The Psalms: Book 1
Psalm 1: Two Ways.
There really are only two approaches to life-that of the blessed and the wicked. The blessed “delight in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (v.2) This is the first axiom of all thought and existence, and it ought to be a day and night exercise. The ungodly follow their own counsel, on this they stand and on this they sit in judgment. (v.1) There is no such thing as a casual walk through life-a choice has to be made. The blessed delight in God’s law-the ungodly scorn it.
Ideas and attitudes have consequences. The blessed are like trees planted by rivers of water-their roots are deep and the water is never ending-they are secure. The blessed therefore bring forth fruit and prosper. He who is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6), made clear that by their fruit they would be known (Mt. 7:20). “The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.” (v. 4) By standing in the path of sinners (v.1), they will ‘not stand in the judgment.” (v.5)
“No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn. 14:6) There is only two ways in life and only one way to live the blessed life. “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (v. 6) Clearly this is more than mere information-the LORD knows the thoughts and actions of the ungodly. Rather, this is His electing love, for as Jesus also said- “No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him.” (Jn. 6:44) Delight in the law of the LORD and you will be blessed.
Psalm 2: Kiss The Son.
The beginning Psalm contrasts two ways based on two counsels. Here we see that a counsel which is a majority still doesn’t make it right or successful when it is “against the LORD and against His anointed.” (v.2) It is the counsel of the rebellious (v.3)-seen on a national and global scale (vv.1-2). But the LORD laughs and holds them in derision (v.4) because He is in charge and has a plan and a man. (v.6) They, on the other hand, will meet with a word of judgment. (v.5, 9)
God governs by decree. His will stands. It does not depend on majorities. As with so many of the Psalms, this one found some fulfillment in David’s son, but as is pointed out in the coming of the Christ, only God’s own Son, the second person of the trinity could meet the requirement of one of whom it was said, “You are my Son, today I have begotten You.” (v.7 cf. Mt. 3:17; Mk. 1:1, 11; Lk. 3:22; Jn. 1:18; Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5, 5:5) This Son sits enthroned forever, and it is to Him ultimately, that the nations are given (v.8).
“Kiss the Son.” (v.12) This is the counsel followed by the blessed who put their trust in Him. It is in the light of this Psalm, and of God’s decree, that we should view the great commission of Mt. 28:18 ff. There remain two ways. There is wrath for those who follow their own counsel against the LORD, or there is the blessedness of those who put their trust in Him. The end has been decreed. Which side are you on?
Psalm 3: Salvation Belongs To The LORD.
Many find themselves uncomfortable with what are called the “imprecatory” Psalms. Prayer raised to God for judgment on one’s enemies can be fraught with dangers. It is important to remember that these are the enemies of the godly, that is, those who fear God. They are his enemies and only secondarily ours. However, no one who understands what it means to follow the LORD will ever doubt that His enemies will be theirs. There are only two ways in this world and if one follows the LORD there will be a battle.
The LORD’s enemies are confident that He is absent. (v.2) His people, on the other hand, are confident in the knowledge of His protection and help. He answers prayer. (vv.3-7) Majorities don’t rule (v.6), the LORD does. “Salvation belongs to the LORD.” (v8) We can be thankful that this is the case. There are two outcomes-because ideas and attitudes have consequences. The LORD will strike down and make toothless all His and our enemies, but His blessing is upon His people. (v. 7-8) “Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God.” (v.7) This is a prayer God will answer.
Psalm 4: Gladness In My Heart.
Some mistakenly think of idolatry as an ancient or modern yet primitive practice, but idol worship of whatever kind is just the outward practice of that approach to life which seeks out falsehood. It is a mistake to imagine that all religious behavior is evidence of a sincere seeking after the truth. Just the opposite is the case. Men apart from God love worthlessness. (v.2) The godly, on the other hand, look to God with expectation as He who hears, has mercy, answers, and delivers. (vv. 1,3)
It is possible to be angry and not sin, in fact it is necessary to be angry with what makes God angry-if you really love Him. The sacrifices of the godly are righteous-religion is the inescapable expression of a moral and ethical condition. An often forgotten prerequisite of true religion is to be still, and one’s meditation must go to the heart or core to be real. (v.4) Trust in God must find its seat in the heart-the core of one’s being, the centre of one’s thoughts. This also is the opposite of idolatry, which is superficial.
Skeptics, doubters, and unbelievers scoff at the thought of a good God acting in history. (v.6) The godly, on the other hand, understand that even the seasons and harvest time come from God, the Lord of history and Creator and Sustainer of all that is. (v.7) This knowledge brings gladness to the heart of the godly. Does God make your heart glad? The shorter catechism states man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The ungodly turn His glory to shame. (v.2) The godly live for His glory, and He brings gladness to their hearts. Whether we have the wine and the grain we always can have the gladness, peace, and safety because we know He rules over all. (vv. 7-8)
Psalm 5: God and King.
“Doing theology” is more than academic study and philosophical reflections. For the Christian, theology is about kingship. Our God is also King (v.2). “Doing theology” from a biblical perspective is also a moral and ethical endeavor (v.4-5). God also hates. It is also about truth (v.6), in opposition to those who speak falsehood. For the believer it is about praying to the God Who is King, whose rule is sovereign. It is the believer’s first thought in the morning, with expectation (v.3).
The righteous know that they are such because of God’s mercy. It is mercy that inspires godly fear (v.7). We worship One Who is holy. Mercy is required. There is no faithfulness spoken from those who speak only death. Their flattery comes from a heart given to destruction (v.9). They will “fall by their own counsels,” because “they have rebelled.” It is not that people do not know the truth-they are rebelling against what they know.
Joy and rejoicing, on the other hand, is the life of the righteous. Those who put their trust in their God and King have Him as their defense (v.11). Blessing and favour rest upon those who love His name (vv. 11-12). The justified believer is made righteous by His mercy and prays for God’s sanctifying help. “Make Your way straight before my face.” (v.8) God’s way is straight. We need to pray we see it and walk in it.
Psalm 6: Healing For The Troubled
The first of seven so called penitential Psalms (cf. 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143), David pleads for mercy because he is weak, for healing because he is sick, in body and soul, and for deliverance (vv. 1-4). Once one dies there ceases to be opportunity to serve (v.5). David’s situation brought him to tears. It was more than personal failings, he had enemies. These enemies were such because they were “workers of iniquity” (v.8), they were not workers of iniquity because they were his enemies.
Some people seek to take advantage of the failings of God’s people, but despite his own failings David was still a servant of the LORD. God’s enemies were his enemies. Therefore the LORD heard his supplication and received his prayer (v. 9). They will be ashamed and greatly troubled who would trouble the people of God and mistake His discipline as an occasion for hatred.
Psalm 7: Trust God.
Real trust in God shows when one is willing to suffer, if need be, for one’s own faults. It is an acknowledgement that the LORD is just. For one with integrity, trusting in God’s justice means judgment for one’s enemies instead (vv. 1-10). “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” (v. 11) Though they conceive trouble and bring forth falsehood, they will ultimately fall by their own devices (vv. 14-16). The just, on the other hand, “will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.” (v. 17)
Psalm 8: One Covenant LORD!
The name ‘LORD’ speaks to the covenant, and it is excellent (vv. 1,9). It also speaks to His glory. Some of the weakest members of the covenant-infants and nursing babes-put to silence the enemy and avenger (vv. 1-2 cf. I Cor. 1:27). This same God ordained everything into existence (v.3), including man (vv. 4-5). To man he gave the dominion mandate (Gen. 1:28), to which this is a Psalm of praise.
But there is a greater Son of man to which this speaks and through whom alone this mandate can find fulfillment-Heb. 2:5-9. It is to the greater Son of David to whom these babes offer praise – Mt. 21:16. There is one covenant LORD! All His enemies will ultimately be put under His feet (v.6 Cf. Ps. 110; I Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:22; Heb. 2:8). “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” (I Cor. 15:25-26) With the fall the mandate took on a new dimension, but the Son also bought and brought redemption.
Psalm 9: Wholehearted Gladness.
Being in covenant with the LORD is an all in proposition. “I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart.” (v.1) Nothing less than the whole heart, one’s core, will do. Praise of God and His works comes from one who is glad. (v.2) God judges in righteousness therefore he defends the righteous. Destruction awaits the wicked. (vv. 3-8) But the LORD is a refuge to those who trust Him. (vv. 9-10) Zion, His redeemed, sing His praises and declare His works, and He avenges them. He responds to the humble. We rejoice in His salvation. (vv. 11-14)
One thing stands out throughout the Psalter in regard to the wicked-they will ultimately be caught by their own devices. This is a godly prayer. They will either see the evil of their ways or else they will write their own destruction-of individuals, families, or nations. Whether it be pit, net, or snare the point is the same. In this way, “the LORD is known by the judgment He executes.” (v. 16) Hell is the ultimate conclusion for those who forget God. (v. 17) Those who fall by their own devices think that their own devices is all that there is. The needy, on the other hand, will not be forgotten. The nations face judgment for they are but men (vv. 19-20), but the poor in spirit (the humble) will live forever.
Psalm 10: The LORD Alone Is King.
We are reminded once again that it is a godly desire and prayer that the wicked be caught by their own devices. “Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.” (v. 2 cf. vv. 12, 15) In their evil pride they do not seek God nor do they think of Him. (vv. 3-4) In their pride they think they stand secure-God’s judgments do not matter. Out of the overflow of their hearts comes cursing, deceit, oppression, trouble, and iniquity. (v. 7) They are cowards-they secretly wait to overthrow the helpless. (vv. 8-10) “He has said in his heart, God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see.” (v. 11 cf. v.13) But God does see and He will repay (v. 14). It cannot be stressed enough-this is a godly desire and prayer-one that God will answer (vv. 16-18), “that the man of the earth may oppress no more.” “The LORD is King.” He will not forget the humble. (v. 12)
Psalm 11: Foundations.
What are the foundations? “In the LORD I put my trust.” (v.1) Who do you trust? “The upright in heart,” (v. 2) are those who trust in the LORD. What is the condition of your heart? To be upright or righteous speaks to morality, but also to integrity-that quality of being whole or undivided. When the bible speaks of the heart it refers most often to one’s core and God requires it to be undivided. Wisdom ensures it is undivided. God sees and tests all people-righteous and wicked both (v. 4). His soul hates the wicked, those who love violence (v.5-6), and this violence is first and foremost against God’s law. On the other hand, “His countenance beholds the upright.” (v.7)
Sadly, it is often those in the church who say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain.” (v. 1) There are so called Christians who say that God’s law is passé at best, or worse yet, that the Lord Jesus has somehow abrogated that law which is a reflection of God’s holy character. Jesus could not have been clearer in Mt. 5:17-20, but we have so called ministers of the word flatly opposing Him. We need to strengthen the foundations or else the wicked will succeed until there will be no safe place for the upright.
Psalm 12: God’s Word Pure And Sure.
Who is the godly man who ceases? He is faithful. What does that mean? He does not have a double heart. His heart is upright. He has integrity. (vv. 1-2) Pride and flattery are the words proceeding from the double hearted. (v.3) From these comes what is to them a rhetorical question: “Who is lord over us?” (v. 4) But the godly ultimately finds safety in the LORD to whom they look for help. (vv. 1,5) But if the wicked are not cut off (v. 3), vileness will be “exalted among the sons of men.” (v. 8) We are not left to wonder by what standard we are to go by.
“The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. You shall keep them, O LORD, you shall preserve them from this generation forever.” (vv. 6-7) God is not double hearted. “Seven times” in the scriptures speaks to perfection. His word can be trusted-it is both pure and will last. The denial of the inerrant continuing authority of the canon of scripture is more than an academic point-it is a denial of the integrity of God Himself. For the godly there is more possibility of silver losing its value than for God’s word not to be pure and sure forever.
Psalm 13: How Long?
How long? This is a hard question, borne out of adversity. It can take on the colour of many a situation and circumstances, but it all comes down to the struggle of thinking that God has forgotten and one’s enemies will exalt themselves. (vv. 1-2) The answer lies in being enlightened by God. “Enlighten my eyes” is a prayer God will answer. Again, this is the first axiom of all thought and existence. It does not really help in the long run to get lost in one’s own thoughts. Without God we sleep the sleep of death. (vv. 3-4) When God enlightens us we begin on the path of life, and one day we will sleep the sleep of life. (v.5) It is all about trusting in His mercy-the necessary thing, with a heart that rejoices in His salvation.
Psalm 14: The LORD Is A Refuge.
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (v.1) At the core of the fool is the ultimate denial. The fool lacks understanding (v.2). Many very educated people are fools. In fact, their time and talents are dedicated to denying what all men know-God does in fact exist. Men are totally depraved (vv. 2-3). The LORD sees and knows. Fools are corrupt workers of iniquity. There is an inseparable connection between the thoughts of one’s heart and a life lived.
But the righteous call on the LORD and find Him to be their refuge (vv. 4-6). What separates the two groups? The salvation of the LORD is the difference. Whatever the captivity might look like in each person’s life it is ultimately the captivity of the depravity spoken of here. It is the LORD who must bring back (v. 7), for the depravity above is total. “For he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6)
Psalm 15: Never Moved.
“LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? (v.1) An interesting question not often asked but if thought of the vast majority would no doubt presume an entrance. But dwelling with He who is holy is not a simple matter. Religion divorced from ethics isn’t biblical. It is more than simply having an interest in the “spiritual”. Those who dwell among The Holy One are those who are upright from the heart out. (v.2) It is ethical but not superficial. It is more than outward acts. Words and deeds proceed from an upright heart. It is loving God and one’s neighbor as one’s self. (v.3)
Does the church honour those who fear the LORD, or is it to often the vile person who should be despised? (v. 4) Interest on loans is a part of business in the world, but to charge a fellow believer interest in a loan to address their need is a form of exploitation (v. 5 cf. Dt. 23:19-20). It is no better than taking a bribe against the innocent. Sanctification or being holy, is walking according to God’s law. Those who deny the continuing authority of the law of God in the house of God are frankly no members of it. “He who does these things shall never be moved.” (v. 5 cf. II Pet. 1:10)
Psalm 16: The Path Of Life.
God watches over those who trust Him. (v. 1) But apart from the LORD we have no goodness. (v. 2) The church is the delight of the saints. (v. 3) But sorrows accompany those who serve another god. (v. 4) The saints, on the other hand, have a covenantal inheritance from the LORD-lines in pleasant places. (v. 5-6) As always, the one thing that divides these two groups and the first axiom of all thought and existence is that the saints receive the counsel of the LORD-the covenant God at our right hand. (vv. 7-8) Our inheritance is not just in this life, but there is hope beyond the grave. (vv. 9-10) The saints are those on the path of life with the joy of the LORD and pleasures forever more. (v. 11) Everything else is the path of death.
Psalm 17: Satisfied.
Those who look to God in prayer must not do so with deceitful lips-we must speak the truth (vv. 1-2). God tests the heart-the core of who we are. Deceitful lips are futile-because God knows (v.3). The upright are guided by the word of God-it is the first axiom of all thought and existence. Only those who keep their steps on His paths will be upheld and protected from the destroyer (vv. 4-5). God listens to and saves those who trust in Him (vv. 6-7). The upright are the centre of His attention (vv. 8-9). The wicked likewise follow the same basic principle of speaking from what is in their hearts (v.10). However, they trust only in themselves-sinful pride, and they seek out the upright to destroy them (vv. 11-12).
There really is no neutral ground-both stand and walk on opposite sides of the great divide. The upright live-yes live-in the open light, and walk on the straight path. Terribly boring to some it would seem. But for those who take this path the battle is fierce. On the other side are those traveling the crooked secret dark hidden paths of deception-“men of the world who have their portion in this life.” (v. 14) The meek do indeed inherit the earth, but for us the earth is not all that there is. The meek do indeed rejoice in children and hopefully leave them an inheritance. However, we have the hope of eternal life. When we die we sleep the sleep of life (13-14). “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness, I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.” (v. 15)
Psalm 18 Light In The Darkness.
David penned this Psalm upon his deliverance by God from Saul, and with some minor differences it occurs also in II Sam. 22. His trust was in God and God delivered him. The covenant LORD is the rock, fortress, and deliverer of all who trust in Him. He is our shield and the horn of our salvation, our strength. Worthy to be praised indeed (vv. 1-3). Our greatest enemy is death. (vv. 4-6) I the midst of darkness deliverance comes from the glory cloud (vv. 7-15).
“The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice.” (v. 13) “He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.” (v. 19) God takes us from hiding in the crags and caves of defeat and fear to a broad place of peace and security. David was righteous. “For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His judgments were before me, and I did not put away His statutes from me.” (vv. 21-22) The temptation is great when suffering and persecution come to deny the word of the LORD, but David did not.
It may not seem like it in the midst of the struggle, but God is a just judge. “For You will save the humble people, but will bring down haughty looks.” (v. 27) It was not ultimately in himself that he trusted. One look at himself was enough to humble him (cf. Pss. 32; 51), but he knew that with the covenant LORD there was forgiveness. The proud think they have it all together but, He “will bring down haughty looks.” David did not trust in his own wisdom or insight. It was the LORD who lit his lamp and enlightened him in his darkness (v. 28). And that light was nothing less than the word of God proven (v. 30).
David did not manufacture his own righteousness-it was the LORD who made his way perfect (v. 32). God is the one alone who gives strength for victory (vv. 31-34, 37-42). Salvation is our shield, and it is broad and complete (vv. 35-36, 43-50). “The LORD lives! Blessed be my rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted.” (v. 46) The church needs to get a larger vision of the scope of our salvation and the LORD our God! Christ will reign from His heavenly throne till all His and our enemies are put under His feet (vv. 43, 47 cf. Ps. 110:1; Mt. 22:44; I Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:22; Heb. 1:13). Great mercy and deliverance He has shown to His Anointed (v.50) “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” (Rom. 16:20)
Psalm 19 Perfect Revelation.
We have in this Psalm what theologians like to call ‘general’ and ‘special’ revelation-for lack of better terms. All people have enough knowledge from the created order to know that God exists, is glorious, and has created all that is. It has a speech and knowledge which does not require specific words or language to make the point. The existence and circuit of the sun is but one example. (vv. 1-6) Through general revelation all men are without excuse if they deny their Creator (cf. Rom. 1:18-3:19)
On the other hand, the law has a perfection and surety which is able not only to convert the soul, but to also make the simple wise. Some would suggest that the scriptures are only given for the former, but the scriptures themselves say otherwise-including this psalm. The statutes of the LORD reveal what is right and give enlightenment in all things. In the scriptures we also are warned about what is right, and in keeping His law there is great reward (vv. 7-11).
The scriptures have the specificity to show us our errors and secret faults, and to keep one from presumptuous sins. God has not left men without a clear testimony of salvation and of guidance in the affairs of life. Knowledge of His law keeps one from “great transgression.” (vv. 12-14) The law convicts of sin, shows the way of salvation, is our guide in sanctification, and enlightens us as to living before him our Creator in the whole of His creation. And the psalmist understood a basic principle-this knowledge had to be more than words spoken, it must find its place in the heart-scriptural to the core (v.14).
Psalm 20 Remember The Name.
This Psalm comes as both an invocation of blessing and a prayer, and the beginning words combine both. “May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble.” It is often noted that in the bible a name means much more than it does for us today. The name spoke to the character a person of the one named. To have the name of God defend is to have the creator and sustainer of all that is as one’s defense. (v. 1) Help is on the way. Zion and the sanctuary speak of God’s dwelling place-though He cannot be contained, it does speak to His presence, power, and glory. (v. 2) There is nothing better than to have owns sacrifices accepted-the response of gratitude for who He is and what He does. (v.3)
Not only sacrifices accepted but desires fulfilled, is the psalmist’s blessing and prayer. After all, only God can fulfill our purposes, and we can only fulfill our purposes because of His salvation, and only a sovereign God can answer our prayers (vv. 4-5) Our confidence is in the Messiah! It is only through the LORD’s Anointed that we can have any confidence. (v. 6) This was their hope for their king (v. 9), but it applies even more so to the King of kings. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” (v. 7) Some also trust in kings. However, we will trust in the God of the covenant, the LORD, and His Anointed.
Psalm 21 Glory To God And Joy In His Presence.
It is possible that we have in this Psalm and 20 companion Psalms structured for liturgy covering the same theme. “Both are liturgical Psalms: the first is an intercession, the second a thanksgiving. In both the king, the representative of Jehovah and the representative of the people, is the prominent figure; and the salvation or victory which Jehovah bestows upon him is the leading thought.” (A. F. Kirkpatrick, ‘The Book Of Psalms,’ p. 110) In both cases the beginning is sung by the people or their representative: Ps. 20: 1-5; Ps. 21: 1-7. The second section would have been sung by a leader-priest, prophet, or the king himself: 20: 6-8; 21: 21: 8-12. Finally there is the concluding prayer of the congregation: 20: 9; 21: 13.
The language is so exalted, especially of vv. 4-6, that some want to apply it exclusively to the Messiah. However, as with many passages it like has a twofold application. Israel’s king was a kind of representative between God and man. “Language which startles us by its boldness was used of him: language which was adopted and adapted by the Holy Spirit with a prophetic purpose, and only receives its ‘fulfillment’ in Christ. The Psalm then has a prophetic aspect, and looks forward through the earthly king of whom it spoke in the first instance, to Him who “must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet” (I Cor. xv. 25). Hence its selection as one of the Proper Psalms for Ascension Day.” (Kirkpatrick, p. 110)
So thanksgiving is offered for victory given to the king (vv. 1-7), an answer to the prayers and petitions offered (Ps. 20). It would be a mistake, however, to think that what was experienced by the king is something different than what is the life of the whole people of God-even beyond simply their rejoicing in or with him. The strength of our covenant LORD is our joy, and in His salvation we all greatly rejoice (v. 1, 5)! He grants our heart’s desires and answers our prayers (v.2). There are both blessings in this life (v. 3), and life eternal (v.4). It was the LORD’s presence itself which made the king glad, and should make us glad also (v. 6). The king trusted in the LORD, and so ought we, for with the LORD there is mercy and by it we will never be moved (v. 7). The people of God are secure in His mercy!
It is worth noting here the Q and A #1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Some think that catechisms and confessions are an imposition on scripture, but for those who study them and know the history, it is rather the opposite. In most cases the authors were so immersed in the scriptures that they were able to distill its truths in pearls of wisdom and truth. Here is a case in point. Man’s chief end or purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and this is what we find the king and ourselves doing here. “His glory is great in Your salvation,” and “You have made him exceedingly glad with Your presence” (vv. 6-7).
In verses 8-12 we then have the confirmation of victory and the anticipation of more to come in the future. It is the LORD’s presence which is the ground of victory. When His enemies are ours He wages war and brings judgment (vv. 8-9). They will have no future (v. 10), and what they devised they will not be able to perform (v. 11). Not only will they have no future, but they will turn back (v.12). Jesus, the greater King said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16: 18) The church needs a fresh vision of the victory promised to Messiah, and through Him to the church. It is fitting to see this in the Psalm of Ascension, because on the basis of His ascension our King now reigns and will do so until His enemies are made His footstool (Cf. Ps. 110).
Benedictions have an important role and place in the life of the people of God and in godly biblical worship. Petitions are made, promises given, and answers come, but what is the ultimate focus of worship? “Be exalted, O LORD, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power.” (v. 13) What is the focus in the public worship of God today? Is it the covenant LORD and His character and deeds? It should be. It is only in His strength and power that we have life, and that with victory now and for all eternity. However, when we understand who He is and what He has done these alone are the grounds of true worship.
Psalm 22:1-21 “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” These are words which we all know from the lips of Jesus (Mt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34). They can actually get lost in the depths of theological discussions on the death of Christ and how he suffered for our sins. We must not miss the fact that these words resonated with David, and resonate with the saints throughout the ages. We can thank God that His word is real, because if one is honest there are times when one feels the force of these words. Feeling forsaken for one’s sin is perhaps understandable, but no less painful. But what of those times when one simply has that sense of being forsaken by God?
“Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?” When the pain of loneliness, helplessness, and hopelessness seems all pervasive, the help God could provide seems so distant indeed. God seems so distant. Not only this, but it is as though He does not even hear us-the groaning. One would think that a prayer uttered as a groan would make its way through, even a cry. There are times when one cries day and night and God seems so far from hearing us. Spiritual melancholy and depression is a real thing for anyone who actually cares about their spiritual life.
This is the point-these feelings only come to those who actually long for God’s presence. These words are appropriate because we know God is holy-He is different, He is not like people who forget, or who are powerless. He is God-“enthroned in the praises of Israel.” David notes that He is also the God who has acted in history. “Our fathers trusted in You; they trusted, and you delivered them.” This knowledge makes the seeming silence so painful. “They cried to You, and You delivered them.” So why does he not hear and deliver him, or us? “They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.” But David does seem to be ashamed.
“But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people.” There will be times in one’s spiritual journey when one feels this way. “A reproach of men, and despised by the people.” (v. 6) Was this a reflection by the people on David’s failed leadership? Or was this simply the scorn of people who wait for the opportunity to mock one who puts his trust in God? Maybe we should be reminded that God usually uses other people to offer help in time of need, and these individuals failed to do so. “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him.” (v.8)
That this psalm does find fulfillment in the Son of God makes it all the more powerful. The psalm finds echoes throughout the NT. We see vv. 6-8 in Mt. 27:39-44 and Mk. 15:29; Lk. 23:35. The crucifixion finds other references in this psalm as well. There is the direct quotation of v. 18 in Mt. 27:35 (cf. Mk. 15:24). It is very interesting that Matthew refers to David as “the prophet.” So David spoke not only of his own agony, but he also spoke to the future Son of David. But two things stand out in these words from the scoffers-they acknowledged that the sufferer trusted in God, and that God did delight in him. We should not miss this, and it makes the suffering all the more poignant.
So David recounts the history of this relationship. He says that even from his infancy he was made to trust in God (vv. 9-10, cf. Ps. 71:5-6). God made him trust-even from the womb! This should help silence those who would then exclude infants from the covenant of grace and it’s administration. David, and our Lord Himself, trusted in God from the womb. For this reason he cries out to the Lord-it is all David has ever known! He knew God could help like no one else could (v. 11). It cannot be stressed enough that adult conversions were the exception and not the rule. The norm in the covenant community was the confession of David (cf. Is. 46:3; 49:1).
Bulls of Bashan and a roaring lion of course speak of the powerful. David knew the feeling, and Jesus was indeed subject to the political and military forces of the day. We all feel at times that we are subject to the powerful forces of the culture around us. But there are some who actually face the prospect of death. One certainly thinks of the martyrs through the years, to this day. What is significant for all of us is that Jesus knew something of this suffering. From bones to heart, David and our Lord suffered in body and spirit-to the core (v. 14 cf. Pr. 17:22). Physical pain is more obvious of course. Both are real. One feels wasted when brought to the door of death (v. 15). Thirst was both physical and spiritual (cf. Jn. 19:28).
Dogs in the bible were viewed here like the bulls and roaring lion. They faced a wicked majority (v. 16). Christ, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:7, had His hands and feet pierced (Mt. 27:35; Jn. 20:25). All His bones could be counted as they cast lots for His clothing (Mt. 27:35; Mk. 15:24; Lk. 23:34; Jn. 19:24). And so, they do not give up looking to the LORD in prayer (v.19). They know the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD as One who can deliver. The LORD alone can save (vv. 20-21 cf. Ps. 35:17). Happily, David, the Lord, and all God’s people can say-“You have answered me.” (v. 21)
Psalm 22:22-31 Kingdom Rule Over The Nations.
