BOOK 2: PSALM 72 OF 72 – Blessed be the Righteous King

Throughout book 2 of the Psalms, the psalmists have gone through several trials and tribulations, bringing them through phases of despair; of persecution; of drought; of the pits; meanwhile still praising His Holy Name, still recognising that only He is the author of our salvation, only He is worthy, and He will crush the enemy.

This book ends with David, however, praising someone other than the Father in heaven.  The sub-title for this chapter says “A Psalm of Solomon”.  The assumption is that this is a prophecy regarding David’s immediate son.  However, there are hallmarks of David’s prophecy which seem to be looking beyond Solomon.

David starts with asking God to give the ‘king’ your judgments.  Could a king actually render God’s judgments, when (see v. 18) He alone works wonders and is ‘blessed’?  Yet, throughout this chapter, Solomon repeats:

  • May he (the king) judge Your people with righteousness (v2)
  • May he judge Your afflicted with justice (v2)
  • May he vindicated the afflicted of the people (v4)
  • May he save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor (v4)
  • May he come down like rain upon the mown grass, like showers that water the earth (v6)
  • May the righteous flourish in his days (v7)
  • May he also rule from sea to sea, and from River to the ends of the earth (v8)
  • Let all kings bow down before him and all nations serve him (v11)
  • He will deliver the needy when he cries for help (v12)
  • He will have compassion on the poor and needy and the lives of the needy He will save (v13)
  • He will rescue their life from oppression and violence
  • So may he live, and may the gold of Sheba be given to him (vv10, 15)

One can see the progression – from one of want to one of declaration.  Solomon wants this king to be the God-Man on earth; nay, he declares that this king will be the God-Man on earth.

Thus the chapter ends with the implication of when this God-Man is on earth.  That his name will endure forever, such that men can bless themselves by him, and all nations call him blessed (v17).  The word ‘bless’  and ‘blessed’ respectively used in vv 15 and 17 are different.  The former in Hebrew is barak, meaning to bless, kneel, salute or greet.  It has been used when blessing God (see Gen 9:26), but also in blessing men (see Numbers 24:9), a word used intensively when God blesses people.  The latter in Hebrew is ashar/asher, i.e. a verb primarily used causatively, to call one blessed, figuratively meaning to follow a straight path in understanding.  

Vv.18-19 interchange immediately to God being the Blessed One, and let His glorious name endure forever.  It is no mistake that Solomon immediately transfers from praising the king whose name shall last forever, and by whose name men would be blessed and that all nations would call him blessed, to God Himself.  Solomon here clearly recognises that this prophetic king is God Himself.  Solomon however does not appear to be describing the throne of David figuratively; he seems to envisage a real, human person, who will bear the attributes of God and that God, through him, would achieve a global salvation, justice and transformation like no other.

Spurgeon says this about the chapter:

We may apply it to Christ; not that he who intercedes for us needs us to intercede for him; but, 1. It is a prayer of the Old Testament church for sending the Messiah, as the church’s King, King on the holy hill of Zion, of whom the King of kings had said, Thou art my Son, Psa 2:6, Psa 2:7. “Hasten his coming to whom all judgment is committed;” and we must thus hasten the second coming of Christ, when he shall judge the world in righteousness.2. It is an expression of the satisfaction which all true believers take in the authority which the Lord Jesus has received from the Father: “Let him have all power both in heaven and earth, and be the Lord our righteousness; let him be the great trustee of divine grace for all that are his; give it to him, that he may give it to us.”

This is a prophecy of the prosperity and perpetuity of the kingdom of Christ under the shadow of the reign of Solomon. It comes in, 1. As a plea to enforce the prayer: “Lord, give him thy judgments and thy righteousness, and then he shall judge thy people with righteousness, and so shall answer the end of his elevation, Psa 72:2. Give him thy grace, and then thy people, committed to his charge, will have the benefit of it.” Because God loved Israel, he made him king over them to do judgment and justice, 2Ch 9:8. We may in faith wrestle with God for that grace which we have reason to think will be of common advantage to his church. 2. As an answer of peace to the prayer. As by the prayer of faith we return answers to God’s promises of mercy, so by the promises of mercy God returns answers to our prayers of faith. That this prophecy must refer to the kingdom of the Messiah is plain, because there are many passages in it which cannot be applied to the reign of Solomon. There was indeed a great deal of righteousness and peace, at first, in the administration of his government; but, before the end of his reign, there were both trouble and unrighteousness. The kingdom here spoken of is to last as long as the sun, but Solomon’s was soon extinct. Therefore even the Jewish expositors understand it of the kingdom of the Messiah.

