Friday, 24 January 2014

Psalm 70 - One of the Righteous One's strong cries for speedy help.

It has been said by some that this Psalm is a prayer upon the 69th. It may be so taken. The title seems to mean, a Psalm "to put God in mind" - Messiah himself being the chief of God's Remembrancers.

v1: The cry
v2,3: First reason why the cry is heard: the guilt of his foes.
v4: Second reason why the cry is heard: the benefit of those who love the Lord
v5: Third reason why the cry his heard: his claims on God for deliverance from this state of humiliation and sorrow.

Thus the cry rises to heaven on the wings of three strong arguments certain to be answered in "the glory that was to follow" implied in the "help."

It is such a Psalm as every member of the Church has often had occasion to use, in sympathy with David, and in which he is sympathised with by the Son of David, whether asking present help or hastening to the day of his Coming, which brings full help and deliverance - "Wait not!"

But still, it is most of all Messiah whose voice is heard here. It may be called, with reference to Hebrews 5:7 One of the Righteous One's strong cries for speedy help.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Psalm 69 - Messiah's manifold sufferings, a savour of death to the unbelieving and of life to the believing.

A deeply plaintive song. It is quoted seven times in the New Testament - no Psalm is quoted so often - as the utterance of Messiah.

Why it is said to be On Shoshannim we cannot tell, till we know more of what that instrument was. It seems to speak of joy; and if so, it suits this Psalm so far that in it sorrow ends in joy.

The plan of it is very simple. There are three parts.

1. Messiah's sufferings are related by himself (v1-21)

What an embodiment of prodigious passion in the cry "Save me" (v1) from the Saviour's lips! Under the sea of wrath, sinking in the slime at the very bottom of this prisoner's dungeon (Jer 38:6), Messiah's voice is heard ascending to the Father. The "slime and mire" represent the loathing he felt toward sin. He is weary with crying, for in his true, real humanity he has all the experience of one in pain, who, during the slow, heavy hours of darkness and suffering feels as if it were never to end.

He is spent with calling on his God; he is unsympathised with, for foes are on every side, and all this at the very time when he is not taking from them, but restoring the blessings which they had forfeited (v4). As to the folly and the trespass imputed to him, he lays it before God - "Lord, you know as to my folly."

You know the history the folly and sin laid to my charge, and why I stand charged. He appeals to him as able to help, for he is "God of hosts," and proved to be willing for he is "God of\ Israel" (v6). While it is out of love to man that he suffers, it is also to glorify God (v7), "for your sake."

He "weeps away his soul with fasting" (v1), for the good of men, and yet they mock him. He pours his sorrows into the heart of his God (v13), at a time when  (perhaps in Nazareth) he was "the song of the drunkard" i.e. the satire (Job 30:9,. Lam 3:14)

"They who sat in the gate talk at me,
And the songs of drunkards do the same.
"As for me, I pray to you, O LORD."

And then he adds (though the punctuation in our version gives a different sense), a passage which Isaiah 49:9 seems to refer to
"O God, in an acceptable time (i.e. a time when you are favourable),
In the multitude of your mercy, in the truth of your salvation,
Answer me!"

Hear and answer me when you see fit, when you are well-pleased. Let there be a time of acceptance. The LORD in Isaiah 49:8 replies to this cry - "In an acceptable time I have heard you" - well pleased with your work, I give you all your desire.

The cry at verses 14-16 is parallel to Hebrews 5:7, and the complaint of lack of sympathy (v20) reminds us how even his three favoured disciples fell asleep during his agony; for here he seeks comforters with the cross in view (v21).

True his whole life might be said to be a life in which he fed on gall, and drank vinegar, grief and bitterness being the everyday portion of the Man of Sorrows - still, the chief reference is to his life's closing scene, the scene of Calvary.

Hence, immediately after this, the stain changes, and we find ourselves in another scene. He has finished his work; and they who crucified Him have gone away unmoved.

2. How these sufferings of Messiah become the savour of death to the unbelieving (v22-28).

It resembles Proverbs 1:22,23. He gives them up, saying "let their table become a snare to them," since they give the Beloved Son only gall and vinegar, "and for a recompense and for a trap" - (so Mendelssohn, Phillips and many others, and Romans 11:9).

