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CHAPTER XIX.

PSALMS.

THE LIFE HID WITH CHRIST IN GOD.

Keynote: Col. iii. 1-3.

THE book of Psalms gives us the resurrection-life of the believer. It is the illustration of the latter part of Rom. vi. 4. "Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." In Job we have seen the christian “buried into death,” and here we see him “raised up from the dead,” to walk, as Christ walked, in "newness of life." This book is therefore the natural sequence of the book of Job, or the next step in the soul's progress. In Job man had been taught to know himself, here he is taught to know the Lord. This book shows us human nature in all its weakness, as it is seen in God's presence, but reveals at the same moment the all-sufficient 302 supply there is in the Lord for its every need. It is the necessary and immediate outcome of Job's death to self. It is life in God. Its language throughout is, "I am nothing; Christ is all."

And my feeling is that no heart is fitted to enter fully into an understanding of this wonderful book, until it has passed through the discipline, and reached the result which the book of Job reveals. None but a soul that has come to the end of self and of all self-dependence, can enter into the blessed sweetness of the twenty-third Psalm, or dwell in the fortress of the ninety-first; for the grace which these Psalms reveal, and the blessings they set forth, are all grace and blessings for the weak and the helpless, and none but these can possibly receive or enjoy them. The man who speaks here, is the man of faith, and the life revealed, is the life of trust. "Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. But Thou, Lord, art a shield for me; my glory and the lifter up of my head." ii. 2, 3. "But mine eyes are unto Thee, O God the Lord; in Thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute." cxli. 8. "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man: it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes." cxviii. 8, 9. "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him." xxxiv. Such are a few out of the numberless declarations of helplessness and of trust that are found in this book.

The Psalms are the expression of the inward feelings 303 produced in the heart of each writer by the varied circumstances and events of his life. They were written mostly by David, though some of them are ascribed to other writers, and the prayer of Moses is included among them. But whoever may have been the authors, of each one it is true that he was evidently prepared by the Lord, through personal or public events, for expressing the mind of the Spirit of God, who "wrote by him, and whose words were upon his tongue." And moreover, whoever speaks, it is true, as Augustine says in his exposition of this book, that "the voice of Christ and His Church are well nigh the only voices to be heard." In some instances Christ Himself is the sole speaker, in others His people only speak; but generally it is the Head and the members together, who "use the harp and utter the song."

Many of the Psalms refer so manifestly to Christ that they are sometimes called Messianic Psalms. And these may be looked upon as a sort of diary, as it were, kept by our Lord for the purpose of letting His people know a little of the deep, inward emotions He experienced as a Man, bearing the awful burden of humanity, partaking of our nature, and tempted with our temptations. In other parts of the Bible we have the details of His outward life while on earth, and learn what He did, and what was done to Him. But here we have the record of what He thought and felt, while going through all these.

The writer of a little book called "Short Meditations 304 on the Psalms" says concerning this, "The cries, and tears, and praises of Jesus, His solitary hours, His troubles from man, and His consolations in God, all these are felt here in their depth and power. What was passing in His soul when He was silent as to man, led as a lamb to the slaughter: what they who surrounded Him did not hear, we listen to in this wondrous Book. His thoughts of men, His worship of God, with all the incense of His various and perfect affections, are understood here. The New Testament tells us that He prayed and sung, but this Book gives us His prayers and songs themselves."

If this then be indeed true, what blessed intimacy does it declare, that our Lord should thus permit us to enter into the wonderful secrets of His deepest emotions while living on this earth, for us, and in our nature. And I think nothing so makes us realize His actual humanity, as to listen to these cries of human suffering and anguish, and to feel our hearts thrill over His yearning for human sympathy and appreciation.

One example will illustrate what I mean. In Psalm xxii. we have the emotions of our Lord's heart as He hung on the cross, bearing the sins of the whole world. The opening verse proves this, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? why art Thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?" The first sentence of this cry is all that we hear in the New Testament, Matt. xxvii. 46; but the Speaker who utters that, must also utter all the rest likewise. Some comparison 305 of other verses in the Psalm will confirm this. Compare verse 6 with Is. liii. 3; verses 7, 8, with Matt. xxvii. 39-44; verse 16 with John xx. 25-27; verse 17 with Is. lii. 14; verse 18 with Luke xxiii. 34; verse 22 with Heb. ii. 11, 12. See also,

Ps. ii. 7, compared with Matt. iii. 17; xvii. 5; Acts xiii. 33.

Ps. ii. 2, and xxxi. 13, compared with Matt. xxvii. 1.

Ps. xvi. 8-11, compared with Acts ii. 25; iii. 15; Matt. vii. 14; xxv. 33.

