Andrew A. (Andrew Alexander) Bonar.

Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms online

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hath no strength :

5 Free, among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave,

Whom thou rememberest no more : and they are cut off from thy liand.

6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.

7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me.

And thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.

8 Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me ;
Thou hast made me an abomination unto them :

I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.

9 Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction :

Lord, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto

10 Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead?

Shall the dead arise and praise thee ? Selah.

11 Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave?
Or thy faithfulness in destruction ?

12 Shall thy wonders be known in the dark ?

And thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness ?

13 But unto thee have I cried, O Lord ; and in the morning shall my prayer

prevent thee.

14 Lord, why castest thou off my soul ? why hidest thou thy face from me ?

15 I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up !
Wliile I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.

16 Thy fierce wrath goeth over me ; thy terrors have cut me off.

17 They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about


18 Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into


It has been said of some of our poets, that their living utter-
ance threw more feeling into particular phrases than those
phrases conveyed in themselves, and that consequently they
who knew the men saw far more meaning in their language
than strangers could. In reference to the same fact, it has
been said, " Who would part with a ring that contained a dead
friend's hair? and yet a jeweller will give for it only the value
of the gold." In many compositions of our deep-feeling poets,
there is " the hair of the dead friend in the gold." Their verses
are not to be weighed in the scale, and judged of, by mere style
and expression. To read them right, we should be able to
call up the person himself who wrote, and make the verse glow
with his impassioned feeling.


If this can be said of mere human compositions, how much
more of such a Psalm as this before us? The language is
strangely and awfully saddening ; and yet, evidently he who
speaks is far more deeply sad than his words express, and filled
with submissive calmness, while he bends his soul under the
stonn. Heman, the grandchild of Samuel, was the instru-
ment of delivering it to the Church, perhaps on some occasion
when very singularly tried — nigh overwhelmed — but still, his
case was but the shadow of one who sank

Beneath a rougher sea,

And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he."

Heman is the person who, in 1 Chron. xv. 1 7, stands side by
side with Asaph, and with the Ethan, who writes the Psalm
that follows. Heman selected the most suitable instrument, no
doubt, for a piece so profoundly melancholy ; and this may be
meant by " Mahalatli," if derived from the root that signifies
" to sing," (see Gesenius). Hengstenberg translates it as the
noun that means " sickness, or distress," as in the title of
Psalm liii. We agree, however, with most interpreters in
supposing it an instrument of music, that same instrument
used in singing Psalm liii., where the world's disease and sore
sickness are sung of in strains so sad. That same instrument
is to be used in singing the sorrows of Him who bore the world's
sickness. And then "Leannoth" means, " in reference to afflic-
tion," such affliction as is described by that very term in verse
7 and verse 9. Some, indeed, join the term " Leannoth " to
" Mahalath" as if it had formed one compound name for the
instrument used by Heman. But even if this be so, the etymo-
logy would still point to something melancholy, something of
affliction, in the occasions on which it was to be used.

" We have in this Psalm the voice of our suffering Re-
deemer," says Home ; and the contents may be thus briefly
stated —

"1. The plaintive wailing of the suffering one, verses 1,2.
It strongly resembles Psa. xxii. J , 2.

2. His soul eosceeding sorrowful, even unto death, verses 3,
4, 5. The word "free," in our version, is ""t^EirT, properly de-
noting separation from others, and here rendered by Juniu.s


and Tremellius, " set aside from all intercourse and communi-
cation with men, having nothing in common with them, like
those who are afflicted with leprosy, and are sent away to se-
parate dwellings." They quote 2 Chron. xxvi. 21.

3. His feelings of hell, verses 6, 7. For he feels God's pri-
son, and the gloom of God's darkest wrath. And " Selah"
gives time to ponder,

4. His feelings of shame and helplessness, verse 8. " His
own receive him not."

5. The effects of soul-agony upon his body, verse 9.

6 His subTYiission to the Lord, verse 9. It is the very tone
of Gethsemane, " Nevertheless, not my will !"

7. The sustaining hope of resurrection, verses 10 (with a so-
lemn pause, ''Selah"), 11,12. The "land of forgetfulness" and
" the dark," express the unseen world, which, to those on this
side of the vail, is so unknown, and where those who enter it
are to us as if they had for ever been forgotten by those they
left behind. God's wonders shall be made known there. There
shall be victory gained over death and the grave : God's " lov-
ing-kindness" to man, and his '^ faithfulness," pledge him to
do this new thing in the universe. Messiah must return
from the abodes of the invisible state ; and in due time, He-
man, as well as all other members of the Messiah's body, must
return also. Yes, God's wonders shall be known at the grave's
mouth. God's righteousness, in giving what satisfied justice
in behalf of Messiah's members, has been manifested gloriously,
so that resurrection must follow, and the land of forgetfulness
must give up its dead. O morning of surpassing bliss, hasten
on ! Messiah has risen ; when shall all that are his arise ? Till
that day dawn, they must take up their Head's plaintive
expostulations, and remind their God in Heman's strains of
what he has yet to accomplish.