As noted at the end of verse 21, this psalm now takes a turn. The answer David received causes him to turn to praise. He now looks forward to worshiping in the midst of the assembly or congregation (cf. v. 25). It is also an interesting transition for the greater son of David. Through His sufferings He showed Himself to be a brother. The writer to the Hebrews first demonstrated His deity, but then in referring to Psalm 8, and this psalm he highlights His humanity, and His sufferings (Heb. 1-2).
“You who fear the LORD, praise Him!” The fear of the LORD is the pre-condition for a lot of things, including true worship. Jesus Himself was heard “because of His godly fear.” (Heb. 5:7) The writer to the Hebrews also sees this as proof of the priesthood of Christ, after the order of Melchizedek, and that most quoted OT passage-Psalm 110. Psalm 110 also sees Messiah’s priesthood as extending throughout the whole earth. He will reign at the right hand of the Father until all his enemies are made His footstool. As Paul pointed out, the last enemy would be death itself (v. I Cor. 15:25-26).
David, in effect, issues a call to the covenant community to worship. Ultimately the LORD did answer his cry (v. 24). The poor also would have cause for rejoicing (v.26). Before the great assembly David would pay his vows (v. 25). But David’s hope went much further. He saw a day when all the families of the earth would worship before the LORD (v. 28). Sadly, David and the other prophets had a hope and faith much larger than what is exercised by much of the church today. They saw a day when Messiah’s priestly kingship would extend throughout the whole earth (Zech. 14:9; Obad. 21; Ps. 2), and this is to be the prayer of the church-Mt. 6:13.
Psalm 23 The Lord Is My Shepherd-Now And Forever.
David knew what it was to be a shepherd, and also what it meant to shepherd God’s people (Ps. 78:70-72). He also knew that he was an under-shepherd, that God has always been the Shepherd of His people (78:52; cf. 80:1). It was something the other prophets also knew (Is. 40:11; Ez. 34:11-12) We also know that the Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11; I Pt. 2:25), as the Lamb (Rev. 7:16-17). David also knew what it was to have God as his shepherd, and this should not escape us. We need to know Him as our Shepherd. “The LORD,” that is, the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD, “is my Shepherd.” (v. 1a)
“I shall not want.” (v. 1b) This is true for body and soul (vv. 2-3). “Green pastures”-not old hay in a desert, or beside stormy waters, instead there is “still waters.” Life is full of dry places and stormy waters, but our Shepherd makes us to lie down in green pastures and to be lead by still waters (v. 2 cf. Ez. 34:14-15; Rev. 7:17). Our Shepherd gives us soul restoration (v. 3). The LORD’s righteousness restores the soul (cf. Ps. 5:8). We are lead in “the paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.” It is His righteousness and His paths. The LORD leads us for the sake of His own name.
But the circumstances of life are not always green pastures and still waters. There is sometimes the opposite extreme-“the valley of the shadow of death.” (v. 4) Yet even here, the LORD is with us. We need not fear evil-the rod of the Shepherd drives away enemies. His staff also is a comfort-for He guides us “in the paths of righteousness.” Comfort is what we need when death, calamity, and evil would seek to overwhelm us (cf. Is. 43:2). There is comfort because in the LORD’s righteousness there is pardon-Is. 40:1-2. This is what the voice of one calling in the wilderness came to proclaim-Is. 40:3 ff., and the ministry that the Lord came to fulfill (cf. Is. 51:3, 61:2; Lk. 4:18-19).
The LORD’s people will have enemies. It isn’t just trying circumstances nor even death. But the LORD provides even amidst our enemies. The LORD’s comfort and provision is not dependent on the outward circumstances. It is often in the midst of the most trying times and amongst the most trying people, that His provision and comfort is known and appreciated the most. Goodness and mercy is what the LORD’s people seek. Mercy is necessary-for we all, like lost sheep, have gone astray (Is. 53:5-6; I Pet. 2:25). Furthermore, David and the saints of old, just like us, have this hope of eternal life. Dwelling in His presence in both-all the days of our lives, and in His house forever.
Psalm 24 The LORD Of Heaven And Earth-The King Of Glory.
The covenant making and covenant keeping LORD owns the whole world and everyone in it, “for He founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.” (v. 2 cf. Gen. 1:9-10) David refers back to creation itself. Paul will do the same thing when he refers to David and this psalm. “God created and sustains the whole earth; it belongs to Him. Paul cites this verse to establish the principle that there is no food, even things offered to pagan idols, which is unlawful for Christians to eat (I Cor. 10:25-28).” (NGSB, p. 777) Paul refused to give creation over to those who served another god.
It was a fitting quote for Paul, because Paul chose to raise a distinction between meat itself, a part of God’s creation, and lifting one’s soul up to an idol in worship (v. 4). The understanding that the LORD is the creator and sustainer of all becomes grounds for worship. To that end David asks who is worthy. The answer is, only those who have “clean hands and a pure heart.” Hands refers to work performed. Those acceptable must have both-clean hands and a pure heart. The former reveals the latter. When the two do not coincide, this is deceitful (v.4).
David is quick to affirm that this righteousness must come from the LORD-the covenant making and covenant keeping “God of His salvation.” (v. 5) Salvation is necessary. No one comes by this righteousness on their own. Those who seek Him and His salvation will receive His blessing and worship in His presence. The LORD is the King of glory-the glory presence. He is the LORD of glory because He has won the battle in history-“the LORD strong and mighty.” (v.8) He is also the LORD of hosts-He rules not just the world, but heaven also.
Psalm 25 Help For Heart Disease.
For David, and for all the saints, the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD alone is God. He puts all his rust in Him, therefore he asks that he would not be ashamed, that his enemies would not triumph. Rather, “let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.” Here ashamed means more than a thought or a feeling-he wants them stopped, and he looks to the LORD to accomplish this (vv. 1-3)
David knows his dependency on the LORD to lead him. His conception of his God and His ways is completely dependent on revelation. “Show me Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths.” (v. 4) This is how He leads us. David knew his need for salvation thereby. “For you are the God of my salvation.” (v. 5) Like David, we need to appeal to the LORD’s “tender mercies” and “lovingkindnesses” which is known in the history of redemption (v.6), for as he will rightly point out, sin is a problem (v.7).
God has all the grounds He needs to condemn us and leave us in our sin. This is why David appeals to God’s mercy. Mercy is required! Mercy must accompany goodness. Without mercy, since the fall, there can be no goodness. Nothing can change the character of God. “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He teaches sinners in the way.” (v. 8) Again, this is our dependency on the LORD. Our response must be one of humility. Only the humble can be taught, because only the humble acknowledge this dependency (v. 9).
Again, truth must be accompanied by mercy (v. 10). This comes by way of covenant. This is what David means when he appeals to the name of the LORD. “Pardon my iniquity for it is great.” This is a covenantal appeal-for the LORD had committed Himself to His people via the covenant (cf. II Sam. 7; I Chron. 17). Within this covenantal promise is the Messiah’s reign, and the building of His house (II Sam. 7:12-13). Covenant is accompanied by testimonies. We find in His word what we need to know about this covenant, and this covenant is not empty-the LORD teaches and guides us in this relationship.
Humility is accompanied by the fear of the LORD-these are inseparable (12). For those who follow the LORD, the promise is of prosperity-indeed, they will inherit the earth! The fear of the LORD is the secret of covenant life. David shows us the way. “My eyes are ever toward the LORD.” He was confident of deliverance. “For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.” (v. 15) It is within the covenant relation that David pleads for the LORD to turn to Him, for then it will be in mercy (v. 16).
Ultimately David’s real troubles, being “desolate and afflicted,” was because of his own sin. His sin brought him distress and pain. It goes to the core of our problems-sin is a heart problem. We are sinful to the core. There are the outward acts, to be sure. But the disease goes to the heart, the core of who we are. I have seen the enemy, and the enemy is me. We need the forgiveness that only our covenant LORD can give us (v. 18).
But the saints have enemies. We have enemies because of what we believe, and for the God that we serve. Covenant religion is hated by those outside the covenant. It speaks to the claim which the LORD makes to be the only God. Certainly one can suffer from without for one’s own sinful ways. However, it is the forgiveness that is in the covenant that many hate-the idea that mercy is needed and is found in no other.
David can claim integrity-for he did not deny his sin. His “uprightness” comes by way of the LORD’s mercy. Redemption is what David seeks, not only for himself, but also for the people (v. 22). There are no “troubles” that the LORD cannot deliver them from. How many of us think that our troubles are beyond His reach? David was confident that the LORD was able to deliver us from them all, including the deep troubles of a sinful heart.
Psalm 26 The Place Of Glory.
David had integrity-it doesn’t mean he was sinless. It does require that one acknowledge the sin and look to the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD for forgiveness. This is clear from the previous psalm and many other passages, including II Samuel 7 and I Chronicles 17 which highlight David’s covenant relationship with the LORD-a covenant based on mercy-an administration of the covenant of grace. It is for this reason that integrity is inseparable from examination. David asks the LORD to examine him-there can be no other way for integrity, nor for the vindication which he seeks (cf. Ps. 139:23-24).
Being proved by the LORD involves going to the core-the heart and mind. Sin has brought in a tremendous ability of the human heart toward self-deception. He is careful though. He prays for an examination based on His lovingkindness-he knows he is not without sin. He also knows this is the only way to walk in the truth. The first and chief sin of the wicked is to deny that God exists and the truth of who He is, and to worship and serve another-which is idolatry (v. 4 cf. Ps. 139:21-22). He also prays for examination of the core, because to be double minded or have a heart divided goes to the core of hypocrisy. David refused to associate with those who were inside the church but lived contrary to the testimonies of the covenant (vv. 4-5 cf. I Cor. 5:9-13).
David acknowledged that washing was necessary to enter the LORD’s presence to worship (v. 6). Again, he was not sinless. His integrity was based on the acknowledgment of God’s judgment on sin, including his sin. “But as for me, I will walk in my integrity; redeem me and be merciful to me.” (v. 11) In his integrity, he acknowledged his need for mercy and redemption. If his integrity was based on his own efforts or works, there would be no need for mercy and redemption. He has grounds for thanksgiving, and he can’t but tell of His wondrous works (v. 7). He was the recipient of the covenant of grace, and part of that covenant was the LORD building His house-a place where His glory presence would dwell (v. 8).
David’s integrity went beyond the acknowledgement of his condition before God. God in His covenant would provide an answer to sin. But the LORD also made David to stand “in an even place.” (v. 12). God’s placement of us is secure. He makes us to stand. Furthermore, his ways are even-there is nothing crooked about them. The wicked, those outside the covenant, are just the opposite. The work of their hands is given over to sinister schemes. Bribes are part and parcel for those who lack integrity. But David will stand, and when he stands in God’s house it will be to worship- to “bless the LORD…with the voice of thanksgiving.” (vv. 7, 12)
Psalm 27 Wait On The LORD!
Light is a common metaphor in scripture, going back to God creating light in the darkness and separating the two-the first day of creation-Genesis 1:3-5. David’s enemies, on the other hand, stumble around in the darkness and fall (v.2). The LORD was his salvation, therefore he did not fear-even to his core, his heart (v.3). His confidence was in the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD-David’s strength (v. 1).
The one thing Davis sought was God’s presence. It was upon David’s desire to build a house for God to dwell among the people, that David received the final OT administration of the covenant of grace-II Sam. 7; I Chron. 17. And within this covenantal promise is the Messiah’s reign, and the building of His house (II Sam. 7:12-13). It was not so he could behold the beauty of the temple, rather, David wanted to behold the “beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.”
“To inquire,” was also David’s desire. For David, God’s word alone was the first axiom of all thought and existence. To hear God’s word read, sung, and expounded was the desire of King David’s heart. How many attend church today without such an inquiring mind and heart? Why did David do this? “For in time of trouble He will hide me…He shall set me high upon a rock.” (v. 5) Those who build their lives on the word will be secure, while those who do not will stumble in the darkness upon the shifting sands of their own thoughts.
“And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me.” (v. 6) “Now,” because he went to the LORD and inquired. David’s kingship and victory over his enemies ultimately can be attributed to his dependence on the word. So should it be for all His people-in every walk of life. Such victory is a cause for joy and rejoicing (v. 6). David’s plea is for God to hear him, and the first thing he seeks is mercy. Mercy must come before everything-for we are sinners in need of grace. The LORD sends out the invitation, and so we seek (vv. 7-8).
David fully acknowledges that God would be justified in turning away-this is why he pleads what he pleads (v. 9). He knows he needs salvation from the LORD. When the closest of human relations, and those one would most look to for help-one’s parents, fail us-the LORD will take care of us. God usually uses means-the service of others, to meet our needs, but he is not bound by specific means. Again, David looked to the LORD for instruction. Many parents fail their children at just this point. Their covenantal obligation was to pass on instruction in the word- Dt. 6:1-2. It is just this instruction which David sought.
It is very important to see that this popular verse – 10, is found in the context of David seeking the LORD to inquire of Him. “Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies (v. 11) We are led when we are taught the LORD’s word. It is the word which makes everything clear and plain-a smooth path. “False witnesses” can only be defeated with the truth. We also should not miss the point that to bear false witness is to “breathe out violence.” (v. 12) Breaking the commandment (Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20), is an act of violence. Only the word of truth can remove the obstacles in one’s thought, and that of one’s enemies.
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” So with parents failing, and false witnesses breathing out violence, David’s confidence remains in the LORD. This confidence isn’t just in the life to come-it is now, “in the land of the living.” Goodness is what he knew he would see. God would take care of him, and false witnesses would not prevail. False witnesses will meet with the very end which they sought for those they bore false witness against.
David gives his testimony when he says-“Wait on the LORD.” Wait on the LORD-the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. This is the beginning and end of it all. Wait on the LORD-He will teach us. Wait on the LORD-He will take care of us. Wait on the LORD-He will deliver us. “Be of good courage,” because you wait on the LORD. “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.” Those who wait on the LORD are strengthened to the core. “Wait, I say, on the LORD!
Psalm 28 The LORD-Our Rock, Strength, Shield, Refuge, and Shepherd.
This is another Psalm which begins with a prayer and ends with an answer. Nothing is worse then silence from the LORD. This is the condition of those who turn their backs on God. The wicked, on the other hand, “speak peace to their neighbors, but evil is in their hearts.” (v. 3) Conflicting words-prayer on the one hand, and cursing on the other. David pleads for what is a common biblical principle-that the wicked would be given over to their own deeds-that they would suffer the consequences of their own devices. Ultimately they deny that God rules-that He has acted in history and will do so again (v. 5). Destruction awaits them.
David rejoices! Contrary to the wicked, David’s heart beat for the will of God. To his core he longed for the vindication of his LORD. The LORD was his rock, strength, shield, and refuge. The warrior David knew who to trust, and he did so from the heart (vv. 6-8). David also prayed as a leader among his people-the LORD’s covenant people, for their salvation and blessing. The wicked speak peace but plot destruction in their hearts. But the LORD is able to turn that cursing back upon them and bring blessing to His own. The LORD is our Shepherd. David knew this and prayed for the LORD to thus strengthen and uphold His own covenant people. It would ultimately find fulfillment through Messiah-His anointed (v. 8).
Psalm 29 “Glory!”
David issues a call to worship, to the glory due His name, “in the beauty of holiness.” Holiness is a beautiful thing (cf. I Chr. 16:28-29; II Chr. 20:21; Ps. 110:3). Worship is a beautiful thing. He is the God of glory-the glory presence, where the might ones ever live to praise Him (vv. 1-2 cf. Acts 7). They sing the song of Moses, which is also the song of the lamb (Rev. 15:3-4; cf. 4:8-11; 5:8-14; 7: 9-12;). It is a call to respond to the voice of the LORD, the God of glory who thunders (vv. 3-4). His voice is in all creation. The trees break, the fire spreads, and the wilderness shakes (vv. 5-8). “The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth, and strips the forests bare; and in His temple everyone says, ‘Glory!’” (v. 9) Creation has a voice (cf. Ps. 19:1-6 cf. 18:30). Men are without excuse (cf. Rom. 1:18-32). “And in His temple everyone says, ‘Glory!’” (v. 9)
Beginning with Abraham, Stephen recounted the history of the acts of the God of glory (Acts 7). But it started before Abraham. From the dawn of creation God’s voice was heard (Gen. 1). The voice of the LORD shakes the whole wilderness, but in particular David mentions the wilderness of Kadesh. The wilderness of the promised land (Nu. 13:26). The wilderness that Joshua and Caleb were prepared to take, even as had been promised. God’s voice in the world always goes before and accompanies His covenant keepers. And the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD, “sat enthroned at the Flood.” (v. 11) Noah believed, and he was blessed (cf. Gen. 6:17-18; Heb. 11:7).
“And the LORD sits as King forever.” (v. 11) The LORD not only shakes the earth as King, but He removes the kingdoms of the men of the earth (Ps. 10:16-18). These nations will be Messiah’s, and one day all will bow before Him (Ps. 110; cf. 28:8). He has always reigned as the King of glory (cf. Ps. 24). It is this God who is the LORD of His people. Strength and blessing are given to His covenant people. It is no wonder that “in His temple everyone says, ‘Glory!’” (v. 10) “O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places. The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people. Blessed be God!” (Ps. 68:35)
Psalm 30 Favour And Mercy-Dancing And Gladness.
The psalmist worships in response to help from the LORD. He was cast down, he prayed, and the LORD lifted him up. His foes did not succeed in keeping him down. The LORD rescued him from death (vv. 1-3). He wants to encourage his fellow saints to trust in the LORD. Answers may not always be immediate. Remembering His name is a cause of thanksgiving-for it represents who He is and what He has done and can do. Even when He is angry with His own, it is but for a moment-“His favor is for life.” (v. 5) The psalmist acknowledged that he should not have put his confidence in his possessions-instead he should have kept his focus on the LORD (vv. 6-7).
The psalmist does not want to die, but not because he thought that this would be the end. He believed that he would give thanks to the LORD God forever (v.12). Rather, he wanted to continue to praise and serve Him in this life (vv. 8-10). It is the chief end of man to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. His point being that prolonged days could profit, if he continued to serve and worship the LORD. He also acknowledged that the favor of the LORD was absolutely necessary (v.7). The LORD alone is able to replace mourning with dancing, and the clothing of sackcloth with that of gladness. We need God’s favor and mercy, and with His favor and mercy there comes joy.
Psalm 31 Be Of Good Courage!
David’s hope was in the LORD. This was his testimony to the saints, and a call to worship (vv. 23-24). In prayer he declares his trust in the LORD, and pleads to be delivered (vv. 1-2). He knew the LORD as his rock, fortress, and strength, so he prayed for His help (vv. 2-5). He was caught in a net which his enemies had laid for him. David had already known the LORD’s redemption-and so he had committed his spirit to Him (v.5). Leading and guidance is what he desired (v. 3). This is the rightful position of all His saints.
He has a hatred for those who follow useless idols-it wasn’t strictly personal for David. He rejoiced in the LORD’s mercy-as with all the saints, his position before the LORD was based on mercy and redemption, soul and body (v. 9). He was a man who confessed his own iniquity (v. 10). His enemies, and even his neighbours and acquaintances, would’t let him forget it (vv. 11-13). But his trust was in the LORD-this was all that mattered. He trusted in the good providence of the LORD his God (vv. 14-15). The LORD’s salvation based on His mercy is what he sought (v. 16).
He prays for the defeat of his enemies-because they were the LORD’s enemies-idol worshipers (v. 6), who “speak insolent things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.” (v. 18) There is nothing better and more suited to body and soul, than the goodness of God. His goodness is laid up for those who put their trust in Him (v. 19). The wicked may plot and scheme but the saints rest in His protection (v.20). He is sovereign, so they speak in vain (v.15). He, on the other hand, is the “God of truth.” (v. 5).
David knows he is blessed-for the LORD has heard his prayer (vv. 21-22). In fact, he acknowledged that in his haste he had his doubts. Despite his doubts the LORD delivered Him. Sometimes our trust is shaky. We can thank God that the strength of our faith is not in us, but in the LORD. For this reason David gives his testimony to the saints and calls all to worship. The LORD’s righteousness (v. 1), strength (v. 4), truth (v. 5), mercy (vv. 7, 9), goodness (v. 19), presence (v. 20), and marvelous kindness (v. 21) shown to David in his own life, indeed showed him to be a blessed man.
There is one verse here which stands out for the saints-the greater son of David’s trust in the Father (v. 5 cf. Lk. 23:46). Jesus turned often to the psalms of lament (cf. 22, 69). These are equally precious to all the saints, including the blessedness expressed here, and the call to worship (vv. 23-24). Our times are in His hands, and He is still the LORD who delivers (v. 15). The city may be strong, but His marvelous kindness is greater (v. 21). “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; all you who hope in the LORD.” (v. 24 cf. Ps. 27:14).
Psalm 32 A Song Of Deliverance.
Transgression, sin, and iniquity all speak to what is “lawless deeds,” as we find in Paul’s quote of these verses in Romans 4:7-8. The Catechism puts it succinctly. “Sin is any want of conformity unto,-or transgression of,-the law of God.” (A. 14) What we also find in Paul is that he sees the blessedness here as the imputation of righteousness-the opposite of the imputation of sin. Imputation means essentially to impute to one’s account-a judicial judgment (cf. II Cor. 5:19).
Imputation speaks to justification. Here also we find a succinct statement in the catechism. “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” (A. 33) God makes a judgment based on mercy and grace, in that He pardons us our sin and accounts us righteous and therefore blessed.
There is no deceit in the spirit of the blessed. One cannot deceive God, and in justification there is no reason for deceit. We come to God in complete honesty of our transgressions, and we are forgiven. Only those who seek a works righteousness must be engaged in deceit-for “there is none righteous, no, not one.” (Rom. 3:10ff. cf. Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Ps. 51) The clear road to blessedness is an honest confession to the LORD.
David confesses the fault of remaining silent (vv. 3-4). Only with confession is there forgiveness (v. 5). This gives great confidence to the godly, to look to the LORD in prayer. So the godly are not sinless, rather, the godly are those who out of fear of the LORD turn to Him confessing their sins, and are forgiven (vv. 6-7). This psalm, and many others, become “songs of deliverance.” He is our hiding place from trouble-including the worst of troubles-alienation from the LORD Himself.
Forgiveness sets us on a new course. It is His law-word that exposes our sin and need for redemption. It is also that same word that is now our guide, and it is instruction which is what we need (v. 8). “Be not like the horse or mule.” The horse wants to take off running ahead of where it should be, and the mule doesn’t want to move at all. There is a lesson here for us. Discipleship or sanctification is what Eugene Peterson called, ‘A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.’ (InterVarsity Press, 1980)
“Work with me,” is what the LORD is saying. The horse runs away, and the mule won’t follow. Some people do require bit and bridle, but the LORD would prefer we have some understanding, and dance the dance of sanctification-a long obedience in the same direction. It is all about a willingness to be taught the word with the intent of living it. Sorrow accompanies the wicked, but for the godly-those who trust in the LORD and His mercy and righteousness-there is gladness and joy. There is a true blessedness for the upright in heart, who are such because they have been forgiven.
Psalm 33 Our Help And Shield.
Praise to the LORD is both vocal and instrumental, and it is a beautiful and joyful thing, when it comes from the upright (vv. 1-3). “For the word of the LORD is right.” (v. 4) This is one reason for praise. A second is His works. A third is His person-He loves righteousness and justice. “The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.” (v. 5) But it is His word which brought all into existence-from the dawn of creation (vv. 6-7). All creation is called to worship. “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast.” (v. 9 cf. Gen. 1; Ps. 148:5-6) His word always accomplishes the purpose for which He sends it (Is. 55:11). It is living and powerful (Heb. 4:12).
His counsel thwarts that of His enemies (v. 10). His plans stand (v. 11). Therefore, those people are blessed whose God is the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD, those chosen in His mercy (v. 12). He not only created all things but He looks upon all He has made and governs all in His providence (vv. 15). He is not a part of creation-there is a fundamental Creator-creature distinction (vv. 13-14). But He is also not absent. He has not wound up world and let it go with no further involvement or concern (v. 15). Some people think that this world is all there is and human beings shape their own history and destiny (16-17). But “the LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing.” (v. 10)
In contrast to “the sons of men,” those who fear the LORD, who put their hope in His mercy, are kept in body and soul. Their soul is delivered from death, and He keeps them alive in famine. Mercy issues in the hope of eternal life, and His providence ensures their life (vv. 18-19). We hope in His mercy (vv. 20-22). “He is our help and our shield.” The people of the covenant have the LORD as both their help and shield-strength for the battle and our protection in defence. His name is ‘holy’. As creator, ruler, provider, and redeemer, He is set apart from all others. “Our heart shall rejoice in Him.” (v. 21) We wait and trust, because we know He will show mercy and be our help.
Psalm 34 Love Life-Seek Peace.
This Psalm is constructed in somewhat of an acrostic-with each line started by the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. However, unlike the stanzas of Psalm 119, this one has no line for the sixth letter, and the seventeenth comes at the end. The content lends itself to general liturgy, even though the preamble attributes it to David pretending madness before Abimelech, who then ended up driving him away (cf. I Sam. 21: 10-15). “Abimelech is probably a royal title for the king of the Philistines, not the proper name of the king (Achish, in the time of Samuel).” ‘New Geneva Study Bible,’ p. 787) This is a way of pointing out that even though it is the LORD who ultimately delivers, it is not without the ways and means of wisdom and cunning. David had the reputation of slaying ten thousands, but the LORD was behind it all-in strength and in weakness.
Praise and boasting in the LORD is the key to a blessed life. It is praise at all times-good or bad, strength or weakness. To boast in the LORD is to not boast in self (cf. Jer. 9:23-24; II Cor. 10: 17-18). It is the way of humility and why the humble will be glad to hear it. The latter is the way of the proud and wicked. For the humble, praise is a continual thing. It is a matter of magnifying the covenant LORD, and as a community exulting His name-which represents everything of who He is and what He has done (vv. 1-3). The covenant making and covenant keeping LORD can be sought and found by the righteous (cf. II Chron. 15:1-2; Ps. 9:10). The poor also will be heard, for it is the LORD who has established and maintains this relationship. The humble members of the covenant fear Him, and as their covenant LORD his angel encamps around them as their protector, and He delivers them (vv. 4-7).
We taste and see that the LORD is good when we find His words sweet to our taste (v. 8 cf. 119:103; I Pet. 2:3). But it is not enough to taste the word and find it sweet (Heb. 6:5), one must trust Him (v.8). So faith is both content and trust. Like God’s word, which was spoken in history accompanied by His acts, so our faith and belief must be accompanied by trust in the LORD who has acted and will continue to act. The saints are all those who fear the LORD, and they do not lack any good thing (v.9). The saints, because they trust in the LORD, seek Him in prayer, and they are satisfied (v.10 cf. Js. 5:16). The fear of the LORD is the way of life (vv. 11-12). Children need to learn that this is the secret to a long a blessed life. Words and deeds reveal the nature of a person. Doing good and seeking peace is the way of those who love life. Deceit is in the heart of those who love death (vv. 13-14).
