Andrew A. (Andrew Alexander) Bonar.

Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms online

. (page 2 of 42)
Online LibraryAndrew A. (Andrew Alexander) BonarChrist and His Church in the Book of Psalms → online text (page 2 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

under our ocean of sin and misery, his sonship seemed ob-
scured till he emerged at his resurrection on the third day.
(Acts xiii. 33.) And even so again, when he appears in glory
at his coming, investing his own with their resurrection-dress
(their proper clothing as adopted sons), the long-unseen Son of
God shall be saluted as " My Son " by the Father as he places
him on his visible throne. At what time that manifestation
shall occur depends on his own request (ver. 8) — a request which
he shall prefer whenever his purposes are ripe — and then He
arises to shake terribly the earth. Does the reader not recog-
nise in ver. 10, the voice of the tender, long-suffering, compas-
sionate Saviour? It resembles his mode of expostulation in
Proverbs i. 23, in prospect of that " laugh" which is the ex-
treme opposite of pity, and which is referred to in Prov, i. 26, as
used by himself against his unyielding foes, even as it is here
by the Father. (Ver. 4.) Come, then, great and small, fall
upon his neck, and be reconciled now. Be well pleased with
him with whom the Father is well pleased ; " Kiss the Son," —
this is saving faith. For, " Yet a little while and his wrath
shall be kindled." (Ver. 1 2.) Behold, he comes quickly !
Blessed are all they who put their trust in him.

It is not, then, to be forgotten that the time when Messiah
utters these strains is supposed to be the time of his resurrec-
tion. This seems to be declared to us in Acts xiii. 33. He had
felt the united assault of earth and hell, but had proved all to be
vain ; for He that sat in heaven had gloriously raised him from
the dead, and his enemies had sunk to the ground as dead men.
We might imagine this Psalm poured forth by him as he stood


in Joseph's garden, beholding the empty sepulchre on the one
hand, and the glory at the right hand of the Father on the
other. It is thus we easily understand the words in ver. 7 :
" This day have I begotten thee ;" the Father declaring him
his " only begotten," by raising him from the dead, and doing
this as a pledge of his farther exaltation, — ^placing him (ver. 8)
in the position of Intercessor, ere he shall arise to return as
acknowledged Conqueror and King.

thTprecetog'*^ Glauciug back now upon Psalm i., in connection with this
more lofty and triumphant song, we see how appropriately the
book of Israel's sacred songs has begun. It has sketched to
us the calm, holy path of the righteous, and then the final re-
sults in the day of victory, when the Anointed shall have put
down all enemies, and the way of the ungodly shall have
perished. We shall meet with these topics continually recur-
ring in the course of the book ; it was good, then, to present an
epitome at the outset.

Glancing, also, at particular expressions in both psalms, we
see, at the beginning and end, links of connection with the pre-
ceding, in such expressions as ver. 1, "meditating a vain thing,"
in contrast to the meditating on the law (Psa. i. 3), while " the
way of the ungodly shall perish," in Psalm i. 8, is brought to
mind when we read in ver. 12 of "their perishing from the
way." It carries our thoughts to Joshua xxiii. 16. as Psa. i. 3
did to Joshua i. 8. And does not the Baptist get his expression,
" chaff he shall burn with unquenchable fire" (Matt. iii. 12) by
joining Psa. i. 4, and ii. 12 ?

Used by Christ. Our Lord, whcu ou earth, might read this Psalm as his his-
tory, — the Righteous One, who ever meditated on the law of
the Lord, and kept aloof from the vain meditations of the hea-
then, opposed by men who could not submit to the restraints
of holiness, but in spite of all, exalted at length to honour. For
here we have Messiah, (the head of every one who seeks Jeho-
vah's face), exhibited in his majesty, and in full prospect of
final triumph. The subject of the whole may thus be said to
be the assertion of " the righteous One's claims to the throne."
Some one has proposed to entitle it rather, " The eternal de-
cree," in reference to ver. 6, of Avhich the Psalm might be


spoken of as the development. But inasmuch as the Eternal
decree forms only one topic, while the burden is Messiah him-
self directly, it is undoubtedly more exact and descriptive to
give as its title,
The certainty of the Righteous One's exaltation to the throne.


