Praying the Psalms: Psalm 23

Is there a more comforting image of God than as a shepherd? God is a tender shepherd who loves his sheep. The sheep trust him and the shepherd loves his flock. He cares for us, leads us, protects us, and loves us. Psalm 23 is one of the best known passages of Scripture. It is quoted and memorized by many, and most people are familiar with it. Yet, because we are so familiar with the psalm, we become numb to its potent reminder of God’s love and affection for his sheep. Psalm 23 is a psalm of trust, whispered by generations in the anxious dark night of the soul. Though calamity surrounds, God’s faithful sheep preach this psalm to their own hearts as a always needed reminder that “The Lord is my shepherd”. Let’s take a look at the beautiful psalm with fresh eyes. Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v 1-3 - David is a sheep. As the psalm writer, he recognizes that the Lord is his personal shepherd. He is foolish, weak, and frail as a man. To call yourself a sheep is almost to call yourself an ignoramus. Sheep are not very smart. They stray away. They are stubborn. They are clueless. Yet, David has enough self awareness about his own heart, that he is prone to wander in to the dangerous thicket of sin. He needs a loving shepherd who can guide him and protect him. The Lord is his shepherd.

The Lord is the good shepherd, because he provides for the sheep. David does not want for anything. The shepherd makes sure his sheep are provided for and taken out to the safe and nutritious green pastures. God leads his sheep to a place of safety and of rest. He does restore our souls.

As we think about the work of Christ, our good shepherd he too restores our soul. He leads us down the narrow path of righteousness that leads to life. He guides us and shows us the way. He leads us the the fountain of everlasting waters. He takes to the comforting green grass into his presence where their is peace and enteral joy. We have a good shepherd who cares for the sheep, and his name is Jesus Christ.

v. 4 - As a sheep, not every day is spent in a beautiful green pasture on a gorgeous cool afternoon with rays of sunshine sparkling over your reflective fleece. Bad days come, even for little lambs. Everyone has moments where we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death. These moments of loss, grief, pain, and sadness distress the heart of even the most trusting sheep. Yet, the distress of the valley dissipates when we remind ourselves one the goodness of the shepherd.

David says that even though he walks through those valleys, he does so without fear. No matter what is lurking in the darkness behind the cleft, the Shepherd is with him. The Shepherd carries a rod and a staff to both protect and guide the sheep to safety. No matter what carnivorous wolves salivating in the darkness, the shepherd will protect his sheep from the blood lust of their enemies. He will make sure that his sheep pass through the valley safely and without harm. This is why David says that the shepherd’s rod and staff are a comfort to him. He knows that God is not an impotent God, unaware and caught of guard by the darkness. Rather, he is the courageous shepherd who is ready to defend at any moment.

What comfort for us as the people of God! God is not only all loving and all knowing, but he is all powerful. What voracious enemy threatens you when God is your shepherd? Who will be able to overcome the strength of the Almighty? God is the protector of his sheep. He does not disappoint, therefore the sheep can have utmost trust in their shepherd as one who is more than able to defend them from harm.

v. 5-6 - The image then shifts from one of shepherding to feasting. God is the host who prepares a table for his guests. He does this in the presence of the enemies. Though they swarm, God lavishes his protective love on his children.  To prepare a meal and eat a meal with another was a sign of intimacy, affection, honor, and love. God lavishes all of those on us as he prepares that table. He pours out the anointing oil on our head and he fills our cup till it overflows. The imagery of all this is clear; God lavishes his children with blessing, kindness, and love. It does not matter what enemies there may be, he delights in his sheep and he cares for them.

Because of God’s extravagant care, protection, and love for his sheep as the good shepherd, David knows that goodness and mercy will follow him all of his life. If God is for him, who can be against him? As we are recipients of God’s divine love we leave a trail of evidence of God’s goodness and mercy, no matter how long or dark the valleys may be. He is a God who brings us into his presence and we dwell with him for ever.

