For the LORD guards the path of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Psalm 23., 46., 145., etc. The fact is that spiritual instincts are often far in advance of technical definitions, and the heart finds out that which is of permanent value over and above its historic interest, far more quickly than the intellect defines the reason thereof. Ere we pursue the study of the Psalms one by one, it may be helpful to note the main classes into which they may be grouped, as such classification will enable us the better to set in order the relation which each one bears to "the whole counsel of God." In the last of the Homiletics on Deuteronomy by the present writer, there is a threefold result indicated of communion between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man. When such fellowship is in the devotional sphere, it subserves the life of religion; when the Spirit of God impels to the going forth on a mission or the writing of a record, that is inspiration; when the Spirit of God discloses new truth or forecasts the future, that is revelation. These three divisions indicate three main groups under which the Psalms may be classified. For the most part, each one speaks for itself, and with sufficient clearness indicates to which of the three groups it belongs; and according to the group in which it is found will be the value and bearing of the psalm on the believer's experience, faith, and life.
I. MANY OF THE PSALMS ARE THE OUTCOME OF PRIVATE OR PUBLIC DEVOTION. It is in these that we get a priceless glimpse into the heartwork of Old Testament saints, and see how constant was their habit of pouring out their souls to God. Psalm 3., 4., 5., 7., 8., 10., 13., et alii, are illustrations of this. Whether the soul was elated by joy or oppressed with care, whether bowed down with fear or rejoicing over a great deliverance, whether the presence of God was enjoyed or whether his face was hidden, whether the spirit was soaring in rapture or sinking in dismay, - amid all changes, from the overhanging of the blackest thundercloud to the beaming of the brightest sunshine, all is told to God in song, or plea, or moan, or plaint, or wail, as if the ancient believers had such confidence in God that riley could tell him anything! . Many of these private prayers bear marks of limited knowledge and imperfect conception, and are by no means to be taken as models for us. But no saint ever did or could in prayer rise above the level of his own knowledge. Still, they knew that God heard and answered, not according to their thoughts, but according to his loving-kindness; hence they poured out their whole souls to God, whether in gladness or sadness. And so may we; and God will do exceeding abundantly for us above all that we ask or think.
II. ANOTHER GROUP OF PSALMS CONSISTS OF THOSE WHICH ARE THE PRODUCTS OF ANOTHER FORM OF DIVINE INSPIRATION. These are not necessarily addresses to God; they are, for the most part, an inspired and inspiriting rehearsal of the mighty acts of the Lord, and a call to the people of God to join in the song of praise. Psalm 33., 46., 48., 78., 81., 89., and many others, are illustrations of this. At the back of them all there is a revelation of God known, accepted, and enjoyed. And according to this great and glorious redemption are the people exhorted to join in songs of praise. There is, moreover, this distinction, for the most part, between the first group and the second - the first group reflects the passing moods of man; the second reflects the revealed character and ways of God. The first group is mostly for private use, as the moods of the soul may respond thereto; the. second group is also for sanctuary song, and indicates the permanent theme of the believer's faith and hope, even "the salvation of God." With regard to the first group we may say, "As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man." As to the second, the motto might be, "The Lord hath made known his salvation: therefore with our songs we will praise him." Under this head may also be set those calmly and sweetly meditative psalms, such as Psalm 23., 32., in which God's revelation of his works and ways gives its own hue to the musings of the saint. These are now the delight of believers, in public and in private worship, as the expression of an experience which is renewed in regenerate hearts age after age. None of them could possibly be accounted for by the psychology of the natural man; they accord only with the pneumatology of the spiritual man.
III. THE THIRD GROUP OF PSALMS CONSISTS OF THOSE IN WHICH THERE IS A DIRECT OR INDIRECT MESSIANIC REFERENCE AND FORECAST. Of these there are three kinds.
