Book 3: Psalm 76 of 89 – The Scales of Justice

If there is one image that represents Psalm 75, is the image of the scale.  The scales of justice which tip could tip either way.  The pagan culture teaches us that ‘Lady Justice’ is often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from her left hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case’s support and opposition.  Such depiction dates back to ancient Egypt, where Anubis was frequently depicted with a set of scales on which he weighed a deceased’s heart against the Feather of Truth.

The distinction between the scales of the world and of God is clearly stated at vv2 and 6.  Firstly, for not from the east or from the west, and not from the wilderness, comes lifting up; but it is God who executed judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.  In other words, there is no ‘justice’ that is meted out at random, or that the ‘fate’ of the world wills it, or that one meets a particular ‘destiny’ of a passionless and distant God; the living God is directly involved with our lives, consciously putting down and exalting men.  All the while the boastful and the wicked are exalting themselves (vv.4-5), God is the one who lifts up the horns of the righteous (v.10) as the Lord cuts off the horns of the wicked.

Secondly, such judgment with equity is handed out at the set time that the Lord appoints.  We are often questioning whether the Lord exists, whether He would be handing down judgment on the wicked, whether He even cares.  This Psalm of Asaph reminds us that not only is He present, but that He deliberately withholds judgment until the right time.

Indeed, the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  If we were the ones determining when justice should be handed out, I do wonder whether the Lord’s merciful character would shine through us.  I wonder if we would be patient with our brothers and sisters?  Would we, perhaps, even wish that they should perish?  That is why the scales of justice are not weighed on our own perceptions and judgments, but on his divine timing and discernment.

Even in the days of Moses did the Israelites require constant reminder that vengeance is the Lord’s (see Numbers 31:3; Deuteronomy 32; Joshua 22:23; 1 Samuel 20:16; 2 Samuel 22:48; Psalm 94:1, 149:7; Isaiah 34:8, 35:4, 59:17, 61:2, 63:1-4, Jeremiah 51; Nahum 1:2; Hebrews 10:30).  Not only that – the Lord has a specific day of vengeance appointed.  Because on that day, the Lord will display all the equity and justice that should have been meted out the moment creation was brought into chaos by Satan.  The moment man fell to temptation, His creation was no longer ‘good’.  The gift of salvation and new creation is a work of complete restoration to right the wrongs since the beginning of the world.

The Day of Judgment; the Day of the Lord’s Vengeance, will be terrible and fearful.  V8 foreshadows it.  The cup with foaming wine, the cup of wrath.  As Spurgeon describes it:

For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup. The punishment of the wicked is prepared, God himself holds it in readiness; he has collected and concocted woes most dread, and in the chalice of his wrath he holds it. They scoffed his feast of love; they shall be dragged to his table of justice, and made to drink their due deserts. And the wine is red. The retribution is terrible, it is blood for blood, foaming vengeance for foaming malice. The very colour of divine wrath is terrible; what must the taste be? It is full of mixture. Spices of anger, justice, and incensed mercy are there. Their misdeeds, their blasphemies, their persecutions have strengthened the liquor as with potent drugs;

“Mingled, strong, and mantling high;
Behold the wrath divine.”

Ten thousand woes are burning in the depths of that fiery cup, which to the brim is filled with indignation. And he poureth out of the same. The full cup must be quaffed, the wicked cannot refuse the terrible draught, for God himself pours it out for them and into them. Vain are their cries and entreaties. They could once defy him, but that hour is over, and the time to requite them if fully come. But the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.Even to the bitter end must wrath proceed. They must drink on and on for ever, even to the bottom where lie the lees of deep damnation; these they must suck up, and still must they drain the cup. Oh the anguish and the heart break of the day of wrath! Mark well, it is for all the wicked; all hell for all the ungodly; the dregs for the dregs; bitters for the bitter; wrath for the heirs of wrath. Righteousness is conspicuous, but over all terror spreads a tenfold night, cheerless, without a star. Oh happy they who drink the cup of godly sorrow, and the cup of salvation: these, though now despised, will then be envied by the very men who trod them under foot.”

Our Lord Jesus drank from the cup.  The Day of Wrath and Vengeance will pass over us as He has satiated the Father’s wrath.  True justice has, on a cosmic and spiritual level, been achieved when we committed ourselves to become children of God through the Christ.  The question that remains is not if justice will be given to us.  No – that has already happened in Moriah.  Rather, the question is when God reveals to the world the true state of things; that the humble will be exalted, and the self-righteous shall be put in their place.  In God’s economy, that has already happened.  It is just a matter of when that would be revealed.