What a beautiful image of comfort and what an expression of trust! Yet, how much greater does the beauty of Psalm 23 increase as we dwell on the good shepherd Jesus Christ who lays down his life for the sheep? Jesus leads our soul by giving up his life for our good. God anoints our head with the lavish, priceless blood of his own son. He lavishes us with every spiritual blessing as our cup overflows into an ever growing ocean of divine grace.

Jesus stands in the upper room as his enemies surrounded him. He prepares a table for his disciples and says eat and drink the body and blood of the son. As Jesus set down his goblet of wine, he goes into the garden prepared to have the cup of God’s wrath poured out on him. The overflow of blessings we receive from God is only possible because the overflow of divine judgement was poured on Jesus. Judgement and wrath followed Jesus at the end of his life, so that you could have goodness and mercy follow you into eternal life. It is through the death of the good shepherd that we are brought into the house of God. The good shepherd becomes the lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

By the blood of Christ, we are brought into the permeant rest of vibrant emerald pasture and running crystal waters. We are lead into the great wedding feast of the lamb as we eat at that divinely prepared table of unending nourishment and celebration. We will pass through the valley of darkness through the blood of the protective shepherd; on that day when the valley of death is behind us, our shepherd will lead us to the land of rest and there we shall dwell with our shepherd in ceaseless joy and an ever expanding satisfaction forever more.

Prayer Guide

  • What situation has you stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed? Share that with the Lord.
  • Praise God for the ways he cares for you as your good shepherd.
  • Ask the Lord to help you trust in him, knowing that he will never let you down.
  • Thank God for the good shepherd named Jesus who by his life and death brings you into enteral rest.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 18

The crescendo of victory reverberates as a joyous moment. David has spent many days frightened by his enemy, yet God would deliver him. The context of this psalm is important, it is almost an exact copy of the song of David from 2 Samuel 22 as David celebrates the victory God had given him over Saul. Yet, this personal song of David is included in the hebrew hymn book, indicating that the future prosperity of the people of God are tied to God's blessing on David and his offspring. As God's people would sing this psalm, it serves as a prayer for God to bless the line of David and grant their king victory. Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v. 1-3 - The psalm begins with a summary of the praise that will unfold. Interestingly, this Psalm concludes a section of psalms in which David is praying for deliverance against his enemies. (See Psalm 16, 17). The Psalm begins with David stating his love for the Lord. God has been a great rock and refuge for David. God protects like an impenetrable shield or a stronghold that can not crumble. Because David called on the Lord, God saved him from his enemies. The rest of the Psalm is a celebration of God's victory over David's enemies.

v. 4-6 - David begins to reflect how he had called on God in his most desperate moments. When the throngs of death surrounded him, when the torrents of destruction assailed him, and when the cords of Sheol ensnared him, he called out to God, his help. He calls out to God and the Lord heard the prayer of David.

One of the main applications we can make as we study these psalms of David, is his unwavering reliance on the Lord. In the moment of crises and desperation he is quick to get on his knees and go to his God. Shouldn't we do the same? Yet, whenever we find ourselves in crises, we quickly engineer a plan or vent our frustrations to a friend. How slow we are to simply get on our knees before God and pray for help!

v. 7-19 - These verses use vivid language to describe how God had delivered David from his enemies.  The imagery is extravagant and moves quickly from one metaphor to another. David describes God as a dragon riding swiftly to come to his aid (v. 10). Then he begins to describe God's arrival as a powerful storm filled with hailstones and fire as the thunder crackles (11-14). God drew David out of many waters, as his rescuer from his enemies.

The point David stresses in this vivid scenes is clear: God brought David his victory. David is helpless and surrounded, but God fought for David. God handled his enemies, and rescued him from their mighty hatred. So too does God single-handedly rescue us from our enemies, especially as we consider our greatest of enemies, sin and death. No power exerts such strength that the mighty hand of God cannot overcome.

