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The Words of God are like Intimate
Coherent in Action,
Close in Understanding,
Sympathetic in Cordiality
reference to Psalm 118, with 72,22
(see The Desire of the Nations Ch. 8)
THE GRACE OF MERCY
We have seen in Psalm 72, the significance of the arresting words, "And He shall live". They were so because it was said of the King in the very midst of His glorious, victorious, triumphant, redeeming reign; but we found that in the Messianic series, it came after Psalm 69, which showed in the mortal suffering of the Messiah that there was indeed a vast gulf between Him and life, which only the miraculous, supernatural power of God could cover.
Indeed, it is of the most intense interest that in John 2:19, Christ under challenge declares that if they should destroy 'this temple' then in three days He would raise it up again. "I will raise it" is the word. Now it is made clear that the temple is not one of mortar, not one of anachronism, such that it would be restored for temple sacrifice even after His death had made animal sacrifice irrelevant, otiose, ludicrous, as seen in the opening verses of Isaiah 66, that glorious follow-on from Isaiah 53's depiction of the death and the meaning of the slaughter of the Messiah.
It is HE as GOD who will raise it up; for though God is a trinity, yet each member of that trinity is God, just as one 'muses within oneself', with no sense of subordination at that level. That however is merely an illustration of the fact that we are in God's image, that is, relate to Him in conformity with His Spirit to the point that we can meaningfully commune with Him.
There being no way a corpse could raise up life, this is on the part of Jesus Christ therefore a simple affirmation of deity, as much as in John 8:58.
Deity of course is supremely what enables one to detect the Messianic Psalms, and in Psalm 72, the redemption offered in the Messiah makes it most apposite to refer to the fact that "He shall live", since redemption is payment and payment for stricken life is stricken life, and the payment involved is death (Hosea 13:14), which God in His mercy (Titus 2-3) towards man, took upon Himself. This He did selectively, not as if to exclude, but so that what it portended, unamended, was what it did for those who RECEIVED Him.
Now in Psalm 118, we see a great parallel, together with Psalm 22. Indeed, precisely as in John 2:19, we see the Messiah in His own Name, unabashed, with individual inexorability, destroying the deadly weaponry of enemies, and gaining the victory.
Moreover, we find that this Psalm commences with a repeated strain, like a radiant lilt, "Oh give thanks to the Lord" in terms of mercies gained, and this becomes a refrain for all parts of Israel. The writer is filled with delight at the response of the Lord to his cry to Him (118:3ff.), the Lord who brought him back into a broad place. What, he declares, what can man do to me, for the Lord is with him amongst those who help him! What a member of the gracious term of comrades, is the Lord Himself, the King of the Universe, the One of all might! "Therefore I shall see ... upon those who hate me."
Thus in Psalm 118:7, there appears to be an ellipsis, as often occurs both in English and other languages, when some part is omitted either for effect, or for impact or because it is conveyed by the emotional or logical flow and is deemed unnecessary. Both the AV and the NKJV ADD here "My desire", making it read, "see my desire upon those who hate me." This is a guess. In terms of the strongly, passionate spiritual tenor, the merciful major in this Psalm, this seems rather an unlikely addition. The certain thing is that he will see the effectual remedy for the injurious commotion served on him by his enemies. That is the tenor, the power and praise of God, the action of God and the deliverance of the one calling on Him, with relish for his whole being and nature!
It might thus be better to leave the ellipsis to say only what the context HAS been saying, so if one adds at all, having something more like - "I shall see His dealings on my enemies" or 'His action on my enemies."
This thought is confirmed by the next declaration, namely that it is better to put one's trust in the Lord than to have confidence in man. The Lord is near, listens to His children, and acts with an inimitable power as the case may require in His wisdom. Even princes among men are not to be compared for companions and help, to the Lord, he continues (118:8-9), so escalating his praise. .
AND THE FACT OF IRRESISTIBLE POWER
Then the scene changes at Psalm 118:10. Suddenly we see a valiant, indomitable, fearless, awesomely irresistible Prince at work in the midst of teeming enemies, indeed "all nations" who "surround" him. His action now becomes individual, inexorable, assured, fatal and is precisely such as is found in Psalm 2:8ff.:
"Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
"You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ "
"Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him."
Now, as so often in the Psalms, we move from the plaintive voice of the suppliant, to the masterful massif of the Messiah. The theme of deliverance has passed, or if you will, the restraining bonds of the forces of terrestrial gravity are overcome. It is almost as if, now orbiting in space, the Victor is now freed for the direct work of God, is now in the celestial sphere, but not in mere space, for His dynamic is grace, in the presence of God.
