Andrew A. (Andrew Alexander) Bonar.

Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms online

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even the wild Bedouin, as he riots in the rich herbage and scented
air, to exclaim, " What delight has God given us equal to this ! "
The wealth of opposite nations, Sheba and Seba (Meroe and
Arabia), is consecrated to Him, as they bring "gifts" (ver.
1 0), or tribute, 2 Kings iii. 4.

" The simrt Sabeans and Panchaia's king
Shall cassia, myrrh, and sacred incense bring ;
All kings shall homage to The King afford ;
All nations shall receive him for their Lord.'' (Sandys.)

He is the true Job (see xxix. 12) who delivers the poor (ver.
12); " he looks with pity upon" (Fry), or " sympathises with"
(Horsley), the poor and needy (ver. 13). He redeems them
from Satan's craft and cruelty, from Satan as the serpent, and
Satan as the lion, " from deceit and from violence."

We agree with Keble's hint in his metrical version of this
book, that verse 1 5 refers to the well-known salutation offered
to kings, " O king, live for ever." It runs thus —

" Yes, let him live !
And the gold of Sheba be given him !
And let him, ^ray for every one continually. "

The pronoun of the third person 1 is used to express " every
one," viz., every one of his subjects. They adore him and
worsliip ; he intercedes and acts as mediator to them for ever.
* DiKCOveries in Nineveh an^ Bnhylon, pp. 273 and 301.


And what sights of strange fertility and beauty shall be seen,
as indicated by verse 16 ! corn to the summit of the hills?
rustling like cedar boughs on Lebanon ; while Tke City, the
metropolis (Psa. Ixxxvii.), flourishes in population like the
numberless blades of grass, all holy, all praising their King,
presenting the spectacle of a model-city to the world.

And now is fulfilled to the utmost the promise made to
Abraham, " in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed"
(Gen. xxii. 18), so oft repeated ; for Messiah's name (ver. 17)
" produces posterity," i. e., renovates itself, acquiring fresh
vigour, "for ever" (Hengst.). All nations are blessed in him,
and all call him blessed.

Sing, then, as verses 18, 19, sing with heart and voice for
evermore —

" Blessed be Jehovah /
God (without a rival), God of Israel !
Who alone (needing no help of any) doeth wondrous works.
And blessed be his glonous name for ever and ever !
Yea, let the loJiole earth be filled with his glory I
Amen, and amen .'"

The prospect of this consummation fills the heart of the Sweet
Singer of Israel ; it leaves him nothing more to wish for. He
has reached the height and summit of desire and hope. Per-
haps the last words of verse 19 should be joined to verse 20,
and run thus —

The "Amen" of the whole Psalm falls on his ear from his own

harp strings, and he catches it up and repeats it thus — " Yea,

amen ! the prayers are ended of David the son of Jesse."

" So let it be ! Thy will on earth now done,

No more to seek has David, Jesse's son."

And thus it is that an individual's own peculiar desires shall
all be satisfied in that kingdom, satisfied because absorbed in
the flood of bliss. Who is there that ever takes up the for-
mer Psalm or the next, wearied, faint-hearted, and despond-
ing ? Look forward and see here

The Righteous One's hopes realised in the glory of the

218 PSALM Lxxiii. — Messiah's people almost offended.


A Psalm of Asaph.

1 Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone ; my steps had well nigh slipped ;

3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked

4 For there are no bands in their death : but their strength is firm.

5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other


6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain ; violence covereth them

as a garment.

7 Their eyes stand out with fatness : they have more than heart could wish.

8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression : they speak


9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh

through the earth.

10 Therefore his people return hither : and waters of a full cup are wrung out

to them :

11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most


12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world ! they increase in


13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in in-


14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.

15 If I say, I will speak thus ; behold, I should offend against the generation

of thy children.
10 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me ;

17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God ; then understood I their end.

18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places : thou castedst them down

into destruction.

19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.

20 As a dream when one awaketh ;

So, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.

21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.

22 So foolish was I, and ignorant : I was as a beast before thee.

23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hastholden me by my right


24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but thee ? and there is none upon earth that I

desire beside thee.
2(5 My flesh and my heart faileth :

But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

PSALM Lxxiii.— Messiah's people almost offended. 219

27 For, lo, they that arc far from thee shall perish :

Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.

