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Jottings

Psalm 116 forms part of a group of Psalms of praise from Psalm 111 to 118 They follow the ascension psalm (110) which describes the Lord ascending the throne of Jehovah, as is indicated in Revelation 12. 5. It is somewhat remarkable that in Revelation 12 we have side by side a past and a future event in the ascension of the Lord (the Manchild) to the throne of God, and the casting down of the devil (the dragon) from heaven. Nevermore will the devil be allowed to return to heaven to disturb the peace of that blest abode.

Psalm 110 also describes the Lord's appointment in resurrection as Priest after the order of Melchizedek by the word of the oath He is now, and will be yet on earth, a Priest upon His throne (Zechariah 6. 12, 13) The psalm also speaks of the Lord's coming victory over all the opposing forces of earth

Who the writer of this group of psalms is we are not told It may be that the heading of Psalm 110, "A Psalm of David, is true of each of these psalms We may yet in time to come know better about this. The oft repeated words of Psalm 118 in the New Testament whets one 5 appetite to know who wrote so delightfully and prophetically of our blessed Lord Wherever we find Him referred to it delights our souls and fills us with holy joy.

The words of Psalm 116 were the subject of meditation in the early hours this morning. The words of verse 15 have frequently been a subject of consideration

"Previous in the sight of the LORD

Is the death of His saints."

Death here is the ordinary word for death and we take it that it means physical death. Precious means valuable. The verse could not possibly mean spiritual death, for that is a grief to God.

The psalmist has just been speaking of his own escape from death as the result of God hearing his voice and supplication His had been like the case of Hezekiah whose cry, when he was dying, the Loan heard and restored him to health again (see Isaiah 38). The psalmist said

"The cords of death compassed me

And the pains of Sheol got hold on me

I found trouble and sorrow

He called on the LORD'S name for deliverance and the LORD in His mercy delivered him. He spoke thus with himself:

"Return unto thy rest, 0 my soul

For the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee" (verse 7)

And to the Lord he said:

For Thou hast delivered my soul from death

Mine eyes from tears

And my feet from falling (verse 8)

In consequence of the Lord's goodness he said

"I will take the cup of salvation

And call upon the name of the Lord

It is a glorious cup to drink from, and many are the deep draughts we have taken as we have praised our God for His deliverances. For indeed:

"God is unto us a God of deliverances;

And unto Jehovah the LORD belong the issues from death"

(Psalm 68.20).

But whilst God does deliver from death as it pleases Him in His dealings with His own, for some are taken and some are left, some are taken from the evil to come

"The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He entereth into peace; they rest in their beds, each one that walketh in his uprightness" (Isaiah 57.1, 2).

Some are left to accomplish fully the work God designed in long past times

for them to do.

But in regard to those that are taken their death is precious in the Loan's sight. He calls the death of saints precious. " Saints " here has not quite the same meaning as "saints" in the New Testament. The latter means those that are sanctified and are in consequence holy. The former word means, as Dr. Strong says, "kind (i.e., religiously), pious (a saint) -godly (men)." It is not the death of kings and nobles, of the great and wise, of the rich and famous that is precious to God. Of old the angels carried Lazarus the beggar to Abraham's bosom, while men carried the body of the rich man to the grave (Luke 16.22). Great is the difference between him whom God values, and him whom men esteem.

Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. He reached the age of an hundred forty and seven years." He said to Pharaoh, when he enquired about his

age:" The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty

years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have

not attained unto the days of the years of my fathers in the days 0" their

pilgrimage" (Genesis 47.9).

Abraham lived until he was 175, and Isaac died at 180.

These three men, different in their experiences and in the truth which is revealed in them, form a trio of whom God is not ashamed. The Spirit through Paul says,

God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God: for He bath prepared for them a city." They were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, heirs of the same promise, and they looked for a country of their own, that is, a heavenly, for men with so great a grasp of God and His will could never be satisfied for ever with an earthly inheritance. An earthly land was but a stepping stone to something higher.

These three men, outsiders as to world affairs, changed the course of human history through their obedience to God.

As his fathers had passed away, we are told, "The time drew near that Israel must die" (Genesis 47. 29). It is not, as we might think, "Jacob must die." No, it is, "Israel must die." God uses his new name Israel, "A prince of God"; He embroiders his name, as it were, upon the shroud of His servant. Jacob dies with the honour God had conferred upon him. He had striven with men, and he had also striven with God. Though he had defeated man, he was beaten in that night of wrestling at Jabbok, but he gained the blessing nevertheless, for it says, he prevailed, not by physical strength, for one of his legs was rendered feeble. Then how did he prevail? Hosea 12. 8, 4 explains that night's experience:

"In his manhood he had power (was a prince, or, behaved himself princely, A.V. marg.) with God: yea, he had power over the Angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto Him."

What he could never have gained by human strength, he gained by weeping and supplication, for he said, I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me" (Genesis 32.22-81). Jacob called the name of the place Penuel: for, said he, I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."

In Egypt, as death drew near, he called for his son Joseph to come to him, and he asked him not to bury him in Egypt, but to carry him to the family burying place in the cave in the field of Machpelah. Joseph sware to his father that he would do this. Then Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head.

Then in Genesis 49 we read of Jacob blessing his sons and the twelve tribes of Israel which sprang from them. There follows his command to his sons relative to where he was to be buried, and then the weary traveller gathered up his feet into his bed and was gone. He was gathered unto his people. We think as we read the story that we are standing in the shades of that death-chamber. We look at those twelve stalwart sons of Israel, and then we look upon the face of the man pallid in death, the man who said what few have said, I have seen God face to face." There is a hush in that gathered company, and then the noble, tenderhearted Joseph fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him." There lay the earthly remains of his dear father, the father with whom he shared so much in common in things divine. How close they were to each other in those days in the vale of Hebron when his father made for him the coat of many colours, the token, no doubt, that the birthright had been bestowed upon Joseph! They were days of close affection, but days which were not without the dark clouds of jealousy which hung round the countenances of his brethren. Years had passed since then, changes had been known by all, and now death steps in and cuts the link which parents should ever be among the members of their family.

Then came the embalming and the burial, and such a burial! What was the route they followed that the cortege is found at Abel-Mizraim beyond Jordan (Genesis 50.11), when Hebron and the cave of Machpelah were well on the west side of the Jordan and the Dead sea? The Cannanites called it "a grievous mourning of the Egyptians"; but the chief mourners were not Egyptians. This was not an ordinary death, hut it was as it was written later by the psalmist:

"Previous in the sight of the LORD

Is the death of His saints" (Psalm 116. l5).