|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation Title: Overview
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 1
Meditation Title: A Life of Strife - Psa 3
Psa 3:1,2 O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him."
The heading over this psalm declares, “ A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.” So much of David's life was taken up with strife and battle. As a shepherd boy he fought lions and bears, as a soldier for Saul he fought Goliath and then went on to be a great army commander. As king he went on to subdue enemy states around him. Yet when the Lord disciplined him for his sins, he finds himself on the receiving end of the challenge from his son, Absalom, and has to flee Jerusalem (see 2 Sam 15-17).
It appears to be in this context that David writes this psalm. There are two interesting things to note before we get into it. First, that David took time so often to write down what he was feeling in poetic form, presumably to be sung, for he was a musician at heart (e.g. 1 Sam 18:10)
At this point David is aware of those around him who are against him: “O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!” (v.1) It's not just one person (Absalom) but he is aware of many people who have banded together with him against David. So often when we find someone against us, they are not alone for others gather to them to pull down the children of God. It is not uncommon.
David has a reputation for being a man of God but now the negative voices are raised against him. Thus far he has received the blessing of God but now it is the discipline of God. What was taking place was to fulfil the word of the Lord after David sinned with Bathsheba: “"This is what the LORD says: `Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'” (2 Sam 12:11,12)
So now the negatives rise against him: “Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him." (v.2) They saw what was happening and assumed that this was the end of David, but the Lord is not going to destroy him, just chastise him, for the Lord loves him and he is still the man who was described as “a man after God's own heart ” (see 1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22).
David has to cast off and reject these negative words and so declares what he knows through his experience of the Lord: “But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.” (v.3) He has known the Lord's protection, he has known the Lord lift him up from being a humble shepherd boy to a great king, and he has known the Lord exalt him before others. That is what he relies upon now. If you have known the Lord for any length of time, think back to what you know He has done for you and rejoice in that, so that that becomes a stay in the face of anything you may be battling with at the moment.
What is the answer in such situations? “To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.” (v.4) Note the foundation stones of David's praying. He prays to the “I AM” (Lord in capital letters in your text). He knows to whom he calls, the One who is Lord over all things, the Eternal One, the God of Moses, the One who has had dealings for centuries with this people. He cries aloud. He is not afraid to be public and extravagant with the Lord, for the Lord looks for those who will be wholehearted in all their dealings with Him: “you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut 4:29) and “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5). But he also knows that the Lord is a God who answers. Not for David a God of silence. God talks to His child.
In the midst of such times of struggle and strife, anxiety can be the name of the game, and so David's testimony is outstanding: “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” (v.5) In other words the Lord gives him peace in his sleep, despite what is happening. With this peace David can proclaim, “I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.” (v.6) If the Lord grants us peace, really it doesn't matter the scale of the problems facing me; all that matters is that He is in charge and He will oversee me in this and He will bring a good outcome, so it doesn't matter if it is a thousand or ten thousand!
With that established in his thinking, he approaches the Lord boldly, confident in his relationship with Him: “Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” (v.7) In such a situation there is only one thing to ask for – deliverance! And when that is deliverance from an enemy the only way that can happen is if the enemy is brought down and defeated. Jaw? Teeth? Perhaps he likens his enemies to the bear or lion he defeated in the long distant past (1 Sam 17:36,37) who came ravenously to devour him with its teeth. To smash its teeth renders it harmless. This is David's colourful way of saying, ‘Lord, render this enemy harmless.” Maybe within this there is a reticence in David to say, ‘Destroy them, Lord', because he is talking about his son here. Yes, he is the enemy leading others against him, but his later behaviour when Absalom is eventually killed, indicates this is something David didn't want to happen. Thus his cry to the Lord is, render him harmless, but don't kill him!
To conclude he makes a testimony and requests a blessing: “From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.” (v.8) In his heart he knows this will not end in his death and so, to the end, he desires God's blessing on His chosen people. That blessing is a decree of God, and whatever has happened in the past and whatever is going on now, still David's desire is that God will bless this people. Excellent!
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 2
Meditation Title: Difficult Times - Psa 4
Psa 4:1 Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
The heading over this psalm simply attributes it to David, but gives it no historical context. The clues to the causes or reasons why David wrote particular psalms, often comes at the beginning. The plea at the beginning, “ Answer me when I call to you,” (v.1a) supposes that prayer isn't just one-way. David expects God to respond. It may not be in words, but in God's activity. Note how he speaks of the Lord: “O my righteous God.” This is God who always does rightly. David is sure that this is what God is like and many modern day Christians would do well to take this on board: God only does what is right or, to put it slightly differently, whenever God acts, He will be acting in a right way in the face of the way He has designed this world. David prays with expectations of God, that God who acts rightly in every situation will do what is right for him.
Then he gives us the reason for this psalm: “Give me relief from my distress.” Something or someone is causing David distress or upset and he wants it to end. For this reason, he asks the Lord a second time, “be merciful to me and hear my prayer.” He wants God to hear his prayer and, by implication, respond to it. But he realises he has no personal grounds on which to twist God's arm. All he can do is plead for mercy. Mercy is a favourable response that is not warranted or earned, but just given, for no other reason than the person wants to grant it.