A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

1 Lord, how are they increased that trouble me ! many are they'that rise

up against me.

2 Many there be which say of ray soul, There is no help for him in God.


3 But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me ; my glory, and the lifter up of

mine head.

4 I cried unto the Lord with my voice, — and he heard me out of his holy

hill. Selah.

5 I laid me down and slept ; — I awaked ; for the Lord sustained me.

6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, — that have set themselves

against me round about.

7 Arise, O Lord ; save me, O my God !

For thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek-bone :
Thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

8 Salvation belongeth unto the Lord : — thy blessing is upon thy people.


There is strong evidence for the genuineness of the titles of the The title.
Psalms ; they occur in all the Hebrew Manuscripts.* This
Psalm was written by David, " when he fled from Absalom his
son." The Holy Ghost may have used these circumstances in
David's lot, as an appropriate occasion on which to dictate
such a hymn of hopeful confidence in the Lord.

The connection with Psalm ii., is natural, whether we look The connection
to David's case when he penned it, or to the more general cir- ceWng!^^''''
cumstances referred to throughout. When the men of Israel
refused David as "King in Zion," (God's chosen type of a greater
King), it was natural for him to raise the cry to the Lord,

* There are only tJdrtij-three of the Psalms that have no title at nil, and these
are called by the Jews, " Orphan Psalms."

A Psalm for
all ages.


" Lord, how are they increased that trouble me." (Compare

2 Sam. XV. 12.) And not less natural is it to place this cry
next to the closing verses of Psalm ii., a Psalm wherein we
were told how men despised His call and plotted against Je-
hovah and his Christ. Hengstenberg has remarked : — " It is
certainly not to be regarded as an accident that Psalms the
third and fourth follow immediately the first and second. They,
as well as Psalm second, are occupied with a revolt against
the Lord's. Anointed. And when, in ver. 8, the enemy is
spoken of as ' smitten on the cheek-hone, and his teeth broken,'
there is the same tone of conscious safety, mingled with con-
tempt of their efforts, as in the ' laugh' of Psalm ii."

It is a Psalm that may be found as suitable and needful in
the latter days, as when David wrote it. When waves of sor-
row and calamity are dashing over the ship of the Church, it
may borrow from this Psalm that ground of hope which long
ago Jonah borrowed from it in his strange trial, " Salvation is
of the Lord," (Jonah ii. 9.) " Affliction and desertion are
two very different things, but often confounded by the world,"
and confounded too " by the fearful imaginations of our own
desponding hearts, and the suggestions of our adversary." —
Head''^ *^^ This seems to be a morning hymn (ver. 5.) And so Horsley

hesitates not to call it " A prayer of Messiah, in the character
of a Priest, coming at an early hour to prepare the altar of
burnt-offering for the morning sacrifice." Every member of
Christ may use it ; and we can easily see how the Head him-
self could adopt it as his own. We feel as if sympathy were
more sure to us, when we know that the Lord Jesus himself
once was in circumstances when such a morning hymn ex-
pressed his state and feelings ; for now every believer can say,
" My Head once used this Psalm ; and while I use its strains,
his human heart will recall the day of his humiliation, when
himself was comforted thereby."

Who more truly than he could say of his foes, "How many !"
since it was " the world" that hated him. (John vii. 7.) On
the cross, did they not upbraid him with the taunt, " There is
no salvation for him in God,"' (ver. 2), when they cast in his


teeth, " If he will have him" (Matt, xxvii. 43) ; saying it not
only of him, but to him ? But (as in Psalm xxii.,) he cried
unceasingly in the Father's ear the more his foes reviled — " I
cry — he heareth." Often he retired to the Mount of Olives,
and either amid its olives or at Bethany, "lay down and slept,"
after enduring the contradiction of sinners all day long ; yes,
even after such a day as that whereon they took up stones
to stone him. He foresaw the ruin of these foes, (ver. 7),
when the Lord should arise.* What a victory ! and all the
glory of it belonging to the Lord, and all the blessing to his
people ! (ver. 8.)