The Lord Jesus shall reign for ever, and of him only this must be understood, and not at all of Solomon. It is Christ only that shall be feared throughout all generations (Psa 72:5) and as long as the sun and moon endure,Psa 72:7. 1. The honour of the princes is immortal and shall never be sullied (Psa 72:17): His name shall endure for ever, in spite of all the malicious attempts and endeavours of the powers of darkness to eclipse the lustre of it and to cut off the line of it; it shall be preserved; it shall be perpetuated; it shall be propagated. As the names of earthly princes are continued in their posterity, so Christ’s in himself. Filiabitur nomen ejusHis name shall descend to posterity. All nations, while the world stands, shall call him blessed, shall bless God for him, continually speak well of him, and think themselves happy in him. To the end of time, and to eternity, his name shall be celebrated, shall be made use of; every tongue shall confess it and every knee shall bow before it. 2. The happiness of the people if universal too; it is complete and everlasting: Men shall be blessed, truly and for ever blessed, in him. This plainly refers to the promise made unto the fathers that in the Messiah all the nations of the earth should be blessed. Gen 12:3.

We shall see how earnest David is in this prayer, and how much his heart is in it, if we observe, 1. How he shuts up the prayer with a double seal: “Amen and amen; again and again I say, I say it and let all others say the same, so be it. Amen to my prayer; Amen to the prayers of all the saints to this purport – Hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come.” 2. How he ever shuts up his life with this prayer, Psa 72:20. This was the last psalm that ever he penned, though not placed last in this collection; he penned it when he lay on his death-bed, and with this he breathes his last: “Let God be glorified, let the kingdom of the Messiah be set up, and kept up, in the world, and I have enough, I desire no more. With this let the prayers of David the son of Jesse be ended. Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.””

Indeed – Amen.  If we breathe our last and the words we leave to this world before new creation is an ounce of David’s last chapter, then God indeed shall have the last word.

 

 

 

BOOK 2: PSALM 72 OF 72 – Blessed be the Righteous King

BOOK 2: PSALM 71 OF 72 – You are

By whose strength are we victorious?  In whom do we stand tall with confidence? On what do we rely on when our hairs are grey, our eyesight blurred, our hearing impaired, our abilities fail?

The psalmist of chapter 71 gives us the answer, but it is an answer given in the face of the enemy who takes advantage of the psalmist’s weaknesses.  The enemies have spoken against him; they are the ones who say that God has forsaken him, for there is no one to deliver (vv.10-11); they are the adversaries of the psalmist’s very soul.

However, Spurgeon states that with the multiplication of infirmities come the multiplication of blessings and privileges:

There is something touching in the sight of hair whitened with the snows of many a winter: the old and faithful soldier receives consideration from his king, the venerable servant is beloved by his master. When our infirmities multiply, we may, with confidence, expect enlarged privileges in the world of grace, to make up for our narrowing range in the field of nature. Nothing shall make God forsake those who have not forsaken him. Our fear is lest he should do so; but his promise kisses that fear into silence.

What is the remedy for this shame brought on us by the enemy?  The psalmist finds refuge in declaring truths about who God is.  What does he say to Him?  In Your righteousness, deliver me (v.2; also vv.15-16); be You to me a rock of habitation (v.3); You are the one who have given commandment to save me (v.3); You are my rock and my fortress (v.3); You are my hope, You are my confidence from my youth (v.5); You are He who took me from my mother’s womb (v.6) ; You are my strong refuge, the reason I have become a marvel to many (v.7); my mouth tells of Your salvation all day long (v. 15).  When we are old, do not forsake us (vv 9, 18).  You are the one who can bring me up again from the depths of the (v.20).  In You is the power of resurrection!  This is both ‘Resurrection’ with a capital R as well as a resurrection when it comes to our spiritual lives:

“Thou shalt not only restore me to my greatness again, but shalt increase it, and give me a better interest, after this shock, than before; thou shalt not only comfort me, but comfort me on every side, so that I shall see nothing black or threatening on any side.” Note, sometimes God makes his people’s troubles contribute to the increase of their greatness, and their sun shines the brighter for having been under a cloud. If he make them contribute to the increase of their goodness, that will prove in the end the increase of their greatness, their glory; and if he comfort them on every side, according to the time and degree wherein he has afflicted them on every side, they will have no reason to complain. When our Lord Jesus was quickened again, and brought back from the depths of the earth, his greatness was increased, and he entered on the joy set before him. – Spurgeon

So Psalm 71 moves from describing the Lord who is our refuge, to the adversaries who sought to shame and consume us, to singing and praising of His name (vv.22-24).  David, the likely author of this chapter, relied not on his own strength.  In the wisdom of his old age, he knows that his salvation and strength had always come from the Lord, even more so in the midst of persecution and days of persistent weakness.  Yet, it is in that worldly weakness that the enemy attempts to exploit, that instead it is poised to be defeated by Him who is the One who commanded our salvation and would see his commandment through.

