1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying,
3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in
5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore dis
6 Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.
7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son ; this day have I begotten thee.
8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;
Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. 1o Be wise now therefore, O ye kings ; be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry,
And ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.—Psalm II.
THIS Psalm of the royal installation of our Jesus, and of His proclamation to all men, forms a most appropriate sequel to the warnings and promises which had preceded. The ground alike of the world's doom and of the safety of the Church is, that Christ has been anointed King for ever. Their folly must become manifest, and His grace must be established, for He reigneth. It almost reads like a history of the Church and the world from the first to the second coming of the Lord. Vers. 1-4 describe the 'course of this world;' vers. 4-10 the real state of matters as viewed from heaven; vers. 10 to the end contain a most sweet and pressing application, to be fully realized only in the day of ' His appearing.' Thus the Psalm is full of rich comfort for the present, and of strong confidence for the future (Rev. xi. 15, xix. 15).
Strange and most sad that the heathen should rage, 'kings set themselves,' and 'rulers take counsel together, against Jehovah and against His Messiah,'—were it not that the rebellious risings of our own hearts illustrate and explain the fact. And yet withal they imagine things of nought, 'vain things,' which can neither satisfy nor prosper. So general is this rebellious tendency, that the' little flock' seems almost lost to view among the tumultuous multitude. 'Why' should it be so, since His yoke is easy and His burden light? But 'the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' To own Christ is not natural to us. Even God's own people know and feel another law in their members warring against the law of the mind. Why should I wonder to find in others what I see in myself? There is nothing too vile for our hearts to conceive, nor too vain for our minds to imagine. But, blessed be God, there is nothing too difficult for His grace to devise, to overcome, or to accomplish. Lord, ever shine on us with the light of Thy countenance! We want not lifeless abstractions —not a new law without, but Thyself—the risen, living Redeemer—to reign in us. Then Thy words and claims will not be 'cords' nor 'bands,' but life and liberty.
What a glorious transition, and what perfect rest to our souls, when we turn from earth to heaven! However the enemies may rise (as Calvin notes), they can never reach to heaven. Most comforting it is to know that the period of their apparently most unchecked fury and of their seeming success is that when Jehovah holds them in derision. For (as Luther writes) 'all this is written for our instruction, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope. For what is here written of Christ is an example to all His people. Every one who will be truly Christian, especially such as teach the word of Christ, must suffer from Herod and Pilate, from the Jews and heathens who rage against us, and speak many vain things, rise and take counsel against us. For this let each of us be prepared.' Yet it is as if he said : 'So certain is it that they speak in vain, however strong and mighty it may appear in the eyes of men, that God does not deem them worthy of such resistance as might be expected in a serious and great matter, and only laughs at them, as if it were a mean and contemptible thing, which is not worth anything. But what strength of faith is not here implied! For who would have believed that God laughed when Christ suffered and the Jews triumphed and prevailed? So also when we suffer and are oppressed, do we believe it that God laughs at our adversaries, while to the outward eye and sense it seems as if we were derided and oppressed both by God and man?' And this fact, that He 'sittcth in the heavens,' implies not only that He is unassailed and unassailable, but that by faith we must rise to heaven in order not to be moved. And so can we calmly commit to Him not only our own cause, but much more His work and kingdom, whatever enemies arise against it. Our chief danger lies not in our enemies, but in our use of carnal weapons, or in our distrust of His help and presence. There is a glorious contrast between their vain imaginings and His decree (vers. 7, 8). Christ is the Messiah; the Father has installed Him as King; and this conveys the assurance of our safety, of the world's subjection (ver. 9), of the coming judgment (ver. 10), and of the eternal blessedness of His people (vers. 10-13). Ours then should be the attitude of calm trustfulness and believing expectancy.
'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer' (and this is the practical application), 'I have overcome the world.' Yes, by Thy death, by Thy resurrection, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit! Most assuredly the course of events and the dispensations of Providence are under His immediate guidance and control (ver. 5). Not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without His knowledge and direction. Perfectly safe, then, in the midst of all upheavings, are His Church and cause (ver. 6). Sin is ever its own curse, and rebellion its own punishment. Most precious of all—in opposition to the ' kings,' the ' rulers,' is His King, enthroned in His holy hill of Zion. We need not fear either for the Church, the world, or ourselves. Zion is His holy hill, and Christ is His holy King. He has taken the Church as the signet on His finger, on which He has engraven— Love; and with this signet He seals His administration of the moral universe.
