This Psalm is a narration of the wonderful history and providence of God with and over the people called Jacob and Israel, and who were the children of one man, called out alone and separated from his father’s house. The purpose of God in this seems to have been to raise up and develop a seed of righteous men in the flesh upon earth, to see whether men instructed, warned and enlightened to the highest degree of moral instruction could obey the Lord of their own will and choice. This thought is expressed in the forty-fifth verse of the above named Psalm: “That they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws.” The tenth verse informs us that the covenant was confirmed unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant. The eighth verse tells us that He remembered his covenant forever, the word which he commanded for a thousand generations. This forever was the whole time of the Jews in covenant relation with God by the law of circumcision, which was not of Moses, but of their father Abraham, and of Isaac and Jacob his descendants, and which reached the period of its termination at the coming of Christ, and at his manifestation at the baptism of John in the river Jordan, with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon his head, John being the last of the thousand generations under the law, and the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ in his ministry. Yea, during all this time the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with the children called Israel after them, remembered his covenant which had been given to Israel for an everlasting covenant throughout their generations, when circumcision and ceremonies lost all signification forever, as a system of obedience with honor and praise to God, and hence, from this consideration, the preaching of John was, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It is said that this same John had his garment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins, and his meat was locusts and wild honey. By these signs he showed his own repentance, in turning away from the old Hebrew covenant of legal service under the reign of circumcision, imposed upon the seed of Abraham until the time of reformation. (See the epistle to the Hebrews.)
Now we have reached a very critical point in the investigation of this Psalm, which was written with the pen of a ready writer: David, the man after the heart of God, and in covenant also, as another sign of the day of the Lord, was the writer. For it is said, “If Jesus [Joshua] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.” In this sentence, which declares the sure mercies of David, God spoke of and limited a certain day, (not days, but one day, known to the Lord) saying in David the son of Jesse, Judah, Isaac and Abraham, To-day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the wilderness. In this Psalm David had followed the children of Israel in covenant with God from Egypt, to Canaan and then down to the coming of Christ. God himself was the author and husbandman of the scheme of culture and building of the house of Israel to see whether they would be obedient or not, as before declared by Him at the beginning from the top of Mount Sinai. I say, David in this Psalm had followed Israel from the beginning to the end of the generation in the covenant of promise to Abraham, and the last verse declares the purpose of God in it all, which was that they might observe his statutes and keep his laws. Then the psalmist adds, “Praise ye the Lord;” and we behold the end thereof in disaster, humiliation and shame, in the destruction of that whole nation, city, temple and all the rites thereof, which were plowed as a field. “If then I be a father, where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord.” For ye have rebelled against me; yea, this whole nation, wherefore I will give your city to the flames and your people to the spoiler. I will break the staff of Ephraim and the staff of Judah, and Israel shall be spoiled of both their kings. It is now, and has been from the days of John the Baptist, that no flesh living can be justified by the law; nor by the law can Israel bring forth the fruits of righteousness to the praise of the Lord God of Jacob and the Redeemer of Israel. Yea, rather, the law worketh wrath. Where no law is there is no transgression. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the manner (or similitude) of Adam’s transgression. This does not mean little children only; but by Adam’s transgression all men became sinners; and “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And here at this point Paul predicates the gospel of salvation from sin and death in the person and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is written that Abraham saw his day and was glad; and his day was not the Jewish Sabbath, or our Sunday. “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” This presents the difference between the old and the new covenants. “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.”
This is the summing up of the whole gospel. But the theme is endless, and I must conclude. But the praise of the Lord shall never cease in the heaven of glory.
I. N NEWKIRK.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 76., No. 2.
JANUARY 15, 1908.