 

 

BOOK 2: PSALM 71 OF 72 – You are

BOOK 2: PSALM 70 OF 72 – MAKE HASTE

We are now nearing the final chapters of book 2 of the Psalms, bearing the theme of Exodus, book 2 of the Pentateuch.

Of all the Psalms we have studied thus far, this one is expressed with superlative urgency and exclamation.  “Make haste O Lord, to deliver me!  Make haste!  Hasten to me!  You are my deliverer!  Do not delay!”  These words bookend the chapter (vv.1 and 5), whereas the meat and the verses in between evolve from the shame and confusion caused by those who seek David’s life, to rejoicing and gladness in His salvation, singing that God is great!  However, that evolution from pit to heaven, from darkness to glory, starts and begins with haste and with He being our Saviour.

There is no poetic or flowery language here.  David’s cry is raw.  It is genuine and heartfelt.  It is desperate.  And it is the gospel truth laid bare – that the meek shall inherit the earth.  By David’s poverty in this world, by being empty of himself, he can then inherit the wealth and treasures of the earth.

Even the saints of old wanted the Lord to save us hastily.  We know the Lord’s response at 2 Peter 3:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

God made the world in 6 days.  Half that He saved it through the work of the cross as the Son cried out to the Father.  Yet, why has He not yet returned despite the days, counting to hundreds and tens of thousands?  Imagine how much He could do with that time.  Imagine how much He has done with that time.  He has been preparing a place for us (John 14:3); He is appearing in heaven on our behalf, interceding at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 7, 9); He is awaiting for more to be saved, one day at the time, collecting the souls for redemption and new creation.  He is making haste indeed, and with His one day He is doing far more in our lives and in the lives of others, than we can with one life-time.

So we end the chapter with Charles Spurgeon’s words:

Just the same plea as in the preceding Psalm, Ps 69:29: it seems to be a favourite argument with tried saints; evidently our poverty is our wealth, even as our weakness is our strength. May we learn well this riddle. Make haste unto me, O God. This is written instead of “yet the Lord thinketh upon me, “in Psalm 40: and there is a reason for the change, since the key note of the Psalm frequently dictates its close. Psalm 40 sings of God’s thoughts, and, therefore, ends therewith; but the peculiar note of Psalm 70 is “Make haste, “and, therefore, so it concludes. Thou art my help and my deliverer. My help in trouble, my deliverer out of it. O Lord, make no tarrying. Here is the name of “Jehovah” instead of “my God.” We are warranted in using all the various names of God, for each has its own beauty and majesty, and we must reverence each by its holy use as well as by abstaining from taking it in vain. I have presumed to close this recapitulatory exposition with an original hymn, suggested by the watchword of this Psalm, “MAKE HASTE.”

Make haste, O God, my soul to bless!
My help and my deliverer thou;
Make haste, for I am in deep distress,
My case is urgent; help me now.
Make haste, O God! make haste to save!
For time is short, and death is nigh;
Make haste ere yet I am in my grave,
And with the lost forever lie.

Make haste, for I am poor and low;
And Satan mocks my prayers and tears;
O God, in mercy be not slow,
But snatch me from my horrid fears.
Make haste, O God, and hear my cries;
Then with the souls who seek thy face,
And those who thy salvation prize,
I will magnify thy matchless grace.

BOOK 2: PSALM 70 OF 72 – MAKE HASTE

BOOK 2: PSALM 69 OF 72 – DELIVER ME FROM THE PIT

Christ is the first One who is empathetic towards us.  He knows our pains, our struggles, our distance from God, because He took them all upon Himself.  He was set apart from the world for Him, as He set apart Himself from the Father with us, so that we may be baptized in His death and rise with Him.  The work of the resurrection is painful; the word ‘sacrifice’ does not fully encapsulate the task that the Father laid on His Son.

So often we identify with the Christ who swings between two extreme ends of one spectrum: the Jesus who is a strong, muscular, powerful carpenter, the crown of thorns a mere shadow of the crown of glory befitting of a king.  Then, there is the Jesus who is portrayed as the lamb led to slaughter; the bloodied Christ; the one trampled upon by the world.

Isn’t the Christ we worship, however, a radical representation of both?  The powerful Christ who made Himself nothing by taking the nature of a servant (Philippians 2:7), so that He who had no sin could take on our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), and that His plea for salvation is a plea made on our behalf?