" Wilt thoii shew wonders to tlie dead,'''' o&c.

8. His perseverance in vehement prayer, verses 13, 14.

9. His loiig-continued and manifold woes, verses ] 5, 16, 1 7.
10. His loneliness of soul, verse 18. Hengstenberg renders

the last clause of this verse more literally — " The dark king-
dom of the dead is instead of all my companions." What un-


utterable gloom ! completed by this last dark shade — all sym-
pathy from every quarter totally withdrawn ! Forlorn indeed !
Sinking from gloom to gloom, from one deep to another, and
every billow sweeping over him, and wrath, like a tremendous
mountain, " leaning" or resting its weight on the crushed worm !
Not even Psalm xxii. is more awfully solemnising, there being
in this deeply melancholy Psalm only one cheering glimpse
through the intense gloom, namely, that of resurrection hoped
for, but still at a distance. At such a price was salvation pur-
chased by Him who is the resurrection and the life. He himself
wrestled for life and resurrection in our name — and that price
so paid is the reason why to us salvation is free. And so we
hear in solemn joy the harp of Judah struck by Heman, to over-
awe our souls not with his own sorrows,* but with what Horsley
calls " The lamentation of Messiah," or yet more fully.
The sorrowful days and nights of the Man of Sorrows.


Maschil of Ethau the Ezrahite.

1 I WILL sing of the mercies of tlie Lord for ever !

With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.

2 For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever:

Thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.

3 I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my


4 Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all genera-

tions. Selah.

5 And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord !
Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.

6 For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord ?

Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord !

7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints.
And to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.

8 O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee ?
Or to thy faithfulness round about thee ?

* " Thy suffering Lord, believer, see,

And praise the heart that bled for thee.

The horrors of his hell-touched soul

From wounds of death hath made thee whole." — Barclay.


9 Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou
stillest them.

10 Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain ;
Thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.

11 The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine :

As for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.

12 The north and the south thou hast created them :
Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.

13 Thou hast a mighty arm : strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.

14 Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne:
Mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound:

They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.

16 In thy name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall

they be exalted.

17 For thou art the glory of their strength : and in thy favour our horn shall

be exalted.

18 For the Lord is our defence ; and the Holy One of Israel is our king.

19 Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one.

And saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty ;
I have exalted one chosen out of the people.

20 I have found David my servant ; with my holy oil have I anointed him :

21 With whom my hand shall be established : mine arm also shall strengthen


22 The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict


23 And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate


24 But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with Him :
And in my name shall His horn be exalted.

25 I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers.

26 He shall cry unto me. Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my


27 Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.

28 My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand

fast with him.

29 His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of


30 If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments ;

31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments ;

32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with


33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from Him,
Nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.

34 My covenant will I not break, not alter the thing that is gone out of my


35 Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.

36 His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.


37 It shall be established for ever as the moon,
And as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.

38 But thou hast cast oif and abhgrred, thou hast been wroth with thino


39 Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant :
Thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.

40 Thou hast broken down all his hedges ; thou hast brought his strongholds

to ruin.

41 All that pass by the way spoil him : he is a reproach to his neighbours.

42 Thou hast set up the i-ight hand of his adversaries ; thou hast made all his

enemies to rejoice.

43 Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword, and hast not made him to

stand in the battle.

44 Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground.

45 The days of his youth hast thou shortened : thou hast covered him with

shame. Selah.

46 How long. Lord ? wilt thou hide thyself for ever ?
Shall thy wrath burn like fire ?

47 Remember how short my time is :
Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain ?

48 What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death ?

Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave ? Selah.

49 Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou swearest unto

David in thy truth ?
60 Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants ;

How I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people ;

51 Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O Lord,
Wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.

52 Blessed be the Lord for evermore. Amen, and Amen.

The title assigns this Psalm to " Ethan the Ezrahite," as the
last was by " Heman the Ezrahite." These were probably
called " Ezrahites," i. e., sons of Zerah, as a name of honour,
because of their skill in music. For, in 1 Chron. ii. 6, we find
the grandchildren of Judah bear these names, and in 1 Kings
iv. 31, they are spoken of as renowned for skill in song, being
" sons of Mahol, i.e., sons of the choir." Hence, in after times,
Levitical singers who were conspicuous in this department
were called " Ezrahites,", Handels or Mozarts. And this
is a " Maschil."