Violently did they push: it was no push-over. Deep were the gashes, strong was the arm of the opposition, who even surrounded Him, and sought His fall, but the deliverance is vast triumph, the victory is certain and the result is famous so that
"the voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous. The right hand of the LORD does valiantly, the right hand of the LORD is exalted, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly. I shall not die but live."
Precisely as in Psalm 72, we see this awesome, this evocative combination of the regal power that nothing can brook, and the sudden exposure of a movement from impending or even advancing death, death with all the relish of its own imposition, and the simple statement that "I shall not die but live." In Psalm 72:12-15, we move from the REDEMPTION which He secures (and the LORD is the redeemer Himself as we see so very clearly in Hosea 13:14), to the fact that "He shall live."
Amazing as the fact may appear, the event is comparable with the grandeur of God, the Creator; for the Redeemer of sinful man will yet LIVE, even though life is forfeit for sin (Romans 6:23), as the entire sacrificial system bespoke, but nowhere more directly than in Leviticus 16-17.
Atonement is by death, redemption is by payment of the requisite price, death is the result, so that "and He shall live" and "I shall not die but live" become chants of amazing attainment. HOW!
Psalm 16 has already answered that question, just as Psalm 2 presupposes it. Despite the fact that kings and counsellors, nations assail and seek to remove the cords, the bonds, the moral and express declarations and desire of the Lord, and His personal presence indeed, from the surface of the earth, YET as the resurrected Son, one begotten from the dead He is thrust into the faces of His murderers, and proceeds to an irresistible judgment on those so exposed (Psalm 2:8ff.). They ? there were the passionate priests in their prayers, the fanatically political, the astutely self-interested, a mere Mafia, pundits and religious authorities amongst the worst: betrayers all.
So it was foretold; and so it was, from the betrayal to the death and the resurrection. In Psalm 22 one sees the specialisation on the mode, manner and atmosphere of the death of the Messiah, as of course in Isaiah 52-53, and it is clear that it is by piercing, slow extortion of death in agony, amongst jeering while the price of salvation is paid in the very midst of mockers. That is self-discipline; but it also is love, for love bears all things (I Cor. 13).
The drive to bring escape from ruin to man is no less severe than is the necessity to uphold truth and impose justice. That HE bore the justice for all who come to Him in faith in the New Covenant, is the badge of love, but it does not dispense with truth. Where in truth, there is no faith, then in justice there is no mercy.
Mercy is channeled through the Messiah, appointed, predicted, performing to perfection, doing all things well, slain and resurrected, available to faith, returning to rule.
Thus in Psalm 118:17 we find not only that He will not die but live (that is, become subject to death as bonded servant to master, for death could not hold Him as Peter declared in Acts 2:23-24, for how would the Prince of life be its subject, who Himself invented it in truth!); He will also DECLARE the WORKS of the Lord. In Psalm 22, it is just the same, for after all the pangs of death, we find in 22:21ff., these things:
"for You have answered Me. I will declare Your name to My brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the LORD, praise Him ... All the ends of the world will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You ...
A posterity shall serve Him. It will be counted of the Lord for a generation. They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done this."
In other words, there is to be a generation ('next' as in the NKJV is not in the text) which will serve Him, and it is the regenerated generation, the special people, the royal priesthood of which I Peter 2:9 speaks; and it is they who will in successive periods of history as it comes into being, constitute one spiritual generation which, as in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) attest what God has done, declaring with one tongue to the end of the Age, His righteousness who became a propitiation that God might be just and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus (Romans 3:23ff.).
There are many in any generation who are fraudulent, as in the case of the ruling Temple authorities in Christ's day; these are not, do not compose or even contribute to the regenerated generation of His praise, but rather by contrast the more focus on its brilliance, reflecting the increate Light which is Christ.
So does all of the word of God fit snugly like a beautiful coat in stormy weather, over the shirt and vest, all of one design, made for each other, and the heart is warmed.
The "book of the Lord" (Isaiah 8:20), though using many servants, is one book whose ultimate Author is one God, speaking with one Spirit to all mankind (as in Titus 2-3). His word is kindness; it is clear, and it is integral.
Thus in Psalm 118, parallel in triumph over disaster, in life over death as in Psalm 72 and 22 in their different emphases, but with this one fact in common, declares "we have blessed You from the house of the LORD. GOD is the LORD and He has given us light." Rejoicing at the presence of the true and living God as the Messiah, invincible in power, inexorable in judgment, magnificent in mercy, proceeds as in the other Psalms at which we are looking in parallel. The refrain of mercy then completes Psalm 118.
THE GATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, SUBLIME
We have however left out the middle of Psalm 118.
Having declared that "I will not die but live" and "declare the works of the Lord", the Messiah proceeds in His testimony, even He whose dynamic irresistibility is shown in overthrowing all enemies, and the last and worst is death, as in Psalm 22 and 16 and of course I Corinthians 15:26, Hosea 13:14, for it requires the death of the Messiah, though one from which He irrupted in glory, rising bodily in invincible life, that of the Son of the Blessed, triumphant through His suffering, purity and power, for redemption.