So Psalm 69 opens, ‘according to the lilies’.  Spurgeon says this of the chapter:

“Thus for the second time we have a Psalm entitled “upon the lilies.” In the forty-first they were golden lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh, and blooming in the fair gardens which skirt the ivory palaces: in this we have the lily among thorns, the lily of the valley, fair and beautiful, blooming in the garden of Gethsemane. A Psalm of David. If any enquire, “of whom speaketh the psalmist this? of himself, or of some other man?” we would reply, “of himself, and of some other man.” Who that other is, we need not be long in discovering; it is the Crucified alone who can say, “in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” His footprints all through this sorrowful song have been pointed out by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, and therefore we believe, and are sure, that the Son of Man is here. Yet is seems to be the intention of the Spirit, while he gives us personal types, and so shows the likeness to the firstborn which exists in the heirs of salvation, to set forth the disparities between the best of the sons of men, and the Son of God, for there are verses here which we dare not apply to our Lord; we almost shudder when we see our brethren attempting to do so, as for instance Ps 69:5. Especially do we note the difference between David and the Son of David in the imprecations of the one against his enemies, and the prayers of the other for them. We commence our exposition of this Psalm with much trembling, for we feel that we are entering with our Great High Priest into the most holy place”

As to the meaning of ‘according to the lilies’, as commented by James William Thirtle (whose Christadelphian views are not adopted in this commentary, but has made extensive research on the meaning of the term ‘lilies’ in Scripture):

As to the word Shoshannim, which stands for the Passover season in the system of psalm titles, its simple meaning is ‘lilies.’ It was, however, used in a general way for flowers of various kinds, as is explained by Dr. G. F. Post, who writes:

‘Susan, in Arabic, is a general term for lily-like flowers, as the lily, iris, pancratium, gladiolus, &c., but more particularly the iris. It is as general as the English term lily, which is applied to flowers of the genera Lilium, Gladiolus, Convallaria, Hemerocallis, of the botanical order Liliaceae, and to Nyrnphaea, Nuphar, Funkia, &c., not of that order. The Hebrew Shushan must be taken in the same general sense.’ 

The word was used for spring flowers in general, the brightest and most beautiful giving a name to the whole. It is not in the least surprising that the Passover, falling in the month Abib (‘growing green’), should be associated with the flower season and expressed by such a word. For a long period the Israelitish practice was to indicate times and seasons by expressions describing natural phenomena and agricultural operations. Indeed, it was not until after the Babylonish captivity that the month names which at present prevail came into use  among the Jews…

(I) SHOSHANNIM—Lilies (Flowers) for the Feast of Passover (in the Spring), which, in a word, meant DELIVERANCE FROM EGYPT, a guarantee or pledge of a thousand deliverances (Exod. 12. 2, 27 ; Deut. 24. i8)…

…an exegetical reason is brought in for our contention that Shoshannim means lilies, and not a melody; that it stands for a season, and not a musical instrument; and that it is used by way of metonymy for the Passover commemoration. Therefore, it is neither the name of a choir-master, nor the catchword of an old song, nor a technical term implying that the musical instruments employed in the worship of Jehovah were ‘made in Shushan,’ or any other land of captivity.

The musical title should read ‘Concerning, or relating to, Shoshannim,’ = ‘Lilies,’ a term recalling the Spring Festival, Passover, which commemorated the goodness and power of God in the redemption of Israel from Egypt, and bringing the tribes into the Land of Promise. The season was a memorial of the making of the nation, and even although (as in this psalm) circumstances might be adverse, yet Jehovah was praised as Deliverer and Redeemer…

The first verse: Save me, O God!  Remember, this is the Christ who knew of no need to be saved; the Christ who knew the Father before creation; the Christ who is God Himself in eternal triune communion with the Father and the Spirit.  Who does He, our Lord, need salvation from?  Is it from the enemy? No – it is from the curse of death; the curse of eternal damnation and separation from the communion with God.

This chapter continues — this is the voice of Jesus, sinking in deep mire, going into deep waters, the feeling of wave after wave consuming Him, His throat parched from shouting and screaming for God’s presence and salvation.

V4 – those who hate Christ are more in number than the hairs of His head.  That is indeed true – David Himself may have temporarily experienced that level of persecution, but with every new generation there are those who continue to persecute and ridicule Him from birth.  David’s name is but a footnote in history when compared to Jesus, who is constantly challenged; whose very existence is questioned; whose morals are made merely humanistic; whose deity is doubted; whose truths are considered as mere opinions, if not the words of a lunatic or a liar.

