Book 1 of Psalms (1-41) and Genesis

As we now come to a formal close of the study of the first book of the Psalms, which Bible scholar E.W. Bullinger (following the tradition of rabbinic midrash, the Midrash Tehillim) observed as corresponding to the book of Genesis – the five books of the Psalms corresponding with the five books of Pentateuch.  Adam Clarke similarly observes:

Thus ends what the Hebrews call the first book of Psalms; for
the reader will recollect that this book is divided by the Jews
into five books, the first of which ends with this Psalm.

This doxology, Dr. Kennicott supposes, may have been added by
the collector of this book; and he thinks that the division into
books is not arbitrary; and that the Psalms were collected at
different times by different persons. See the Introduction. There
is certainly a considerable variety in the style of the several
books; in the examination of which the Hebrew critic will not lose
his labour.

Of 41 Psalms, most of these are composed by David (despite the apparent anonymity of a few, like Psalms 1, 2, 10 and 33).  How these relate to the book of Genesis, can be identified by the way these 41 Psalms are categories: firstly, that Psalms 1 to 8 deal with humanity and the Son of Man; Psalms 9 to 15 deal with the rebellion of man; and finally Psalms 16 to 41 deal with the God-Man Christ Jesus.  Thus, the book of Genesis is a book of humanity; a book regarding the rise and fall of man, a book regarding prophecies made to our forefathers regarding a new land beyond the Garden of Eden, a place where we do not remain as handful of dust but will be reborn as sons of God.  Yet, for every Melchizedek, Abraham, Israel, Joseph – there will be a line of pagan kings seeking to establish their own kingdom even before the first king after God’s own heart, David.  It is therefore interesting to read of David’s songs and praises in the context of Genesis, given there is no king in Genesis aside from Jesus Christ our Melchizedek, the King of Peace.  Thus:

Psalms 1 to 8 – humanity and the Son of Man:  the book of praises begins not with a praise of a mere blessed man, but the praise of the Blessed Man (Psalm 1) as we learn to kiss the Son of God, the Anointed One, and side not with the wicked schemes of man (Psalm 2).  Is this not the war between the Light of the world and the Father of liars which commenced by the pride of the enemy in Genesis 1-3, described in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28?  So the picture of the persecuted Christ is foreshadowed in the struggle between brothers – the killing of Abel by Cain, Abel’s innocent blood crying out (c.f. Luke 11:50-51; Hebrews 12:24) (Psalm 3).  In the failure of man to be the responsible head of creation, creation is now fallen and groaning for the revelation of the sons of God (Psalms 4-5; c.f. Romans 8:22).

Nevertheless, He is the LORD who hears our prayers – He is our intercessor, just as Abraham was the intercessor for Sodom and Gomorrah (Psalm 6).  Thus, we boast in His righteousness (Psalm 7), with anticipation that it is His Son who would be given dominion over the works of His Father (Psalm 8).

Psalms 9 to 15 deal with the rebellion of man:  yet, the rebellion of man continues to grow.  David describes the need to find refuge in Jesus and in the LORD who blots out the enemies and causes the nations to fear (Psalm 9), given that apart from Christ, one can do nothing (Psalm 10; c.f. John 15:5) – harkening us back to Psalm 1, the need to find comfort in the Blessed Man before one can also become the blessed man.  Just as when Abraham went to save Lot (Genesis 14), so also the LORD is our judge and avenger (Psalm 11).  Yet this victory is not achieved by man, but by the Word of the LORD (Psalm 12).  How long, however, till this salvation comes (Psalm 13), for the enemy continues to mock the Christian, that there is no God (Psalm 14)!  Yet, they are fools – for we look to the holy hill – there is where the LORD is (c.f. Ezekiel 28, describing the Garden of Eden).