28 But it is good for me to draw near to God :

I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

A SORT of historical series begins here, relating to Israel's posi-
tion in the world (lxxiii.), to their temple (Ixxiv.), "their land
(Ixxv.), God's deeds therein (Ixxvi., Ixxvii.), God's dealings in
days past (Ixxviii.), Israel's desolation (Ixxix.), and prayer re-
garding the same (Ixxx.).

"A Psalm of Asaph;" perhaps one of those specially sang
by Hezekiah's appointment at the altar (2 Chron. xxix. 30) ;
and what more fit to be sung there when the ascending smoke
and poured-out blood declared in type Jehovah's unspeakable
gift, and so seemed to say, " Yes, God is good to Israel !" (2
Chron. v. 13.)

How well it follows the last Psalm ! As if Asaph had been
singing it, and thereupon had felt all his surmises and faithless
fears dissipated by the triumphant prospects held out there to
the people of Messiah. It is a Psalm, not about Messiah him-
self, but about " his people" (ver. 10), about "Israel" (ver. 1);
about the members, not the Head. It is uttered in the pre-
sence of the Head ; but it tells how its members have often
been nearly " offended in Him" (Luke vii. 23). Had Asaph
lived in Herod's day, such suspicious surmises as are expressed
in verses 3-9 might have been raised in his soul, by seeing
the Baptist first in the dungeon, and then in the tomb, while
Herod ruled and rioted in luxury. Horsley remarks on the
first word "fhi, "It expresses the state of mind of a person
meditating a difficult question, in which he is much interested
and can hardly come to a conclusion."

Verse 4 should be rendered — " There are no death-hands
to them" (Horsley) ; " they are never fettered with death"
(Hengst.), i. e., there are no death-bringing circumstances in
their lot. They escape the annoyances and reproaches whicli
God's people meet with (see 1 Cor. x. 13); their "pride' is
their " ornamental chain" (ver. 6), and (ver. 7) " the imagina-
tion of their hearts overflows" — that is, speaks out, or vents
itself ;

" TJiet^ upeak nf oppression from on high" (ver. 9) (Hengst.) ;

A new series.

and subject.


as if they were out of reach of danger, aloft on their rock ; or
as old Sandys renders the line, " They speak like thunder from
the troubled sky." Hence,

" Eis peoxtle return hither'''' (ver. 10) ;

i. e., God's people return to the state of mind described in verse
2, or to this sight which causes the unbelieving surmises. To
quote Sandys again, as giving the right sense —

" The good not seldom, through their scandal, stray ^

How like a desponding man's words is verse 1 2, '' Yet they
prosper /or ever," or more literally, " They are everlasting pros-
perers f" But now, the likelihood of giving occasion to others
to stumble crosses his mind ; and forthwith the same Spirit
who suggested that consideration, leads Asaph in his thoughts
(as some understand the words of verse 17) to the sanctuary.
Standing there, the very thought of the Holy One on his
Throne is enough to remind him of what must be the end of
these ungodly ones ; but more especially is the remembrance
that there is a resurrection day — a day when God will arise
and scatter these dreams of earthly felicity (ver. 20).

" O Lord, when tliou awakest, (see Psa, xvii. 15) thou wilt despise
their splendid show,
As one does a dream, when he awakes out of it ! "

Telling his grief and shame because of such unbelief, confess-
ing himself a beast* or brute, he yet returns to sing that, not-
withstanding all this, God has not forsaken him, and never
will —

" And I continually am with thee !
And thou holdest me fast by my right hand."'\ (Ver. 23.)

I am in the wilderness, and thou art my guide, and wilt " re-
ceive me," as thou didst Enoch (Gen. v. 22, same word). The
Hebrew words are rather obscure, but this may be because of

* Barclay, in his zeal to prove that every Psalm is Christ's words directly,
falls into the strange error here of rendering J^i^H^ " « lamb," as if parallel
to Isaiah liii. 7. Hengstenberg has remarked, that niDHS implies, (like
other such phiral forms) the essence of the brute character.

t Might it not be rendered (neglecting the .-iccents), " And with (he hand thou
doat hold niy rifjht hand ?"


the ideas rushing through the mind of the Psahnist, so various
and so fast. They are literally rendered thus —
" Thou wilt lead me by thy counsel.
And afterwards^ g^ory ! Thou wilt receive me I "
Not unlike Psa. xlix. 1 6 — " God shall redeem my soul from the
grave" (equivalent to " afterwards glory !") " for he shall re-
ceive me."