Ps. xxxviii. 11, 12, compared with Matt. xxvi. 56 and verse 13 with Is. liii. 7.

Ps. xxxix. 9, compared with Matt. xxvi. 62, 63; Acts viii. 32-35.

Ps. xl. 6-8; li. 16, compared with Heb. x. 5-9; Luke xxiv. 44; John v. 39.

Ps. lxix. 5-9, compared with John ii. 17; xv. 25; vii. 5; Rom. xv. 3.

Ps. cx. 1, compared with Matt. xxii. 44; Acts ii. 34; 1 Cor. xv. 25; Heb. i. 13.

Ps. xli. 9, compared with John xiii. 18, 25, 26, 27.

Ps. xlv. 1-17, compared with Luke iv. 22; Heb. i. 8; Is. lxi. 1.

But besides those Psalms which thus expressly refer to the Lord Jesus, there are many others whose praises, desires, hopes and deliverances could have in Him alone their truest realization. Only by seeing this, I think, can we understand much here written. And only by understanding that the desires for vengeance upon 306 His enemies and for the destruction of all His foes, is to be interpreted as referring to Christ's great enemy, Satan, and all his host of evil spirits, and to the dreadful effects of sin in the hearts and lives of men, can we be relieved from the painful sense of vindictive cruelty that otherwise would oppress many tender hearts in their perusal. The Lord, who has told us to love our enemies, and to do good to them that hate us, could surely not do otherwise Himself; and I cannot but feel that we must read of His wrath as being directed against the sin, and not against the sinner, and His vengeance as being poured out upon the cruel Enemy, who carries captive His helpless flock, and not upon the poor flock, thus attacked and enslaved.

And, taken in this sense, we, His people and the flock of His pasture, can unite with our whole hearts in His cries for vengeance, and can rejoice with Him in the promised downfall of every foe. I do not of course state this view of mine as an infallibly correct one; but simply as the best explanation I can find of all that is so difficult to understand in the Psalms, and as containing experimentally much blessed help to my own soul. If it is Christ and His Church who speak here, it must be that the expressions are such as the Church can unite in, without disobeying the commands of her Lord as to her treatment of her enemies; and only by taking the view I present can this be done. But I feel that the Holy Spirit alone can teach us concerning this.

The Psalms might be called the heart of the Bible. 307 They lie in the midst of it, and express its secret and hidden life. The central verse of the whole divine volume is found here, the keystone of the arch, as it were; and this verse reveals the point upon which all else turns. It is the eighth verse of Ps. cxviii., and reads as follows: "It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man." And throughout the whole book the universal teaching consists only of different changes rung upon this same theme. For it contains, as I have said, the heart exercises of the dead and risen man. "Not I, but Christ" is its constant language. It is the second stage in the series, beginning with Job and ending with the Song of Songs, and is the second stage in the experience of every soul, which has been brought by the cross and the revelation of God, to the end of self.

No other dependence but the Lord God of Israel is thought of or permitted here. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen, but we are risen and stand upright," Ps. xx. 7. "Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it, except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain," Ps. cxxvii. 1. And no possibility of disappointment to those who do thus trust, is for a moment admitted. "They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever," cxxv. l . "The Lord redeemeth the soul of His servants; and none of them that trust in Him shall be 308 desolate," xxxiv. 22. "In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me," lvi. 11. From beginning to end, the voice that speaks here tells of only one Refuge and one Defence. All dependence upon self seems to have been taken from him, and, with Paul, his realization is throughout, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak then am I strong." This experience is not generally the first, nor the second, nor even the third step in the christian life. Much has to be passed through before this is reached. The deliverance out of Egypt, the wilderness journey, the going into the land, the failures there, the bondages and the restorations, need often all to be experienced according to our measure, before we are ready to come to the death of self, as in Job, and to know this life of utter dependence upon the Lord. I do not say that all these experiences need to be gone through, but that which they teach must, and it seems as though souls but seldom have simplicity enough, and faith enough, to learn these lessons directly from the Lord, without this outward discipline of failure and trial. But whether by the inward crucifixion only, or by that also which is outward, in one way or the other, all must come here, before the Lord can work in them perfectly the good pleasure of His will; and 309 happy shall we be if we can submit ourselves so unresistingly and so thoroughly to the forming hand of our Lord upon us, as to pass rapidly, and with the ease of a passive and yielding soul, through the necessary stages that precede this.

