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AND HE SHALL LIVE!
a thrust in
Psalm 72, that Grand Messianic,
Glory Masterpiece of the Millenium
THE WONDERFUL SENTENCE
It is always remarkable, in the very midst of Psalm 72's attributions to the Messiah of grace and power and kindness and redemption, to find the words "And He shall live..."
The reason for this clause is not so obvious as might appear. It would plainly be strange if it were in the case of Queen Victoria's reign, and in the midst of itemising her achievements, you were to say, 'and she will live.' Otherwise we would have a summary end in the midst of a continuing account. Why then say it ?
In the case of the Messiah however, since He is God (cf. Psalm 2, His role and resurrection, Psalm 45, His name and place, Zech. 14:12, His deity incarnate, though pierced, and His salvation as in Isaiah 42, 53, when ONLY God is Saviour - Isaiah 43:10ff.), there is naturally going to be a supernatural difference!
What is this difference ?
Since, secondlly, the purpose of God's incursion into His creation, as if a novelist came into the story, was to save by vicarious atonement and direct presentation of manifest power and humility in an evocative and wonderful combination, there HAS to be a notable death. Moreover, thirdly, as this is a mere prelude to the insuppressible resurrection (Psalm 16, Acts 2), which is as much a part of the plan as the suffering, since God is sovereign and His incursion is not diversion but statuesque exhibition of His love and mercy, WHILE REMAINING GOD: then DEATH will be close to life, and a parcel of it, for this Messiah! Hence in Psalm 72, in the midst of majesty and rule, comes this "and He shall live".
It is like saying in the midst of a severe and strenuous account of the restoration of Europe after World War II, "and it will live". It is understood, because underneath we all know so well how vast was the suffering, how near the death of liberty and the utter and intransigeant violation of Europe's past and hope, in Hitler's Reich. Hence "and it will live" would be a reference to the fact that this did not come on a plate, for supper, but was secured through the very rigor mortis of its agonies, in the war years.
In other words, as to this presentation in Psalm 72, of Christ's majestic rule on this earth, it is not a mere coming; for it researches the very depths of death, and as to that, it is done in the very gravamen of sin's curse, so that the necessary sense of separation of the Messiah, Himself God the sent, from God the Sender (as in Isaiah 48:16) duly happened. This was as foretold in Psalm 22:1 and recounted in Matthew 27:46): "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!"
This, predicted to be uttered by Him in His agonies, as sin separated Him as voluntary victim from the normal sense of infinite association with the Father, was duly uttered. It showed the depth of depravity in man, that God as man should so suffer for Him. It meant that rule of the Messiah, when it duly came, following the era for the declaration of His Gospel of grace, would never be forgetful of what it cost to secure it.
Hence as in Psalm 72, we read of His being the One who will redeem the poor and the needy, we need to find what that implies. It is as Psalm 2, 16, 22 show, death that it implies.
How then will a dead, a slaughtered, a pierced and smitten Messiah continue in such a grand work on this earth, if death is His lot ?
It is of course in terms of the resurrection so that His body did not, because it could not rot (as Acts 2:23-24 depicts), so that the Lord raised it. Thus death that dealt its deadly blow, was dealt an even more deadly one, so that God as in Hosea 13, becomes the destruction of death. It is shown weak and to succumb to the infinite righteousness of God when He, in love, redeems from its just sway (Hebrews 2). Fear of it is thus banished, for the love of God is stronger than death, for His power enables His mercy to overcome it, as He both bears and breaks it, being unsusceptible to personal guilt, and capable of rising from the dead in the human format, without yielding anything.
The death He died was furnished for sin, which intruding like some great asteroid on the earth, had come as it has come, into the lives of mankind. This guilt and cost of sin is finished in Christ, as to its claims, extruded like some vast polluted ocean from the sea-bed. This is wrought by His atoning death, made applicable to faith and found in reliance on Him, in the sweep of this vast episode of mercy and love.