Advertisements
Book 3: Psalm 76 of 89 – The Scales of Justice

BOOK 3: PSALM 74 OF 89 – THE DEFENDER OF THE FAITH

74 O God, why do you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;
    the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!

Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place;
they set up their own signs for signs.
They were like those who swing axes
in a forest of trees.[b]
And all its carved wood
they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
They set your sanctuary on fire;
they profaned the dwelling place of your name,
bringing it down to the ground.
They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”;
they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.

We do not see our signs;
there is no longer any prophet,
    and there is none among us who knows how long.
10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the fold of your garment[c] and destroy them!

 

+++

 

12 Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters[d] on the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15 You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter.

18 Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs,
    and a foolish people reviles your name.
19 Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts;
do not forget the life of your poor forever.

20 Have regard for the covenant,
for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
21 Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name.

22 Arise, O God, defend your cause;
remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!
23 Do not forget the clamor of your foes,
the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually!

 

Psalm 74, like many of the psalms, begin with the despair of the psalmist.  This is a cry of a holy man against the world.  He is distraught by how God’s sanctuary is profaned; he is troubled by the fact that God’s signs are replaced with worldly signs; that God’s prophet is replaced by a worldly seer.  If we think that the Maskil of Asaph (simply meaning an instructive psalm by Asaph) sounds like it is a product of its time, stop and consider this: we are in a world which treats not God’s sanctuary with the same level of respect as the Temple or tabernacle had received.

As Spurgeon says:

“Alas, poor Israel! No Urim and Thummim blazed on the High Priest’s bosom, and no Shechaniah shone from between the cherubim. The smoke of sacrifice and cloud of incense no more arose from the holy hill; solemn feasts were suspended, and even circumcision, the covenant sign, was forbidden by the tyrant. We, too, as believers, know what it is to lose our evidences and grope in darkness; and too often do our churches also miss the tokens of the Redeemer’s presence, and their lamps remain untrimmed. Sad complaint of a people under a cloud! There is no more any prophet. Prophecy was suspended. No inspiring psalm or consoling promise fell from bard or seer. It is ill with the people of God when the voice of the preacher of the gospel fails, and a famine of the word of life falls on the people. God sent ministers are as needful to the saints as their daily bread, and it is a great sorrow when a congregation is destitute of a faithful pastor. It is to be feared, that with all the ministers now existing, there is yet a dearth of men whose hearts and tongues are touched with the celestial fire. Neither is there any among us that knoweth how long. If someone could foretell an end, the evil might be borne with a degree of patience, but when none can see a termination, or foretell an escape, the misery has a hopeless appearance, and is overwhelming. Blessed be God, he has not left his church in these days to be so deplorably destitute of cheering words; let us pray that he never may. Contempt of the word is very common, and may well provoke the Lord to withdraw it from us; may his long suffering endure the strain, and his mercy afford us still the word of life.”

The enemy strikes at the heart of our faith, because the enemy knows that the sanctuary is our place of refuge, our place of worship.  It is not different today: the debates that take place within the church, even amongst believers, demonstrate that the enemy’s plans are still very much in operation.  We profane his House when we do not even preach His Word faithfully; we fall to the evil one’s temptations when we cater to the desires and concerns of man, rather than faithfully bear witness to God’s plans this day.  On a daily basis, the church is being torn down – brick by brick; not physically, but spiritually.  Every day, our beliefs are being eroded by the worldly agenda; and Jesus becomes that much more distant and less real to us.  “Thus sayeth the LORD” is slowly, but surely, being replaced by “Thus sayeth the man” – the man whom the world respects, the philosopher who frequently denounces His Lordship, the teacher whose musings distract us from the truth, the scientist who forces on us evidence which purportedly support the theories which, apparently, contradict His Word.

 

However, at all times, Asaph does not lose sight of God’s absolute sovereignty.  The enemy creates this chaos only because God has allowed it.  The chapter opens not with a ‘woe-to-me’ expression in response to the enemy’s acts; rather, the chapter opens with O God, why do you cast us off forever?  Why do You, with a capital Y – indeed, it is the LORD who is doing the casting off, rather than the evil one.  Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep, against the congregation whom He has purchased of old (v2)?

Asaph recognizes that both blessing, and judgment, comes from the same God.  He is no Marcionist; he believes that God’s capacity, ability, and discernment in judging is tied to his act of loving; there is no schizophrenia, or dichotomy, between the God of the Old or New Testaments.  Jesus is as much the sacrificial lamb, as He is the one who returns to judge the world (see John 5:22-30, 9:39; 2 Corinthians 5:10;  Revelation 19:11).