David turns from his prayer – a one verse prayer! – and looks outward to those who cause him stress: “How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame ?” (v.2a) His glory? His role in life as assigned by God – to be king over Israel . Somehow they were thwarting his purposes in God! He says something that sheds further light on that: “How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?” Ah! Perhaps his glory is the glory of Israel as a nation under God. These people who are causing him distress have departed from the truth and are following idols and as such they shame Israel and they shame David.
David then seeks to reassure himself: “Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself,” (v.3a) and the implication is that he knows he is godly and therefore God has time for him and so, “the LORD will hear when I call to him.” (v.3b) Note the logic: God listens to the godly, I am godly, therefore God will listen to me.
But then it is as if he speaks to a wider audience, not merely the unbelievers. He talks to those who may read this psalm, ordinary believers and who may question the thought of being godly: David says the Lord has time for the godly. Am I godly? He thinks of things that may cause doubt in the average person and may make them follow a godless course: “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD.” (v.4,5) In other words life being what it is, it is a fruitful place for anger to spring up and that can lead on to, or even be a source of, godlessness. When we get angry we get self-centred and leave God out of the equation. The apostle Paul was to write, possibly with this psalm in mind, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Eph 4:26 ) i.e. if you do get angry, don't hang on to it! The psalmist was saying, if you think you have sinned with your anger, do what you know the law requires and offer a sacrifice for sin and then trust the Lord for His forgiveness. That is the godly approach. We all get it wrong from time to time, but the important thing is how we handle it!
In the face of this negative influence within his country, from those who were unbelievers and turning to idols, David foresees some people's responses: “Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?" (v.6a). There were clearly divided loyalties in the land, some being faithful to the Lord and some not, and the feeling was obviously, “Why are we in this mess? Where is God? What about the idols, can they help?” Thus he turns back to the Lord with a further cry: “Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD .” (v.6b) i.e. Lord, please come and make yourself be known, be the answer to all the doubters (implied).
Then in the concluding part of the psalm we find a sense of assurance that so often comes to the believer once they have cried out to the Lord. It is almost as if this is part of God's answer, this reassurance that comes in and through prayer: “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.” (v.7) How incredible! One minute he is crying out to the Lord in his sense of need to be relieved of his distress, and the next minute he is talking about being filled with joy, yet this is exactly what happens when the believer cries to the Lord and then receives this assurance. It is a complete confidence that is expressed as joy.
The result of this now, is that David can say, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (v.8) With this joy bubbling in him, the anxieties of ungodly people being in his land are washed away and he is left with this sense of complete security. The Lord is in command and He will deal with them (implied) and so David can go to sleep and leave them for the Lord to sort out and thus the Lord will bring him into a place of complete security.
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 3
Meditation Title: Living with Liars - Psa 5
Psa 5:9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.
Meditating on the psalms of David can appear to be a somewhat dismal experience because so many of the psalms of his are cries for help. This is, as we've commented before, because David is best described as a warrior as he spent much of his time fighting. But then we might wonder, did people such as Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun have such anguishes as we find in David, and the answer almost certainly was no. This is what makes David so distinctive, that he was a warrior yet still a man after God's own heart and it is this heart that so often cries out.
Again we find here a prayer: “ Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.” (v.1,2) There are stresses and strains in David's life and the heart after God means that he takes them to the Lord. Sometimes my wife will suddenly say to me, “That was a big sigh,” and I realise that I had expressed by means of a sigh the heaviness that I was feeling about something. David was sighing with the heaviness he felt and he feels he needs the Lord's help.
David is obviously a ‘morning person': “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (v.3) If you wake up with a burden on your heart you don't wait until the evening to pass it on to the Lord. What a good practice it is to take time out each morning to spend with the Lord, thinking on His word, sharing your heart with Him and listening to what He has to say.
He ponders on the Lord's holiness: “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.” (v.4-6) God may be a God of love but that doesn't mean He tolerates all that is wrong. He doesn't take pleasure in what is evil and so wicked people will not live with Him or commune with Him. Those who are arrogant (and proud and boastful) are not able to stand in His presence and, indeed, the Lord hates that part of every person that does wrong. Those who live a life of lies and deceit will end up being destroyed (if they will never come to repentance). So often that deceitfulness is linked with blood thirstiness and these things the Lord cannot stand. It is interesting to note that although David speaks of the wicked, the arrogant, wrong doers and the bloodthirsty, it is liars who receive the greatest censure for lies and deceit are the enemies weapons that keep us from God and those who refuse to turn from such a way of life will end up destroyed.
David compares himself by contrast to these people: “But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies-- make straight your way before me.” (v.7,8) They may be arrogant, but he will humble himself and come and bow before the Lord. They may insist on doing their own thing, but he asks the Lord to lead his life. He appeals to the Lord's righteousness, the Lord's desire to always do the right thing, to deal with the ungodly and lead him in the way the Lord wants him to go.