Ruin overtakes them at unthought of moments, like 1 Kings 13:20, in the case of the disobedient prophet; and their habitation is desolate, as Matthew 23:38 emphatically threatens.

The cup of iniquity is filling up, drop by drop, and Messiah does not interfere, but on the contrary says to Him who records it in his book, "Add iniquity to iniquity, and let them never be justified." Such is the "savour of death." Instead of "Come to me!" it is now "Let them not come!"

3. The savour of life from Messiah's sufferings. (v29-36)

Himself is delivered and glorified, accepted by the LORD as a full type of, of fulfiller of every sacrifice of clean animals, "ox, and horned bullock with cloven hoof.," (v31).

The sinner who ceases from self, "the humble," finds in him his source of joy, his acceptance with God. Men everywhere over all the earth may thus be blessed in him; and heaven and earth rejoice over the consummation.

Israel who once rejected him, shall then be his, proving that he can soften the most hardened, and pardon the most guilty. Such then in this Psalm - Messiah's manifold sufferings, a savour of death to the unbelieving and of life to the believing.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Psalm 68 - Messiah leading Israel and his Church from the Wilderness to final Rest.

Another Psalm and Song by David, the sweet singer of Israel. As David's days of adversity gave many occasions for appropriate Psalms, which the Son of David and his Church would later use in their times of trail, so the more prosperous season, when the Ark which had been removed in procession by David to Mt. Zion, and afterwards by Solomon to Moriah, seem to have provided fit occasion for this triumphant song.

It has been called "The Magnificent March." Certainly it traces the stately steps of the Lord in his going out for His Church, from the Wilderness toward final rest.

The plan is as follows:

v1-3. Opening strains, celebrating the LORD as almighty to scatter foes, almighty to make friends exult with joy.
v4-6. General characteristics of his ways - grace to the helpless - to all that do not reject his help.
v7-9. His ways, with Israel in the Wilderness - glorious majesty and gracious bounty.
v10-14. His ways, in bringing Israel into Canaan - the irrestible might of a King on behalf of his people.
v15-17. His ways, in fixing his seat on Zion, the ark being carried up - sovereignty.
v18-23. His ways, in the typical setting out on Zion of an ascended Saviour, the savour of life to his own, though the savour of death to his rejecters.
v24-31. His ways, in the Ark being moved afterwards to the temple on Moriah - Israel gathered around it (v26,27), and the Gentiles flocking to Shiloh there (v29,31). All this typical of the Lord's avert, as true Solomon.
v32-35. The closing doxology to the King of kings on reviewing the whole, and seeing "the Kingdom Come."

Such seems to be the plan. It would carry us beyond our limits to go into full details, since almost every verse is rich and laden with meaning. A few hints may be of use, however, on some of the more difficult clauses.

Some render verse 1, "God shall arise," it shall always be thus, as they sang in Numbers 10:35 and Judges 5:31.

In verse 4, the justified ones singing before their justifier cry, "Make a way for him who rides through the wilderness or plan; the Angel of the Covenant who redeemed them from all evil. It is their King whom they honour in this way and so cry "prepare the way!" as in Isaiah 40:3, and as the Baptist did when he saw the King of the kingdom. His name "Jah" expresses the fullness of being and perfection; and Horsley would add beauty too.

In verse 5, Israel's helpless case in Egypt, Earth's helpless case since the Fall,  the sinners state, "without strength" may all be found here. The "widow's judge" implies his managing and ruling affairs of such as have no other to interpose, like Gideon, or any judge of Israel, putting in order a disordered county, and bore the burden of its cares. And James 1:21 refers to this verse for we have "the fatherless", "the widow" and then the "holiness" of the God we serve.

In verse 8, the ratifying of the covenant at Sinai, in circumstances of awful grandeur, is the theme; and verse 9 speaks of the "rain of gifts" (Hengstenberg) that attended Israel all through the desert - manna, quails, water from the rock - when God's heritage pitched their tents on the flinty and scorched soil of that weary wilderness.

