The Psalms: Books 1 and 2

Psalm  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 10
In considering Books 1 and 2 of the Psalms, it is well to take in John 11:53, 5453Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. 54Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples. (John 11:53‑54). In the first Book, after the laying down the ground in Psa. 1 to 8, and the general state of feeling in the residue founded on Psa. 9 and 10, on to Psa. 17, after the testimonies and death of the Lord, there is infinitely more development of exercise of soul, beginning with the first confession of sin in Psa. 25.
The two first Psalms are, as it were, introductory-Psa. 1 of the great general truths, Psa. 2 of the circumstances in which, according to the ordained glory of Christ, they are brought out to light. Yet Christ in the midst of the Jews is, in the first, the matter of it. The first is His characteristics, the second is His power as set by the Father, King; and so the circumstances of the Psalms suitably.
The two first Psalms give thus very distinctly the great points of the whole Book. The godly man, and the title of Christ, but the former along with ungodliness, and the latter resisted, and then, in the rest, the consequences of power not being put forth to secure their position. Hence the sorrows and heart exercise of the godly meek in the midst of the evil, looking to the Lord and the ruin of the throne, though less frequent, and from time to time the position of Christ Himself; who must have entered into the sorrow and made atonement too; in order that there might be either hope or deliverance, but not the knowledge of it before deliverance. The Spirit of Christ enters into it all though, as leading the exercises of the godly-the Spring of them; but then in a Jewish way, looking for the destruction of enemies for deliverance, and the hope founded on the Spirit's work, leading to promises and assured blessings to Israel, for which Jehovah was trusted, though all seemed against-not a known atonement giving peace with God in heaven, as risen, in the sanctuary. Atonement must be the basis of blessing, but besides that, there is position, ours is in Christ in heavenly places; Christ's on earth was the perfect pattern of theirs. Only this involved material differences, as known union by the Holy Ghost.
To the end of Psa. 8 it gives an idea of this; the five following (i.e., Psa. 3 to 7) giving the moral condition of the Remnant, power not having yet come in; and Psa. 8 giving the larger extent of Son of Man glory, consequent on Messiah's rejection-these, and also the election of Zion, which is material in the historical course of dealings, for Zion is the holy hill. Hence David so importantly brings out all the course of them; he was the godly man and rejected king, though anointed in the midst of the ungodly, and in a certain sense, subdued the heathen, when delivered from the strivings of the people. (Compare Isaiah so, noting the end, and then Psa. 51 and 52.)
It is clear that the first Psalm brings in an entirely new element into the Jewish question, namely the distinction of the godly man within the people, and that distinction made good in the judgment, in contrast with the national government as a whole. Note also the beginning of Isa. 49, and the already noted use of "servant" there.
In the first and second Psalms we have nothing of the Son of David. No doubt David was anointed and Solomon his son, but Christ is not prophetically presented, in this leading introductory part, as the Son of God, and this, in a measure Nathanael's, and fully Peter's confession.
This throws great light on what passed in the Gospels. The Son of Man of Psa. 8 is added there, but, though He were Son of David, that is not the subject brought forward in the Gospel, at any rate till the blind man of Jericho. You have in Luke, where He is specially Son of Man in grace, the Jewish character in full, and exclusively for them, as they thus were in the two first chapters-as the song of the Angels, Son of David according to the flesh, and according to promise. But the general history of all the Gospels is what He personally was-the Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness, to be discerned by faith. And personally coming according to the Word, and fulfilling these Psalms, Christ was necessarily this—the expression of it even when it did not, as in John, go farther.
Note, the first two Psalms are God's mind and consequently the result "the end of the Lord "; Psa. 3, etc., is the experience of the godly man. These two introductory Psalms are of the greatest importance in this respect. And note, in these Psalms there is no experience nor sentiment of any kind; they hold a distinct place of revelation and exhortation—an introduction quite distinct from what follows. The Holy Ghost Himself tells us what the mind of the Lord is. Nor, in any case, is there a Psalm of the Son of David, not even Psa. 72, that is prophetic of his time; we find the same elsewhere as in Psa. 145, but not the experience of the time expressed by one in it.
We first get the great general effect of God's government when the two, godly and ungodly, are in the earth, and that of course among Jews—His delight is in the law of Jehovah. The ungodly are not so, but when looked at (as applied in fact) it contemplates the judgment, i.e., the close there is a judgment on the earth-they cannot stand in it; there will be, in result, a congregation of the righteous-they are not found there. In a word, in application it is the closing history of God's dealings with the Jews.
