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The Tree of Life: Psalms:

Book Three: Psalms 73-89

"Truly God Is Good to Israel"

Psalm 73. "God is good to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." The old, old problem is before us again, the use and the abuse of power and wealth. The abuse of God’s gifts always brings adversity and suffering soon or late. The prosperous at others’ expense have no bands, or trouble, like other men. They are conscienceless, but plagued with fears and lusts that can never be gratified. Envy makes us one with them. "It is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord Jehovah, that I may declare all thy works."

"O God, Why Hast Thou
Cast Us Off Forever?"

74. Of old the enemy destroyed God’s sanctuary. Today religion is put on the scrap heap by the denial of Christianity (ruining the dwelling place of thy Name), by ignoring the prophets, by sensuality and the abuse of knowledge (leviathan), and by false ideologies (cleaving the fountains and drying up rivers). There are those, however, who are not wholly carried away by the spirit of their times (the seasons), and who seek to preserve pure loving thoughts (thy turtle doves) from destruction, and pray that God will sustain "the poor and needy" soul in the midst of increasing disorders.

"The Horns of the Righteous
Shall Be Exalted"

75. Set to Al-taschith—"Destroy not" good will "defending what is false against the truth" (Apocalypse Explained #316). "The Lord’s name is near; men tell of thy wondrous works." The church (the earth) is dissolved when she fails to teach the truths that men need. "Because truths support the church they are called its pillars which God bears up" (Apocalypse Explained #304). Natural truths too, for they are the support to the spiritual (Arcana Coelestia #8106). "The horns of the wicked stand for the power of falsity from evil, the horns of the just for the power of truth from good" (Arcana Coelestia #2832). The cup represents suffering for truth’s sake. When men are put to the test, the horns of the wicked will be cut off, the power to stand up for Jesus will prevail, "the horns of the righteous shall be exalted."

"In Judah Is God Known"

76. Where love dwells—a love purified and perfected through conflict in the world’s arena— there God dwells and is known. We have fought out a few issues and found peace in certain firm and fixed convictions. The deductions from false thinking that troubled us possibly for years have now no place in our lives. "The chariot and the horse are cast into a dead sleep." With live issues, however, where we need to know more both in theory and practice, we wait in silence; "when God arose in judgment, to save the meek of the earth"—those who can stand correction to get on the right side. Then surely "the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain." The Lord never tests us beyond our strength. As we are able to bear more "He will cut off the spirit of princes; He is terrible to the kings of the earth"—false principles, nationalism, monopoly, etc.

"Hath God Forgotten to Be Gracious?"

77. We know that God hears our cry in the day of trouble, but sometimes the soul refuses to be comforted. We cannot confess his goodness. What God did in ancient times does not touch us. A psalm does not affect us in the night. God seems to have forgotten us altogether. Suddenly we realize that this is our infirmity, not God’s. We muse upon his doings in a new mood. Everything then looks different. There is much good in the world. The Word is full of light, genuine truths appear with a real bearing on our lives, and there is a returning sense of the presence of the Lord that is overpowering. Surely the guiding hand of Providence is made plain in some of our trying experiences.

"Forget Not the Works of God"

78. This psalm rehearses the exodus and life in the wilderness two times, and then refers to the conquest of Canaan, and the life there until the time of David, dwelling upon Israel’s inconstancy, ending in the special condemnation of Ephraim (verses 9–11) and the rejection of Shiloh in Ephraim for Jerusalem in Judah as the place of God’s sanctuary. The repetition of history emphasizes the involvement of both the head and the heart in the spiritual experiences there represented. The failure of Ephraim represents the inadequacy of the understanding of God’s Word to cope with an unruly will. Zion in Judah was chosen as the site of the sanctuary, and David taken from the sheepfold to rule, or feed, "Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance," indicative of the supremacy of love to restore heaven on earth.

"O God, the Nations Have
Laid Jerusalem in Heaps"

79. "Falsifications of the Word and direful evils have destroyed the church. The cry of the church for help, that she be not destroyed at the same time, and her prayer that those who have ruined the church be removed, that thus there will be worship of the Lord." The psalm expresses the objective of every true laborer in the Lord’s vineyard, and the cry of every sufferer for relief in temptation.

"Turn Us Again, O God,
and We Shall Be Saved"

80. Set to "the lilies of the testimony"—pure words. "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel." Our hearts long to have the Lord lead his flock out of the danger zone. "Thou broughtest a vine out of Egypt," and it grew till "the mountains were covered with the shadow of it." Why do the beasts of the field ravage it, and feed on it? "It is burned with fire, it is cut down." Neighborly love is destroyed by lust and passions, because we have turned from the Lord. "Turn us again, O God. . . . O God of hosts, O Lord God of hosts; cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved."

"Sing Aloud unto God, Our Strength"

81. "Take a psalm, bring hither the timbrel and harp, blow the trumpet on our feast day, for it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob." We pass through the experiences of our earlier years, both pleasant and unpleasant, again and again, learning more and more of their content. As we gain in character and interpret all in the light of God’s Word, the psalms become truly "songs exalting the life of love, and the joy of life" (Apocalypse Revealed #279).