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v. 20-30 - David then moves to claim his faithfulness to God during his difficult trial. He has kept the ways of the Lord; he kept the statutes of God, and was blameless before him. So the Lord rewarded David and delivered him. God loves the righteous and showers them in mercy. God shines as a  lamp to David, protecting him from his enemies and from sin. His love strengthens David as he follows the perfect way of God.

v. 31-45 - The Psalm begins to move to a great celebration of the work of God's victory. "For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?" (31). God has been his refuge and has equipped him with strength. He has been his shield and God has given him his support. It is by the power of God that David has been granted victory and his enemies destroyed like a fine dust. God has brought victory to the divinely appointed king.

v. 46-50 - The Psalm concludes with an important reflection on God's faithfulness to his anointed King. David summarizes, "The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation.” God has saved and delivered his anointed. God spared and rescued David from his enemies.

The last two verses serve as important reminders for us as we understand the flow of redemptive history. God brings great salvation to his king and shows love to his anointed. God has specifically chosen David and his offspring to bless and to bring about a blessing to others. As we look at the ways in which God rescued David from his enemies, God would rescue the greater David from his enemies. Many years down the road, another offspring of David would be anointed in the Holy Spirit as the divinely appointed King.

The God-man Jesus Christ was arrested and flung into the rushing waters of blood-thirsty men who sought his life. Yet, God was with his king. Through his flogging and crucifixion, God would not abandon his anointed. On the third day, God would raise his son to victory overcoming his enemies and conquering sin and death.

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Like Israel, our blessing is tied to God's blessing of the King. The victory of Jesus is our own victory, given to us by the mighty hand of God the Father. Through Jesus we share in his victory and we share in the glory of God's salvation as recipients of divine grace. God shows his steadfast love not only to his anointed, but to those who by faith submit their lives under his rule.

Prayer Guide

  • How has God brought you victory in your life? How has he crushed your enemies? Praise the Lord for his redemption.
  • Thank God that he honors those who by faith in Jesus seek to live righteously.
  • Praise the Lord for his power, greatness, and salvation.
  • Thank the Lord that he blesses his anointed, and that by faith we get to share in the blessed victory of Jesus Christ.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 16

Do you trust in the Lord? Is your contentment and joy so found in God that regardless of what happens in this life you have an unabashed confidence in Christ, your treasure? We tend to be unhappy people. We complain about our the quality of our home, the number on our paycheck, or the unexpected and frustrating events that happen to us. We tend to always want more from this world and we become angry when God does not give it to us. David gives us a radically different perspective in Psalm 16. This psalm is a prayer of contentment, joy, and trust in God alone. As we study this prayer, may God gives us this sort of attitude in our prayers and in our life. Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v. 1-2 - The Psalm begins with a cry of trust. “Preserve me!”, the psalmist cries. The Lord is his refuge. God is the one in whom all his trust lies. Whatever crisis we face, we must display an unrelenting trust in God, because he is our Lord. David recognizes that any good in his life comes directly from God himself. “I have no good apart from you” (v. 2).

We are quick to take credit for the good things that happen to us. We tend to praise ourselves for any good thing that happens to us, and blame God for any wrong. So when we get that promotion at work, we will praise our own handwork and dedication. We pat ourselves on our back and praise our accomplishment. Yet, David understands that any good in his life was not achieved by his own might, but by the gracious gifting of God. Apart from the loving and providential hand of God we would posses nothing good in life. All of it is from him.

We would be wise like David, to recognize God’s sovereign rule over our lives knowing that he rules it all. Because of his divine power over this world and over our personal lives, it is fitting to place our trust in him. He is an excellent refuge, fortified and strong.

v. 3-4 - David then goes on to describe his delight to be around the people of God. He delights in the saints of the land, the people of Israel. It is a joy to be around the Lord’s beloved. Yet, for those who run after false gods and idols, the psalmist does not participate in their pagan worship. He refuses to participate in idolatry.