What did Jesus do though?  Nothing but to simply weep for us; nothing but to simply love us; nothing but to simply save us.  What did he steal that he must now restore?  He stole away death to take upon Himself!  Yet we accuse Him of stealing our livelihood, our lifestyle of sin, the possessions of this world that we treasure more than the gifts of the kingdom of heaven.

Christ continues at v 6 – let not those who hope in the Father be put to shame through Jesus; let not those who seek the Father be brought to dishonour through Jesus.  The Anointed and Sent One knows that His role as the mediator, as the eternal intercessor, is crucial.  The Father only sees us through the lens of the mediator; He only approves us because the intercessor, our representative, says that we are worthy because Jesus is worthy.  If Jesus is not, then we are already eternally damned (John 3:16-18).

It is for your sake that Jesus has borne our reproach.  For whose sake?  Both the Father’s and ours.  For the Father, so that we can be restored to Him; for us, so we know that there is salvation for us.  Yet, in setting Himself apart for the Father and with us, He has become a stranger to His brothers; an alien to His mother’s sons (v.8).

For Moses considered the reproach of Christ as greater than the treasures of Egypt (Hebrews 11:26) – and this is the same reproach sung by David in contemplation of Christ’s disgrace.  The reproaches of those who reproach the Father has fallen on our Anointed Saviour (v.9); He who knew no sin became our sin and he wept and humbled his own soul with fasting (v.10).  He became the very byword, the parable, the thing of horror, that Moses described in Deuteronomy 28:37.  How great the cost of His sacrifice to redeem us from our sins!  Surely that only magnifies how utterly atrocious sin is in His eyes, that it requires God to cleanse us, and not from our own ability.

So Jesus pleads the steadfast love of the Father to save Him; to deliver Him from his enemies (vv.13-15); this is repeated again at v 16.  Yet, we know that Christ died from the despair of not being with the Father any longer – eloi eloi lama sabachtani He cried.  Why have You forsaken Me?  Why have You hidden Your face from Your Servant? (v.17)  When I draw near to You, do You not draw near to Me (James 4:8)?  No.  Because, on the cross, Jesus bore the weight of the world’s sins – in past, present, and future – and the Father can have no fellowship with sin.

So often we ask for God’s blessing; we ask to partake in His glory; we ask to receive His gifts; in being ‘in Him’ we forget about the pain that He receives from both those who worship Him, as well as those who never knew Him.  We forget about the grieving that we continually cause to the Holy Spirit, knowingly or otherwise.  V.20 describes the heart of a man so closely knit with God that this may as well as God Himself describing the sin-aches that have troubled Him since Adam’s fall: “Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair.  I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforter, but I found none.”  Like David, the type of Christ, how often do our hearts break because of sin?  How often are we in despair?  Or do we proceed with lies upon lies, covering ourselves with self-assurance without honestly repenting for our reproaches from the deepest recesses of our hearts?

Yet, the persecutors continue to trample on this Prophet-King, giving him poison for food and sour wine to drink, much like what Jesus received as he hung from the cross (v.21; John 19:30).  In exchange for Jesus’ pain, in exchange for the sins He bore on behalf of the world, David pleads that the Father curse those who neither look on Jesus’ pain in pity nor to comfort Him.  It is a scathing judgment: vv 27-28 – “may they have no acquittal from you.  Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.”

By contrast, it is out of the contrite heart of true worshippers, who know of the ramifications of sin on one’s broken heart and state of despair, and who praise the name of God with song, that this is far more pleasing than any other sacrifice (vv.30-31).  The LORD does not hear those who are filled to the brim with pleasures and contentment with the present world; He hears the needy (v.33).  And He is presently preparing a place for us (John 14:2-3) — if the chapter were to end on v.33, the solace is incomplete.  That is why the chapter ends on vv 34-36 — the focus shifts from the dire circumstances to Zion, and the building up of the cities of Judah.  Much like the promise to Abraham, here David is prophetically describing the innumerable offspring of God’s servants inheriting the land and cities, and that only those who love His name shall dwell in it.  This glorious new creation can only be achieved with the Son’s sacrifice.

As Spurgeon ends this chapter, he focuses on the importance of the word ‘offspring’ / ‘seed’:

Under this image, which, however, we dare not regard as a mere simile, but as having in itself a literal significance, we have set forth to us the enrichment of the saints, consequent upon the sorrow of their Lord. The termination of this Psalm strongly recalls in us that of the twenty-second. The seed lie near the Saviour’s heart, and their enjoyment of all promised good is the great concern of his disinterested soul. Because they are his Father’s servants, therefore he rejoices in their welfare. And they that love his name shall dwell therein. He has an eye to the Father’s glory, for it is to his praise that those who love him should attain, and for ever enjoy, the utmost happiness. Thus a Psalm, which began in the deep waters, ends in the city which hath foundations. How gracious is the change. Hallelujah.