Psalms 16 to 41 deal with the God-Man Christ Jesus: in answering the question of whether there is a God, David then deals in the remaining chapters of the first book of Psalms, the matter of the God-man, David’s Second LORD (Psalm 110).  The First LORD, the Father, will not abandon Christ the Anointed One to Sheol (Psalm 16; Acts 2:25-31) – and it is in this Christ that we receive manifold treasures (Psalm 17), this Christ who loves us (Psalm 18; c.f. Song of Songs), who fulfills the sweet law of the LORD just as creation cries out the glory of the Bridegroom (Psalm 19).  However, such sweetness and glory is achieved by the death of our Messiah as he prays for us (Psalm 20), and though the wicked plan against Christ, the bonds between the Father and the Son by the Spirit are not broken (Psalm 21).  Even though Christ shouts “eli eli lema sabachtani“, it is finished on the cross (Psalm 22).  Without the work of the cross, we cannot cry out the LORD as our shepherd, just as the Son could not accomplish such work without looking to the Father for the hope of resurrection (Psalm 23).  Thus, Christ ascends the holy hill, that ancient gates be lifted up, to a place even more beautiful and greater than the holy mount of Eden (Psalm 24), and thus redeeming His Bride the ancient church (Psalm 25) whilst the Son seeks the Father’s face.

Let all therefore plea to hear His voice!  Let us plea in desperation (Psalm 28)!  It is His Voice, His Word, who transforms us when He comes to us (Psalm 29)!  Do we wish to be restored from Sheol like He did (Psalm 30)?  Do we wish to look upon and walk with the LORD who committed his spirit into the hands of the Father, words spoken in hope, in accomplishment of glory, and not in rejection (Psalm 31)?  Then let us find refuge in Him who blesses us as our transgressions are forgiven through Him alone (Psalm 32)!  It is by His steadfast love (John 17) that the heavens were made; therefore let the earth fear Him and its inhabitants stand in awe of Him, because God is love (Psalm 33)!  He is near the broken-hearted (Psalm 34), He will vindicate and delight in the Son (Psalm 35), He will provide us with refuge in the Rock, the Anointed One (Psalms 36) – and ultimately take us to the New Canaan, for it is only the righteous, the meek, who shall inherit the land (Psalm 37; c.f. Genesis 13:12-13, 23:19, 41).

However, the first book of the Psalms penultimately ends with David’s repentance (Psalm 38), just as the book of Genesis ends with the repentance of the brothers of Joseph (Genesis 42).  Yet, the ending is not sad – there is a restoration to joy in the funeral psalm – the Hope is in Christ, the Angel who blessed (Psalm 39; c.f. Genesis 48:16), as the nation of Israel waits for salvation just as Christ did the Father as He prayed in the second garden where history was changed, the garden of Gethsemane (Psalm 40).  Let us therefore remember and end the first book with the Blessed Man, who although was rebelled against and betrayed, still sits at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2) and He shall confound the enemy forever.  This Blessed One is none other, than the LORD Himself (Psalm 41).

Thus ends the first book of Psalms, dealing with the humanity of Adam and his offspring, against the One Offspring (Genesis 3:15) who crushed the enemy’s head whilst all those who aligned with the father of lies merely bruised His heel.

Advertisements
Book 1 of Psalms (1-41) and Genesis

Book 1 – Psalm 41 of 41: Restored to joy by the Deliverer

So book 1 of the Psalms ends with the same refrain as chapter 1.  “Blessed is the one” (v.1) – blessed is the one who considers the poor (the Hebrew also means “weak” or “thin“, indicating a man who is needy, or weaker) in the day of trouble the LORD delivers him.  Contrast this with v.1 of chapter 1 – “Blessed is the manwho walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers“.  Indeed, the implication here, as the book is book-ended with a similar theme, is that Christ is the one who identifies Himself with the weak; He is the Righteous and Blessed One who demonstrates his righteous walk by aligning Himself with the suffering, the weak, the persecuted. 

So Charles Spurgeon comments on this chapter:

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. This title has frequently occurred before, and serves to remind us of the value of the Psalm, seeing that it was committed to no mean songster; and also to inform us as to the author who has made his own experience the basis of a prophetic song, in which a far greater than David is set forth. How wide a range of experience David had! What power it gave him to edify future ages! And how full a type of our Lord did he become! What was bitterness to him has proved to be a fountain of unfailing sweetness to many generations of the faithful.

 

Jesus Christ betrayed by Judas Iscariot is evidently the great theme of this Psalm, but we think not exclusively. He is the antitype of David, and all his people are in their measure like him; hence words suitable to the Great Representative are most applicable to those who are in him. Such as receive a vile return for long kindness to others, may read this song with much comfort, for they will see that it is alas! too common for the best of men, to be rewarded for their holy charity with cruelty and scorn; and when they have been humbled by falling into sin, advantage has been taken of their low estate, their good deeds have been forgotten and the vilest spite has been vented upon them.

