Michael Browne, Bath, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Manhood of Messiah. Here again we are directed to a study of the humanity of Christ, but His humanity seen from an entirely different perspective from that of Psalm 8. There it is the dominion of Messiah over a subjected creation and His glory as the Crowned Man; here it is the manhood of Messiah and His subjection as a man within God's creation. It is the kind of life that He actually lived as Jesus of Nazareth, its quality and the inner principles which motivated its complete obedience.
One Voice Throughout the Psalm. There is, perhaps, no other Psalm so completely redolent of Christ as this one. It is written in the first person which gives it just one voice throughout the whole Psalm. The voice we hear is the voice of Jesus, and once we distinguish this the whole poem takes on a special significance. It becomes the revelation of Christ's holy prayer to His God as He nears the cross, the final breathings of His secret communion with the Lord His Portion and His Cup. For here is the last affirmation of His dependence, His life-long obedience to God. It is the offering-up of His "goodness" on behalf of the saints for whom He is about to enter into death. Then follows His assurance of victory over death and His entry as Man into the presence of Jehovah by the path of life to gaze upon His countenance (this was undoubtedly "the joy that was set before him", Heb. 12. 2) and to continue in the unbroken eternal communion of love as the Son with the Father. Here in this Psalm we are brought into the presence of the loveliest human life ever lived, and we shall be bowed in adoring worship before ever we have completed its study.
Feelings of Christ's Human Nature. In this Psalm we look into the very heart of the Master and read the thoughts which passed through His mind as He approached the moment of His ultimate obedience - the very death of the cross. Here we have the feelings of Christ's human nature, in view of His near sufferings and the necessity of passing into death, vv. 8-11. This is the Psalm which, more than any other, reveals the inner obedience and trust of God's Perfect Man. We see the path that He trod for God upon the earth, and therefore the path we too are called upon to follow for He is essentially our Great Example, Heb. 12. 3; 1 Pet. 2. 21. What a lovely Scripture to have upon the heart when death is near, as Christ had, or to use as a comfort in the presence of death. For here is an expression of confidence, even through death, that the godly man in every age may appropriate.
Apostolic Application to Jesus of Nazareth. Both Peter
and Paul quote from this Psalm, Acts 2. 25-32; 13. 32-37, to prove that Jesus of Nazareth, Acts 2. 22, or the Saviour Jesus, Acts 13. 23, is its Subject, and that it demonstrates His Messiahship as the Son of David through the resurrection. This firmly establishes the Messianic nature of the Psalm and the prophetic office of King David, Acts 2. 30. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, uses this Psalm to stress the resurrection of Christ, Acts 2. 31, whereas Paul appears to use it to emphasize the fact that the body of Christ saw no corruption, Acts 13. 34-37, qualifying Him as the Inheritor of David's everlasting kingdom, 2 Sam. 7. 16, the One in whom all the ''mercies" promised David are utterly secure.
A Golden Psalm. This is the first of the "golden" Psalms (the others being Psalms 56-60) or "Michtams of David". While the word "Michtam" comes from an obscure root, there are three suggested meanings: "a golden psalm" or a psalm of unusual excellence; "a hidden psalm" or one containing a mystery or hidden meaning; and the Septuagint rendering has the thought of "engraving on tablets" to indicate its permanency. For the believer with Christ-anointed eyes it is a "golden" Psalm because it is full of Christ. It becomes the golden measure of a devoted human life lived entirely for the glory of God, exposing the dross of our alloyed lives and yet beckoning us on to purer endeavours. The "hidden" meaning is its prophecy concerning the resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ, and its "engraving" is upon the ageless tablet of God's inspired Word.
Analysis. The Path of the Perfect Pilgrim. His Attitude toward god, 1-2; His Attitude toward god's saints, 3; His Attitude toward god-rejectors, 4.
The Inner Principles that Governed His Perfect Life, The choice He makes, 5; The contentment He enjoys, 6; The counsel He receives, 7; The confidence He holds, 8-10; The coronation He anticipates, 11.
Synopsis of the Psalm.
His Attitude toward God, Saints, and God-Rejectors, vv. 1-4. The attitude of the Perfect Pilgrim was first and most important that of trust - He is the Dependent Man. His heart is at rest trusting in God. In the dire straits of life He finds "refuge" (r.s.v.) in God. Surely verse 1 is the language of Gethsemane? He has power but not for Himself, for as a Man He must be absolutely dependent on God. He will feed the five thousand out on the hills but refuse to satisfy His own hunger in the wilderness. He will command the wind and the sea to allay the fear of His disciples, but He will not use His authority to summon twelve legions of angels in His crisis hour.
He is also the Devoted Man in His relationship with the saints, the excellent in whom was all His delight. Because His attitude is right with God, it is also right as He enjoys fellowship with the "saints that are in the earth". He appreciates their real character. For them He tells His God, "My goodness (or merit) is not on account of Thee (not to profit Christ with God), but is (in respect of, or) for the saints". The spotless life of obedience that Christ lived was not to benefit Himself, to bring Him into the special blessings of obedience; if this were so He could never have gone to the cross for He, above all others, was never worthy of death. Rather, the goodness or merit that He has accrued is willingly laid down for others, for those who are the "saints" the "excellent" in whom His soul delighted - the saints for whom He would "give" Himself as a sacrifice and offering to God.
As for the others, those who hasten after other gods, He will turn His back upon them and face Jehovah only in worship. In this He is the Obedient Man. He has no delight in the idolaters; He will not even take their names upon His lips -terrible statement when the Son will not mention them (cf. John 17. 9) - or, the meaning may be that He will not name their false gods. But clearly this verse teaches that as the Son has no delight in the God-rejectors, there can be no true joy or happiness in their false worship. There is no joy apart from God; sorrow must be the inevitable portion of a world that will not have God.
The Inner Principles that Governed His Perfect Life, vv. 5-11. Now as the Separated Man unto Jehovah, v. 5, He enjoys Him as His Portion and Cup. Jehovah was His "portion", that is, One who was rightfully His whether enjoyed or not; but He was also His "cup", that is, He actually appropriated Him and enjoyed Him. He recognized what we so often forget, that it is Jehovah (not we ourselves) who maintains our spiritual lot (inheritance) of joy, peace and every blessing we have in Christ. He is the Satisfied Man, v. 6, in all circumstances of His pilgrim life. Though despised and rejected of men, having nowhere to lay His head, He can still say, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places". In His night seasons, v. 7, the moments of trial and frustration, He receives His instruction from the Lord (how often our Blessed Lord prayed through the night to His God); in this He is the Worshipping Man, and because of the help received from His Lord He became the Steadfast Man moving through life, v. 8, with Jehovah before Him for guidance and on His right hand for strength and stability. Now the Hopeful Man, v. 8, looks before Him into death., and rejoices! Not in the act of death itself, but in what it means for Jehovah as an act of obedience, and for the saints as opening for them the path of life. What a beautiful and fruitful meditation to apply these verses to the mind of the Saviour as He moves towards Jerusalem for the ultimate sacrifice of the cross. Finally we see the Exalted Many v. n, triumphantly passing along the path of life into the presence of Jehovah to take His place at that Right Hand where "there are pleasures for evermore". And, praise God, He has said, "that where I am, there ye may be also". Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
AUTHOR PROFILE: Michael is in fellowship in Manvers Hall, Bath, where he serves as an elder. He worked as a missionary in Hong Kong for thirteen years and since 1972 has had an itinerant Bible teaching and gospel ministry labouring in many parts of the world.