Monthly Archives: September 2015

Psalm 12:1-9

[To the choirmaster according to the Sheminith: a psalm of David]

1Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; the faithful has disappeared from among the sons of men.

2Each man speaks nothingness to his friend; with smooth lips and a double heart they speak.

3May the LORD cut off all the smooth tongues; the tongue that speaks great boasts,

4Those who say, “With our tongues we make mighty; our lips are with us; who will be lord over us?”

5“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, now I will stand up,” says the LORD, “I will set him in the safety to which he belongs.”

6The words of the LORD are pure words, as silver refined in the furnace on the ground; refined seven times.

7You, O LORD, will keep them; You will guard us from this age to forever.

8Round about, the wicked walk…while vileness is held high among the sons of men.

 

David creates a lyric speaker in this poem that opens and closes the work with the same image: some unjust situation that reigns supreme among the sons of men (1, 8). When he looks around him, he cannot find the godly one; faithful people have disappeared. In their stead has arisen people who lie in treachery and flattery. The ones who seem to reign on the earth around him are double-talkers and braggarts who are convinced of their own self-mastery. They believe in their autonomy. They cast off any semblance that Someone Else might be lord over them. But God is not one to sit idly by; it is in His nature to act justly in such a situation. He has promised to set the righteous one in the safety (or salvation) to which he belongs. But note how the poem ends: “round about, the wicked walk…while vileness is held high among the sons of men.” The lyric speaker is still living in the “here and now,” while the promise of the Lord is still future. What does he have left to stand on? The “words of the LORD” indicate that his faith is in YHWH, whether or not He acts in the immediate sense: “You, O LORD, will keep them; You will guard us from this age to forever.”

 

The only righteousness I can lay claim to is that which was imputed to me by the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ. But when I look around me, I see double-hearted, big-talking people who serve only themselves. Even among those who call themselves by His name—who claim faith in YHWH—I see people who have thrown off His mastery and lordship over them so that they may walk in autonomy. It is deeply distressing to me, especially, when they are highly regarded members of the community of faith. Everywhere I look, the vileness of Adam’s model—service of the self at the expense of others—continues unabated……but this is not the end of the story. God sees, and God will set things right. The words of the Lord are the lamp that lights my way, and as I live in the tension between the injustice of now and the justice of tomorrow, I must find rest in this poetry: “You, O LORD, will keep them; You will guard us from this age to forever.”

 

If I trust myself to fix these problems, I am no better than those faithless ones. If I trust Him to fix them, I am resting in His promise. What a challenge to which I must rise today.

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Psalm 11:1-7

[to the choirmaster. Of David]

1In the LORD I take refuge; how do you say to my soul, “flee like a bird to your mountain?

2For behold: the wicked bends the bow, and establishes the arrow in the string to shoot in the dark at the upright of heart;

3If the foundations are destroyed, what will the righteous do?”

4The LORD is in His holy temple; The LORD’s throne is in heaven;

               His eyes see; His eyelids try the hearts of men.

5The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked;

               His soul hates the one who loves violence.

6Let Him rain coals on the wicked;

               Fire and sulfur and a raging wind will be the portion of their cup.

7For the LORD is righteous, and loves righteousness; the upright will see His face.

 

The speaker presents an imaginary conversation to the audience in which someone asks him why his hope is in YHWH. It is evident to the questioner that the circumstances of the speaker are beyond hope in some way (11.2-3), and he is curious as to why hope still exists in the speaker. The speaker responds with the answer of the righteous: because God exists. He is still on the throne in heaven and doesn’t miss a thing. He sees the righteous and the wicked. His heart is close to the righteous and hates the wicked. The speaker forms a contrast between the ultimate destiny of the righteous to see the face of YHWH and that of the wicked, whose future includes fires and sulfur and raging blasts of wind.

 

Like the lyric speaker in the poem, our time on the earth is spent weathering adversity. When we do, we are questioned—more often than not, by ourselves—regarding our faith. It is easier to confess faith in God when times are good. When adversity strikes, it is more challenging. But our faith remains unwavering when we are reminded that God is still on the throne. He is still running things. His eyes see our circumstances, as they see all circumstances. And our ultimate destiny is to see His face and be in communion with Him, while those who seem to be in control today will have their ultimate destiny in hell.