1. There are those directly and exclusively Messianic, such as Psalm 2., 45., 47., 72., 110. Of all these, the second psalm is, perhaps, throughout, as much as any of the psalms, clearly and distinctly applicable to the Coming One, and to him only. For the purpose of seeing and showing this, it may well be carefully studied. Every verse, every phrase, every word, tells; in fact, even the glorious fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is scarcely more clearly Messianic than the second psalm. Even Professor Cheyne is compelled to admit its Messianic reference, and he tells us that Ibn Ezra does so likewise. And that some of the psalms apply to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord himself assures us (Luke 24:44). And in an age like this, when destructive criticism is so popular, it is needful for the believing student to be the more accurate, clear, and firm.
2. Some psalms point to the era rather than to the Person of the Messiah. Such are the fiftieth and the eighty-seventh psalms. They are prophetic expositions of truths which pertain to the Messianic times, and receive their full elucidation from the developed expositions of the apostles and prophets of the New Testament; they cover the ground of the Messianic age.
3. Other psalms refer immediately to the writer himself, and have come to be regarded as Messianic because some of the words therein were quoted the Lord Jesus Christ and adopted as his own. Such a one is the twenty-second psalm, in which the writer bemoans his own sufferings and (according to the LXX.)his own transgressions. But it is not possible to apply every verse of this psalm to the Lord Jesus. He, however, being in all things made like unto his brethren, was "in all points tempted like as we are;" hence the very groans of his brethren fitted his own lips. He came to have fellowship with us in our sufferings that we might have fellowship with him in his! Thus there is established a marvellously close sympathy between Jesus and his saints, since his temptations, sorrows, and groans resembled theirs, To this discriminating and believing study of the first fifty psalms, the writer ventures to invite the Christian student and expositor. We must avoid the extreme of those who, with Home, would reheard most, if not all, the psalms as Messianic; and also the extreme of those who would regard none as such. Because our Lord said that all things must be fulfilled that were written in the Psalms concerning him, we may not infer that words which were written concerning him filled up all the Psalms; nor, with the unbeliever, may we regard the claim of prophecy as invalid through any repugnance to the supernatural. Intelligent discernment and loving faith are twin sisters; may they both be our attendants during our survey of these priceless productions of Hebrew pens! And may the Spirit of God be himself our Light and our Guide! - C.
The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous.I. CONTRASTED PICTURES OF LIFE. —
1. That of the happy man illustrated by the law of attraction and repulsion. See the sentiments, habits, and disposition
(i) (ii) 2. By the law of vegetable life (ver. 3). The happy life of the good, like a fruit tree, is (i) (ii) (iii) 3. With all this the life of the ungodly is contrasted (vers. 4-6):(i) As shown in the reason of the contrast. The character of the ungodly is self-evolved from their own nature. That of the good, from God.(ii) In the result of the contrast. The ungodly having no solidity, nothing substantial in themselves, are compared to "chaff," which is light and empty and easily carried away. And having no foundation, they cannot "stand in the judgment." And having nothing to support them, must perish while the good shall prosper evermore. II. LESSONS FROM THESE CONTRASTED PICTURES. — 1. That true happiness is not the result of chance, but of law — fundamental, immutable, Divine. This law may be thus stated: Every effect must have an adequate cause. An uprooted tree cannot bear fruit; so a soul whose faith and love are torn away from God cannot be happy or prosperous. The specific law of spiritual good is this: Character determines destiny. 2. That God has so graciously arranged the conditions of happiness or misery that it is dependent upon each one's personal choice. (D. C. Hughes, A. M.)
(ii) 2. By the law of vegetable life (ver. 3). The happy life of the good, like a fruit tree, is (i) (ii) (iii) 3. With all this the life of the ungodly is contrasted (vers. 4-6):(i) As shown in the reason of the contrast. The character of the ungodly is self-evolved from their own nature. That of the good, from God.(ii) In the result of the contrast. The ungodly having no solidity, nothing substantial in themselves, are compared to "chaff," which is light and empty and easily carried away. And having no foundation, they cannot "stand in the judgment." And having nothing to support them, must perish while the good shall prosper evermore. II. LESSONS FROM THESE CONTRASTED PICTURES. — 1. That true happiness is not the result of chance, but of law — fundamental, immutable, Divine. This law may be thus stated: Every effect must have an adequate cause. An uprooted tree cannot bear fruit; so a soul whose faith and love are torn away from God cannot be happy or prosperous. The specific law of spiritual good is this: Character determines destiny. 2. That God has so graciously arranged the conditions of happiness or misery that it is dependent upon each one's personal choice. (D. C. Hughes, A. M.)
