This psalm of David is so well-known that parsing its Covenant-literary structure is like seeing an old friend in a new light.
The structure of the Psalm takes us from general revelation to special revelation, from the Creation of the cosmos, which itself testifies for God, to the Law of God and its application to the believer, who must also testify for – and before – God. Thus, the Psalm is a meditation on God’s intentions in Genesis 1-3. This also suggests that the two forms of revelation are more closely related in the minds of the biblical authors than they are in ours.
- The title consists of just three Hebrew words, yet they are clearly laid out in a structured way. They progress from a word of instruction (Priestly ear) to a “sacramental” action (Kingly hands – “psalm” means “to pluck”) to a governmental representative (Prophetic feet).
- As a three-line exchange, the title represents the fundamental shape of the Bible Matrix, which finds its source in the to-and-fro conversation between the Father and the Son by the Spirit.
(Day 1 – Light)
(Day 2 – Firmament)
(Day 3 – Land & Fruit)
(Day 4 – Heavenly Lights)
where-is-not | heard | their-voice.
(Day 5 – Swarms)
(Day 6 – Mediators)
(Day 7 – Rest & Rule)
- This stanza presents the Creation week as a legal testimony, following the “above, beside, below” pattern found in the Ten Words and in sacred architecture.
- Following the seven-day pattern, it begins with a heavenly revelation of God and via created “rulers” ends with the whole earth filled with that testimony.
- Day 3 corresponds to the giving of the Law on Sinai, with the ascension of Moses as a kind of holy firstfruits, like Adam upon Eden. In the Revelation, this is the point at which the “worthy” man, Christ, opens the New Covenant scroll before sending His Spirit. In numerous pericopes in the book of Acts, it is at this step that the apostles “ascend,” open their mouths and preach.
- In Day 5, the “swarms” of birds and fish relate to the tongues of the nations, and to prophetic testimony.
- The “line” in Day 6 is often a measuring line, in this case a legal rule. The symbol of measuring city and Temple always speaks of judging the heart of the people. In this case, it is the “Adam” who is judged by the testimony of the heavens.
- Day 7 is the outflow of the river of life from the Sanctuary, which of course did not happen.
- The shift from the Land in Day 6 to the World in Day 7 is a nod to the completion of Israel’s annual purification at Atonement and her ministry to the nations at Booths, prefiguring the priesthood of Christ and the witness of the Apostles to all nations.
- The Ethics stanza moves from the cosmos to the microcosmos of the Tabernacle, and here we see the three offices, Priest, King and Prophet, condensed at the center of the Psalm.
- The sun appears at Transcendence, in a tent like God’s own revelation in the tabernacle. It makes an “exodus” at Hierarchy, moving forth into the sky, going on a journey. At Ethics, it is like a strong man being tested for endurance, like Jesus in the desert. The word is gibbor, and the concept of the various “mighty men” of Scripture usually appears at the center of the matrix. The reference is likely to Samson, a famous bridegroom endowed with miraculous strength whose name means “sunrise.”
- At Oath/Sanctions, the sun moves from “edge” to the “uttermost,” an image of perseverance with delegated Covenant authority.
- At Succession, the heat corresponds to the final step in the construction of the Tabernacle, its filling with the Shekinah.
- The scorching heat of the sun is often a symbol for cursing, exposure in the wilderness, and suffering under godless kings. Here it is clearly the light of the Law shining in the godly man, whose prophetic “circuit” brings life and health to those established in God and withering death to those without holy roots (or burning their crops!)
(Initiation – Ark – Sabbath)
(Delegation – Veil – Passover)
(Presentation – Altar & Table – Firstfruits)
(Purification – Lampstand – Pentecost)
(Transformation – Incense Altar – Trumpets)
(Vindication – Laver/Mediators – Atonement)
- The Oath/Sanctions stanza presents each line as a word-and-response, much like the pairing of the Ten Words into five lines which follow the Covenant pattern. Here, however, the pattern is heptamerous, recapitulating the sevenfold nature of general revelation. (Special revelation is fivefold until it is “opened” in a Man in the three offices, making it sevenfold.)
- The response reflects the “oath” of the mature saint, for whom the bond of God’s Law is perceived as freedom. When Israel sinned at Sinai after taking the oath, Moses perceived that they had “broken loose” (Exodus 32:25).
- As with Covenant history, the process moves from external to internal law, from the first Pentecost to the last. The first four statements deal with the commandments of God, moving from the soul (the life) to the eyes (organs of judgment). The fifth statement deals with characteristics of Yahweh present in the believer through the internalized law. At Oath/Sanctions, the words of God as redeemer/avenger are vindicated for the saint in the destruction of his enemies.
- The final line is expanded into an entire fivefold stanza, representing the rest of God’s people in their promised inheritance, a land of milk and honey. The association makes plain the link between Israel’s continued faithfulness and the nation’s possession of Canaan.
(Representation – Rest & Rule – Booths)
Their-errors | who | can-understand?
(Creation – Ark)
From-secret-thoughts | cleanse-me,
(Division – Veil)
Also | from-presumptious-[thoughts/men]
keep-back | your-servant. (Ascension – Altar)
(Testing – Lampstand)
And-innocent | of-transgression | which-is-great.
(Conquest – Laver/Mediators)
- In the Succession stanza, the faithful believer is an elohim, a judge, a member of the heavenly council and friend of God, examining first his own heart, separating himself from secret wickedness and kingly pride.
- The idea of presumption at the Altar and being “ruled” by sin at Testing alludes to the Lord’s word to Cain concerning rule over wicked thoughts (Genesis 4:7). The consistent biblical theme is that submission to heaven is the only way to have true dominion over the earth.
- Once again, the Succession or inheritance enjoys its own stanza, in which David expresses his understanding that he is an Adam whose rest depends upon God. David was given the Covenant Succession not because he was sinless but because he is repentant and cleansed and therefore guiltless.
Let-them-be | acceptable, (Transcendence)
(Glorification – Booths)
- This final mini-stanza corresponds chiastically to the first, but David now addresses his heavenly choirmaster. The position of this request makes it a prayer for the future not only of himself but his dynasty.
Parsed by Chris Wooldridge. Notes by Michael Bull and Chris Wooldridge.
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