He speaks again of these liars: “Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.” (v.9) Their words – what we hear from them – are lies and cannot be trusted and so their heart – what is on the inside, hidden from us – only desires destruction. The truth leads to life, lies lead to death. Their throats – from which come their words – are like a grave, places of death and so their words come out of death and bring death, their words speak deceit, lies designed to lead astray and to destruction. The condemnation of these people, whoever they are, is strong and what follows is the logical follow-on from a righteous heart: “Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.” (v.10) Let the Lord judge them and declare their guilt, let all their intrigues and scheming be their downfall, may they be cast away for their sins and their rebellion.
Thus the guilty are condemned but to finish, David contrasts the righteous: “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” (v.11) These schemers and liars seek the downfall of the righteous but we may take refuge in the Lord's presence, and there we find security and are glad and can sing for joy. He calls to the Lord to bring His protection to cover the righteous, those who love the Lord, so that they may be able to rejoice in Him. He concludes, “For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” (v.12) Yes, the Lord blesses the righteous and His favour surrounds them and acts as a shield. The ungodly and the unrighteous may still be there, but we remain at peace and are able to sing for joy in the protection that we have in the wonder of the Lord's presence. Hallelujah!
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 4
Meditation Title: A Weeping King – Psa 6
Psa 6:6 I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.
Bear in mind what we have said previously about this warrior but who is described as a man after God's own heart. It is only by holding both those aspects before us that we can understand David and his psalms. I always remember David's response when Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner and David declared, “And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me.” (2 Sam 3:39) David was a strong warrior but again and again he indicated he was not harsh and did not look for death. David is an emotional man and his psalms are packed with emotions. Catch a sense of them as we work through this psalm.
Verses 1 to 4 are clearly prayer addressed to the Lord and that may also include verses 5 to 7 but it is unclear. Verses 8 to 10 are clearly spoken outwards.
David's prayer is essentially for the Lord to lift off from him what he is feeling and what he is going through for he feels it could be the Lord's doing, rebuking and disciplining him: “O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.” (v.1) He doesn't give any indication why this might be happening to him but whatever it is, he pleads for the Lord not to be against him.
He opens up a little of what he is going through: “Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.” (v.2) He appears to be in physical agony, he appears to have some form of illness that is bringing him down. How many of us have felt similarly? His whole being feels it: “My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?” (v.3) When you feel ill there is no escaping it, it impinges on your whole being. Is this why Jesus healed so many people, that he knew the prison that they were in?
David continues to cry out: “Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.” (v.4) When he says, “Turn, O Lord,” he echoes what so many of us feel when we are going through something similar, that the Lord is facing away from us, paying no attention to our plight, and we want to cry out, Lord, I'm over here, can you not see what is happening? He knows that God has the power to deliver him from this sickness. How many of us have been there? I know the Lord has the power to heal because Jesus healed so many, so why will he not heal me? But in the midst of it we are sure He still loves us.
He adds some logic to his plea to the Lord: “No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave?” (v.5) There are shades of Job about this. What is the point of me dying? How can I praise you if I am dead? Come and heal me! Like Job, the depths of his anguish start to come out: “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” (v.6) When you are in pain and suffering with illness it doesn't stop at night and you cannot help groaning from time to time; it is just the body's way of trying handle it.
But there is a feeling now coming out here of something more. When we are physically ill, we are also made weak emotionally. Depression is so easily linked with physical illness. Vulnerability is particularly prevalent when you are feeling physically down and this tough warrior weeps throughout the night. He weeps and weeps and weeps. What could cause such a depth of anguish? Well partly, no doubt, it is what we have been saying already – he is physically weak and that leaves him emotionally drained. But that is only part of it; see what follows. “My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.” (v.7) Ah! There is the second thing - people! We don't know who or what, for he doesn't say, but in his emotional weakness he is in no state to withstand the negatives that come from other people. Whoever or whatever, he feels utterly down because of them.
But then at the end of this psalm we find this same thing we find in so many of David's psalms. There is no keeping him down. Even in the midst of anguish, tears and crying out to the Lord, something in him rises up: “Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping.” (v.8) Get lost! James wrote, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7) Resist the devil, tell him where to go, and he will flee. Powerful words, but there has to be something in us that will reach out to God, grab a sense of His word for us so that faith rises, and then we stand and defy the enemies of the Lord.
David has come to a place of assurance: “The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.” (v.9) He suddenly has this inner assurance yet again. It seems he goes through this process again and again in his life: struggles come, he cries to the Lord in weakness, and then assurance breaks through. This assurance develops into confidence: “All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.” (v.10) It's sorted! The Lord has heard and so the Lord WILL deal with them; I've got nothing more to worry about! Hallelujah!
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 5
Meditation Title: Pursued – Psa 7
Psa 7:1 O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me
Two things to note before we get under way: first, the title over this psalm says it is one David “sang to the Lord concerning Cush a Benjamite”. Now of course Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin (1 Sam 9:1,2) and so some suggest Cush was a follower of Saul who was causing David trouble. The second thing: often we fail to associate the things going on in David's life with our own and thus fail to catch the full significance of what he was feeling. Let's try to remedy that.