 

 

 

 

BOOK 2: PSALM 69 OF 72 – DELIVER ME FROM THE PIT

BOOK 2: PSALM 68 OF 72 – Gifts to the kingdoms of the earth

The rebellious now rise up and offend the Anointed One on a daily basis.  There is, in the present age, amongst the ‘civilised’, no more fear of the Lord.

Psalm 68 opens by telling us that this lack of fear was present even in the days of David.  That is why, in the face of God’s rising, that the enemies shall be scattered and shall flee; just as darkness is driven away in face of light, so is wax in the face of fire, and the wicked will perish.

But this is not a Lord of terror; the God we love is the Father of the fatherless and protector of widows (v5).  In the land of the desert, the prisoners will be led into a life of prosperity; whereas the rebellious who have scattered and fled will dwell in a parched land.  A land without water; without fruit; without life.  Is that not how the rebellious live in this age?  In the pretense and cover of life, when the substance of life – the Holy Spirit – is absent from them?

So the God of Israel, the One who appeared to them at Sinai, is the God who provides a prosperous abode.  He is the One who rains down in abundance; He is the one who restores our languishing inheritance.  Just like the women who announced the good news of Christ on the day that He rose again, the women who announce the news of the Lord’s word are a great host (v11).  Christ’s resurrection is the sign of the fleeing of the kings of this world.  These rulers, kings, principalities flee because Christ’s work could no longer be undone.

Vv12-14 are hard to comprehend, and commentators express the same sentiment.  Spurgeon has this to say about the scattering of kings being placed alongside the snow falling on Zalmon (v14):

Zalmon, properly Tsalmon, Nwmlu a woody hill near Shechem (Jud 9:48). Whether it is this that’s referred to in Ps 69:14, is disputed. Some interpreters take Nwmlu here in its etymological meaning of darkness, Mlu; thus Luther renders the clause “so wird es helle wo es dunkel ist, “thus it be bright where it is dark, and understands it with a Messianic reference. Ewald adopts much the same rendering. The majority, however, retain the name as a proper name, but exhibit great variety in their explanation of the passage. Hengstenberg thinks that the phrase, “it snows on Tsalmon, “is equivalent to “there is brightness where there was darkness, “the hill, originally dark with wood, is now white with snow. De Dieu supposes a comparison: Tsalmon is white with the bones of the slaughtered kings, as if with snow. Some suppose that there is here a mere note of time: it was winter, the snow was on Tsalmon (Herder); and this Hupfeld adopts, with the explanation that the statement is made derisively, with reference to those who tarried at home, deterred by the winter’s snow. He considers the passage (Ps 68:12-14) as a fragment of an ancient song, celebrating some of the early conquests of Israel in Canaan, and deriding those, who, from indolence or fear, shrank from the enterprise. He translates thus:

“The kings of the armies, flee, flee,
And the housewife shares the spoil!
Will ye lie among the shippens?
Pigeons feathers decked with silver,
And their wings with yellow gold!
As the Almighty scattered kings therein,
It was snowing on Tsalmon.”
—William Lindsay Alexander, in “A Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature.” 1866.

Despite the apparent fruit and favour on the mountain of Bashan, the Lord chose another mount for his abode.  Sinai is now in the sanctuary — not Bashan.  Christ is the Lord who ascended on high, leading a host of captives in His train, and receiving gifts among men.  Look at Ephesians 4:8, which is different from Psalm 68:18 — instead of ‘receiving gifts amongst men’, Paul wrote that He gave gives to men.  Spurgeon explains the following:

Some think it refers to God’s goings forth on behalf of his people Israel, leading them forth to victory, taking their enemies captive, and enriching them with the spoils. Suppose it be so, we are warranted to consider it as mainly referring to Christ, for so the apostle has applied it. Eph 4:8. The apostle not only applies it to Christ, but proves it applicable. Thus he reasons (Ps 68:9-10), “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended,” etc. The captivity which he led captive was our spiritual enemies who had led us captive—Satan, death; and, having obtained the victory, he proceeds to divide the spoils. Gifts to men—as David made presents. And hence comes our ordinances, ministers, etc. There was a glorious fulfilment immediately after his ascension, in a rich profusion of gifts and graces to his church, like David’s presents. Here it is received; in Ephesians, gave. He received that he might give; received the spoil that he might distribute it.