A poor woman was once scoffed at by an infidel for supposing that she, in her weakness and ignorance, could ever travel over the long and weary road from earth to heaven. "Ah, master," she replied, "it is a very short road, and easily travelled. There are only three steps in it." "Three steps," he repeated scornfully, "and what are they?" The answer was a memorable one, -- "Out of self, into Christ, and into glory." If then to some of my readers the road to present peace and victory may look long and hard, let me assure you that after all it needs but two of these steps to take you there. Out of self, and into Christ! That is all! And that is enough for the deepest experiences and the richest blessings. The process that brings this about may be hard to flesh and blood, as Job's experience surely was, but the end is worth it all. And, although hard, it need not be long, for entire consecration and perfect faith will hasten every stage. Job's lesson was learned in one year, but he suffered truly the loss of all things to reach it. We often are many years learning our lesson, because we are not able to bear such rapid and severe strokes of the Divine chastising Hand. "Out of self" is a step to be taken by faith, but it is also a step to be taken actually and experimentally as well, and 310 the Lord's part is to turn our faith into a reality, by His dealings with us, both inward and outward. The life of trust looks beautiful to us, and we long to live it, but we forget that something must be done first. No soul can trust utterly in the Lord, it is manifest, who has anything of self left in which to trust, and we must therefore come out of the self-life entirely, before we can fully enter into this life hid with Christ in God. For it is utter weakness alone that can bring any soul to the point of utter trust. And many a "messenger of Satan" may have to be sent "to buffet" some of us, before we come here. But if our faith will but grasp it now, and if we will but let the Lord work as He pleases, without any shrinking or hindrance on our part, who can say by what rapid steps He may bring us out into this place of perfect peace, nor how soon He may make the language of absolute trust our language also.

In the Hebrew Bible this Book is divided into five books, the first ending with Ps. xli.; the second, with Ps. lxxii.; the third, with Ps. lxxxix.; the fourth, with Ps. cvi. and the fifth with Ps. cl. Probably each of these books would be found to contain some especial line of teaching, if our eyes were spiritually enlightened enough to see it. But I do not feel prepared to go into this.

The book of Psalms opens with blessing and ends with praise. The very first Psalm introduces us to the man who is the speaker throughout. It is the godly man; that is, the man who is like God, "conformed to the image of Christ." He not merely obeys the law of 311 the Lord, but his delight is in it; it is "written on his heart." Therefore he has found the river of living water, and is planted beside it, and whatsoever he doeth cannot but prosper.

The introduction to the Psalms in the Commentary by Canon Cook of Exeter, England, says concerning the ideal man of the Book of Psalms that "he has these characteristics: unshaken trust in God; entire devotion to His service; submission to His will; reliance on His love, met by a corresponding affection, a more than filial tenderness; a longing for His presence in the sanctuary, and for fruition of that presence in Heaven; a thorough appreciation of the righteousness of all His dispensations; a confident, nay certain anticipation of a full manifestation of His righteousness. Faith, hope, and love assume thus their true relative position in the development of the spiritual man."

And to this godlike man are revealed secrets concerning the Lord and His ways, that have not heretofore in the progressive teaching of the Bible found any fitting hearer. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant." Only the man who is like God, can understand God. And therefore in this book of Psalms, for the first time in the progress of the Bible development, does the sanctified soul find an adequate expression of its worship and its praise. All the previous revelations of the Lord had been but one-sided and limited, for there were no hearts prepared to understand any other. "As it is 312 written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet He himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that He may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." To none but the spiritual man therefore do the secrets of this book lie open.

One of the most blessed of these secrets thus revealed to this "godly man," is that concerning the claim of the weak upon the strong. The language of his heart is always, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak." "Turn Thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted." "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for l am in trouble." "Attend unto my cry; for 313 I am very low; deliver me from my persecutors, for they are stronger than I." This speaker recognizes that the plea of weakness and of need is the most effectual plea that the soul can make. And do not our hearts also recognize it at once, as the one irresistible plea all the world over, as far as the knowledge of the true God has gone. Wherever there is weakness, there strength hastes to the rescue. In times of danger the weakest are the first cared for. If suffering must come, the strong endure it, that the weak may be spared. "Noblesse oblige" is the universal Christian law. And the Strong and Mighty One who inhabiteth eternity, who is at once the Fountain and the Power of this noble necessity, must therefore charge Himself with the care of all who are weak and needy, But none can know this, save those who have been made "partakers of His divine nature," for none else know God. Therefore it is, that, in the book of Psalms for the first time, He has fully revealed it; for until this stage is reached, there are no eyes that can see it, nor ears that can hear it. But the man who speaks here has learned it all. "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord," xii. 5. "The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble, ix. 9. "He will regard the prayer of the destitute; He will not despise their prayer," cii. 17. “The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.” ciii. 6. “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dung-hill; that He may set him 314 with princes.” cxiii. 7. "The Lord preserveth the simple; I was brought low, and He helped me." cxvi. 6. "The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down." cxlv. 14. "The Lord executeth judgment for the oppressed; He giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth the prisoners; the Lord openeth the eyes of the blind; the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down; the Lord loveth the righteous; the Lord preserveth the strangers; He relieveth the fatherless and the widow." cxlvi. 7-9. "He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." cxlvii. 2.