A believer can take up every clause, and sing it all in sym-
pathy with his Head ; hated by the same world that hated
him ; loved and kept by the same Father that lifted up his
head ; heard and answered and sustained as he was, and enter-
ing on with him final victory in the latter day. It was fitting
to put the arresting mark, " Sdah," at ver. 2, where the foes
are spoken of ; at ver. 4, where the cry and its answer are
declared ; and at ver. 8, where the final result appears. ^'Selah,"
whatever be its etymology,-}- marks a proper place to pause and
ponder. (Hengstenberg.) Here each Selah stops us at a
scene in which there is spread before our eyes sufficient for the
time ; first, the host of foes, as far as eye can reach ; next,
the one suppliant crying into the ears of the Lord of hosts ;
and, lastly, that one suppliant's secure repose, certain of pre-
sent safety and future triumph. May we not, then, justly en-
title this Psalm,

The Righteous One's safety amid foes ?

Used by the

The three
Selahs, v. 2, 4, 8.

* The English Prayer-Book translation is, " Up, Lord, and help me ;" re-
minding us ot the sudden unexpected rise of the Guards at Waterloo, after
long and patient waiting for the seasonable moment.

t Gesenius' [Gramm. § 93,] thinks that in pj'pD the n_ is motion towards,
q. d. ad silentium ; and in that case the root is related to H /SS^j ^'^ ^*^ still.




To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David.

1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness .
Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress ;
Have mercy upon me and hear my prayer.

2 O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame ?
How long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing ? Selah.

3 But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself:
The Lord will hear when I call unto him.

4 Stand in awe and sin not :

Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, — and put your trust in the Lord.

6 There be many that say. Who will shew us any good ?
Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

7 Thou hast put gladness in my heart.

More than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.

8 I will both lay me down in peace and sleep :
For thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.

There is no solid reason for doubting the genuineness of those
titles, or inscriptions, that are prefixed to many of the Psalms.
They are as ancient as the text of the Psalms themselves. The
ancient versions prove that they are no modern addition. If,
then, we may put confidence in them, why is it that so fre-
quently these fragmentary marks are so obscure ? Every one
feels their obscurity ; for to this day no criticism has succeeded
in satisfactorily shewing the true sense of " On Neginoth," and
similar terms. Musical instruments are almost always re-
ferred to in these terms ; but these joyful instruments of holy
service have been lost in the ruin of Israel's temple. It is some-
what, however, for us to know that the times of the true David
and Solomon were typified, as to their manifold streams of joy,
by the " Neginoth," " Sheminith," and similar forms of the
harp and psaltery.

The Psalm before us, describing the chief good, was one sung
on Zion, in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, on
the " Neginoth,'" some stringed instrument, played upon by the
stroke of the fingers, or of the musician's plectrum. Its theme
calls for a joyous instrument.


It is the first Psalm we have found inscribed, " To the Chief The chief

. musician.

Musician," and there is an interesting propriety in this benig
the first so inscribed. For, its subject being throughout Jehovah
as the chief good — Israel's true blessedness — what more fitting
than to give it to be sung in the midst of all the people by
Asaph, the leader of the sacred music in the days of David ?
(1 Chron. xvi. 5.)* May we not suppose that the " Chief
Musician" occupied a high place in the typical economy?
Was he not used by the Lord to represent to Israel Him who
is to lead the praise of the great congregation ? (Psalm xxii.
25.) When he sang such deeply melancholy Psalms as the
twenty-second was the scene not fitted to bring into the minds
of God's people the idea of the suffering Saviour, passing from
the unutterable groanings to the joy unspeakable ?

This Psalm takes a survey of earth's best enjoyments — ^the
sons of men revelling in the plenty of corn and wine, the The scope of

=> r .; ^ ' _ the Psalm.

joy of harvest and of vintage. Their mirth is loud, theii
mockery of less mirthful ones than themselves is keen, vanity
is their pursuit, false joys their fascinations. To such a gay
multitude our Psalm represents One approaching who has
come from weeping in secret places. (Ver. 1 .) Entering their
circle, this Righteous One calls upon them to consider their
ways : " ye sons of men," is his cry, " how long will ye
turn my glory into shame ? How long will ye love vanity
and seek after lies ?"f When will you leave broken cis-
terns ? When will you turn from the golden calf back to
the God of Israel, your glory ? A pause ensues — " Selah"
marks it. It is the silence of one who waits for the effect of
his expostulation ; but there is no response, and he lifts up his

