Treasury of David
TITLE. A Psalm of David.
Of the correctness of this title there can be no doubt, since our Lord in Matthew 22:1 says, "How then does David in spirit call him Lord." Yet some critics are so fond of finding new authors for the psalms that they dare to fly in the face of the Lord Jesus himself. To escape from finding Jesus here, they read the title, "Psalm of (or concerning) David," as though it teas not so much written by him as of him—but he who reads with understanding will see little enough of David here except as the writer. He is not the subject of it even in the smallest degree—but Christ is all.
How much was revealed to the patriarch David! How blind are some modern wise men, even amid the present blaze of light, as compared with this poet prophet of the darker dispensation. May the Spirit who spoke by the man after God's own heart give us eyes to see the hidden mysteries of this marvelous Psalm, in which every word has an infinity of meaning.
SUBJECT AND DIVISION.
The subject is THE PRIEST-KING. None of the kings of Israel united these two offices, though some endeavored to do so. Although David performed some acts which appeared to verge upon the priestly—yet he was no priest—but of the tribe of Judah, "of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning the priesthood"; and he was far too devout a man to thrust himself into that office uncalled.
The Priest-King here spoken of is David's Lord, a mysterious personage typified by Melchizedek, and looked for by the Jews as the Messiah. He is none other than the apostle and high priest of our profession, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
The Psalm describes the appointment of the kingly priest, his followers, his battles, and his victory. Its center is verse 4, and so it may be divided, as Alexander suggests, into
the introduction, verses 1-3;
the central thought, verse 4; and
the supplementary verses, 5-7.
Verse 1. The Lord said unto my Lord.
Jehovah said unto my ADONAI.
David in spirit heard the solemn voice of Jehovah speaking to the Messiah from of old. What wonderful fellowship there has been between the Father and the Son! From this secret and intimate communion, springs the covenant of grace and all its marvelous arrangements.
All the great acts of grace are brought into actual being by the word of God; had he not spoken, there had been no manifestation of Deity to us; but in the beginning was the Word, and from of old there was mysterious fellowship between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ concerning his people and the great contest on their behalf between himself and the powers of evil. How condescending on Jehovah's part to permit a mortal ear to hear, and a human pen to record, his secret converse with his coequal Son! How greatly should we prize the revelation of his private and solemn discourse with the Son, herein made public for the refreshing of his people! Lord, what is man that you should thus impart your secrets unto him!
Though David was a firm believer in the Unity of the Godhead, he yet spiritually discerns the two persons, distinguishes between them, and perceives that in the second he has a peculiar interest, for he calls him "my Lord." This was an anticipation of the exclamation of Thomas, "My Lord and my God," and it expresses the Psalmist's reverence, his obedience, his believing appropriation, and his joy in Christ. It is well to have clear views of the mutual relations of the persons of the blessed Trinity; indeed, the knowledge of these truths is essential for our comfort and growth in grace. There is a manifest distinction in the divine persons, since one speaks to another—yet the Godhead is one.
Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.
Away from the shame and suffering of his earthly life, Jehovah calls the Adonai, our Lord, to the repose and honors of his celestial seat. His work is done, and he may sit; it is well done, and he may sit at his right hand; it will have grand results, and he may therefore quietly wait to see the complete victory which is certain to follow.
The glorious Jehovah thus addresses the Christ as our Savior; for, says David, he said "unto my Lord." Jesus is placed in the seat of power, dominion, and dignity, and is to sit there by divine appointment while Jehovah fights for him, and lays every rebel beneath his feet. He sits there by the Father's ordinance and call, and will sit there despite all the raging of his adversaries, until they are all brought to utter shame by his putting his foot upon their necks.
In this sitting he is our representative. The mediatorial kingdom will last until the last enemy shall be destroyed, and then, according to the inspired word, "comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God even the Father." The work of subduing the nations is now in the hand of the great God, who by his Providence will accomplish it to the glory of his Son; his word is pledged to it, and the session of his Son at his right hand is the guarantee thereof.
Therefore let us never fear as to the future. While we see our Lord and representative sitting in quiet expectancy, we, too, may sit in the attitude of peaceful assurance, and with confidence await the grand outcome of all events. As surely as Jehovah lives Jesus must reign, yes, even now he is reigning, though all his enemies are not yet subdued.
During the present interval, through which we wait for his glorious appearing and visible millennial kingdom, he is in the place of power, and his dominion is in jeopardy, or otherwise he would not remain quiescent. He sits because all is safe, and he sits at Jehovah's right hand because omnipotence waits to accomplish his will.
Therefore there is no cause for alarm whatever may happen in this lower world; the sight of Jesus enthroned in divine glory is the sure guarantee that all things are moving onward towards ultimate victory. Those rebels who now stand high in power shall soon be in the place of contempt, they shall be his footstool. He shall with ease rule them, he shall sit and put his foot on them; not rising to tread them down as when a man puts forth force to subdue powerful foes—but retaining the attitude of rest, and still ruling them as abject vassals who have no longer spirit to rebel, but have become thoroughly tamed and subdued.