In the day of trouble (v.1), the Father delivers Christ and protects the Son and keeps Him alive – is not Christ blessed in the land (v.2) and not given up to the Satan?  So also we are blessed in the land and not given over to the enemy should we walk with the Son.  Just as the Father sustains Jesus, so we would be sustained when we are on our sickbed, that in our illness you would restore us in Him to full health (v.3).  Spurgeon notes, “We must not imagine that the benediction pronounced in these three verses belongs to all who casually give money to the poor, or leave it in their wills, or contribute to societies. Such do well, or act from mere custom, as the case may be, but they are not here alluded to. The blessing is for those whose habit it is to love their neighbour as themselves, and who for Christ’s sake feed the hungry and clothe the naked. To imagine a man to be a saint who does not consider the poor as he has ability, is to conceive the fruitless fig tree to be acceptable; there will be sharp dealing with many professors on this point in the day when the King cometh in his glory.

We then move to v.4 of David describing his sin against the LORD, just as he has done for the previous few chapters, describing the enemy who looks forwarding to the perishing of the Name of the Anointed, of the Root of Jesse (v.5), whose blood now flows in us the sons and daughters of God.  So Spurgeon indicates where the voice comes from in v.4 – 

The immaculate Saviour could never have used such language as this unless there be here a reference to the sin which he took upon himself by imputation; and for our part we tremble to apply words so manifestly indicating personal rather than imputed sin. Applying the petition to David and other sinful believers, how strangely evangelical is the argument: heal me, not for I am innocent, but I have sinned. How contrary is this to all self righteous pleading! How consonant with grace! How inconsistent with merit! Even the fact that the confessing penitent had remembered the poor, is but obliquely urged, but a direct appeal is made to mercy on the ground of great sin. O trembling reader, here is a divinely revealed precedent for thee, be not slow to follow it.

 

The malice runs deep in the hearts of the wicked – it is not the gospel they share, nor good news, but news of emptiness, discord, gossip, devising evil (v.6-7).  Such is the life of a man blessed that even the Christ, who being betrayed by Judas, had lost most of His friends when He hung on the cross (v.9). Of this verse, Adam Clarke comments:

This is either a direct prophecy of the treachery of Judas, or it is a fact in David’s distresses which our Lord found so similar to the falsity of his treacherous disciple, that he applies it to him, Joh 13:18. What we translate mine own familiar friend, ish shelomi, is the man of my peace. The man who, with the shalom lecha, peace be to thee! kissed me; and thus gave the agreed-on signal to my murderers that I was the person whom they should seize, hold fast, and carry away.

In times of trouble, it is therefore not to our network, our friend, or our fellowship first that we seek refuge.  We seek refuge in the Father through Christ alone by the empowerment of the Spirit – and all those who align themselves with the Trinity, so also we may find comfort with them. 

So the enemy’s triumph shall be short-lived as a symbol of His delight in the Christ and in us, upholding the Anointed One because of His integrity and establishing his seat forever (v.11-12).  So Adam Clarke states:

This also has been applied to our Lord; and Calmet says it is the greatest proof we have of the divinity of Christ, that he did not permit the malice of the Jews, nor the rage of the devil, to prevail against him. They might persecute, blaspheme, mock, insult, crucify, and slay him; but his resurrection confounded them; and by it he gained the victory over sin, death, and hell…

[Of v. 12] This also has been applied to our Lord, and considered as pointing out his mediatorial office at the right hand of God.

Who is this Blessed One, Blessed Man, of chapters 1 and 41?  The LORD (v.13) – may He be blessed, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!  Indeed – Amen. 

Book 1 – Psalm 41 of 41: Restored to joy by the Deliverer

Book 1 – Psalm 40 of 41: the Christ waits for the Father

David thus fleshes out the prophecy of Christ more vividly here, so much that apostle Paul uses the same language as v.6-9 here in Hebrews 10:5-9, regarding the one sacrifice of the Lamb.  Charles Spurgeon describes this as a Psalm “lifted by the Holy Spirit into the region of prophecy, David was honoured thus to write concerning a far greater than himself“.  The subject of which, Spurgeon continues, is that “Jesus is evidently here, and although it might be a violent wresting of language to see both David and his Lord, both Christ and the church, the double comment might involve itself in obscurity, and therefore we shall let the sun shine even though this should conceal the stars.  Even if the New Testament were not so express upon it, we should have concluded that David spoke of our Lord in Psalm 40:6-9…“. 

