Andrew A. (Andrew Alexander) Bonar.

Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms online

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thy dealing with us).
" I beheld transgressors, and loas sickened at those loho kept not thy word."

(Ver. 158.)
" Quicken me, according to thy lovingkindness,'" (ver. 159. The dictates

of thine own free love).

Why should not all of us rest on the Lord's word with increas-
ing confidence as our pilgrimage advances to its close, since
experience adds to the evidence of his faithfulness,

" The beginnng o/(ti>J^"l) thy loord is truth ;
And to eternity is every appointment of thy righ'eousness."

There is nothing but truth and certainty in thy holy word.
It may be rendered, " Truth is the sum of thy word," (Heng-
stenberg). At the same time, the Psalmist probably ex-
presses far more by that peculiar form, " iDiki, the head of thy
word." As n33 ]i}^l in Psa. cxviii. 22 is the " head, or chief,
of the corner," may not this expression be intended to desig-
nate " that original promise which is the ' head, or chief pro-
mise, of the whole word of God' — the promise of the Woman's
Seed ?" The faithful in Israel no doubt were ever reverting to
it. To them could it be otherwise than " the U}ikl, the head,"
the chief utterance of the Word ? It is, therefore, mainly to
this that we suppose reference is made in this verse. The
Lord Jesus could use it of himself when on earth ; and each
one of his disciples could — but not less can we now, we who
can point back to the Woman's Seed having come, to the ful-
filment of that " head of the luord," and who may thus more
than ever confidently look forward to the fulfilment of what
remains, " every appointment of his righteousness," in the ages
to come, including the Day of the Lord, when all things shall
be set in order.



161 Princes have persecuted mo without a cause : but my heart standeth in

awe of thy word.

162 I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.

163 I hate and abhor lying : but thy law do I love.

164 Seven times a day do I praise thee, because of thy righteous judgments.

165 Great peace have they which love thy law :
And nothing shall offend them.

166 Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments.

167 My soul hath kept thy testimonies ; and I love them exceedingly.

168 I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies : for all my ways are be-

fore thee.

The 'pilgrim is full of peace and praise. It is now specially
that praise seems to abound in the traveller ; that is, it is now
near his journey's end that it is poured forth, so as to be heard
by others. His Hosanna is changing into the Hallelujahs of
the heavenly citizens,

" Seven times a day have I praised thee." (Ver. 164.)

The pilgrim is an Isaac, one wlio meditates at even-tide, and
one who can call God his "fear ;" for verse 161 has inS), the
very word used twice in Gen. xxxi. 42, 53 of Isaac's God, "the
fear of Isaac." In thi? frame of solemn Bethel-like awe he ap-
proaches the end of his journey, and crosses the threshold of
the King's palace. This reverent awe has deepened on him,
the longer he has meditated on Jehovah's word. Very fitting
it is, now that he is near the end, to teU, and to leave it for
encouragement to those that come after, as a thing proved by

" Great peace is the portion of those that love thy law ;
There is no stumbling-block to them.'' (Ver. 165.)

" At peace (says one) with God, at peace with themselves, at
peace with all men ; and the whole creation at peace with
them." This peace enables them to wait patiently for the final
glory — in the kingdom of peace.
" ITiave waited for (see Ruth i. 13, in the Hebrew the same word, ")5^)
thy salvation, Lord." Ver. 166.)



169 Let my cry come near before thee, O Lord : give me understanding ac-

cording to thy word.

170 Let my supplication come before thee : deliver me according to thy word.

171 IMy lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes.

172 My tongue shall speak of thy word : for all thy commandments are


173 Let thine hand help me ; for I have chosen thy precepts.

174 I have longed for thy salvation, Lord ; and thy law is my delight.

175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee ; and let thy judgments help me.

176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep ; seek thy servant ;
For I do not forget thy commandments.

The pilgrim pours out prayer and ^^rctise, in a strong
cry, at the dose of his journey. Praise i.s uttered in the midst
of redoubled supplication; repeated praise in the verses 171,

"My lips shall stream for/h with thy praise; (gush forth, as Ps. six. 1)
For thou wilt teach me thy statutes. '''

" My tongue shall sing thy word, (responsively l^Pi) ;
For all thy commandments are righteousness.'"
Anticipating the employments, the discoveries, the enjoyments
of the Coming Rest and Kingdom, the Psalmist tells of the
hallelujahs that shall dwell upon his lips, gushing up from an
ever full and ever filling soul — a soul full of the Lord's grace
in the past, and ever filling Avith fresh manifestations ; for
" Thou wilt teach me" still, and I shall see with increasing
clearness that all thy commandments were holy, and just, and

Help me, then, to the end ; for (ver. 1 74)

" / have pined Jor thy salvation,'" (''J^D^^n)•

This is (as we might expect at the close) the strongest expres-
sion of desire for Coming Glory that has yet been used. " Sal-
vation," as we noticed above, is the final deliverance, with all
the grace and glory that it brings. At verse 81, we find the
soul " thirsting," fainting in thirst for it ; at verse 1 23, the
earnest expectation made " the eye faint" for it ; at verse ] 66,
there was strong hope, and waiting ; but this verse rises to an
almost impatient longing — a " pining with desire" for the arri-
val of the blessed day.