As always, there are two ways-the way of blessing and life, or the way of cursing and death. Judgment is assured against those who do evil, but even in this life the covenant LORD will cut off the remembrance of them from the earth (vv. 15-16). As a running theme throughout the scriptures, the wicked will reap what they sow. “Evil will slay the wicked.” (v. 21a) Because the righteous are righteous, the wicked hate them, but they will ultimately be condemned (v. 21b). On the other hand, the covenant LORD hears the cries of His saints and delivers them from all their troubles-in this life and in the one to come (vv. 15, 17). He is near to the humble (v. 18). The afflictions of the righteous may be many, but He delivers them from them all (v.19).
As with many of the Psalms, this one also finds messianic fulfillment. Concerning His anointed ONE, the covenant LORD “guards all his bones, not one of them is broken.” (v.20) This was ultimately one of two witnesses to the Messiah’s death-John 19: 31-37. This was to fulfill the law in His role as the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:46; Nu. 9:12). The other witness fulfilled was Zech 12:10. So at the mouth of two witnesses, His death was assured-Deut. 17:6. He is our Angel of the LORD, and with Him all the angels serve Him and His people (v. 7 cf. Heb. 1:6-7 (Ps. 89:27; Ps. 104:4), and v. 14 (Ps. 103:20)). The covenant LORD is with those who seek peace and pursue it (v. 14 cf. Mt. 5:9). Whether rich, like David, or poor (vv. 4-6), the LORD blesses the humble who fear, trust, and seek Him (vv. 7-8, 17-18 cf. Is. 3:10-11).
Psalm 35 The Angel Of The LORD Delivers!
Sometimes life is a battle, and the enemies seem just too powerful for us. We need the LORD to say to our soul, “I am your salvation.” (v.3) Shame, dishonor, and confusion is what David wishes for his enemies (vv. 4, 26), dark and slippery paths where they pass like chaff with the wind (v.5-6). He asks for the help of the Angel of the LORD, for they pursued him without cause (vv. 5-7). He prays for what is a very common theme in the psalms-that his enemies would be caught in the net which they have laid for him. Let the wicked be caught by their own devices (vv. 7-8).
The Angel of the LORD was known to intervene for the covenant people in the flow of history. From the Angel’s visit to Hagar (Gen. 16:7-12), this Angel is special. She called the name of the Angel of the LORD who spoke to her-“You are the God who sees.” Not just a servant of the LORD, but the LORD Himself. In His word to Abraham, to spare his son (Gen. 22), the Angel of the LORD says, “now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (v. 12). Jacob struggled with this Angel and prevailed (Gen. 28:12-19; 32:24ff.; 35::9ff.; Hos. 12:4). This same Angel would speak to Jacob in a dream (Gen. 31:11-13), with promises of his future, and His redemption he would recall as he issued his blessing upon the sons of covenantal succession (Gen. 48: 15-16).
This same Angel of the LORD appeared to Moses, “in a flame of fire from the midst of the bush.” (Ex. 3:2) It was this Angel that went before the people and behind, to bring about their deliverance (Ex. 14:19 cf. 33:2; Nu. 20:16). He was one who could pardon transgression (Ex. 23:20-23), or bring judgment on the same (32:34 cf. Jud. 5:23; II Sam. 24:16-17; I Chron. 21:12ff.). It was this same Angel who confronted Balaam on his way to curse the covenant people, and instead issued a blessing (Nu. 22:22-35). He is the covenant keeping LORD (Judges 2:1), who appeared also to Gideon, who in turn built an altar to worship Him (6:11-24).
This same Angel would appear and speak to Samson’s parents upon his birth. They eventually understood He was no ordinary man or angel, for when they offered a sacrifice on an altar, “it happened as the flame went up toward heaven from the altar-the Angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar.” (Jud. 13:20) Manoah thought they would die, for they realized He was God (v. 22). This same Angel would later appear and speak to Elijah during his battle with Jezebel (I Kgs. 19:5 ff.), and the passing of the prophetic torch to Elisha. Again He would speak to Elijah concerning Ahaziah, and his seeking counsel from false prophets and false gods (II Kgs. 1).
He would also deliver Hezekiah, according to the word delivered from Isaiah, and in faithfulness to David (II Kgs. 19:34-35 cf. Is. 37:36). Furthermore, Isaiah would recount the deliverance brought by the Angel of the Presence. “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old.” (63:9) Daniel also knew this angel to be His deliverer (3:28, 6:22). Zechariah would also speak of the future work of the Angel of the LORD to restore Jerusalem (1:1-2:5; 12:8). He also spoke of the conflict of the Angel with Satan himself (3:1ff.), and of the vision of the lampstand and the olive trees (4:1ff), the flying scroll (5:1ff), the woman in a basket (5:5ff), and the four chariots (6:1ff.).
David, the last to receive an administration of the covenant of grace under the old covenant, also saw the Angel of the LORD (I Chron. 21:16). David, moved by Satan, numbered the people-showing that he at this point of weakness turned to a works salvation, putting his confidence and pride in men, rather than in the covenantal promise of a seed without number, first given to Abraham (I Chronicles 21:1ff.). David should have listened to Joab, but instead he got a visit from the prophet Gad with a choice of judgment for his sin. David chose to fall into the LORD’s hands, and but for the LORD’s mercy, Jerusalem would have been completely destroyed by the Angel of the LORD (v. 15).
“Then David lifted his eyes and saw the Angel of the LORD standing between heaven and earth, having in His hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. So David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces.” (v. 16) Eventually David would show his true colours-pleading to the LORD to spare the people for his sin. It is to this Angel that David now turns to in this psalm, the same Angel he spoke of in Psalm 34:7, the One who has delivered His covenant people throughout history. David had to learn the hard way, that it was only through the Angel of the LORD that he and the people would have victory.
“The Angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” (Ps. 34:7) “And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD; it shall rejoice in His salvation.” (v. 9) David knew the joy of salvation by grace. God delivers the poor and the weak-not those who trust in their own strength (v. 10). In a court of law, David will not rely on the testimony of men who seek only evil, instead he will acknowledge his sin and plead for the LORD’s mercy (vv. 11-21). “I will give thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people.” (v. 18) He looked to the LORD to speak and arise to his vindication, and this according to the LORD’s righteousness, not his own (vv. 22-25).
It was the LORD’s righteousness that David trusted and rejoiced in. “My tongue shall speak of Your righteousness and of Your praise all the day long.” (v. 28) And this was David’s call to the people of the covenant. “Let them shout for joy and be glad, who favor my righteous cause; and let them say continually, ‘Let the LORD be magnified, who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.” (v. 27) The LORD, not man, is to be magnified. And wonder of wonders, the LORD takes pleasure “in the prosperity of His servant.”
Psalm 36 In Your Light We See Light.
What do men choose to see? To know one must go to the core-the heart. For David, this oracle comes from his heart-it is the core of his thinking. The point-the wicked have no fear of God. There are two groups of people in the world-those who do fear God from the heart, and those who flatter themselves with their own self-acceptance. The wicked must practice deceit, for they cannot hide from their own iniquity. When a person elevates their own assessment of themselves above the standard of God’s word and judgment, there is a course taken which makes it impossible to go in any other way but wickedness (cf. Is. 65:2).
The proper fear of God is the divide. Those who have no fear of God have “ceased to be wise and to do good.” (v. 3). They actually take some time to reflect on how they can practice evil-they “devise wickedness” on their beds (cf. Pr. 4:16; Mic. 2:1). The godly are on the polar opposite of this spectrum (cf. Ps. 4:4; 63:6). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pr. 1:7, cf. 9:10; 15:33; Job 28:28; Eccl. 12:13) “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.” (Ps. 111:10)
It is not to oneself that the godly look-“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”(Rom. 3:23, cf. Rom. 3:10ff. Note Paul’s quote of v. 1 at 3:18). Rather, the godly look to the LORD, the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD, for mercy. “A special word in Hebrew, signifying the loving devotion in which God binds Himself to His people. It indicates His lovingkindness toward those with whom He is in covenant relationship. This word recurs throughout Psalms, showing that it is a book of covenantal prayers.” (New Geneva Study Bible, p. 791) His faithfulness, righteousness, and judgments are what the saints look to (vv. 5-6). These are at the very foundation of all that exists.
The covenant making and covenant keeping LORD is our kinsmen-redeemer, under whose wings we take refuge (v. 7 cf. Ruth 2:12;). This is our God. There are indeed multiple covenant terms in the psalms and in this one in particular, including the reference to His lovingkindness (v. 7, 10). In his passage on the promise of the new covenant, Jeremiah speaks of the faithful remnant who found grace in the wilderness, God’s rest, as being drawn with His lovingkindness (31:1-3). It continues to those who know Him. This word ‘know’ is also a covenantal term. It speaks to being in covenant with the LORD, and it is the ultimate promise of the new covenant administration of the covenant of grace (31:33-34).
Lovingkindness is like a covenantal twin sister to God’s faithfulness. “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night.” (Ps. 92:1-2) So shall it be characteristic of Messiah’s reign (Ps. 89:1-4). And in the scriptures mountains speak to rule and reign-and for the saints His righteousness rules-“like the great mountains.” (v. 6). And David knew something of the promise of God’s house-the focus of the LORD’s covenant administration with him (II Sam. 7) ”They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house.”
“And You give them drink from the river of your pleasures.” (v. 8) I wonder how many reflect on drinking from the river of the LORD’s pleasures? Many know the first part of the answer to the shorter catechism Q 1, but forget the latter-to enjoy Him forever. This is covenant life! “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” The light goes on for us when we go to the LORD for the revelation which He gives. There really is no conflict of visions. One is light the other is the blindness of darkness. And it is just this pride which men have in their own thoughts and imaginations which becomes they’re downfall.
“Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.” (v. 11) The foot of pride is the death knell of grace. The humble fear the LORD and are wise. The fool trusts in his own imagination, and in pride meets his downfall. Man committed only to his own devices has to inescapably retreat to self-deception, for the verdict of truth is clear-all have sinned. The covenant people, on the other hand, will forever drink from the river of His pleasures, as the recipients of His grace.
Psalm 37 The LORD Upholds.
It is tempting to be envious of others when they prosper (v. 1 cf. 73:3). The course of the wise is rather to fear God (Pr. 23:17). The point is, the prosperity of the wicked is fleeting (v. 2 cf. Pr. 24:19). It cannot be stressed enough that it is not prosperity seeking which is wrong, it is envying those who acquire their riches through wickedness. Those who prosper through wickedness will not last (v. 36). Rather, those who fear God and delight in Him, trusting in Him and His faithfulness, will have the desires of their heart-without wickedness, and it will be lasting (vv. 3-4). The saints should seek to prosper in righteousness and justice, which comes when we commit our way to Him (vv. 5-6).
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him.” (v. 7 cf. v. 34) This should be easier knowing that the LORD will ultimately “cut off” all evildoers (v. 9 cf. v. 38). “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret-it only causes harm.” Wrath and fretting only harm those who harbor it, we are to leave vengeance with the LORD (Lev. 19:18; Dt. 32:35; Rom. 12:19). Ultimately, it is those who wait on the LORD who will inherit the earth forever (vv. 9-11, 29, 34), “and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (v. 11 cf. v. 37). The wicked have their plans, but the LORD laughs at them, “for He sees that his day is coming (vv. 12-13).
The wicked aim at the poor, needy, and upright, but they will suffer the end of their own devices (vv. 14-15). Ultimately it is better to have little but know the LORD, then to have riches with wickedness (vv. 16-17). There is an inheritance of the upright which is forever (v. 18). But even in this life, the upright will be satisfied (v. 19), while “the enemies of the LORD…vanish away.” (v. 20). This is the point-they are the enemies of the LORD first, and this is why they are the enemies of the upright. It is also why we avoid vengeance-with our own sin it is far too easy to misplace our anger. It is an issue of God’s vengeance on His enemies.
Blessing and cursing-this is the great divide (vv. 21-22). A good man might fall, but will not be utterly cast off, because His trust is in the LORD (vv. 23-24). The descendants of a covenantal man are blessed, but those of the wicked are “cut off.” (v. 28 cf. v. 34) The good and righteous man lends and gives, whereas “the wicked borrows and does not repay.” (v. 21 cf. v. 26) This is the key-for the righteous, “the law of God is in his heart.” (v. 33) The law-word of the LORD is the first axiom of all thought and existence, and for the righteous it is found in the heart, the core of a person. Everything flows from the heart. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that “the righteous speaks wisdom.”
“But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD.” (v. 39) Ultimately the righteous are such because they are saved. “He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help them and deliver them.” (v. 40 cf. Ps. 22:4; Is. 31:5; ) We trust in Him and His salvation. For those who wait on the LORD there is no condemnation (v. 33 cf. Ps. 34:22). This psalm is what may be called one of the wisdom psalms, and it shares a unique acrostic structure-with each stanza beginning with successive letters of the alphabet. Besides being poetic and a possible aid to memory, some suggest it denotes a complete treatment of a subject. Whatever the case may be, the message is clear-look to the word, and the salvation of the LORD, and leave vengeance to Him.
Psalm 38 In You, O LORD, I Hope.
The LORD’s judgments pierce to the core, the heart (vv. 8, 10). It is a humbling experience (vv. 1-2, 6). It is foolish to sin against the LORD (v. 5). Sin arouses His anger and causes us distress (vv. 3-4, 7, 9) Even friends and relatives stand aloof (v. 11), and there is no shortage of enemies seeking to take advantage (v. 12). They plan deception, but we are deaf and speechless (vv. 12-14) Sometimes one’s sin cannot be denied, but enemies will exploit this, even if the sin is not against them (v. 19). Some people are our enemies because we do good. That good may in fact be the acknowledgment that we, like them, are sinners in need of forgiveness (v. 20).
The LORD is our salvation (v. 22), so the psalmist is not hopeless. David knows that God will listen to a heart humbled by the knowledge of it’s own sin (vv. 15, 17-18). He can bring the desire of our enemies to nothing (v. 16). The LORD, the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD, is our God. Therefore David prays to not be forsaken. It is a covenantal prayer for the LORD to keep him by keeping the covenant (vv. 21-22). “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (II Cor. 7:10 cf. Pss. 32:5; 51:3)
Psalm 39 A Prayer For Wisdom And Forgiveness.
Sometimes the wisest course of action is to remain silent. In the presence of the wicked even speaking that which is good is a bad thing (vv. 1-2). But eventually David could hold his peace no longer (v. 3). Numbering one’s days is a humbling experience, because it is God who determines them (v. 4). It is the way of the wise (cf. 90:12). David sought humility-man is a vapor or a shadow. What a man has accumulated will simply be passed on to another (vv. 4-6). Then there are times when we are silent because we are guilty. But because David’s hope was in the LORD-he prayed for deliverance (vv. 7-9).
Sin is a plague (v. 10). What beauty a man has melts away under the weight of iniquity and the Lord’s judgment (v. 11). Though he was silent for a time, David eventually prays, and he prays that God would not be silent. All men are strangers to God (v. 12). Sin has made it that way. He is holy. This is why David does not want the LORD to look upon him (v. 13). It goes back to the garden (Gen. 3:8). So his only hope was that the LORD would deliver him from all his transgressions (vv. 7-8). This was his simple hope and prayer. It is a prayer to the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD.
Psalm 40 “The LORD Be Magnified.”
“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.” (v. 1) Some things only happen when one waits patiently. We all have to wait. Not all of us all the time can do it patiently. But when one is waiting on the LORD, patience is both required, and rewarded. God’s timing is often not ours. We often want instant answers, when patience is what is required. David was delivered from a deep and slippery place-no place to go and to unsure a footing to get anywhere anyway. From this he was made to stand upon a rock with his steps established-secure with a future and direction (v. 2).
“He has put a new song in my mouth-praise to our God.” (v. 3) “A new song.” Not a song about a pit and mire, a song about deliverance from a pit and mire to standing on a rock with a future. The LORD is his God and object of praise. “Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD.” (v. 3) One can hope, as did David, that the LORD’s work in one’s life will lead others to also trust in Him. There is a lesson here-our lives are always a testimony to our covenant LORD. It is a blessed position to be in (v. 4). Blessedness comes to those who are humble and speak the truth. Hence, David “does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.” (v. 4)
David thinks upon both the works and words of the LORD. Men often speak a lot of words about works, many which are never done. The LORD’s works are done, and they are wonderful. And His thoughts were not just general-but they were thoughts toward His people (v. 5), -thoughts of salvation and deliverance (vv. 2, 16-17). Also thoughts, wonderful thoughts, of the Messiah to come. “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears you have opened.” (v. 6) God did command sacrifice, but obedience is really what He desired and required. Ears open, both represents the whole body (the translation found in the Septuagint used in Heb. 10:5-7), but also the willingness to listen and do.
Sacrifices were not instituted as something the LORD needed but as something man required. However, without obedience they were futile (Ps. 50:9-10; Is. 1). God’s law written in the heart is what He desired. Jesus accepted it as the Father’s will that He go to the cross (Mt. 26:39). “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (Jn. 4:34 cf. 6:38, 17:4, 19:30). Jesus has “proclaimed the good news of righteousness.” (v. 9) He has declared His faithfulness, salvation, lovingkindness and truth (v. 10). It was too these that David looked in need, for his iniquities had overtaken him (v. 12). He needed the LORD’s tender mercies (v. 11). He needed help and deliverance (v. 13).
David’s enemies were also taking advantage of his own sin, wishing upon him further evil. For this, He prays that God would bring them to mutual confusion and dishonour, being confounded by their shame (vv. 13-15). The LORD’s salvation is what is needed. In this the saints rejoice and are glad (v.16). It is not in one’s own work, not even the most religious of works, in which the saints put their hope. We are poor and needy (v. 17). It is the LORD looking upon us to deliver us that brings joy and gladness. Waiting patiently and praying for His help, is the life of His saints.
Psalm 41 Blessed Be The LORD God!
Those who are blessed consider the poor. ‘Blessed’ is the key word (v. 1). Those who are blessed know that all they have comes from God, so it is really a matter of being a good steward. The LORD looks after such as these, and He continues to bless them in the earth (v. 2). The LORD will be there when sickness comes (v. 3). And the blessed know they are sinners who need forgiveness (v.4). Our enemies delight to take advantage of our own failings of course. These are people who visit one’s sickbed only to take advantage-hiding their intentions while they visit, only to proceed with their plans when they leave (v.5), to devise one’s hurt (v. 6).
Like Job’s friends, these are people who dismiss others by suggesting they deserve the sickness (v. 7 cf. Job 19:19). For some, it justifies in their minds, not offering assistance. And in this context we find the infamous words of verse 9. “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” David had his Ahithophel (II Sam. 15:12). Sometimes it is fellow church members (Ps. 55:12-14), and those who were in covenant (Ps. 55:20). Jeremiah wasn’t popular with many (20:10). For this reason Micah issued a cautionary not (7:5). And then there was Judas (Mt. 26:14-16, 21-25, 47-50; Jn. 13:18, 21-30; Acts 1:16-17).
We need the LORD’s mercy (v. 10). Those who know His mercy ultimately triumph (v. 11). His mercy upholds us in our integrity-this isn’t something we could do in our own strength (v. 12). The blessed are not those who take pride in themselves and their own works, but in the LORD’s mercy, which sustains us. It is an eternal hope-in the presence of the LORD forever. His mercy is the beginning, middle, and end of the life of the blessed. “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and amen.” (v. 13)
The Psalms: Book 2
Psalm 42 Lovingkindness And A Song.
This psalm marks the beginning of the second book (42-72). Jewish tradition suggesting a match to the first five books of Moses. Some believe that this psalm and 43 belong together, and point to the Hebrew text for support. There does appear to be three sections (43:1-5, 6-11, and 43) all ending with the same refrain. Vv. 1-5 express the psalmist’s desire to worship at Jerusalem-to go with the multitude to the house of God (v. 4, cf. Ps. 63:2; 84:1). However, verse 5 seems to suggest that the psalmist is not limiting himself. He may not be able to make the trek to Jerusalem, but he can still find his hope and rest in Him.
God has never been bound by place or time (v. 3, cf. Ps. 79:10; Ps. 115:2-3). It was no doubt an appeal of idolatry that anyone could make one, about things they could see, and prop it up anywhere. The spiritual nature of the people of the covenant word, has always been a focus of mockery to those who construct their own religion. Idolatry is ultimately the elevation of the creature to divine status, of man’s own making. The soul of the saint is satisfied with nothing less than the LORD Himself. “’The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lam. 3:24)
“I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,” from the heights of Hermon, and the little hill Mizar, from the highs and the lows of the Jordan, the time where faith laid hold of the covenant promises (v. 6 cf. Joshua). The drought of v. 1 is answered in v. 7. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul pants for You, O God.” “Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me.” Lovingkindness in the daytime and a song at night, is the response of the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD (v.8).
Psalm 43 God-Our Exceeding Joy.
“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation.” (v.1) “These words are technical legal terms that give the psalm a judicial setting.” (NGSB, p.799) The setting is the covenant relationship. The lovingkindness of 42:8, with which this psalm is connected, speaks to the covenant relationship and the promises (cf. Ps. 26:1ff.; 35:23-24; 40:11). The ungodly, whom the psalmist seeks to be vindicated from, refers to those outside the covenant. “Literally those without covenant lovingkindness. These are nations or people who do not enjoy a covenant relationship with God, who do not honor His laws, and therefore do not share in His covenant promises.” (NGSB, p. 799)
By asking God to not cast him off, he is asking God to remember the covenant relationship, for God is his strength (v.2). The covenant relationship was the answer to the question of the ungodly, “Where is your God.” (42:3,10) Because God was his covenant Rock, he pleads to not be forgotten. The answer is, God keeps His covenant. And the heart of this covenant relationship was His truth. The law-word, contained in the heart of the ark of the covenant, was to be at the heart of the relationship, hidden in the hearts of the faithful. “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!” (v. 3) This was the answer to, “Where is your God?”
“Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill, and to Your tabernacle.” God’s light and truth would lead and guide them in this relationship, and the destination was His presence. And it must be noted, it wasn’t just Jerusalem-one place and one place only. Rather, it is also the tabernacle, God’s presence and place of worship as the people sojourned as pilgrims in a foreign land. The altar was the place of sacrifice, and this established the covenant relationship (v. 4). This is why it brought the psalmist joy! Here there was forgiveness, therefore God Himself was his “exceeding joy!” And so he praised him.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” (43:5; 42:11, cf. v.5) ‘Help’ here, literally means ‘salvation’. Why then should the soul in covenant with this God be cast down or quiet? Much rather ought we to shout for joy! Praise, in fact, is a covenant response and commitment. And countenance speaks to one’s face-the front, with nothing hidden, the whole person laid bare. God’s covenant salvation is complete. His salvation makes one whole. There is nothing to hide in this relationship, like there was in the garden (Gen. 3:8), for God has provided salvation.
Psalm 44 Favoured In The Covenant.
Children testify to the instructions of their parents on the acts of the LORD in history (v. 1; Ps. 78:1-4). In the case of the Passover, as with circumcision, they ask for the why of something they have experienced their whole lives-if their parents have been faithful in including them in the administration of the covenant (Ex. 12:26-27; Dt. 6:20-25). The covenant people inherited the land of promise (v. 2). It wasn’t in their own strength that they gained this inheritance, it was because the LORD favoured them (vv. 3, 6-8; Josh. 24:12; Ps. 74:12). It was an administration of the covenant of grace. God was their King, in His sovereign providence He gained for them victories (vv. 4-5).
This is why the psalmist is perplexed by their present condition. To be “cut off” was to suffer covenantal judgment (v. 9ff.). Would they be like the generation in the wilderness who never entered the promised land? Or were they suffering like the new generation in the valley of Achor? But the psalmist doesn’t think so. “All this has come upon us; but we have not forgotten You, nor have we dealt falsely with Your covenant.” (v. 17) Nor was it simply outward observance-their hearts were true, and therefore, so was their way (v. 18). And so he remains perplexed.
Failure to hallow His name, or turning to other gods, were certainly grounds for the “vengeance of the covenant” (Lev. 26:25, cf. Dt. 6:13-14; Ps. 44:20). God searches the heart (v.21, cf. Ps. 139:1-2; Jer. 17:10). But the psalmist was sure that their hearts were true (v. 8). It is not surprising then that Paul turned to this psalm (Rom. 8:36). There is a lesson here for the saints-outward circumstances do not always immediately indicate “the vengeance of the covenant.” In fact, Paul quoted this psalm as he reflected on the persecution he was suffering, essentially because he came to believe in Jesus as the messiah-from whom He freely gives us all things (v.32).
First among these things was the doctrine of justification by faith, justification based on the righteousness of Christ alone (vv. 33-34). And not only justification, but this good news includes Christ’s rule from the throne, at the right hand of God, until His enemies are made His footstool (v. 35, cf. Ps. 110). He ever lives to intercede for us as we progress on in our sanctification, and He works through us for the extension of His cause and kingdom. But nothing can separate us from His love-and so, also among “these things” of the gospel, is our preservation and perseverance. It is in this context (vv. 31-39), that Paul sees their situation reflected in this psalm.
According to Paul, they were in fact in the line of those who were true to the covenant, from the heart (Ps. 44:17-18). In other words, members of the new covenant are the true descendants of those who were members of the previous administrations of the one covenant of grace-because he favoured them (v.3). What the psalmist is in fact doing, is asking God to fulfill the covenant by bringing judgment on their enemies, because they were in fact His enemies. The plea was not based on their works or righteousness, but on the LORD’s mercies (v.26).
Psalm 45 The Mighty One.
This psalm is a wedding song for a king, as such it also finds messianic application (cf. Heb. 1:8-9). He speaks words of grace (v. 2, cf. Lk. 4:22), and with the sword at His side He is the Mighty One, in glory and majesty (v. 3, cf. Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:16, 19:15). Truth, humility, and righteousness are the hallmarks of this King (v. 4). He is victorious (v. 5, cf. Rev. 6:2). This King is God, the second person of the trinity, and He rules in righteousness. Second person, for the first, the Father, declares this of Him (vv. 6-7, cf. Heb. 1:8-9). Royalty serves Him (vv. 8-9).
Like a bride leaving her family behind, the church joins with her King and leaves all to follow after Him (vv. 10-12, cf. Ruth 1:16-17; Is. 54:5). The church is royalty, “all glorious within the palace.” (vv. 13-15, cf. I Pet. 2:9) Generations will continually be added to the bride of Christ (vv. 16-17, cf. Mal. 1:11), and shall reign with Him (cf. Rev. 20:6). “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 1:6)
Psalm 46 God Is Our Refuge And Strength.
Sometimes a person just needs to find strength in a safe place. This place is God Himself, for His people. “A very present help in trouble.” (v. 1) The LORD our God is near (Dt. 4:7). He is altogether separate from us, but near, and that to help. It is only because He is altogether different from us that He is our help. And chief in that help is His word (Dt. 4:8). Silently we wait for His help (cf. Ps. 62:1, 5), and pray (62:8). “Therefore we will not fear.” (v. 2) When it seems like the world is crashing all around us He is there, and He is not silent (v. 3, 6, cf. Ps. 93).
There is a city of refuge, the holy place and tabernacle or dwelling of His presence, wherein a river flows (v. 4, cf. Ezek. 47:12). This is Zion (Ps. 48:1-3, 8; 50:1-3; 76:2; 84:7; 87:1-3). But those who would seek His presence and cry out for His help must be holy (Dt. 23:14; Is. 12:6). The nations will be shaken and subdued (v. 6, cf. Ps. 2:1-2) Therefore we need not fear (cf. Nu. 14:9). Eventually they will come to Zion (Is. 60:14; Zech. 2:10-11). It has a glorious future (Ps. 125:1; Zech. 8:3; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 14:1).