Indeed, so David’s waiting already mentioned in the previous chapter is connected to that of Christ’s waiting of the Father – for it is of Christ that the Father drew the Son up from the pit of destruction, from hell (v.2), singing a new song – a song of the resurrection (v.3).  For who is the Blessed Man except Christ (c.f. Psalm 1) who makes the Father his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie (v.4), when even David – the man after God’s own heart – has been led astray as the previous chapters describe in such painful manner?  Just as the book of John states, there is so much good to proclaim of God that “they are more than can be told” (v.5; c.f. John 20:30-31). Spurgeon writes:

Patient waiting upon God was a special characteristic of our Lord Jesus.  Impatience never lingered in his heart, much less escaped his lips.  All through his agony in the garden, his trial of cruel mockings before Herod and Pilate, and his passion on the tree, he waited in omnipotence of patience.  No glance of wrath, no word of murmuring, no deed of vengeance came from God’s patient Lamb; he waited and waited on; was patient, and patient to perfection, far excelling all others who have according to their measure glorified God in the fires.

With regard to v. 2, Spurgeon continues:

When our Lord bore in his own person the terrible curse which was due to sin, he was so cast down as to be like a prisoner in a deep, dark, tearful dungeon, amid whose horrible glooms the captive heard a noise as of rushing torrent, while overhead resounded the tramp of furious foes… Jesus is the true Joseph taken from the pit to be Lord of all.  It is something more than a “sip of sweetness” to remember that if we are cast like our Lord into the lowest pit of shame and sorrow, we shall be faith rise to stand on the same elevated, sure, and everlasting rock of divine favour and faithfulness.

The prophecy becomes much clearer now – that David has not been writing of himself for he cannot provide the eternal sacrifice for the sins of mankind (v.6) – but that the Son (not David!) has come (v.7) in the scroll of the book that is written of Christ – that it is Christ who will delight to do the will of the Father, for it is the Father’s law which is in the heart of Christ and not firstly of man (v.8).  It is Christ who shall tell us of the glad news of deliverance (v.9), revealing what David foretells, that true deliverance shall come only through Christ Jesus – he has not hidden the Father’s deliverance, through Himself, in His own heart.  Indeed, Spurgeon even describes Psalm 40:6 as “one of the most wonderful passages in the whole of the Old Testament, as passage in which the incarnate Son of God is seen not through a glass darkly, but as it were face to face.

For this reason, the Father shall not restrain his mercy from His Son (v.11), the steadfast love towards his Son (John 17) which is shared with David, with the church, that Israel may be one as the Father, the Son and the Spirit are one.  For evils have encompassed the Anointed One beyond number (v.12), and indeed the iniquities of the church which is laid on Christ has overtaken him that his heart fails (v.12; c.f. Psalm 22:1).  Yet, Christ’s conviction is that the Father is holy! (Psalm 22:3), so also here, “Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me!  O LORD, make haste to help me!” as Christ yearns to the Father (v.13).  Those who therefore spit on Christ and on His work shall be put to shame – the temporary joys and pleasures of the wicked shall be revealed and brought to dishonour (v.14; c.f. Psalm 37).  So those who seek the Father will rejoice and be glad in Him, because they love Him through His salvific work – and it is through Christ’s emptying (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 2:7), through His entrance to the world as a helpless babe (John 1), through Him being made poor and needy that we receive the Triune glory.  Just as David’s deliverer is Christ, so Christ’s deliverer as He hung on the cross to complete the work commenced before creation (Revelation 13:8). 