Verse 2. The LORD shall send the rod of your strength out of Zion.
It is in and through the church that for the present the power of the Messiah is known. Jehovah has given to Jesus all authority in the midst of his people, whom he rules with his royal scepter, and this power goes forth with divine energy from the church for the ingathering of the elect, and the subduing of all evil. We have need to pray for the sending out of the rod of divine strength.
It was by his rod that Moses smote the Egyptians, and wrought wonders for Israel. Even so whenever the Lord Jesus sends forth the rod of his strength, our spiritual enemies are overcome.
There may be an allusion here to Aaron's rod which budded and so proved his power; this was laid up in the ark—but our Lord's rod is sent forth to subdue his foes. This promise began to be fulfilled at Pentecost, and it continues even to this day, and shall yet have a grander fulfillment. O God of eternal might, let the strength of our Lord Jesus be more clearly seen, and let the nations see it as coming forth out of the midst of your feeble people, even from Zion, the place of your abode.
Rule in the midst of your enemies.
As he does whenever his mighty scepter of grace is stretched forth to renew and save them. Moses' rod brought water out of the flinty rock. Just so, the gospel of Jesus soon causes repentance to flow in rivers from the once hardened heart of man.
Or the text may mean that though the church is situated in the midst of a hostile world—yet it exerts a great influence, it continues to manifest an inward majesty, and is after all the ruling power among the nations because the shout of a king is in her midst.
Jesus, however hated by men, is still the King of kings. His rule is over even the most unwilling, so as to overrule their fiercest opposition to the advancement of his cause.
Jesus, it appears from this text, is not inactive during his session at Jehovah's right hand—but in his own way proves the abiding nature of his kingdom both in Zion and from Zion, both among his friends and his foes. We look for the clearer manifestation of his almighty power in the latter days; but even in these waiting times, we rejoice that to the Lord all power is given in Heaven and in earth.
Verse 3. Your people shall be willing in the day of your power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: you have the dew of your youth.
In consequence of the sending forth of the rod of strength, namely, the power of the gospel, out of Zion—converts will come forward in great numbers to enlist under the banner of the Priest-King. Given to him of old, they are his people, and when his power is revealed, these hasten with cheerfulness to own his sway, appearing at the gospel call as it were spontaneously, even as the dew comes forth in the morning.
This metaphor is further enlarged upon, for as the dew has a sparkling beauty, so these willing armies of converts have a holy excellence and charm about them. And as the dew is the lively emblem of freshness, so are these converts full of vivacity and youthful vigor, and the church is refreshed by them and made to flourish exceedingly.
Let but the gospel be preached with divine unction, and the chosen of the Lord respond to it like troops in the day of the mustering of armies; they come arrayed by grace in shining uniforms of holiness, and for number, freshness, beauty, and purity—they are as the dewdrops which come mysteriously from the tooming's womb.
Some refer this passage to the resurrection—but even if it be so, the work of grace in regeneration is equally well described by it, for it is a spiritual resurrection. Even as the holy dead rise gladly into the lovely image of their Lord, so do quickened souls put on the glorious righteousness of Christ, and stand forth to behold their Lord and serve him.
How truly beautiful is holiness! God himself admires it.
How wonderful also is the eternal youth of the mystical body of Christ! As the dew is new every morning, so is there a constant succession of converts to give to the church perpetual juvenility. Her young men have a dew from the Lord upon them, and arouse in her armies an undying enthusiasm for him whose "locks are bushy and black as a raven" with unfailing youth.
Since Jesus ever lives, so shall his church ever flourish. As his strength never fails, so shall the vigor of his true people be renewed day by day. As he is a Priest-King, so are his people all priests and kings, and the beauties of holiness are their priestly dress, their garments for glory and for beauty; of these priests unto God there shall be an unbroken succession.
The realization of this day of power during the time of the Lord's tarrying is that which we should constantly pray for; and we may legitimately expect it since he ever sits in the seat of honor and power, and puts forth his strength, according to his own word, "My Father works hitherto, and I work."
Verse 4. The LORD has sworn and will not repent, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."
We have now reached the heart of the psalm, which is also the very center and soul of our faith. Our Lord Jesus is a Priest-King by the ancient oath of Jehovah: "he glorified not himself to be made an high priest," but was ordained there unto from of old, and was called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek. It must be a solemn and a sure matter which leads the Eternal to swear, and with him an oath fixes and settles the decree forever. But in this case, as if to make assurance a thousand times sure, it is added, "and will mot repent." It is done, and done forever and ever; Jesus is sworn in to be the priest of his people, and he must abide so even to the end, because his commission is sealed by the unchanging oath of the immutable Jehovah.
If his priesthood could be revoked, and his authority removed, it would be the end of all hope and life for the people whom he loves; but this sure rock is the basis of our security—the oath of God establishes our glorious Lord both in his priesthood and in his throne. It is the Lord who has constituted him a priest forever—he has done it by oath, that oath is without repentance, is taking effect now, and will stand throughout all ages: hence our security in him is placed beyond all question.