There is an angelic host which accompanies His presence, and they are victorious (v. 7, 11). God has acted in history, His works are known (v. 8). “He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth.” (v. 9). This is Messiah’s reign (cf. Is. 2), and that out Zion (Ps. 76:1-3). “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” (v. 5) War and battles begin at the break of dawn, and it is just here that the LORD fights for His people, and continues the battle to a glorious end.
Psalm 47 God, The LORD, Enthroned As King.
This is an enthronement Psalm. It is a typical structure of presentation (vv. 1-4), exaltation (vv. 5-7), and enthronement (vv. 8-9). He is presented as the God to whom all nations will be subdued. The LORD was never just the God of Israel. As King over the whole earth, all peoples are called to praise. It is the voice of triumph in the King of kings (vv. 1-2). It is a covenantal victory. All peoples come in the same way (vv. 3-4).
He acts in history from the throne in heaven (vv. 5ff.). He is exalted over all the earth. This is the reign of Messiah (cf. Pss. 2, 110). The writer to the Hebrews follows this same structure as he presents Jesus as the Lord of the covenant, in His transcendence and immanence-with presentation (Heb. 1:5-7), exaltation (vv. 8-12), and enthronement (vv. 13-14). In Hebrews we see the angelic host, and in this Psalm we see the nations of the earth.
The trumpet sounds the exaltation (v. 5) “God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.” (v. 8, cf. I Chron. 16:31). The Psalm hearkens back to Abraham, and the covenant with the father of many nations (v. 9, cf. Gen. 12:1-3). As the One who is enthroned in heaven He rules over all the earth. From before the dawn of creation, to all eternity, He is King. “Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting.” (Ps. 93:2)
Psalm 48 The Glory Of God In Zion.
Another of the Psalms of Zion about Zion, it is a city on a mountain (v. 1, cf. Heb. 12:18-28). Since the fall it became necessary to offer sacrifice to approach the LORD, and the LORD would stipulate the conditions and choose the place where He would receive His people. The tabernacle would travel with the people and go before them to show the way. Eventually the temple would be built, and all according to the pattern that was given. Now it was a city. God dwells with people.
God is not only immanent, dwelling among His people, He is also transcendent. Mountains speak to rule and power. God reigns from His holy mountain. He is both the King and the refuge of His people (v. 3). However, from the beginning there was an invitation to the world-of joy. Joy comes where sacrifice is made (v. 2). Even kings marvel and fear (vv. 4-7). Biblical religion is no exclusively personal and private matter. It involves a city, a mountain, and the kings of the earth.
“As we have heard, so we have seen.” This is always the order of things. God has spoken and acted in history. We hear, but always we wait to see if the word spoken is backed up with acts. And so it is with the city of the LORD of hosts-the one who reigns with the hosts of heaven has established the city (v. 8). God’s people reflect on His lovingkindness-a clear covenantal term, coupled as it is with His righteousness (v. 9-10), summarized and reflected in His name (cf. Pss. 17:7; 36:10; 40:10; 51:1,19; 89:33-34; Hos. 2:16-20; Jer. 31:3).
Furthermore, it is God’s judgments which bring the people joy and gladness (v. 11). The beauty and impressiveness of the city of the LORD, was something they would tell of to the generations to come (vv. 12-13). And the focus as always was on the LORD who has spoken. The One who is known (v. 3), and heard (v. 8), and thought about (v. 9), and whose judgments the people rejoice in, is the God who will “be our guide even to death.” (v. 14) He is our guide in all of life, to the end.
Psalm 49 The Redeemed Shall Have Dominion In The Morning.
“Both high and low, rich and poor together” (v.2), needed to hear some wisdom from the LORD. “The redemption of their souls is costly.” (v. 8) A ransom is indeed required (v. 7), but it is not a price that any man can pay. The wealth and fame of both the wise and foolish pass on to others, while death takes hold of all (vv. 9-12) God alone can redeem the soul and receive it for all eternity (v. 15). But with the redeemed there is also blessing in this life.
The foolish lay up treasures for the redeemed-those who will place it in the service of the LORD. “The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning.” (v. 14) Again, those are upright who have been redeemed by the LORD-not trusting in their own resources, neither their works or the product they might exchange thereby. People indeed honour and glorify others when they have material riches, but death awaits all.
“A man who is in honour, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish.” (v. 20) Make no mistake, this psalm is not about the supposed evil of riches. It is about those who in their sinful pride and ignorance put their hope and trust in their own efforts and resources. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26, cf. Lk. 12:20)
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.” (Hos. 13:14) Jeremiah, in anticipation of the new covenant, but also in looking back at the previous administrations of the covenant of grace declared, “the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from one stronger than he. (31:11) Christ came to give His life as a ransom (Mk. 10:45), the “one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” (I Tim. 2:5-6)
Furthermore, we are redeemed not only that He might receive us, but that we might journey to Zion, the church and general assembly of the living God. It is a highway of holiness of the church militant on earth, joined with the church triumphant, in the courts of heaven (Is. 35:8-10; Heb. 12:18-24) “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Is. 35:10)
Psalm 50 The LORD Has Spoken-A Covenant By Sacrifice.
“The Mighty One,” are words to shatter all claims otherwise, not just Mighty or all powerful, but the Mighty One-there is no other. “God,” He alone who is above all transcendent. “The LORD,” that is, the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD of salvation history. This One “has spoken.” This is the key. How do we know any of this truly and completely?” He “has spoken.” This is the first axiom of all thought and existence. To echo Schaeffer-He is there and He is not silent (v. 3).
He is the Creator who has “called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down.” (v. 1) As the transcendent One, there ever remains a fundamental Creator-creature distinction. And yet, He chose a people with whom to enter into covenant with (v. 5), Zion “the perfection of beauty.” (v. 2, cf. Heb. 12:22-23) From the church He shines forth in all His glory. God, the LORD acts, and speaks (v.3). And He comes with fire and judgment (v.4).
“Shine forth,” speaks to the glory-cloud, often accompanied as it was by fire, as it was during times of judgment (cf. Lev. 10:2; Nu. 16:35; Ps. 97:3-6; Is. 24; Nah. 1) Such preceded the giving of the law (Ex. 19). And yet, the law was given in love to His covenant people (Dt. 33:1-4) A “theophany,” a visual self-revelation of God. The LORD’s presence is seen in the glory cloud, that which accompanied the tabernacle and then the temple and would ultimately to be found in Zion. Such was the thought of the writer to the Hebrews-12:18-21 (cf. Ps. 80).
For this cause the covenant, which has been ‘cut’, is one which comes by way of sacrifice (v.5). Without sacrifice there is but a judgment by fire. To this the heavens bear witness (v.6, cf. Dt. 4:26, 31:28, 32:1; Is. 1:2). His righteousness alone will suffice. His word testifies against all (v. 7). One should beware, however, that the mere exercise of the offering of sacrifices was not sufficient (v. 8-9). It wasn’t like the LORD needed food-everything is His (vv.10-13). They were the ones who needed the body and the blood of the sacrifice.
Sacrifices mean nothing without thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is for a covenant made by sacrifice-God, the LORD has provided. He is our deliverer, and He challenges us to call upon Him, and to obey by paying our vows to Him-a very covenantal act (cf. Nu. 30:2). The wicked are those who appeal to the covenant in vain-those who do so but refuse His instruction. Remember-He has spoken. But some cast His words behind them (v. 17). We know this from their actions-by their fruit we know (cf. Job 8:13).
What is the standard” The law is the standard, the very “statutes” which they took upon their lips (v.16). They broke the eighth commandment (v. 18), the seventh (v. 18), the ninth (vv. 19-20), and all this because they thought that He was altogether like them-commandments one through three, and ten (v. 21). “You thought that I was altogether like you.” This is the great divide-those who follow their own thoughts, and those who heed the word of God. To reject His word is to forget Him, and to ascend to the throne by one’s own thoughts.
In the LORD alone there is deliverance from certain judgment. Those who reject Him by casting His word behind them, do so to their own peril (v. 22). Men should fear if God is silent-not take it as a license to do evil (v. 21). If God is silent-men remain in sin, destined for judgment. Thank God He is not silent! Praise is offered by those who give thanks that He is not silent, and that He has given a covenant by sacrifice. Those who do order their conduct accordingly, will see His salvation. “Whoever offers praise glorifies me.” (v. 23)
Psalm 51 Joy Restored.
II Samuel 11-12 is the historical backdrop to this Psalm. Nathan’s parable portrays David in an ugly light indeed. As commander in chief David had the authority to send Uriah to the front line of war. It helps explain why David is not being brought before a court of law. The lack of witnesses also explains the same with regard to his sin with Bathsheba-which was sin with consequences nevertheless (12:13-14). This son died-but David believed He was destined for heavenly rest.
The saints of old believed infants of covenant parents went to heaven. “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (12:23) In one and the same sentence David acknowledges the consequences of his sin, but also the hope he yet had in the life to come. But with the birth of Solomon, or Jedidiah (beloved of the LORD), a page was turned. This Psalm helps describe how that page was turned. But the backdrop shows that sin has its consequences but they don’t last forever.
Verse one is all about covenantal terms-this is David’s plea. The covenant is about redemption-the blotting out of transgressions. Cleansing comes to those who acknowledge their transgressions (v. 3). Sin is ultimately against the LORD, and He is justified in His judgment, as Paul also affirmed (v. 4 cf. Rom. 3:4, 5:12). David acknowledged not only his individual sin but the sinful condition that he was born in (v. 5 cf. Ps. 58:4).
The LORD desires truth in the inward parts-superficial religiosity will not due. Human beings are sinful to the core, and to the core one must be cleansed (vv. 6-7). Joy comes when the LORD blots out our transgressions from before His face (vv. 8-9). There can be no doubt that David hearkens back to the law. The blood purging with hyssop looks to the Passover (Ex. 12:7,22). Hyssop spoke to cleansing (Lev. 14:4), and purification (Nu. 19:18-19).
The writer to the Hebrews affirmed that all these things refer to the covenant relation (Heb. 9:19-22). Isaiah spoke of the LORD blotting out transgressions (Is. 43:25), so that His people could then return to Him (44:22). The only thing that can explain how David believed in a future hope for his son dying in infancy, and the statement here of original sin, is the covenant relationship. Furthermore, a new heart is something He must create (v. 10), and a steadfast spirit which is upheld by His Spirit (v. 11 cf. Lk. 11:13).
But David was a man who knew the LORD-he wanted the joy restored, the joy of salvation, this is the work of the Spirit (vv. 11-12). David needed deliverance from the guilt of bloodshed-even if there could not be a court case against him (v. 14). Only if one is forgiven by the LORD can one teach others and sing of the LORD’s righteousness (vv. 13-15). The law required blood sacrifice because of human sin, because what the LORD ultimately desires is a relationship, made possible only by those who acknowledge their sin (vv. 16-17).
A changed heart must come before sacrifices and worship are acceptable. Zion, the church, the people of God, are His people because of His good pleasure (v. 18). The church is also built up because of His good pleasure. Only as the LORD builds can there be true sacrifices of righteousness offered. His people work out because He has worked in that which is good (v. 19 cf. Phil. 2:12-13; II Cor. 3:17). Sin has consequences, but never what we deserve. The covenant relation testifies to grace. The LORD doesn’t give up on His children.
The Lovingkindness Of The LORD.
The core of the covenant relationship was, “You shall be My people, and I will be Your God.” (Jer. 30:22) And Jeremiah would lead into his famous account of the new covenant with the words of chapter 31. 31:1 reiterated the covenantal bond, and he spoke of “grace in the wilderness-“ and rest (31:2). Both old and new were administrations of the covenant of grace. Furthermore, the name LORD, in English capitalized for Jehovah-the God of the covenant, had appeared to him and spoke. “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. (31:3) This is what it is to ‘know’ Him (9:24 cf. Ps. 36:10). To be without His “lovingkindness and mercies” (16:5), was to be without His peace.
It is to such lovingkindness that David appeals in Psalm 51. He asks for mercy based on the covenantal lovingkindness of the LORD. “According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” (v.1 cf. 16:5; 40:10-11; 69:16) ‘Lovingkindness’ was a common word used in the Psalms-17:7; 26:3; 36:7,10; 40:10-11; 42:8; 48:9; 51:1; 63:3; 69:16; 88:11; 89:33; 92:2; 103:4; 107:43; 119:88, 149, 159; 138:2; 143:8, and lovingkindnesses (25:6; 89:49). It is further explained as the source of salvation and deliverance (17:7), and the grounds of one’s trust (36:7). It accompanies those who ‘know’ Him (36:10).
It is found in the cluster of other covenantal terms such as righteousness, faithfulness, salvation, truth, and tender mercies (40:10-11; 69:16; 88:11; 92:2; 103:4; 138:2; ). It is “better than life” (63:3). Isaiah spoke of the mercy and lovingkindnesses of the LORD to His house (63:7). Finally, we find the wonderful expression of this covenantal bond in the prophet Hosea. “I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD.” (2:19-20)
Psalm 52 Trust In The Mercy And Goodness Of God.
This is another Psalm with a very ugly historical background. I Sam. 22:6-23 recounts the actions of the wicked man Doeg. Saul thought that by promising riches and power to all who followed him that this would secure their loyalty (v. 7). Instead, he sensing a conspiracy, has to turn to an Edomite named Doeg. Saul assumed the worst of David and Ahimelech, and out of vengeance he has Doeg slaughter the priests of the LORD, eighty-five in all (v. 18), along with all the inhabitants of the city of Nob where they dwelt (v. 19). Only Abiathar, a son of Ahitub, escaped to tell David (v. 20).
Doeg epitomizes the evil person, motivated by greed and power, and boasting in the same. The wicked are deceitful-there is a complete lack of integrity. They love evil more than good (v. 3). Yet in the midst of such evil, David the psalmist could say, “the goodness of God endures continually.” (v. 1) That goodness, we might be surprised, would show itself in the destruction of the wicked. The wicked would ultimately be uprooted “from the land of the living.” (v. 5). It is worth noting that it isn’t a hope only of a future judgment, but the wicked will ultimately be judged in this life. “The righteous shall also see and fear, and shall laugh at him.” (v. 6)
Those who trust in themselves, in their riches and their own wicked works, shall not endure. The goodness of God is seen and known by those who make Him their strength (v. 7). And David is very clear-it is in God’s mercy that he trusts. This is the way of those who dwell in the house of God, “like a green olive tree.” (v. 8) Mercy is the entranceway into God’s house, and a green olive tree planted by the LORD, is one that bears good fruit, showing true covenant life (cf. Jer. 11:16). Such trust is forever. It leads to praise of His name, in the presence of His saints-those who trust in His mercy and goodness, and remember His works.
Psalm 53 Rejoice And Be Glad.
The biblical idea of who is a fool makes the prevailing cultural worldview look foolish indeed. The bible teaches us that the fool is one who denies God’s existence, the world says a fool is the exact opposite-at least for anything that really matters in life. It is a fundamental belief which goes to the very core of who we are-“the fool has said in his heart.” This fundamental idea, that God does not exist, like all thought, has practical consequences. “They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.” (v. 1 cf. Ps. 14:1)
There is a conflict of understanding. The secular humanist says that those who believe in God are foolish and lack understanding. God says the exact opposite. If men understood reality they would seek out their maker. Secular man will seek out the origin of everything but themselves. Instead they manufacture a lie. This is inconsistent, illogical, and foolish. There is no neutrality-man has to turn away from the truth while turning to error. God has revealed himself-this is the point of contact with man-but the fool denies what he sees and hears.
Such foolishness comes from pride. This is important to remember. “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.” (Ps. 10:4) “There is no fear of God before his eyes.” (Ps. 36:1) Paul refers to Psalm 53 when he speaks to the sinfulness of all men. God’s judgment is just concerning all men. It goes back to the garden. Man, following the lead of Satan, in pride rose up against God, seeking to be God. This was the ultimate expression of sinful pride. Man’s rejection of God’s revelatory word in creation and law remains the ultimate expression of this rebellion (Ps. 19).
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” (Rom. 1:28 cf. Jer. 4:22) We live in a context of conflicting minds-there is no neutral ground. One either has a debased mind, or a mind which is being renewed. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2) Conformed or transformed-these are the polar opposites, and it affects how one lives (cf. Rom. 12:1). Those who renew their minds after God’s revelatory word prove it to be “good, acceptable, and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2)
God will be found by all who seek Him, but He forsakes those who forsake him (II Chron. 15:2). Since they will have no fear of God, He then strikes them with fear. “There they are in great fear where no fear was.” They would not fear God and deny His existence. Instead they are bound by a fear which has no basis in the world which they claim is the only thing which exists. Such irrational fear is an expression of the vengeance of the covenant relation (cf. Lev. 26: 6-8, 17, 25). Those who fail to call upon God lack knowledge (v. 4), whom God gives over to irrational fear (v. 5 cf. Lev. 26:36).
“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Pr. 28:1) When the church is victorious, not “if” but ‘when’, in this life, she must know that it is because God has despised her enemies (v. 5). “Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When God brings back the captivity of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.” (v. 6) Zion, the church militant and triumphant, has the message of salvation-deliverance from captivity, with a Mediator and blood that speaks the same message, but better than everything that came before or will ever come again (Heb. 12:22-24).
It is interesting that the same thought concludes this Psalm, even as it concluded Psalm 14-which also spoke of the fool. It makes sense when one goes back to the covenant relationship and the blessings and curses of Leviticus 26. His people indeed went into captivity, but by being in captivity they did not cease to be His people. Even the covenant promise of land to Abraham had to wait many years to be fulfilled, and for those in captivity, there is the hope of deliverance. Israel and the church has had many periods of captivity, but also of deliverance. We still can have hope that deliverances are yet to come, with gladness and rejoicing.
Psalm 54 Vindication.
David entreats God to pull out all the stops, as it were, to save him. God’s name speaks to the totality of who He is. But not just a God who looks good on paper. Idols might look like impressive works of art, but they are still deaf, dumb, and lifeless. Some people can also have impressive theologies that are nothing more than ink on paper. David pleads for God to act in his space time reality as the sovereign Lord of providence and history. There is one thing which the advocates of free will miss-they’re God does not exist in the bible. It is an idol which they deny every time they pray for God to act in history.
Words have power, when coming from and directed to the right person. “Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your strength. Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.” (vv. 1-2) “Vindicate me by Your strength,” is David’s plea for God to act on his behalf in his space time reality. David wasn’t asking for a warm fuzzy feeling. David was being pursued by those who were intent on taking his life. This Psalm is the prayer from one who is in the midst of trying to save his life from one who was hell bent on his destruction. If they were sent by God, that would be one thing, but just the opposite was the case.
“For strangers have risen up against me, and oppressors have sought after my life; they have not set God before them.” (v. 3). Note well the people David has in mind. This prayer concerns Saul’s desire to do away with David, as we have it recorded in I Samuel 23:14-29. David was hiding in the wilderness of Ziph from Saul, and the residents had betrayed his location to Saul. Saul was the pretender to the throne. God had chosen David. Saul knew he was fighting both the LORD and David, but he sought David out to kill him anyway. But the record there affirms the truth that God is in charge for, “God did not deliver him into his hand.” (v. 14)
However, there was someone else who appears on the scene in David’s life-Jonathan. Jonathan was a man who put his covenant relationship with the LORD before family ties. His father Saul had made the LORD God his enemy. Note well what it says concerning Jonathan, and David’s prayer. “Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God.” (I Sam. 23:16) This was David’s prayer-“vindicate me by Your strength.” God acts through people. God used Jonathan to answer David’s prayer and give him strength. God predestines the means as well as the end.
“Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” (v. 17) Jonathan would have ascended to the throne if God intended mere family succession. But God had more important criteria for kingship-something lost on monarchists today, including those who turn to the bible in supposed support for the monarchial systems today. Jonathan was a man of the covenant, and in that vein he made his covenant with David. “So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD.” Saul was a stranger to the covenant and an oppressor of God’s anointed one.
Saul serves as an example of a man of empty words. To the Ziphites he said, “Blessed are you of the LORD.” (v. 21) No, not blessed at all, rather cursed. God ultimately led David and Saul in two different directions in life, and gave to Saul some other enemies to occupy his vengeance. David went from wilderness wandering to a place of strongholds via a rock of escape (vv. 27-29). And Jonathan chose to play second fiddle to God’s chosen one, rather than be another pretender to the throne. In so doing he became the messenger of God’s strength to the LORD’s anointed. So David can indeed rejoice in answered prayer.
“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is with those who uphold my life, He will repay my enemies for their evil, cut them off in your truth.” (Ps. 54:4-5) The truth often cuts families apart. To be “cut off” is a covenantal term of cursing. In fact, when the biblical writers speak of the making of a covenant they will sometimes speak of “cutting a covenant,” even as the animals are cut in two. Saul was a stranger to the covenant and David was asking God to curse him-to cut him off, as it were, even as the word ‘vindicate’ indicates a judicial complaint. Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the LORD. This was a far more fearful place to be then David simply pursuing him.
Note well, David goes from referring to God as ‘God’, and concludes the Psalm by referring to Him as his covenant LORD, and that by way of sacrifice. “I will freely sacrifice to You; I will praise Your name, O LORD, for it is good.” (v. 6) This is the same name before whom he and Jonathan made their covenant with each other, and it is good. The covenant relationship is an expression of the goodness of the LORD! “For He has delivered me out of all trouble; and my eye has seen its desire upon my enemies.” (v. 7). The LORD did so, in part, through a faithful keeper of the covenant. Let us not miss similar provisions in our lives today.
Psalm 55 Bear True Witness-Judgment Will Be Rendered.
There is no specific context or individual alluded to here, and David appears to emphasize that what he wrote here is applicable to any who might share a similar burden (v. 22). It was the burden of betrayal. It concerned someone who was in the visible church-one with whom he had sweet counsel or fellowship, as they “walked to the house of God in the throng.” (v. 13) His words describe one who was more than an equal, or companion, it was from an acquaintance-a close friend. The words and their order speak to a tightening circle of familiarity with him. In fact, this is one with whom he may have covenanted with, or simply as one he was in covenant with by virtue of his membership in the covenant community (v. 20).
It wasn’t an enemy who was reproaching him-that he could bear (v. 12). It seems that it was a fellow member of the visible church who feigned shared sweet fellowship (v. 14), with words “smoother than butter, but war was in his heart. His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” (v. 21) Smooth soft words which were motivated by hatred and murderous intent (vv. 3, 21). Other words were also spoken-words of an enemy hell bent on oppression. The words of David’s prayer and the reason for his moaning and pain, was that this was the voice of the same person speaking. As with Psalm 54, David sends his witness and petition to the heavenly courtroom for judgment.
A friend was taking counsel with his enemies, all the time whispering sweet smooth soft words of fellowship to him, as he feigned worship to their covenant LORD. There is a unique well of emotions that gets churned up of fear, trembling, and horror, not only when someone intends our destruction, but more so when issuing from a close confident (vv. 4-5). The natural reaction is to flee like a bird to fly away and find rest (v. 6). One would rather dwell alone in the wilderness at peace (v. 7), as an escape from the “storm and tempest” of such a betrayal (v. 8). But David shakes himself and awakens to the brute reality of his only biblical and viable response-let God, the Lord, be the judge (v. 9).
Since he speaks of walking to the house of God with the throng (v. v. 14), it is very likely that the city he speaks of in verse nine is Jerusalem, the place also of his dwelling. The temple or house of God, and Jerusalem, were God’s dwelling place-the church (cf. Heb. 12:22). Long before Matthew 18, David appears to have had a one on one with this person but they would not speak honestly, rather, they chose to say one thing to him and betray him to others, and that with hatred and murderous intent. It would also appear that he was without help from those entrusted to guard this city-those who day and night go around its walls. In other words, the elders could not be trusted either.
What does a true believer do when a fellow member of the visible church bears false witness against you while feigning sweet fellowship, and the leadership is also given over to “iniquity and trouble” (v. 10)? David prays that the Lord would give the whole lot of them over to confusion. He prays that they would fail to get their stories straight-being confused among themselves as to what the “facts” are. This is the meaning of divided tongues (v. 9). The point arrived at here is a fearful one for those who do not repent of this evil activity. More than just confusion, the destiny of these is hell itself, the ultimate covenantal curse (v. 15). They are false members of the covenant and invisible church.
Long before Matthew 18:15-17 David was following the principles therein contained. The problem was the church leadership was as corrupt as the individual. There is one thing that does not fail, however, and that is God’s judgment. The individual must in some cases give up the individual and the leadership in that expression of the visible church, as “heathen,” ie., as giving evidence of being a stranger to the covenant and true church of Christ. David turned to the covenant LORD-a statement of deliberate contrast with these pretenders. “As for me, I will call upon God, and the LORD shall save me.” (v. 16). In other words, you people are going to hell. I, on the other hand, will continue to worship the LORD.
David’s continual prayer was to his covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. Let us put this as simply as possible. If a person lies, and you know they are lying, or they simply refuse to be forthcoming with the truth, such that honest people can render judgment, or there are no honest people to render judgment, then we still have an obligation to treat them as a heathen. David wasn’t just speaking to himself, he bore witness to the throne room of heaven. He was a witness bearer for Divine judgment. He witnessed their deception and lies. God will not be mocked-these voices were heard by Him and He will call forth the witnesses. David had to tell the truth, even if only to God. “God will hear and afflict them.” (v. 19)
We have to accept that some people will never change (v. 19). But neither does God-and judgment will be rendered. “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” The righteous members of the covenant shall be preserved-those who trust in him for that righteousness (v.20). This contrasts with those who practice deceit and lie about their own sin. “But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction; bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.” It is a judgment for this life as well as that to come. David concludes this petition with the same confidence as Psalm 54-that God would render judgment from His heavenly tribunal. God will not be mocked-judgment will be rendered.
Psalm 56 “I Will Praise His Word.”
The title makes reference to David being captured by Philistines in Gath. To this the contributors to ‘The New Geneva Study Bible’, suggest the following. “The closest parallel is I Sam. 21:10-15, when David was feigning madness before the king of Gath in order to escape him.” (p. 813) “Be merciful to me, O God.” This is sometimes the only prayer we can utter. There are times when human help is lacking-in fact, all may seem against us. Some people just never give up-their every waking moment is consumed with oppressing others (v. 1). “My enemies would hound me all day, for there are many who fight against me, O Most High.” (v. 2)
David was a warrior, but there were times when he was afraid. At times like this, his trust was wholly in God (v. 3). David gives us his point of contact-the first axiom of all thought and existence, the only way he knows this God. “In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust.” (v. 4) He wants the reader and hearer to know that his trust is based on the knowledge he has about God from his word. His trust is not based on an idea of God stemming from his own imagination. Without God’s word there is no absolute knowledge of Him, and therefore no trust. God can be trusted because of His word-which also, by consequence here, can also be trusted.
The word we have concerning God is also the basis of our confidence, because His word teaches us that He is in charge, not man. “I will not fear, what can flesh do to me?” (v. 4, 11) It is a rhetorical question, because man can do nothing which God does not permit, and God can be trusted (cf. Ps. 118:6; Heb. 13:5-6). When one is hell bent on evil, they will twist a persons words. People will bear false witness, they will make it to seem that we are saying something we are not saying, to accomplish their evil intent (v. 5). They think that by joining together they are right and will better accomplish their evil intent. “Shall they escape by iniquity?” (v. 7) David didn’t think so.
