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The Tree of Life: Psalms:

Book Two: Psalms 42-72

"My Soul Thirsteth for the Living God"

In Book One the name Lord occurs 272 times, and the name God only 18 times. In this second Book the name Lord appears only 30 times, and the name God 164 times. The unpronounceable name "Jehovah" means He "who was, and who is, and who is to come," Life Itself, or Love Itself. And the name Elohim, translated God, means "Powers," as they appear in an infinite variety of forms in which Life manifests itself. "Every created thing is endowed with power; but power acts not from itself, but from Him who bestowed the power, . . . and conserves it" (Divine Providence #3). In the Old Testament "God is said when truth, and Jehovah when good is the subject" (Arcana Coelestia #8330, 2921). The songs in Book One, therefore appeal mainly to the love of God in the heart as we turn again and again to its source in the Lord, while the songs in Book Two quicken our love of the truth as we look to its source in God for direction in the spiritual life.

Psalm 42. God’s truth is now our great quest. "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" We have been brought up to worship God, but have only accepted the truth on the authority of those who taught us. We now face the light independently, and are somewhat disquieted by the sight of evil within. "Where is thy God?" Where is the truth about ourselves? We hope in God, hope to know everything necessary to remove the oppression of our enemies.

43. What is the word for today, in the trouble presently on hand? "Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation. O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man (in ourselves). O send out thy light and thy truth" to lead us to thine altar, that we may praise thee in newness of life. "Hope in God; for I shall yet praise him who is the health of my countenance, and my God."

"Redeem Us for Thy Mercies’ Sake"

44. We have been told that nations were prosperous when they were true to God, or "because God was favorable to them." We still believe that "God is our king." We believe that the truth is all powerful, and will prevail. But it does not always work. "Thou goest not forth with our hosts. . . . and hast scattered us among the nations." The truth itself is treated with the utmost contumely in time of war, or in heated political campaigns. Nevertheless, we still believe in God. "Yea, for thy sake we are killed all the day long. Awake, why sleepest thou? . . . Arise for our help, and redeem us, for thy mercies’ sake."

God’s Name Remembered in All Generations

45. Set to Shoshannim ("lilies"). "A Song of loves": a stately ode eulogizing the king riding on prosperously, because of truth and meekness and righteousness. It speaks of God’s throne in heaven, with the king’s daughters and the queen in gold of Ophir. It is a wonderful picture of the Lord as the Anointed King, who rules over all in heaven, the queen representing the church in heaven conjoined with the Lord (the lamb’s wife), and the daughters representing all who are in the affection of truth and of knowledges in the church where the Word is. All the good in humanity in the past or present bears testimony to the name of the Lord.

"God Is Our Refuge and Strength"

46. Although "the evils of the love of self and of the world strike or dazzle the mind according to their increase," we need not fear (Apocalypse Explained #405). "The Divine truth which is of the church," the river whose streams make glad the city of God, shall not perish (Apocalypse Explained #518). The time will come also when the conflict in the soul of what is false against the truth will cease, and man come into the tranquility of peace. "The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge."

The Kingdom of God

47. "Clap your hands, all ye people, shout unto God with the voice of triumph." The outward show—the applause and shouting—is unnecessary. Great joy of heart, however, is an unfailing concomitant of a growing conviction that "God is the king of all the earth. . . . God reigneth over the nations. God sitteth upon his holy throne," not literally, but spiritually. He is omniscient, and rules over the least details in the affairs of men, primarily for their eternal good, and only secondarily for their temporal welfare (Divine Providence #214). "Sing praises with understanding."

"The City of Our God"

48. Here is "described the worship of the Lord from spiritual truths and goods, and the pleasure of the soul thence derived" (Apocalypse Explained #405). A sense of security accompanies the joy of worship, when God is known in the city’s palaces for a refuge. The worldly may commend the teachings of religion, but turn away from them as unpractical, like kings who approach the city of the great king, but retire dismayed. Their practices are opposed to the spirit of love. The east wind breaks up the ships of Tarshish. The life of religion, however, is the only hope of righting wrong in the world. "This God is our God forever. He will be our guide even unto death"; that is, the death of selfishness.

