Short Meditations on the Psalms,
Chiefly in their Prophetic Character.
J. G. Bellett.
“All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me.” — Luke 24: 44.
“David speaketh concerning Him.” — Acts 2: 25.
This is a commentary on Psalms by Bellett (Brethren).
The Book of Psalms is a collection of Meditations, Prayers, and Praises, uttered by various persons under various circumstances; all, surely, under the moving of the Holy Ghost. It bears this title, “The Book of Psalms,” by inspired authority. (Acts 1: 20)
The Psalms themselves are either commemorative or prophetic, or expressive of the present passage of the soul. They have all the variety of confession, supplication, and praise; of doctrine, history, and prophecy.
The Lord Jesus is seen and heard in them, either personally or mystically. Among them there are some to which we can attach a time and place in the history of the Lord, reading them, therefore, as the utterances of His heart under some given occasion. Such, for instance, is Psalm 22. But there are others to which you cannot so distinctly attach such specific character; they are meditations or experiences more free and undefined.
And this is just what is known in the communion of the saints with God. At times it will be suggested by circumstances, at other times it will be more free and desultory, resulting, not from present conditions, but from general knowledge of God and of His ways abroad, or of His dealings with themselves.
The life of the Lord Jesus was one of constant unbroken communion. His spirit or heart was the altar on which the fire was ever burning. (See Lev. 6) And thus, if no peculiar circumstance directed or formed His fellowship with God, yet His soul was in the sanctuary; still the fire was alive from its own necessary virtue.
The solitariness of our Lord in worship is much to be observed. As it is said of Him, He got up before day, or went out into a solitary place, to pray, that He might be marked as alone in prayer. So it is said, He withdrew Himself and prayed; He continued all night in prayer; He was alone praying. Nor is He once seen in prayer even with His disciples, though He owned their praying, both teaching them and encouraging them to pray.
Why, then, was this? If He taught and encouraged them to pray, and also prayed Himself, why did He not join them in prayer?
This may be the answer. His prayers had a character in them which none others could have had. He was heard “for His piety.” (Heb. 5) He needed no mediator, but stood accepted in Himself. He pleaded no one’s merit; He used no mercy-seat with blood upon it. This was the character of His communion in prayer; but into this there was no entrance for any worshipper but Himself. He prayed in a temple erected, as it were, for such a worshipper as the Son of God, who offered prayer at an altar the like of which was not to be seen anywhere; it had no pattern on the top of the mount. He was a worshipper of a peculiar order, as He was a priest of a peculiar order, or a servant of a peculiar order. He did not owe service, but He learnt it; He did not owe worship, but He rendered it. He was the voluntary servant (Ex. 21: 5; Heb. 5: 8) and the personal accepted worshipper. Thus He prayed “alone.”
But there is no intention of asserting that all the Psalms are utterances of the Lord Jesus. There is no necessity for such a thought as that. For instance, Psalm 1 is not His language, but the divine description, God’s description, of the blessed or prosperous man. Jesus is, I doubt not, in the complete and perfect sense, the happy one there described; but the Psalm is not His utterance. And I am free to own that I do not see Him personally so much in the Psalms as I once did.
The Psalms are commonly spoken of as David’s: and properly so; because, though Moses, Ezra, and others may have been the penmen of some of them, David was principally used in them. And beside, David was more rich and varied in his experiences (through the Holy Ghost, the real “master of the Hebrew lyre,”) than any of the saints of old. He knew all the sorrows of righteousness and of sin, or the trial of a martyr and a penitent. He knew, too, the varieties of humiliation and of honour. His changeful life gave the Spirit the largest occasion to exercise his soul. And from all this such a book as that of the Psalms would have come forth. And further, the Lord seems to recognize David as the writer of them in Matt. 22: 43.