David prayed. “In anger cast down the peoples, O God.” (v. 7) There are some who believe that such a prayer is not appropriate for a believer. But David was a believer- a man like Abraham, who was justified by faith. This prayer is in fact an act of obedient response to God, who has said, “vengeance is mine, I will repay.” Many will turn to Paul in Romans and say that this is a uniquely Christian principle (Rom. 12:19). But Paul was quoting the law-something which some people believe is no longer a guide for our actions as believers (Lev. 19:18; Dt. 32:35)! David was a man whose faith was based on God’s word, and based on His word, he prayed. This is still to be the response of God’s people.
“You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book?” (v. 8) Another rhetorical question. Such is the Father’s love for His children. More than hearing, our God can and will act. Only a sovereign God can answer David’s prayer with action. But not only is He sovereign, He acts in providence on David’s behalf. “When I cry out to you, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me.” (v. 9) It was certainly based , in part, on his own experience. But many experience “deliverance”. Rather, David makes clear again, that his confidence is ultimately in God’s word.
“In God (I will praise His word), In the LORD (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust.” (vv. 10-11a) Not just God, Maker of heaven and earth, but the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. God’s people have a special added relationship with Him as their covenant LORD. This is what David means when he says, “vows made to You are binding on me, O God.” (v. 12) David had covenanted with God, even as He had covenanted with Him. If this seems boring or inconsequential to you, you don’t understand how stupendous this is! It led David to also say, “I will render praises to You.” (v. 12)
David had the hope of eternal life. “For You have delivered my soul from death.” There is no escaping that David is referring to life apart from the body. Soul does not simply mean mortal life in the scriptures, as some suppose. There are numerous passages which refer to the soul as the person, and that which can exist apart from the body, that which continues to exist while the body dies. However, David also had hope in this life-it was not all about just waiting to die. “Have You not kept my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living.” (v. 13) We can have hope to “see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Ps. 27:13)
Psalm 57 Awaken The Dawn With Praise.
There are times when our only recourse is direct appeal to God for mercy. There are times when we feel as helpless as a little bird seeking shelter under a parent’s wings, at least until the calamities pass by (v. 1 cf. Ruth 2:12; Ps. 17:8; 63:7). As in Psalm 56 there is the appeal to God as “Most High,” a belief in God as the sovereign Lord over all (v. 2 cf. 56:2). This is the God of providence, who acts in history on behalf of His people, the One dwells in heaven but rules in the earth (vv. 2-3). His enemies wanted to take his life, like lions ready for the prey, but God in mercy would deliver him (v. 4).
In God, mercy and truth dwell together (v. 3). From heaven His glory is above all the earth (v. 5). David describes his situation as a small bird, who his enemies are seeking to capture with a net or dug pit. However, in what is a common theme in the psalter and the scriptures as a whole, these enemies end up being caught by their own devices. This is God acting on behalf of his people, bringing on their enemies the very thing they sought to inflict them with (v. 6 cf. Ps. 7:14-16; 9:15-16; 10:2; 35:7-8; 37:15). “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7)
God answered David’s prayer. “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” He was strong and confident to the core, and it led him to praise, with all his strength and instrumental accompaniment (v. 8)! “I will sing and give praise.” (v. 7) He would declare his praise among the nations, praise of the One in whom mercy and truth dwell together (v. 10 cf. 108:3). This is the One who is exalted above the heavens, whose glory is above the earth. Far from being distant, such imagery speaks to the vastness of His mercy (cf. 103:11). For this reason, David like a bird, would greet the dawn with singing and praise (v. 8).
Psalm 58 The Righteous Will Rejoice When They See The Vengeance.
David laments the silence and violence of the judges with regard to righteousness, but what lurks in their hearts betrays their words spoken, and lack of integrity (vv. 1-2). Again David affirms the doctrine of original sin and total depravity (v. 3). They refuse to listen to anyone other than themselves. Their words are lies-poison (4-5). God will bring on them destruction, and their words will fail to accomplish their intent (vv.6-8). It won’t take long either, and their destruction will be complete (v. 9). “The righteous shall rejoice when they see the vengeance; he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked, so that men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely He is God who judges in the earth.” (vv. 10-11)
These Psalms of individual lament (51-59), share some common themes, and they only make sense when understood within the context of the covenant. One such theme is vengeance. Long before Paul’s treatment of this subject, the saints of old understood it as God’s work, not ours. The vengeance of the covenant relation (cf. Lev. 26: 6-8, 17, 25) was written into the very heart of the law. David’s prayer in 56:7, for example, is a prayer that is in fact an act of obedient response to God, who has said, “vengeance is mine, I will repay.” The LORD of the covenant would execute vengeance on behalf of the enemies of His people.
Many will turn to Paul in Romans and say that this is a uniquely Christian principle (Rom. 12:19). But Paul was quoting the law-something which some people believe is no longer a guide for our actions as believers (Lev. 19:18; Dt. 32:35)! David was a man whose faith was based on God’s word, and based on His word, he prayed. This is still to be the response of God’s people. It hearkens back to Moses’ song of witness-written to be a witness in any future lawsuit (32:43). In fact, “the vengeance” was understood as the execution of the lawsuit in the covenant. Jeremiah links vengeance with the LORD’s judgment of his cause (11:20 cf. 15:15).
The righteous will wash their feet in the blood of the wicked (v. 10 cf. 68:23). “But God is the judge; He puts down one, and exalts another.” (75:7) There is more involved in living in covenant with God then many realize. It is a life and death proposition. God will execute vengeance on His enemies on behalf of His people. Those who seek the blood of His saints, and this is what is in view here, will themselves have their own blood trampled underfoot. And this is another common theme-that which the wicked devise will ultimately come back upon themselves. The wicked will suffer the fate they seek to execute on the innocent.
Psalm 59 Power And Mercy Together.
This Psalm of individual lament again puts things into perspective for what we find in these psalms-David’s enemies were after blood. Saul sent these men for just this purpose (I Sa. 19:11). These weren’t just irritants-they are “bloodthirsty men.” However, hatred is the seed of murder, and most of us can relate to David in regard to those who have a hate on for us. As he says, “swords are in their lips.” (v. 7) “They lie in wait,” seeking to catch the innocent by surprise, as David says, “through no fault of mine.” (vv. 3-4 cf. 56:6) Like a dog they return at night hoping to not be seen (v. 6 cf. 14-15). They gather together for a common cause and cover the entire city (vv. 5-6).
The reason these people are getting a hate on is, as David says, they think no one hears (v. 7). And so David appeals to God as his covenant LORD, as the One who does hear (v. 5 cf. Ps. 10:11). “But You O LORD shall laugh at them; You shall have all the nations in derision.” (v. 8 cf. Pr. 1:26) It is for this reason, and this alone, that David can wait, for God is the One who hears and will be His strength and defense (v. 9). “My God of mercy shall come to meet me; God shall let me see my desire on my enemies.” (v. 10 cf. 54:7) David’s desire is that his enemies would “know that God rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth.” Saul had no such claim.
David wanted these enemies to know that He lived by God’s mercy, and that his God rules over all the earth, as the shield of His people (v. 11 cf. 83:18). Words express intent, in this case murderous intent, through cursing (the bearing of false witness), and lying (cf. 57:4). It all stems from sinful pride (v. 12). They are fully deserving of wrath, for this is the very thing they sought to bring upon the innocent (v. 13 cf. Pr. 12:13). For this reason David would sing of God’s power and mercy. Note well, power and mercy together. Our God is able to exercise His mercy, and thankfully, as His people, it is not divorced from His power (vv. 16-17).
Psalm 60 Through God We Will Do Valiantly.
With the longest title of any psalm in the psalter, the historical backdrop is found in II Sam. 8 and I Chr. 18, where David along with his commanders Joab and Abishai ultimately gained victory over many peoples, including the Edomites in the valley of Salt. Unlike the historical records, which highlight the victory, this psalm speaks to some of the setbacks and struggles to gain that victory. It should also be noted that these battles come right after the LORD made His covenant with David, as we have it recorded in II Sam. 7, which itself came after he captured Jerusalem and brought in the Ark of the covenant. I Chronicles 16 elaborates on the significance of the entrance of the Ark, including David’s song of thanksgiving-also found in Psalm 105:1-18.
The testimony is clear-David gained these victories because the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD God was with him. “So the LORD preserved David wherever he went.” (II Sam. 8:6) And the content of this covenant relation was that God would build David a house, and would in the process also build His own house. It is significant that the last of the Old Covenant administrations is focused on God’s house. David dedicated the precious metals he acquired in these victories to the LORD, “along with the silver and gold that he had dedicated from all the nations which he had subdued.” (v. 11) “And the LORD preserved David wherever he went.” (v. 14) David had in mind the situation concerning the Ark of the Covenant and the restoration of true worship, as a transitional point for the people, followed by the covenant relation renewed (I Chr. 15:11-15; 17).
The covenant relation renewed with the covenant with David was David’s hope of restoration (v. 1). They went from confusion as to what the LORD required of the covenant relation and true worship, and in the renewed covenant relation alone there was healing (vv. 2-3). His beloved would be saved and delivered by His power and government (v. 7), His sovereign providence, and the covenant would serve as the banner for those who fear Him-“displayed because of the truth.” (v. 6) Shechem hearkens back to the covenant with Abraham (v. 6), and Joshua was called to fulfill those original promises (Josh. 1:6). And Jacob’s last words would prove fulfilled, including the destiny of Judah. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet.” (Gen. 49:10)
God through David would put Moab in its place (II Sam. 8), and the victories over these enemies are an occasion for praise also in Psalm 108:7-9. “God has spoken in His holiness” (v. 6 cf. 108:7), is also an expression which finds a unique connection with the covenant with David. “My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me.” (89:35-36) This would find ultimate fulfillment in Messiah, even as Genesis 49:10, “and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” Messiah would come in the long Judaic line of lawgivers-to whom obedience would be given by all peoples (Dt. 18:15; Ps. 2:6-9; 72:8-11; Is. 11:1; 42:1, 4; 49:6; 60:1-5; Mt. 1:3; 2:6; 21:9; Lk. 2:30-32; 3:33; Rev. 5:5).
David knew where is strength would come from, and he spoke not only for himself. “Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who will tread down our enemies.” (v. 12) God would empower David and the nation to accomplish His purposes. Only God could give them help from trouble, “for the help of man is useless.” (v. 11) Before the LORD renewed the covenant relation with David, they were as those who were cast off (v. 10). But now there was victory. Their covenant making and covenant keeping God would fight through and for them. This same transition occurred before and after Joshua renewed the covenant the LORD had made with Moses-Joshua 8:30 ff. This same transition occurred with Messiah and the new covenant, except that this was the final renewal-and victory over the nations is assured (Mt. 26:26-29; 28:18-20).
Psalm 61 Our Rock And Tabernacle.
There is no place where we can be, where God cannot hear our prayers. This is good to know, especially at those times when we are overwhelmed to our very core. When we think we are going under, He can and will lift us up and make us secure (vv. 1-2). Only God can deliver us from sinking and place us on a solid foundation. Upon this secure rock the house of the LORD was placed-a secret place of safety where His people behold His beauty (Ps. 27:4-5), and where He leads us and guides us with His truth (Ps. 31:3-5). This idea of the LORD building His house upon the Rock will come up again, as part of the mission of David’s greater Son. This would be part of Messiah’s mission. For David, the Rock and tabernacle are inseparable (v.4).
Moses declared in his song of covenantal witness, that the LORD was “the Rock” (Dt. 32:4, 15). Only when they forsook the covenant would they suffer defeat (Cf. Is. 17:10-11). However, when they remained faithful, even their enemies had to confess the supreme rule of the LORD. “For their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.” (Dt. 32:31) “When He slew them, then they sought Him; and they returned and sought earnestly for God. Then they remembered that God was their Rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer.” (Ps. 78:35) Of course, we know that the rock which followed the people in their journey was Christ (I Cor. 10:4 Cf. Ex. 17:5-7; Ps. 114:8).
This makes what Jesus said in Matthew 7:24 all the more significant. “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the Rock.” More than simply a general statement of the foundation in one’s life, it also spoke to the mission He came to fulfill. This is reinforced by Jesus words following Peter’s confession-that upon this Rock, He would build His church (Mt. 16:18) We are together, old and new, His house, and He is the Rock upon which it is being built (Heb. 3:4-6). The remnant of ethnic Israel accepted Jesus as their Rock, and remained members in His house, to the others He was a “stumbling stone and rock of offense.” [Rom. 9:33 (Is. 8:14), Cf. 28:16]
“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.” (Ps. 95:1) “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.” (II Sam. 22:2 Cf. v. 32, 47; Ps. 18:1) He is our place of refuge (94:22). David made his vows-a very covenantal act. And within that heritage he stood-those who fear His name (v. 5). In return, the LORD would prolong his life (v. 6). Eternal life in God’s presence was His hope, preserved to that end with mercy and truth (v. 7). It was a daily relationship for David (v. 8). Not only so, but his greater Son would also be preserved forever (Cf. Ps. 22:25). David’s vows were binding, and the LORD did preserve him (Ps. 56:12-13). It is the way of His people (76:11).
Psalm 62 The Contentment Of The Silent Soul.
A silent soul is a waiting soul, waiting for the only one who can help, because a silent soul is one that knows it needs salvation that only God can provide. “He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.” (v. 2) A silent soul is a secure soul, one that finds contentment in God alone. The silent soul is the expectant soul-expecting God to answer prayer and deliver, expecting God to exercise vengeance where vengeance is due. The silent soul is one that has God as their rock, defense, salvation, refuge, glory, and strength.
The wicked are sound and fury, hell bent on murdering the innocent. But God will slay the proud, overthrowing them “like a leaning wall and a tottering fence.” (v. 3) Those the psalmist has in view are actually hypocrites. “They bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly.” (v. 4) These are not fellow believers who sometimes don’t know what to say to a fellow believer, or indeed fellow sinners saved by grace and working out their sanctification. These are impostors, “who delight in lies.” These are people deliberately bent on the destruction of others who are innocent.
These are those who are motivated by envy, of one in a higher position than they, and that they cannot possess. Thus they want to bring the one who is higher down. But the psalmist knows what will be the end of those gripped by envy. He also knew what is the real state of those of high degree-at least before God. “Surely men of low degree are a vapor, men of high degree are a lie; if they are weighed on the scales, they are altogether lighter than vapor.” (v. 9) The psalmist warns against trusting in riches, or in violence and robbery.
The godly contentment of the silent soul trusts in Him for its needs, and is thankful to Him for what it has. “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (v. 8) The silent soul knows all this because God in His mercy has spoken. “God has spoken once, twice I have heard this; that power belongs to God.” (v. 11) The scriptures are the first axiom of all thought and existence. And what he knows is that power and mercy both belong to God. It is not power without mercy, nor is it mercy without the power to act.
God could speak once and it would always be true. But for us, in His mercy, He speaks twice, because “on the testimony of two or three witnesses (Dt. 17:6), matters of life and death are decided. And judgment is what is ultimately at stake for all. “For You render to each one according to his work.” (v. 12) The silent soul is the humble soul that trusts in God’s mercy for when that judgment comes. The proud and the hypocrites will be slain (v. 3), and all their consultation with each other, as though the majority is always right, will count for nothing but additional judgment.
Psalm 63 Soul And Body-Satisfied With God Day And Night.
David wrote this psalm while in the desert wilderness of Judah. The beginning verses highlight this. David had a personal relationship, as we would say. God was his God. And it was the most important relationship in his life-his day began with prayer, and no doubt early in every circumstance he was in, he sought the Lord. He also looked for Him in the sanctuary-to see His power and glory. So David’s God is a personal God, and a God who has the power to act in all His glory. And in the sanctuary there was one chief understanding of glory-the glory Presence of God, symbolized in the overarching cherubim covering the mercy seat.
Pietism would see in David’s desert wilderness experience a mere physical metaphor for his spiritual condition. However, it was a spiritual situation which in fact reflected his total state-both body and soul. The scriptures absolutely repudiate any notion of spirituality which separates body and soul, or that sees the soul only as that spiritual life of the believer. David’s flesh also longed for God! “My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land.” (v. 1) However, this psalm also affirms that man is both body and soul, soul is not just the life of the person, as others suppose.
David found the LORD in the sanctuary where His glory was symbolized in the glory Presence above the Ark of the covenant. And at the core of that covenant was a relationship initiated and established on the basis of the LORD’s lovingkindness-a very covenantal term. It continues as the basis of the new covenant administration of the covenant of grace, as we find in the preamble to Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new to come (Jer. 31:1-3; Cf. Ps. 138:2). His lovingkindness thus leads David to praise Him while He lives-again, he wasn’t living in escape for a future life alone (vv. 3-4). Body and soul together are satisfied together offering praise (v. 5).
David began His day with God and he ends His day with Him also, and he ends it by reflecting on who He is and what good things He has shown and done for him (vv. 6-8) This is a good and healthy exercise for any saint-to begin the day with God, and to end it with reflecting on who He is and what He has done (Cf. Ps. 42:8). The core of a healthy spiritual life is a right apprehension of who God is with a heart of gratitude for what He has done. Those who sought his life were destined for a far different end-they would fall by the sword, by David’s sword (v. 10). Therefore He as King would rejoice.
However, this psalm was and is for more than just King David. It is for “everyone who swears by Him,” that is, it is for all those who have taken their vows of living in covenant with the LORD. “You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.” (Dt. 6:13) Those in covenant with the LORD shall glory, because as LORD of the covenant He will protect, defend, and empower His people for victory. On the other hand, those who take His name in vain will not be guiltless (Dt. 5:11). This David also affirmed. “But the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.” (v. 11).
Psalm 64 A Bitter End.
David had a complaint-‘meditation’ is too weak of a word for what is on his mind here. He was pleading to God to save his life from the wicked and their secret plots. The chief weapons of the wicked, in this case, are bitter words. Bitterness is the opposite of contentment. It is an adjective of envy (Js. 3:14). It rarely involves the individual alone- many become defiled (Heb. 12:15). “They encourage themselves in an evil matter.” (v. 5) They plan and lay plots in secret-against the blameless. Bitter envy is not just coveting what someone else has, it is scheming that the other cannot have what is rightfully theirs. “If I can’t have it, then neither will they.”
However, God sees, knows, and will act. “He will make them stumble over their own tongue.” (v. 8) Here is another theme that runs throughout the psalter, that the wicked will be caught by their own devices. When it happens, men will think twice before they allow bitterness to ruin their lives (v. 9). The sorcerer Simon was not numbered among the apostles, envied their gifts, and was bitter about it. Peter told him to repent, because he saw that bitterness had poisoned him (Acts 8:23). David’s enemies were also poisoned, and they would die from their own venom. The wise will fear God and declare His work, and the righteous will be glad (vv. 9-10).
Psalm 65 Praise To God For His Salvation And Providence.
Praise awaits God in Zion, the place where He choses to dwell. Zion is the church, and to it all flesh will come (Heb. 12:22-24). God hears the prayers of those who confess their iniquities and transgressions, for those who take their covenantal vows, and atonement is provided (vv. 1-3). These are those whom God has chosen to approach Him in this covenant relation, to dwell in His courts and be satisfied with the goodness of His house, of His holy temple (v.4). And together with the saints of old, we are His house (Heb. 3:4-6), and temple of His presence (Jn. 2:19-21; Eph. 2:21). By awesome deeds of righteousness He is the “God of our salvation.” (v. 5) In this salvation alone will all people find their confidence before Him.
This God is the omnipotent One, with sovereign rule among the nations, and control over all the earth. The signs of His authorship and rule are everywhere, so that all people are afraid, but all creation daily rejoices in Him (v. 8). He is the One who waters the earth so that it is enriched and blessed with growth (vv. 9-10). Year by year His goodness is manifested (v. 11), in the wilderness and the little hills (v. 12). Not only in the wilderness but also in the pastures, the flocks are multiplied, and the fields are covered in grain. Wilderness and pastures together “shout for joy, they also sing.” (v. 13) The whole earth and everything in it, sings for joy. Our God is worthy of praise both in His salvation and His providence.
Psalm 66 Sanctification – A Rich Fulfillment.
A call to the whole earth to praise God for who he is, His name, and what He has done and continues to do, His works. His power, part of who He is, manifests itself in His work of causing His enemies to submit (vv. 1-5). He rules all creation and governs it for the good of His people (v. 6). He is both omnipotent and omniscient-He not only knows, but He is also able to act. His power is not blind-He sees all things (v. 7). His enemies are not the nations as such-all are called to bless and worship Him (v. 8). God alone can keep one’s soul secure (v. 9).
God’s people do sometimes suffer, but not without a purpose. God tests His people that they might more and more be sanctified into His image-like the refining of silver (v. 10). Affliction and oppression among men, and fire and water in the earth, from all things God will bring His people “out to rich fulfillment.” (v. 12) And this sanctification is based on a relationship built of sacrifice (vv. 13-15). It is a covenantal relationship, wherein God has provided a sacrifice, and His people respond with their vows of obedience. If it were simply one’s own work, then there would be no need for sacrifice.
Iniquity had to be dealt with, and it is by way of sacrifice. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” (v. 18) Prayer is useless if we harbor iniquity in our hearts. Repentance is the necessary twin sister to faith. The Psalmist wants the whole world to know that when he dealt with his sin, God heard his prayer, and so he offered praise (vv. 16-19). It was a relationship based on mercy. Sanctification is made possible because of mercy and sacrifice. “Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!” (v. 20)
Psalm 67 A Psalm Of The Great Commission And The Cultural Mandate.
The psalmist pleads for God to bless-knowing that blessing is based on mercy, in fact, mercy is the chief blessing, that very thing which is necessary for spiritual life itself. Only in mercy do we want Him to look upon us, but when He does, there is nothing better than to have His face to shine upon us (v. 1). And this shining is not an end in itself-God shows His people mercy and favour so that He may be made “known on earth.” (v. 2) We know that mercy means salvation, because the psalmist says so, and God wants that this salvation would be known “among all nations.” (v. 2)
This hearkens back to the priestly blessing of Numbers 6: 24-26, wherein the priests put God’s name on His people and blessed them (v. 27). “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” The prophets looked ahead to a time when the outreach to the nations would increase, including Isaiah, who saw the promised Servant to come (52:10). As Peter and Paul were doing their work, God was also moving in the heart of an Alexandrian, Apollos (Acts 18:24-25).
It has always been God’s intention that His people make known His salvation to all the nations. This goes to the heart of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:2; 17:4-7; 18:18). What God was doing with the Patriarchs and the nation of Israel was never just for them, anymore than what God is doing today is just for one people or nation. It has always been God’s intention that people from every tongue, and tribe, and nation serve Him. This was reiterated by Jesus in His great commission (Mt. 28: 18-20), which itself is a fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14 (Cf. Mk. 16:15-18; Lk. 24:46-49).
Daniel makes clear, as does Psalm 110, that this reign started when the Messiah ascended to the right hand of the Father-for it is the reign of the One who sits on His throne in heaven. From the heavenly throne of His Glory Presence He rules among the nations (Ps. 2). “Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You. O, let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (v. 3-4a, 5. Cf. Titus 2:11) And part of this worldwide expansion, part of this salvation, is that God “shall judge people righteously, and govern the nations on earth.” (v. 4b)
This isn’t a promise of future judgment and rule in heaven, rather it is His rule from the heavenly throne among all “nations on earth.” (v. 4b. Cf. Ps. 96:10-13; 98:9) With the worldwide expansion of this salvation there is a worldwide expansion of His rule, a rule that is according to the law-word of the covenant. Israel was but an example of what God intended for all nations. Salvation is not just sanctification of the individual, nor is sanctification of the individual just a private matter. God’s intention is that He would govern every area of life among all peoples and all nations.
What is more, even the created order shall experience the effects of the worldwide expansion of this salvation. “Then the earth shall yield her increase; God, our own God, shall bless us.” (v. 6) Paul made this point also when he said, “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Rom. 8:22) So we see that it is also not a salvation apart from the earth, the physical, the body, but rather, it is inclusive of this. “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope.” (vv. 23-24)
What is involved here is covenantal blessing, even as we find it in the law-word of the covenant. “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. For I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you.” (Lev. 26:3-4,9 Cf. Ps. 85:12) As Ezekiel said, with the “covenant of peace’ would come “showers of blessing.” (34:25-27) Such will be the possession of the remnant (Zech. 8:12).
The faith of God’s covenant people is a whole world and life view-a biblical and covenantal view of all of life. From one’s basic presuppositions, to their outworking into every sphere-God rules it all, via the law-word of the covenant. Adam and Eve were given the cultural mandate at the dawn of creation-the exercise of dominion in stewardship to the creator (Gen 1:26-28; 2:15). The fall tarnished that. But the Great Commission, which began with the promise of Genesis 3:15, is to restore that mandate, to His glory. Gospel preaching isn’t simply fire insurance for a heavenly rest.
Psalm 68 The Strength Of The Ascended One.
The enemies of God are like smoke and melting wax-there is nothing of substance and they quickly pass (vv. 1-2). On the other hand, the righteous rejoice before God and are glad when they see the end of His enemies, as He “rides on the clouds.” (v. 4) The righteous also rejoice because God is a Father to the fatherless, and places the solitary in families. “He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” (v. 6) The righteous and God’s enemies are opposites-the righteous are not rebellious toward God.
The history of the covenant relationship is one where God has delivered His people and watered the earth, which itself was moved at His presence. Hereby God “confirmed” His inheritance, His congregation who were weary, His goodness to the poor (vv. 7-10). And the key to this covenant relationship, and the redemption associated with it, is the word. “The LORD gave the word; great was the company of those who proclaimed it.” (v. 11) Great was the company of those who proclaimed His word!
No one could say that God the LORD was not clear, or that they had not heard. Kings heard that word and they and their armies fled (vv. 12, 14). His people, on the other hand, were as she who remains at home and divides the spoil, and “like the wings of a dove covered with silver.” (v. 13) At Bashan, east of the Jordan at the beginning of the possession of the land, God staked His claim for His people (vv. 15-16). Verse 17 is a picture of the heavenly court and Council of the Glory Presence (Cf. Dan. 7:10). God may “dwell” in Bashan, but He rules from the heavenly court.
Verse 18 also finds Messianic fulfillment. They are all crystal clear. After the Lord gave his disciples the ‘Great Commission’ as we find it in Mark (vv. 15-18), Mark then states the following. “So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.” The Lord is seated on His heavenly throne, and yet, He is working with them, confirming His word.
The ascended Lord sent His Holy Spirit (Acts 1:9). Paul quotes verse 18 but in light of its fulfillment-He gave gifts to men (Eph. 4:8). God has highly exalted Him, upon His completed work on the cross (Phil. 2:8-9). Christ is sitting at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3). It was He who poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and beyond, with the accompanying signs (Acts 2:4, 33; 10:44-46; I Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:7-12). He rides on the clouds of heaven, and from there His voice is sent out (v. 33-34).
God’s people are daily loaded with benefits from the God of their salvation, including escape from death (vv. 19-20). But all who continue on in their trespasses are His enemies, and their heads will be wounded (vv. 21-22), crushed under the feet of His people (v. 23). God is seen entering the sanctuary with singers and instruments of praise (vv. 24-27). God will strength His people, and dwell in their midst (vv. 28-29). The nations will ultimately submit, bring gifts, and offer their worship also (vv. 30-35).
Psalm 69 Zeal For The House Of The LORD.
