The Third Book of the Psalms
Psalms 73 – 89
Psalms 73 – 89
The Third Book of the Psalms (73 – 89). The third book of the Psalms is unique for a number of reasons. First, there are almost no Psalms of David, the only exception being Psalm 86. Second, the third book opens to us a wider view, and brings in the hopes and history of Israel as a nation. From a prophetic standpoint, the third book of the Psalms focuses on the latter part of Daniel’s seventieth week, and gives us the expressions and sentiments of the remnant on behalf of Israel as they face the onslaught of the enemies called “the Assyrian” in prophecy, and it continues on into the Millennium. The third book of Psalms corresponds with the third book of the Pentateuch, Leviticus; i.e. the sanctuary of the Lord and approach to Him. We find in this book the returning tribes of Israel when they are regathered, longing to be brought into the sanctuary! In fact, there are many references to the sanctuary in this third book. Read more…
The Experiences of the Remnant in View of the Wicked
The Experiences of the Remnant in View of the Wicked
Psalm 73. This is “a Psalm of Asaph”, along with most of the Psalms in the third book. This Psalm is fascinating because it describes the state of soul of one who is discouraged, whose faith is shaken by the apparent success of the wicked, but then comes into the presence of God and sees all things as they truly are. Prophetically, this Psalm describes the expressions of the faithful remnant as they see their brethren, the apostate Jews, apparently prosper under the leadership of Antichrist, but later cut down by the invading Assyrian.
A Psalm of Asaph.
1 Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are of a pure heart.
v.1 God’s Goodness to Israel. The Psalm opens with a summary statement of faith, that God is truly good to Israel. This is shows that they are viewing Israel as a nation, in keeping with the character of the third book. This is qualified with “to such as are of a pure heart”. In other words, there are those who are faithful and will be brought into blessing, into the good of Israel’s hopes. But the unbelieving will not enjoy it.
2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped;
3 For I was envious at the arrogant, seeing the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For they have no pangs in their death, and their body is well nourished;
5 They have not the hardships of mankind, neither are they plagued like other men:
6 Therefore pride encompasseth them as a neck-chain, violence covereth them as a garment;
7 Their eyes stand out from fatness, they exceed the imaginations of their heart:
8 They mock and speak wickedly of oppression, they speak loftily:
9 They set their mouth in the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn hither, and waters in fulness are wrung out to them.
11 And they say, How can GOD know, and is there knowledge in the Most High?
12 Behold, these are the wicked, and they prosper in the world: they heap up riches.
vv.2-12 The Prosperity of the Wicked. The remnant reflect on their state of soul at seeing the wicked prosper. Their faith is faltering, such that they could say, “my steps had well nigh slipped”. They can speak of being “envious of the wicked”, because they seem to prosper. All of the trials that came upon the faithful – death, malnourishment, hardships, plagues – seem to be avoided by the wicked. The wicked are rich in their pride and their violence, fat with good food, having plenty of everything they need and want, free from oppression, and free to speak loftily and openly about their intentions. Above all, the wicked doubt that God knows what they are getting away with; “How can God know, and is there knowledge in the Most High?” In v.12 we have the summary statement; “these are the wicked, and they prosper in the world: they heap up riches”. This is a terrible state for a soul to be in, to really think that the wicked are better off than the righteous. The remedy for this despairing condition is found in vv.13-20.
13 Truly have I purified my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency:
14 For all the day have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
15 If I said, I will speak thus, behold, I should be faithless to the generation of thy children.
16 When I thought to be able to know this, it was a grievous task in mine eyes;
17 Until I went into the sanctuaries of GOD; then understood I their end.
18 Truly thou settest them in slippery places, thou castest them down in ruins.
19 How are they suddenly made desolate! they pass away, consumed with terrors.
20 As a dream, when one awaketh, wilt thou, Lord, on arising despise their image.
vv.13-20 A Mind Recalibrated in the Presence of God. In vv.13-14 the remnant reflect on the hopelessness that they had felt in seeing the prosperity of the wicked. Their carefulness in separation from evil appeared to be vanity, because in spite of their moral carefulness, they were plagued all day long and chastened every morning. These thoughts were so strong within them that they almost said them out loud, but then concern caused them to hold back. They stand on the brink of becoming faithless, but they do not go over the edge. Still the knowledge of all of this was grievous to them until (v.17) they “went into the sanctuaries of God”. For the Jewish remnant, this “sanctuary” is not the temple, but approach to God through prayer, when cast out (Ezek. 11:16). It is in the presence of God that we see the true end of the wicked. Their end is that they will “slip” (c.p. v.2) and fall under the governmental judgment of God, be cast down into ruin, suddenly made desolate, and consumed with terrors. This will take place when the king of the north sweeps down through Israel. Psalm 74 reveals that an enemy has done this. The wicked did seem to prosper now, but it was only like a bad dream which one will awake out of, and when reality dawns, the tables will be turned. In this way, the mind of the saints are recalibrated through coming into the presence of God.
21 When my heart was in a ferment, and I was pricked in my reins,
22 Then I was brutish and knew nothing; I was as a beast with thee.
vv.21-22 Humility in Reflection. Having passed through the exercises already mentioned, the faithful remnant can look back on their state of soul and see that God was working with them. They speak of being pricked in their “reigns” or conscience. When they got into the presence of God they were convicted about their wrong thought-processes. They realize that they were stupid and ignorant; as ignorant as an animal in comparison with God’s wisdom. It is an important step to take, to realize in the presence of God that our thoughts are untrustworthy and fully inadequate!
23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden my right hand;
24 Thou wilt guide me by thy counsel, and after the glory, thou wilt receive me.
25 Whom have I in the heavens? and there is none upon earth I desire beside thee.
26 My flesh and my heart faileth: God is the rock of my heart and my portion for ever.
vv.23-26 Comfort and Confidence in God. Nevertheless, the faithful can speak of the abiding presence of God, the communion that is there, and the comfort pictured by the “right hand” being held. Guidance flows from this communion, and the hope of glory ahead when Christ appears, and afterward the full reception or restoration of Israel. In v.25 there is a beautiful reflection, to realize that there is no resource worthy of our desire aside from God and self. The portion of the wicked, desired momentarily by the remnant in a time of faltering faith, is no object for the saints of God. They can say in spite of failing flesh and heart, “God is the rock of my heart and my portion for ever”.
27 For behold, they that are far from thee shall perish; thou destroyest every one that goeth a whoring from thee.
28 But as for me, it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord Jehovah, that I may declare all thy works.
vv.27-28 Nearness to God. The remnant reflects on nearness to God, and what it means for those who are “far” from God. In the end those who turn away from God will be destroyed. But, in the classic saying of the remnant; “as for me, it is good for me to draw near to God”. This is the moral conclusion of this Psalm; the blessed place is a place of nearness, in the presence of God. When we are in the presence of God, faltering faith is restored to its proper condition, and the result is that the soul is able to sing forth the praises of the Lord for all He has done!