2. By the law of vegetable life (ver. 3). The happy life of the good, like a fruit tree, is
(i) (ii) (iii) 3. With all this the life of the ungodly is contrasted (vers. 4-6):(i) As shown in the reason of the contrast. The character of the ungodly is self-evolved from their own nature. That of the good, from God.(ii) In the result of the contrast. The ungodly having no solidity, nothing substantial in themselves, are compared to "chaff," which is light and empty and easily carried away. And having no foundation, they cannot "stand in the judgment." And having nothing to support them, must perish while the good shall prosper evermore. II. LESSONS FROM THESE CONTRASTED PICTURES. — 1. That true happiness is not the result of chance, but of law — fundamental, immutable, Divine. This law may be thus stated: Every effect must have an adequate cause. An uprooted tree cannot bear fruit; so a soul whose faith and love are torn away from God cannot be happy or prosperous. The specific law of spiritual good is this: Character determines destiny. 2. That God has so graciously arranged the conditions of happiness or misery that it is dependent upon each one's personal choice. (D. C. Hughes, A. M.)
II. LESSONS FROM THESE CONTRASTED PICTURES. — (D. C. Hughes, A. M.)
II. LESSONS FROM THESE CONTRASTED PICTURES. —
(D. C. Hughes, A. M.)
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
(Sir Richard Parker.)
(Sir Richard Parker.).
Why do the heathen rage?Acts 4:25-27). But this was not a literal one. It may be said to have an ever-repeated fulfilment in the history of the Church, which is a history of God's kingdom upon earth, a kingdom which in all ages has the powers of the world arrayed against it, and in all ages the same disastrous result to those who have risen "against the Lord and against His anointed." And so it shall be to the end, when, perhaps, that hostility will be manifested in some yet deadlier form, only to be overthrown forever, that the kingdoms of this world may become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.
(J. J. S. Perowne.)2 Samuel 7, which sets forth the dignity and dominion of the King of Israel as God's son and representative. This grand poem may be called an idealising of the monarch of Israel, but it is an idealising with expected realisation. The Psalm is prophecy as well as poetry; and whether it had contemporaneous persons and events as a starting point or not, its theme is a real person, fully possessing the prerogatives and wielding the dominion which Nathan had declared to be God's gift to the King of Israel. The Psalm falls into four strophes of three verses each, in the first three of which the reader is made spectator and auditor of vividly painted scenes, while, in the last, the Psalmist exhorts the rebels to return to allegiance. In the first strophe (vers. 1-3) the conspiracy of banded rebels is set before us with extraordinary force. All classes and orders are united in revolt, and hurry and eagerness mark their action, and throb in their words. Vers. 4-6 change the scene to heaven. The lower half of the picture is all eager motion and strained effort; the upper is full of Divine calm. God needs not to rise from His throned tranquillity, but regards, undisturbed, the disturbances of earth. What shall we say of that daring and awful image of the laughter of God? The attribution of such action to Him is so bold that no danger of misunderstanding it is possible. It sends us at once to look for its translation, which probably lies in the thought of the essential ludicrousness of opposition, which is discerned in heaven to be so utterly groundless and hopeless as to be absurd. Another speaker is now heard, the anointed king, who in the third strophe (vers. 7-9) bears witness to himself, and claims universal dominion as his by a Divine decree. In vers. 10-12 the poet speaks in solemn exhortation. The kings addressed are the rebel monarchs whose power seemed so puny when measured against that of "my King." But all possessors of power and influences are addressed.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. THE EXTENT OF THE REVOLT. Nations, People, Kings, Rulers. Christ has encountered this opposition —
1. In all nations.
2. In all ranks.
3. In all generations. Christ was rejected by His own age (Acts 4:27).
II. THE DETERMINATION BY WHICH THIS REVOLT WAS CHARACTERISED. It is —
III. THE SECRET CAUSE OF THIS REVOLT. They rebel against the laws of God in Christ.
IV. THE VANITY OF THIS OPPOSITION TO CHRIST.
1. The unreasonableness of it. "WHY do the heathen rage?" No satisfactory answer can be given.
2. The uselessness of it. It is "vain," because useless.
V. THE CONCLUSION. The Psalmist gives —
1. An admonition: "Be wise now."
2. A direction: "Serve the Lord." Do Him homage.
(W. L. Watkinson.)I. THE KING (vers. 6-7).