He starts out O LORD my God which the bold letters tell us will mean, “Great I AM, the Eternal One, you are my God”. Always there is this reminder of who the Lord is when He is addressed like this. This Almighty One is the one in whom David finds refuge. He calls on Him to save and deliver him from people who are pursuing him. This suggests it is the time in his life when Saul was chasing him around the country.
He fears the outcome of this pursuit if the Lord does not step in on his behalf: “ or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.” (v.2) he's thinking in the back of his mind, this isn't much different from the times when I was looking after my father's sheep and a lion or bear would come after me!
He then does what he often seems to do – seek to check his own righteousness before the Lord and see if there is any cause he needs to deal with that indicates that what is happening is the Lord's discipline: “O LORD my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands (v.3) -- if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe (v.4) -- then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust.” (v.5). “If there is guilt on my hands” – i.e. if I have done anything wrong. if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe i.e. if I have treated others wrongly. If I have done any such thing then I deserve chastisement, so bring it on!
But deep down David knows that that is not so. He has got unrighteous enemies raging against him for no good reason and so he calls to the Lord to bring justice: “Arise, O LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.” (v.6) Very well, he continues, gather the onlookers of the world around you as you make judgment, let them all see it (implied): “Let the assembled peoples gather around you. Rule over them from on high,” (v.7) yes, let the court of heaven be open to judge and weigh me, to assess my righteousness and my integrity – “let the LORD judge the peoples. Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.” (v.8) What a confidence in the Lord and in his own righteous relationship with the Lord he has!
He continues: “O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.” (v.9) Lord, you see everything and read every heart and mind, come and judge the wicked and make those of us who hold to your righteous ways secure.
He affirms his position in God: “My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.” (v.10) He is secure and protected in the Lord because of who the Lord is. First, the Lord is all-powerful and, second, He is concerned for right and wrong and so does come and save those who are ‘upright in heart'.
He pictures the Lord as a judge who not only makes decisions but who also comes to execute the judgment of those decisions: “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day. If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows.” (v.11-13) The Lord decrees what is righteous (it is what conforms to His perfect design for the world He made) and therefore He assesses everything on the basis of His perfect will, His perfect design, and He moves out against what is evil to destroy it.
David ponders on those who do evil and how it comes back on them: “He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head.” (v.14-16) Sometimes the Lord comes with specific judgments on people but more often He simply stands back and lets the trouble they have created come back on them. Paul had this same idea in Romans 1 when three times he says “God gave them over.” i.e. God stepped back and removed His hand of protection so that the sin of these people would run rife and bound back on them.
He concludes by praising God for all His right dealings: “I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.” (v.17) He could trust that the Lord would always do what was right – and that therefore included dealing with the unrighteous ones who pursued him – and that left him praising the Lord.
Now let's apply this to our own lives. When things go wrong – whether it is people against us, or circumstances just going badly – it seems those things pursue us. We cannot escape them, and worry or anxiety because of them, haunts us. But if they are wrong things – people speaking or doing wrong towards us, or things happening because it is a fallen world that goes wrong – when we turn to the Lord, we need to remind ourselves that He is righteous, which means that He ALWAYS is working to do what is right. Thus when we call upon Him we come to see what He feels about the situation and we can wait on Him to deal with it in the way He sees is right. Now, can we rest in that?
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 6
Meditation Title: Wonder – Psa 8
Psa 8:1a O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
One of the difficulties of many of the psalms is that we have no idea when they were written (except within the lifespan of David!) and what was the context that brought them about. Thus we are left to speculate and that really is all it can be. So OK, we speculate. Looking at the content of this particular psalm, I imagine David out on a hillside, possibly in the time when he was watching over his father's sheep. They would not have suffered light pollution as we do in built up areas today, and so the stars on a cloudless night would have been sharp and crisp and he gazes at them in wonder. Seeing stars on such a night leaves only the emotionally dead unmoved!
David starts and finishes this particular psalm with a conclusion: Lord you are incredible, you the great I AM are our God, and that name which suggests eternity also suggests you are the Creator of all things, The Unique One, the All-Powerful One, the One who has made all these stars. It is therefore a name above every other name, the ruler of all things. He stares upwards, “ You have set your glory above the heavens.” (v.1b) The heavens for the poet were the sky above but what he sees is way beyond the clouds above. These stars, these specks of light in the sky are who knows how far away and they reveal the glory of God the Creator. How incredible He must be!
“ From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise ” (v.2a) The most simple minded see the wonder of the night sky and gasp and wonder and attribute it to God. Yes, those who no axe to grind against God, acknowledge Him and His works and in so doing they silence the foolish and mindless enemies of God: “because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” (v.2b)
Again he stares upwards and thinks, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,” (v.3). There they all are, millions of specks of light; there's no way they are there by chance, they are the work of God and if that is so then God must be absolutely incredible and if this is how He is, then “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (v.4) We human beings are so incredibly small in comparison to the universes we behold in the night sky above us. And yet, amazingly, “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” (v.5) We may not be as great or powerful as the angels and yet God has made us distinct from the rest of the living creatures on the earth; we have been made in the image of God, we reflect something of His glory – we communicate, we think, we reason, we plan, we calculate, we design, we compose, we write, we invent, we feel and understand and appreciate and the unseen world looks on and marvels (Eph 3:10)
But even more than that, “You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet.” (v.6) The human race was designed to rules (wisely) over all that God has given us. Sin has clearly spoiled that but that is what we were designed to be – rulers, rulers over “all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.” (v.7,8) Those who would claim equality for all living creatures fly in the face of the revelation of God. We are not equal to animals and they are not equal to us; we are above them, we are a greater creation than the rest of the living creatures. That is not to say that we are to abuse them; it is to say we have a responsibility for them and we often haven't done very well in that respect. What is sad is that Christians have often been slower than the rest of the world to understand this, to understand that we are simply stewards of God's creation, not to be those who pillage it.
