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

BOOK 2: PSALM 65 OF 72 – Creation and the image of God

Psalm 65 is a marked departure from the other psalms.  Where David normally describes the type of adversities he faces, here he spends little time on such iniquities.  Only one verse is dedicated to this (v3), after which the remainder of the chapter describes how the awesome creation responds to His love.

He is described as “the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea” (v5); the One who is able to “establish the mountains by His strength” (v6); He who could “still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples” (v7); the Lord who makes “the dawn and the sunset shout for joy“(v8); He who “visit[s] the earth, and cause[s] it to overflow“, preparing their grain, for thus He prepares the earth (v9); He waters its furrows abundantly, settles its ridges, softens it with showers, blesses its growth, crowning the year with His bounty, his paths dripping with fatness.  It goes on a crescendo pace, from the opening verses of man’s qualms to the climax of God’s creation, His meadows and valleys, shouting for joy (v13).

This chapter is almost a reflection of how we react to our circumstances.  How often we magnify the iniquities, the sins, that are committed against us; how often we are sucked into the pace of disobedient, of the unrighteous, and that we – too – learn to use our tongue manipulatively, politically, cunningly.  However, God’s creation knows of no such schemes – it was created for one purpose alone, and that is to be the object of God’s love and to respond in kind.

In face of God’s awesome creation which surrounds us, the creation which sings to the heavenly Father, our disobedience and lack of worship is all the more pronounced.  How often do we break out in song?  How often do God’s revelations completely break us in, that we are instantly humbled and strongly desire to dwell in His house and holy temple?  Yet, we are the ones made in God’s image, not the meadows or valleys.  It must pain the Lord to see His own image so slow to react to His love.

Fear not, though, brothers and sisters.  David’s remedy to his qualms is not to continue dwelling in one’s miry issues; David invites the reader, the worshipper, to look at the other worshippers whose focus is on the Lord alone.  Let us learn from creation – let us, too, shout for joy, for we are clothed far better than the flowers of the field and arrayed more beautiful than Solomon at his financial peak.

That is why David, shortly after describing the iniquities against him, describes “how blessed is the one whom thou dost choose, and bring near to thee, to dwell in thy courts” (v4).  Whilst we are blessed, it is in the Blessed Man whom we find refuge.  It is because Jesus is the One blessed, that we become blessed.  It is in Immanuel, God-with-us, that the earth overflows with the option to be completely righteous in the Father’s eyes.  As Spurgeon comments:

Christ, whom God chose, and of whom he said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, ” is, indeed, “over all, God blessed for ever; “but in him his elect are blessed too. For his sake, not for our own, are we chosen; in him, not in ourselves, are we received by God, being accepted in the Beloved; and, therefore, in him are we blessed: he is our blessing. With that High Priest who has ascended into the holy place and entered within the vail, we enter into the house of God; we learn to dwell therein; we are filled with its spiritual joys; we partake of its holy mysteries and sacraments of grace and love. From “A Plain Commentary on the Book of Psalms.” 1859.

That is why the original sin is so grievous; no created being can hurt the Lord like we have. No action of a created being could have pierced Jesus for our transgressions.  The enemy attacked God’s image, not just any creation; we are distinctly different, and distinctly like Christ from birth.  And it is in Adam’s fall that Christ falls; but where Adam remained in the dust, Christ rose again and ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father.  Much time is spent in Genesis to describe the wonders of creation; yet, it is in the pinnacle of the creation of man, the creation of God’s own image, that the Lord opted to be vulnerable, to be pierced, for our sins.

BOOK 2: PSALM 65 OF 72 – Creation and the image of God

BOOK 2: PSALM 64 OF 72 – God’s Word against ours

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.  This phrase ironically contains ‘words’ supported by no truth.  On the contrary, one heals from broken bones; but hurtful words are embedded deep within our spirit, our psyche, our personality, and one may never heal from them.

The psalm starts with “hear my voice, O God, in my complaint“.  David lifts his words, his voice, up to the Lord.  He is petitioning, for protection.  He is the son after God’s own heart who is requesting refuge.  God, the Father, like any father, would be heart-broken to see his own child being attacked by His own creation.  The persecution amongst brothers has begun since the days of Cain and Abel, and every generation repeats itself.  The wicked, instead of speaking words of love, grace and compassion, “whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows… they talk of laying snares secretly“.  These words spring out of a fountain of injustice, of evil, “for the inward mind and heart of a man are deep“.

God retaliates with his own arrows – how?  “They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them“.  Their own lies, their own schemes, snares, swords, arrows, fall back on them.  Those unreasonably accused; the righteous labelled incorrectly as the unrighteous; the liars – even sometimes Christians – carrying on the will of the enemy and not of the Father — are all going to be brought from darkness to light in God’s vengeance.

How often are we, too, accused not only by the enemies outside the church, but particularly those within?  That we are the object of ridicule, of false accusations, of lies and deception, of grand-scheming manipulation, all of which had appeared under the pretence of holiness and edification at the outset?  Yet, God pulls up the weeds; He destroys the leaven; He sees the seed that is sown amongst thorns; He unveils the sheep’s clothing; He sees all.  We can only petition to Him for that protection, for that wisdom and discernment, to avoid the attack from the ambush.  It is not our job to play the role of manipulator, of schemer, to ‘get back at them’.  God is the only one able to do so – and to do it beautifully that enacts true justice that would allow all mankind to fear, that they would tell what God has brought about, and ponder what He has done.

The gospel is therefore as much truth as it is a revealer of liars; in the face of light, darkness must flee.

BOOK 2: PSALM 64 OF 72 – God’s Word against ours