Just a Bit O’ History…Psalm 92. A Psalm to be sung on the Day of the Sabbath.

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The Jews of old appropriated certain Psalms to particular days, and every day of the week had its allotted Psalms. The songs which the Levites formerly sang in the sanctuary are these…

On the first day, Psalm 24,
On the second day, Psalm 48,
On the third day, Psalm 82,
On the fourth day, Psalm 114,
On the fifth day, Psalm 81,
On the sixth day, Psalm 93,
On the seventh day, Psalm 92, based upon its title.

The Talmud confirms this saying that Psalm 92 was sung on the morning of the Sabbath at the drink offering which followed the sacrifice of the first lamb, –Numbers 28:9.

Some ancient writers thought perhaps that this last Psalm was composed by Adam as tribute to the seventh day of Creation, but dismissing such a contention as raving, Spurgeon says, “Adam in Paradise had neither harp to play on, nor wicked men to contend with.”  Although nameless, no one acquainted with David’s style in the Psalms credited to him, hesitates to ascribe to him authorship of this Divine, Sabbath Hymn. A notable feature in this Psalm is the sevenfold name of JEHOVAH in verses, 1, 4, 8, 13, 15. Seven times is the Sabbatical number.

Here again we have an admirable combination and composition, “A Psalm of Song,” or a Psalm to be sung upon the day of rest. Full of equal measure of solemnity and joy, its subject is the praise of God for all his work, and the joyful occupation of hearts resting in the Divine Worker.  If David wrote it, then the Holy Spirit certainly gave him utterance, for the style is worthy of the theme and of the day it is dedicated to.   The general theme is set forth in the first four verses. Ellicott’s introduction says, “In this Psalm we seem to have the Sabbath musings of one who had met the doubt born of the sight of successful wickedness, and struggled through it to a firm faith in “The Rock of Whom is no unrighteousness, though on earth iniquity seems to flourish and prevail.”

Upon an instrument of ten strings… the psaltery… the harp, 92:3.  We cannot agree with Chrysostom that “Instrumental music was only permitted to the Jews, as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls….” Away back in the cradle of humanity we read of one Jubal –from which we have the term “jubilant,” we read that he was the father and originator of all who handle the harp and organ, Genesis 4:21.  Justin Martyr expressly says “that the use of singing with instrumental music was not received in Christian churches as it was among the Jews in their infant state, but only the use of plain song.”  The insistence of some writers is that instrumental music was not in use in the churches until about the fourth century. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, wrote of the inspiration he received by congregational singing by “clear voices and appropriate tunes.”  Isaac Watts would have us sing—

Oh may my heart in tune be found,
Like David’s harp of solemn sound.

The Psalmist felt that every sweet-sounding instrument should be consecrated in God, as General Booth believed, when he introduced band-music and tambourines to match his militant form of service and worship for his “soldiers.”   The wise observation of Spurgeon in this matter is of worthy note, “It is much to be feared of that attention to the mechanism of music, as in the mere noting keys and strings.  Fine music without devotion, which is the soul and essence of praise, is but a splendid garment upon a corpse.”

Eusebius, a prominent Biblical scholar of the 4th century, commenting on Psalm 92 says, “The Psaltery if ten strings is the worship of the Holy Spirit performed by means of the five senses of the body, and the five powers of the soul,” and in confirmation of his application goes on to quote 1 Corinthians 14:15. Carrying this application further, all who are the Lord’s can look upon the human frame made up of two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet, one mouth and one heart—ten in all, as the instruments of ten strings with which to praise and magnify the Lord.  This is the truth that is embodied in Havergal’s searching hymn— “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee.”

Thou hast made me glad through thy work, 92:4. Already we have seen how Dante made use of the Psalms (Purg. xxviii. 80, E Salmo Delectasti), both directly and symbolically, and in his Purgatorio we have further illustration of this use when he describes the beautiful form of Matilda. Wondering at the brightness of her smile, she tells him that she is gladdened by verse 4 of Psalm, beginning with, Delectasti, “Thou, God, had made me glad through thy work.” Is it not this delight in God’s service, and labor in his cause, that makes the perfect happiness of an active life on earth?

