Monday, 2 December 2013

Psalm 31 - The Righteous, though forlorn, safe and blessed in the hand of the living God.

The Head and his members are here. The Head said (v8), in the hour when He gave up the ghost, "Into your hands I commit my spirit!" And how often have his members taken up his words, from the days of Stephen to Jan Huss, and from Huss to this hour.

Safety in the hands of the living God, and only there, is the theme of this plaintive Psalm. Safety in life as well as in death. Safety from the enemies' snares, and from all adversity, from grief and reproach, from calumny and contempt, from personal despondency and the pressure of outward adversity.

David needed his theme, the true David needed it even more, and his followers will not cease to need it til the nineteenth verse is realised in all its vastness: "O how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for those who trust you!"

They get at present (like Joseph's brothers) donkey loads of fine wheat from this granary; but they shall yet stand amid it, and trust, because of the immensity of it. 

In verse 6, there is an emphatic pronoun, unlike those who regard lying vanities, I, for my part, trust in the Lord. In verse 8, the large room seems to be God's unbounded love, wide like a plain that stretches far beyond our knowledge.

The complaint in verse 11 resembles Lamentations 4:15, where the people are represented as treating exiled Israel as a leper, "depart unclean, depart, do not touch!" and forcing them to flee. Verse 12 reminds us of Job on his dunghill, a broken vessel, a potsherd, like what he took to scrape himself off. 

But verse 22 contains an expression which is worth dwelling upon, as it occurs again in Psalm 116:11. It is the expression "in my haste." The words occur in 2 Sam 4:4, of Mephibosheth's nurse, making haste to flee when she heard the evil tidings of Jonathan slain on Gilboa.  In Psalm 48:6 the verb is used of gathered kings making haste to flee and 1 Sam 23:26 of David making haste to get out of Saul's way. It is never used of impatience of heat of spirit, or irritation, or excited temper but always to speedy movement from one place to another. It is to be noticed that the cognate word is used regarding the haste with which they were to eat the passover, Exodus 12:11: eat it in haste. 

From all this, we infer that in this Psalmist is not to anything else than passover-haste. His words are to this effect: I said when I was like a passover-man, hastening out of Egypt, when I felt my condition to be that of one who must make haste to leave a people who had cast him out.

Left in this condition I was ready to say: I am cut off (v22), even as Israel at the Red Sea. We come to the same conclusion, if we suppose the Psalmist refers to such circumstances of danger, and almost of despair, as refered to when the word is used in 1 Sam 23:26.

In verse 17,18, we hear the prayer of the Head and his members for the overthrow of the ungodly, the language of which, as well as the reference in verse 20, reminds us irresistibly of words hat occur in the prophecy of Enoch. 

In this Psalm (as Horsley suggests), the voice from the oracle declares their doom to be: 
"They shall be motionless in hell!
Let lying lips be put to silence,
Which speaks grievous things,
Proudly and contemptuously,
Against the righteous."

In Enoch's prophecy we find the foundation of his cry; and inasmuch as Enoch's prophecy was known in the Church in David's time, would it not comfort the Lord's saints then, and the Lord himself when He came?
"Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousand of his saints,
To execute judgement upon all,
to convince all that are ungodly among them,
Of all their ungodly deeds,
which they have ungodly committed,
And of all their hard speeches,
Which ungodly sinners have spoken against him" (Jude 14)

To this expected interposition, the response given is in verse 19,20, "Oh,how great is your goodness!" in which we are reminded of the Lord's granary of goodness, or love, and receive a promise of being hid "from the strike of tongues." 

Verses 21,22, contain the grateful acknowledgement - 
"Blessed be the Lord, for he has shown me marvellous love!
"In a strong city" (i.e. bringing me into his fortress).

This "strong city" is a contrast to the "hasty flight" of verse 22, when he thought he must surely perish.

But again, in v23, the delivered one speaks: The Lord keeps his faithfulness. His promises! And makes reference to the plentiful reward of wrath on the wicked at the Lord's coming, even as verse 19 told of the abundant reward of His own yet to come.

In prospect of that day, his saints are exhorted to persevere (v22); and it is in some measure with a reference to the glory coming that they are called by name. "You who hope in the Lord."

Both now, however in a present evil world, and in the hour of death, and in the end when glory is revealed, the saints are safe, even as was their Head. 

This is the burden of this song of Zion - the Righteous, though forlorn, safe and blessed in the hand of the living God. 

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