Thursday, 31 October 2013

Psalm 9 - The Righteous One anticipating the setting up of the throne of judgment

The position of the Psalms in their relation to each other is often remarkable. It is questioned whether the present arrangement of them was the order in which they weregiven to Israel, or whether some later compiler, perhaps Ezra, was inspired to  attend to this matter, as well as other points connected with the Canon. Without attempting to decide this point, it is enough to remark that we have proof that the order of the Psalms is ancient as the completing of the canon; and if so, it seems obvious that the Holy Spirit wished this book to come down to us in its present order.

We make these remarks, in order to invite attention to the fact, that as the eighth caught up the last line of the seventh, this ninth opens with an apparent reference to the eigth.

"I will praise you, O Lord, with my whole heart.
I will show forth all your marvellous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in you (Compare Song 1:4, Rev 19:7)
I will sing to your name, O Most High" (v1-2)

As if "The Name" so highly praised in the previous Psalm were still ringing in the ear of the sweet singer of Israel. And in v10, he returns to it, celebrating their confidence who "know" that "name" as if its fragrance still breathed in the atmosphere around.

There is a considerable resemblance, in the opening to the song in Isaiah 25:1-5. In both we have praise - praise to his name - wonderful things - enemies, and nations, and cities destroyed - and the Lord as a refuge for the needy, a refuge in times of trouble.

The perod in prophetic history, before the view of the prophetic Spirit, is the same in both cases; the same scene of the final ruin of God's enemies, and of Antichrist, is exhibited; and the language of our Psalm, like that of Isaiah 25:1-5, is that of the past, because the future is to the Lord as sure as if it had already come and gone.

There is an approach to the alphabetic form in the verses of this Psalm, but only in part. We shall have occasion to remark on this again in Psalm 10 and elsewhere.

It may be in connection with the subject of the Psalm that it is inscribed "to the Chief Musician upon Muth-labben." None of the titles is as obscure as this one. There is a plausible conjecture that it should be connected with the Psalms on Alamoth (1 Chron 15:20) and "ben" of 1 Chron 15:18 is referred to in Lab-ben; but the language does not match perfectly. Grotius and others consider it to be about the death of Nabal or "on the dying of the fool" but this seems gratuitous. Probably it is an unknown musical reference. The word death does suggest something sombre and solemn.

From v1-8 there is a sketch of what the Lord is to do when he rises up. "O enemy" as if like Hosea 13:14, looking in the face of Satan, and his followers on earth, from Saul to Antichrist. "O enemy, destructions are at an end." The memory of the foe perishes, like the cities which they destroy.

In v9-12, we hear what the Lord has been, and is, and shall be to his own, onward to teh day when he remembers the cry of souls under teh alatar (Rev 6:10.) Then a cry, like that of the martyrs, arises, v13-14, and the answer is given in v15-17. After all which v18-20 sing confidently and pray boldly to him who is to do such things on behalf of the saints.

The speaker may be any member of Christ's body, in sympathy with his Head; but Christ himself could utter it like no other could. Hence Augustine on v13 asks "he did not say why, Lord have mercy on us? Is it because he makes intercession for the saints as the first one who became poor for us."

Christ on earth delighted to commend his Father's name, as v10 does, and to assure disciples that with God, there is no castin out of one that has once come in.

But to all this every believer responds, and even in v16, every member of Christ may, in full sympathy with the feelings of justice and holiness in our Head, enter into the awful scene. They see the event as if it had already come -

The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made;
In the net which they hid is their own foot taken
The Lord is known by the judgement he executed
The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands
Higgaion! Selah!

We hear a voice, as from the Holiest, uttering the words, Higgaion, a call to deep reflection or solem musing, and Selah, a call to the Chief Musician to pause, that the music ceasing, the worshippers might for a time meditate and adore.

With such silent awe, we may suppose, the hosts of Israel stood for a time, gazing on the dead bodies of the Egyptians, when morning light unveiled them floating on the waves, or cast up as sea-weed on the shore. Not less than this shall be the intensity of interest and awe felt by the saints, when from their cloud they look down on the overwhelmed hosts of Babylon.

In v18, there is an interesting rendering of the hope of the poor, in the English Prayer book version "the patient abiding of the poor." It reminds us of James 5:7, "be patient for the coming of the Lord." At the same time, the words more properly express the earnest expectation of God's poor ones, who are looking from their state of oppression and trouble (v9) for the coming of him whose "name they know" (v10) to be Judge of a disordered world.

Then they shall truly sing -

"The Lord is enthroned forever (lit. has sat down on his throne)
He has prepared his throne for judgement
He judges the world in unrightness:
He ministers judgement to the people in uprightness." (v7-8)

Of this Psalm we may say that in it we see - The Righteous One anticipating the setting up of the throne of judgment.

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