government, only a Father’s). Moses and Aaron among His priests, Samuel among those who called on His name, the true prophets with no office, whatever their measure—these called on Jehovah, and He heard them. The relationship of faith was there. Jehovah answered them, but governed His people, taking vengeance of their inventions. So, at the end, whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be saved; but how surely are their inventions punished! These are the two hinges of all God’s ways—grace and the ear of goodness to the cry of the meek and needy, and government as holy and true. So with us: only we have a Father’s government (still God’s) after salvation and adoption. Thus new-born Israel is identified with the faithful Israel of old. The child of Ruth and Boaz is a son born to Naomi. Mara is known no more. {Ps 100}

Psalm 100 is the summons to universal worship of Jehovah with gladness and praise. Jehovah is good. Verse 5 gives in principle the great truth so often laid down as Israel’s hope— His mercy endureth for ever—which gave them too to say, How long? “All ye lands “is free as a translation; it is rather “all the land” (of Israel) or “all the earth.” The claim of Israel to be His people and the sheep of His pasture seems to extend it to the earth. It is, however, to me very doubtful if it is not simply “all the land of Israel.” This closes the remarkable series picturing the coming of Jehovah (Christ) to establish righteousness and judgment in the earth and His throne in Israel. {Ps 101}

Psalm 101 states the principles on which the King will govern His house and the land when He takes the kingdom in the name of Jehovah. {Ps 93}

Psalm 93 is the thesis, Jehovah reigns: the rage of men, the supreme authority of Jehovah, the holiness that becomes His house. Psalm 94 begins the series with the cry of the remnant when iniquity is still on the throne. Psalm 95 Israel (the remnant) summoned in the closing day. Psalm 96 the Gentiles called, Jehovah coming to judge the earth. Psalm 97 Jehovah is on His way. Psalm 98 He has executed judgment on the earth and remembered Israel. Psalm 99 He has taken His throne on earth in Zion. Psalm 100 Israel is there as His people; but it is a call to worship Jehovah. Still a house of prayer for all the earth: for Israel, mercy, for they had sinned; truth, for God had promised, and, as said elsewhere, they had now met together. Psalm 101 when the earthly throne is taken up, it is mercy and judgment. {Ps 102}

Psalm 102 is one of the most, perhaps the most, remarkable of all the psalms, and presents Christ in a way divinely admirable. Verse 10 gives the occasion of the cry with which the psalm begins. Christ is fully looked at as man chosen out of the people and exalted to be Messiah, and now, instead of taking the kingdom, He is rejected and cast off.65 The time is the immediate approach of the cross, but was, we know, perhaps often, anticipated in thought, as John 12. He looks to Jehovah, who cast down Him whom He had called to the place of Messiah, but who now meets indignation and wrath. We are far, here, beyond looking at sufferings as coming from man. They did, and were felt, but men are not before Him in judgment; nor is it His expiatory work, though that which wrought it is here if we take it in its full effect on the cross—the indignation and wrath. It is Himself—His own being cut off as man. He is in trouble; His heart smitten like a pelican of the wilderness and an owl of the desert; His days as a shadow that declines, withered like grass. Such was Messiah, to whom all the promises were. Jehovah endured for ever. His promises were certain. He would arise, and have mercy on Zion, and the set time was come.

The whole scene, from Christ on earth to the remnant in the last days, is one. When Zion was restored, the heathen would fear the name of Jehovah. Jehovah will appear, and, when He builds up Zion, hear and answer the poor remnant, and thus declare His name in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when all nations would be gathered together there. But where was Messiah then? His strength had been weakened in His journey, His days shortened. He had cried to Him able to deliver, to save from death. Was Zion to be restored and no Messiah—He weakened and cut off? Then comes the wondrous and glorious answer: He was Himself the creator of the heavens and the earth. He was ever the same. His years would not fail when the created universe was rolled up like a garment. The children of His servants would continue and their seed be established before Him. The Christ, the despised and rejected Jesus, is Jehovah the Creator. The Jehovah we have heard of coming, is the Christ that came. The Ancient of days comes, and Christ is He, though Son of man. This contrast of the extreme humiliation and isolation of Christ, and His divine nature, is incomparably striking.