Again, verse 175, there is the anticipation of praise, because


of a happy arrival ; and a burst of prayer such as might well
sum up a lifetime's experience and desires.

" / have been a ivanderei; C^JT^jPi) ?'/>-'e a lost sheej).*
I have all my life found nowhere to lay my head, and no rest
to the sole of my foot. I have, like Hagar and Ishmael
(Vr\^> Gen. xxi. 14), wandered in the wilderness where there
was no water. I have, like Joseph (nSJD, Gen. xxxvii. 15),
wandered in search of my brethren, without home or friends.
I have, like Abraham, above all (-IS^Ori' Gen. xx. 13), left my
country and kindred, all my father's house, for the Lord's sake.
My life has been a wandering, like sheep lost, when the shep-
herd is away, or when the shepherd chooses to send them away
from his care (-l^iirT. Jer. 1. 6), " turning them loose on the
mountains, so that they go from mountain to hill, forgetting
their resting-place."

(But in all my wanderings and weariness, and sorrow)
" I have not forgotten thy commandments."
" Seek, then, thy servant" — i. e., do the part of a shepherd who
brings home his sheep to the fold ! It is a request that he would
do as Ezekiel (xxxiv. 16) foretells the Lord shall do on the day
when he gathers his scattered ones under the shade of the Plant
of Renown ; for here the word is I^jp.^, and there the word is
tt'p2^}. " 1 will seek that which was lost, and bring again that
which was driven away." Then shall Rev. vii. 15, 16, 17, be
realised ; for the Lamb in the midst shall be Sliepherd ever pre-
sent ; himself once a wanderer in our world's wastes, and now
feeding among the lilies, bringing home all his flock to where
they thirst no more, nor hunger, neither does the sun light on
them, nor any heat.

Amen ! Even so ! Come, Lord Jesus ! Surely this is the
heart's feeling of the Singer of this Psalm,

A pilgrim and stranger guided dag and night by the
Law of the Lord.

* David Dickson says on this verse, " I have gone astray — driven out in
tlie stormy and dark day; or by the hunting of the dogs chased out from the
rest of the flock." Banished from his native country and the fellowship of the
Church, as to bodily presence. Ilorne also notices that it may mean the
misery of "wnndcring as an exile in foreign lands."



It may he helpful to a right understanding of the Psalms we
now approach, and may increase our interest in them, to be-
gin with a synoptical view of the fifteen which are clustered
together, and go by the name of " Songs of Degrees." The
progression of thought and subject thus becomes clear : —

The Pilgrim Train and its Leader —

Psa. cxx. — Weari/ tvith the strife cf tongues. (Comp. Psa. Ixxxi. 6.)
Psa. cxxi. — Commit themselves to Jehovah cdone, as they joui-ney

Psa. cxxii. — Sing of the City of Habitation, to which they journey.
Psa. cxxiii. — Cast an upioard look amid the contempt of those they

7neet with.

At a stage in their way which we might call Ehenezer —

Psa. exxiv. — Give praise for deliverance hitherto.

Psa. exxv. — Express confidence of leing hept faithful, through Je-
hovah's faithfulness, to the end.

Psa. cxxvi. — Sing of the joys Jehovah has given, and will give, to his

Psa. cxxvii. — Cease from carefulness, and ascribe the success to Je-

Psa. cxxviii. — Pronounce blessing on all the fearers of God.

Psa. cxxix. — Eevieiv their past sufferings in hop)e.

Psa. cxxx. — Relate their earnest cry in trouble, and the rich result.

Psa. cxxxi. — Express their contentment tvith Jehovah's will.

Psa. cxxxii. — Remind Jehovah of pledges of favour to Zion, and are

Psa. cxxxiii. — Admire and sing of the unity of those met in the Holy
City, their habitatian.

Psa. cxxxiv. — Call for unceasing praise from all Jehovah's servants.

We adopt the idea of these fifteen Psalms being in some
sense the songs of those who went ujp to Jerusalem to worship.
They do not give us the inward experience of individuals only ;
they bear reference to Israel at large ; for even when, as in the


case of the ]30th and 131st, the strain has a personal aspect,
the closing verse sings of Israel.*

In the singular, tf?y^ frequently designates the going up to
a higher spot, e. g., the ascent of Bethhoron, the ascent of Lu-
hith, and in Ezra vii, 9, the going up from Babylon. In the
plural it is used for the steps of Solomon's throne, and in Eze-
kiel (xl. 26, 31, 34), for the steps of the temple-gates. The
use of ryhvj2 for the degrees or steps of a dial, has been fully
illustrated by recent discoveries in Assyria, which prove that
the sun-dial was a series of steps, or terraces, on which a pole
cast its shadow. It would appear, therefore, that the name
"Song of the Steps" is a poetical one, designating Psalms
which specially suited the circumstances of those who go up
to the Temple.