David’s distress was such that he thought he would drown under the weariness, even in his own tears (vv. 1-3). He was waiting on God, but seemingly with no place to stand. There is an irony to suffering which David tries to capture-his throat is dry, while the waters engulf him. It is a spiritual truth that the salt water of one’s sufferings, cannot of themselves quench our thirst. Whether from personal hatred or because of his position, David’s enemies hated him without cause. He is asked to restore what he has not stolen (v. 4).
Verse 4 and the hatred of God’s enemies finds fulfillment, according to John, in the person and work of Christ (15:25 Cf. Ps. 35:19; 109:3-5). We should note that John says, “that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law.” So here we see that John refers to the Psalms as their law, in effect, the canon of the old testament as a whole. They all point to the same thing-they hated without cause and returned His love with hatred. And so we should also know that the world will also hate us if we follow Him (vv. 18ff.).
One of the sad consequences of our foolishness, and our sin, is the danger that those who are seeking God may be discouraged in doing so and be ashamed (vv. 5-6). David understood that sin is never just personal in its effects. It is true that all sin is against God, because He is the one to call sin what it is (Ps. 51:5-6). But others are impacted by our foolishness and sin as well. But there are also times when perhaps our family and friends may be ashamed simply because we choose to do that which is right-such as our zeal for God’s house, His church (vv. 7-9).
Verse 9 carries forward the thought of verse 4, and the fulfillment referred to by John. They hated our Lord without cause, and one of the reasons was His zeal for God’s house. John also saw this truth in this Psalm fulfilled in Christ. Zeal for God’s house was eating Him up, and caused Him to clear it of the moneychangers (2:17). This was He who became a stranger to His brothers, an alien to His mother’s children (Ps. 69:8 Cf. Is. 53:3; Mk. 3:21; Lk. 8:19; Jn. 7:3-5). And Paul, quoting this Psalm, saw Christ as receiving the hatred that was directed to God (Rom. 15:3).
The leaders and judges also sit in reproach, and this was certainly the case with the leaders in Jesus day (10-12). David no doubt also experienced this. And David, on the basis of God’s mercy, turns to God for his salvation (vv. 13-15). He appeals to the LORD’s lovingkindness expressed in the covenant relation, the multitude of His tender mercies (vv. 16-18). The LORD knew his reproach, shame, and dishonor (v. 19-20). Such was also the condition of Messiah (Ps. 22:6-7; Heb. 12:2). None would deliver, but He would deliver Himself (Is. 63:5).
Amidst the many references to Messiah in this psalm, we then come upon a third direct quote in verse 21. “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” For his dry throat (v. 3), they gave Him vinegar to drink (Mt. 27:34, 48; Mk. 15:23, 36; Lk. 23:36). When He finally did sip of the sour wine, His work was finished (Jn. 19:28-30). And in these verses Paul sees the actions of apostate Israel being fulfilled (vv. 22-23 Cf. Rom. 11:9-10). They were being subject to the lawsuit curse of the covenant (Dt. 32:21), for they were not of the elect (Rom. 11:7).
Anger and wrath was being poured out, for the elect remnant it was on Messiah, for the rest they would suffer themselves (vv. 24-28). The covenant was broken, and someone had to pay the price. Messiah paid that price, and David, along with all the poor and sorrowful, rejoice in His salvation with thanksgiving (vv. 29-33). The whole of creation will praise Him, along with Zion, His church (vv. 34-35 Cf. Heb. 12:22-24). These are those who are the true descendants of His servants in the past, they inherit the promises, dwelling together in His house (v. 36 Cf. Heb. 3:4-6).
Psalm 70 “Let God be magnified!”
What do we magnify in life? Those who love the salvation of the LORD magnify Him. Others seek to hurt their neighbours, especially those who magnify the LORD. David prays that these enemies would receive the very things which they seek to inflict-that God would turn the tables on them, so to speak. It is a common theme in the psalms that the wicked will eventually be caught by their own desires and devices. Shame and confusion and turning back from their plans-this is what David prays. On the other hand, the poor and needy know they need God, and He is their help and deliverer. Therefore, those who seek the LORD will rejoice and be glad (Cf. Ps. 35:4-8, 26; 40:15). God is magnified in the salvation of sinners, and in the turning back of His enemies. “Let God be magnified!”
Psalm 71 Only The Righteousness Of The LORD God.
The psalmist is focused on God’s righteousness. Righteous here is more than just justice, virtue, or that which is right. It also means rectitude or integrity. God can be trusted because He has absolute integrity and rectitude. God cannot be anything but right and just. This cannot be said of any man, even Adam before the fall held the possibility for the fall. But there are some things which God cannot be or do. It is impossible for God to not be righteous. It is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:18). For this reason God can be trusted as a solid place of refuge (vv. 1-3).
This was something that the psalmist knew from his youth, even from infancy (vv. 5-6). The older generation had passed this on, and he asks that the LORD would permit him to do the same (vv.9; 17-18 Cf. Dt. 4:5; 6:7). His God had acted in His power in his life. The LORD had been faithful his whole life. Many were ready to give up on him, but the LORD God remained his “strong refuge.” (v.7) He had reason to hope in, and to praise Him, continually (vv.8, 14). Prayer was no futile exercise (v.12).
The unrighteous are just the opposite-cruel (v.4). And he did not know the limit of that cruelty (15). They counsel together to take down the LORD’s people, because they think that God has forsaken them (vv.10-11). So also for this reason, he would tell of the LORD’s righteousness, and His salvation all the day (v.15). The LORD’s righteousness only, is the salvation of His people (v.16). There is no righteousness like the LORD’s righteousness (v.19). Even though God had shown him great and severe troubles, He would revive him, comfort him, and make him great (vv.20-21).
The psalms themselves call for instrumental accompaniment, contrary to those who claim to follow “the regulative principle.” The psalms themselves command their use. He can’t help but want to worship God for His faithfulness, and His holiness (v.22), and to sing as one of the redeemed (v.23). Only those who are redeemed can truly worship God acceptably. But it is the LORD’s righteousness that stands out the most here-seen in the defeat of his enemies. In His righteousness He confounded and consumed their enemies (vv.13, 24).
Psalm 72 The Dominion Of The Son.
When the king looks to God’s “judgments,” the people will experience righteousness and justice (vv. 1-2), and his son will bring hope. Mountains and hills are symbolic of governments and rule (v. 3). The judgments of the king’s son will permeate to the smallest of governmental rule, and to the poorest of the people (v.4). Oppressors will be broken. God will be feared “as long as sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.” (v. 5) The king’s son will be a blessing to the whole earth (v. 6). “In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more.” (v. 7)
Note well, this reign does not start when the moon is no more rather, it will start with His appearing and continue until the moon is no more. It is a reign characterized by the judgments of God, righteousness, justice, blessing, and peace. This Son “shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.” The idea of dominion hearkens back to the garden and the duties of man, but this Son will have a dominion that will cover all. When it says that His enemies will lick the dust-this also hearkens back to the curse of Satan and the promised seed of the woman (Gen. 3:14-15).
It concerns more than Israel (v. 10). “Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him.” (v. 11) He will save the souls of the needy-those poor in spirit, those who know their need (vv. 12-13). He will redeem them (v. 14). We also have here a testimony to His deity-for only God can receive prayer and the praise of worship (v. 15). The people and the earth both shall flourish (v. 16). His name shall endure forever, and He shall receive blessing from the nations reserved for God alone (vv. 17-18). The whole earth will be filled with His glory (v. 19). The was in fact the goal and purpose of the covenant promise of the land-God’s glory to fill the whole earth (Cf. Nu.14:21).
This blessing to and from all nations is also in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:3). As Isaiah put it, this reign effectively dawned with the birth of the Son and would continue on forever (9:6-7). The Spirit and the Father signaled the inauguration of the Son’s ministry, echoing the words of Isaiah 11:2 (Cf. Mt. 3:16-17; Mk. 1:10; Lk. 3:22; Jn. 1:32). Isaiah 11:3-5 echoes this psalm, as does Zechariah 9:10. David’s greater Son may be at the right hand of God (Ps. 110), but He also rules on the earth. So also is the testimony of Habakkuk. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (2:14)
The Psalms: Book 3
Psalm 73 The Strength Of My Heart And My Portion Forever.
God is good to the pure in heart, those who choose a path that leads to His presence and instruction (vv. 1-2, 17). However, the psalmist almost stumbled in getting to that place, when he saw the prosperity of the wicked and boastful (vv. 2-3). Some of these maintain their strength even to the grave (v. 4), never having suffered trouble (v. 5). For this reason they remained boastful and violent, confident in themselves, proud of their ways. “Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish.” (v. 7)
Those who follow these kind of leaders see their “success” and conclude that God does not know (v. 11). This is why the psalmist calls them ungodly. God does know, and so do those who follow the path to His presence, and the understanding He gives (v. 17). But the psalmist could not avoid thinking that he has sanctified his heart and hands in vain (vv. 13-14). He remained silent so as not to discourage those also seeking after God (vv. 15-16). However, all became clear when he found himself in God’s presence and learned of the real end of the wicked (v. 17).
The prosperity and “success” of the wicked is in fact a slippery place to be. Their neglect of God and His ways will result in them being “utterly consumed with terrors.” (v. 19) When the psalmist was alone with his own thoughts he was “foolish and ignorant.” (v. 22) But when he finally rested in God’s presence, the Lord guided him with His counsel, with confidence that He would afterward receive him to glory (v. 24). It cannot be said often enough that the word of God, His counsel, is the first axiom of all thought and existence.
The psalmist does not place confidence in himself-this was the chief fault of the wicked. “Who have I in heaven but You?” This can mean two things. Who will stand up for him when he dies and is received into His glory? His answer is not himself, but rather it is the Lord. But it also concerns life on earth, for He who rules from heaven, rules over all. Therefore, there was also none upon earth that he desired more (v. 25). Whether in this life, or in that to come, “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (v. 26)
Drawing near to God and receiving His counsel, made everything clear to the psalmist. The wicked who seem to suffer no loss in this life, will ultimately be found to have lived upon the slippery ground of self-deception, for God has left them in that state until that day when they will wake up to the terrors of judgment. These are those who have deserted the Lord for harlotry (v. 27). But those who draw near to God will put their trust in Him, and will declare His works. The wicked believe that God does not know, but those who draw near know and declare otherwise (v. 28).
Psalm 74 The Church Is God’s Covenant People.
The church is God’s purchased inheritance, the redeemed in the earth (vv. 1-2, 12). But His enemies are bent on its destruction (vv. 3-8). It is true that this psalm had immediate reference to the Babylonian captivity of 586. But as with that event so also today, the church suffers from her own neglect, a neglect which her enemies have seized upon to her destruction. There is no longer any prophetic word or accompanying signs-there seems to be no place for the canonical word (v.9 Cf. I Sam. 3:1; Lam. 2:9; Ezek. 7:26; Amos 8:11).
The psalmist laments the blasphemy of God’s name by His enemies, and the seeming abandonment of His people (vv. 10-11, 18). This is the God over all creation, from the creation of light and the sun, to the ruling of the seas, including that famous parting of the red sea, or the crossing of the Jordan (Cf. Ex. 14:21; Josh 3:13). He provides food to all men, and works His salvation in all the earth (vv. 12-17). But His people are His special possession, like a turtledove threatened by a beast (v. 19). They are the people of His covenant-this is what sets them apart.
This covenant relationship is the hope of the poor and needy. How foolish it is for God’s people to abandon the hope of the covenant. It is a sin to deny the covenant foundation of God’s church-it is the very basis of any special place at all. Those who deny it deny the only hope for the poor and needy in the earth (vv. 19-21). This is what the psalmist means when he asks God to ‘plead’ His ‘cause’-it is a call for the God of the covenant to act (vv. 22-23). The psalmist was pleading for God to make good on the commitment which He had made (Cf. Lev. 26:44-45; Jer. 31).
Psalm 75 Thanksgiving For God’s Judgment.
God’s character and presence can be seen in the works which He performs (v. 1). His timing may not be what we would like or expect-but He will judge the whole earth (v. 2-3). Those who carry on stubbornly in their boasting are warned (vv. 4-5 Cf. I Sam. 2:3). It is God alone who exalts and brings down (vv. 6-7 Cf. Ps. 147:6). Those who forget who the Judge is will drink the cup of judgment (v. 8 Cf. I Sam. 2:7; Ps. 50:6 , 101:8; Jer. 25:15-16; Rev. 14:10, 16:19). In the long run it is the righteous who will be exalted-the opposite of those who take pride in themselves alone, and the righteous will sing His praises forever (vv. 9-10 Cf. I Sam. 2:1; Ps. 89:17, 94:4, 148:14)!
Psalm 76 God Is Awesome!
God is known in a very special way among His people, the place where He chooses to dwell (vv. 1-3 Cf. Ps. 48:1-3, 68:35). He causes the mighty to fall (vv. 4-6). God Himself is to be feared. Judgment comes from His presence in heaven, but it is executed for the oppressed in the earth (vv. 7-9 Cf. Ex. 15:1-21, 19:9; Zech. 12:4). God is praised in both the destruction of the wicked, and in the deliverance of the oppressed (v. 10 Cf. Isaiah 10:12, 40:10-11; Nah. 1:7). Therefore, those who are delivered take their vows to Him-a very covenantal act. On the other hand, the arrogant rulers will be cut off-also a very covenantal act (vv. 11-12). “O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places. The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people. Blessed be God!” (Ps. 68:35)
Psalm 77 Remember!
Ever lose sleep because your spirit was overwhelmed, and your soul refused to be comforted? Sometimes when one goes to God in trouble, there is more trouble still (vv. 1-3). Such is what happens to the saints when God seems to have abandoned His people (vv. 4-6). “Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has mercy ceased forever? Has His promises failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” (vv. 7-9) These are questions which come from an anguished heart (v. 10a).
So, what is the answer? The psalmist “will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” (v. 10b) He chooses to remember “the works of the LORD,” and His “wonders of old.” (v. 11) He will remember the acts in history of the LORD of the covenant, his work and deeds, His way in the sanctuary, and the strength He has given to the redeemed in the earth (vv. 12-15). He would remember, in particular, that might act of redeeming His covenant people from the oppression of a foreigner, doing so by moving heaven and earth to that end (vv. 16-20 Cf. Ex. 14:21).
Psalm 78 Shepherded With Integrity And Skill.
God, through the psalmist, calls His people to hear His law (v. 1). How contrary to the false teachers in the so-called churches today who call the people to abandon His law. It is no good for them to claim that they have Christ instead, for He is the one speaking here! “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old.” (v. 2 Cf. Mt. 13:34-35) This is a prophetic word which found fulfillment in the teaching ministry of Jesus! And His word still comes to many in parables, “that hearing they would not understand (Mk. 4:12). “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 2:7)
God gave a canon, a law of holy scripture that each generation was to pass on to the next (vv. 3-4 Cf. Ex. 12:26-28, 13:8, 14; Dt. 4:9, 6:7; Job 15:18; Is. 38:19; Joel 1:3). A law and a testimony was commanded to the fathers, which they were to make known to their children, and they in turn to their children (vv. 5-6). “That they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.” (v. 7). However, it was not enough to mouth the words, for their fathers did not practice what they preached (v. 8). This is what it means to not keep the covenant-refusing to walk the talk (v. 10). They were ignoring history (v. 11).
They should have remembered redemptive history, with thanksgiving (vv. 12-16). God did marvelous things in the sight of the fathers-He acted in the created order itself on their behalf. Nevertheless they tested Him and rebelled. But still He provided streams of water in the wilderness, along with bread and meat for their sustenance (vv. 17-20). So God’s anger was kindled against them (v. 21). “Because they did not believe in God, and did not trust in His salvation.” (v. 22). Then He gave them manna from heaven, angel’s food (vv. 23-25), and fouls of the air (vv. 26-31), but still they complained, and God was displeased.
Still the people did not believe. They had other explanations for why they hadn’t perished, so they wandered in futility and fear (vv. 32-33). Only when He punished them did they choose to remember that He was their rock and redeemer (vv. 34-35). Yet, it was all words, while their hearts were elsewhere. Thus they were unfaithful to the covenant (vv. 36-37). But still, the LORD had compassion on them (vv. 38-39). They limited “the Holy One,” they forgot about His power which He exercised in their deliverance (vv. 40-55). But, yet again, the next generation sinned with idolatry, and they suffered defeat and captivity (vv. 56-64).
Then, once again, the LORD delivered His people, and beat back His enemies. But this time He renewed His covenant with David-choosing Judah and Mount Zion. He would shepherd His people through David, even as He did through Moses and Aaron (Ps. 77:20). And in David we find the standard for the shepherding of God’s people. “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.” Ps. 78:72 It has always been rare to find individuals, especially leaders, who combine integrity with skill. The bible uses ‘heart’ to describe the core of an individual, and David’s was following His Lord here.
Hypocrisy is having one’s heart or core going in one direction while the mouth and other actions go in another. Only God can change a person’s heart and bring harmony of character. It also strikes me that throughout history there have been many skillful shakers and movers, however, many lacked integrity. Many a double minded individual have been blessed with skill, but lack of integrity meant that their skill was wasted or misdirected. However, David’s greater Son has of course always had singleness of heart and skillfulness of hands. In the embracing of both we also become more like Him in all that He has gifted and called us to be and do.
Psalm 79 Atonement Has Been Provided.
The nations that did not know God, nor call upon His name, laid the temple and Jerusalem to waste, and slaughtered His people (vv. 1-7). Jeremiah testified to this as well-52:12-14. The psalmist pleads for mercy, that God would no longer remember their iniquities. What they needed was atonement from the God of their salvation, for the glory of His name (vv. 8-9). Like Jeremiah, it was a covenantal plea (14:7, 21). In the atonement and salvation of His people God would be glorified.
God’s glory would also be seen in the avenging of the blood of His servants, against those who mock the idea that He cares for them (v. 10). His power delivers those in prison and preserves those appointed to die (v. 11). A sevenfold judgment of perfection awaits those who make such plans-tables turned, they meet their own end (v. 12 Cf. Lev. 26:21; Pr. 6:31; Is. 30:26). “So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will give You thanks forever; we will show forth Your praise to all generations.” (v. 13)
Psalm 80 Restoration From The Man At God’s Right Hand.
God is the Shepherd of the people of His flock (Cf. Pss. 23; 77:20; 78:52, 71-72; 79:13 ). He is the One who rules and speaks from the Council of the glory-presence, which dwells between the cherubim above the mercy seat (Ex. 25:20-22; I Sam. 4:4; II Sam. 6:2). He ever looks upon His flock in mercy, and from His glory He shines forth (v. 1 Cf. Ex. 33:9-11; Nu. 7:89; Ps. 99:1, 7). From His heavenly throne, through His strength alone, He saves His people (v. 2). Restoration and salvation comes from God, when He shines His face upon His people (vv. 3, 7 Cf. Nu. 6:24-26). This is the covenant making and covenant keeping “LORD God of hosts.” (vv. 7, 19) The angelic company do His bidding, and His saints on earth, as He rides upon the clouds to do battle with His people (v. 4 Cf. Dt. 33:2)). His judgments also bring tears to His people, and their enemies laugh and scoff (vv. 5-6).
Israel is also likened unto a vine which the LORD planted in the land promised in the covenant (Gen. 15:7), uprooting those who had no rightful claim (Ps. 44:2; Acts 7:45). At first, Israel prospered (vv. 8-11), but then she was broken down under the judgment of God (vv. 12-16 Cf. Is. 5:1-7; Jn. 15:1-2). So the psalmist prays that the LORD God of hosts would revive them through the man of His right hand (v. 17). Only then would they be able to call upon Hid name (v. 18). No matter what the secular historian might write, the psalmist knows that it is God who rules history (v. 12). This he does through Messiah, the Son of man at God’s right hand, ruling from His heavenly throne (Ps. 110; I Cor. 15:25; Heb. 1:3). “In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.” (Ps. 72:7-8)
Psalm 81 Listen!
Contrary to those who claim to follow a regulative principle of worship which forbids musical accompaniment, the psalmist issues a call to worship, with instrumental accompaniment. There is also no indication of anything like a modern organ, though there seems to be many different instruments employed. So the true regulative principle includes singing and instruments-both done with as much skill as can be mustered-to God’s glory (vv. 1-4), even in a foreign land, among a people with a foreign tongue (v. 5 Cf. Ps. 114:1; Dt. 28:49; Jer. 5:15).
The feasts of the seventh month seems to be in view (vv. 3-4 Cf. Lev. 23:23ff.; Nu. 10:10). They looked back on their deliverance. When they groaned under Egyptian bondage, God delivered them because He “remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” (vv. 6-7a Cf. Ex. 2:24) God spoke to them from the smoking mountain (v. 7b Cf. Ex. 19:19; 20:18), after He tested them at Meribah, a test Moses had failed, and through unbelief was barred from entering the promised land (v. 7c Cf. Ex. 17:1-7; Nu. 20:10-13). It was fittingly called a place of contention.
Moses did not believe that the spoken word was enough to bring water from the rock. Moses thought that more was required-his own work and efforts. His sin was his unbelief in the power of the word, and in not following what the LORD had specifically commanded. It reminds one of Eve, who said that God forbade even touching the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, when the command was only that they were not to eat of it (Gen. 3:2-3; 2:16-17). She believed Satan, who accused God of lying (Gen. 3:1, 4-5).
It is with this in mind that the LORD calls for His people to listen! “Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you! O Israel, if you will listen to me! There shall be no foreign god among you; nor shall you worship any foreign god.” (vv. 8-9) Their covenant LORD was the one who delivered them out of Egyptian bondage, and He would supply all their needs (v. 10). But because the people did not listen to the word, and did not want to dwell in God’s presence, they were given up by God to their own “counsels” (vv. 11-12).
Those who reject God’s word show that they are rejecting God-they don’t want God on His terms. It is sinful unbelief that rejects the sufficiency of scripture. Those who stubbornly reject the canon, are given over to the errors of their own counsels (vv. 11-12). If God’s people will listen to His word, then they will walk in His ways. They won’t walk in His ways by following their own counsels (v. 13). But if they do heed His word, and thus walk in His ways, then He would defeat their enemies (v. 14). This is as true today as it was when this psalm was written!
“The haters of the LORD would pretend submission to Him, but their fate would endure forever.” (v. 15) There have always been, and there always will be “pretenders,” those who claim submission to the LORD, but they refuse to listen and to obey His word. Those who do truly submit, will be blessed with abundance (v. 16 Cf. Dt. 32:14). He forbade them to have or worship any foreign god (v. 9 Cf. Ex. 20:3; 32:1, 15-18; Dt. 5:7; 32:12; Ps. 44:20-21; Acts 7:41-42; Rom. 1:24-26, 30). In rejecting His word they made themselves out to be gods-just like the garden, and the father of lies.
Psalm 82 God Judges The Judges.
When it comes to biblical studies it is always important to focus on the context when it comes to doing word studies. Often word studies are conducted in isolation from the context, and it ends up importing something into the text which does not belong-the same holds true for translators. Here, in this case, the choice of ‘gods’ was a poor one. Elohim does not always mean God or gods. It is a plural, so the fact that it is sometimes referring to God poses challenges for translation as well. One could argue that it speaks to the doctrine of the trinity, but without context, one would not want to construct a doctrine of the trinity on this word alone.
The context is clearly one of the idea of leaders and judges-the mighty ones. God judges the judges (v. 1). “God stands in the congregation.” God dwells in the midst of His people. He is not a far off and distant one. This comes as a warning to the judges, the elders of the congregation. The LORD God said to the judges, ‘Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment. Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.” (II Chron. 19:6-7) The fact that they judged for God made them mighty indeed!
“How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? (v. 2) This is what concerns God, expressed through the psalmist. They should take heed to the fact that God dwells in their midst-He sees, He knows, and He judges the judges. And when it says that God judges the judges, it does not necessarily mean that he can’t use the means of other judges to do so-this is how He normally works (Eccl. 5:8). God gave judges, in part, to uphold justice, and to defend the needy and defenceless from the hands of the wicked (vv. 3-4 Cf. Dt. 24:17). Representative government by judges or elders chosen by the people, is the pattern which God established for His people, in church and state.
These judges were to be “wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men.” (Dt. 1:13). They were to “judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him.” (v. 16) There was to be one standard for a brother and the stranger-it wasn’t just for the people of Israel. There was to be no partiality of a brother over a stranger, and no partiality with respect to one’s standing-small and great were to be treated equally, “for the judgment is God’s.” (v. 17). They were to judge according to what God had commanded (v. 18). However, this was also a warning to the people, when they judge righteously, their judgment is God’s judgment!
The people needed righteous judges. Moses showed that one man cannot handle the work load, and the people needed leadership. Without godly leadership the people would not know or understand the way they should go. Without godly leadership the people have no solid basis on which to stand-they are as unstable as their judges (v. 5 Cf. Ps. 11:3). And if the leadership does not judge righteously, the needy will be oppressed by the wicked (Cf. Pr. 18:5). Beware of leadership that stands alone-they will either burn out, or they don’t want to be judged by their peers! Beware of leadership that has not been chosen by the people! Beware of leadership that does not judge according to God’s word!
So God says, through the psalmist, “You are judges, and all of you are children of the Most High.” (v. 6) In other words, the judges and the people are equally God’s children. The judges need to take heed how they treat their brothers and sisters, and the stranger also (v. 8b). Not only this, but the judges were men, just like the people, who would die like all men do. So we see, that the word ‘elohim’ in this context, actually refers to mere men-just the opposite of what one might think if the word were taken on its own, or if one were to import a different context! “Arise, O God, judge the earth; For You shall inherit all nations.” (v. 8)
This understanding and interpretation is also borne out by the reference Jesus made to this psalm in John 10:34. Jesus was asking His hearers to make a judgment about Himself according to the scriptures. The scriptures pointed to Him. God called them judges, to whom the word of God came. If those men were to judge according to the scriptures, then all the more should Jesus’ hearers-for as He said, the word cannot be broken. The fact that the reference in John is one that is focused on His deity, puts an interesting twist on the use of this passage, and probably what helps explain the translator’s use of the word ‘gods’. But the thought simply does not fit.
There is but one God only, and there is another interpretation, translation, and explanation that makes sense with the immediate context, the one in which Jesus spoke, and the theology of the bible as a whole. Jesus would never have said that all men were gods, just as it cannot be said of any word from God in the Old Testament. However, He could not claim to be the promised Messiah, God Himself, if He could not prove it from the scriptures, authenticated by His works (vv. 31-39 Cf. Is. 11:4). This was His point-He challenged them to search the scriptures to see that Messiah was to be God Himself, and He fulfilled that (Cf. Jn. 5:39).
Psalm 83 The Covenant LORD Defeats All Godless Confederacies.
Have you ever thought that there are things you don’t want God to do? I know I don’t want God to crush me because of my guilt and shame. I also agree with the psalmist that, there are times when I don’t want Him to be silent or still. There are times when we want Him to not just speak, but also act in other ways as well (vv. 1-2 Cf. Ps. 28:1; Jer. 11:19-20). He had enemies because God was His friend. They weren’t just his enemies, which it is possible for one to have, and possibly with warrant on our part. No, these were his enemies because He wanted to serve the Lord. And all who would follow Christ must count the cost of doing so. A Christian without enemies is not a biblical Christian.