Then, in verse 10, the host of Israel "settle down on It," i.e. the well-known, ever-in-view Land of Promise. The Lord "gave the word" - (Psalm 105:19) - as if at every step there had been repeated like Joshua 5:15, "Shout, for the Lord has given you the land!" and responding multitudes, even of the women of Israel , proclaim the victory, and sing, as Miriam sang at the Red Sea:
"King of armies flee! They flee!
And she who waits at home divides the spoil" (v12)

So easily does the LORD conquer! And now, "You lie down amid the borders, and are as doves;" or rather, they who were "lying among the pots" are now like the dove who has washed itself in the streams, and is basking in the sun whose bright beams glance on its feathers with the sheen of silver and gold.

Yes it was easy for the LORD to scatter kings. "There was snow on Zalmon." They fell before him as snow disappears among the thick-wooded heights of Zalmon (Judges 9:48) in the day of tempest.

Israel now at rest, where is the Ark of the Covenant? Not on Basham, i.e. the range of Antilabanus, though that was a "hill of God" such as a hill as reminded one of the power of Him who holds the hills together by his might (Hengstenberg) - nor yet on other lofty hills such as Tabor, Lebanon or Carmel.

The more lowly Zion is selected, and here the sovereign Lord comes with all his hosts. There is resides, as in a pavilion - in that Holy of Holies which combines the manifestation of justice and mercy at the mercy-seat  for Sinai is in the sanctuary. He is as much present here as when the law was given on Sinai.

There, though unseen except by the eye of faith, he reigns, more mighty in his angelic heavenly hosts than ever was king with his chariots, so that Israel need no more fear a Jabin with his nine hundred chariots of iron (Judges 4:2). An anointed eye, like his in 2 Kings 6:27, might see these armies in Israel's land at any moment, under the rule of Israel's king.

Ascended to Zion, no more wandering from place to place, the Ark is the centre of blessing to Israel - there worshippers get gifts; there daily benefits are dispenses. And in this is Typified the Savio9ur, no more a wanderer on earth from place to place, seated at the Father's righht hand, and showering down his gifts on man - the antitype infinitely greater than the Type, and his gifts infinitely more spiritual and plentiful (Eph 3:8).

Here is (v7), a "Selah" the mark of solemn thought; for here is a great mystery of love (v19).

The words are literally rendered, "You have received gifts among men."

Here is a constr.praegn. for "received, and given out among men" (Eph 4:18), even among the rebels.

And then follows, "At the tabernacling of Jah Elohim" (v16), that is at the time when he pitched his tabernacle. But, there is reference

1. To the type on Zion
2. To the days of his First Coming
3. To the still future Tabernacling, Rev 21:3

But again let the harp sing of Him who is thus exalted, mighty to save, and mighty to overcome his enemies. The LORD is "God of our Salvation" and "Selah" calls us to ponder.

Then repeated:
"The God of Israel is God to us, as to salvations.
And to the LORD belong the issues, as to the death" (v21)

He dashes his foes in pieces, cleaving their hairy scalp from the head from which the helmet has been struck. Yes says the Lord,
"I will turn the foes back from Bashan,
I will turn him back from the depths of the sea." (v22)

Though they were to make lofty Bashan their fortress or hide in the caverns of the deep (Amos 7:3, Ob 4)

But all is not yet over. The Ark moves again! It moves to Moriah - to Solomon's temple. Then see the royal procession (v24), and hear the songs of happy thousands under the reign of that Prince of Peace -
"Bless God in the congregations,
The Lord, in the congregations, from the fountain of Israel."

There the gathered tribes are seen; the south sends Benjamen, once their ruler (as it sent Saul, 1 Sam 14:7, and so became the conquering tribe) and Judah, their prince or bulwark. The north is represented by Zebulon and Naphtali. God gave strength to them.

