Friday, 25 October 2013

Psalm 5 - The Righteous One's thoughts of God and man while going up to the morning sacrifice

Another song of the sweet singer of Israel, handed over to the "Chief Musician" who was to fit it to be publicly sung "on the Nehiloth". This was one of the many musical instruments now unknown, lost to us ever since Israel hung their harp on the willows and had their joy turned into mourning - though generally understood to be a wind instrument or pipe of some sort. Hengstenberg and others consider the title to convey a mystical meaning, rendering this "on the lots". I find this quite fanciful.

There is in it some prophetic element toward the close. In v10, 11, we have something closely resembling the Apocalyptic scene in Rev 19, 1,3, 4. The Psalmist so fully sympathises with the justice of the doom that is coming on the obstinate and impenitent rebels against God, that he cries aloud, "destroy them, O God!" or more exactly "Hold them guilty, and treat them as such"

On the other hand, there arises at the same moment the shout of the righteous, acquiescing with entire satisfaction in their doom: "And let all those who put their trust in you, rejoice! Let them ever shout for joy! This is their Hallelujah over the rising smoke of torment - their "glory and honour to the Lord our God."

And perhaps it is in this manner we are to understand throughout the book of Psalms all those portions where we find prayers that breathe revenge.  They are never to be thought of as breathed assent of righteous souls to the justice of their God, who takes vengeance on sin.

When taken as the words of Christ himself, they are no other than an echo of the Intercessor's acquiescence at last in the sentence on the barren fig-tree. It is as if he cried aloud "Cut it down now - I will intercede no longer - the doom is righteous, destroy them, O God;' cast them out for the multitude of their sins for they have rebelled against you."

And in the same moment he may be supposed to invite his saints to sympathise in his decision; just as in Rev 18:20; "rejoice over her, you heavens, and you holy apostles and prophets!" In like manner, when one of Christ's members, in entire sympathy with his head, views the barren fig-tree from the same point of observation, and sees the glory of God concerned in inflicting the blow, he too can cry "let the axe smite!"

Had Abraham stood beside the angel who destroyed Sodom, and seem how Jehovah's name required the ruin of those impenitent rebels, he would have cried out "let the shower descend - let the fire and brimstone come down" not in any spirit of revenge - not from want of tender love to souls - but from intense earnestness of concern for the glory of God.

We consider this explanation to be the real key that opens all the difficult passages in this book, where curses seem to be called for on the head of the ungodly. They are no more than a carrying out of Deut 27:15-26 - "let all the people say, Amen" and an entering into the Lord's holy abhorrence of sin and delight in acts of justice expressed in the "Amen, hallelujah" of Rev 19:3.

Truth, says one, is always a form of Charity; or to speak more properly Truth is the soul of which Charity is but the beautiful graceful and lovely member. Charity, therefore, is not to be known by soft words and gentle actions, which are often the form of policy and courtesy; but must be sought in the principles of the heart, out of which our words, thoughts and actions come. Is it love to God by which we are moved? Then it is charity, be its form mildness, or zeal, or the stern inflictions of justice.

But let us read the whole Psalm. And we may notice that here the words occur, for the first time, "My King and my God." On this Augustine remarks that we go to the Father through the King. He that is peculiarly "King" to Israel is on Israel's side, for 1 Sam 8:20 shows that the idea included in this term is fighting for his subjects. The blue, (Ex 8:15), purple and scarlet at the gate of the Tabernacle, and all its veils proclaimed, "This is the dwelling of Israel's King as well as Israel's God"

We seem to see One going up to the Tabernacle early, in prospect of the morning sacrifices. It is near the time; the priest is already at the altar, setting the wood in order, and the Lamb is bound to the altar's horns; the worshippers eye and heart are upward - "Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my silent prayer" (v1) a prayer made up of "unutterable groanings" (Rom 8:26) and which can be heard, as well as presented while he stands amid the crowd that are gathering in the courts.

"You will hear my voice  in the morning" (v3) is the expression of a resolution habitually to come before him early - "my earliest cry shall always be to you, in the morning I will direct my spiritual offering to you, and will look up to that house of prayer where the altar and the mercy-seat stand, where God is revealed in his grace."

The altar presents "God reconciling the word to himself, not counting men's sins against them." Jehovah's  look of love is there, his voice is love from its four horns, everything tells man of grace.

He is up early securing the best our of the day like a diligent artist (Horne), but how careless are those around this worshipper, some come up the altar to lull their conscience asleep by the formality of a visit to the courts of God' others hurrying off to their earthly pursuits. This leads him to meditate before God on the "world lying in wickedness" (v4-9), interposing his own resolute determination to be unlike that world (v7_ by the held of Jehovah (v8). A "dwelling with god" which is the lowest means of friendly intercourse is what his righteous soul relishes and revels in the enjoyment of, and the lack of this he considers to be the misery of the ungodly (v4).

This is the very spirit of the beloved John (1  John 4:16) - "he who dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him." And the resemblance is all the closer when we find v7 speak of his coming" in the multitude of your mercy" or "greatness of your love" to worship in Jehovah's "Holy Temple." And then the believer's soul prays to be led by the pillar cloud of divine wisdom, knowing the snares of his foes.

It is after this that he is bought into such deep sympathy with the holy purposes and righteous sentences of Jehovah, in whose love he dwells, so he cries "Destroy them, O God" (v10). And we leave him singing with assured confidence "for you, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favour you will cover him, as with a shield."

It is a Psalm which most certainly Messiah could use; none could ever use it so fully as He. Think of Him, some morning leaving Bethany early so He may be in time for the morning sacrifice, and breathing out this Psalm by the way and as He enters the Temple courts. Every word of it becomes doubly emphatic in his lips, down to the last verse where we see Him as "The Righteous One" covers with the Father's love and well-pleasedness. But whether we read it as peculiarly the utterance of the Messiah, or as that of one of his members, we may describe this Psalm as being, the Righteous One's thoughts of God and of man while going up to the morning sacrifice."

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