 

Times are tough, no doubt. But God is still running things. Notice that, in the psalm, all of the “good stuff” is future tense. He believes that it will come to pass, but lives in the tension of the present—in which the bad seems to rule. While you and I live in that tension, let us be reminded that YHWH still reigns, and our ultimate destiny is with Him.

Psalm 10:1-18

1Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
    he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
10 The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.
11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
13 Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

16 The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

 

 

This psalm is of a type called “imprecatory.” It is an imprecation—a type of prayer in which the speaker calls for Gods’ judgment to even the score with the wicked. It is a “wishing” of bad stuff, so to speak, onto the wicked people around him. The speaker notices that this is an unfair world, and justice does not seem to reign. The wicked pay no heed to God’s word, and continues about his business unabated. Equally galling to the speaker is the fact that the wicked seems to prosper in all that he does—evidence that material blessing isn’t always a “blessing,” isn’t always from God, and isn’t always evidence of God’s favor on a person’s life. The speaker articulates his weakness and ineffectiveness, and turns to the only place that he really can: YHWH. He recognizes himself as helpless and begs God to hear his plea and uphold him.

 

You and I are incapable of changing this world in the utopian sense. We cannot make it a better place through our efforts and superior ideas; it is a place of injustice and horror. It is a world in which children die and women are mistreated and the hungry starve and the wicked prosper. The more closely we look at the world around us, the more backwards it seems to be. Nothing is as it should be. And we feel that injustice in our own lives. But it is in such moments that we are reminded that we were always helpless, anyhow. We must stop thinking of ourselves as powerful…we are weak and helpless. And we depend on the greatness of God Almighty in order to make it through a single day in this place.

 

If we have confidence, it is in Him. He is the only One Who will even the score. He is the only one Who sustains and provides and protects. This world is overrun by people who do not recognize Him or observe his judgment. We join in wishing that He would come quickly and even the score….uphold the righteous and destroy the wicked. Because only He can do this, it is in Him that we place our ultimate trust today….and in Him that we seek our ultimate comfort.

Psalm 9: 1-20

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah

17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O Lord!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

 

 

This is a song of thanksgiving; a poem of gratitude from David to the God Who has saved him from countless dangers. He acknowledges that God is a stronghold for the oppressed, and those who put their trust in Him will find that God never forsakes such people. He is an avenger of innocent blood, which is a truth about His justice reflected in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 as well. There will be a day of reckoning—payback—for those who have afflicted His people. Those who trust in His name will face adversity today, but He is their help. Ultimately, as a consequence of having persecuted the YHWH-trusters, they will have earned YHWH’s vengeance. He will execute judgment on them, sending them to Sheol—but He will always remember the needy and the oppressed and the ones who have trusted in Him.

 

We are all needy and oppressed; it’s just that there are some of us who acknowledge this and many of us who don’t. Those of the former group have learned that they must depend on the Creator for sustenance, provision, safety, and satisfaction. This has, historically, earned them the contempt and persecution of the latter group. But that de facto status of “aggrieved” and “persecuted” will not stand forever; He is returning to judge the system of man that has set itself up against God. He will do it harm, and will give the self-trusters the destiny they deserve. Meanwhile, He upholds the YHWH-trusters in all adversity.

 

Though we deserve God’s judgment, we get instead His mercy and His help. Thank Him for that today.

Psalm 8:1-10

[to the chief musician according to the Gittith: a psalm of David]

1O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth

2You have set Your glory in the heavens.

3From the mouth of babes and sucklings you have ordained strength

               Because of Your enemies;

               To still the enemy and the avenger.

4When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

               The moon and stars that You have ordained [set in place]

5What is man, that You are mindful of him? And the son of man, that You visit him?

6You have made him a little lower than the gods [or God],

               And crowned him with glory and honor.

7You have caused him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;

               You have put all things under his feet,

8All sheep and oxen and the beasts of the field,

9The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea;

               Whatever passes along the paths of the sea.

10O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

 

 

This incredible poem exemplifies the spirit of worship in every way: it is doctrinal, instructive, full of adoration for the Creator, and artfully crafted. David uses two addresses for God: YHWH and Lord. In doing so, he addresses God Almighty and acknowledges that He is the Master of all. He describes His name as majestic, and that the whole earth is involved in recognizing its majesty. Rather a person “believes” in God or not, he will nonetheless acknowledge God’s majesty—this is typically done in art. When God created man, He made him just below Himself in the pecking order of creation; everything else is under man’s dominion. David marvels at this, knowing full well the frailty of man. Despite his fallen nature and weakness, God still visits man—He desires to be in relationship with him and reveal Himself to him. The last line of the poem repeats the idea of the first.

