Psalm 72:1 – 3, 17 – 20
I turned to this passage, dear brethren; it is one of several to which I hope to refer, and I may as well give you the origin of my exercise. I was feeling exercised, before I came here, as to the final effect of all God’s dealings. All that He has passed us through, and is passing us through, is for His glory; not merely for our relief and help. Until we are really able to turn to Him in this way, as the result of all our exercises, and the revelation and light God has been pleased to give us, we have hardly got to the end God has in view. Let me remind you that this passage is the end of a book. The Psalms are divided into five books, and each book ends with an ascription of praise in one form or another. I will refer to them in detail to show this. This passage is the end of the second book, and here we have one of the most complete ascriptions of praise to God. I shall show the reason directly.
The first book ends with Psalm 41; in that psalm we see the really godly man, more especially the Lord, betrayed. He says, “Mine own familiar friend, in whom I confided, who did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (verse 9). The godly remnant later on will be betrayed and have to find refuge in the wilderness. The psalm which depicts these trying circumstances ends with: “Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, from eternity to eternity! Amen, and Amen”. The end of the exercise of that section is glory ascribed to God; that is the end to be reached of all exercise, however unpleasant or trying the circumstances may be, when the soul has learnt to trace God in it all and bless God for it. This conveys an important lesson, for God does pass us, as saints, through very trying exercises. He sends the trials and our part is to see how we pass through them. It is a very blessed thing if we can turn round and bless God for them, for then the end is reached; we have learnt now to turn to God and say, “Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, from eternity to eternity! Amen, and Amen”.
The next book ends with the blessed revelation of God’s King, Psalm 72. God now reveals His King, and the earth is blessed. With this ending of God’s ways we get a fuller ascription of praise than in the previous book, for Christ is brought in. “Blessed be Jehovah Elohim, the God of Israel, who alone doeth wondrous things! And blessed be his glorious name for ever! and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen”. The whole earth will be filled with His glory. This leads me to say that God alone is worthy of glory – God alone – no man can claim it; glory all belongs to God. God is a marvellous and wonderful Being, whose glory is the end of the universe. When we see that, it shows we realise that we all work in a great plan; it is not merely our own blessing, but God’s glory. The saints in this prophetic psalm have now got into the good of this, and the wonderful doxology at the end of it.
In the last psalm of the third book (Psalm 89), we see that though God had chosen David, his family failed, but that despite the failure of what God has set up, He is going to establish His purpose: “Thy seed will I establish for ever” (verse 4), and the end is reached in verse 52, “Blessed be Jehovah for evermore! Amen, and Amen”.
The next ending is in Psalm 106:48. This psalm is descriptive of God’s faithfulness, but the people’s unfaithfulness. Now there is an additional thought; that is, the people are under exercise, but fail, yet God blesses them and they are called upon to say “Amen”. Whatever failures there are, or have been, the end is reached, and God is blessed. “Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, from eternity and to eternity! And let all the people say, Amen! Hallelujah!”
At the end of the last book of the Psalms the millennium is reached and there is a burst of praise to God. Exercises are over, and the end is reached in a beautiful and sustained overflow of praise.
I could illustrate the same principle from the life of the Lord Jesus. When He had gone through a great deal in the way of service which had been badly requited, instead of turning away in sulkiness, the perfect Man thanks God: “I praise thee, Father, Lord of the heaven and of the earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes” (Matthew 11:25). I could illustrate it with a yet more wonderful passage: “I will declare thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly will I sing thy praises” (Hebrews 2:12). The blessed Lord passed through all the suffering and forsaking, and now we hear His voice joining in praise in the assembly. God’s end is reached.
Now I want to say a word as to the result of individual exercise on the same line. When Paul speaks of himself and his wonderful conversion, he describes God’s grace to himself in 1 Timothy 1:15: “Faithful is the word, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first”. Then he breaks forth, “Now to the King of the ages, the incorruptible, invisible, only God, honour and glory to the ages of ages. Amen” (verse 17). We see how as an individual he had experienced God’s wonderful mercy and he returns glory to God for it. God’s end had been reached in that way, because he ascribes glory to the blessed God who came out to him in grace.
The whole atmosphere of Christianity is one of praise, adoration and thanks to God. It would be impossible to go over all the passages in the New Testament which show this. Christianity is that which brings real joy into our hearts. Righteousness, peace and joy are the very elements of the kingdom. God’s object is that there should be an intelligent response in His creatures. The end of Christianity and God’s ways is reached when the whole universe responds to what He is as revealed. In the world to come we find two great results described. The one is that the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth: that is, light has come out from God and God is known. The other is that the glory of the Lord will fill the earth – there will be intelligent response in praise to His glory. We find this wonderful response ringing all through the New Testament. Take the epistle to the Romans; when Paul is declaring all God’s wonderful ways in reconciling the promises to the fathers with grace to the Gentiles, he breaks out in praise as to what God has been doing: “O depth of riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable his judgments, and untraceable his ways! … For of him, and through him, and for him are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 11:33 – 36). Paul there had real appreciation of what God had done, not merely that he knew it, but it had so affected his heart that he was able to respond intelligently to God. So far as Paul was concerned God’s end was reached. Paul was well educated to fill the position of the heavenly elder. Here was one of the ways in which he was being trained (as we all are), so that there should be the consequent outflow of praise to God. In the same book he also ascribes glory to God when he takes a view of the mystery and surveys the vast field; there is what is beyond that which he has unfolded before in this epistle, and he gives glory to God in view of it. “The only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 16:27).