Two things follow at once. Hence this, His vicarious death cannot be minimised, as if unimportant, since nothing is more important in all its phases and facets than the love and mercy shown in practicality and power which God showed to mankind; nor can sin be tolerated, since it is dismissed like an unruly student from the school, so that we learn of the situation, its depth and its nature.
"And He shall live" thus comes as a necessary and non-intrusive, but severe reality thrust into the midst of the marvels of His provisions, so that we are reminded that the love and mercy, the pity and the redemption are not without cost, and not without death was the necessary means. This, however, is not even directly mentioned in this Psalm 72, since it is one of triumph and victory, of coming to rule, of the second phase of what Christ expresses in Luke 24, namely firstly His sufferings and then the glory which is to follow. This, as He declared, is in the prophetic depiction of His Messianic role. At the time divinely envisaged and called to our minds in Psalm 72, the sacrificial suffering is something by this time PAST, and yet it remains entirely relevant; for without this death, where would be this life of triumphant pity and millenial wonder ? Indeed, without that, this vindication of His plan and consummation of His kindness would not be possible.
But surely, you perhaps will say, with God ALL things are possible ? Yes, in terms of His will; but it is NOT His will that sin be unmet, for He is expressly declared to have come as a propitiation for sin, so that He might be JUST and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus (Romans 3:23ff.). Being just involves dealing with things are they are, and dealing with sin as it is means receiving the curse which is intrinsic to it and extrinsic in the world (as in Romans 8:18ff.). Being merciful means CONTAINING this, and being the Messiah involves RECEIVING the sentence on Himself, who had before made plain enough to the earth in the flood and the Pharaoh, as well as many other means and prophetic involvements, what judgment means.
Thus man is given to see how SEVERE is sin and so how SPLENDID is salvation, since sin was enough to inundate the earth, famish kingdoms, destroy nations as in Sodom's case!
So the glory and the splendour of Psalm 72 are not actually interrupted by reviewing the basis in the Messianic atonement, as in Psalm 2, 16, 22, but it is not oblivious of it, and with a subtle, and yet eminently impactive device, it brings us back to the reality of the source, scope and origin of the mercy provided with such strength in the Messiah. If you would take imagery, it is as if to say that the bombing of Dresden was a part of the deliverance from the rule of Hitler (here a figure for sin), and that this was a totally horrible act, one delineating the depth of depravity of the evils in view.
Then of course, in the SPIRITUAL WAR where the Messiah is the Victor, we see that it is not Dresden, nor is it indeed ANY of the possessions that are man's - the criminal's in this case - but rather is it possessions of Deity that are blasted, but slowly. It is the bodily format of man, chosen for sacrifice by the Lord Himself, and the vulnerability to devastation that goes with it, that suffers.
He has HIMSELF taken our sins and borne them with an amplitude wide enough for any coverage, but limited enough for ONLY those who come. Nothing is wasted, those who die in their sins (John 8:24) do indeed retain them, and nothing is minimised. The SCOPE is total; the application is entirely limited. The cheque available and secured is enough for any; its payment, the transfer of funds, spiritual funding, is to those who adopt its conditions (I John 3:22, Mark 11:23, I Peter 1:5ff., II Peter 1:3ff.), so becoming covenantally adopted (Ephesians 1:1-11), and assured of eternal life.
Thus "He will redeem" in Psalm 72:14 (cf. Psalm 17, 32), is followed at once by "And He shall live ..." Prayer for Him follows that, as a thankful people delight in His nobility of enterprise, grace of manner, wonder of sacrificial love and loyalty to His creation, so that neither does He tolerate sin, nor oppression by strenuous strictness (I John 5:3-4), but rather He disposes a mercy which requires regeneration for its conditions, and so removes the tyranny of sin from mere continuance (cf. Romans 6:1ff, John 8:31-32).