David’ prefers to surround himself with the people of God. Though we must be careful not to live in a holy bubble as a church, we too should long to surround ourselves with God’s people. When we gather together for prayer, for worship, or for communion, the community of saints produces joy. We should delight in one another, because we delight in the holiness of God. In our lives we should seek active participation in the holy community and not participate in the false worship of a secular culture. David’s trust in God is proven by his delight in God’s people.

v. 5-6 - “You hold my lot.” God holds our very life in his hands. In verse 5 and 6, David expresses a contentment in his life, knowing that the Lord is in control. His lot is in his hands. God is so sovereign that he causes the dice to land. Sometimes life seem so random and chaotic, doesn’t it? But, David understands, and so should we, that God is the one who causes the lines to fall in our lives. Every door that is shut in our face or every door that is opened—all of it is decided by God himself. For David this is comforting and it gives him a robust contentment. Because his lot is decided by God, it allows him to be truly joyous with where God has him. He is not asking the “what if” question in the back of his mind. Rather, he sees his life and where he is as God’s will for him, and as he thinks about how God has directed his life he concludes that he has received a “beautiful inheritance”. Though David’s life was far from perfect, and though we too can have some rough areas of difficulty, we have been blessed far beyond what we deserve. The good in our life—from listening to the laughter of our children to sipping a warm cup of coffee on a cool summer morning—all of this is God’s beautiful inheritance towards us. Rather than cursing God for what isn’t, we should praise God for what he has given. When we begin to understand that the only thing we deserve is death, we begin to look at our life through the lens of gratitude to God. Then and only then, will God begin to give us a supernatural contentment as we stand in awe of God’s gracious provision for us.

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v. 7-8 - David’s trust in God gives him comfort and confidence. He receives comfort as the Lord gives him counsel. God instructs him and teaches him. The Lord is always before him and guiding him. The Lord isn’t absent from his life but very present. He is at his right hand. Therefore the comfort of his presence leads to confidence.

One of the most comforting promises in all of Scripture is the comfort of God’s presence in our life. Knowing that God is with us and that he does not abandon us, gives us a ferocious courage when life’s challenges begin to pile up into a mountainous wall. Our comfort and confidence is found in the Lord.

v. 9-10 - What is the result of this comfort and confidence in the Lord? Deeply satisfying gladness and joy. Like a fountain that runs over is the joy of our hearts when we trust in the Lord. We receive joy, because we know that regardless of the lot we have been given, that our flesh dwells secure. There is no need to fear whatever suffering, persecution, or martyrdom awaits us. When we have this sort of unwavering confidence in God’s rule over our life, it fills our hearts with joy. Whether we are thrown in a dark jail cell for preaching Christ in a closed country or whether we are beheaded by ISIS for following Jesus, for the Christian joy abounds. Because, when we put our trust in God, our flesh is secure though we may lose our own heads for his glory.

How can this be? Well it is through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! The apostle Paul in his sermon in Acts 13:35 references Psalm 16:10 as evidence pointing to the resurrection of Christ. It is written, “You will not let your holy one see corruption”. Jesus Christ experienced the horrors and death of the crucifixion. It is there that his flesh was nailed and his blood poured out. Even still, Jesus went to the cross with joy accepting the lot that God had given him. Though, God does not allow his holy one to see corruption. Jesus paid the price for our sins and absorbed the excruciating torment of the crucifixion, and it was God who raised him from the dead. God did not abandon his son to Sheol, but raised him from the grave on the third day!

For the Christian, who has trusted in Jesus Christ as savior and Lord, we have this same hope. Because of Jesus, God will not abandon our soul to Sheol. Death has lost its power. It is a defeated foe. Therefore, regardless of what believers face in this life whether filled with worldly blessings or whether filled with thistles and thorns, there is still unceasing joy for the Christian. The joy of the Christian is not found in our circumstances but found in God himself. Because God comforts us with his presence it gives us confidence knowing, that whatever our lot may be, it is well with our soul, because our life is found in the resurrected glory of Jesus Christ. Though we may lose our heads, our flesh dwells secure in Christ. Therefore our hearts are glad and rejoice in the unshakeable confidence and hope we have in the resurrection of Christ!