"Open to Me the gates of righteousness!" He summons, adding this amazing statement: "I will go through them." Here is no sinner seeking redress, redemption's gift; but a Prince without spot or sin, speaking to the gates of righteousness with authority, for with Him was no sin (I Peter 2:22), nor was iniquity found in Him (Isaiah 53). "I will praise the LORD," He continues, whose deliverance is declared in terms of authenticity by the Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4).
Thus thye dynamic irresistibility of His power as seen in Psalm 118:10-17, in the midst of ruthless resistance, moves after the overthrow of death, into the irreproachable righteousness which can speak to its gates as to friends, and demand that they open that He may enter in.
This is important. It is no question of snivelling about and hoping; with God, it is not as with man; for He has no bonds to contain Him, nor bounds to limit; and any who would from man seek to restrain Him, as in Psalm 2, fall to the ground; for the worst that man can do to man, is kill; and death He overthrows as in Psalm 16.
Indeed, it is just the same in Psalm 22, for though this is one of intense suffering amidst the gloating furiousness of wrathful foes, yet from the very interstices of slow death, He arises irresistible, irreproachable, declaring the name of the Lord in the great assembly as in Psalm 118 (22:22). "Your heart will live who seek God," states Psalm 22 in view of His achievement for mankind, in His kindness, for every one who believes Him (Isaiah 53:1 makes that point most emphatically, as do the following verses, in stressing that those who are healed are those whose sins are borne, and that is why they are healed).
Now in Psalm 118, this victorious and thrice valorous figure is seen striding through the gates of righteousness which open at His cry, while His mouth praises as God, the sending God whose word He is (Isaiah 48:16, John 1:1*1). It is now that we see that this is not at all swagger, for how would the Eternal God swagger, He whose are all things, and from whom alone come everything, by creation, which is not God. To swagger is to be unduly conscious of imagined greatness or facade; to be sovereign eternally is no more susceptible to this shock of self-praise, than is the possession of a body a subject for self-adulation.
No, it is not with any merely procedural triumph, that the King shows His hand here, but as is fitting for the King of Love, and the love if the King, it is for His followers that by these means of emphasis, He shows the free entry pass which He Himself has acquired ON THEIR BEHALF.
It is rather on behalf of those for whom He died that He comes with such insuppressible relish, having declared to them the praises of God (118:17-20). We enter into musing mode, if one may put it that way, and in 118:20 we find a reference to the gate through which He has just entered in regal splendour, following His massive victory against horrendous foes. It is in this manner that it is spoken of:
"This gate of the LORD, through which the righteous may enter."
Now this is one of those numerous points in scripture, the Bible, where the precision is apparent and the pivot is found in some apparently small thing, as reflected in the words of Christ, when, as in Matthew 5:17-20 (cf. SMR Appendix D), He made it clear that every smallest part of every letter would remain before God and retain its power, till fulfilled. Thus the Hebrew term for 'righteous' in the verse just quoted above (v. 20), is not singular; it is plural. In other words, we have now moved as suddenly FROM the Messiah in His indomitable dynamism, to a group of persons. These are deemed, 'the righteous'. Paul shows this, in Romans 5:17:
"For if by one man's offence death reigned through the
much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness
will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ."
Righteousness being received freely (Psalm 32, 71:15-16, 51:12, Isaiah 53:10ff., Jeremiah 23:6, Hosea 13:14), like eternal life (Romans 6:23) as a GIFT, it is therefore BESTOWED; and this then is fitted to His redeemed, now in Him deemed 'righteous' being recipients freely of HIS righteousness, as it is written.
THIS IS THE GATE OF THE LORD. What is the gate of the Lord ? That through which the Messiah just entered, as Prince of Life (Acts 3:15-16) and Redeemer IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH HIS OWN STANDING BEFORE ALL, SO THAT ANY WHO WISHES TO ENTER THROUGH HIM, HAS THIS WHICH IS THE MESSIAH'S OWN POSSESSION TO DECLARE, LIKE A VISA. He commands 'open!', enters, comes in and out as Christ put it in the resonating scripture of John 10:9, and finds pasture. Having ENTERED, as that verse shows, by this gate, the one which Christ there declares Himself to BE, each one of the believers who follow Him goes in and out, saved by that same Jesus, equipped with His coverage and visa (Psalm 118:25, cf. Ephesians 1:6).