* There are fifty-three Psalms which hears this inscription, " To the Chief
Musician." The word HiiiQ never means " Conqueror," as some have wished
to render it. It means always " standing over," as a foreman, and is used
only of the arrangements made in regard to the Levites in their courses. (See
Hengstenherg, who confesses this by Hab. iii. 19.)

f It has been observed, that, for the sake of all ages, the psalmist is led by
the Holy Ghost to use temas such as "^?o>-y," a term which describes what-
ever man values ; " lies," which may include under it every degree and species
of deception ; and " vanity," expressive of all those earthly, unsatisfying objects
sought after by rich and poor.


voice again, and leaves his testimony among them : " But know
the Lord hath set apart the godly for himself." The Lord
keeps the godly ; each such man is like the witnesses of Revela-
tion xi. 6 : " These have power to shut heaven, and to smite the
earth ;" for " The Lord heareth when I call upon him." Well
then may the sons of men give ear. " Stand in awe — consider
— flee to the atoning sacrifices appointed by the God of m.y
righteousness" (ver. 1). Having so done stay yourselves on
Him ; for I testify that the experience of all who have tried
this plan of happiness has been such that they can answer the
question, " Who can shew us any good ?" hj an upward look to
Jehovah, "Lord, lift thou on us the light of thy countenance ! "
Yes, (says the speaker to his God, to whom he had cast his
upward glance, and by whose look of love he seems riveted,)
no sooner did my prayer ascend than the answer came ; no
sooner did I look to Him than the sun broke through the dark
clouds. "Thou hast put more gladness in my heart than
in the time when their corn and wine abound. I lay me
down and sleep in peace; for thou, Lord, (giving me the
full portion of Israel dwelling in their land of corn and wine,
with its heavens dropping dew, Deut. xxxiii. 28,) mahest me to
dwell in safety, all alone !"

There is an undoubted allusion in the last verse, in the
niDi'? '^'^2b to the blessing of Moses in Deut. xxxiii. 28, where
Israel's final destiny is declared to be " dwelling "11^ ntOS, in
undisturbed security alone/' and needing none to help or bless
them but Jehovah. In this Psalm the godly one anticipates
that blessedness as yet to be his j)ortion, and so we see him fix-
ing his eye on the future, even while at j)resent his gladness
is greater far than all earth can yield. The vanity of the sons
of men is all the more clearly seen in the additional light of the
coming glory,
jj^ed by the ^^Q gau easily understand how any true child of God can
use these words — they so exactly delineate his state of feel-
ing both toward his God, and toward his fellow-men. But in
no lips could they be so appropriate as in His "who spake
as never man spake." Indeed, is there not throughout a


tone like that of " Wisdom," in Proverbs i. and viii. ? The
party addressed is the " sons of men," as there ; and there
is the same expostulatory and anxious voice, " Hoiv long, ye
simple ones ? " (i. 22). "Hear, for I will speak of excellent
things," (viii. 6). We might imagine every syllable of this
precious Psalm used by our Master some evening, when about
to leave the Temple for the day, and retiring to his wonted
rest at Bethany, (ver. 8), after another fruitless expostulation
with the men of Israel. And we may read it still as the very
utterance of his heart, longing over man, and delighting in God.
But further, not only is this the utterance of the Head, it
is also the language of one of his members in full sympathy
with him in holy feeling. This is a Psalm with which the
righteous may make their dwellings resound, morning and
evening, as they cast a sad look over a world that rejects God's
grace. They may sing it while they cling more and more
every day to Jehovah, as their all-sufficient heritage, now and
in the age to come. They may sing it, too, in the happy con-
fidence of faith and hope, when the evening of this world's day
is coming, and may then fall asleep in the certainty of what
shall greet their eyes on the Resurrection morning —
Sleeping embosomed in his grace
'Till morning-shadows flee.

If, therefore, we were required to state the substance of this
Psalm in a few words, we should scarcely err in describing its
theme as

The Godly One's Chief Good.


To the Chief Musician upon Nehiloth, A Psalm of Davicl.

1 Give ear to my words, OLord ; consider my meditation.

2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God ; — for unto thee

will I pray.