THE AMAZING PRELUDE
The Book of Psalms is full of references to what was, in the epoch of its writing, to the coming of the Messiah. Psalm 72 is a prominent one of His dominant rule and merciful kindness combined, as His grace proves sufficient for what at that time is a restored domain.
What then was the preceding reference to the Messiah, moving back from Psalm 72 ?
If we can find this, then we may find a sequential sense, a drift of dynamic, from that Psalm leading into Psalm 72. Such is the case.
In Psalm 69, the preceding Messianic Psalm, we find one of the most poignant, distressing and dynamic depictions of the suffering of the Messiah, which in the domain of His suffering (and thus with Psalm 22) reveals that it was not only death, abhorred tyrant of sin's destiny, that lay before Him. Rather was it an excruciating death of mockery, contempt, belittlement, bedevilment indeed, which came, where desolation was the drive, and horror the stage.
We find that "for Your sake, I have borne reproach" (69:7), while "I became a byword to them", so that He prays, "Let not the pit shut its mouth on Me" (69:15). Indeed, "I am in trouble" (69:17), so that He bears the great threesome of slander's mouth, reproach, shame and dishonour (69:19). We find Him in an acute phase, so that "I am full of heaviness" (69:20), and pity is not to be found, not even though it be sought, for its contenders to minister are not available.
Comforters lacked, and indeed mockery and distaste find expression in the 'food' being provided: 'gall', and the drink, 'vinegar'. Whatever else, in context this is a derisory regaling, a farcical feasting like the mocking of majesty in the crown of thorns. It is well to remember that all of these things were not only the acrid exhibit of the hearts of hatred even towards God Himself, whatever the mouth might say, but an index to the insistence on running life, the globe or history, the way man himself wanted it, either for survival, false glory, trivial pursuits or the indomitability of diseased will.
Small wonder the impact on total, refined purity was appalling.
In fact, despite His integrity and the slanderous squalor provided for His Spirit while His body is stricken as in Psalm 22, we find that "Reproach has broken My heart" (69:20). That is the cost when as in Psalm 72, redemption is the provision! Just as "Your iniquities have separated you from your God" (Isaiah 59:2), so the atoning sacrifice must experience this separation, so that as in Psalm 69, the heart is broken and reproach is levelled like the aim of an execution squad rifles!
It is then this Psalm 69 which preceded Psalm 72, in the Messianic line, which answers our question concerning the clause, "And He shall live."
It is to this we look when we find "and He shall live" in the latter Psalm; and it is no small invasion into the marvels of what is operating at that phase, namely His totally majestic rule, to allude in arrestingly simple but subtle way to the fact that death has been His lot, derision and ignominy. No wonder that "prayer shall be made for Him" (72:15), by people rejoicing in His provisions at such cost, as at the reality of possessing His glorious presence together with its priceless privileges of fellowship and the manifestation of mercy with might, grace with government, kindness with kingliness. Such is Psalm 72.
Moreover, this grace is the more apparent through its preceding payments, and the poignancy of the suffering: needful preliminaries. It is enough, as with a kiss, that the reference to it be conveyed in this gentle way; and indeed, as with a kiss, the heart which is behind it is the more obvious because of the gentleness of the reminder.
THE MASTERFUL OUTLINE
When we move to the next glorious Messianic Psalm, that is the succeeding exhibit of His majesty as such, in Psalm 110, there is an amazing combination. On the one hand, there is the unfading loveliness of His nature, "In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth," while on the other, there is the rigour of His rule: "The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand till I make Your enemies Your footstool," which is in close alignment with Psalm 2!
Here, in Psalm 110, we find a priest beyond the ambit of the Mosaic institution, just as was Melchisedek, who came before it. Not chained, but free, not delimited but with His own delineations of deity does He come and rule, and "shall judge among the nations", and "execute the heads of many countries."
