THE CROSS AND THE CROWN.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me
13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my
jaws; And thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have enclosed
me; They pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I may tell all my bones; they look and stare upon me.
18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
19 But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help
20 Deliver my soul from the sword ; my darling from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion's mouth; for thou hast heard me from the horns of
22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren:
In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
23 Ye that fear the Lord, praise him:
All ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he
25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied;
They shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
28 For the kingdom is the Lord's; and he is the governor among the nations.
29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him; And none can keep alive his own soul.
30 A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness
Unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.—Psalm xxn.
ONCE more do we approach Calvary. What a company surrounds the Saviour in the agony of His soul, in His agony with God! Another wave, this time from without, threatens to swallow Him up. 'Trouble is near', 'and not a helper' (ver. 11). Jehovah cannot be 'far' from Him. Anon we shall hear it, ' It is finished.' But the cup which His Father gave Him, shall He not drink it? Fury and strength are combined against Him. 'Many and 'strong bulls' from the mountain solitudes of Bashan 'compass' and 'beset' Him. 'A ravening and a roaring lion'—' they gape' upon Him 'with their mouths.' It seems as if all fallen creation, represented by wild beasts and the arch-enemy (' as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour,' 1 Pet. v. 8), were let loose upon Him. And in these figures concerning the animal world do we learn not only the story of our fall and relative position to creation, but also how (as one observes) the instincts of the animal world were measured and viewed in the light of the moral principles of humanity. Now He endures the worst that men and devils can inflict. Draw yet nearer and behold the ' Man of sorrows,'—the open wounds pouring forth His precious blood, the ' bones out of joint,' as He hangs on the cross; the agony of death, the weakness, the thirst, and the last struggle (vers. 14, 15). And all this for us! Not one woe in the range of suffering that could afflict Him is omitted, 'that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.' Were it not for the other side, for the glorious resurrection morning, we should for ever hide our faces in this hour of greatest darkness. O my soul, thou wast there under this cross in the person of thy representatives, who, as if designedly to include us all, are described under figures, embodying the principles of fallen humanity. Yet how marvellous that Divine love has placed in this very act of my direst guilt the plea and the warrant for my highest privilege and bliss! That I have stood under this cross includes me among those for whom Christ died. Thus is grace ever changing the scarlet dye of our sin into the whiteness of snow. And how awfully faithful is the description of the crucifixion! We learn its agonies almost better from this Psalm than even from the records in the Gospels. Deepest of all woes, the Father allowed this rebellious fury of the elements to burst around Him: 'Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death.' 'It pleased Jehovah to bruise Him ; He hath put Him to grief.' He ' was delivered for our offences.' 'He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin.' 'Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.' 'But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.'
Here we stand and lowly worship before viewing the final agony. The peculiar horror of the cross (Tertullian's/^rz'a atrocitas cruris), the piercing of His hands and feet, as the great preponderance of evidence leads us to understand ver. 16, is introduced by another figurative description. The 'dogs' by whom He is compassed are 'the congregation of the wicked'—the rendering 'assembly' in our version failing to present the sad truth. The word here used is one of the proper designations of the ancient Church. In one sense the Church under the cross is 'the congregation of the wicked,' not merely as applying to Israel, which crucified its King, but with reference to what the Church really is, when viewed, and specially under the cross of Christ, without the garment of His Righteousness. Here, if ever, we feel ourselves as belonging to 'the congregation of the wicked.' And here, if ever, do we understand the meaning and the exchange of grace. This peculiarity of the cross, which seemed more particularly to symbolize its curse, is also referred to in Isa. liii. 5, 'He was pierced for our transgressions' (not 'wounded,' as in our version) ; and in Zech. xii. 10, 'They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced.' What is added of telling or counting all His bones—which are out of joint by reason of His crucifixion,—of the parting of His garments, even to the detail of casting lots upon His vesture, or inner garment (John xix. 23-24), has been so literally fulfilled, and that only in Christ, that the most determined unbelief can scarcely deny its application to Him. But every such historical ful
filment is chiefly of value as affording confirmation of the deep and personally applicable spiritual truths of which prophecy and miracle—the wonder of word and the wonder of deed—are alike designed as evidences. And to this spiritual kernel will we keep, thankful to Him who has so provided it for us as in a twofold envelope.