THE GRACE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS DIVINE
THIS IS THE GATE, "I am the door." It is then in order to emphasise that this righteousness is His, that its gift is therefore in His hand, that HE has unlimited access to enter, SO THAT any who come in this, His name, are freely admitted that the glorious victorious relish is seen in His demand,
|"Open to Me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them." (Cf. Hebrews 2:10-18).|
Then we are shortly introduced to the most pointed element of His princely victory. It is this:
"The stone which the builders rejected, has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the LORD's doing: it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made: we will rejoice and be glad in it,"
as in Psalm 118:22-24.
In other words, we see quite specifically here, as in Isaiah 49:7, that the conflict just noted earlier in this Psalm involved a REJECTION of the Messiah, precisely as so dramatically disclosed in Psalm 2, and cited in Acts 4:25ff., in that grand Christian prayer of triumph over adversity in the resurrection fact. The 'builders' can only be, in such a case of regality and righteousness, glory and determination of destiny, those who kept the temple, the religious leaders, those nationally exalted in that theocratic nation, of Israel, with any who were involved, like Pilate, in various associated capacities in the assassination of Jesus Christ.
THEY rejected Him. Now He is disclosed as what the building chiefly exhibits, its strength. HE, it is HE who is the chief cornerstone (Psalm 118:22). How this would displease the spirits of the unjust; but how it pleases those who deplored His death, though they glorify God for His being willing to suffer it, vicariously, in that grand and glorious sovereignty of God, who is love, USING the hatred of His foes to bring blessing to all who would receive Him, the crucified and glorified Saivour. What of course makes it even more marvellous, both in heart and in wisdom, is the fact that it is not FOR those who had already believed Him, and against those who tormented Him; it is for ANY who receive Him.
Indeed, it is far more pointed even than that, for He made intercession for the TRANSGRESSORS, repeatedly crying,
"Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing"
with the love which does not seek simply to favour friends, but to reconcile, bringing home His very enemies, even those who slay Him!
THERE is the love of God. Yet if they will not, even then, come, then they are not compelled! THERE is the love of God. There is love that we might know it! There is the love of Matthew 23:27 (cf. SMR Appendix B), and Luke 19:42ff., of Ezekiel 33:11 and of Hosea 7:1, Jeremiah 51:9, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, love which (literally) resounds in Jeremiah 48:36.
That, then, it is the same
|as in Psalm 22 where the crucified One comes in triumphant praise of the Lord into the assembly;|
|as in Psalm 16, where His flesh does not rot, nor is His soul left in affliction,|
|in Psalm 72, where suddenly, following His redemption-gift, we learn "and He shall live".|
Indeed, they cry out, very much as did the "whole multitude of the disciples" (Luke 19:37-38) on Palm Sunday, the nation being well prepared for nearly a millenium from the Psalms, to take no more: "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD. We have blessed You from the house of the LORD," Psalm 118:26.
Finally, we note that this is a case of intimacy in the word of God. The GATE is exposed, and it is applied by Christ with justice and truth to Himself as in John 10, with the whole array of meaning from the Psalms included in intimacy as between friends. The word of God, then, not only has the resonances so often noted before (cf. Index at Bible, Biblical Inspiration): it has more even than that.
Let us however first review the concept and finding of 'resonance' here. This figure depicts the case when one part and another of the Bible have so much in common that it evinces the work of one Author. In such a case, as so frequently found, although styles may vary significantly among the works of one man (as they may do in music), yet there is with great authors, the more especially, an affinity of thought and texture which grows as from one mind declaring itself in multiplied manner and format. Thus God Himself who is not ashamed to call us brethren (Hebrews 2), has such a resonance even when using differing authors, the writers of the Bible, in different times and epochs, to express by His own Spirit His own will and mind.
More than this, however, let us observe at this time in our present Psalm topic, the INTIMACY, the exceeding closeness of the concepts, which are like the welding of parts of a machine together, so marvellous is the fit, so excellent the design, so that parts amplify the strength, each of the other, and together present a unified result, like the wing of an aeroplane, or a space-craft which, though made in different firms, has but on quality standard from one nation which for one design has wrought all in one. It is moreover like the organic whole of the body, with its underlying one (DNA) language, integral function and mutually supportive organs.
The wisdom and the wit of God is like that, brilliant, intimate, discerning, dextrous, diligent and indeed altogether delightful. In all His works and ways and witness, He verifies Himself continually, not so much confronting a problem with a solution in His creation, in His word indeed, as declaring His might in its mounting splendour, like the Rocky Mountains, not striving to be great, but declaring greatness.
As seen in The Bright Light and the Uncomprehending Darkness Ch. 10, God recognises no other God, nothing comparable (cf. Psalm 89), no Saviour, no Creator; and He Himself is not only the sole Creator but the sole Saviour (Isaiah 43:8-10, 44:22-24, 45:18). Those who seek acclaim or pretend it, in this field, are the subject of scornful derision, as in Psalms 2, 82 and Ezekiel 28:9.