It is very evident from the first three verses that this Psalm is prophetic of the restoration of Israel. The exercises of the remnant, preceding God's intervention on their behalf, are given in the next four verses, and then we have a statement of the divine principles on which God has acted in bringing back the captivity of Jacob, and in forgiving the iniquity of His people. They are contained in v. 10: "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." A few words will explain their nature. God had made certain absolute and unconditional promises to Israel. (See Genesis 15:18 - 21; 17:1-8.) But after Sinai, the possession of their inheritance, and their blessing in the land were dependent upon their obedience to the law. Everything therefore was now connected with the fulfilment of the responsibility which they had voluntarily undertaken. (Exodus 19:3-8.) How grievously they failed, even before the terms of the law had reached the camp, as well as after they had been put into the possession of their inheritance, is fully recorded in their history in the Scriptures. They had thus forfeited everything on the ground of their responsibility, and they were entitled to nothing but judgment. And when Christ came, "a Minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm 'the promises made unto the fathers," they incurred the crowning guilt of all by His rejection and crucifixion. The consequence was, as the apostle shows in Rom. 11, that, having lost all claim upon the truth of God, they were as much the objects of mercy as the poor Gentiles. And God could exercise, and righteously exercise, mercy towards them, inasmuch as Christ died for "that nation." When therefore God takes up Israel again in a future day, He will, on the foundation of the death and resurrection of Christ, accomplish in His faithfulness, all His promises made to the fathers, and at the same time display His mercy in forgiving His guilty, yet beloved, people. Mercy and truth will then meet together. It is then Israel will cry, "Thy mercy is great above the heavens: and Thy truth reacheth unto the clouds." (Psalm 108:4.) Righteousness and peace, moreover, will at the same time be exhibited in happy union. (Compare Isaiah 32:17.) For God has been so abundantly glorified in the death of Christ, that He can become the righteousness of those who will have none of their own: "This is His name whereby He shall be called, the Lord our righteousness." Peace will thus be secured to Israel, as indeed it is now to the believer, through the righteousness of God as revealed in the resurrection and exaltation of our blessed Lord. (Compare Rom. 4:23-25; 5:1.) It may be added that Peter expressly speaks of God's righteousness in the blessing of Jewish believers: "To them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" - words which, we apprehend, could not have been used in the same way to Gentile Christians. This righteousness will be manifested before the whole world when He that scattered Israel shall gather them out of all lands and establish them in blessing, according to the thoughts of His own heart, under the sway of their glorious Messiah, when there will be "abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth."
2 Corinthians 5:21.
Two or three preliminary remarks will help to the understanding of this scripture. First, it is essential to notice that the apostle is speaking of man's state, not of his guilt. This is seen from verse 14, "If one died for all, then were all dead." Secondly, the verse refers to a direct action of God in relation to Christ: "He hath made Him to be sin for us"; and the word "made" in this clause is entirely different from that so rendered in the next clause. "Made" must be retained in its full and proper force in the first instance; in the second, it is more properly rendered "become" - "become the righteousness of God in Him." It is therefore beyond a doubt that the apostle is setting forth that solemn transaction on the cross when God caused the judgment due to man's sinful estate and condition to fall upon Christ. That He also bore the sins of His people at the same time is blessedly true, but it is not the aspect of His death here presented. All were "dead," as the consequence and fruit of sin (Rom. 5:12); and Christ came and "died for all," offering Himself as a voluntary victim to bear all that the glory of God required in judgment. He was thus "made sin," fully identified by God with the state of those for whom He suffered. None but One, let it be reverently said, who was intrinsically holy, and none but He, who was more than man, could either have so offered Himself, or have borne such unsparing judgment. And never, let it be added, did His perfections, His devotedness to the glory of God at all costs, His wholehearted obedience, His grace, and His unquenchable love shine forth so resplendently. Up till this moment He had always been in entire communion with His Father, and in the unbounded sense of His delight; now He endured the hiding of God's face, and yet unfalteringly and perfectly, yea, divinely, He accomplished the whole of God's will in this new place, and under these new circumstances. It was indeed the climax of the perfection of His ever-perfect obedience; and hence in His death He furnished the Father, as is often said, with a new motive for the expression of His love. "Made sin" then is to be confined to what Christ endured on the cross from God, to whom He had presented Himself for this purpose, on account of our state and condition. And it is this truth which formed the essential foundation of the glorious ministry of reconciliation. There had been a preparation for this: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." (v. 19.) Since, moreover, Christ was no longer here, and had charged him with the mission, the apostle could proclaim himself an ambassador for Christ, "as though God did beseech by us"; and consequently he went forth everywhere beseeching men to be reconciled to God. In this blessed mission he could tell them of the immutable basis which God Himself had laid in the cross of Christ for their reconciliation; and on which all who bowed to the message might become the righteousness of God in Christ. Such would be the response of God to the One who had been made sin for His glory. His first answer to it (for therein is His righteousness displayed) is seen in the place Christ now occupies at His right hand. "If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him." But He was made sin for us, and on this account all believers will be the eternal expression of God's righteousness in Christ. Nothing short of this would satisfy the heart of God in response to the work of His beloved Son, or fully declare His righteousness. It is the moral state of the new creation, where old things have passed away, and where all things have become new - the unhindered display of the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 5:3.
No greater mistake can be made than to suppose that the same word in different Scriptures has always the same significance. The context in each case, and the character of the truth unfolded, have always to be considered. Hence the term "naked" in Gen. 3 and in our passage must be interpreted on this principle, and it will be found in both instances that it is a contrast with a clothed condition. In Genesis, as was recently explained, it is moral nakedness in contrast with the state of Adam and Eve after they were clothed with skins by God Himself. In 2 Cor., as may be plainly seen, the contrast is between being clothed with the resurrection body and being without it. "We know," says the apostle, "that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this (the earthly house of this tabernacle) we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked." Here the Spirit of God leads Paul to speak of the blessedness of being "clothed upon" (v. 4) at the Lord's coming, when, without passing through death, mortality would be swallowed up of life, and he would not be found naked as a disembodied spirit. Elsewhere (Phil. 1), when the possibility of death was staring him in the face, he could say that he desired to depart and be with Christ, which would be "far better." Great, however, as his gain would be, if he thus departed, it was not to be compared (for it is not a perfect state nor the full fruition of redemption) with being "clothed upon with our house which is from heaven." It will be thus seen that in this scripture to be "naked" refers to the state of saints who have departed to be with Christ, and are waiting for the fuller blessedness connected with the possession of the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens - their resurrection bodies.
"Self-exaltation is neither possible nor desired in the presence and enjoyment of God." Hence the nearer we are to Christ the more the humility displayed. It is indeed the language of a hymn:
"The more Thy glories strike mine eye,
The humbler I shall be."