The declaration runs in the present tense as being the only time with the Lord, and comprehending all other times.
"You are" that is, you were and are and are to come, in all ages a priestly King. The order of Melchizedek's priesthood was the most ancient and primitive, the most free from ritual and ceremony, the most natural and simple, and at the same time the most honorable. That ancient patriarch was the father of his people, and at the same time ruled and taught them. He swayed both the scepter and the censer, reigned in righteousness, and offered sacrifice before the Lord. There has never arisen another like him since his days, for whenever the kings of Judah attempted to seize the sacerdotal office they were driven back to their confusion: God would have no king-priest save his son.
Melchizedek's office was exceptional. None preceded or succeeded him; he comes upon the page of history mysteriously; no pedigree is given, no date of birth, or mention of death; he blesses Abraham, receives tithe and vanishes from the scene amid honors which show that he was greater than the founder of the chosen nation. He is seen but once, and that once suffices.
Aaron and his seed came and went; their imperfect sacrifice continued for many generations, because it had no finality in it, and could never make the comers thereunto perfect.
Our Lord Jesus, like Melchizedek, stands forth before us as a priest of divine ordaining; not made a priest by fleshly birth, as the sons of Aaron. He mentions neither father, mother, nor descent, as his right to the sacred office; he stands upon his personal merits, by himself alone; as no man came before him in his work, so none can follow after; his order begins and ends in his own person, and in himself is eternal, "having neither beginning of days nor end of years The King-Priest has been here and left his blessing upon the believing, and now he sits in glory in his complete character, atoning for us by the merit of his blood, and exercising all power on our behalf.
"O may we ever hear your voice
In mercy to us speak,
And in our Priest we will rejoice,
O great Melchizedek."
The last verses of this psalm we understand to refer to the future victories of the Priest-King. He shall not forever sit in waiting posture—but shall come into the fight to end the weary war by his own victorious presence. He will lead the final charge in person—his own right hand and his holy arm shall get unto him the victory.
Verse 5. The Lord at your right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
Now that he has come into the field of action, the infinite Jehovah comes with him as the strength of his right hand. Eternal power attends the coming of the Lord, and earthly power dies before it as though smitten through with a sword.
In the last days all the kingdoms of the earth shall be overcome by the kingdom of Heaven, and those who dare oppose shall meet with swift and overwhelming ruin. What are kings when they dare oppose the Son of God? A single stroke shall suffice for their destruction. When the angel of the Lord smote Herod there was no need of a second blow; he was eaten by worms and gave up the spirit.
Concerning the last days, we read of the Faithful and True, who shall ride upon a white horse, and in righteousness judge and make war: "Out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."
Verse 6. He shall judge among the heathen.
Or, among the nations. All nations shall feel his power, and either yield to it joyfully or be crushed before it.
He shall fill the places with the dead bodies.
In the terrible battles of his gospel all opponents shall fall until the field of fight is heaped high with the slain. This need not be understood literally—but as a poetic description of the overthrow of all rebellious powers and the defeat of all unholy principles.
Yet should kings oppose the Lord with weapons of war, the result would be their overwhelming defeat and the entire destruction of their forces. Read in connection with this prophecy the passage which begins at the seventeenth verse of Revelation 19 and runs on to the end of the chapter. Terrible things in righteousness will be seen before the history of this world comes to an end.
He shall wound the heads over many countries.
He will strike at the greatest powers which resist him, and wound not merely common men—but those who rule and reign. If the nations will not have Christ for their Head, they shall find their political heads to be powerless to protect them.
Or the passage may be read, "he has smitten the head over the wide earth." The monarch of the greatest nation shall not be able to escape the sword of the Lord; nor shall that dread spiritual prince who rules over the children of disobedience be able to escape without a deadly wound. Pope and priest must fall, with Mahomet and other deceivers who are now heads of the people. Jesus must reign—and they must perish.
Verse 7. He shall drink of the brook in the way.
So swiftly shall he march to conquest that he shall not stay for refreshment—but drink as he hastens on. Like Gideon's men that lapped, he shall throw his heart into the fray and cut it short in righteousness, because a short work will the Lord make in the earth.
Therefore shall he lift up the head.
His own head shall be lifted high in victory, and his people, in him, shall be upraised also. When he passed this way before, he was burdened and had stern work laid upon him. But in his second advent he will win an easy victory. Aforetime he was the man of sorrows—but when he comes a second time his head will be lifted in triumph. Let his saints rejoice with him.
"Lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near." In the latter days we look for terrible conflicts and for a final victory. Long has Jesus borne with our rebellious race—but at length he will rise to end the warfare of longsuffering, by the blows of justice.
God has fought with men's sins for their good—but he will not always by his Spirit strive with men; he will cease from that struggle of long suffering love, and begin another which shall soon end in the final destruction of his adversaries.
O King-Priest, we who are, in a minor degree, king-priests too, are full of gladness because you reign even now, and will come before long to vindicate your cause and establish your empire forever. Even so, come quickly! Amen.