The Gentiles too are there (v29). What a type of the latter days, when the true Solomon, Prince of Peace, has come from the Father's right hand to his own throne - from Zion to Moriah! Then, more fully than in the first Solomon's days, it will be sung:

"He has rebuked the Best of the Reed,
(The Hippopotamus, who, like leviathan, is the type of Antichrist.)
The assembly of mighty ones (bulls, Psalm 22:12),
With calves of the nations." (v30)

These mighty kings and their subjects - bulls and calves - with their leader, are rebuked and destroyed; and along with there, the money-worshipper, "who crouches with pieces of silver;" or rather
"He who prostrates himself on pieces of silver"

The nations that delight in war are scattered, for it is the reign of the Prince of Peace. Egypt sends princes to Zion, and Ethiopia is quick to submit to God. Thus we are led on to the closing strain - the shout of joy over earth now delivered and under the LORD's sway
"You kingdoms of earth, sing to God!
Chant to the Lord!
Who rides in the heaven on ancient heaven."
(i.e. who claims as his domain the inmost recess of the eternal heaven.)
Lo! He utters a mighty voice when he speaks. (v33)

He calls on the universe for praise in v34. But even in that universal hallelujah there is prominence to Israel - "His majesty is over Israel." (v34) as if Israel's land were the spot of the universe where is manifested glory is to be seen in its particular radiance -
"God of Israel, you are a terrifying God from the holy place (v36)
"Giving strength and might to this peculiar people! Blessed be God!"

Let every soul cry "Blessed by God!" Let that be the heart-cry of earth forever. And let it not fail to be ours, while we trace in such a record as this, Messiah leading Israel and his Church from the Wilderness to final Rest.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Psalm 67 - The Prayer of Israel for the blessing which Messiah is to give them, for the sake of the earth at large.

They pray for the outpouring of the full blessing which their High Priest, Jesus, is to bestow by their means on all the earth.

The language of verse 1 refers to Numbers 6:24,25, and very appropriately; for the time is the Lord's Second Coming, when, as true High Priest, he comes forth from the Holiest to bless the people.

The "Selah" at the end of verse 1 and verse 4 is, in both cases, very expressive, indicating, as it does, pauses in the sense and feeling, as well as the music.

"God be merciful to us
And bless us!
And cast the light of his countenance
(So as that it may be) with us." 

Bless us and guide us in your way, your mode of dealing with your people, that by us your way may be known on the earth, as foretold in Genesis 12:3, and since those days in Amos 8:14; Isaiah 60:1,2; Acts 15:15-17; Romans 11:15, and many others places

"The nations shall praise you, O God;
The nations shall praise you." (v3)

The peculiar people here anticipate with joy the time when the whole Gentile people shall praise their God and Saviour, and that through their means.

"Let the tribes (of earth, those who once raged against you - Psalm 2:1) rejoice and sing,
For you judges (i.e. ruled) the nations righteously,
And as for the tribes of the earth, you guide them" (Isaiah 53:11, Hengstenberg)

And again at the happy prospect they cry, "Hallelujah!" for they repeat their song -

"The nations shall praise you, O God,
The nations shall praise you! Every one of them!" (v5)

And now Earth, as well as Palestine, gives its increase, for the curse is away, and the blessing rests on it (Lev 26:4). Israel rejoices in this communication of their blessing to all men -
"Earth gives its increase!
God, our God, blesses us!
God blesses us!
And they fear Him!
All ends of the earth!"
Horsely says, this is "A hymn for the Feast of Tabernacles, prophetic of a general conversion of the world to the worship of God." Dr. Allix entitles this Psalm, "A prayer of the Synagogue for the Second Coming of the Messiah, when her empire is to be extended over all nations,and the temporal blessings which are promised to the Jews in several oracles shall be conferred on them."

But it is simpler, and perhaps more correct to describe it - The Prayer of Israel for the blessing which Messiah is to give them, for the sake of the earth at large.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Psalm 66 - Messiah and his ransomed Israel praising the prayer-hearing God.

This is at once a solemn Psalm and a lively Temple song. It is especially the song of Messiah and the Church of Israel - a kind of Red Sea song, sung, however, in Canaan.

"Raise the shout of joy!
All the earth to God.
Show forth the glory of his name.
Give glory to him as his praise."

Then leading us to such scenes as were spoken in 65:5
"Say to God, how awful are these works of yours!"