Wealth, or Honor, Saves No One

49. It is generally acknowledged that when the rich dieth, "he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him." This is equally true of those who accumulate a wealth of knowledges, and pride themselves in their possessions. Lasting wealth and honor are acquired only by the use of wealth and prestige, great or little, to "redeem his brother"; that is, to relieve suffering in the world, and make life richer for everyone.

The Salvation of God

50. This psalm poetizes the Lord’s words, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13). From "the saints" the Lord expects more than sacrifices. He asks for praise, obedience and prayer. Sacrifice from "the wicked" is hypocritical. Worse follows unless they repent of their sins, "order their way aright," and see the salvation of God.

51. The sin of David covers every offense against the love of the neighbor, and his repentance shows the way of salvation—the principle in operation for all men that can alone establish the kingdom of God on earth, as in heaven. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. . . . Build thou the walls of Jerusalem," the defense against yielding to temptation at all times.

The Goodness of God

52. God’s goodness never changes. Why should the tongue of a mighty man lend itself to deceit, and mischief, as in Doeg’s massacre of the priests of Nob? (1 Samuel 22). The tongue works deceitfully, like a sharp razor, when plotting for power, even though the words are unspoken. Approval of them destroys the power of the tongue for good, "roots it out of the land of the living." Why not cut out the mischievous thoughts, and "laugh"; that is, rejoice in the mercy of the Lord forever.

"When God Bringeth Back the Captivity"

53. The Lord says that the man who hears his sayings, and does them not, is a fool (Matthew 7:24). "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." We deny the existence of God, regardless of our professions, when we deny or reject God’s help to change our lives, or the world, for the better. Psalm 14, which is almost word for word the same as this psalm, reads: "The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God." In this psalm it reads: "God looked down from heaven, etc." The Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom are constantly operating to uncover our waywardness, and lead us out of captivity.

"Save Me, O God, by Thy Name"

54. "To the chief musician on stringed instruments," when the Ziphites informed Saul of David’s hiding place (1 Samuel 23:19; 26:1). A simple prayer for deliverance from any enemy with the sinister purpose of betraying the Lord, or, in practical life, proving false to our neighbor. Rewarding evil to the enemy is not returning evil for evil, but means "cutting him off in truth," and thus putting an end to the temptation. "If ye shall ask anything in my name I will do it" (John 14:14).

"Give Ear to My Prayer, O God"

55. "These things are said concerning temptations in which evils and falsities break in from hell and strike with terror for fear of damnation, for the good are terrified and tremble from imminent dangers of the soul, thus from the irruption of evils into the thoughts and intentions of the will" (Apocalypse Explained #677). The delight of uplifting spiritual thinking (the wings of a dove) promises relief, but sometimes leaves us wandering in the wilderness. More than elevated thinking is necessary to salvation. "As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me." Self-condemnation by the truth opens the heart to receive the Divine Love that saves. "Cast thy burden upon the Lord. . . . and God shall bring them (the evil thoughts and intentions) down into the pit of destruction."

"This I Know, That God Is for Me"

56. Set to Jonath-elem-rechokim ("the dove of the distant terebinths") When the Philistines took David in Gath. "Be merciful unto me, O God." The truth condemns, and we call for mercy. "They be many that fight against me. . . . They hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul. . . . In thine anger cast down the people, O God." The change comes when God’s Love takes possession of the heart. "In God will I praise his word; in the Lord will I praise his word. . . . For thou hast delivered my soul from death; hast thou not delivered my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?"