Again, but now after enduring all inward agony and all outward assault, comes the cry for help and deliverance, and that with reference to the threefold evil apprehended: 'my soul from the sword,' 'my only one from the hand of the dog,' and 'me from the lion's mouth.' But He has already overcome, by having endured all that could be endured. 'And thou Iiast heard me from the horns of the buffaloes.' 'It is finished. And He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.' And His death was not only the real termination of His sufferings, but the commencement of His triumph. By His death He swallowed up death in victory. This is the last view got of the old enemies, Satan and Death, so far as concerns that absolute sway, which they had formerly exercised. They are now vanquished, and only await execution of sentence.
Here commences an entirely new order of things. That which has just been enacted forms no longer ground of apprehension ; but is proclaimed as cause of praise. The transaction on Calvary is published as the gospel. The inscription on the cross is written in all known languages. The universal bearing of this unique fact forms the basis of ver. 22. The vicarious sufferings and obedience of the Saviour apply as ground of proclamation of mercy to all. And thus He became indeed our Brother, even as by the application of the benefits of His work to us He maketh us truly His' brethren.' So this verse is also explained in Heb. ii. 12, where the term rendered in our version as 'congregation' is correctly given by 'Church,'—for these two words, in Hebrew and Greek, seem both in their etymology and meaning to cover each other. Very noteworthy also is it how praise is ascribed unto the Father 'in the midst of the Church,' in connexion with the work of the Son. For not only the holiness and truth of our God, and His mercy in saving guilty men, appears therein, but especially His love in the gift of His dear Son. This surrender implies the deepest love on His part, as deep as that of Him who surrendered Himself. Marked also is the distinction of preaching among the 'brethren,' and praising in 'the Church.' The declaration of the gospel itself in ver. 24, is prefaced by what has been designated as a magnificent Introit, in which the Israel of God is called to fear, to honour, and to dread before Him. For the announcement of the gospel must be accompanied with such feelings as holy ' fear and trembling,' in beholding both 'the goodness and the severity of God,' and with honour and praise to Him whose compassion and love are so infinite. The gospel itself is announced in ver. 24. The glad tidings of great joy consist neither in the commandment to believe, nor in any warning to unbelievers, nor primarily even in an invitation to come to Jesus; but simply in the announcement of the fact that God has accepted the work of Christ; that He has made an end of sin, and that the purposes of the covenant have been attained. * And being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him' (see the context in Heb. v. 9). That God has not hid His face from the Christ, nor despised His affliction, but heard Him, is the gospel, the announcement of His accepted work, and consequently of His resurrection. On this ground we announce the forgiveness of sins through the mercy of our God. The correctness of this view appears also from the terms in which this message of the gospel is conveyed. God has not despised nor abhorred 'the affliction of the afflicted,' the term for 'affliction' here indicating the inward bending of the soul, which is also mentioned in Isa. liii. 4, 7, and in Zech. ix. 9. The word rendered 'afflicted' conveys the idea of outward suffering—and the Father is said not to have 'abhorred' this affliction, as referring to its connexion with guilt; so that it is full in view of His work as substitutionary that the Father 'hid not His face from Him,' but heard His cry.
On the ground of this gospel, or announcement of a finished and accepted salvation, do we invite all men to repent and believe. Accordingly, the gospel-feast is here enacted. The truths embodied in the parable of the King's supper—which is ready, and to which all are invited, but of which only those who have the wedding-garment of spiritual meekness are allowed to partake—are here seen to underlie the sacrificial ordinances (vers. 25, 26). His praise resounds in the great congregation; the great sacrifice has been offered; and now 'the flesh of the sacrifice of His peace-offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten' (comp. Lev. ix.) To this sacrificial feast all the ' meek' are invited, with the assurance of intense satisfaction, and the further promise, not only that they who seek shall find, but that they shall praise Jehovah, in the joy of His salvation. Nay, the King Himself welcomes the guests at His table, with the covenant-promise, not only of present but of future safety, or of perseverance to the end: 'Let your heart live for ever' (ver. 26). Louder and louder swells the song of triumph, rising as high as formerly the cry of agony had descended low. Far beyond the present stage extends the gospel its untold blessings. The middle wall of partition between Israel and the Gentiles is broken down. The long-forgotten knowledge of God and tidings of His Son are ' remembered,' 'the ends of the world' are converted unto Jehovah, and 'all the kindreds of the nations worship before' Jesus (ver. 27). What a day this, and what fruit of His travail! And all this of right. For the Father hath invested Him, in His mediatorial capacity, with 'the kingdom' and governorship (ver. 28). Earth and men cannot remain in rebellion against Him who lived and died on earth, who lived and died for men. And yet farther does the prophetic vision sweep. Once more at the end of that dispensation is a feast prepared. The King has returned, and His guests are gathered to Him. The distinction between rich and poor, high and low, is abolished, and equally they all come. 'Eat and worship shall all earth's fat ones, before Him bend down all that go down to the dust, and that kept not alive their souls.' 'And in this mountain shall Jehovah of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord
God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth.'