Thus God is " the rock of my heart ;" my heart rests on Tiie siory.
him as on a solid basis. All foes, and all prosperous wicked
men, are from this point seen as ruined. No wonder. For
has glory come ? has the glory of the Jdngdom dawned on us ?
has the Lord himself welcomed us in ? has he given us a place
beside himself ? Then, from this height we look down and
see the impotency and ruin of Antichrist and all such opposers
of God, " who go a-whoring from thee." (Comp. Kev. xvii. 5,
'' mother of harlots.") Meanwhile we draw near to God, re-
enter paradise, enjoy our lost fellowship ; and our great em-
ployment is to praise Him, all clouds of providence being now
cleared away, and no more unbelief to hinder our " telling of
all his works."

The tone of this Psalm, especially of the latter part, is that
of James v. 7, 8 — " Be patient, brethren, unto the coming of
the Lord." The prevailing topic may be said to be,
le almost offended in Him."


Maschil of Asapli.

1 God, why hast thou cast us off for ever ?

Why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture ?

2 Kemember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old ;
The rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed ;

This Mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt !

3 Lift up thy feet into the perpetual desolations i-

Even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.

4 Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations ;
They set up their ensigns for signs.

5 A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick



G But now they break down the carved work thereof ut once with axes and

7 They have cast fire into thy sanctuary,

They have defiled by casting down the dwelling-place of thy name to the

8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together .
They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.

9 We see not our signs : there is no more any prophet :
Neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.

10 O God, how long shall the adversary reproach ?
Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?

11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand ? Pluck it out of

thy bosom !

12 For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.

13 Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength :

Thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.

14 Thou bi-eakest the heads of leviathan in pieces.

And gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.

15 Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty


16 The day is thine, the night also is thine : thou hast prepared the light

and the sun.

17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth : thou hast made summer .nnd


18 llemember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O Lord,
And that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.

19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtle dove unto the multitude of the wicked :
Forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.

20 Have respect unto the covenant :

For the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.

21 O let not the oppressed return ashamed : let the poor and needy praise

thy name.

22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause :

Remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.

23 Forget not the voice of thine enemies :

The tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseih continually.

The title. " MascMl" refers us to something (as elsewhere remarked) in
the mode of setting the Psahn to music, or playing it on the
harp, of which we know nothing. As in the last Psalm, so in this,
Asaph's name appears. Some, however, suppose this Asaph
to be a later individual of the same godly family. Patrick
adopts the idea that he may have been the Asaph who was
" the keeper of the king's forest " (Neh. ii. 8), and hence some
of the allusions to the cedar-trees and the like. It is arresting


to the fancy to set before us Asaph led to compose this melan-
choly hymn amid some of the lonely woods of his now desolate
Land ! But all we can say is, that it certainly is the composi-
tion of an Asaph long after the days of David, who perhaps
was one of the family mentioned in Ezra iii. 1 (for 2 Chron.
XX. 14 is too early), and so possibly the very "keeper of the
king's forests."

The desolation of Israel's land and people are spread before
the Lord. The Head of the Church, who wept over Jerusalem
on the Mount of Olives, and lamented their too sure ruin,
could use these strains, and pour them into the Father's ear.
Every Israelite's heart would thrill in singing such a solemn
melody. Every believer's soul should fully enter into the sor-
row for ancient Israel which is taught us here.

" The signs " of verse 4 and verse 9, are the holy emblems.
The significant pillars, " Boaz and Jachin," the brazen sea, the
altar, the lavers, mercy-seat with cherubims, candlestick, and
the like, all had disappeared. The standards of the enemy
appear in the sanctuary instead ! Oh how unlike (in signifi-
cance as in form) the vail that hid the ark because Jehovah
was there, and the ensigns of Babylon that too surely proved
that Jehovah had forsaken his heritage ! The "synagogues"
may mean places where the elders met to exhort and pray
with the people. (Tholuck.)