So here is David, possibly on the hillside in the night, looking up at the clear sky and marveling at it, marveling at the wonder of it, and of the One who made it. And then he marvels at who we are and that He should care for us as He does, and he concludes, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Indeed!
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 7
Meditation Title: Nations Rebuffed – Psa 9
Psa 9:3-5 My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously. You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
Sometimes with these psalms of David we are told by a heading the context and other times we are left to guess by the content. This is another of those latter psalms.
Now we have inserted the breakdown to emphasise the content of the psalm, flowing backwards and forwards between prayer addressed to the Lord and declaration that seems to be addressed to his listeners or readers. For David, when writing at least, prayer isn't a long stream but part of a two-sided address, us the readers being the other party to it.
So note first of all his prayer that starts the psalm. He declares to the Lord that he will praise Him and tell of all His wonders (v.1), that he will rejoice in Him and sing praises to Him (v.2). That is his heart intent, and then comes the reason for it: the Lord has turned back David's enemies (v.3) and had judged them from His throne (v.4) and rebuked them and utterly destroyed the wicked (v.5). Now we don't know who these ‘nations' are but there were various times when David was at war with surrounding nations, and overcame them. But the Lord has utterly brought them down now and there are no signs left of them (v.6)
So then he declares truths about the Lord. The Lord rules for ever and His rule includes assessing and judging nations (v.7) and He will judge according to what is right, with righteousness and justice, (v.8) and thus the Lord is a place of refuge and protection for those who are oppressed and in trouble (v.9)
Then he turns back to the Lord to make those truths personal: all who know the Lord and seek Him can trust Him for He will never forsake them (v.10)
He quickly turns back to us as if to challenge us with this. We should praise the Lord and tell the world what He has done (v.11) because He is a faithful God who acts on behalf of those slain unrighteously and He never ignores the afflicted (v.12).
He turns to the Lord again, recollecting or perhaps reinforcing what he had prayed before: his enemies had come against him and his life had been under threat and he cried for mercy from the Lord (v.13) so that he might again have a testimony and be able to praise the Lord in Jerusalem (v.14).
Then he moves back into information mode and tells us that the Lord had answered (implied) because the nations who had come against him have fallen into their own wickedness (v.15) and God is revealed for His justice in letting them be ensnared by their own scheming (v.16). The wicked, those who are godless and who were against David (implied), are no longer (v.17); the Lord has dealt with them. On the other hand, those who are needy and afflicted will never be forgotten by the Lord (v.18) and their hope will always remain (because the Lord can be trusted to turn up for them).
These are the truths that David knows and so finally he turns back to the Lord and (implied) asks the Lord to conform to these truths and do what He does, to rise up and judge the nations (v.19) and bring terror to them in order to realise the Lord's greatness and their smallness (v.20).
Thus we have seen David praising the Lord for His activities in coming on David's behalf and dealing with the godless nations who had risen against him. He declares to us that the Lord is a judge who weighs the nations and deals with those who are godless while at the same time caring for the oppressed and persecuted, the poor and needy and afflicted. He is indeed a refuge for the poor and the weak, for all who will cry to Him and seek Him. The Lord is righteous in all His dealings with the nations and when, on the Last Day all is revealed, we will see that He has always acted justly. Although we may feel down and oppressed, we may hope in Him, in His faithfulness, that He will come on our behalf. Hallelujah!
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 8
Meditation Title: Righteous Justice – Psa 11
Psa 11:7 For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.
In a couple of the recent psalms of David that we have considered, the concept of justice has been important in David's understanding, as has righteousness. For example, “ Awake, my God; decree justice,” (Psa 7:6) and “ He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice,” (Psa 9:8) and “The LORD is known by his justice,” (Psa 9:16) and thus he concludes this psalm with the reference to righteousness and justice above, which is really what the psalm is all about.
Thus before we look at the psalm we need to be sure in our mind what these two words mean. Righteousness is about rightness or being in accord with God's design and God's character. When David says the Lord is righteous, he means that everything about the Lord is right - His thinking, His words, and His actions; in the fullness of history we will never be able to fault anything that God has thought, said or done. Now justice is also about doing rightly but it is always in the context of something said or done as an expression of this fallen world, i.e. through Sin. Justice puts right wrong doing and brings correction or punishment to balance the wrong doing.
