TWO CONCEPTS—HUMAN AND DIVINE
All the Psalms are the expressions of the godly saints drawn from their experiences. The writers, being godly saints, did their utmost to utter something in praise to God according to their experiences. Of course, this kind of utterance was based upon their concept of God. They had the experiences, they had the sentiments, they had the impressions to utter something as their expression, and this expression was certainly based upon their own concept. But because they were so close to God and open to Him, God was free to utter something in their utterance. However, God’s utterance was not based upon their concept, but upon the divine concept. We must realize that in the Psalms there are two kinds of concepts: the concept of the saints and the concept of God, the human concept and the divine, the natural concept and the spiritual. These two are always together in the Psalms. But do not imagine that they are complementary. These two concepts are incompatible and mutually contradictory.
Psalm 1 says in effect, “Blessed is the man that keeps the law.” This is the expression of a saint according to his concept, and his concept is one of the law. His delight is in the law. But while he was uttering Psalm 1 and then Psalm 2, God, Christ, and the Spirit of God came in to say, not, “Blessed is the man that keeps the law,” but, “Blessed are all that put their trust in the Son (Christ).” While the Psalmist was saying, “Blessed is the man that keeps the law,” the Lord entered in to declare, “Blessed is the man who puts his trust in the Son.” You see, the Psalmist was uttering something according to his concept, but because he was so near to God and open to Him, God could intervene and within his utterance utter something according to the divine concept. This is the way the Psalmists wrote the Psalms. The Psalmists spoke according to their concept, but, when God suddenly uttered something within their utterance, the concept was changed. This is an exceedingly important principle in the understanding of the Psalms.
THE CENTER AND CONTENT
Now we must consider the center and the content of all the praises in the Psalms. From the human point of view it is one thing, and from the divine it is another. According to the human concept it is one thing, but according to the divine it is another. From the human standpoint, we may say that the center and content of all the Psalms are the experiences of the saints concerning God’s mercy, kindness, love, faithfulness, power, and glory. They experienced so much of God’s goodness that they praised God with all these aspects of their experience of God. This is the human concept, this is the human point of view. But according to the divine concept and the divine point of view, the center and content of all the praises are Christ, the house and the city of God. Christ is the center, and the church, typified by the house and the city, is also the center. Christ and the church are the center and content of all the praises of the Psalms. Therefore, in all our praises we must have the sentiments and impressions gathered from our experience; yet in all our praises we must have Christ and the church as the center and the content.
Many of us have been in the atmosphere of Christianity and under its influence for years. Christian teachers always declare that the Psalms are sweet and comforting. If you are in any trouble, they say, read the Psalms and you will be comforted. It is true that the Psalms are indeed a comfort, but if we merely apply the Psalms for our comfort, we fail greatly and come far short of their intent. The Psalms were not written in this way; they were written as praise to God with Christ as the center. Christ Himself told His disciples that in the books of Moses, in the prophets, and in all the Psalms, many things were written concerning Him (Luke 24:44). It is a great pity that so many Christians merely apply the Psalms for comfort. Very few apply the Psalms for the experience of Christ.
We should realize that when we come to the church meetings, we must praise. Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 tell us that we must be in the Spirit, always praising with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. You may say that you have been doing this, but, I would ask what the center of your praise is. Most of the praises I have heard have the mercy, goodness, and lovingkindness of God as the center. You cannot touch much of Christ in the prayers and praises of most Christians today. You cannot hear much concerning the church as the house and the city of God in the praises of most Christians today. We must be transformed in the matter of our praising. We must all come to the meeting to praise the Lord, not with the concept merely of what we have obtained of the goodness and lovingkindness of God as the center, but continually with Christ and with the church as the house and city of God as the center. Brothers and sisters, this is tremendously vital. This is something deeper. People today talk so much about the deeper life. I tell you, this is the deeper life and these are the deeper praises.
It is exceedingly difficult for saints to rid themselves of their old concepts. We are always thinking of how good and merciful the Lord is to us. That is well, but we must realize that whenever we praise God, our praises must be Christ-centered and church-centered. Let us say, “Hallelujah, Lord, how good that I am in the local church! Day by day I am enjoying Christ as my comfort in the local church.” In such a praise comfort is mentioned, but comfort is not the center; Christ and the church are the center. I simply enjoy Christ day by day, and I have comfort in the local church. So many times Christians today forget about Christ, and they do not have the church. All they have and all they can say is something concerning their individual comfort.
I am certain that if we are close to the Lord and open to Him, while we are praising, “O Father, Thou art so good; please comfort me,” the Spirit of God will say something, not according to our concept, but according to His. While we are saying, “How good, how good,” then Christ and the church will come into our praise. We all must be so near to God and open to Him that the Spirit may easily utter something within our utterance concerning Christ and the church.
This little word of introduction is intensely vital for our understanding of the Psalms.
(Christ and the Church Revealed and Typified in the Psalms, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)