Again, in the very midst of this now necessary result of judgment applied where mercy in Him has been scorned, while He was slandered, rejected and set at nought, comes the reality that here is the High Priest, God Himself, who yet became man, so that being God as man He could manifestly be understanding in empathy, contained in format and wholly aware of all the costs and conditions of being man. Thus, in the very midst of such majesty,
"He shall drink of the brook by the wayside," and
"therefore He shall lift up the head."
This, as Hebrews 2-4 with 7:26ff. declares, is a high priest fitting for us, born a true man, sympathetic and serviceable, sinless and most high, lowly and knowledgeable in the interior of our condition, as well as just in its disposition of all things, being Himself its Creator, ingenious beyond description, harmless in intent, secure in spirituality that has been His forever.
Here then, in Psalm 72, is the Designer Saviour, who so participates in the thought, work and situation of those to be saved, that He personally experiences all phases and facets, yet without sinning.
Here then, as in Hebrews 2, is
the captain of our souls, leading many children to glory; and
here as in Hebrews 12, is the Author
of our salvation in authority, the One who made the faith
here is the finisher of our faith no less, who having finished His
own work in such agony and anguish, finishes that for our salvation in us, being
able to keep that which is committed to Him
Now this mercifully holy purpose is revealed, and the Saviour with it, for in Him "life and immortality" have been "brought to light" (II Timothy 1:10).
As John 1 declares it, "In Him was life, and he life was the light of men." Now however, pursuing the alien course that reached its initial climax at the crucifixion, the darkness which "did not comprehend it", being blind with sin (Matthew 13:14ff.), ravages in an evil dynamic (as in Matthew 24:24's prediction, and in II Timothy 3) which as it culminates for the end of the Age, shows itself increasingly to be a desperate and despicable fiasco of fraud, lies, enmity, destruction and prejudice. At such a time as our own, it is good to reflect that this, our ultimate phase before His return, is but a short 'chapter' in time.
Before it, there stretched like vast chain upon chain of mountains in the word of God, the predictions of the eras before Christ came (as in Daniel 7-9, Isaiah 14, 44-45), of His coming (as in Daniel 7,9), of His saving work (as in Isaiah 49-55), of His restoration both from the dead and to His sovereign coverage of the earth in Person (Psalm 2, 16, 72,110), in millenial glory (as in Isaiah 2, 11, 65, Micah 4, Revelation 20): all this, pending the removal of the earth and heavens themselves (as in Isaiah 51:6, II Peter 3, Matthew 24:35).
As to this vast scope and overview of mundane history, it has the majesty in word that He has shown in deed. Naturally, when the supernatural Creator and Sovereign speaks, it is all there (as promised in Amos 3:7), and from the very pith of the progress, in the nation of Israel, there is part of the entire consummate beauty of the architecture of history provided in advance, which has now nearly come to the end, all according to the book, the Bible. There are signal events that are past, that are now here, and that are coming, as in Romans 11.
The Psalms, as we have seen in this Chapter, can provide not merely phases and vignettes, tableaux of wonder, but sequence of situation, just as the wind moves on the waters, creating waves which create waves, which create altogether, the oceanic seascape.
THE WRITING AND THE NEW ENVELOPE WHO COMES TO ENVELOP
Such is the wonder of the word of God, and such is the written envelope for the Prince of Peace and the Messianic of redemption, and rule> He came Himself in the envelope of flesh (Hebrews 1:1-3), that we might see and ask questions of Him, as a student may of a lecturer; but never was lecturer like this One, whose life knows no evil and no sin, whose ways know no decline, whose passion is purity and performance in providing salvation by His own accursed death, and in rising to provide a rule not only FOR men, but WITHIN them.