There is a Bethel-solemnity in these scenes, though they bring us to the very gate of heaven -
"All the earth shall worship you.
They sing! They sing your name! Selah

This Selah-pause divides the Psalm into portions at suitable times, and intimates a change of scene or tone. Here, as usual, it gives time for solemn thought; and then an invitation is given to men to "Come and see."

As John 1:26,27, at Christ's First Coming, and Rev 6:3,4,5,7, in events leading on to his Second -
"Come and see the works of God!
Awful in his dealing to the sons of men." (v5)

And when we have cast our eye back to Red Sea and Jordan wonders, and have seen Him to be the same forever, still subduing the nations, another, "Selah" gives us time to pause and adore. But the harp is soon struck again (v8),
"Bless our God, you nations"

The Jews are now inviting the Gentiles; for the Jews are life from the dead to the world. They tell how their God refined them; how He "laid pressure on their loins," the seat of strength; yet made their trials act as a furnace to take away the dross.

Even "frail man" were made strong against them; yet Israel passed through desert and flood; and, at length, reached "The wealthy place" (v12) - affluence - refreshing.

Each of their number, as well as their Leader, thus invites the Gentile nations; and they do it by example, and not by word only -
"I will go to your house with offerings;
I will perform my vows to you.
I will offer fat victims as burnt-offerings.
With rams that have incense savour. Selah." v13,14

Another pause - like Wisdom's in Proverbs 1:23. And then once more, voice and instrument together sound forth a cheerful summons to draw near and listen to Messiah and the Church of Israel -
"Come, hear, and I will tell,
All you who fear God,
What he has done for me." (v16)

He was (v17), "Hearer of prayer" to me (Isaiah 65:2); for no sooner did I call upon Him than he answered - turning my prayer into praise. Had I sought to "lying vanities" or had tried crooked paths, I should have failed in finding this blessed result.

But the God of Israel, the Holy One, was honoured.
"Truly God has heard,
He has hearkened to the voice of my prayer." (v19)

But the way to this blessedness is by a holy path, v18. Messiah magnified the law; and in Him, we who come to God through his blood and righteousness do the same, and so shall sing the same song, and bless the same God.

"He has not turned away my prayer.
He has not turned away his mercy from me."

A close equivalent to Revelation 5:8, where golden vials, full of saints' prayers, are held up by the saints, and owned by the Hearer of Prayer on that day.

Far from turning away my prayer. He has done exceeding abundantly beyond all I asked. Instead of turning away his mercy from me, He has brought me to the Wealthy Place! Such is the Song of Messiah and his ransomed Israel praising the prayer-hearing God.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Psalm 65 - Prayers exchanged for praises because of blessings showered on Earth!

"A Psalm of David; a true song," is the import of the title, thus describing the tone that prevails throughout.

Possibly (as some thing) it was composed at Passover time, when the sheaf of first fruits of barley harvest used to be offered.

Every note in this song tells the feeling of a happy soul reviewing the past, and seeing mercy abounding then and now. Messiah and his redeemed ones - the Lamb and his 144,00 - might sing it on their Mount Zion, and we may sing it now.

The Head leads the choice, and this is the substance of the song - "O God, praise is thine!" such praise as leaves the worshipper "silent," because the theme is too great for his harp to handle.

"To you belongs silent-praise;" praise without any tumult (Alexander.) It was been said, "The most intense feeling is the most calm, being condensed by repression." And Hooker says of the prayer, "The very silence which our unworthiness puts us into does itself make request for us, and that in the confidence of his grace. Looking inward, we are stricken dumb; looking upward, we speak and prevail" (v48,4).  Horsley renders it, "Upon you is the repose of prayer."

Now is the vow performed to you! "O Hearer of Prayer, to you (yes, even as far as to You), the Holiest of all, all flesh are coming now." 

Our iniquities (iniquities which have been imputed to our Head) once prevailed against us (as Gen 7:24) like the waters of the deluge, surmounting the highest hills; but you purge them away, and we sing, "Blessed is the man whom you cause to approach to you as a priest" (Num 16:8). Yes, blessed indeed for he shall dwell in your courts, and there be satisfied with good; your house, your holy place yielding him its heavenly stores.