 

The Lord’s name is still majestic in all the earth. One look at the stars, the moon, the creation in front of us—that look is enough to remind us of the majesty of God Almighty, Who is our Lord. Though we slip and fall with regularity, we are yet made in the image of God Almighty—crowned with glory and honor. The special needs children, the babies in the womb, the people in traffic, the clerks at the grocery store—all are crowned with the glory and honor of God Almighty. They all reflect His majesty and glory—whether they try to or not. How much more so when they try to!

 

This psalm doesn’t motivate me to “do” something; it forces me to acknowledge something….my smallness next to His greatness. And it reminds me that, despite that smallness, He yet visits and relates to me. This is at once humbling and powerful, telling and beautiful. All that I see today will be a reflection of His genius.

And He loves me.

Psalm 7: 1-17

O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.

O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust. Selah

Arise, O Lord, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
over it return on high.

The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts,
O righteous God!
10 My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day.

12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
15 He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
16 His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own skull his violence descends.

17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

 

David is here asserting his innocence before God in contrast to his enemies. This seems foreign to a Christian, who accepts that there is no innocence in us except that which is given by God. But we must remember that David, a Jew, lives by the same credo: the Law was given by God as a means of atonement, and David’s trust in the Law is a de facto trust in YHWH. He really is innocent—not because he is sinless, but because YHWH has covered over his sins.

 

Do we walk in innocence? Are we confident and assured of our innocence? Often, my day to day walk reflects more of an ethos that I am in charge of my guilt or innocence, and this is very dangerous. If I could stand with David and trust in God’s righteousness, giving thanks for it and being constantly reminded of it, I will be less tempted to try to shoulder the burden.

 

If you’ve trusted Christ, you are innocent today. Regardless of what you’ve done, you stand guiltless before Him. Be guided by that knowledge today, rather than your own abilities.

 

Psalm 6: 1-10

[to the chief musician: a song of the eighth (or “Sheminth”)—a psalm of David]

1O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger;

               Do not chastise me in Your wrath

2Be gracious to me, O LORD, because I am languishing;

               Heal me, O LORD, because my bones are panicked.

3My soul is greatly panicked;

               And You, O LORD—how long?

4Turn, O LORD, and deliver my soul;

               Save me on account of Your steadfast love.

5For there is no memory of You in death;

               In Sheol, who will praise You?

6I am weary of groaning.

               The whole night, I drown my bed;

                              In tears I dissolve my couch.

7My eye wastes away with grief;

               It grows weak because of all my foes.

8Turn from me, all you workers of wickedness;

               For the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.

9The LORD has heard my entreaty;

               The LORD has taken [accepted] my prayer.

10All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly panicked;

               They will turn and be ashamed in an instant.

 

In this song, David writes of the depth of his grief in some situation. He is greatly aggrieved, appears to be deeply stressed out, and this psalm employs one word three times: נִבְהֲל֣וּ, or “panicked.” In verse 2, he confesses that he is “greatly panicked,” but after YHWH hears his cry it is his enemies who are “greatly panicked” in verse 10. His poetic description of a night of weeping contains his typical Hebrew parallelism—that is, in one line he will write “I drown my bed,” and in the other line he will reiterate the concept in slightly different language: “I dissolve my couch.” We know that enemies are involved in the situation, and that his emotions are unstable as he cries out to God. The theme of the poem turns in verse 8, with the command to evildoers to turn away from him. He acknowledges that YHWH hears his cry and has taken (or accepted) his prayer. The tables have already been turned on his enemies, whether or not they realize it. He knows this by faith.

 

Many circumstances stress us out. Much of our lives appear to be one instance after another of the same opportunity: to trust in YHWH for a way through, or to shoulder the burden ourselves. When we shoulder the burden ourselves, we are making a statement of independence and autonomy—and this is reflected in our stress. As David pointed out in Psalm 4, the LORD keeps us in perfect peace when we just trust Him.

 

I have a tendency to believe that it is my job to solve all the problems in my life. But it is my task to simply trust Him and be faithful with what He’s given me. Rather than be greatly panicked, it is the adversary who comes against me who has cause for stress—as long as I’m trusting YHWH.