That Paul applies this verse to Christ shows that he considered Jesus divine; however, the verb ‘receive’ (in Hebrew, laqakh) can have the idea of ‘receive in order to give’, or ‘to fetch’ (e.g. Genesis 18:4-5, where it is ‘bring’).  The purpose of this psalm is to focus on the conqueror who acquired the spoils from the defeated, the division of spoils for those who had been persecuted.  This fits the context, where v12 describes the women who divide the spoils upon the scattering of the kings.

David continues by describing the Lord as One who daily bears us up; He who delivers us from death; He who strikes the heads of His enemies; He who will redeem them from the world of Bashan, from the judgment of sea.  This image of redemption is juxtaposed with the image of the divine procession; the image of worship, praise, music, order, harmony.  Why does David then only speak of Benjamin, Judah, Zebulun and Naphtali?  Spurgeon has the following observations:

The tribe was small, having been greatly reduced in numbers, but it had the honour of including Zion within its territory. “And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.” Little Benjamin had been Jacob’s darling, and now the tribe is made to march first in the procession, and to dwell nearest to the holy place. The princes of Judah and their council. Judah was a large and powerful tribe, not with one governor, like Benjamin, but with many princes “and their company, “for so the margin has it. “From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel, “and the tribe was a quarry of stones wherewith to build up the nations: some such truth is hinted at in the Hebrew. The princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali. Israel was there, as well as Judah; there was no schism among the people. The north sent a representative contingent as well as the south, and so the long procession set forth the hearty loyalty of all the tribes to their Lord and King. O happy day, when all believers shall be one around the ark of the Lord; striving for nothing but the glory of the God of grace. The prophet now puts into the mouth of the assembly a song, foretelling the future conquests of Jehovah.

There is indeed, no schism amongst the people, because both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms are united — this procession is one of national unity.  One ought to also notice that Jesus’ ministry started with the land of Zebulun and Naphtali (Matthew 4:13, citing Isaiah 9:1-2), because those tribes are also the first in the Northern kingdom to have been taken into captivity by the Assyrians; so Jesus starts his redemption work there.  As with Benjamin and Judah, the least of the tribes and the tribe from which Jesus came, so also the tribes due to be thrown into captivity first are prophetically the tribes partaking in the procession.

Vv28-31 then describe the salvation of the Gentiles.  Because of God’s temple at Jerusalem, foreign kings shall bear gifts to Him; nobles shall come from Egypt; Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.  That has always been the Lord’s plan – to ensure the salvation not merely of one nation, but to have that nation become and agent of his salvation to all.  That is what the psalmist had sung about in Psalm 67 – and Psalm 68 describes the realisation of that prophecy.  Vv32-35 thus end the Psalm on a high note of an image of new creation — but this realisation can take place now on earth, as it has been achieved in heaven.  Not only is the restoration of Israel as one kingdom prophesied; so also the kingdoms of the earth sing praises to the Lord.  The prince of the sky (Ephesians 2:2) is replaced by the king of the heavens and ancient heavens.  Awesome is He who rules from the heavenly sanctuary, He who gives power and strength to his people (c.f. v.18).

 

 

BOOK 2: PSALM 68 OF 72 – Gifts to the kingdoms of the earth

BOOK 2: PSALM 67 OF 72 – Salvation for all

This psalm is a natural progression from Psalms 65-66 — from the praises of creation, to the praises of the Israelites, to the praises of the nations.  Isn’t that how the allegiance of God is portrayed in the Scriptures?  Despite creation being cursed by Adam’s hands, it still praises Him; it still keeps to the seasons; it still bears fruit as it should, withers as it should, and is re-born as it should, still portraying the gospel truth of Jesus’ incarnate work.  Then Israel sees the light, the 12 tribes brought out of slavery and into the promised land miracle after miracle, through water and guided by cloud and fire; a baptism of one nation.  Yet, Israel is to be a light to the other nations, so that other nations too will praise His name.  Psalm 67 is thus a result of Psalms 65 and 66.

Psalm 67, however, starts with the same words as the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The Aaronic blessing was one given by Aaron and his descendants, the Levites, to the Israelites.  It is a blessing for the nation of Israel.  If Israel is not blessed first, how can it be a blessing to the other nations?  That is the logic of Psalm 67.  God be gracious to us and bless us … that thy way may be known on the earth!  As Spurgeon states:

It begins at the beginning with a cry for mercy. Forgiveness of sin is always the first link in the chain of mercies experienced by us. Mercy is a foundation attribute in our salvation. The best saints and the worst sinners may unite in this petition. It is addressed to the God of mercy, by those who feel their need of mercy, and it implies the death of all legal hopes or claims of merit. Next, the church begs for a blessing; bless us—a very comprehensive and far reaching prayer. When we bless God we do but little, for our blessings are but words, but when God blesses he enriches us indeed, for his blessings are gifts and deeds. But his blessing alone is not all his people crave, they desire a personal consciousness of his favour, and pray for a smile from his face. These three petitions include all that we need here or hereafter. This verse may be regarded as the prayer of Israel, and spiritually of the Christian church. The largest charity is shown in this Psalm, but it begins at home. The whole church, each church, and each little company, may rightly pray, bless us.