Throughout all the varied experiences of this book, it is still always this man who knows the Lord, that speaks to us, whether in the voice of Messiah, or of His people. And through it all he is led, doubtless by a series of deepening and widening revelations, to the paean of victorious praise that closes the Book. For only he who knows the Lord, and has seen the King in His beauty, could thus extol Him and praise His holy name.

The last six Psalms are a series of continually rising songs of thanksgiving, beginning with, "I will extol Thee, my God, O King; and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever;" and closing with that wonderful, and to me most precious and comforting command, "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord." As Bonar has written concerning this, "Praise is now gathered in from every creature; every instrument of joy, and gladness, and triumph, and jubilee are summoned 315 to sound loud praise; and every voice and heart are engaged to help the choir." And another also says concerning it, "Every voice now teems with praise; every thought is about praise; every object awakens it; every power uses itself to produce it. And no wonder, when we remember that we have been ushered into the Kingdom at last. . . . These are the days of heaven upon the earth! The kingdom has come; and the will of the Blessed One is done here as there. The mystic ladder connects the upper and the lower sanctuaries. Praise crowns the scene. The vision passes from before us with the chanting of all kinds of music. Man has taken the instrument of joy into his hand; but it is only to God's glory he strikes it. The creature is happy; God is glorified. Yes, praise, all praise! Untiring, satisfying fruit of the lips, uttering the joy of creation, and owning the glory of the Blessed One."

All sorts of instruments are needed in this universal chorus, the trumpet, the psaltery, the harp, the stringed instrument, the organ, the loud cymbal, and the high-sounding cymbal; the cymbal which can give but one note only, being as necessary as the stringed instrument which can give many. And all voices are needed here also, the voices of young men and maidens, of old men and children; the voices of those who are able only to sound one note of praise, as well as of those who can sound many. The heart-felt, "Praise the Lord," of the humble washer-woman, is as necessary to the grand harmony, as the reverberating eloquence of the great 316 preacher, or the melody of the gifted singer. For the word is, "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord." Yes, everything, -- "Ye dragons and all deeps; fire and hail; snow and vapors; stormy wind fulfilling His word; mountains and all hills; fruitful trees and all cedars; beasts and all cattle; creeping things and flying fowl; kings of the earth, and all people; princes and all judges of the earth; both young men and maidens; old men and children;" all must praise Him, for He is good to all.

And the day will come when this blessed command shall be literally obeyed. John saw it, and thus described it in Rev. v. 13, "And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."

Let us join in this anthem, beloved friends, now and here. Let us praise Him, whether we understand Him or not. Let us praise Him, even though His ways with us may seem to be too mysterious ever to be understood. Let us praise Him out of our weakness, and out of our ignorance, and out of our very vileness itself. Let us praise Him that we are weak, and ignorant, and covered with infirmity, because this is our most irresistible claim upon Him, and because so, and so only, can His power rest upon us. Let us praise Him that we are nothing and that He is all.

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"Praise ye the Lord.

"Praise God in His sanctuary:

"Praise Him in the firmament of His power.

"Praise Him for His mighty acts:

"Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.

"Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet:

"Praise Him with the psaltery and harp.

"Praise Him with the timbrel and dance:

"Praise Him with stringed instruments and organs.

"Praise Him upon the loud cymbals;

"Praise Him upon the high-sounding cymbals.

"Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.

"Praise ye the Lord."


Texts concerning the resurrection life of the believer: -- Col. iii.1-4; ii. 12, 20.  Gal. ii. 20; iv. 19; v. 16, 252 Cor. iv. 10, 11; vi. 161 John iv. 12-16; v. 11, 12; iii. 24Rom. vi. 11; viii. 2, 101 Cor. vi. 17John vi. 53-57; xi. 25, 26; iii. 15, 16; iv. 14; v. 24; xiv. 20-23; xv. 4-7; xvii. 21-23Eph. ii. 5, 6; iii. 16-19Phil. iii. 8-10Col. iii. 9, 10Eph. iv. 21-24Rom. vi. 13Ez. xxxvi. 26, 27.

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