"A Song in Praise of the Father"

57. Set to Al-taschith ("Destroy not," a vintage song, Isaiah 65:8). When David fled from Saul in the cave. "The letter kills, the spirit giveth life" (2 Corinthians 3:6). "I will cry unto God. . . . My soul is among the lions." The life of the understanding formed from truths is threatened with destruction by falsities, and crafty reasoning from them (Apocalypse Explained #455, 750). "My heart is fixed, O God, I will sing praises. . . . For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the skies. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth." We glory in the power of the truth, but the warmth of the saving power of love lies hidden in the background.

"God Judgeth in the Earth"

58. Set to Al-taschith. "Destroy not" good will through the "violence of your hands in the earth." "Poisonous serpents signify those who are full of guile" (Arcana Coelestia #4918). They also stop their ears, they are deaf to the voice of the truth. A cry for relief is never in vain. "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance"—not retaliation, but liberation from evil. The psalm reveals the process of eliminating guile from our systems, guile that estranged us from God, since the time that we were little children. As we mark how its grip on us is loosened, we can say, "Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth."

"God Is My High Tower"

59. Set to Al-taschith. "Destroy not" mercy. "When Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill David." "Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God, and save me from the bloodthirsty men who lie in wait for my soul." Malice is a very common enemy. Like the dogs in the east, the scavengers that howl in the streets by night, malice picks up scandal, or gossip, with avidity, and howls about it when it appears to be to self-interest to do so. "But I will sing aloud of thy lovingkindness in the morning; for thou hast been my high tower and a refuge in the day of my distress."

"Through God We Shall Do Valiantly"

60. Shushan-eduth ("the lily of the testimony"). When David strove with Aram-naharaim and Aram-zobah, and Joab smote Edom. Hundreds of irrational thoughts and mean feelings (Aram and Edom) pass through the mind daily. They are pestiferous and sometimes wear us out by their persistence. "O God, thou hast showed thy people hard things." We have only to look around, however, to see the Lord at work in ways and places that seem to be of little account. We may take these as an assurance that "vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly; for he it is that will tread down our enemies."

"Hear My Cry, O God"

61. Neginah is a stringed instrument. The heart is overwhelmed. "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. . . . I will trust in the covert of thy wings. . . . Thou wilt prolong the king’s life"— my faith in Thee—"and his years as many generations. . . . O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him. So will I sing praise unto thy name forever, that I may daily perform my vows."

"My Soul Waiteth Only for God"

62. To Jeduthun ("a choir of praise"). Our life is out of joint, blessing outwardly, but cursing inwardly. "With God is my salvation. . . . Trust in him at all times, ye people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us." The knowledge of God alone is inadequate to our need. Set not the heart on riches; power belongeth to God—the power of love and wisdom. "Twice have I heard this." And these two must produce results. That is power and mercy in action. "For thou renderest to every man according to his work."

"Thy Lovingkindness Is Better than Life"

63. "A psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah" (1 Samuel 22:5; 2 Samuel 23– 28). The Lord’s trials when meeting the cheerless spirit of dogmatism in the Church. We have seen God’s power and glory in the sanctuary, and bless Him for it. But we have also seen and felt the uncharitableness of those who criticize the opposing beliefs and opinions of others. Censorious criticism is invariably accompanied by misrepresentations and lies. "The king shall rejoice in God; everyone that sweareth by him shall glory; for the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped." Mendacity destroys veracity.

64. This psalm presents the effect of lying on the heart. "Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked. . . . who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, [not lying words, but] bitter words; they shoot in secret at the perfect; . . . they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? They search out iniquities; . . . both the inward thought and the heart of every one is deep. But God shall shoot at them; with an arrow suddenly shall they be wounded. So they shall be made to stumble, their tongue being against them. . . . The righteous shall be glad in the Lord; . . . and all the upright shall glory," when rescued from it.