The subject here is followed out in progressive development.
He is to sing, verse 1, of the Lord's mercies and faithfulness ;
in other words, of " the sure mercies of David," spoken of by
Isaiah Iv. 4. He seems to be revolving in his thoughts the


Lord's words to David, 2 Sam. vii. 1 4-. Impressed with that
solemn covenant, he sings, verse 2 —

" / have said, Mercy shall he huilt up for ever .'"

Not as the tower of Babel, to be left unfinished, and then de-
stroyed, but built up heaven-ward, a grateful sight to God and
man —

" The heavens ! thy faithfulness thozi ivilt establish therein .'"

The Lord himself replies to this expression of faith in verses
8, 4, clearly referring to his word pledged to David in 2 Sam,
vii. When his voice has uttered its sealing testimony, there is
a solemn pause — " 8elah !" The Lord has spoken ! And then
silence is broken by rapturous praise, verse 5 —

" T7ie heavens shall praise thy tconderful doing ;
Thy faithfulness, also, in the congregation oftJte saints."

Unfallen angels, and the great congregation of redeemed men,
shall yet unite in praise to the God Avhose mercies have been
promised to David. Messiah's Second Coming will be the
special season for that praise, when his gathered elect, " the con-
gregation of the saints," survey the foundation of their blessed-
ness, and review the way by which he led them on. Every
time an assembly of saints now, in this time of ingathering,
unites in so celebrating the Lord, we have a tjipe of that com-
ing day ; especially when they so unite on the Sabbath of rest,
itself a type. And the strains that follow are a specimen to us
of what may be the topics of the Song of the Lamb.

Here are his praises. From verse 6 to verse 18, Ethan
sings of the Lord's incomparable glory and greatness, felt by
saints, as well as by angels, the sons of the mighty. He is
" God of Hosts," irresistible in might, and yet never once un-
loosening the girdle of faithfulness to his covenant. " Faith-
fulness is round about thee !" (ver. 8). It is God in Christ
whom Ethan praises ; it is he who at his coming again bears
the name, "Faithful and true" (Rev. xix. 11), and who has
" faithfulness as the girdle of his reins," (Isa. xi. 5). He is the
ruler of the stormy sea, and of proud Egypt ; the Creator of the
glorious heavens, and of the earth with its fulness ; the founder


of Israel's land, who appointed Tabor and Hermon * to stand
in the midst of that land as witnesses of the Lord's doings.
This is Jehovah ; and he is at once righteous and loving —

" RigMeousness and judgment are the platform on which thy throne
Mercy and truth stand before thy presence." (Ver. 14.)

Happy they Avho know him ! who have heard and joined in
the "joyful sound," i. e., the shout of joy raised by Israel to
this king (Num. xxiii. 21), when they worship him at their
solemn feasts (Lev. xxv. 9). Happy people ! They walk in
his light ! They anticipate the day when the shout of joy
shall be raised at his Coming, and when they shall have no
other light to walk in than what beams from God and the
Lamb. So they go on from day to day —
" For our shield, it belongs to the Lord (^) ;
And our king he belongs to the Holy One of Israel."
(Our protector is himself protected by the Lord.) (Ver. 18.)

A fuller and plainer declaration, however, is given at verse 19
and onwards, of the source of all this rejoicing. Israel's shield
and king was the type of another whom Jehovah gives to Is-
rael and to earth —

" Thou spdkest in vision to thy holy ones," i. e., thy people. (Ver. 18.)
Thou revealedst to thy saints, by Nathan and others, thy pur-
pose to send Messiah in David's line ; and from 1 9 to 28, this
is sung of in lofty strains. He has made him the depositary
of help ; and he tells how he will uphold him, honour him, ex-
tend his kingdom, exalt his name to the highest. Nay (29-34),
he shall not be disappointed of his glory and promised bliss
even by his children's unfaithfulness ; for they even (35-37),
when unfaithful, must be brought back to him, that he may
want no joy. His truth is pledged to this, as surely as when
he made the rainbow " his witness in the heavens" to Noah.

A " Selah"-Y>siuse follows. that this scene were realised !
O that all were come !

But, alas, as yet these things are not arrived. We must

* This is surely better than to suppose the allusion to either side of Jordan.
Tabor on the west and Hermon on the north-east.


hang on his faithfulness. For at present (vers. 38-45) deso-
lation and ominous disaster abound. Another " SdaK'-^sxise
follows ; the worshipper is mournfully pondering the scene, and
wondering what he shall do; and soon the Lord's lemembered
faithfulness draws forth prayer from his lips, the cry (ver, 46) —

" Hoio long, Lord "

accompanied by the plea that days are passing away, and that
the millions of earth are ever disappearing from the scene,
none able to resist the stroke —

" What mighty man liveth and seeth not death ?
Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave f Selah I"
(Yqt. 48.;

It may be that this verse (with its "lilJ "0) points to the longed-
for Messiah, as if saying —

"[JMiere is He that shall live and not die ?
That shall deliver his soul from the hand of the grave ? Selah !"