Very well. At the beginning of this psalm we see David under pressure and he declares, “In the LORD I take refuge.” (v.1a) When he's under attack, through whatever means and by whoever, David turns to the Lord, senses His presence and feels protected, and so he asks of his detractors, “ How then can you say to me : "Flee like a bird to your mountain.” (v.1b) We don't know the cause of this; all we know is that those near him were counseling him to flee. Why, he answers them, I am protected by the Lord.
He is aware of those who seek to bring him down, “For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.” (v.2) Whether this means verbally or literally we don't know but he is conscious of those who try to remain hidden but who are, nevertheless, out to get him. He ponders on what is being suggested: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (v.3) i.e. if he flees and the rightful ruler ship of the land is removed, how will the righteous in the land survive? Perhaps another way of viewing this might be, if I give way to what you are suggesting, I am denying what I know to be the truth, that the Lord will uphold truth, righteousness and justice. You are suggesting everything is out of control and I should flee.
But, he continues, I know otherwise, “The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne.” (v.4a) i.e. my enemies may be there in the shadows but the Lord is in His temple in heaven and there He rules over all things. Indeed, “He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them.” (v.4b) i.e. He sees everything that is going on in this world so I'm not afraid that He will miss something.
More than that, the Lord is discerning and He distinguishes between the good and the bad: “The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.” (v.5) He checks out those who are righteous, examining their hearts and sees that they are righteous, but those who He sees and knows are wicked and who love violence, these ones everything in Him hates.
We need to pause with that thought. Doesn't God love everyone? Well yes, but that doesn't mean to say He has to respond to everyone identically. He can hate evil and when the individual is committed to evil He will hate that expression of evil, even the man, but the moment that man repents, the Lord's arms of love are reaching out to Him.
When David speaks of ‘the wicked' he refers to those who are firmly committed to that way of life, a godless, self-centred way that determines to do what it wants regardless of it being contrary to God's design for His world and being harmful to others. These ones incur the Lord's wrath: “On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.” (v.6) i.e. He will bring on them judgment that comes either as discipline that will turn a person in repentance, or destruction, when there is no hope of that person turning – and only the Lord knows that.
But the Lord will act! He always acts rightly and justly and so even if, for the moment, there are those shooting at David from the shadows, the Lord will not allow this to go unchallenged, “For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.” (v.7) i.e. because of what He is and does, those who remain upright (righteous) will find God turning up on their behalf, Hallelujah!
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 9
Meditation Title: Ungodly Society – Psa 12
Psa 12:1,2 Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception.
There are times when, as a Christian in a society where only 5% of the population attend church (UK in 21 st century), it can seem that we are a helpless minority watching a godless and unrighteous majority, and the state of society seems to continually decline and yet the world seems blind to the reasons for it. We might have thought that David, the great king, the man after God's own heart, would have been a great force for good, leading the people before God, and yet that doesn't seem to be the case at the point when he wrote this psalm.
Indeed we might say that from what he says, Israel is in a bad place spiritually: “ Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception.” (v.1,2) That conveys a terrible picture of Israel at that time. David looks around and there appear there is no one left who might be described as godly and faithful and, indeed, lies and deception seem to prevail. Truth seems absent from the land. How far they have drifted from the Lord!
David watches and listens to what is going on around him and yearns for the Lord to intervene: “May the LORD cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue that says, "We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips--who is our master?" (v.3,4) What a summary of society. There are flatterers – those who boost up the egos of others, no doubt for gain. There are boastful tongues, those who speak out of arrogance and pride and they say, we are the voice of society and our way will triumph through our words, we say what we like for we are the top dogs in this world, we decree what goes, and our words prevail over all others. Sounds just like today's modern world.
But David catches a sense of the Lord's heart: “Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise," says the LORD. "I will protect them from those who malign them.” (v.5) Previously we've seen David acknowledge the Lord as a God of Justice who comes to remedy that which is wrong, and so now, here in this psalm, the Lord comes on behalf of the weak and needy who are oppressed by the rich and well off, those in society with power. This oppression is wrong and He will come and deal with it.
David acknowledges what he has heard as the word of the Lord: “And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.” (v.6) To say that the words of the Lord are good and right are an understatement. They are flawless and perfect, as flawless as silver is when it has been purified seven times in the furnace. This word is exactly right.
Although he starts by mourning over the state of the land and the people in it, as so often happens by the time he has poured it out before the Lord, he comes to a place of confidence and assurance about their situation: “O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.” (v.7) Life in this sort of society can be very uncertain and unstable but with the Lord we can know safety and protection from these people and that is a confidence we need to have to stop us feeling constantly defensive.
Yes, David is real about the state of the land but his confidence is in the Lord. The reality is that, “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.” (v.8) When truth leaves the land, bad things, vile things, are honored and in such a society those who are ‘wicked' - who have turned from God and who are self-centred, godless and unrighteous - strut about as if they own the world; but remember, they don't, God does!
If you like this is a psalm about seeing what is happening in a godless society (as ours is today), recognising what is happening but putting our trust in the Lord. He will act in His time. We need to understand that even as Paul showed in Romans 1, what we are witnessing is ‘God giving them over' to the consequences of their godless folly and so what is happening is, in fact, the judgment of God on our society. Our call? To remain faithful regardless of what everyone else does! Our call? To be salt and light and there with answers when people cry for answers! May we be that!