Book 1 – Psalm 40 of 41: the Christ waits for the Father

Book 1 – Psalm 39 of 41: Restored to joy by the Deliverer

This chapter contrasts with chapter 37, where David had described the fleeting nature of the wicked man.  Yet, here, he asks the LORD what is the measure of his own days, for man generally is fleeting in nature.  This Psalm is also noted to be dedicated to the chief musician Jeduthun (the Hebrew name meaning “laudatory” or “praising“).  It is speculated that Ethan and Jeduthun are perhaps the same person, comparing 1 Chronicles 15:17, 19 and 1 Chronicles 16:41-42, 25:1, 25:3, 25:6, 36:15.  He is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:16 as part of the tribe of Levites (in particular, Jeduthun is actually from the family of Merari – see my commentary on Numbers 3 and 4 regarding the work of the Merarites in relation to the tabernacle); and his name is repeated in 1 Chronicles 16 as referring to one of the crew of worshippers before the ark – v.42 of that chapter states that “Heman and Jeduthun had trumpets and cymbals for the music and instruments for sacred song. The sons of Jeduthun were appointed to the gate.”   1 Chronicles 25 also describes the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who “prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals” – Jeduthun, “who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the LORD” (1 Chronicles 25:3) – thus Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun were the three under the direct order of the king (v.6).  As an interesting side note – in Nehemiah 11, it is the offspring of Asaph and Jeduthun who survive the exile and return, as described in v.17 of that chapter (and Heman is not mentioned), and of the Psalms written by David, it is only to Asaph and Jeduthun that the Psalms are dedicated to.  

The dedication of the Psalm to Jeduthun suggests that the Psalm, though written by David, was led and sung by Jeduthun’s choir.   

Adam Clarke notes that this relates to a grievous malady by which David was afflicted after his transgression with Bathsheba (as shown in Psalm 38), though Matthew Henry does not specifically refer to such incident, and calls this chapter instead as a “funeral psalm, and very proper for the occasion; in singing it we should get our hearts duly affected with the brevity, uncertainty, and calamitous state of human life; and those on whose comforts God has, by death, made breaches, will find this psalm of great use to them, in order to their obtaining what we ought much to aim at under such an affliction, which is to get it sanctified to us for our spiritual benefit and to get our hearts reconciled to the holy will of God in it“. 

Chapter 39 thus begins with David attempting to stay silent that he may not sin with his tongue (v.1); despite his attempts to be at peace, his distress only grew worse (v.3).  The burning of the fire in his heart then caused him to speak the verses after v.4, seeking confirmation from the LORD that he is but a fleeting creature (ending in a pensive Selah in v.5), language similar to what Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes, storing treasures in vanity.  All, indeed, seems to be vanity (v.6).   However, just as stated in Psalm 38, David’s hope is not in his own treasures, but in waiting for the LORD’s deliverance, waiting for the coming of Christ.  V.7 – “…for what do I wait?  My hope is in you.“, although the hostility is caused by the LORD (v.10), such hostility resulting from the LORD’s discipline and rebuke for David’s sin, repeating once again the temporary nature of man with another pensive Selah (v.11).  Yet, David seeks peace from the LORD – he seeks to be made right with the Father, observing that he has not made earth his home as he is but a sojourner.  As Adam Clarke comments, David is referring to a city that has permanent foundations, which the current Israel / Canaan cannot provide (v.12).  Matthew Henry states:

Now he began, more than ever, to look upon himself as a stranger and sojourner here, like all his fathers, not at home in this world, but travelling through it to another, to a better, and would never reckon himself at home till he came to heaven.  He pleads it with God: “Lord, take cognizance of me, and of my wants and burdens, for I am a stranger here, and therefore meet with strange usage; I am slighted and oppressed as a stranger; and whence should I expect relief but from thee, from that other country to which I belong?”

Indeed, such deliverance to the new heavens and earth can only be achieved by the Father through Christ, and such propitiation effected by the Father looking away from David (in the KJV, David says “O spare me“) by account of the Second LORD, the Christ (v.13), that David may smile (or, as the NASB translates it, “cheerful“) again.  

For I am a sojourner with you,
    a guest, like all my fathers.
13 Look away from me, that I may smile again,
    before I depart and am no more!”

Book 1 – Psalm 39 of 41: Restored to joy by the Deliverer

Book 1 – Psalm 38 of 41: the repenting King

Unlike the previous Psalms, Matthew Henry remarks that “this is one of the penitential psalms” as it is full of grief and complaint from the beginning to the end, as a result of David’s sins and his afflictions.  Adam Clarke observes the various conjectures made in relation to this chapter, and muses that most likely it refers to some severe affliction which David had after his illicit commerce with Bathsheba.

Look, in particular, at v.3 – “There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.  Compare this against Proverbs 3:7-8: “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones“.  Contrary to refreshment, as Solomon teaches his son in the book of Proverbs, a man’s self-centered wisdom will not bring the healing and refreshment to his flesh as he may initially perceive.  David experienced this first hand from his own sin.