In verse 5 some render the line to this effect : — " The enemy
makes himself look like, and known as, one who lifts up the
axe on the trees," applying it to the same subject as verse 6.
But our version gives the better meaning. When the temple
was building, every man that cut down a cedar on Lebanon to
help in the glorious erection was reckoned famous ; whereas
now, men have become renowned by using " chisel and club" in
destroying the carved work and tracery of the sanctuary walls.*

Inverse 9, the " no prophet^' is like Lament, ii. 9. In verse
] 1 we have " Pluck (it) out of thy bosom " — literally, n^3,
" finish — destroy." It is meant to express something far more

* Barclay expresses the idea in another form : —
" In former days of Jerubbaal,

An higli renown was truly won,
liy hewing down the groves so tall,
Where foul idolatry was shewn." (Judg. vii. 28 )

Tlie tone
und plan

224 PSALM Lxxiv. — appp:al of the scattered heritage.

terrible than "plucking the hand, out of the bosom;" it is a
cry for " destruction on foes ;" and, as HengstenLerg says, " the
annihilation proceeds from the bosom of God, when his right
hand is at the moment reposing." May we not add, " from that
bosom whence came his Son ! " just as the fire on Sodom was
" out of heaven, from God." This apjieal represents to our ima-
gination the suppliant gazing upward on the bosom of his King,
to see if that right hand begins to be plucked forth ! Thereafter,
reasons of confidence are rehearsed. No less than seve^i times is
the emphatic " r\r\i^" used, " the sevenfold thou" (Hengst), while
his deeds are set forth ; dividing the Red Sea, drying up the
" ever flowing river" (ver. ] 8), and the like ; and forthwith the
suppliant, as if thus anew invigorated to hope, urges his plea —
" Give not up thy turtle dove to the greedy host,'' (Phillips). (Ver. 19.)
Applicable to If this Psalm was written by a later Asaph, the verse 20, which

other times. "^ ■■•

speaks of the covenant in connection with earth's dark places,
might tacitly refer to such predictions as Isaiah Ix. 1-3. The
nations are said, in Rev. xi. 18, to be in the very condition
spoken of here at the close, when the Lord arises to judge
the earth, and to make the kingdoms become " The King-
dom of our God, and of his Christ." Israel's case will be
attended to that day ; Israel's wrongs will be avenged ; Israel's
sins forgiven ; Israel's sorrows relieved. That will be the day
when this wailing appeal shall find at the hands of Him who
hears the voice both of his own Son, our Head, and of the
members of his Son, a full acknowledgment of this

The appeal of the scattered heritage to the mighty God of


To the chief Musician. Al-taschith. A Psalm or Song of Asaph.

1 Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks :
For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.

2 When I shall receive the congregation, I will judge uprightly.

3 The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the

pillars of it. Selah.

4 I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly! and to the wicked, Lift not up

the horn !


5 Lift not up your horn on high : speak not with a stiff neck.

6 For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from

the south.

7 But God is the judge : he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

8 For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red ;
It is full of mixture, and he poureth out of the same :

But the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out,
and drink them.

9 But I will declare for ever ; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 All the homs of the wicked also will I cut off;

But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.

The same Asaph takes the harp again, at the bidding of xue titie
the Holy Ghost, to write an ode that, like many of David's
(see Psa. Ivii.), has been marked " Al-taschith," and called, "A
Song," lively in theme, and with life in every line.

'• We have praised thee, God ! we have praised thee !
And (now at length) thy name is near,
Thy wondrous works are telling it.^''

This is the delighted cry of Messiah's people, who see Him xi,e pian.
near at hand, and could join with Isaiah xxv. 9, " Lo ! this is
our God !" Their hosannahs are becoming hallelujahs. And
Messiah himself responds, as in Isaiah Ixiii. 1, 2, explaining
his ways. He refers to their words regarding ''his name
being now near," his long-hid discovery of his person and
promised deeds, " 1 will take a set time" (Heng.), or rather
thus :

" (It is so) for I noio get the appointed day I (Acts i. 7.)
I (>Jj^, unlike earth's usurpers), jttdge uprightly.
Eaiih and its inhabitants have melted away.
I am he who CDii^) have poised its pillars. Selah.'" (Ver. 2, 3.)

He has weighed the pillars and so knows, and has power to
order earth. After a pause, Messiah opens his lips to utter the
sentences of doom. He addresses the apostate nations, with
Antichrist at their head (ver. 4) —

" 7 say ("'inQJ^, the word has passed my lips) to the boastful,
Boast no more,''^

Online LibraryAndrew A. (Andrew Alexander) BonarChrist and His Church in the Book of Psalms → online text (page 21 of 42)