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 10
Meditation Title: Abandoned? – Psa 13
Psa 13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
Listening to and watching the Christian community, I am saddened by the sense of unreality that seems to pervade so many lives. The perceived and required mentality that seems to be taught in some churches is that we are always triumphant and we never struggle with life – we are victorious over-comers. Now as much as I agree with those two descriptions, there are some areas that they apply to but often life is not like that. The person who denies they ever sense that God is in another universe is either deluded or simply unaware of spiritual realities full stop!
Where there is honesty, there will be many people who feel as David feels in this psalm, and it is not wrong to feel this! The reality is that we lead a life of faith and that means we cannot see God and sometimes people or circumstances seem to blot out the sense of his presence (we'll see much more of this in Psa 22). The disciples living their lives alongside Jesus often misunderstood and got it wrong in their understanding, so we shouldn't be surprised (and God isn't!) when we get it wrong. When Jesus hung on the Cross and took on himself the sins of the world, he cried out with a sense that God had left him. Now I am sure that didn't happen, but just from Jesus' human perspective at that moment, that was how it seemed. And that is how it seems to David at this moment: “ How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” He has this feeling that he has been abandoned by the Lord. It's the same sort of thing that Job felt.
But what was going on in him to make him feel like this? “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (v.2) David, like most of us, is a thinker and his thoughts go round and round and round. Where is God? Why hasn't he turned up for me? Have I done something wrong? Has He left me? When the sense of the all-glorious being that is God gets clouded by people or circumstances these are the thoughts that will go through our minds. Now whether the ‘enemy' is Satan or a physical human being is not clear, but someone or something is pressing in on him, stressing him, and causing him anguish and his mind struggles to understand what is going on.
Habakkuk is another good example of someone who struggled to understand what was going on. Listen to his cry: “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (Hab 1:2) That's what it seemed to him, and so he starts reasoning, even though the Lord has told him what is happening: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” (Hab 1:13a) He's just been told that God is going to use the enemy to purge Israel , but the enemy are godless and unrighteous. It just doesn't fit his theology. He continues, “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Hab 1:13b) He hadn't reached the point of understanding that the Lord does use the ungodly to sometimes chastise the godly. If you want another person who didn't understand what was happening read about Gideon (Jud 6:13).
Sometimes we don't understand the big picture, we don't see what God is doing in our circumstances and thus we cry out with David, “Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.” (v.3) We even feel that unless the Lord turns up and gives us answers, our very lives are threatened (spiritual if not physical!). How can we survive, we feel, if this continues like this? The only outcome we can see is the enemy triumphing: “my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” (v.4)
There it is, we've come to the end of our resources it seems. We don't understand it all – and we have tried! But then, there in the dark, we sense something and contrary to all understanding and expectations we find ourselves declaring, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” (v.5) Suddenly we find there was something else there we hadn't realised was there, a glimmer of grace, that sureness that despite everything, God IS the God of love (1 Jn 4:8) and He will bring my salvation, and despite all else that the enemy can throw at us, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.” (v.6) It may be rubbish at the moment, but the Spirit reminds me that the past has been good, and it's all of the Lord.
In this light, I love the closing words of Psalm 92: “The righteous ….will still bear fruit in old age ….proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psa 92:12-15) They may be limited in many other ways, but the older Christian can still testify to this truth.
Habakkuk broke through to the place where he could write: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Hab 3:17,18) You don't get to that point of complete assurance in God until you've been through the place where you first cry out, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? Only after that do we find that grace is there in the sludge at the bottom of the barrel, and grace declares the truth: God IS there, and God IS working out His purposes and God still IS a God of love and does all things well for me. Amen? Amen!
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 11
Meditation Title: Godless Stupidity – Psa 14
Psa 14:3 All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one
For many years I assumed that once David was king the nation was in a good place spiritually, but in fact there is little evidence pointing to that. In fact it points the opposite way. First there is the terrible account of David counting his men out of pride, an act provoked by Satan (1 Chron 21:1) but this is seen as an act of judgement of the Lord (2 Sam 24:1) which presupposes things were very far from good in Israel. Second, there are David's own words in some of his psalms, as in this one. His assessment of the land is as in our verse above.
He starts out on a more general tone: “ The fool says in his heart, "There is no God.” (v.1a) A fool in wisdom literature is one who lacks wisdom and resorts to his own self-centred self-opinionated, and silly ideas. Being self-centred this silly person declares there is no God. But from godlessness flows unrighteousness. Our own western societies have not realised this, that when you take God out of the equation every man is left doing his own thing and that is a downward spiral, clearly observed in Western societies over the last fifty years.
David sums them up: “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” (v.1b) When you have any society that turns away from God, as a society, none of them stand up to scrutiny. Corrupt = spoiled, marred, rotten. Vile = offensive, disgusting, repulsive. Yes, if we could only see with the pure eyes of the Lord we would see that so much that is portrayed on TV of the twenty first century fits these descriptions.
