IN reading the Psalms one finds them arranged in couplets. Very few of them stand as solitary witnesses of the remarks made in them, but in twos and threes. Whoever arranged the Psalms, we know they were so ordered in divine wisdom, not according to time, but in reference to their subjects. A psalm of Moses following one of David, and those written later are placed earlier, and the early, late. They are arranged into books 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. A person who had been reading them attentively found they were divided into five books, and was surprised to see that in Hebrew they have them distinctly arranged in five. The headings of the Psalms have as much divine authority as the book itself. The Jews would never touch them any more than the other part.
These two psalms, 40 and 41, together. In connection with what has been said before, there is another general remark I would make, too often overlooked. The doctrinal truth connected with union, so new to some minds, is found from Scriptures to have been in God's mind from the beginning. It is new to us in the sense of the unity of the body. The vital union which exists between the Head and the members we do not find in the Psalms.
But there are other principles of union which are not vital, such as that which exists in a family, a country, etc. In Adam we see the unity of a system connected with this earth. There is no other world but this that we know of where man in Eden was the centre of a system. It pointed to Christ we doubt not, brought out more fully in Psalm 8, Eph. 1, and 1 Cor. 12. The Adamic centre of unity is the largest and most general thought of union. Then, as relating to Israel, there was a King as a centre. Christ. is Priest and King. See Psalm 18, which is the summing up of the whole history of the kingdom.
The heading up of things under one is a leading thought in Scripture; and as to the acting parties connected with man, the head casting its light or darkness over its entire system. The psalm answering to the psalm showing the blessed, perfect Man upon earth, is the second. Psalm 1 shows the only One who has a claim as the root of blessing, and all who reject Him, as in Psalm 2, must be swept away in destruction.
Again, the answering psalm to the thirty-second is the thirty-first. In the thirty-second we have the poor sinner made righteous; and the ground of that being accomplished, we find in the thirty-first, Christ on the cross bearing the sinner's sin. We can never happily get through the Psalms without seeing these couplets; for I must see the judgment which fell upon Christ was my judgment, that it was definitely for me that Christ died on the tree. This is more than "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son." God said in this to the world, "Here is a door open, and I desire my Son to be known as the Saviour of sinners -- 'come.'" Christ is the open door through which mercy shines down on the world; but that is different from my knowing Christ as the One who bore my sins, the One on whose pierced hands and feet and side I can look and say my individual sins were there. This is how I have peace. Christ was entirely identified with His people, and all that He did was for them. He said of His people's sins, "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me; I cannot look up." His Spirit was given to us, but in the essential element of Christ's standing He was alone! There was no dross there. Satan heated the furnace for Him as hot as possible, and God poured out His wrath upon Him; but all heaped together could not bring out one element of dross. Nothing came out but His own infinite perfectness as a Man under the hand of God. If He had not been so tested it might have been said He died for His own sins; but no, not one failure could be charged upon Him.
We find an identification of Christ with the remnant of Israel -- one Spirit in Him and in them -- Christ, the Introducer of the Spirit. The source is in Him, and communicated to His people, but one Spirit. The same things are said of Him and of Israel; e.g. "Out of Egypt have I called my Son." With the thought of this corporate union, there is great need of care in reading the Psalms whether as Adamic unity or as "one spirit with the Lord."
Psalm 40 shows the blessedness of the man who could trust in God. Christ. is the Truster in God. The first wonder in the psalm is that Christ should be in this place (Heb. 2) "made a little lower than the angels." The patience of Christ! The "patience" John speaks of in Revelation was not the experience of John first, but of Christ. Now He is waiting in patience. He has sat down expecting until His foes be made His footstool. He served for a reward, but He has not received it yet.
In this psalm we have Christ as the substitute -- the "Just for the unjust." In verse 5, He is standing in connection with the people of Israel, and recounts before God the wonders He has done. It is the history of one who has been down into a very low place and come up into a very high one.
Verse 1. Judgment for sin. "I waited patiently for the Lord." He was true to God, true to His counsels, true to His purposes. In verses 2 and 3, He did not come up as He went down. He went down as the Man of sorrows, and came up as the One anointed above His fellows. It is very sweet to connect these two things, and to see that what He has is shareable with His people. He will sing the song in our midst. God had peculiar work for Him to do, and He pleads His righteousness in service (vv. 6-10), and how He had been in this place as one judged by God. The substitution of Christ, and the completeness of the way in which He bore the judgment, cannot be too frequently thought of by us. The cup He drank quietly from God's hand. Verse 12: The Spirit of Christ testifying in the remnant. There is unity of spirit in Christ and in them. It is true their testimony goes beyond their experience, which could not be with Christ.