This theme, and understanding, of sovereignty stretches through to the remainder of the chapter.  Starting from v12, Asaph pleads the creation argument; this God who has the power to allow evil to roam (a mystery which only He can unveil to us), is the same God who has been working salvation in the midst of the earth, from of old (v.12).  He divides (v.13), he crushes (v.14), he splits (v.15), he dries (v.15), he established (v.16), he fixed (v.17) – this is a God whose actions are never-ending.

Do we react to our troubles in the same way?  Do we resort to our own actions to defend our faith, defend our church, use a worldly form of apologetics and philosophy to ‘explain away’ Christianity to those who poke at our beliefs?  Or do we understand that we are dealing in the realm of spiritual warfare, waging a war that only spiritual tools can address (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)?

Ultimately, we must put our own faith, our sanctification, our livelihood, our very salvation in the hands of God.  We plead the covenant that He made with those whom he purchased (vv.2, 20), the covenant of blood sealed by Christ on the cross; for if He is for us, who can be against us?  In the words of Spurgeon:

“What a mighty plea is redemption. O God, canst thou see the blood mark on thine own sheep, and yet allow grievous wolves to devour them? The church is no new purchase of the Lord; from before the world’s foundation the chosen were regarded as redeemed by the Lamb slain; shall ancient love die out, and the eternal purpose become frustrate? The Lord would have his people remember the paschal Lamb, the bloodstained lintel, and the overthrow of Egypt; and will he forget all this himself? Let us put him in remembrance, let us plead together. Can he desert his blood bought and forsake his redeemed? Can election fail and eternal love cease to glow? Impossible. The woes of Calvary, and the covenant of which they are the seal, are the security of the saints.”

 

If only those who recognize and paint the blood of the lamb on their door are saved, then what will happen to the scoffers who remain so until their dying breath?  Time will tell, but the enemy who has been destroying our sanctuaries will, himself, not experience any sanctuary himself.   There is but only one defender of the faith, He who is sovereign above all, and has the authority to determine where we are born and where we go.

 

BOOK 3: PSALM 74 OF 89 – THE DEFENDER OF THE FAITH

Book 3: Psalm 73 of 89 – In His Sanctuary

Psalm 73

73 Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
    my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pangs until death;
    their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
    they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
    their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
    loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
    and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
    and find no fault in them.[a]
11 And they say, “How can God know?
    Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
    always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
    and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken
    and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
    I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

16 But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I discerned their end.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
    you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
    swept away utterly by terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
    O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21 When my soul was embittered,
    when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
    I was like a beast toward you.

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength[b] of my heart and my portion forever.

27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

 

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

These are not words which can be uttered overnight.  That is because the world around us is filled with lies that it can sustain itself outside of God.  After all, to justify its own existence, the world must continually preach the falsehood that it can build a city, a Tower of Babel, that can rival the heights of His throne (v.9).  To do that, it must present itself as beautiful; as desirable; as filled with abundance (vv.4, 7); as free from trouble (v.5); as growing in riches (v.12).

That is what the enemy does.  He tries to lure the world by attractive gems.  He is not so crude that he will just present these temptations in their naked form; he will present them as if they are goals, rewards, that we must work towards.  The religion of the world is that hard work will results in just deserts; and once we obtain them, we wear these achievements proudly, and arrogantly, as a badge of merit.  We exclude God’s intentions for our lives in these worldly pursuits.

Yet, the veil of the enemy’s lies can be torn in half, once we go before God Himself. Once we step into His sanctuary (v.17), and by the Spirit discern their end, we realize that the world has but covered itself in a skin of leaves, like Adam and Eve after the fall.  These achievements, these growing riches, the sleek fat bodies which they possess, are all emblematic of the skin of pathetic leaves to cover their own naked shame.  What is more, is that Godis the one who arranged it so; that these apparent blessings of the world are, in fact, the curse by which they are doomed to hell.  As Spurgeon eloquently put it:

Verse 17. Until I went into the sanctuary of God. His mind entered the eternity where God dwells as in a holy place, he left the things of sense for the things invisible, his heart gazed within the veil, he stood where the thrice holy God stands. Thus he shifted his point of view, and apparent disorder resolved itself into harmony. The motions of the planets appear most discordant from this world which is itself a planet; they appear as “progressive, retrograde, and standing still; “but could we fix our observatory in the sun, which is the centre of the system, we should perceive all the planets moving in perfect circle around the head of the great solar family. Then understood I their end. He had seen too little to be able to judge; a wider view changed his judgment; he saw with his mind’s enlightened eye the future of the wicked, and his soul was in debate no longer as to the happiness of their condition. No envy gnaws now at his heart, but a holy horror both of their impending doom, and of their present guilt, fills his soul. He recoils from being dealt with in the same manner as the proud sinners, whom just now he regarded with admiration.

