The Psalms: The Five Books

Psalm  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 10
In the first Book Christ is presented in His title of righteousness, and, according to the counsels of God, association with the Remnant pointed out, and its state, and then the full result in the counsels of God, Psa. 8—then Christ in the place He took, Psa. 16, 17 and 18—the thoughts, feelings, judgment of the saint, and, at the end, how Christ came down into the place He did, setting aside the Jewish figures, and laying the ground of righteousness Himself. The result and holy wisdom of owning Him is in Psa. 12
The second Book is somewhat different, though there is an' analogy. It begins not with Christ but with the condition of the Remnant, and hence has more for its subject the facts of the latter day, Israel being driven out. The change takes place by the introduction of a triumphant Messiah, and the Remnant thereupon in renewed relationship with the God of Jacob. Psa. 49 is a commentary or improvement founded on it. But then the great public meaning of all the great scene of God's dealings is brought in—God judges His people and the world—He gathers those who come to His covenant by sacrifice, the Jewish ones being set aside as of any avail—the Remnant come in on the confession of their guilt in the death of Christ, and then sacrifices of righteousness are offered. The internal state is thus gone into—the outward oppression and inward state of the Jews, as judged by Christ and displayed in Judas and Antichrist, see Psa. 55; 56, 57 and 58; but God comes in in answer to all this, and the state of things is judged, and blessing comes from Him who is power.
But then another truth is brought out—the exaltation of Christ, His ascension, and thus the full blessing and triumph of Israel is brought in; but for this (Psa. 69) the humiliation of Christ, and the conduct of the Jews is brought out. The appeal of Christ, and His connection with Israel, deprived of strength, is presented to us in Psa. 70 and 71, and His Solomon reign in Psa. 72. The details will come hereafter. In Psa. 62 and 63 Christ is against introduced—He waits on God, and desires God when there is naught else, and no access to the Sanctuary.
In the third Book, God, good to Israel, to such as are of a clean heart, is the theme. The public attacks of the outward enemies in the latter day, the judgment of God, and Christ's taking part in the sorrow and in the burden and curse, are brought out in order to complete deliverance in Psa. 89 He (Psa. 87) being reckoned to Sion as her Son, who then does not shrink from comparison with all the world's glory.
But the third Book requires some further remarks. There can be nothing without Christ. But Christ is not the subject of this as in the two first, neither as the direct object as in Book 1, nor as the answer to need, as in Book 2. Christ was among the Jews, and here we get back to Israel, who can have nothing without Him, and all whose hope is founded on Him. But Christ was among the Jews, not in Israel, properly speaking.
Here then we have not David, save in Psa. 86 and perhaps two others. But Asaph, and the spirit, and subjects of the psalms are different—not the sorrows and sufferings of a sympathizing Messiah, and a Remnant associated with Him, but grace giving to Israel what they had forfeited, and hence the former deliverances of God referred to—the account of the loss of all by their conduct—the calling of David—still His throne cast down too. Hence the inroad of outward enemies, against even restored Israel, is narrated. But great principles of God's dealings and government are brought out, “Truly God is good to Israel"—there is favor and grace. But the distinction of those clean in heart is made. Faith is tried by the prosperity of the wicked, which the sanctuary alone explains. God's judgment explains all, Psa. 75 and 76; in the latter, Christ also will take the seat of judgment.
Meanwhile ancient deliverances are referred to, which were of grace, and of all Israel, as Psa. 77 and the whole of Psa. 80. Psa. 78 explains how and why they had been judged, and the rejection of the natural Heir, and God's electing grace the means of bringing in blessing. In Psa. 81, the new moon of Israel's restoration appears—it recalls again deliverance from Egypt, and again we have judgment of the judges, and the last inroads. In Psa. 86, where we find David, and Christ identifying Himself with Israel and its sorrows, it is as God's witness against false gods, “All nations... shall come and worship.”In Psa. 87, He is reckoned to Zion; in Psa. 88, He bears the whole wrath against the people; and in Psa. 89, He centers all Jehovah's mercies for them in Himself, on which the appeal for the intervention of Jehovah, according to His promise to David's seed, is founded.
The fourth Book rests, for the full blessing of Israel, on the unchangeable and eternal character of Jehovah their God. In eternity God, He had been in all generations their dwelling place. Upon man's changingness, and vanity of life, and the stability of the being of Him, with whom a thousand years is but as yesterday when it is passed, the Spirit of Christ in the believing Remnant turns to look for His redemption who had always been their dwelling place. He had set their secret sins in the light of His countenance—His anger consumed them—they look for mercy. It is the introductory cry founded on the faith which looked quite back, and to Jehovah as always their dwelling place.
Then comes the return to the names in which God revealed Himself to Abraham, and the inquiry where the secret place of Abraham's God was—where faith found Him. Messiah declares He takes Jehovah, i.e., God's relationship to Israel, as that place. From these two Psalms the Book closes—only (Psa. 102) the rejected Messiah is found to be this very same enduring Jehovah, the same Eternal God in whom was Israel's trust.