And in connection with this, I would notice 2 Sam. 22 and 1 Chr. 16 as instancing something of the manner in which many Psalms were originated. Those chapters contain several of the Psalms. And from this we learn that the conditions, circumstances, or acts 01 David, or others of God’s people, became the occasion of the Holy Ghost breathing through them utterances and revelations which were suited to the time or the circumstance, but which reached in their full import beyond it. David is delivered from Saul, the ark of God is brought into the tent prepared for it, and the Spirit uses those events as His occasion; in the range and compass of the inspiration (knowing as He does the end from the beginning), He takes in larger and still distant scenes. So again Hannah’s song may be called a Psalm of this character. The event of her becoming a mother is an occasion for the Holy Ghost to use her as His vessel or organ, and He inspires her with an utterance which, while it indulges or celebrates her present personal joy, anticipates the interests and joys of the kingdom of God in other ages. (1 Sam. 2)
This, if I may so express it, is the parentage of many of the Psalms. This is the history of their birth, the place and time of it. And David is specially used by the Spirit in this way. And as he was closing his very memorable life, distinguished by the hand of God as well as by the Spirit of God so wondrously, he says of himself and of his songs, “David the Son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet Psalmist of Israel said, the Spirit of Jehovah spake by me, and His word was in my tongue.” (2 Sam. 23: 1, 2) Thus he was used, — he was the singer, but the Holy Ghost was the composer of the music. David’s songs were “the songs of the Lord,” and by them he prophesied according to the mind of the Spirit. His tongue was “the pen of a ready writer.” The Lord, as the apostle speaks, was “saying in David.” (Heb. 4: 7)
And I would further say upon these “songs of the Lord,” what has dwelt on my mind with interest before now, that there is great moral value in learning prophetic truths in or through the Psalms; because they are not there treated as mere doctrines, but are handled and felt there by the varied passions of the soul. Thus, St. Paul teaches us that “blindness in part is happened to Israel,” or that “the branches were broken off.” This is a proposition or doctrine to be understood and believed. But the same truth is conveyed in the Psalms (see 65) in the words, “iniquities prevail against me;” not, however, as a mere doctrine, as it is given to us in the more didactic style of the epistles, but as that which was, as it were, breaking the heart of a poor Jew when he thought of it. So, “all Israel shall be saved,” is another teaching or doctrine of St. Paul. But it is conveyed in the same Psalm in this style — “our transgressions! thou shalt purge them away” — not, therefore, simply as a proposition, but as the exulting anticipation of the same poor broken-hearted Israelite.
And thus it is, that there is moral value in learning truths through the Psalms. For there is a tendency in us to apprehend truth as an object or a proposition by the mind, and then just to talk about it. But in the Psalms, truth is delivered in company with the passions of the soul. The Psalms are, if I may so speak, the heart of the divine volume. They lie in the midst of the body; and there the pulses are felt; there the blood emanates and returns; there the affections of the renewed man find their seat and exercise. And it is safe to be there at times, yea, and to use other scriptures according to the manner learnt and practised there.
I need not say that some of the Psalms are dialogues some of them introduce even more than two speakers and some of them are, so to speak, soliloquies.
Again: some of them will be found to follow in order, as the chapters of a book; whilst others are to be read singly and unconnectedly.
But into a right discernment of these and of such things, the spiritual senses had need to be exercised. (Heb. 5) The mind of God can profitably and holily be known only by the Spirit of God. But still, in this world, to the end it will be with any of us but a knowing in part.” (1 Cor. 13: 9)
There is nothing more proposed in the following sketches, than to give a little help to the apprehending of the mind of the Spirit in these blessed utterances, in either their prophetic or moral sense, or in both. For well the soul knows that it is but a draught or two of these fresh and living waters which it has ever reached. But one thing we may all with desire seek after, that they may at least pass our lips unmuddied and undisturbed, for the refreshing of others of the flock of God. Be it so, blessed Saviour!
NOTE. — The word “Remnant” will often occur in these meditations. I would just observe, though it may not generally be needed, that this word is used both by Prophets and Apostles, and the people it expresses often intended where the word is not used. Generally this word refers to the true Israel of the last days, that faithful band of Israelites who, in those days of the nation’s complete apostasy, will adhere to the Lord, and to the truth and promises of His covenant, and who, therefore, in the time of the divine judgments upon their nation, because of the full transgression, will be preserved, like Noah, for the earthly places, and finally become the seed or centre of the accepted, blest, and worshipping nation in the days of the kingdom.
See this word “Remnant” used (among other Scriptures) in Isa. 1: 9; Isa. 10: 21, 22; Isa. 11: 11; Ezek. 14: 22; Joel 2: 32; Amos 5: 15; Micah 2: 12; Micah 4: 7; Zeph. 3: 12, 13; Zech. 8: 12; Rom. 9: 27; Rom. 11: 5.
This Remnant has had its type, or its sample, in every age of the nation’s history. They are largely spoken of by the Prophets, and described in their trials, their repentance, their faith and obedience, their discipline by the Spirit, and under the hand of God, their cries, their experiences, and their deliverance; and with all this the Psalms have, I believe, very largely to do. See, among other Scriptures, Isa. 6: 13; Isa. 25-27; Isa. 33: 15; Isa. 50: 10; Isa. 59: 9-15; Isa. 65: 8, 9: Isa. 66: 2, 5 Jer. 31 Ezek. 6: 8; Ezek. 7: 16; Hosea 2: 14; Joel 2: 28; Zech. 12, 13; Mal. 3: 16.
More works by John Gifford Bellet
- Bellett, J.G. – Witnesses for God
- Bellett, L.M. – Recollections of the Late J.G. Bellett by His Daughter
- Bellett, J.G. – Notes from Meditations on Luke
- Bellett, J.G. – The Evangelists
- Bellett Answers to Objections about the Rapture
- Bellett Paul’s Apostleship and Epistles
- Bellett Minor Prophets
- Bellett Living Wholly for God
- Bellett King Saul
- Bellett, J.G. – Short Meditations on the Psalms