And then there is a story of Casaubon, who was one of the most learned men of his age, and truly devout. He was so humble and reticent, that some doubted his religious spirit; but there is an incident he records in his diary which reveals it, and which shows the hold the book of Psalms had on the hearts of Christians of that time. He and his wife, residing in Paris, wished to go to the Protestant Church of Charenton. There was only a frail old boat to take them up the Seine, but they ventured it rather than lose the service. ‘On embarking,’ he says, ‘my wife, as her custom was, began to sing the Psalms. We had finished Psalms 91 and had reached Psalms 92 verse 12, when the boat sank. With difficulty we saved our lives, but the psalm book, which had been a wedding gift to my wife twenty-two years before, was lost. We reached in time for the second service; and on looking into the book of a young man near me to see what was being sung, I found it was Psalms 86:13, “for great is thy mercy towards me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest grave.” I thought immediately of the word of St. Ambrose, that “those who listen to, or read the Psalms aright, may find it as if these Psalms had been written expressly for themselves.”

One last word…

They shall bring forth in old age, 92:14. In the garden of grace, plants weak in themselves because of natural, physical decay, are yet strong in the Lord and bear fruit acceptable to Him.  Even if bedridden, they bear the fruit of patience. Grinders (teeth) may fail, but the bread of heaven is to feed upon.  The literal translation of this verse reads— “Still shall they sprout in hoary age, sappy and green shall they be,” an allusion to the great fruitfulness of the date palm, and to the fact that to the very last, this fruitfulness continues. The aged, fruitful believer is a letter of commendation of the immutable fidelity of Jehovah as the Rock and as the Righteous One. Journeying on to the end, the godly, well-stricken in years, daily prove that God’s dispensations have no flaw in them, and can no more be moved than a rock can be dislodged from its age-long foundation. The Psalm, then presents a Divine climax, that the venerable godly, far from declining, climb higher and higher as they travel on to life’s last milestone.

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Taken adapted from, Psalms: A Devotional Commentary, written by Herbert Lockyer, Sr.
Taken from, “The Psalms in History and Biography,” written by John Ker,

Just a Bit O’ History…Psalm 90. A Prayer of Moses the Man of God.

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Psalms 90

A psalm of deep solemnity and pathos, beginning with a past eternity, and moving on to an eternal future, while it gathers into its bosom men with their sins and brief fading lives,and supplicates for them God’s forgiveness and tender mercy.

Psalm 90 appears to be the oldest of the Psalms, and stands between two books of the Psalms as a composition “unique in its grandeur, and alone in its sublime antiquity.”

‘So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.’ Thomas Fuller tells in his own quaint way, that Bishop Rudd was requested to preach before Queen Elizabeth by the Archbishop of Canterbury, because he was a special favorite with the Queen, and was, indeed, designed as the Archbishop’s successor when he died. The Archbishop said, at the same time, ‘The truth is, the Queen now is grown weary of the vanities of wit and eloquence, wherewith her youth was formerly affected; and plain sermons which come home to her heart please her best.’ Encouraged by this guidance, honest Bishop Rudd chose for his text Ps. 90 ver. 12, and touched on the infirmities of age, with a personal application to the Queen. But Her Majesty, to whom hearing about death was most ungrateful, was highly displeased, and Bishop Rudd lost both the reversion of the archbishopric and Her Majesty’s favor. ‘But he justly retained,’ says Fuller, ‘the repute of a reverend and godly prelate, and carried the same to the grave.’

Dr. Stoughton, describing the funeral of John Hampden, says: His remains were conveyed to the churchyard of Great Hampden, close beside the old family mansion, where the patriot had spent so much of his life in the studies and sports of a country gentleman. Through lanes under the beech-covered chalk hills of the Chilterns, a detachment of his favorite troops, bareheaded, carried him to his last resting-place, “their arms reversed, their drums and ensigns muffled, –mournfully chanting as they slowly marched along the dirge from the Book of Psalms: Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations. Thou turnest man to destruction. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.’ When the funeral was over, the soldiers, retiring from the village church to their quarters, made the green woods and the white hills, that summer day, resound to the beautiful prayer, so appropriate to their circumstances, Psalms 43: 1, “Judge me, 0 God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: Oh deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man. For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Oh send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me.’