"Arise, O God, Judge the Earth"

82. The "gods" are under impeachment, because they judge unjustly. They are swayed by self-interest; they overlook the interests of the poor and fatherless and afflicted, who ought to receive more consideration in this world. They who are always thinking about themselves neither know nor understand the sufferings directly due to their selfishness, or the selfishness of others with like interests. "They walk on in darkness." They are "gods," powers for good, knowing the truth. "They possess the Word, but they will perish," because they fail to practice it. Selfishness dissociates a man from his fellowmen, and his God too. "Arise, O God, judge the earth; for thou shalt inherit all nations."

"O God, Keep Not Thou Silence"

83. The Psalmist appeals to God for intervention in a secret conspiracy of the neighboring nations to exterminate God’s children. "Let them be confounded and troubled forever; yea, let them be put to shame and perish; that men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth." The enemies that seek to destroy religion are within us. The evil do not know that the Lord rules all men, when in the nature of things their plans fail utterly. But we do learn from experience that Love Itself is above all, the central power in the universe, when it is the selfless motive within that enables us to overcome all evil opposed to it.

Note. The preceding psalm marks the turning point from God to the Lord. Psalms 1–41 are Jehovistic, Psalms 42–83 are Elohistic, and Psalms 84–150 are again Jehovistic. The starting point of all the inspiration, or momentum, for the good life is in the Divine Love. The Divine Wisdom directs the momentum to useful ends. And the renewal of the momentum and inspiration in its forward and upward trend is again from the Divine Love. From center to circumference, and back again to the center is the order of perpetual motion, as illustrated in the motion of the planets and suns; the motion of water from ocean to cloudland, and back again to the ocean; and in all growth, animal or vegetable, from seed to seed, from "dust to dust," with endless repetition, and infinite variation. "Such a circle of love to thoughts and from thoughts to love from love is in all things of the human mind. This circle may be called the circle of life. Angels constantly turn their faces to the Lord as a sun. Angels are in the Lord, and the Lord is in them; and because angels are recipients the Lord alone is in heaven" (Divine Providence #29). The return to the center for an augmented inspiration and strength is especially indicated in Book 5, in which the name Lord occurs 236 times, and Elohim only 20 times.

"How Amiable Are Thy Tabernacles,
O Lord of Hosts"

84. How lovely are the homes in which everyone is actuated by God’s love. We wish every home was of that order. In such a home even the commonest thoughts laden with kindly feeling are precious. Happy are they who dwell in such a home. It is a real stronghold. It inspires everyone to vie with the others to increase the joy in it. When trouble comes—the valley of weeping—it opens new springs of life, and fresh thoughts of helpfulness—the early rain from heaven. In that home "they go from strength to strength," everyone whose life is bound up in the happiness of others. We pray for it. How much better to open the door when the opportunity offers to serve, than to be always thinking of ourselves first. It is hard to attain. "Blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee."

"The Lord Will Give That Which Is Good"

85. We are conscious that the Lord has moderated our obstinacy—brought back the captivity of Jacob. There are times when we do feel differently about persons whom we could not tolerate. Yet, we have spells of waywardness. We are not perfect. "Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease." We hear the voice of peace, and then again we turn to folly. "Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him." And so we alternate from good to evil, and from evil to good. "Righteousness shall go before him, and shall set us in the way of his steps."

"Thou, Lord, Hast Helped Me,
and Comforted Me"

86. We pray for help in temptations. "For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy to all who call upon thee." There is none among the gods like the Lord; nor any works like his works. The life of religion is the heavenly life. It is the only life that yields lasting satisfaction, is tireless and free from any thought of self. Conceit and violence disturb our peace of mind, but lovingkindness gives comfort and strength to resist and overcome them.

"The Lord Loveth the Gates of Zion"

87. Mount Zion represents love on an altogether higher level than the world. The gates of "the city of God," never shut, represent the ever present opportunity of exercising that love in every walk of life. "Yea, of Zion it shall be said, This one and that one was born in her." Every form of love originated in the love of God—the love of knowledge, and wisdom, the love of work, the love of play, aye, and the love of dominion, or ruling, for the good of others. There is no love of evil of any kind that is not the perversion of a love that was pure from the hand of the Lord in the beginning. "All my springs are in thee."

"Lord, Why Hidest Thou Thy Face from Me"

88. The meaning of the title is uncertain. The psalm gives utterance to the Lord’s appeal to the Father in temptations that continued even to despair, when He was seemingly overcome by the infernals. "Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? . . . and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? . . . Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. . . . Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness." It is understandable only so far as we have wrestled with the enemy in the night, and wondered if we should ever see the light of day again.

"The Lord’s Lovingkindness"

89. "Mercy shall be built up forever" with the throne of David, which represents the law of equal rights for all. This is the law of heaven. "Righteousness and judgment are the foundation of thy throne; lovingkindness and truth go before thy face." Happy are they who walk in the light of his countenance. "I have found David my servant." I have anointed him; I will make him my firstborn. My covenant will I not break. His seed shall endure forever. This is prophetic of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who fulfilled the covenant. We have broken it and "profaned his crown by casting it to the ground." We have spurned the wisdom of the Lord’s fulfillment of the law, and given evil a free rein. So it appeared at the crucifixion that evil had triumphed over good. "O Lord, how long? Wilt thou hide thyself forever? . . . What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?" Unless the Lord had shortened these days, no flesh could have been saved. The doxology breathes the assurance in death of the resurrection. "Blessed be the Lord forevermore. Amen, and Amen."

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