1. Divinely appointed. "I have set." The Father speaking.
2. Divinely anointed. The name Christ or Messiah signifies anointed.
3. Assured of universal rule (ver. 8). The world belongs to Him. He has created it. He has redeemed it. He shall ultimately possess it.
II. MESSIAH'S FOES (vers. 1, 2, 3). The citadel assailed because of its Sovereign; the Church the target of malice and mischief because of the kingly Christ. Crowned heads in general have been sworn enemies of the Lord's anointed. The hostility of these foes is —
1. Deliberate. They "imagine," rather "meditate."
2. Combined. "They take counsel together."
3. Determined. They "set themselves," as fully resolved to accomplish their object.
4. Violent. They "rage." Nothing has ever excited so much hostility as Christ and His Church.
III. MESSIAH'S VICTORY (vers. 4, 5). Fourth verse is strikingly metaphorical. The Victor is in the heavens — watching the plots, reading the thoughts, hearing the decisions of His enemies, and He "sitteth" there, serene as the march of stars and suns, calm as the glassy lake locked in the embrace of summer morning. Shall "have them in derision." Their efforts shall result in self-defeat and self-destruction, and help to the realisation of God's own purposes. The devil and his agents often outwit themselves; they mean extinction, but God overrules it for permanent extension. No decree of the Divine government can be frustrated. Truth must prevail. He shall "speak in wrath." His wrath is not vindictiveness, but the recoil of His love; not revenge, but retribution.
IV. MESSIAH'S MESSAGE (vers. 10-12). This is a call to —
1. Teachableness. "Be instructed." Learn your folly in opposing the Lord.
2. Service. "Serve the Lord." Do His bidding. Be governed by His laws.
3. Homage. "Kiss the Son." The Eastern mode of showing homage to a king.
4. A call backed by the most weighty reasons: "lest He be angry."
(J. O. Keen, D. D,)
Monday Club Sermons.Two contrasted topics, the King and the rebellion of His subjects.
I. THE KING.
1. The dignity of His person. Not a King, or the King, but my King. One able and worthy to represent me.
2. The extent of His dominion. The nations of men measure not the realm of Christ. All grades of intelligences throughout the universe owe Him allegiance.
3. The greatness of His power. Wide as is His kingdom, His power is adequate to hold and govern it. Spiritual supremacy involves supremacy of every name. To secure it, upheavals and overturnings are inevitable. Under the pressure of spiritual forces, all other forces must give way.
4. The blessedness of His sway. The prophetic representations of the Messiah's reign are glorious and happy. All blessings come down upon the people.
II. THE REBELLION OF HIS SUBJECTS.
1. Its universality.
2. Its wickedness. Men's treatment of Christ is more gratuitously wicked than anything else. He came, self-moved, to do them infinite good.
3. Its impotence.
4. Its folly. This rebellion is misery in its progress, and ruin in its result. It fills the soul with wretchedness and fear in time, and leaves it under the wrath of God in eternity.
(Monday Club Sermons.)I. THE DETERMINED HATE OF THE PEOPLE (vers. 1-3). The word "rage" suggests the idea of Oriental frenzy and excitement of a tumultuous concourse of crowds of people, all wildly angry. "Imagine" is the same word as is rendered "meditate" in Psalm 1:2. While the godly meditate on God's law, the ungodly meditate a project which is vain. Let us not be in league with the world, for its drift is against the Lord.
II. THE DIVINE TRANQUILLITY (vers. 4-6). The scene shifts to heaven; God is ever undismayed.
III. MESSIAH'S MANIFESTO (vers. 7-9). Standing forth, He produces and recites one of the eternal decrees. Before time was, He was the only-begotten of the Father. The world is His heritage, but the gift is conditional on prayer. For this He pleads, and let us plead with Him. The pastoral staff for the sheep; the "iron rod" for those who oppose.