John Hampden met his death in June 1643, in the beginning of the great English civil war. (Remember Jenny Geddes who helped precipitated this civil war in 1637 in Scotland when she threw her stool at the preacher for reading from a prayer-book?)  He died in prayer, with the words,

‘Oh Lord God of hosts! Great is thy mercy; just and holy are thy dealings unto us sinful men. O Lord, save my bleeding country. Have these realms in thy special keeping. Lord Jesus, receive my soul! O Lord, save my country; 0h Lord, be merciful to…’ –His speech failed, and falling backwards he expired.

Perhaps this psalm was never read amid circumstances that brought it nearer to the history where it was composed, in the desert and under the shadow of Sinai, than in one striking instance. In the year 1865 a dreadful accident occurred in Switzerland, upon the Matterhorn, a mountain which till then had defied all attempts to ascend it. Its summit was gained, but in coming down, three of the party, Lord E. Douglas, Mr. Hadow, Rev. Charles Hudson, along with Michael Croz, a guide, lost their footing on the ice, and were swept over a tremendous precipice 4000 feet high. The body of Lord F. Douglas was never recovered; the other three were found, lifeless and almost formless, on the glacier at the base. The Rev. J. M’Cormick, Mr. Hudson’s intimate friend, describes the purity and spirituality of his character, and the feeling of reverence and prayerfulness with which he contemplated the works of God in these awful solitudes. ‘Whether,’ he says, ‘the enterprise which ended in his death be looked on as wise or foolish, I am persuaded that his soul was filled with joy and gratitude as he stood where no human being had ever stood before, and gazed from a new point of view on the great Creator’s works.’ His Prayer-Book was found on his body, and it was suggested that there should be a short funeral service. ‘Poor Hudson’s Prayer-Book was produced for this purpose. I read out of it Ps. 90, so singularly appropriate to time and place, and repeated some prayers and a portion of the Burial Service. Imagine us standing with our bronze-faced guides, leaning on their axes or alpenstocks, around that singular grave, in the center of a snow-field, perhaps never before trodden by man, with that awful mountain frowning above us, under a cloudless sky,” in the very sight, as it were, of the Almighty,” and try to catch the sound of the words: “Lord, thou hast been our refuge from one generation to another. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and world were made, thou art God from everlasting, and world without end.

Thou turnest man to destruction; again thou sayest, Come again, ye children of men.”

Admiral G.E. Belknap, of the U.S. Navy, who led to the capture of many of the Barrier forts in China in 1856, and who was engaged in many Civil War battles, wrote –

Among the many noteworthy and suggestive chapters in the Bible, no omitting the magnificent epic of Job, Psalm 90 is a great favorite with me. Its majestic phrasing and solid statements often sounds in my ears. It seems to declare and impress upon us the height and majesty, the omnipotence, the unchanging purposes and eternal grace of Almighty God more comprehensively and profoundly than any other chapter in Holy Writ.  It also sets forth the solemn fact of man’s brief life and evanescent work in a way that even a fool in his sublimest folly can understand and take home to himself the ever-living truth that from the earth he sprang and to the earth he must soon return, while God reigns from everlasting to everlasting and his testimonies are ever very sure.

There is a twofold Rabbinical tradition respecting the last two verses of this Prayer-Psalm of Moses the Man of God, namely, that they were the original prayer recited by Moses as a blessing on the work of making the Tabernacle and its ornaments, and that subsequently he employed the verses in the usual benediction for any newly undertaken task, whenever God’ glorious Majesty was to be consulted for an answer by the Urim and the Thummim. 

Martin Luther reckoned that in the word beauty employed here that “there is something like the deluge of grace.”  May such a deluge be ours as we seek to live under the influence of this mighty Prayer of Moses!

Psalm 90
1599 Geneva Bible

A prayer of Moses, the man of God.

Lord, thou hast been our habitation from generation to generation.

Before the mountains were made, and before thou hadst formed the earth, and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art our God.

Thou turnest man to destruction: again thou sayest, Return ye sons of Adam.