But we are not alone: “The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” (v.2) This is the truth; the Lord is looking for those who will remain faithful to Him, those who see what is going on and are repulsed by it, and seek Him for remedy. Will that be us?
He pronounces his judgment of this nation: “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (v.3) Whether that was exactly true or whether it was just how it seemed is unclear. Elijah thought he was the only faithful one left (1 Kings 19:14) but the Lord told him that there were in fact 7000 (1 Kings 19:18). Whatever the state, it is bad!
He ponders, “Will evildoers never learn-- those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the LORD?” (v.4) These wrong doers in society just keep on and on doing harm to others. Do they not realise what they are doing? Do they have no conscience? Do they not realise they are answerable to God? They use people for their own ends and when they have finished with them they cast them aside.
But then something changes: “There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.” (v.5) Suddenly the Lord has made His presence known and it is with His faithful ones, the righteous in society, and the ungodly see and know and fear and there is a dread in them, what might God do next? How might it affect them? These silly fools (from v.1) will have to face the truth: “You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the LORD is their refuge.” (v.6) So far you have abused the poor in society because they are weak but now the Lord has come and He is their refuge so if you come against them, you come against Him (implied).
Now whether this has actually happened or David simply imagines it happening is not clear because he cries, “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion !” (v.7a). Zion, Jerusalem, is the place of God's dwelling and if salvation is to come to Israel, that is where it will come from, so “When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” (v.7b). Yes, when the Lord comes and brings change that will truly be a time for Israel to rejoice.
For us who are Christians today in the West, minorities in our communities, we too should imagine what it will be like of the Lord turned up and brought a complete change to our society – and then pray for it. But let us be specific, let's be aware of what is wrong and what we want to see different, and then we may see more clearly the part we have to play in it all.
|Series Theme: Meditations in the Psalms of David|
Meditation No. 12
Meditation Title: Personal Righteousness – Psa 15
Psa 15:1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
Those of us who have known the Lord for any length of time come, I believe, to take so much for granted, that we tend to lose some of the wonder of the Lord and what has happened to us. It is amazing, first of all, that human beings can claim to be able to have a meaningful relationship with the true living God. But after that come questions: what does He want of me, what sort of life does He want me to live?
It is in this vein that David now ponders his relationship with the Lord. There is no indication of where or where these thoughts flowed in him, but he is pondering on the wonder of the possibility but is aware that God places demands on us. He gave Israel the Law through Moses, instructions of how to live out life as His people, in ways that would enable them to live in line with His original design for mankind. So David now ponders on the possibility of living in relationship with the Lord, living close to Him: “ LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?” (v.1) There must be requirements, he muses, as to just who can dwell close to God because God is against evil, so what sort of life does the Lord require of me?
Now before we move into the list that follows, it is imperative that we clarify the truth that you cannot reach God and be saved by good works. Our works will never be good enough and so it is always a case of us surrendering to Him and receiving the salvation He has provided through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. In his death on the Cross, Jesus took all our punishment so that we might receive God's forgiveness when we ask for it. That is how we are saved, but after that, the question then becomes, what sort of life does the Lord now want of me?
The verses that follow come as a continuing list: “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.” (v.2-5) We need to work through this carefully.
Whose walk is blameless? Our conscience will scream out, with the Spirit's help, if we know there are things for which we can be blamed, that were our fault, and so we should endeavour to see that we do not do such things. What is righteous? It is what is right before God. These are general attitude and behaviour issues.
Speaks the truth and allows no slander? This is all about words and speaking . How easily we let ourselves and the Lord down with careless words. This must be especially so in respect of others, never saying things that are untrue about another but, going further, never speaking wrong about another that pulls them down, i.e. doing no wrong to a neighbour and casting no slur on anyone.
Despises a vile man? This is about distinguishing between good and evil. Vile means wicked, sinful , offensive, disgusting, degrading, low or mean. Where we see these characteristics we should recognize them for what they are and we should despise them, look on them with scorn as things unworthy of people, things to be avoided. We need to recognize the wrong when we see it and reject it.
Honours those who fear the Lord? It is too easy to be skeptical about people who are more pious that we are, people who appear more holy than me. No, we should honour and encourage every believer who fears and respects the Lord. Again this is an attitude thing that reveals our own heart.
Who keeps his oath, even when it hurts. Wow! We are to be those who keep our promises even when it causes us work, effort or whatever. Truth, honesty and integrity go together in these things and we do well to consider them.
Who lends his money without taking interest? That is a challenge in the modern age when it is standard to charge for loans, but the word is saying be kind and generous in your dealings with others so you are working for their well-being and do not put them under pressure.
Finally, does not take a bribe against the innocent. Maintain justice and have no part in anything crooked, and especially have no part in anything that does others down and even more, do nothing to corrupt justice so as to blame the innocent! Truth and honesty and integrity join now to justice.
And then he concludes, “He who does these things will never be shaken .” (v.5b) maintaining right and good standards mean these things will not backfire on us and the Lord will have no need to act against us. Even more, He will bless those who live His way and will keep and sustain them and protect them. There's quite a lot here to think on, things to ponder on in the light of the ways of the world today.