Accordingly, this chapter is the full extent of the ramifications of sin – and even the heart of a repentant man is not freed from the shackles of shame.  Yet, despite such shame, as promised in Psalm 37, He will still uphold us.  David’s heart pours out clearly in this chapter – “My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes – it also has gone from me.” (v.10)  How beautiful are David’s words – how honest, and how often do we see the same shared at our churches today, when someone asks how we are doing?  Do we not respond with our usual “Good”, “It is well with me”, even when we are wallowing in our guilt, shame, disgust, and pain?  Just like Job, David states that his friends and companions now stand aloof from his plague (v.11); further observing that a sinner is muted aurally and orally (Isaiah 6:9-10).

Nevertheless, the climax, just as in the book of Ecclesiastes, is found in the final verses.  “But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer” (v.15).  Can anyone but our intimate and loving God provide such warmth and security?  Do you turn to God in your pain?  Is not God the reason for such pain, He who set down the mandates and strictures as to what is or isn’t sin, what is or isn’t of benefit to us?  Yet, David goes back to the source – he is pained for hurting the LORD, for grieving Him, and he experiences the ramification of his downfall; yet, He recognises the LORD’s faithfulness and graciousness found in Christ Jesus.  It is Christ Jesus Whom David waits for, as he repents – “I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin” (v.18).  No flowery language – David speaks it like it is.  Yet, even when David seeks to do good, his enemy now seeks to destroy him – and we know that, despite David’s shortcomings in his unholy union with Bathsheba, the LORD did not forsake him and instead, indeed modeled the gospel salvation for David in 2 Samuel 24.

Book 1 – Psalm 38 of 41: the repenting King

Book 1 – Psalm 37 of 41: the Righteous shall inherit the land

Psalm 37 continues in the same theme as Psalm 36, the contrast between the evildoer and the righteous (v.1).  Adam Clarke notes that the Psalm may have been written by David on behalf of Mephibosheth who, being falsely accused by his servant Ziba, had formed the resolution to leave a land where he had met with such bad treatment.  David was convinced of Mephibosheth’s innocence.  It is also likely to be addressed to the captives in Babylon, signalling the promise of their return to their own land.

Yet, David knows the heart of the reader – that our heart is that of a sinner, and we are inclined towards sinful flesh.  Why else would we be envious (v.1)?  That is because their joys seem immediate, that their legitimate desires are illegitimately obtained at first sight.  The transitory nature of their sin is exposed by David in v.2 – “for they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.“, immediately followed by the statement that one should trust in the LORD and do good, and “dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness“.

The theme of dwelling in the land is repeated a number of times in this chapter – v.3, and inheriting the land under v.9, 11, 29, and 34.  Contrast this with the temporary nature of wickedness, however desirable their current state of things may seem – v. 2 (they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb); v. 9 (the evildoers shall be cut off); v.10 (in just a little while, the wicked will be no more); v.13 (the LORD laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming); v.20 (the wicked will perish… they vanish – like smoke they vanish away); v.35 (a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree); v.36 (such wicked man passing away, and behold, he was no more); v.38 (the future of the wicked shall be cut off).

The inheritance of the land is something which hails from as early as Exodus 32:13, which in turn refers to the promises made in Genesis – “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.” (based on Genesis 12:7, 13:15, 15:7).  In Deuteronomy 5 this is also particular linked to v. 16 (earlier stated in Exodus 20:12), where it states, “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”  Indeed, this is consistent with this important commandment, so that one’s “days may be long“, unlike the withering days of the wicked.

V.7 speaks particularly to me – “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!“.  How often is it that I would like to take matters into my own hand, as if the LORD is slow to fulfill His promises!  Yet, even such temporary prosperity is within the LORD’s sovereignty and plan; the righteous man who hides in Christ shall see to it that he will last with Him who is everlasting.  Such fretting and impatience would only tend to evil (v.8), as we will not be put to shame (v.19), and in the days of famine – just as in Abraham’s time – we will have abundance, but those who align with the enemy will perish (Genesis 26 and 41).  Even a man established by the LORD may fall, but not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand (v.24) – the child of the Father, the co-heir of Christ, shall not be forsaken nor beg for bread, just as our Saviour was not forsaken on the cross nor his children begged for bread, as He sang Psalm 22:1, but was convicted of the Father’s holiness in Psalm 22:3, that the Father remains enthroned upon the praises of Israel.  So the law of the LORD is in the righteous man’s heart just as it is firstly in the heart of Christ, the One Whom we imitate (Psalm 119: 9-11).