As He declared, the kingdom of heaven does not come with observation, but is within you (Luke 17:20-21). In fact, it reads ‘in your midst’; but as you see in Luke 19:44, when Jerusalem is in view, and its children within it, the same phrase has this internalised sense. Christ in Luke 17 is contrasting the outward with what follows, so that the concept appears as in Luke 19, to be the internal, the interior, whether you consider each one, or all. Its domain is first of all spiritual, its interactions primarily spiritual, and in this kingdom, this is the kernel, for God is a Spirit; and the rest follows (as in Matthew 6:24ff.)
This, with His return for (Matthew 24:31ff., I Thessalonians 4) and then with His saints (I Thessalonians 3:13, Zechariah 14:5), there is to be a vindication of His victory and a covering of this earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord (Isaiah 11) which proceeds from the inward, which is now being generated in the hearts and lives of millions who receive Him by His predicted and consummated Gospel, which cannot change (Galatians 1). It is from there that it moves on to the outward, which will then complement it.
When all this is finished, and the final outburst of evil shows all too clearly that it is by no means an environmentally conditioned thing, but one endemic to the unredeemed human heart, which would make a spiritual pig-sty of a palace (Revelation 20:7ff., Isaiah 26:10), the epoch of human, terrestrial history will be terminated, and interminable glory will resume, a new heavens and new earth the replacement for what is past, and heaven itself the eternity where He wipes away every tear. Then the memory of the preliminaries and preludes will dissipate like mist before the light of oncoming day (Revelation 7:15-17, Isaiah 66:17, Revelation 21:21, 22:1ff.).
History has surged in splendour with the saints, the train of His majesty; and it has till now, at the same time, resurged in the appalling horror of the abominable, which has sought rule and honour and glory for man and his myths*1, in the midst of passions immemorable and evil memoralised by the philosophies of folly which, irrational, creep like potassium cyanide in a mist, into the lungs and breath of man (cf. SMR Chs. 3, 10). Millions have been murdered in the last century, in Russia, in China, in Cambodia, in Africa, in South America, for example, in order to satiate the insatiable appetite of sin.
Rulers have acted like maniacs, and governments as if hallucinating; and now even in some of the so free and formerly somewhat Christianised West with its young lions from its loins, there is such a hullabaloo of folly as we saw to some extent in Ch. 7 above, spiritual distortion*2, extortion and contortion the very dynamic of the day, with all that follows in that evil train, such as famine, ruin, refugees in millions, horror camps for the deprived and the dispossessed and rape, murder and theft.
There are no heroes without Christ, and just as the USA was the wonder land with its Statue of Liberty and its endeavours to formulate statues of liberty, so that those sincere Christians who loved freedom in order to worship God without statecraft could come, so it is now increasingly becoming a woeful place. Amidst its shame, cultural excisions are being sought to remove the very consequences of former faith from the land, and to enable the utmost in perversion, reversion to secular paganism and the like, until indeed, as we saw in our last chapter, one can speak of a new phenomenon in that land, a 'call to atheism'. This soon becomes a missionary arm of the wiles of the devil, who lurks and never gives in, or gives up, until judgment makes its final dazzling exposure of his dark designs, deviousness and delinquencies.
The world pays, and the bill stays. The only verified remedy is that being tossed out the port-hole in the voyage of life in increasing efforts; so that the nervous fears, the mindless jaunts and jolts such as using bodies to bomb people, adding steel, the steely evil which impoverishes a nation in order to satisfy revenge, the artful hypocrisy which brings in morals without foundation, and cannot manage to avoid scandals of weakness and misappropriation, as if some earthly rule had any hope: all these bid fare to become the new environmental hazards of planet earth.
It is all as foretold, both the passion of Christ and the passion for evil of those who detest truth and love unrighteousness, making their own ideas without foundation to replace the love of God and one's neighbour, a desideratum made practical by reconciliation with God Himself. Without God, you do not have the heart for restoration; without the Lord, you do not have the remedy for realisation of truth, nor the logic (cf. TMR Ch. 5, Barbs ... 6 - 7); and without hope, you have no scope for psychology, be it ever so sinuous. Jesus Christ, the desire of the nations shown in the crystalline fire of the faith remains buried in the rubble of sin in many lives, but the Tower of the Flock is still the same; His resurrection power remains no less operative (Ephesians 1:19), however much imaginations of the fallen heart of man may seek to cover Him, preferably wiht the dreams of the ruin he is making, in this divinely provided world.