For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

Thou hast overflowed them, they are as a sleep, in the morning he groweth like the grass:

In the morning it flourisheth and groweth, but in the evening it is cut down and withereth.

For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, and our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

For all our days are past in thine anger: we have spent our years as a thought.

10 The time of our life is threescore years and ten, and if they be of strength, fourscore years: yet their strength is but labor and sorrow: for it is cut off quickly, and we flee away.

11 Who knoweth the power of thy wrath? for according to thy fear is thine anger.

12 Teach us so to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

13 Return (O Lord, how long?) and be pacified toward thy servants.

14 Fill us with thy mercy in the morning: so shall we rejoice and be glad all our days?

15 Comfort us according to the days that thou hast afflicted us, and according to the years that we have seen evil.

16 Let thy work be seen toward thy servants, and thy glory upon their children.

17 And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and direct thou the work of our hands upon us, even direct the work of our hands.

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Taken adapted from, Psalms: A Devotional Commentary, written by Herbert Lockyer, Sr.
Taken from, “The Psalms in History and Biography,” written by John Ker,

Just a Bit O’ History… Psalm 89: Celestial City after the Slough of Despond

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Psalm 89.

‘Who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?

–Verse 6.   

‘The reply of a French Huguenot to a courtier who was urging Henry IV to choose the strongest side.’

This long Psalm is like the Celestial City after the Slough of Despond of the previous Psalm.  Oh, what a change! Psalm 88 commences with a sob –Psalm 89 with a song.  The former ends in darkness, the latter in benediction and doxology.

Gregory the Great raised the question as to how perpetual singing of the mercies of God is compatible with the unalloyed bliss in Heaven, inasmuch as the thought of mercy connotes the memory of sin and sorrow, which needed mercy, whereas Isaiah said that “the former troubles are forgotten,” and “the former things shall not be remembered, nor come upon the heart,” Is. 65: 15, 17.  Then Gregory gives the explanation, “It will be like the memory of past sickness in the time of health, without strain, without grief, and serving only to heighten the felicity of the redeemed, by the contrast with the past, and to increase their love and gratitude towards God.” 

It would seem as if this was also the sentiment of saintly Bernard of Clairvaux, expressed in this verse—

Their breasts are filled with gladness,
Their mouths are turned to praise,

What time, now safe forever
On former sins they gaze:
The fouler the error,
The sadder the fall,
The ampler are the praises
Of Him Who pardoned all.
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What man is he that lives, that shall not see death?

–Verse 48

The word for man here means, what hero, or champion, or great man. The same word is used of a king, Psalmist saith, is certain to all: all shall die.”  So Justices Shallow to Silence, alluding to Psalm 89:48.  “What man is he that liveth and shall not see death?”

Death spares no rank, no condition of men. We read that Julius Caesar bid the master of the ship wherein he was sailing, notwithstanding the boisterous tempest, because he was Caesar and his fortunes embarked in that vessel, as much to say, the element on which they could not prove fatal to an Emperor, so great a one as he was.

England’s William, surnamed Rufus, once said that he never heard of a king that was drowned.  Charles the 5th, at the Battle of Tunis, being advised to retire when the battle became fierce, told them that it was never known that an Emperor was slain with great shot, and so rushed into battle. But the fact of the matter is that no king or crowned head escaped the blow of death at last.  The Scepter cannot keep off “the arrows that fly by day and the sickness that wastes at noonday.” Great Tyrants have vaunted that they had the power of life, and death, but yet were not able to guard against the shafts of their own death.  To king and knave alike the King of Terrors comes.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,

Await alike the inevitable hour—
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
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Blessed be the Lord forever more, Amen, and Amen,

–Verse 52.

The Psalmist ends where he began; he has sailed round the world and reached port again.  Perhaps he wrote this Psalm in his old age when troubles were coming thick and heavy upon the dynasty of David and the land of Judah, and thus left a text-book for the spiritual instructions for future generations.  Victory begins to shine in this last verse, marking the end of the Third Book of the Psalms.

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Taken adapted from, Psalms: A Devotional Commentary, written by Herbert Lockyer, Sr.

Taken from, “The Psalms in History and Biography,” written by John Ker,