When we cried to you, terrible things (thing of such surpassing glory and majesty as spread awe around) were your answer.

You were God of salvation, displaying your grace in such a way as to draw the confidence of all ends of earth. Creator, too, setting fast the mountains! And God of providence, stilling the raging waves of the most tumultuous sea, and by your wonderful signs (tokens) causing distant lands, the lands of the setting and rising sun, the east and the west, to fear and to rejoice.

And now let us sing together of the crowning act of all, displaying grace, creation, and providence in one - your dealings with this Earth, which you will renew into paradise.

Once we sang, "What is man that you visited him?" and now we sing "You visit his dwelling place, and make it teem with plenty!" Yes, "You have the earth under your care, and water it."

"The fountain of God has plenty of waters" (Hengstenberg)
You prepare (Horsley, make sure) their corn, for you have prepared!" (v9)

What a table spread with abundance is that once barren earth! It is "thus you deal as God, with infinite liberality." The soaking rain descends on her furrowed fields.

"You lay down its ploughed fields;
You moisten it with showers;
You bless the springing up/
You have crowned the year, so as to make it a year of goodness;
Your chariot-wheels drop fatness.
They drop on the wilderness which has pastures now (meadow-lands);
The hills are girded with gladness."

What a changed world! And every season we see some thing of this exhibited. But the yearly return of spring and summer after winter is an emblem of Earth's summer day, when it shall be renewed. Then, even more than now, it shall be sung:

"The pastures are clad with flocks;
The valleys are covered over with corn.
They shout for job! they break out into song!"

Who does not seem, in reading this majestic Psalm, to hear the very melody that issues from the happy people of that New Earth? Originally it may have been sung as a "Psalm of David, a lively song," at a Feast of Tabernacles, when Israel's happy land and prosperous tribes furnished a scene that naturally suggested the future days of a renewed earth - earth's golden age returned.

It is, however, on a much higher key than this; it is a Song of the Lamb, while he leads his glorified ones to fountains of living water, and shows them their old world presenting at length a counterpart to heaven - all paradise again, and better than paradise.

Is it not then, Prayers exchanged for praises because of blessings showered on Earth!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Psalm 64 - Our Joseph and his seed foreseeing the doom of the archers that have shot at them.

It is a probably conjecture that David may have been led to write this Psalm while still a youth at Saul's court, when there discerning the arts and deceits of courtiers.

We may illustrate it by referring to the case of Joseph and his many foes.

Here is the Righteous One, or "the Perfect" (v4), set before us - a name applicable to Christ in its fullest significance but applied also to his members, as being "Perfect" in purpose and in prospects, impartially aiming at the whole will of their God in heart and life.

But the world hates such, as his brothers hated Joseph; the world lays snares, and levels arrows of malignity at them.

"The arches have shot at them" - at our Joseph and his seed.

He says, v5, "They will tell about hiding snares," and they think no eye is on them.

"They search deep into iniquity" (to find out the most deadly device)
"We ahve got it ready! Here is a well-matured plan! (this is their shout over their deep-laid plot)
"And close is each one,
And deep of heart." (v6)

But there is another that is an Archer: "God has shot at them."

God has his bow, and his time is coming (v7). "All their hard speeches," are to be brought into judgement at the Lord's coming (Jude 15); and if they wounded others sorely, sorely shall they in turn be wounded. Theirs shall be a doom like Korah's (v8), when all Israel fled at the cry (Num 16:34).

"He has cast them down, tehir tongues come on themselves." (v8)

All earth shall then discern the righteous ways of God. That is the day of his Redeemed so often spoken of, so long expected - the day when the Righteous shall "enter into the joy of their Lord" and utter aloud their rejoicings and their glorying in Him.

"The Righteous One shall be glad in the Lord,
And flee for refuge to none but him;
And all the upright in heart shall boast themselves." (v6)

May we not, then describe this song of Zion as one in which we find Our Joseph and his seed foreseeing the doom of the archers that have shot at them.