Indeed, if we know not of God’s graces and blessings, how can His way be known on the earth?  Who would sing of His praises, or proclaim His name, if His salvation is conditional upon mankind’s efforts?  Why would such religion be worth expanding, why would such philosophy be ‘good news’?

The Israelites, indeed, are to proclaim that God’s salvation be known among all nations (v3).  God’s salvation is not reserved for creation, for Israel, but for the peoples, all the peoples, the nations — a common refrain throughout vv3-5.  The question is not whether God blesses us; also not whether God is good; and not whether He gives good gifts to His children.  The question for the ages, rather, is whether we are willing to be blessed by Him, to hide in His goodness, and to fear Him?

BOOK 2: PSALM 67 OF 72 – Salvation for all

BOOK 2: PSALM 66 OF 72 – The Eternal Burnt Offering

Psalm 66 continues naturally on from Psalm 65.  Where Psalm 65 ends with the pastures of the wilderness overflowing, the hills girding themselves with joy, the meadows clothing themselves with flocks, the valleys shouting and singing together with joy — Psalm 66 opens with all the earth shouting for joy to God, singing the glory of His name, giving to Him glorious praise, saying to God how awesome His deeds are, declaring the greatness of His power, worshipping, praising His name.

As I have observed with Psalm 65, such adoration is rare amongst those bearing God’s image; and yet, the material earth does not even hesitate to praise Him.  This sheds light on Jesus’ curse of the fig tree (c.f. Matthew 21; Mark 11), as it is not only a parable of the fruitless Israel, but also that all creation ought literally praise His name.

But of course, just as Psalm 65 ends with creation praising His name, Psalm 66’s opening is meant to serve as a platform to the central focus of the Psalm – that by observing the praise of creation, we are to also observe His awesome deeds toward the children of man.  Here, the psalmist recounts the story of the exodus from Egypt, a theme that recurs throughout this second book of the Psalms.  The rebellious exalt themselves just as in the times of the tower of Babylon, but He has never stopped being the Watcher for us (vv5-7).

So the opening verses of creation’s praise immediately applies to the Israelites at vv8-12, they who have been tested through thick and thin, through fire and water, through crushing burdens.  Are these not the same trials that creation goes through, in its seasonal changes, that creation must die to give birth to new life?  That creation undergoes torrents, storms, fiery abuse but also emerges as a strengthened and hardened beauty, like that of a refined diamond shining in the night?

But, unlike creation, our praise is not a simple song or an expression of verbal delight.  Our praise comes with an additional requirement – that of a burnt offering (vv13-15), because we as arbiters of God’s creation have fallen; where the First Man fell, the Second Man rose again; the burnt offering is thus not a mere act of repentance, but an act of praise and celebration.  We can praise Him because we are not shackled by our sin; we can delight in Him because we are not burdened with unrighteousness; we can sing songs to Him because we look to the true eternal burnt offering found in the Lamb who saves us from our sins (c.f. John 1:29).

That’s why the psalmist doesn’t mere sing about what God has done for Israel during the grand exodus.  That’s why the psalmist doesn’t just stop at the burnt offering.  That’s why the psalmist moves on to v16 — “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what He has done for my soul“.  What has He done?  He has utterly renewed it, transformed it, by the power of the Holy Spirit!  Here is a man who has aligned himself to God’s image, to Christ, so that he too (like creation) praises without abandon!  A man of such praise cannot cherish iniquity in his heart, because iniquity is far from his desires — his desire is pure and he only wants Jesus alone!

Brothers and sisters, let us too spend time in Selah and ponder how we approach His throne without reproach; how we approach His throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).  Our confidence lies not in ourselves – no, such rebellion, even an inkling of it, would mean that the Lord would not even listen to our cries.  The Lord, however, is not to be impressed by he who worships the loudest; He looks favourably on he who recognises that he has the weakest and most pitiful voice – the one who is poor in spirit – and he is the one who shall be exalted by the eternal burnt offering.

 

BOOK 2: PSALM 66 OF 72 – The Eternal Burnt Offering