It is very important to divide between three things which are often confounded together -- conscience, truth, and the Spirit. If God is acting upon the conscience, there will be a measure of light, though it may be very small. The conscience may not be able to comprehend its own latent hope of mercy. If the conscience deal honestly, it is so far well; it is the work of the Spirit through the measure of truth given. But if we take the measure of truth we have, and make it the standard, we are doing that which is most injurious to the conscience, and dishonouring to the Spirit of God, and it is sure to bring in pride and a fall. God says, "That boil must ripen into a head before I do anything." A man may get proud, e.g., about the truth he believes of the coming of the Lord -- the flesh has come in, and God cannot go on with that; so the world comes in, and then there is a fall. Thus God's truth is injured, and weak Christians, whom we ought to have helped to build up with the truth God has shown us, are stumbled by it. All truth must be held in communion with the Living God. If the heart be warm, even with defective views, there will be blessing. Compare two tracts for instance. One perhaps may be very deficient in the presentation of truth, but having a savour of God. The other a clear statement of truth, but dry and cold as the moonlight on a frosty night. Such truth God does not own. It must flow from Himself, and God is a living Person.
In this remnant we find the Spirit of God acting on their consciences and on their hearts, though they do not see truth exactly in God's way. They have God's Spirit giving testimony by them, and they have the Living God. The language of Ps. 41 is the language of such as these. It presents a company speaking of their sins (v. 4); and then (v. 9) the passage quoted in application to Judas is most remarkable. In principle, the same things apply to the little remnant in Christ's day, and those who will be separated from the mass by-and-by. (Isa. 8) The unity of the Spirit is the key with which to unlock these psalms. (v. 3.) The word rendered sickness here is rendered griefs in Isaiah 53. I am convinced this is the true rendering; sickness is something internal. Grief is produced from without. The Hebrew signification is rubbed or worn down with much painstaking, as a jewel or gold is polished. Affliction and tribulation come from without, and produce this effect upon the soul. The remnant, as in Daniel 11, are not recognized as being in sickness, but going through tremendous tribulation. They are dragged through terrible billows almost overwhelming, the effect of which is to rub off all that is contrary to God by outside things and in the furnace. He will make them know what they are.
The blessedness of trusting in God applies in principle to the whole man, body, soul, and spirit, down here. It is the inner man which the Lord strengthens, and therefore there must be death and resurrection in connection with it. A man is most strengthened from God when most broken down; therefore there must be this death and resurrection, not only as relating to outward things in service, but as to inward feelings, etc. Never did Christ's moral strength shine out as it did on the cross. The young Christian starts with a joy unspeakable, and full of glory perhaps, in the sense of recent deliverance from the burden of sin and condemnation, but after a time he may lose that. After many years of pilgrimage you may no longer see the bright countenance, the brilliant expression, etc.; but there may be much more of divine power and grace in him now than then. Divine joy is seeing God in everything; that is more deeply felt after the blast of time than in all the freshness of the young Christian. There was more power displayed, and more depth of divine joy in Christ, when He stood calmly still, allowing all the waves and billows to pass over Him, than even in those few occasions when He rejoiced in spirit during His active service.
So many a person thinks he is patient at first starting, but afterwards learns to be much more patient under God's will. The springs are found in another source. It is one thing to feel joy, and another thing to say, as Paul, "All is gone! all have forsaken me!" The Church is gone, but I have got God. The body, too, may be brought down, and we may have to learn that there is no spring of strength in ourselves, but only in God Himself, and we must wait for Him to raise us; and not only the vessel may be cast down, but the inward renewed nature which God has given. We have to learn to suffer God's will as well as to do it. I have here one little word for the aged saints especially, and for brethren seeking to labour for the Lord. There is far more blessing sometimes in suffering God's will than in doing it. There is great price to Him in the patient, quiet endurance of suffering, even though our own self-will may have led to it. This of course was never the case with Christ; but we see how He was the patient sufferer when He gave Himself up. "Except the corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." There was all the energy of divine life in that corn; but there must be the suffering of death before the life would be imparted to others. The ripening of divine life and grace in us, and breaking down the old man, is often accomplished by our being put into the crucible where we cannot act, but can only trust in God to act for us.
from Memorials of the Ministry of G. V. Wigram. Vol. 1. [Notes on Scripture; Lectures and Letters. Second Edition, Broom 1881 (First Edition 1880)]