God’s enemies have formed a confederacy (vv. 3-5). Christ did more to unite the enemies of God in His day then all the preceding centuries ever could. Never was the proverb more true-the enemy of my enemy is my friend. In the age of majority democracies it is easy to believe that the majority in agreement is always right. However, the history of Israel, and indeed, of the remnant within Israel would suggest otherwise. As far as nations were concerned, Israel was insignificant indeed, and the remnant was as a rump of a stump in that pitiful field. The history of Israel was also, in part, a case of her enemies uniting against her as their common foe (vv. 6-8).
But the One who ascended to the right hand of the Father in fulfillment of the messianic promises (Cf. Ps. 110, Dan. 7:14), will rule from His heavenly throne through His church (Mt. 28:18-20), until the last enemy, death, is vanquished (I Cor. 15:25-26). The lesser enemies of the nations will be converted or destroyed (Ps. 2:1-2; Is. 17:12-14). He will not return until this work is done! As Daniel made clear, He was given dominion over all when He came to the Ancient of days, not when He comes to the earth (Heb. 1:3)! The dispensationalists, historical premillenialists, and the amillenialists do not have a solid exegetical leg to stand on! All their thoughts are nothing more than the eschatology of pessimism and unbelief.
“Deal with them as with Midian.” Here God exacted vengeance on Midian, including Balaam, and later under Gideon, for their attempts to deceive the people of God (Nu. 25:18-18; 31:1-11; Judges 7:23-8:22). “Deal with them…as with Sisera.” Deborah, prophetess and judge, commanded Barak to destroy Sisera and his armies, and he did so with the help of Jael, Heber’s wife, who drove a spike through his skull! (Judges 4). “Deal with them… as with Jabin at the Brook Kishon, who perished at En-Dor, who became as refuse on the earth.” En-Dor is an example of the people paying the price for not defeating them completely under Joshua (17:10-13), for it was to the medium at En-Dor that Saul went for a “revelation.” (I Sam. 28:3ff.)
One can begin to see a common theme here, and one that has always been the common thread throughout the church’s history. Saul went to the medium at En-Dor because “the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim, or by the prophets.” (I Sam. 28:6, 15) So he went to a false unsanctioned non-canonical revealer. And lo and behold, she gave him a revelation! Saul bore false witness and took God’s name in vain by saying that the LORD would not punish her. Saul threw aside the clear commands of God’s law in the canon of holy scripture, because God would not give him a word when he wanted it, a word on his terms. He who has an ear to hear let him hear what the Spirit says!
Note what Samuel says to Saul on this occasion-he goes back to the canonical word already given (v. 17). Saul didn’t need to visit a medium to know God’s will here! But it reveals how he chose to conduct himself. It also shows why the psalmist wanted the nations defeated like unto En-Dor. The psalmist knows that victory will only come insofar as they follow the canonical law-word of the covenant. They must obey God’s word. Balaam was a hired false prophet, who was rebuked by a donkey-prophesying for God, because his master was too stupid and stubborn to do the right thing!
“Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, yes, all their princes like Zeba and Zalmunna, who said, ‘Let us take for ourselves the pastures of God for a possession.’” (vv. 11-12) Oreb and Zeeb suffered defeat in Gideon’s battle with the Midianites (Jud. 7:25), as did Zeba and Zalmunna (Jud. 8:12-21). The latter ultimately killed by Gideon himself, and this as the kinsman-redeemer of his brothers (vv. 18-21 Cf. Dt. 19:1-3; Nu. 35; Josh. 20:1-9). To the law and to the testimony, is the psalmist’s plea. Follow the LORD’s commands and victory is assured. The church does not do the physical battles of the state-such as the civil part of this work of God. But the church does wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and it is powerful for taking down strongholds.
So the psalmist wants God to act as their kinsman-redeemer, delivering His people from their shared enemies (vv. 13-15). But he, like us, still holds out hope that they will cease to be our enemies and become our friends, by acknowledging their shame, and seeking the name of the ‘LORD’, that is, the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. Repent and believe, is our unified message. Acknowledge your shame and seek a covenant relationship with “the Most High over all the earth.” (v. 18). If they do not enter the covenant of grace, they will bare their shame themselves, and suffer everlasting defeat, “confounded and dismayed forever.” (v. 17)
Psalm 84 The Blessedness Of Dwelling In God’s Presence.
The psalmist considered the temple to be lovely, and says that his soul fainted for its courts, because of the living God who chose to dwell there. Soul and body longed for the living God. The LORD of hosts reigns from heaven, but there is comfort, hope, and a home where He choses to dwell (vv. 1-3 Cf. Pss. 27:4-5; 42:1-2; 46:4-5; 65:4). For this reason His house is a place of praise (v. 4). But God is not confined to buildings, He is also with the pilgrim along the way, those who travel through the Valley of Baca, the Valley of Weeping. They go from strength to strength, as the LORD of hosts supplies them with the water they need (Cf. Is. 40:31). They are traveling to Zion, because that is where the LORD of hosts has chosen to dwell (vv. 5-7).
The Christian joins the saints of old in this pilgrimage. “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” (Heb. 12:25-27) He reigns from heaven, but He is also the Lord of history-the covenant LORD of Jacob-the one who answers prayer (v. 8). The word ‘anointed’ certainly applied to Israel’s king, but it also means ‘Messiah’, Israel’s greatest King of all (v. 9).
Every day in the presence of the LORD and of His anointed is a truly blessed day. The people of God wandered in the wilderness when they sinned. When they did not seek the LORD or desire His will, they wandered aimlessly. Even Moses could not enter the promised land, because He did not believe the word spoken to Him by the LORD (Nu. 20:11-12). Instead, the people of God are called to be pilgrims, those who travel with the goal and desire of God’s presence in the earth. It is astonishing that there are those who suggest that the wilderness motif is the pattern for the church-the truth is just the opposite. The new covenant church is warned that the wilderness wanderers were an example not to follow (Heb. 3:7-19).
Dwelling where God choses to dwell is better than dwelling “in the tents of wickedness.” (v. 10) A doorkeeper is one who stands at the threshold. Better the most insignificant place in God’s house than a life of sin. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory.” (v. 11a Cf. Is. 60:19-20; Mal. 4:2; Rev. 21:23) There is no glory without grace, but where there is grace there is glory (Cf. Jn. 1:16; II Cor. 3:18). There is the glory of God’s presence, and there is the glory He receives from the saints (Pr. 4:18). Grace is glorious! “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (v. 11b Cf. Gen. 15:1; Ps. 34:8-10) “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in you.” (v. 12 Cf. Pss. 2:12; 40:4)
Psalm 85 Mercy And Truth, Righteousness And Peace.
This psalm begins with the covenant name, LORD. He has not forgotten His people. The LORD has shown His favour to the land, and in returning His people from captivity. This likely refers to the return from the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BC (Cf. Ezra 1:11-2:1 Cf. Jer. 30:18; 31:23; Ez. 39:25; Hos. 6:11; Joel 3:1). The reason for the return is that the LORD had forgiven the iniquity of His people, and covered all their sin (v. 2). His anger and wrath was turned back (v. 3).
So the psalmist prays for the restoration of His people (v. 4). He appeals to the God of their salvation-that He would turn away from His wrath (v. 5). Only if He revives them will they be able to rejoice (v. 6). Salvation is a cause for rejoicing in any generation, and it is always based on mercy (v. 7). The psalmist’s hope was based on the word of the LORD God (v. 8a). If the people would turn their backs on their folly and fear the LORD, they would see His salvation and dwell in the land in peace (vv. 8b-9 Cf. Zech. 2:5; Ps. 84:11).
“Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.” (v. 10 Cf. Ps. 72:3) We can be thankful that mercy and truth have met, for the fact is God is holy and we are not. Knowing the truth of who God is and who we are in our sinful condition, is a fearful and dreadful thing without mercy. We can also be thankful that righteousness and peace have kissed. Without the righteousness of the LORD there can be no peace.
All four things are interwoven here, and all belong to the LORD. The truth is what God has spoken (v. 8), itself an act of mercy. So also His peace to His people is based on His righteousness, a righteousness that “looks down from heaven.” (v. 11b, 13a Cf. Is. 32:17) It is not man’s righteousness (Cf. Is. 46:13). God’s truth can also be seen in His earthly creation (v. 11a Cf. Ps. 19:1-6). The LORD gives what is good, including blessings in the land. But it is His righteousness alone that becomes our pathway, not our own (v. 13).
Psalm 86 A Heart United To Serve The LORD God Alone.
David trusts in the LORD as He who, in mercy, forgives the poor and needy. There is abundant mercy to those whom the Lord has set apart as holy. The Lord saves those who trust in Him. He preserves those whom He sets apart to serve Him, and they rejoice in Him (vv. 1-5). The LORD answers prayer in the day of trouble-in every time of need (vv. 6-7 Cf. Heb. 4:16).
There is no other god like the LORD, and no works like His (vv. 8-10 Cf. Ex. 15:11; Dt. 6:4; II Sam. 7:22; Ps. 89:6; Is. 37:16; Jer. 10:6; Mk. 12:29; I Cor. 8:4). And couched in the middle of this affirmation is the obvious logical conclusion-all nations, whom He has made, will ultimately come and worship Him, for there is no other (v. 9 Cf. Ps. 2; Mt. 28:18-20). By His works He is known in all the earth.
“LORD God of Israel, who keep Your covenant of mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. You have kept what You promised Your servant.” (I Kgs. 8:23-24a). Since the LORD God is one, he demands singleness of heart from His servants, a heart united in service to the LORD (v. 11). And we are united in our hearts to the Lord, through walking in His truth, which He teaches us.
“I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore.” (v. 12) David utters these words, because of God’s mercy, and deliverance thereby (v. 13). The glory of the Lord is to be the goal of His servants-for all eternity. God’s enemies were David’s enemies-the proud, the very opposite of those who know that they are poor and needy.
But the Lord God is “full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” (v. 15). Sinful pride, pride that says one does not need God or accepts His truth, is the one thing which bares people from the compassion, grace, longsuffering, mercy, and truth of the Lord (Ex. 34:6). However, there is good reasons for the needy and poor to look to the LORD in prayer.
Psalm 87 Glorious!
“Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God.” (John Newton, 1779) The Christian testimony has always understood that this psalm applies to the church – the people of God across the various administrations of the one covenant of grace. The writer to the Hebrews could not have been more clearer. “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.” (Heb. 12:22-24).
“His foundation is in the holy mountains.” Mountains, in the bible, refer to rule and reign. The holy mountains are those places which the Lord set apart to Himself. The temple, God’s house, was built upon Mount Zion, which towered above the city of Jerusalem. Therefore, when the biblical writers refer to any one of these, they are referring to the place where God chose for His glory to dwell, and it speaks to His reign in the earth (Dt. 12). Solomon did well enough with the physical temple (II Chron. 8:16), and those who came later had their moments (Is. 44:28; Ezra 3:6, 10-12; 5:15-16), but Jesus predicted its destruction (Mt. 23:1-2), which came to pass in 70 AD.
However, the foundation of the true temple of God is everlasting (Pr. 10:25). This psalm was no doubt in Paul’s mind when he wrote that Jesus Christ is the foundation (I Cor. 3:10-11), working as He did, through the apostles and prophets in the new covenant administration (Eph. 2:20; Zech. 8:9), of which even gentiles are full members (Eph. 2:19). This was also no doubt in the mind of Jesus when he declared that He was the Rock upon which the foundation of His house was laid (Lk. 6:46-48). This is He of whom Isaiah said would also be the cornerstone (28:16 Cf. Ps. 118:22; Mt. 21:22; Lk. 20:17; Acts 4:11; I Pet. 2:6-7).
Having laid the foundation, Christ will finish His work of building His house (Zech. 4:9; Lk. 14:28-30). Together with the saints of old, we are His house (Heb. 3:1-6). Zion had a special place, and still does in Christ’s kingdom. Christ’s kingdom extends over all, but His church occupies a central place. Glorious things of her are spoken (v. 3)! People from every nation shall be born in her (vv. 4-5a). “And the Most High Himself shall establish her.” (v. 5b) The Lord has a record, and the people of God have this as their sure foundation, that He knows who we are (II Tim. 2:19 Cf. Ex. 32:32; Ps. 69:28; 139:16; Is. 4:3; Rev. 21:24-27).
“Both the singers and players on instruments say, ‘All my springs are in you.’” (v. 7) Let us follow the ‘regulative principle of worship’ and do only what is commanded in scripture. And in doing so let us reject the teaching of that principle by some, that instruments are not commanded. Let us follow the principle set out in scripture, and not the traditions of men. How ironic that those who espouse a principle that excludes instruments in the public worship of God, should call the practice ‘the tradition of men’. It is their teaching practice which is the tradition of men, saying that the church is based on the synagogue, instead of the temple, as we see here.
“All my springs are in you.” God has chosen His people to be the instruments through which He will extend His reign in the earth (Mt. 28:18-20). How many believers pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, and then completely deny it with their theology and practice? But to those like the faithful Joshua and Caleb, the Lord will provide springs along the way. Those who are content to wander in the wilderness of sin, will not find the springs that are available to the faithful pilgrims working for God’s glory to be known in all the earth (Ps. 42:1-2). Provision and protection is provided for the remnant of the LORD (Is. 4:2-4).
Psalm 88 Crying To The LORD In The Land Of Forgetfulness.
The most hopeful thing about this psalm is the beginning. The psalmist looks to the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD, the God of his salvation (v. 1a). When one looks at the rest of the psalm, one can see why he makes his plea. The covenant relation is one involving salvation. The LORD hears the prayers of His people (vv. 1b-2, 9b, 13). The psalmist knew what we all know at some times in our lives-a soul full of troubles, and a life near the grave (v. 3). Forgotten by people and counted for dead, like those in the grave-seemingly forgotten even by God (vv. 4-6), “in the land of forgetfulness.” (v. 12b Cf. Ps. 28:1; 31:12)
For whatever reason, the psalmist believes that God’s wrath rests upon him, taking away all his acquaintances, as he is consumed with the tears of affliction (vv. 7-9a, 18 Cf. Ps. 42:7). He in fact imagines that death may await him, so in his prayers he asks if that would profit anything, since the dead cannot praise God for His works, lovingkindness, or faithfulness. For the third time time he repeats that he has offered his prayers to the LORD (vv. 1b-2, 9b, 13). Each time he prays, it is addressed to the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. In his mind, his condition seems to go contrary to the covenant relationship.
The psalmist says that he has been in this condition from his youth, ready to die, and suffering the terrors of God’s fierce wrath (vv. 15-16). Feeling like his soul has been cast off “in the land of forgetfulness”, is what happens when the LORD hides His face. The people of God need the look of the LORD’s favourable countenance in place of His wrath. This psalm is a reminder that even the saints of the LORD can suffer from bouts of despondency, when it seems like we are stuck forever “in the land of forgetfulness”. We need to see the wonders of God’s lovingkindness, faithfulness, and righteousness.
The real sign of living “in the land of forgetfulness” was that his loved ones, friends, and acquaintances had seemingly abandoned him. One can think of Job here (19:13-20 Cf. Ps. 31:11-12; 38:11; Lam. 3:7). God works his wonders through the means of others He brings into our lives. When they abandon us we think that God has abandoned us. This shows how crucial it is to care for those in our circle of family, friends and acquaintances. By beginning this psalm with addressing the LORD as the God of his salvation, he is pleading for direct comfort (Ps. 27:9-10 Cf. Ps. 86:3-5). Sometimes this is the saints only recourse.
Psalm 89 The LORD Remembers His Covenant.
The psalmist remembers the last of the old testament administrations of the covenant of grace-the Davidic (Cf. II Sam. 7:4-17; I Chron. 17:1-15). Mercy and faithfulness are at the core, and the promise was of a seed whose throne would be built and established forever (vv. 1-4). Wonders in the heavens, the place of His habitation, and His faithfulness in the assembly, are equally causes for praise, and there is no one with whom He may be compared (vv. 5-6). In the assembly of the saints He is feared (v. 7), and there is no one mighty like “the LORD God of hosts.” (v. 8a)
Faithfulness surrounds the LORD of the covenant (v. 8b). He rules in the whole of creation (vv. 9-10). He created all things, therefore also all things are His (vv. 11-12), and He rules over all (v. 13). Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His rule, and truth with mercy go before Him (v. 14). God’s rule is based on justice and righteousness, it is not arbitrary or capricious. Mercy and truth come together, and through these the LORD looks upon His people. Mercy without truth would have no meaning, and truth without mercy would spell the end of His people.
It is the countenance of God’s mercy and truth that becomes the blessing on His people and cause of a joyful sound (v. 15). The saints are lifted up by the LORD’s righteousness, not their own, therefore in His name we rejoice (v. 16). It is on the basis of grace, His unmerited favour, that His people are made strong and are exalted over their enemies (vv. 17-18a). Their king belonged to the LORD, and in a vision He promised to exalt Him among the people (vv. 18b-19 Cf. I Sam. 6; II Sam. 7). David was the first, and to him the promise of the covenant was made (vv. 20-21).
The LORD would ensure that his enemies would be defeated (vv. 22-23), but David would know the faithfulness and mercy of the LORD of the covenant, and in His name David would be exalted (v. 24). These promises would find ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah to come-the greater Son of David. David would be victorious over many nations, but the Messiah would reign over all (v. 25 Cf. Ps. 2). David was His son by grace, but the Messiah would be a Son by eternal generation as the second person of the Trinity (v. 26 Cf. II Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5).
David was indeed the first of the kings, but by His resurrection, Christ became the firstborn of a new creation (Cf. Col. 1:15-18). David may indeed be described as the highest of the kings of the earth, but the Messiah would be higher still (v. 27 Cf. Ps. 72:11; Rev. 19:16). Mercy is at the heart of the covenant relation, and in His faithfulness the promise of a seed and throne to endure forever was sure (vv. 28-29; 36-37; Ps. 72:17; Lk. 1:33). But, the covenant with David, like all the other administrations of the covenant of grace, also had conditions. The Lord would punish any transgression of His law (vv. 30-32).
“Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, nor allow My faithfulness to fail. My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.” (vv. 33-34) These verses are very instructive for understanding the nature of the covenant relationship, not just through David, but through all the administrations of the covenant of grace. The covenant of grace is sure to God’s people, because it is grounded in His faithfulness, not in ours. But, it does have conditions, as He disciplines all whom He accepts as His children (vv. 30-32).
The LORD has sworn and He cannot lie, two points which the writer to the Hebrews went to great lengths to demonstrate (v. 35 Cf. 6:16-18). However, conditions were not met, and discipline had come (vv. 38ff. Cf. Lam. 5:16). One can also say, that Messiah, as the suffering servant, also bore the sins of His people (Cf. Is. 52:13-53). The wrath expressed here is a covenantal wrath (v. 39 Cf. Dt. 32:19), but it is on the basis of the covenant that the psalmist pleads for mercy (vv. 46—48). This is what is meant by the former lovingkindnesses which the Lord swore to David in truth (v. 49 Cf. v. 14, 33).
Remembrance of the covenant relation was their only hope of deliverance from the reproach of their enemies (vv. 50-51 Cf. II Sam. 7:15; Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23). This was David’s testimony. “He will repay my enemies for their evil. Cut them off in Your truth.” (Ps. 54:5 Cf. Ps. 74:10, 18, 22) Moreover, the terms “cut off” refers to being subject to the curse of the covenant, signifying that some of David’s enemies may have come from within the covenant community. Such was the case with Jesus (Cf. Ps. 69:9, 19; Jn. 2:17). It is no wonder that the psalmist exclaims, “Blessed be the LORD forevermore! Amen and amen.” (v. 52)
The Psalms: Book 4
Psalm 90 A Tale Of Two Returns.
This psalm begins book four in the psalter and is the only psalm ascribed to Moses, the prophet, historian, and man of God. There could be no better person to speak of the Lord as our “dwelling place in all generations.” (v. 1) It wasn’t just when they had the tabernacle, or later the temple (Cf. Ezek. 11:16). In all generations, that is, passed down from each to the next, God Himself has been their dwelling place. The Lord was never a figment of Moses’ imagination, or any other man. Other religions have to manufacture their gods, but our God has existed from all eternity-“from everlasting to everlasting,” He will continue on forever (v. 2).
All the stuff of creation, the very stuff that men use to construct their idols, including their own minds, is the creation of our everlasting God. They are like little children playing in the sand that daddy put in the sand box-thinking all along that they are constructing the whole world in their image. But men are dwarfed by the magnificent mountains of his good creation. Men are but dust creatures, and with the fall, the body returns from whence it came (v. 3 Cf. Gen. 3:19; Job 34:14-15), like an evening sleep, and the grass that withers (vv. 5-6). Time means nothing to our God-He also created it (v. 4 Cf. II Pet. 3:8)! It is God’s word alone which endures (Cf. Is. 40:6-8).
Moses was also a man well acquainted with the failings of God’s people (v. 7). He knew that nothing was hidden from God. Not only is He eternal, but He is also omniscient. Nothing is hidden from the all-knowing One (v. 8). Most men will not live past seventy, though God strengthens some to eighty. But these are years of “labor and sorrow.” (v. 10). As is His knowledge, so is His wrath. It is only by His compassion and mercy that all men are not consumed (vv. 13-14). This knowledge should lead us to pray Moses’ prayer here. “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (v. 12)
By God’s mercy all our days are not just sorrow and labour. There is rejoicing and gladness also. At the very least, Moses prays for days of joy and gladness to number those of affliction (v. 15). However, in God’s mercy, it is possible to “rejoice and be glad all our days.” (v. 14) Oddly enough, in light of so much pagan escapist thought in the church today, Moses does not simply say we must wait for the sweet by and by. Quite the opposite in fact. Moses was into kingdom building-God’s kingdom, God’s way. Moses prayed for God to show him some of His work he and the people could do, including the next generation.
“Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.” (vv. 16-17). Note this well, Moses only begins to use the covenant name LORD when he speaks of the LORD returning to have compassion on His people. Restoration and transformation is a covenantal work. Kingdom work is also covenantal work, and the passing on to the next generation. The church needs to pray to see the LORD’s work today, and engage in it for His glory. We also need to understand that this is a covenantal work, which God alone can establish.
Psalm 91 Deliverance And Refuge With The LORD’s Presence.
The LORD’s presence is a refuge for those who trust in Him, even in the midst of war (vv. 1-4 Cf. Pss. 17:8-9; 27:5; 31:20; 32:7; 34:7; 142:5-7; Is. 25:4). This is what it means to trust in His name (Pss. 9:10; 124:6-8). There are many things in the life of the saint which seem to lay waste-day and night, darkness and noonday (vv. 5-6). There are occasions when there seems to be no safe place or time. Nevertheless, even in the midst of war and an overwhelming number of enemy forces, the LORD promises victory (vv. 7-8). This is the reward of those who trust in Him, even for Messiah (vv. 9-11).
The promise of verses 11-12 did find fulfillment in the coming of Christ (Cf. Mt. 4:6; Lk. 4:10-11; Heb. 1:14). Furthermore, verse 13 may not have a direct quote, but it certainly has a direct fulfillment. The promised seed would come to trample Satan under His feet (Gen. 3:15) which finds fulfillment in Christ and the church (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 12:7, 17). Likewise verse 14 finds fuller expression in Psalms 110, 8, and 2. This salvation is for all who call upon Him, and it is to God’s glory (vv. 15-16 Cf. 50:15). Whether through fire or water, the LORD will deliver (Cf. Is. 43:2).
Psalm 92 Flourishing In The LORD!
“It is good to give thanks to the LORD.” (v. 1a) There is no greater good than to be thankful, not just to God our creator, but to the LORD of the covenant, our redeemer. Gratitude is the best attitude for a healthy spiritual life. We have much to be thankful to the LORD for. This is the only satisfying root of praise to His name-which refers to His whole being and works in the world (v. 1b Cf. Ps. 97:12). Praise to the LORD is indeed a pleasant and beautiful thing (Cf. Pss. 33:1; 135:3; 147:1).
The LORD’s lovingkindness is one thing to be thankful for among the saints, for it is unique to the covenant community (Cf. Ps. 89:1-4). With the beginning of the day it is good to remember the LORD of the covenant of grace, shown also in His faithfulness to the end of the day (v. 2). Contrary to the unbiblical notion of the regulative principle of worship, our praise should also be instrumental (v. 3 Cf. I Chron. 23:5)! From this we understand that the LORD gifts people to make and play these instruments for His praise.
Again, praising His name not only speaks to His character, but also to His works which reveal His character and sovereign activity in the world, for the good of His people and His glory (v. 4 Cf. Rev. 15:3-4). His works make His people glad. In His works we triumph! Furthermore, He accompanies His works with His word-His thoughts given by revelation (v. 5 Cf. Ps. 40:5). Without His thoughts man is senseless and does not know, the fool does not understand, and such is everyone who rejects His thoughts (v. 6 Cf. Ps. 73:22).
The wicked workers of iniquity are destined for destruction (v. 7 Cf. Ps. 37:1-2), though at times it seems like they prosper and go unpunished (Cf. Job 12:6; Jer. 12:-2; Mal. 3:15). The LORD is exalted on high forevermore, but His enemies will be scattered and destroyed (vv. 8-9). Their destruction exalts the name of the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD (Cf. Pss. 68:1; 83:18)! The power and influence of the covenant people will be exalted, with victory over our enemies (vv. 10-11 Cf. Pss. 23:5; 54:7).
This is a Messianic promise (Cf. Ps. 89:17). The long term promise for the righteous, that is, the members of the covenant of grace, is prosperity, flourishing in this life (v. 12 Cf. Nu. 24:6; Ps. 52:8; Jer. 17:8; Hos. 14:5-6)! “Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” (vv. 13-15).
These are the blessings of the covenant relationship (Cf. Dt. 33), for the LORD is righteous (Cf. Dt. 32:4; Rom. 9:14-15). These are those who are planted. Nothing plants itself-it is the LORD’s doing, particularly in His house, whose house we are (Cf. Heb. 3:6). Furthermore, the righteous are like trees firmly rooted and bearing fruit. The wicked, on the other hand, are like flashy grass, fragile a passing as quick as it seems to grow. Even in old age, the righteous will flourish, bearing fruit to the very end, declaring that the LORD of the covenant is righteous and a rock.
Psalm 93 “The LORD reigns!”
“The LORD reigns.” One wonders how many read those words and really don’t believe that it applies to this world in our present space-time reality. However, it is not just that the sovereign maker and sustainer of all things reigns, but rather, it is the covenant LORD of history who intervened in salvation history for the redemption of His people-this is He who reigns! It is this covenant making and covenant keeping LORD who is clothed with majesty (v. 1a).
He is strong, and in addition to being our covenant LORD is in fact also the one who established the world and sustains it (v. 1b). Without beginning, His reign has always been and always shall be, shared as it is now by the risen Messiah Prophet-Priest-King, with a sceptre of righteousness (v. 2 Cf. Ps. 45:6; 110; Lam. 5:19). This covenant LORD is mightier than the mightiest waters (vv. 3-4), symbolic as it is of the nations of the earth (Cf. Ps. 18:4; 65:7)
The foundation of all, the first axiom of all thought and existence, are His testimonies (v. 5a). The word of the LORD is not only sure, it is “very sure.” (v. 5a). All sound theology, that is, the study of God, finds its only sure foundation in His testimonies. Testimonies is a fitting word, for it is more than intellectual ideas, it is a testimony in history of the LORD of the covenant acting on behalf of His people. His word is more solid that the world itself.