3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord ;

In the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness ; neither shall

evil dwell with thee.

5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight ; thou hatest all workers of iniquity.

Used by the



6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing :

The Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.

7 But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy :
And iu thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.

8 Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies ;
Make thy way straight before my face.

9 For thei-e is no faithfulness in their mouth ; their inward part is very

wickedness ;
Their throat is an open sepulchre ; they flatter with their tongue.

10 Destroy thou them, O God ; let them fall by their own counsels ;

Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions ; — for they have re-
belled against thee.

11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice :

Let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them :
Let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.

12 For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous ;

With favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.

Proplietic re-

Apparent im-
precations on

Another song of the sweet singer of Israel, handed over to
the " Chief Musician," who was to fit it to be publicly sung
" on the NeMloth." This was some one of the many musical
instruments now unknown, lost to us ever since Israel hung
their harp on the willows, and had their joy turned into mourn-
ing * — though generally understood to be a wind instrument,
or pipe, of some sort.

There is in it a prophetic element toward the close. In ver.
10, 11, we have something that closely resembles the Apoca-
lyptic scene in Revelation xix. 1, 3, 4. The psalmist so fully
sympathises in the justice of the doom that is coming on the
obstinate and impenitent rebels against God, that he cries aloud,
" Destroy them, God !" or, more exactly, " Hold them
guilty, and treat them as such/' On the other hand, there

* The idea of Hengstenberg, that this and some others of the titles convey
a mystical meaning, or enigmatical sense, is quite fanciful. He renders this,
" On the lots," as being a Psalm that exhibits the different lots of righteous and
wicked. But is not the conduct and life of the two classes exhibited in it,
far more than the lot ? The objection that 7J^ is not used with stringed in-
struments, is a gratuitous assertion ; probably ^"^ is used, instead of ^y, be-
cause of some peculiarity in using the instrument. Tholuck remarks, somewhere,
that ancient performers were not able to play different tunes on the same in-
struments, but employed separate instruments for different tunes.


arises at the same moment the shout of the righteous, acquies-
cing with entire satisfaction in their doom : " And let all those
that put their trust in thee, rejoice ! Let them ever shout for
joy !" This is their " Halehijah" over the rising smoke of tor-
ment — their " Glory and honour to the Lord our God." And
perhaps it is in this manner we are to understand, throughout
the Book of Psalms, all those portions where we find, apparently,
prayers that breathe revenge. They are never to be thought
of as anjrthing else than the breathed assent of righteous souls
to the justice of their God, who taketh vengeance on sin. When
taken as the words of Christ himself, they are no other than
an echo of the Intercessor's acquiescence at last in the sentence
on the barren fig-tree. It is as if he cried aloud, "Hew it down
now — I will intercede no longer — the doom is righteous, destroy
them, God ; cast them out in (or, for) the multitude of their
transgressions ! for they have rebelled against thee." And in
the same moment he may be supposed to invite his saints to
S3rmpathize in his decision ; just as in Revelation xviii. 20 :
" Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and pro-
phets ! " In like manner, when one of Christ's members, in
entire sympathy with his head, views the barren fig-tree from
the same point of observation, and sees the glory of God con-
cerned in inflicting the blow, he too can cry, " Let the axe
smite ! " Had Abraham stood beside the angel who destroyed
Sodom, and seen how Jehovah's name required the ruin of these
impenitent rebels, he would have cried out, " Let the shower
descend — let the fire and brimstone come down !" not in any
spirit of revenge — not from want of tender love to souls — ^but
from intense earnestness of concern for the glory of his God.

"We consider this explanation to be the real key that opens
all the difficult passages in this book, where curses seem to be
called for on the head of the ungodly. They are no more than
a carrying out of Deut. xxvii. 15-26, — "Let all the people
say, Amen," and an entering into the Lord's holy abhorrence
of sin and delight in acts of justice expressed in the " Amen,
hallelujah," of Rev. xix. 3.*

* " Truth" says one, " is always a form of Charity ; or to speak more properly,
Truth is the soul of wliich Churity is hut the beautiful, graceful, and lovely



Online LibraryAndrew A. (Andrew Alexander) BonarChrist and His Church in the Book of Psalms → online text (page 2 of 42)