And with a grand Hallelujah closes this Psalm, forming the true interpretation of the last utterance on the cross: 'It is finished.' All bounds of time are burst, the Church is founded, eternal upon the Rock. 'A seed which shall serve Him shall be numbered to the Lord for a generation,' and ever added to His people. Witnesses shall everywhere arise, and to nations yet unborn shall the righteousness of Jesus be declared—' that He hath done this.' Thus, with a word which recalls the completion of the first creation (Gen. ii. 3), closes the account of the second creation, and here commences the eternal Sabbath. 'Amen! Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.'
1. How glorious is the prospect which Messiah's death and triumph opens to the Church and to our earth! Till then many questions must remain unanswered, and much dis-harmony unresolved. The destiny of Israel, and of the world, will be graciously decided when He returneth to take the kingdom unto Himself. The Church needeth such promises to keep her watchful and believing. Not an uncertain, nor a distant future is before us. We labour not as they who have no hope; and we believe that all events in Providence, however different they may seem, tend to prepare the way of His coming. It is of the deepest practical importance to keep our minds and hearts fixed upon that blessed day of deliverance. Thus shall we understand the signs of the times, and be able to improve them. Thus also shall we 'comfort one another with these words.' Our dead, 'the dead in Christ, shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.' To labour as in view of all this—of the great 'feast in this mountain'—is to contend in prospect of victory. But are we prepared, and preparing, for ' the day of the Lord'? More than ever do we here feel the need of Thy sovereign grace to teach and uphold us, that so we may be 'unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.'
2. The gospel is the announcement of a blessed fact- that God has provided a way of escape in Christ Jesus, and that He has accepted His perfect righteousness and finished work in our room and stead. This we are to believe; and the gospel call is an invitation addressed to one and all, on the ground of God's love, and of their own need, to credit these tidings, and to avail themselves of the benefits so proclaimed. Faith is our obedience to this invitation; our rest upon that foundation; our trust in what Love has provided, Righteousness effected, Justice accepted, and Truth and Grace dispensed. Thus our faith consisteth mainly of credence and of acceptance. About which of these two, my soul, art thou troubled? Canst Thou distrust either His purpose or His work? Most deeply do I feel my need. But there is sufficient provision, prepared by the Lord Himself, at the price of His precious blood. If there is not evidence of infinite compassion and love to the guilty in this, nowhere else could it be found. Then why hesitate to come? Is it because of the unbelief and unwillingness of the heart which is natural to us? Then let me ask His Holy Spirit to guide me, with this emphatic assurance upon my mind :' If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?'
3. Once more, let us devoutly meditate over the last verses of this Psalm (vers. 23-31). What a wonderful arrangement has Divine grace made! See how deeply He has descended; see how suitable to our case the gospel-feast which He has spread ; see how glorious the results; see how precious the end! Surely we 'shall eat and be satisfied! And with Thyself, blessed Lord, who givest Thyself not only for us, but to us. Here let me worship before Him, wondering how such grace has reached me, and what that grace can effect even in me. This is Thy gospel. O lead me nearer to Thyself, and enable me now to joy in what Thy grace will so soon give Thy Church to enjoy.
S1ng, my tongue, the glorious battle
With completed victory rife;
And above the Cross's trophy
Tell the triumph of the strife,—
How the world's Redeemer conquer'd
By surrendering of His life.
When, O Judge of this world, coming
In Thy glory all Divine,
Thou shalt bid Thy Cross's triumph
Bright above the stars to shine,
Be the light and the salvation
Of the people that are Thine!
Meditzval Hymns and Sequences.