Oh, what a gift was that of His Son to our earth! (ver. 7.) It implies not only our own salvation, but the final redemption of the whole world, when Messiah's kingdom shall extend to the utmost bounds of the earth. This is a hope well worth waiting for, praying for, working for, and resting in. When we shall be wakened from our graves, it will be to see our earth clothed with beauty and adorned with righteousness. We go to sleep in a storm; we shall rise in unclouded calm; we lie down in winter's darkness; we rise in summer's brightness. We shall not know this earth again, when, like Sarah of old, she has her youth and beauty restored to bear the children of promise. A brief, though most awful, day of judgment; a long millennium of joy. And even now our Lord reigneth; He sitteth enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Our petitions are answered; our position is secured; our happiness is insured. Our very hearts leap for joy at the thought, and our souls are greatly strengthened. 'What is thy petition, and what is thy request?' Lord, of all petitions, chiefly this—to be wholly Thine; of all requests, mainly this—to be kept by Thy grace blameless unto the end.
But praying and working are always combined. 'I believed, therefore have I spoken.' We cannot but speak the things which we have heard and seen. True wisdom—not vain imaginations—we would covet for ourselves, and commend to others (vers. 10, 11). 'Not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that cometh to nought;' but 'the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory,' and which ' God hath revealed unto us by His Spirit.' Personal contact with the Son of God, close cleaving unto Him, and that blessedness of absolute and unlimited trust in Him at all times, whatever betide us,—these are those best gifts which our souls earnestly desire and follow after.
1. O my soul, learn to view men and matters in the right and true light. The vain imagining and babblings of science, falsely so called, cannot shake my faith, which rests on personal experience, nor the display of power move my allegiance to the great King. Their pride shall be laid low, and their tumults hushed into the silence of destruction. But how ofttimes, alas, does my imagination wander, and how sadly am I brought under the influence of mere outward power and pomp! A man is not wise for his learning, if he lacketh true knowledge; nor rich for his wealth, if he have not the pearl of great price; nor powerful for his circumstances, if he have not the ear of the Almighty, and dwell in His secret place. O my soul, fain wouldest thou be found in the bundle of life; thou earnestly desirest to be of those that ' trust in Him.' And good cause hast thou to trust the risen Jesus for His love and for His grace. Many are the things which stagger thee, both within and without. But there are spiritual realities, and exceeding great and precious promises. Keep, then, all the closer by Him. Lord, Thou knowest how rebellious my heart is—this day, in the peculiar circumstances in which Thou hast placed me; under the peculiar cross which Thou hast laid upon me; in the peculiar work which Thou hast given me to do; in the peculiar trials and temptations which beset me. But I will keep all the closer by Thee, my risen Lord, in the storm which besets, and in the night which gathers around me. I will trust Thee all the more fully, and cleave to Thee all the more earnestly, and that in those very things which threaten my peace and my safety.
2. 'Thy holy hill of Zion.' Never let me forget that Zion is His hill; not mine, nor thine, but His. Who art thou that judgest thy neighbour? If thou canst not praise with him, pray for him. My neighbour's sins and shortcomings are calls to prayer for myself as well as him—all the more when I realize, however faintly, the awful future of the rebellious. Moreover, let me increasingly feel that His hill is a holy hill. Holiness for ever becometh His house and people. Let me watch the gates of my heart—nay, rather the throne of my heart. This day, and in view of the enemies arrayed against me, Lord, help me by Thy grace: work Thou in me, that I may work out my own salvation with fear and trembling.
3. The Lord has died—despond not. The Lord is risen —doubt not. The Lord is exalted—fear not. The Lord reigneth—hesitate not. The Lord returneth—delay not. Believe, and that with all simplicity and with all joy. Believe, and bring before Him the wants of thine own heart and daily life ; the daily requirements of thy soul: trust, and look upwards. Believe, and bring before Him the wants of thy friends—both for body and soul: trust, and look upwards. Believe, and bring before Him the wants of the Church: trust, and look upwards. Believe, and bring before Him the wants of the world; and still trustingly look upwards. 'The night cometh, and also the morning' Soon the Lord shall return, and thou shalt welcome Him—thou and all saints; nay, earth itself, and all that dwell therein. Then occupy till He come; and if, before that day dawn, thou art called to rest, lie down to sleep in hope of the blessed resurrection, and of the coming of the Lord with ten thousands of His saints. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
Heavenly city, city blest,
Haven sweet of endless rest,
City safe from every danger,
Thee I hail while here a stranger;
Thee I hail, for thee am sighing, ,j
Yearning, fainting e'en to dying.
What the joy thy folk are sharing,
With what festal gladness faring,
What the love their hearts entwining;
With what gems thy walls are shining,
Jacinth and chalcedon banding,—
Know the saints within thee standing.
May I through this city's portal
Enter with the hosts immortal,
And with Moses and Elijah
Sing my grateful Alleluia!
J. S. HllDEUERT.