Note, in particular, v.35 – the reference to the “green laurel tree” (in the KJV, it is “green bay tree“, and in the NASB it is “luxuriant tree“).  The Hebrew word for “luxuriant” also means “to be green, verdant” or, by analogy, “new” and figuratively, “prosperous“.  This plays into the same theme as the chapter, as the wicked man may spread like a prosperous tree, but he shall pass away.  Typically, a green laurel tree is associated to the Resurrection of Christ in certain Christian traditions, as the never-wilting laurel tree leaf symbolizes the eternal nature of the Son of God, and often a wreath of laurels is granted to victors in ancient contests.

Matthew Henry comments that David may have been referring to Saul who, in great power was the terror of the mighty in the land of the living, and who seemed to have been firmly fixed and finely flourishing, although producing all leaves and no fruit, like a native home-born Israelite, likely to take root.  Yet, what became of him?  Eliphaz, long before, had learned that when he saw the foolish taking root, his habitation is cursed (Job 5:3).  Thus, Matthew Henry continues, that such bay-tree would wither away as soon as the fruitless fig-tree which Christ cursed (Mark 11).

Adam Clarke, on the other hand, refers us to the vision of the great tree in Daniel:

v. 35 – Does not this refer to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and to the vision he had of the great tree which was in the midst of the earth, the head of which reached up to heaven (Daniel 4:10)?

Yet, such great tree met its own demise (Daniel 4:14-17), as the tree is the king of Babylon (Daniel 4:22), cut down by an angelic watcher, a holy one, who descends from heaven, to be given over to the mind of a beast (Daniel 4:23-25).  Just as the king of Babylon is advised to break away from his sins, so the wicked shall be warned to do the same, lest their temporary prosperity be cut short by the One sent from above.

Book 1 – Psalm 37 of 41: the Righteous shall inherit the land

Book 1 – Psalm 36 of 41: Refuge in the Anointed One

He who is born of the devil continues to plot trouble while on his bed (v.4; Psalm 2:1; Nahum 1) – therefore such man is attracted to chaos and dischord rather than the harmony of the intimate Triune relationship between the Three Persons.  Indeed, there is no fear of God in such man’s eyes (v.1) who has aligned himself with the enemy, content to hear words of affirmation to himself (though receiving none from the Body of Christ) as he is not kept accountable by others, such that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated (v.2).  Although such man may have once been wise and had once done good, the words of his mouth are now trouble and deceit (v.3), not unlike the Satan who has fallen from glory and seeks the riches associated to God’s throne (Ezekiel 28).

Yet, compare this with the LORD’s steadfast and unfailing love (Gen 24:12-49; Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18-19; Deuteronomy 7:9-12; 1 Samuel 20; 2 Samuel 15:20; 2 Samuel 22:51) which reaches to the heavens and clouds (v.5), his righteousness extending to the great deep as he saves both man and beast (v.6; for those who struggle with the salvation of beasts! c.f. Jonah 3:8).  Indeed, consider the words of 2 Samuel:

Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever. (2 Samuel 22:51)

Such is the love and glory of the Father which is given first to His Anointed, the Offspring of Adam (Gen 3:15) and of David, that we may experience it through the Anointed and Blessed One, through Christ (Psalm 1; John 17).

Compare the children of mankind who take refuge in the shadow of His wings, against the disconnected man who plots, who gossips, who schemes, who slanders (Romans 1:28-32; 2 Corinthians 12:20), who is not feasting on the overflow of His house (v.8) but is rather coveting to hoard all and not share.  Such hoarding and coveting is in stark contrast to the river of His delights (v.8), for such man’s work is the work which leads to death (James 1:15), but hiding in Christ we receive the fountain of life – that in Christ, we see the Father (v.9 – “in your light [Christ] do we see light“).  Let us, today, check our hearts that we are not seduced by our assumption that we are the ones accomplishing God’s mighty works, that we can sustain ourselves without the fellowship and accountability of the God, that we can seek the riches of His kingdom but neither through Him nor with Him.  Such is the sadness of the non-triune life of the fallen Christian, who seethes whenever he hears of people sharing of God’s love which transforms our wicked hearts and exalts all, but delights to point out the faults of the church and of others. 

Book 1 – Psalm 36 of 41: Refuge in the Anointed One