But it is Christ’s personal sense of rejection, and that in connection with the remnant, not His bearing the judgment of sin in His soul for men. Look at the difference of the consequences in Psalm 22, though that perfect work was needed for “the nation,” too, or their deliverance could not have taken place. {Ps 103-106}

Psalms 103-106 give us the results—and the covenant—in grace and in responsibility, of Israel’s history. {Ps 103}

Psalm 103 is the voice of Messiah in Israel in praise according to God’s dealing with them; Psalm 104, the same in creation; Psalm 105, God’s ways in grace, from Abraham up to the giving of the land (now to be possessed in peace); Psalm 106, the acknowledgment of Israel’s ways from first to last, but owning Jehovah’s mercy, and looking for it, for it endures for ever. Grace and favour are the one foundation on which hope can be built leading to obedience. This closes the book. {Ps 103, 104}

Psalms 103, 104 call for a few observations on the details. No doubt the Spirit of Christ leads these praises, for His praise shall be of Jehovah in the great congregation; but it is in the name of all Israel the psalm is spoken. They have forgiveness and mercy through the tender compassions and mercy of Jehovah. As for man, he is as grass; and the people had been as grass and withered (Isaiah 40). But the mercy of Jehovah is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, the obedient ones. Thus all is ascribed to goodness, yet faithfulness, from the very nature and name of Jehovah; but to the obedient ones, the godly remnant. Now Jehovah owned them with lovingkindness and tender mercies. All their sins were utterly removed from them. Jehovah’s throne was prepared in the heavens—the only possible means of securing blessing. And now His kingdom ruled over all. It was not only His title, but established in fact. It is Israel’s praise, consequent on the intervention of Jehovah, of which the previous psalms have spoken. Matthew 9:1-6 marks Jesus out as the Jehovah who now at the close healed all Israel (v. 3). The more intimately we know scripture, the more simple and distinct is the truth that, though Son of man, Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. {Ps 104}

Psalm 104, which celebrates Jehovah as Creator, requires very few remarks. It will be noticed that it is occupied almost entirely with the earth. He is clothed with the glory of the heavens, which is described in most beautiful language; but the earth is the subject. It is looked at as existing as the abode of men, as it is, but all depended on Jehovah’s sovereign will. It is not the earth which is celebrated, but Jehovah, the Creator of it. It is not paradise, but this earth, as we see it in man’s hand. But the psalm looks to sinners being consumed out of it, and the wicked being no more. This gives the psalm, evidently, a peculiar character, and connects it with the introduction of the first-begotten into the world. {Ps 105}

Psalm 105 offers thanksgiving to Jehovah, and calls on the seed of Abraham and Jacob to remember Him and glory in His name Verses 7, 8 give the occasion. He is Jehovah, their God. His judgments are in all the earth. And He has remembered His covenant for ever. It was to be permanent. It was commanded to a thousand generations. He had now remembered it. The psalm then recites how God had cared for the fathers, and judged Egypt for the deliverance of His people; and, in spite of bondage, there was not a feeble person among their tribes. “He remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant,66 and he brought forth his people with joy and his chosen with gladness, and gave them the lands of the heathen, that they might observe his statutes and keep his laws.” All their subsequent failure is not touched on. For now again (v. 8) He had remembered His covenant with Abraham and had delivered His people by judgments; for it is the accomplishment of promise. And the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. The following psalm will tell us Israel’s ways, but only so to bring out His mercy and never-failing goodness; for this is the theme. {Ps 106}

Psalm 106. “Hallelujah. Give thanks to Jehovah, for it is good (or He is good). His mercy endureth for ever.” This last we have often seen—the expression of this unfailing faithful mercy of Jehovah, which secures Israel. It then recites the character of those that are blessed; and personally looks, as in the mouth of a godly Israelite at the close, to be remembered with the favour Jehovah shews His people—desiring withal to see the good of Jehovah’s chosen, and rejoice in the gladness of His nation and glory with His inheritance. It is the expression of genuine piety, which then turns to confess the sinfulness of the people—not they have sinned, though that is owned, as shewing how Jehovah’s mercy has endured; but “we have sinned with our fathers.” It is the practical piety which proves, in its own confession, enduring mercy. It then goes through all the history of Israel with this view; and at the close shews that, in spite of all, Jehovah, remembering His covenant, thought on their affliction, and caused them to be pitied of the heathen, among whom they were. For this mercy he now looks, that they may triumph in the praise of Jehovah. This closes the fourth Book.

It will be remarked that, as we had seen in the third, the fourth also speaks of all Israel, and, though the humiliation of Christ is brought out and His eternal divinity contrasted with it in a remarkable way, yet it does not enter into Jewish circumstances particularly, nor the association of Christ with them, though His Spirit be in it all. In Psalm 104 Antichrist is presented to us, but it is for his destruction by the coming in of Messiah the King, as Jehovah the Judge.