Following this subject further, we find Paul very appreciative of all that God is doing in regard to His work in the world. I refer to the fact that he begins many of his epistles by giving thanks to God for all that he finds commendable in the saints. There are few more wonderful things than God’s work in the saints. He is able to take up and form a man, so that instead of trying to show off himself in pride and conceit, he is living here in a humble way for God’s glory. It is well for us to consider and give thanks to God for His work in the saints. It is a happy thing to take account of God’s work in the saints. In 1 Corinthians even, he could begin by giving thanks; he saw that which was good, though he corrected the bad – that needs a friendly eye. In the case of the Galatians; things were so serious that he could not give thanks to God for them then. He gives thanks to God frequently for the Thessalonians in view of the reality of God’s work in them and that they were not turned aside. It is a happy thing to be so in accord with God’s thoughts as to be continually giving thanks.
The apostle makes a similar remark in regard to an individual and a company. Of the Philippians he said, “I thank my God for my whole remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3); he was filled with joy in that they were going on well. Paul exemplified this spirit of joy in himself. At the beginning of his work, in Philippi, he sang praises in the prison, and now his heart can still rejoice. He makes a similar remark as to Timothy: “I am thankful to God … how unceasingly I have the remembrance of thee” (2 Timothy 1:3). It was a striking thing to be able to say of any one that every remembrance of him was so happy that it gave occasion of thankfulness to God. There were no regrets. Paul is wonderfully in keeping with God’s thoughts of His people.
Passing to the collective side, Paul also assumes the same blessed attitude, in that he blesses God for what he is about to write to the Colossians. “Giving thanks to the Father, who has made us fit for sharing the portion of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12).He associated himself with the Colossians, showing that the truth had come in power to his own soul. So in Ephesians, in the well-known passage, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3), he not only knew the fact but it so got hold of his soul that he was able to bless God for these blessings. And further, “he has chosen us in him before the world’s foundation, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love; having marked us out beforehand for adoption … to the praise of the glory of his grace” (verses 4 – 6). Sonship is the most wonderful blessing introduced in Christianity, and it, too, is to redound to the glory of God. It lends a peculiar character to Christian privilege.
There are a great many other instances – I could refer to Peter’s first epistle – but I would like to conclude by referring to what is often called ‘the book of judgment’, but which is really a book full of ascriptions of praise, that is the Revelation. If we read the book carefully we find thirteen or fourteen passages in it which call for, or directly ascribe, praise to God. God’s purpose is reached in the different companies in what He is doing, or has done, or will do. The most intelligent company is the heavenly company, who are qualified by exercises they have passed through down here, fully coming up to God’s thought for them. To guard this, I should say that you do not get exactly in words a worship song in the present dispensation – we worship now in “spirit and in truth;” you do not get a sample of the expression of worship of sons – we should be quite likely to make a wrong use of it if it were put in Scripture. The power for worship is there in the Spirit of God, and the relationship is also there. Similarly the Lord taught His disciples to pray; but what we pray is not written now.
In Revelation 4 and 5 we find various circles and a series of companies, from the elders down, so educated by what God has passed them through, or taught them, that they are praising Him; it is like Psalm 148 “Praise ye him … Fire and hail, snow …Mountains … Beasts … Kings of the earth and all peoples, … young men and maidens; old men with youths, – Let them praise the name of Jehovah: for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above the earth and the heavens” (verses 2 – 13). All are called upon to praise the Lord. It is an ascription of praise and corresponds to Revelation 4 and 5. As you pass the varied companies in review, those who pass through tribulation and overcome the beast yield praise to God (see Revelation 7 and 14); the elders often acting as a chorus. They have gone through much, and have come to the end of God’s ways with them and have understood them, and they praise God.
As a last example, when Great Babylon is judged it is most extraordinary how widespread are the various circles of praise (Revelation 19). All are so thankful that the terrible system is gone in judgment – not rejoicing in the judgment exactly but in the clearance of evil. God is greatly concerned as to reality, and He values real bridal response to Christ so much that there is joy in heaven and earth when anything that imitates it is judged and removed. Any sense of what is due to Christ gives joy, as Christ is infinitely precious to God. God is training us to appreciate Christ, what He is in Himself and what He is to God; and if God has been pleased to work among mankind to produce those who shall be Christ’s companions for all eternity, what must He think of Christ and the assembly.
It is most important to get a right idea of what God is doing now. He is forming the bride, the recipient of Christ’s affections and the sharer with Christ of God the Father’s love. What does He expect from that company? An intelligent response to all God is doing, understanding all, and responding to it in worship and adoration. There is not much outwardly at present, but God is training souls to appreciate Christ. He does it by exercises, by the light He gives us, by the Holy Spirit. Are we conscious of our destiny? Not only shall we be individually like Christ, but we are to be part of that assembly, “having the glory of God” (Revelation 21:10). That is what the assembly is for, and if we are intelligently in the sense of it there will be the proper kind of worship now.
The result of all God’s ways with us is not only that we have light, but that we so appreciate it, and every form of exercise, that we may be able to give glory to Him whether in connection with the wilderness or in connection with our heavenly privileges, “To him be glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21).\
Dr. Charles C. Elliott
Rochester, N.Y., June 1921