"Praise Waiteth for Thee, O God, in Zion"

65. "A Psalm and Song of David." "From the uniting of the Divine and the Human in the Lord will be a church that will be in all truth from the Lord, and safe from infestation from falsities." The parallel to this in ourselves lies in taking the thorn out of the flesh—every lust contrary to the Spirit of the Lord—and being fashioned wholly within and without in the image and likeness of the Father above. "O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come"; that is, every man (Arcana Coelestia #574).

"Make a Joyful Noise unto God,
All the Earth"

66. It is a real joy to mark evidences, be they ever so slight, of the life of religion in the world today. The passage of the Red Sea and River Jordan bears evidence to God’s works in the past. Now the proof is in the lives of men and women who are being led out of worldly and selfish ways to sacrifice all they have or are in serving their fellowmen. "O bless our God, ye peoples, . . . for thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. . . . and thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place." We owe a debt to the church and society, and they who fear God should bear personal testimony to what He has done for their souls, not turning away from their prayers, nor his lovingkindness from them.

"God Cause His Face to Shine upon Us"

67. This expression "implies intelligence and wisdom, for from Divine Truth, or the Divine light in the heavens, are derived all the wisdom and intelligence both of angels and men" (Apocalypse Explained #412). The light makes known God’s ways upon earth, his salvation among all nations, or good people. He governs all men for their eternal good. He blesses all who desire to do right with spiritual blessings. "And all the ends of the earth shall fear him," that is, dread to do aught that would vex Him, or hurt anyone.

"God Giveth Strength
and Power unto His People"

68. A good understanding of God’s Word reveals how the Lord works to separate good from evil, and truth from falsity in the world (verses 1–6). Churches have existed in the past by instruction from heaven (rain) and a code of laws, or rules of life (Sinai). The humble have always been fed from above (verses 7–18). Prophets and judges, or saviors, have been sent to deliver them from evil, and unite them in the defense of the right (verses 19–27). The outstanding principles of religion have never been lacking. And the power to do the will of God has ever been present and available. Therefore, "ascribe ye strength to God. . . . Blessed be God."

"They Gave Me Also Gall for My Food"

69. A translation of the language of parable in this psalm into the vernacular would furnish us with a better understanding of the Lord’s temptations, particularly those on the cross. This commentary, however, only hints at the growth of the God-consciousness—the tree of life—in man, which is far far below the growth of the consciousness of the Father—the tree of life also—in the Son of man. The psalm throws light on the later sufferings of the righteous, with their pleas for mercy, and their praise on deliverance from evil, in exemplification of the Lord’s glorification.

"Make Haste, O God, to Deliver Me"

70. "O Lord, make haste to help me" is the wording in Psalm 40:13–17. Compare the two carefully, and note how they present the two sides of the prayer—from the heart, and from the head; as we feel it, and as we see it. Each is complementary to the other, as Father and Son, love and faith.

"In Thee, O Lord, Do I Take Refuge"

71. The heart speaks here in prayer (verses 1–13) and thanksgiving (verses 14–24). Note especially verses 6, 9, 17 and 18. That which openeth the womb is that which is born of charity, or the faith of charity, which makes the spiritual of man, or the new man himself (Arcana Coelestia #8043, Apocalypse Explained #710). The Lord "was the Father’s from birth." Old age, frail and gray-headed, turning white (Revelation 1:14) represents the maturation of wisdom. Life’s burdens grow heavier as we assume new and greater responsibilities, and learn to bear them with courage, and with grace.

"Give the King Thy Judgments, O God"

72. "A Psalm of Solomon," who represents the higher law of love. It opens with a prayer to know how to practice love to the neighbor ("the king"—David) and love to the Lord ("the king’s son"—Solomon) until "faith will be love" ("the moon shall be no more") (Arcana Coelestia #337). For when "love is the fulfillment of the law," or supreme in human affairs, "all nations shall serve him." The world then shall enjoy true prosperity and peace. "His Name shall endure forever. . . . Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel; . . . and blessed be his glorious Name forever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen. The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended."

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