We are His house, the building of which is the goal of this covenant relationship-old and new (Heb. 3:6). The uniform, the glorious apparel of the members of this house, is the holiness of the LORD. His reign is a holy reign-set apart and representing all that is good, and right, and just, and pure. It is a holy reign over all men, who will one day have to give Him an accounting (Ps. 96:10). He reigns, in part, to ensure the building of this house (Cf. Mt. 16:18; 28:18-20).
Psalm 94 The LORD God Is Our Help And Comfort.
Vengeance belongs to the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD (v. 1 Cf. Lev. 19:18; Dt. 32:35; Is. 35:4; Na. 1:2; Rom. 12:19). He is also the only judge of the whole earth (v. 2 Cf. Gen. 18:25). Leaving vengeance to the LORD is the only answer to the seeming triumph of the wicked (v. 3 Cf. Job 20:5), who speak and act against God’s covenant people, including the widow, the stranger, and the fatherless-His heritage (vv. 4-6 Cf. Ps. 31:18; Jude 15). The wicked do this because they believe that, “the LORD does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand.” (v. 7 Cf. Job 22:13; Ps. 10:11).
However, the LORD does see and understand (v. 8). The LORD is not like the gods of men’s imaginations. Only the senseless and foolish would think that the LORD needs ears to hear or eyes to see, for He created all things (v. 9 Cf. Ex. 4:11; Pr. 20:12). There are competing thoughts-futile ones from men apart from God, and the LORD’s teaching and instruction (vv. 10-11). Paul looked to this Psalm to prove his argument concerning the futility of human wisdom (I Cor. 3:20) Those who are taught by the LORD, out of His law, are blessed and find rest from the wicked (vv. 12-13), for they are His covenant people (v. 14).
The LORD’s instruction is discipline for the saints (v. 12 Cf. Dt. 8:5; Job 5:17; Ps. 119:71; Pr. 3:11-12; Heb. 12:5-6). Judgment will be based on righteousness, “and all the upright will follow it.” (v. 15) There is no one else who can stand up to the wicked (v. 16). The LORD must be our help (v. 17), and this help is based on mercy, for we really don’t deserve it (v. 18). “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” (v. 19) Many of us have a multitude of anxieties within, but the LORD’s comforts meet them all, and so our souls delight in Him. Evil will not triumph, even if by law (v. 20).
As Bob Dylan once wrote, we have lawbreakers making rules. However, even politicians, legislators, judges, lawyers, and all their coterie, will not be able to stand against the covenant LORD or His heritage. All law is not equal, and law made and enforced by lawbreakers doesn’t make it right, nor that it will endure (vv. 20-22 Cf. Ex. 23:7; Pr. 17:15; Amos 6:3). There is also another important judgment here-even those who enjoy the external benefits of the covenant relationship shall be cut off, that is, they stand accursed (v. 23 Cf. Ps. 106:38; Mt. 27:4).
The modern apostate church is accursed for rejecting the law-word of the covenant, and denying the faith that was once and for all entrusted to the saints. Church leaders saying that God somehow now condones what His law still condemns, will themselves suffer under their own iniquity. This is what the LORD will bring upon them (v. 23). However, the keepers of the covenant will be blessed with comforts equal to and surpassing their many anxieties (vv. 12-19). The LORD helps all who look to Him for mercy, but the proud and wicked will be caught by their own devices (vv. 13-14).
Psalm 95 Words Of Covenantal Witness.
The psalmist begins this psalm with praise to the covenant LORD for being the rock of his salvation (v. 1). This is cause for joyful shouts and singing. The chief thing a sinner can do in response is to give thanks for it is all of grace (v. 2 Cf. Eph. 5:20). The word ‘psalms’ of course refers to more than just the psalms per se, but all songs and hymns are psalms and vice versa, just as a song is a hymn and vice versa (Cf. Eph. 5:19; Js. 5:13). The psalter could just as well be called the song book or hymnal.
Thanksgiving is also given because this covenant making and covenant keeping LORD is in fact the great God and King above all gods (Cf. Ps. 96:4; I Cor. 8:5-6). The church’s covenant LORD is God over all (v. 3). This is the sovereign creator and sustainer of everything that exists, earth and sea (vv. 4-5 Cf. Gen. 1-2; Jn. 1:9). So we kneel before Him and worship because He is both our covenant LORD and our Maker. As such He also looks after us as a Shepherd His sheep (v. 6-7b Cf. Ps. 79:13).
The above half of this psalm is mostly forgotten when folks look at the portion following, quoted as it is in the new testament (vv. 7c-11). As such this portion is understood out of its given context, when that was not the intention. The author of Hebrews intended quite the opposite, as he knew the readers would know all of this psalm he simply wanted to draw to his point (3:7-11, 15; 4:7). The writer to the Hebrews in fact helps provide us with commentary, and an understanding of the principles of biblical interpretation which he employed.
The psalmist takes us back to the attempted journey of the covenant people after the crossing of the red sea. It began well, with an obedient response to God’s command, but it quickly degenerated into grumbling, as they were ungrateful and failed to continue to give thanks to their covenant LORD for His provision (Cf. Exodus 17:1-7). This passage does not tell the whole story however, for we also learn that Moses was judged because he struck the rock twice and does not appear to have spoken the word of the Lord first (Nu. 20:7-13).
Moses doubled up on the act of striking the rock which took the place of the spoken word which must always precede and be the basis for all that we do. The word ‘today’ speaks to the fact that this is an ever present danger every day. As with that generation, including Moses, the warning is to heed God’s voice, His holy and infallible word (v. 7c). The battle ground starts with the human heart-the core of our beings, especially the root of our thoughts. To harden ones heart is to refuse and reject the word of God (v. 8).
To reject God’s word in this way is to test Him and rebel, even though that word has always accompanied His acts in history which also bear witness (v. 9 Cf. Ps. 78:17-20; Acts 7:36; 13:18; I Cor. 10:9). This does not simply involve history in general, but it was their history, a history which they had with the covenant making and covenant keeping God of their redemption and the maker of the whole earth. Again, people go astray first at their core in their hearts, and actions, including words spoken, are what follows.
The acts of the LORD God in history are more than bare factuality, they also reveal his “ways” (v. 10). All persons reveal their ways by how they act, and the LORD God is no different. The people did not understand His ways from His words and acts in history. For this reason they would not enter his rest. For some, like Moses, this was temporal barring from the promised land, but not the eternal rest. For others it was both the land of promise and the eternal rest. For some it would be a barring from the eternal rest even though they would enter the land of promise.
By this we are to understand that the two are never synonymous. For those like Moses it was bittersweet-the eternal would come but he didn’t fulfill all he could have while on his pilgrimage here on earth. For those ignorant of the eternal rest their final state would be bitter through and through. The people were bitter, and except for Joshua and Caleb, the varying degrees of that bitterness and how long it lasted revealed their ends (Nu. 14:20-35; Dt. 1:34-40). Beware of bitterness, for as with all things it starts as a root in the heart (Heb. 3:7-4:13)!
Psalm 96 A New Song.
The gospel, “the good news of His salvation,” has been a “new song” since the first gospel promise of Genesis 3:15. Enmity with sin and the Seed who would reign victorious is the same message today, for as the psalmist writes, it is “day to day.” There is no end for the people of God. Every day it is new as He continues to work in us according to His good pleasure and will-that He would be our God and we His people. He is our Rock among the shifting thoughts of humanity. We call upon the whole earth to sing this song, for this salvation involves everything (vv.1-2 Cf. I Chr. 16:23-33).
It is a message that was always intended for the nations and peoples of the earth to hear, for there is no other god besides this God (vv. 3-4 Cf. 95:3; 145:3; Jer. 10:11). There is no salvation in the status quo of “to each their own”. The covenant making and covenant keeping LORD, is He who made the heavens (Cf. 115:15; Is. 42:5). There is not even any generic Creator-He is the LORD God of the covenant, a personal God who chose to redeem a people among fallen humanity. The whole earth is called to worship in His sanctuary (vv. 5-6). His name deserves to be glorified, and offerings given.
However, we cannot come as we please, for we must come “in the beauty of holiness!” (v. 9 Cf. II Chron. 20:21Ps. 29:1-2) There has never been a time when the LORD has not reigned in the world and among all peoples (v. 10 Cf. Pss. 2, 45; 47; 67; 69; 93; 96-99; 105; 110; Is. 2; 49ff.; Rev. 11:15; 19:6). This is the new song we sing, and the good news of salvation which we speak. God cannot be moved, therefore His purposes stand. The heavens, the earth, the sea, field and trees, are in unison in this song with us (vv. 11-12). For this reason there has always been an eschatological end of judgment in righteousness (v. 13 Cf. Rev. 19:11).
Psalm 97 Of Praise To The Sovereign LORD.
So continues our treatment of the songs of victory-‘A new song of praise to the sovereign LORD, praise for His salvation and for judgment-praise to the LORD for His holiness.’ (Pss. 96-99). “The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad!” (v. 1 Cf. 96:10) This verse connects us beautifully with the preceding psalm. There is no habitation so small in the earth that praise to the LORD is not fitting. This is a revelation of the theophanic storm cloud of glory (Cf. Pss. 18; 29)!
He dwells in the glory presence above the whole earth (vv. 2-4 Cf. Ex. 19:9-18; Dt. 4:11; Pss. 18:8-11; 89:14; Dan. 7:10; Hab. 3:5), overshadowing the house of God (I Kgs. 8:12-13). The mountains, which symbolize the kingdoms of the earth, melt before Him (v. 5 Cf. Ps. 46:6; Am. 9:5; Mic. 1:2-4; Nah. 1:5). A message is declared. “The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory.” (v. 6 Cf. Pss. 19:1; 96:10) Not just some peoples-all! His righteousness shows His glory.
Therefore shame be upon all idolaters (v. 7 Cf. Ex. 20:4). Whatever is not from the covenant LORD is idolatry. In fact, verse 7 is quoted by the writer to the Hebrews as a call to all to worship Messiah alone in his exaltation (vv. 5-7), presentation (vv. 8-12), and enthronement (vv. 13-14) [Cf. I Pet. 3:22; Rev. 5:11-14]. Zion, that is the church (Cf. Ps. 125:1; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 14:1), “hears and is glad,” for his judgments in the earth, for the covenant LORD is above all gods (vv. 8-9 Cf. Ex. 18:11; Pss. 95:3; 96:4).
Loving the LORD involves hating evil, and He promises to deliver us from the wicked (v. 10 Cf. Pss. 31:23; 34:14; 37:40; 145:20; Pr. 2:8; 8:14; Jer. 15:21; Dan. 3:28; Am. 5:15; Rom. 12:9; ). Those who are in covenant with the LORD will have enemies, but the saints will see the light of the LORD’s righteousness and be glad (vv. 11-12 Cf. Job 22:28; Ps. 112:4; Pr. 4:18). Thanksgiving flows from those who remember his name, for this righteousness is not our own but that of His name, which is holy (Cf. Pss. 30:4-5; 33:1; 83:18).
Psalm 98 Praise For His Salvation and For Judgment.
The psalmist sings this new song we have been singing (Pss. 33:3; 97; Is. 42:10). We sing not only for who He is, but also in what He has done and continues to do. This is another song of victory gained at His right hand with His holy arm (v.1 Cf. Eph. 6:12)! His salvation has been made known. No one can plead ignorance (v. 2 Is. 52:10; 62:2; Lk. 1:77; 2:30;-31). Of course, this is the only way that salvation is known-God procuring and choosing to reveal it! He has remembered (v. 3)!
It is a covenantal remembrance of salvation-mercy and faithfulness to His house (Cf. Is. 49:6; Lk. 3:6; Acts 13:37; 28:28). What cause for shouting joyfully (v. 4)! Where O house of God is your joy? The rocks of the earth will scream above your stubborn thanklessness! Be gone you pagans who bar the use of instruments in His holy praise, claiming a worship more holy than the theophanic glory-cloud! Let every molecule and atom be split to thunderous applause-harp, trumpets , and horns!
“Shout joyfully before the LORD, the King. Let us sing to our covenantal King (vv. 4-6)! The sea itself will roar and all creatures of the earth (V. 7 Cf. Ps. 46:2-3)! Rivers will clap and mountains together will rejoice before the presence of His glory. Therefore judgment will come upon all who keep silent. His righteousness is the only standard of truth and justice, and there is no favouritism with Him (Cf. Ps. 96:10-130. “Marvelous things indeed (v. 1 Cf. Ps. 9:1).
Psalm 99 Praise To the LORD For His Holiness.
This next song continues the common theme of victory-“The LORD reigns.” (v. 1 Cf. 96:10; 97:1; 98:1). The peoples ought therefore to tremble before Him, for as seen in the previous song, He dwells in the midst of the glory-cloud (v. 2 Cf. Ex. 25:22; I Sam. 4:4; Ps. 80:1). He also dwells peculiarly among His covenanted people in Zion, to rule high above all peoples for He is holy (v. 3)! Justice, righteousness, and equity are what occupy his throne (v.4). The LORD God is worshipped because He is holy (v.5)!
There was a priestly ministry that called upon the LORD (v. 6 Cf. I Sam. 7:9; 12:18), and “He spoke to them in the cloudy pillar.” (v. 7a) The word was the foundation of all. It is the first axiom of all thought and existence, and the church’s regulative principle of worship, to do only that which He commands. Therefore, “They kept His testimonies and the ordinance He gave them.” (v. 7b) He is “the God who forgives” though there were consequences for all they had done (v. 8). “For the LORD our God is holy!’ (v. 9)
Psalm 100 Thanksgiving!
This is a fitting way to end the first 100 psalms. “Make a joyful shout to the LORD our God, all you lands!” The psalter is a missionary hymnal to spread the good news throughout all lands. It is a shame when people think that serving the LORD is devoid of gladness (v. 1 Cf. Ps. 95:1). The psalmist calls the peoples to “come before His presence with singing.” It is all he says at this point (v. 2)! However, he gives his reason-The covenant making and covenant keeping LORD is both Creator and Redeemer of His people. He made us, and we are “His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (v. 3 Cf. ; Ezek. 34:30-31; Eph. 2:10)
Lack of thanks is the root of all bitterness and rebellion. Thankfulness is the only proper response to the covenant LORD God (Cf. Ps. 66:13). Dare one enter His gates and courts, the place of worship but also judgment, without it (v. 4). It is the only way to bless His name. We have cause-“For the LORD is good.” (v.5a) So we worship for who He is. However, we also worship for what He has done and continues to do, for-“His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (v. 5bc) Without truth, words like good and mercy are empty, but with Him truth includes both. “His mercy endures forever!” (Cf. Ps. 136)
Psalm 101 Two Hearts-Two Houses.
Only with the LORD God do mercy and justice truly meet. It is reason enough to praise Him (v. 1). It is a perfect way that displays wisdom, which the psalmist seeks. But only if the LORD comes to us can we walk securely in this perfect way (v. 2). Eyes must be guarded-even and especially in one’s own house. God sees and knows, even when others do not. The heart is the crux and root of the matter, from it all else flows (v. 4 Cf. I Kgs. 11:4).
There is nothing secret or hidden from the LORD. Failure to love God and one’s neighbour summarizes the matter (v. 5 Cf. Mt. 22:37-40). Faithful covenant keepers will be those who dwell in His presence, but the wicked will be cut off with a covenantal curse (Ps. 75:10). God’s house and city must rule ours (vv. 6-8 Cf. Pss. 48:2, 8; 119:115). “But as for me and my house we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15). A tale of two hearts and two houses.
Psalm 102 The LORD Has Come.
A soul in distress knows the importance of answered prayer and pleads for it (vv. 1-3). There are times when the spiritual melancholy cuts to the core (v. 4). It is like going without food, water, and sleep (vv. 5-7). The saints have enemies, but it is especially difficult when it seems like they are one with God (vv. 8-11). Such is the deception of one’s outward circumstances. But the covenant LORD remembers and is remembered as the one who is sovereign over all throughout the generations (v. 12). He has mercy on Zion, His church (Ps. 125:1; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 14:1). A time of favour has come (v. 13). He will build her up and answer her prayers (vv. 14-17 Cf. Mt. 16:18-19), even as the Father answered His (Ps. 22:24).
The record of God’s love for Zion has been written for all succeeding generations to read and know the truth (v. 18). From heaven He reigns over this kingdom (v. 19 Cf. Ps. 110). Prisoners appointed for death have been released, therefore praise is found in Zion (vv. 20-21). The kingdoms and peoples shall also be gathered to serve Him (v. 22 Cf. Ps. 2). The psalmist did not want to be taken away without being witness to this glory (vv. 23-24). This is the one predicted and spoken of by the writer to the Hebrews (vv. 25-27; Heb. 1:10-12; Cf. Gen. 1:1; Neh. 9:6; Is. 34:4; 51:6; Mt. 24:35; II Pet. 3:7, 10-12; Rev. 20:11). God the Son does not change therefore His people are secure (vv. 27-28 Cf. Ps. 69:36; Is. 41:4; 43:10; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8; Js. 1:17).
Psalm 103 Heeding The Voice Of His Word.
The psalmist counsels himself that an attitude of gratitude is the beginning of true praise (vv. 1-2). The first thing he is thankful for, and the thing needful for the worship of a holy God, is forgiveness (vv. 3-4 Cf. 130:8; Is. 53:5; Jer. 17:14; Acts 13:38). But the saints are thankful for all the good things we enjoy (v. 5 Cf. Ps. 5:12; Is. 40:31). The covenant making and covenant keeping “LORD executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.” (v. 6) This is the LORD who has acted in history for the redemption of His people for they found grace in His sight (v. 7 Cf. Ex. 33:12-17).
“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” (v, 8 Cf. Ex. 34:6-7; Nu. 14:18; Dt. 5:10; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; Jer. 32:18; Jon. 4:2; Js. 5:11) “His favour is for life.” (Ps. 30:5 Cf. v. 9; Is. 57:16) His anger is but for a moment, though our sins merit it (v. 10 Cf. Jer. 3:5). The iniquity of the remnant is pardoned (Cf. Mic. 7:18; Ezra 9:8-15). His mercy has no limit, and as east and west will never meet so our sins are gone from us forever (vv. 11-12 Cf. Is. 38:17; 43:25; Zech. 3:9; Heb. 9:26). He pities His children as His jewels (vv. 13, 17 Cf. Mal. 3:17; Rom. 8:12-17).
“For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (v. 14) Man and his word fades like grass, but God’s word lasts forever (vv. 15-16 Cf. Is. 40:6-8; I Pet. 1:24-25; Js. 1:10-11). This is the inheritance of His covenant children (vv. 17-18), and those who know His covenant love keep His law (v. 18 Cf. Dt. 7:9; Ps. 25:10). He reigns over all the earth (v. 19 Cf. Ps. 47:2; Dan. 4:17, 25). The whole host of heaven serves in His kingdom, to do His will (vv. 20-22 Cf. Ps. 148:2; Heb. 1:14). This is also the prayer of His people (Mt. 6:10). The whole universe is His dominion (Cf. Ps. 8:6; Dan. 9:34; Jude 25).
Psalm 104 God Is sovereign-We Sing Because We Are Glad.
The covenant making and covenant keeping LORD is the creator and sustainer of all that is. With honour and majesty He walks on the clouds and winds with angels ministering. It makes all the more significant the reference to Christ in verse 4 by the writer to the Hebrews (1:7). The world is His creation (v.5). He sets the boundaries of the waters (vv. 6-9 Cf. Gen.1:6; 9:11-15; Ps. 33:7; Jer. 5:22), and they provide life to all His creatures (vv.10-12), and causes fruit to grow (v.13). He provides vegetation for man and beast (v. 14 Cf. Gen. 1:29; Job 36:31; Pss. 65:9; 136:25; 147:8; Is. 32:15), wine, oil, and bread for humanity (v.15 Cf. Jud. 9:13; Prov. 31:6; Eccl. 10:19; Ps. 23:5; Job 28:5), sap in the trees, a home for birds and other creatures (vv.16-17), and the rocks and hills as well (v.18).
There is a boundary of light and darkness which is His work as well (vv.19-20 Cf. Gen. 1:3-4; Job 26:10; Is. 45:7). With the celestial array He also created time (Gen. 1:14; Job 38:12; Ps. 19:6; 74:16). There is a time and place for man and beast (vv. 21-23, 25-26). All these things are manifold and wonderful works (v. 24 Cf. Ps. 40:5), created and sustained with wisdom (Prov. 3:19; Jer. 10:12). All creatures are dependent on the LORD (vv.27-28). He is the giver and taker of life itself (vv. 29-30 Job 34:15; Eccl. 12:7). His creation reveals His glory and He rejoices in His works (v.31)! This should give us pause to do the same. Just one look and the earth trembles, just one touch and they smoke (v. 32 Cf. Ex. 19:18; Ps. 144:5; Hab. 3:10). It causes the psalmist to want to sing (v. 33 Cf. Ps. 63:4).
When it says that God hides His face (v. 29), it means that the LORD is withdrawing His covenant blessings. However, the psalmist was glad in his covenant LORD (v. 34). He was glad for His creation and providence. People often forget the other half of the answer to the catechism’s first question-“What is the chief end of man?” the answer is to glorify and enjoy Him forever. We know much about the giving of glory to God and rightly so. However, the scriptures also direct us to enjoy Him forever. The psalmist wanted his meditation to be sweet because he was glad in the LORD (Cf. Ps. 19:14)! It is a spiritual place where sin cannot dwell and those sold to it (v.35 Cf. 37:38). Worship is commanded and is fitting and right, but the saints sing because they are glad.
Psalm 105 He Remembers His Covenant Forever!
This psalm is repeated outside the psalter (I Chron. 16:8-22). David gives thanks to the LORD for remembering his covenant (v. 8 Cf. Lk. 1:72-73). He called for thanksgiving for the LORD’s deeds done among all people, for His chosen ones (vv. 1, 6 Cf. Is. 12:4). These were “wondrous works!” (v. 2 Cf. 119:27; 145:12). He has acted in history on behalf of His people, therefore they rejoice and seek after Him (vv. 3-4 Cf. Ps. 27:8). His judgments are also a marvelous work, known in all the earth (vv. 5, 7 Cf. 77:11; Is. 26:9). This covenant was made with Abraham, remained as an oath to Isaac, and confirmed to Jacob as a statute and to Israel as everlasting-all children of promise (vv. 8-12 Cf. Gen. 15:18; 17:2; Gal. 3:17; Heb. 6:17). It was not based upon anything in them (Cf. Dt. 7:7; Heb. 11:9).
The Christian life is a pilgrimage of promise, but it has never been purely of heaven or the spirit only. Part of this promise is for a resurrection body and a new heavens and new earth. It is a grave mistake to think of the people of faith as escapists from the world. The promised land was simply a microcosm of God’s intention for the whole earth. The meek shall inherit the earth (Mt. 5:5), and we are to pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, where it is done perfectly (Mt. 6:10). God acted in history among all the kingdoms on behalf of His covenant people, and He still does (vv. 13-15 Cf. Mt. 28:18-20). He rules all creation for this purpose (v. 16). He raised up the slave Joseph and delivered and appointed him to this end (vv. 17-22).
Israel may have been a stranger in a foreign land, but they increased and became stronger than their enemies (vv. 23-24). In God’s sovereignty, they then turned against his people (v. 25), and Moses and Aaron were sent to deliver them (vv. 26-27). He also made the whole created order to serve His redemptive purposes, including the destruction of all the firstborn of their enemies (vv. 28-36). Yet, not only were they delivered, but they came out from them with riches, because they were feared (vv. 37-38). The LORD led and guided them and ruled the whole of the created order for their good (vv. 39-41). This was all because “He remembered His holy promise, and Abraham His servant.” (v. 42) It was a covenant of promise that the LORD remembered.
They had joy and gladness and inherited what others had laboured to produce (vv. 43-44). There was a reason for this deliverance according to the covenant of promise. “That they might observe His statutes and keep His laws.” (v. 45) They weren’t delivered because of these works. They were delivered and granted victory and blessings because of the promise. However, the goal and standard that they were to then live by was God’s law. Nothing has changed. It has always been this way. Obedience to the law is the result of God’s promise fulfilled in His people because of His mercy and grace. Furthermore, it involved the application of the word to all of life. God expects nothing less (Cf. Dt. 4:1, 40). “He remembers His covenant forever!” (v. 8) “Praise the LORD!” (v. 45).
Psalm 106 A History Of Rebellion and forgiveness.
In this last of the psalms in book 4 the psalmist praises the LORD for His goodness and mercy (v.1; I Chron. 16:34). His mighty acts are many (v.2). He blesses those who keep righteousness and justice (v. 3 Cf. Ps.15:2). Most of all he seeks the LORD for His salvation (v.4), to enjoy the benefits of His covenant people (v.5 Cf. 119:132). He acknowledges there sin-a very necessary prerequisite (v. 6), with specific examples from there history (v.7). “Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power known.” (v. 8 Cf. Ex.9:16) Through His sovereign rule over creation and in history, He delivered them from their enemies (vv.9-11). “Then they believed His words; they sang His praise.” (v.12) Moses and the people sang the song we find at Exodus 15, following as it does the deliverance we have recorded in 14.They sang because they finally believed His words.
However, “they soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel.” (v.13). This is always the crux of the matter-believing His word and waiting for His counsel. Too often God’s people are quick to forget His providence and lust for more instead of waiting for His counsel from His word (Cf. Nu.11). As a result He sends leanness into their souls (vv.14-25 Cf. Is.10:16; Jer. 2:13). Out of envy they rebelled against Moses, and “a flame burned up the wicked.” (v.18 Cf. Nu. 16; Dt. 11:2) They then made a golden calf and worshipped it (v.19 Cf. Ex. 32; Dt. 9:8; Acts 7:41). They forgot their saviour and instead envied power, worshipped riches, and lusted after each other unrestrained. They had a new trinity-power, riches, and sex (vv.20-22). They were spared only through the intercession of Moses who stood in the breach (v.23 Cf. Ex. 32:10ff; Dt.9:19; Ezek.22:30).
They despised the LORD and His good providence because again, “they did not believe His word.” (v.24 Cf. Dt.1:32; 9:23; Heb.3:18-19). They complained, instead of heeding His voice (v.25 Cf. Nu.14:2, 27; Dt.1:27). For the unbelieving the wilderness wandering was His covenantal curse upon them (vv.26-27 Cf. Lev. 26:33; Nu.14:28-30; Ezek. 20:15-16, 23; Heb.3:11,18). It didn’t end there. They also joined themselves to the religion of the land they were supposed to conquer-Baal of Peor, and made sacrifices for the dead (v.28). Their deeds provoked the LORD to anger and He sent a plague (v.29). It took the intervention of Phinehas, much like Moses, to turn back the plague (v.30), an act of faith on his part (v.31). Then there was the waters of strife and Moses also suffered, also waivering in unbelief (vv. 32-33 Cf. Cf. Nu. 20:3-13).
Their destruction of the peoples in the promised land was incomplete (v. 34 Cf. Jud.1:21; 2:2). Instead, they gave themselves over to their idolatrous practices (vv.35-36), even to the point of sacrificing their children to demons (v.37-38). Their own works and deeds defiled them (v.39). It justified His wrath against them (v.40). Thus they were made slaves of the Gentiles (vv.41-42). This psalm is a sad litany of their history of rebellion, and yet it is also a history of the LORD’s continued deliverance as He remembered His covenant, according to His mercies, so that even their enemies pitied them (vv.43-46). For this reason the psalmist calls upon the people to ask the LORD God for deliverance yet again and to give thanks and triumph in His praise (vv.47-48).