The principles of God's government are first stated, but they are never made good as against the wicked till judgment be executed; hence the application' to the latter days. The second Psalm brings this out more fully, because the Christ, the Anointed is brought in. Here all is definitely at the close, and the kings of the earth and the rulers rise up against Jehovah, and against His Anointed, to hinder His exercising His authority on the earth; but, as in heaven, He mocks their efforts, and He will speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. In spite of this raging He sets His King in Zion. It is not merely a judgment of right and wrong, godly and ungodly, but the establishing the authority of a Person in Zion. But the Psalm then goes back to Christ's birth upon the earth—He is the begotten Son there of Jehovah, who makes the decree—not only will He sit in Zion King, but the heathen are called upon to submit, for He is about, as placed there, to smite the kings of the earth, and take in possession its uttermost parts.
Thus in fact these two Psalms place us, at the close, in presence of the judgment. This is of all importance in understanding the Psalms; we are with the godly Remnant in the latter day, owning the law first of all—then in presence of the purpose of God to put Him, who has been born His Son on the earth, in possession of Messiah's place and Messiah's power and rights. It explains, too, much in the Gospels, and especially in Matthew, " Till the Son of Man come," says the Lord, yet He was there—" Elias cometh," but in spirit he had been there. Christ had entered into the position and sorrow of the godly Remnant, and made that atonement too which enables the Remnant to go through the sorrow and be accepted, though it is only at the close of it they learn its value.
There are only two subjects objectively put before us-the godly man under the government of God, the ungodly being rejected-and the establishment of the Anointed in power in Zion in spite of and over all. If Messiah takes a part in grace with the godly, and that de facto they go through the trial, that is a matter of experience—the revealed place is favor to godliness, and final full victory. Christ is in the world-the begotten Son of God.
The heavenly position of Christ is not the subject here, but Jehovah and the Anointed, and His being set King in Zion. But I cannot doubt that verses 4 and 5 present us Christ Himself in heaven; verses 6 and 7 declare, as a new matter, Jehovah's purpose, and the human birth of Christ upon earth, but as characterizing the Anointed set as King in Zion. But this Son is Jehovah in whom men have to trust-and there is a curse on those who trust in mere man; the Son will be angry, and execute the wrath of verse 5.
Hence the subject of the Psalms is the latter days, but, in as much as " in all their afflictions he was afflicted," and in the latter days He is coming from heaven in wrath, He has come and entered into all their sorrows as born of God in the earth, as " this day begotten "-as Son, but learning obedience by the things which He suffered; but this from man, compare Isaiah 50.
Although directly applicable doubtless to David, Psa. 3 and 4 seem to me to be more directly applicable to Christ. Psa. 5 and 6 more directly to the Remnant, even as to these they are deprecatory, chastening in displeasure. It is only in Psa. 25 that sins are acknowledged. In Psa. 16 Christ formally takes His place with the godly Remnant. In Psa. 3 and 4, viewed as applicable to Messiah, they are in the full consciousness of His glory and title. The godly man is set apart for Jehovah. These two Psalms are surely the state of the people in the latter day, but Messiah enters into it in Spirit so as to associate His title and confidence with them, just as David might for Israel, compare Psa. 3:88Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah. (Psalm 3:8). They cannot be separated from Him, nor will He from them. The body of the people are against the godly man—but he is set apart for God.
In Psa. 3, verse 7, Messiah and the godly are all looked at as having a common interest, the ungodly being busy and in power—Messiah in title of power, but the ungodly as yet rejecting His title, and the Remnant oppressed and suffering. In Psa. 8 He is recognized as Son of Man, and gone up on high and set over all things. This is quite a new place and character of Christ, not in Psalms z and 2, nor in any previous Psalms. So we find it brought out in the Gospels.
Thus in Psa. 3 to 7 we have the general principles in which Messiah necessarily is as taking part with the people—the rejected King's position, and the Remnant's too. After the circumstances are stated in Psa. 9 and 10, we have the proper condition of the Remnant in their feelings, Psa. 11-15. In Psa. 16, as we have said, Christ takes formally His place—there He alone takes His place; in Psa. 17. He associates the Remnant with Himself in what He expresses. In Psa. 18, His suffering is made the center of Israel's history, from Egypt to His own glorious dominion.
The following Psalms are spoken of elsewhere, in their places.