Hengstenberg remarks that they are grouped round the 1 27th,
which is Solomon s ; and we may add that that central " Song
of Degrees," or steps, has special reference to " The House," or


A Song of degrees.

1 In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.

2 Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.

3 What shall be given unto thee ? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false

tongue ?

4 Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.

5 Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar !

6 My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.

7 I am for peace : but when I speak, they are for war.

We could have imagined Hannah, the mother of Samuel, tak-
ing up this song in her lips when going up to the Feast at

* This feature of these fifteen Psalms is itself sufficient to set aside the idea
of a writer in the Jewish Chronicle, that they were specially for domestic use, and
get their name from the steps, or ascent to the house-top, where devout Jews
were wont to worship. Some have conjectured that the title "Degrees" may
refer to the musical instruments used in chaunting them. The common idea
that the name refers to the steps of the Temple, is that expressed in Parker's
old translation— " These fifteen Psalms next following be songs benamed of
steps and stairs, for that the choir on them did sing."


Shiloh. She carried her private sorrows to the Great Congre- Hope in sorrow.

gation, that in the midst of the many worshippers she might

find the special presence of Jehovah. The complaint, in her

case, was her adversary's tongue ; so, here it is the tongue —

" the false tongue." At the same time, it is " sore distress,"

for the form rYl"^ is emphatic (ver. 1), just as in Psa. iii. 3,

TM1)?)U}\ is the emphatic form to signify complete deliverance.

We see a worshipper, who enjoys little peace in his own The plan.
country, coming up to the City of Peace, Salem, there to
realise peace at one of those feasts which exhibited such a
spectacle of united devotion. In the sanctuary, the pilgrim is
enabled to see the end of those who so hate the godly, that
they make war upon them. He sees

" The arroios of the Mighty One sharpened;"
as if anticipating the day of God, when he, the Mighty One,
sung of in Psa. xlv. 3, shall send forth his arrows — arrows of
fire — " glowing embers of genista fuel" — in other words, " The
flaming fire that takes vengeance on his foes," (2 Thess. i. 8).

Meanwhile, it is a saddening thought that as yet the days
of the Prince of peace have not come. But we may have his
sympathy, for once the Prince of peace felt thus himself, taber-
nacling among us,

" Woe's me ! for I tarry in Mesech !
I pitch my tents with the tents of Kedar /"

As Isaiah i. 1 brands the apostate people and rulers of Jeru-
salem as " people of Sodom and rulers of Gomorrha," and as
Ezek xvi. 4 calls them " Amorites" and " Hittites," so does
the Psalmist speak of his harassing foe, as like the barbarous
men of Mesech in the obscure north (the Moschian mountains),
or near the Caspian Sea (see Ezek. xxxviii. 2), and the ever-
unsettled tribes of Kedar in the south. And so he sighs

" It is wearisome for my sold to dtcell with the hater of peace /" (Hengst.)
Literally, " Enough of this dwelling \" Is not this the very
feeling of the Church at this hour, in these days of never-end-
ing forms of lies and vanity that assail the truth ? They cry,
" O when shall the Prince of peace arrive ! And so felt the
Lord himself, when on earth, as we see in his teaching his fol-


lowers the blessedness of being " peace-makers." Indeed, who
would sing this pilgrim-song so truly from the heart as " The
Master V It is a song for

The servant of the Lord weary ivifh the strife of tongues.


A Song of degrees.

1 I WILL lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved : he that keepeth thee will not


4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is thy keeper : the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
C The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by right.

7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil : he shall preserve thy soul.

8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in
From this time forth, and even for evermore.

" A Song for the goings up !" {rrhv^b).* The pilgrim sings
it as he leaves his home to meet the Lord in the Great Con-
gregation at Jerusalem ; and the believer (like the Master)
sings it as he journeys through earth to the New Jerusalem.
Abraham (Gen. xxii. 4) " lifted up his eyes" and saw the hills
of Moriah on the third day. The worshipper sets forth with
the desire to fix his eyes at last on the hills where his trials are,
not, like Abraham's, to reach their crisis, but to end.
" I ivill lift. i(p mine eyes to the hills.'" (Ver. 1.)
This is his resolution ; his motive for leaving home and kin-
dred is to reach " the holy mountains," as they are called, Psa.
Ixxxvii. 1, — those hills that are the emblems of Jehovah's faith-
fulness, Psa. cxxv. 1, 2,— that spot where Jehovah is specially
present because of the Propitiation being there, (1 Kings viii.
42 ; Dan. vi. 10).

* This is the only time that this form of the expression occurs, and so it is
probably meant to signify something different from "Song of Degrees." It
may be, in poetical style, like ^ in "Psalm TTl"?," Ts-alm composed hy David,

q. d., a Psalm wliich tlie goings up to Jerusalem may be said to have com-


This, then, is his resolution. But there are perils by the
way, and so he asks —

" Whence sliall my help come ?" (^^^

Online LibraryAndrew A. (Andrew Alexander) BonarChrist and His Church in the Book of Psalms → online text (page 35 of 42)