It is all as foretold, both the passion of Christ and the passion for evil of those who detest truth and love unrighteousness, making their own ideas without foundation to replace the love of God and one's neighbour, a desideratum made practical by reconciliation with God Himself. Without God, you do not have the heart for restoration; without the Lord, you do not have the remedy for realisation of truth, nor the logic (cf. TMR Ch. 5, Barbs ... 6 - 7); and without hope, you have no scope for psychology, be it ever so sinuous.
The world is where it was to be, since it has done what it was to do; and God who has shown beforehand both of these things, in perfect poise and power, still provides the same Gospel of the same Messiah, whose outline in the Psalms is so heart-rending and inspiring at one and the same time.
Then the end comes (Matthew 24:14). This end will be entirely appropriate to the beginning, and all that passed in between (cf. Matthew 25, Romans 5:1-12, II Thessalonians 1).
While the engines of the end work in
grunting labour, their computerised non-life a misfit for man,
while mathematics soars and life
dawdles in dreams both unclean and vacuous
while distress becomes a way of life
for countless millions and the very air begins to reek
while the earth shakes and the famines sweep the globe, while war rattles its glory-seeking, or lust satiating weaponry:
man is lost because he refuses to be found.
He has 'gone to ground' and his enterprise has made him foolish beyond conception, living in and with myths, empires and fraud.
It is well at such a time to reflect that the Desire of the Nations in His crystalline purity, comes nearer to His return (Luke 21:28); and when He does return, the results of unbelief will be manifest. As to this world, He declared of His return, "Shall He find faith on earth!" His own people will be extracted (Matthew 24:31ff.), and this world, secular in sweep and sinister in motivation, becomes a site for judgment, a field for harvest, the crops, not good.
It is virtue, not vacuity, truth not imaginary worlds unbounded by reason, futile misconceptions of irrationality, courage not fawning on sin, character not cleavage by weakness, faith not the fostering of dreams, light and not the intemperate machinations of absurd darkness: it is thie which is needed.
As to the faith, it has as its object, the Christ on whom all history does, as it will rest; as to its word, the Bible by which the times are swept into place, so that they accord with it as the millenia pass: it has as its result, rest in the reality and realisation of the Lord Jesus Christ. That, it is bliss because it is true, stands in truth and leads to it. In truth, the truth is a thing most peaceful, and its purity is incandescent.
For more on scope and overview, see News 87.
For more on the confrontation which the crystalline fire of the faith is sure to bring and has brought, even in the ministry of this author, see APPENDIX; for in truth, the lie pf delusion (II Thessalonians 2:10) has found many a haven where what is holy becomes anointed with filth, fiction and fragmentation occurs, because of unbelief, so that even many a church falling, fails, and failing, flails. It is as Peter foretold in II Peter 2 and Paul in II Timothy 3, 4 and I Timothy 4.
But the Lord by nails, not failure, by grandeur of the very Godhead, Himself on the scene, the very source of all spirituality, it is He who sustains His people, keeps His Church, and with all the social frills now departing as at the first, maintains His own cause.
To Him be blessing and honour and glory for ever. May He indeed come quickly, whose coming is already near (Answers to Questions Ch. 5).
FOR correlation with Psalm 118, DV,and indeed Psalm 22, you will be able to find material in a forthcoming volume, namely The Wit and Wisdom of the Word of God, the Bible True to Test Ch. 3.
*1 See Secular Myths and Sacred Truth.
*2 See News 121, 122, Beauty for Ashes Ch. 3, TMR Chs. 1, 8, A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-9.