IV. OVERTURES AND COUNSELS OF PEACE (vers. 10-12). "Kiss," the expression of homage (1 Samuel 10:1).
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
1. The opposition would be universal, and characterise all classes of men.
2. It is intense. The heathen "rage."
3. It is organised. They consult to find pretexts to justify their hostility. It is violent and aggressive. The restraints of the gospel are irksome and hateful. When argument and oratory failed, force was employed. It was foretold that all the crafty counsel and all the violent opposition should fail. Vain to imagine that human craft can contravene omniscience, or human power overcome omnipotence. It is the potsherd striving with his Maker. If God's expostulation be disregarded, then He speaketh in judgment. While adverse nations perish, the kingdom of Christ shall continue and become universal. When the Son says, "I will declare the decree," He has respect to future revelations as well as to the one then announced. He intimates that henceforth there shall be brighter and more ample discoveries of the Divine purpose. And the promise was verified by fact. The decree is not only declared, it is confirmed by the resurrection, the intercession and the enthronement of Messiah. The universality of the Redeemer's kingdom is certain, but do existing facts look towards its consummation? Wonderful preparations are indicative of this. The great programmes of discovery and of instrumentality nearly complete. The great programme of prophecy is nearly accomplished.
(W. Cooke, D. D.)
(Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
Imagine a vain thing.
(F. W. Macdonald, M. A.)
1. Some young king, entering upon the rule of God's Kingdom, has borne in upon his mind, from his very position, those strange and unprecedented words of Nathan — words of inexhaustible meaning, and yet quite fresh from their novelty — and entering into their spirit as, to a pure and thoughtful mind, they opened up regions of contemplation interminable in extent and full of wonders, and combining them perhaps with some show of opposition to his rule at home, or some threatened defection from his authority by tribes abroad, — the young king east his thoughts and aspirations into this hymn.
2. And what young monarch was in such a condition except Solomon? Every one of the conditions of the problem suits him. He was the seed of David, and therefore the Son of God. He was appointed king on Zion Hill. His rule tended to universality, and his aspirations, being those of a profound intellect and, at the same time, of an uncorrupted youth, must have aimed at conferring on all peoples the blessings of God's Kingdom.
3. If we could realise to ourselves the thoughts and emotions of those early Davidic kings — standing, as all of them did, to Jehovah as His anointed, bearing all of them the title of His Son, and pointing forward to such a heritage, even all peoples; and yet so surrounded with darkness, and having but such imperfect instruments in their hands wherewith to realise their ideal, and so circumscribed on every side — what aspirations must have filled their hearts as they stood thus before so high a destiny! And yet, as all things seemed to make it impossible for them to reach it, what perplexities must have tormented them till, wearied out by the riddles of their position, some of them turned wilfully aside from the true path!
4. But if we can ill fathom the thoughts of these great creative minds, how much less those of the true theocratic King, the true Messiah and Son of God, when entering upon His kingdom, and standing at its threshold with all the possibilities of it clear before Him, and the way needful to be trod to reach it also clear! We know that He was sometimes troubled in spirit, and sometimes rejoiced greatly, alternating between a gloom more dark than falls on any son of man and a rightness more luminous than created light. But with full view of His work He entered on it, and with full view of the glory He prosecuted it to the end.
5. The Psalm, if a typical Psalm in the mind of its human author, referred to the installation of the theocratic king on Zion, who took God's place over His kingdom, and stood to Him in all the endearing relations expressed by the name of Son. The writer to the Hebrews finds in it the statement of the manifestation of the true theocratic King and Son in power from His resurrection and ascension; and His principle is just. The one was a rehearsal of the other. All this Old Testament machinery, and this calling one who was king by the name Son, and the like, would never have been but for the other; it was only in order to suggest the other and prepare for it. It was a prophecy of the other. It contained the same ideas. And its having been imperfect, as it was, implied that the other — that which was perfect — should also be. Only, that which the Old Testament writer had not yet foreseen had now taken place; the material embodiment of the ideas of the kingdom had passed away, and all things had become spiritual in Christ.
(Professor A. B. Davidson.)
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