Another burst of impassioned desire follows this pensive pause,
verses 49-5], — an appeal to the Lord's love in former days,
enforced by the consideration that his name is reproached in
his servants, and by a touching reference to Moses, in Num. xi.
12, and the gracious answer he got when bidden " carry in his
bosom" that stiff-necked people —

" I bear the many nations in my bosom.
For thy Joes, O Lord, have reproached.
They have reproached th: footsteps of thy Messiah !"

They have been told of his Coming ; but he tarries, and they
scoff at this delay ; they cast it up to me. " The footsteps"
are explained by the Targum, and by Kinchi, to mean " the
tardiness of his steps,"* but by others as equivalent to the
whole movements or ways of Messiah. In either case the
taunt of the scoffers, 2 Peter iii. 4, and Malachi ii. 17, is in-
cluded — " Where is the promise of his coming ? Where is
the God of judgment?"

* M. Anton. Flaminius says, that it is by some understood of .'■coffers who
derided the Jews—" Quod ii Christum liberatorem expectarcnt, cujns vestigia
et pedes venientes nunquam visuri essent."

PSALM XC. — man's sin AND FRAILTY. 271

But faith holds out, nay, realises the happy issue, (ver. 32) —

" Blessed he the Lord for ever I
Amen, and amen /"
Let it come, let it come ? (jivoiro, yivoiro ! Sept.) or rather, tes-
tifying its assurance that all this shall come, not one thing-
failing ; for the theme from beginning to end has been —
The faithful covenant with Messiah and his Seed.


A Prayer of Jloses, the man of God.

1 Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations.

2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the

earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

3 Thou turnest man to destruction ; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past,

And as a watch in the night.

5 Thou earnest them away as with a flood ; they are as a sleep :
In the morning they are like grass which groweth up.

6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up ;
In the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee.

Our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath : we spend our years as a

tale that is told.

10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten ;
And if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
Yet is their strength labour and sorrow ;

For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is

thy wrath.

12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

13 Return, O Lord ! how long ? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy ; that we may rejoice and be glad all

our days.

15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us,
And the years wherein we have seen evil.

16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy gloiy unto their children.

17 And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us :
And establish thou the work of our hands upon us ;
Yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

272 PSALM xc. — man's sin and frailty

Part 1 V. of the Book of Psalms, according to the Jewish divi-
sion, begins here. It is, however, unsuitable in this way to
separate the 90th from the 89th, inasmuch as the latter sets
forth the abiding faithfulness of God the Lord, while the for-
mer shews the need of that faithful covenant, because of man's
sin and frailty. Perhaps the reference in the close of Psa.
Ixxxix. to the words of Moses, in Num. xi. 12, may have in part
led to the position of this Psalm next to it.

The title, " The prayer of Moses, the man of God," is a title,
the genuineness of which we have no grounds for disputing, as
all manuscripts have it. Some diminish the interest of this
title by giving it a figurative turn, as if all that was meant was
that the Psalm is a proper prayer for one who, like Moses, is a
pilgrim in the world's wilderness. But it is far better to take
it as it stands — a real prayer and psalm of Moses, perhaps
written about the time of that awful event. Num. xi., or, in the
88th year of the desert-journey, when himself had so sinned
as to be forbidden to enter the land. Some even fix on Pis-
gah as the spot where he sang so pensively.

Moses, bemoaning the sentence gone forth on Israel, and al-
ready in prospect seeing the sands of the desert covering the
whitening bones of the thousands that had followed him, sings
of these three themes —

(a) From 1-10, Nothing found stable hut Jehovah. He is
]iyD, not a tent in the desert, but a fixed abode (ver. 1) ; and
shall be so more gloriously still, (Home).

" Thou turnest them even to broJcenness, {i. e., crumbling down the mass
of dust) ;
And say est, Return, ye children of men,^^ {q. d., let the sentence re-
corded in Gen. iii. 19, take its course).

Man fades though his sentence of death be deferred, and
even if he were, like those before the flood, to live onward
to a thousand years. All this because of sin, — sin which God's
holy eye cannot overlook, for his countenance is spoken of (ver.
8) as liXD, a luminary. And then the shortened period of
seventy years ever tells of the limit to man. Our days pass
away as " a tale," or " ejaculation," or " sigh," or " thought ;"


and if there be fourscore years, yet D2n^, that in which they
prided themselves (their Rahab), becomes toil and suffering.

(h) In verses 11, 12, he sings, Kothing able to stand before
the wrath of the Lord —

" Who knoios the poioer of thine anger, (Ezra viii. 22)

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