Verse 18. The Psalmist’s sorrow had culminated, not in the fact that the ungodly prospered, but that God had arranged it so: had it happened by mere chance, he would have wondered, but could not have complained; but how the arranger of all things could so dispense his temporal favours, was the vexatious question. Here, to meet the case, he sees that the divine hand purposely placed these men in prosperous and eminent circumstances, not with the intent to bless them but the very reverse.Surely thou didst set them in slippery places. Their position was dangerous, and, therefore, God did not set his friends there but his foes alone. He chose, in infinite love, a rougher but safer standing for his own beloved. Thou castedst them down into destruction. The same hand which led them up to their Tarpeian rock, hurled them down from it. They were but elevated by judicial arrangement for the fuller execution of their doom. Eternal punishment will be all the more terrible in contrast with the former prosperity of those who are ripening for it. Taken as a whole, the case of the ungodly is horrible throughout; and their worldly joy instead of diminishing the horror, actually renders the effect the more awful, even as the vivid lightning amid the storm does not brighten but intensify the thick darkness which lowers around. The ascent to the fatal gallows of Haman was an essential ingredient in the terror of the sentence—”hang him thereon.” If the wicked had not been raised so high they could not have fallen so low.

Imagine an empty man, like Asaph, who admits openly that he has stumbled (v2); that he envies the prosperity of the wicked (v3); who feels that he has vainly kept his heart clean and washed his hands in innocence (v13); who is weary (v.16), then even more reason that he would want to fill up his cistern with the riches of the world.

Imagine then, the mind-blowing truth of the situation once Asaph has received the wisdom and insight of the Holy Spirit: that these blessings are designed by God to be a slippery path.  That God has given these people over to their sins; and the result is the apparent blessing; the result is like Haman, preparing his own gallows, as if for Mordecai, but only to find out that the gallows are for himself.  Like the enemy who thought that he is climbing a mountain to heights above God, who is actually struck down as quickly as lightning strikes the earth (Luke 10:18).

And so, the people of this world have committed two evils: they have forsaken God, the fountain of living water; and they have dug cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:12-13).  With eyes that see and ears that hear (Proverbs 20:12; Isaiah 6:10), as we go before God in His sanctuary, we begin to see with insight and discernment (vv.16-17) the end of the people of the world.  Those who reject and refuse God are set by Himin slippery places (v.18); Godis the one who makes them fall to ruin. In a moment, they are destroyed.

Can we adopt the same response as the psalmist?  Can we say to God, “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength/rock of my heart and my portion forever”?  By remaining in God’s sanctuary, by being close to Him, by being in His presence, we see that our true end is to be received by Him to glory (v 24).  But those who are far away from Him shall perish, and God(not the enemy) is the one who puts an end to everyone who is unfaithful to Him (v.27).  The psalmist clarifies that the enemy can do nothing of his own accord; it is only through God’s permission that anything is done (c.f. Job 1:7).

How fitting it is for the third book of the Psalms to open with this chapter.  Indeed, the religion of the world, the works and rewards which people clothe themselves with, are exactly what God is guarding against in the book of Leviticus (i.e. being, in parallel, the third book of Moses in the Pentateuch).  Imagine the Pharisees, working hard to comply with every single law, and adorning their pride in their own abilities, like necklaces around their necks.

God would respond in very much the same way as He does with the people of the world: those who view the law as the means of their salvation are set by Him in slippery places, and they will fall to ruin.  It is those who recognize their own weaknesses, like Asaph, who go before God for wisdom.  It takes a humbled person, an envious person, a person who delights not in his own abilities and treasures, to step into God’s sanctuary, only to be clothed by God with beautiful animal skin instead of the pathetic leaves and scraps of this world.  Just like the Levites who carefully, but confidently, approaches God in the book of Leviticus; so also let us – the priests of the era after the Spirit was given to all – approach the throne of grace with similar confidence:

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

Book 3: Psalm 73 of 89 – In His Sanctuary

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