v. 11 - The conclusion of this Psalm is filled with joy. God has made known to us the path to true life, a life of joy and contentment. The path to truly living is not found in hedonistic pleasure or materialistic wealth of the world, but in the hedonistic wealth of the pleasure of God’s presence. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasure for evermore” (v. 11). God by his great grace and mercy, through Jesus, brings us into the fullness of joy in his presence. When we live with Jesus as our all consuming treasure, he is the satisfaction for which we long. He is the oasis of rest. He is the pearl of great price. Praise be to God that in Christ we receive the fullness of joy. May we trust in Christ by faith to receive this great salvation purchased for us, and in our Christian life may we display such trust in God—that regardless of our present circumstances—that the fullness of joy in God would dwell within our hearts. For we know, that God will not let his holy ones, sanctified by the blood of Christ, see the corruption of hell. He will not abandon us in death. But, at the moment of our last breath we will experience the totality of the fullness of joy as we stand in the satisfying and glorious presence of God as we enjoy the pleasure at his right hand forevermore.

Prayer Guide

  • Are you trusting in God in whatever you are facing? Ask God to help you trust in him as your refuge?
  • Do you delight in God’s holy people? Ask God to give you a joy in the community of the saints.
  • Thank God for the “beautiful inheritance” he has given you. Praise him, knowing that apart from him, you would possess no good in this life.
  • Express thankfulness for the comfort of his presence and the confidence you possess knowing that he is at your right hand.
  • Thank the Lord for Christ, who by his resurrected glory gifts us with a gladness that fills up our whole being.
  • Ask the Lord to give you a trust and contentment with Christ as your treasure.
  • Praise the Lord that through Jesus he brings you into his divine presence where your joy is full and infinity satisfying.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 12

How do we pray when our leaders have forked tongues and a crooked smile? Politicians have a reputation for saying anything to get a vote. They make grandiose promises and they will tickle ears to appease a group only to say the opposite behind close doors. News anchors embellish and speak half truths when reporting a story. Business leaders cook the books or hide assets in illegal tax shelters. As we look at the world today, honesty seems to be missing and truth telling is absent. It is hard to know who is speaking truth and who is speaking lies. And so we come to that opening question, how do we pray when our leaders have forked tongues and a crooked smile? This is exactly the question David, the psalmist, seeks to answer in Psalm 12. Liars seem to be everywhere and his lament leads him to unshakeable trust in the truthful purity of the words of God.

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Commentary

v. 1–2 - The situation of David’s lament is laid out in these first two verses. The urgent plea is found in the first word, “Save.” The godly seem to be absent and gone. The ones who are faithful to God seem to have vanished among men. Everyone left utters lies with flapping lips and a deceitful heart. Everyone, particularly the nation’s leadership, seems to be intent on deceit. You can’t trust anyone and evil motivations seems to be hiding behind words of flattery. Truth telling and truth speaking is absent from the culture, and lies and deceit lurk publicly in the open square.

As we look at the world in which we live, it is amazing how humanity has not changed since David’s day. Through sound bites and new clips, tweets and status updates there are hay stacks of falsehood we must sort through to find the needle of truth. Everywhere around us their is falsehood. There are grand and extravagant promises made by a company if you would only buy their product. There are models that are “photshoped” to look a certain way. There are politicians that dodge questions to avoid speaking truthfully. The media spins every story they get to support their own agenda. Just as it was for David, falsehood surrounds us and the godly people who speak truth are absent.

v. 3–4 - David then begins to pray that God would remove the wicked people who are defined by their flattering lips. David prays that God would take these people and would remove the source of their great confidence——their deceitful tongues. There is a certain amount of arrogance that comes with being a perpetual liar. Their is a prideful self-confidence in their own ability to spin truth to their own advantage and to hide truth by covering it with lies. Those who practice such falsehood conclude, “Who is master over us?” Those who practice such habitual trickery and deception think they will never get caught. There is an idolatrous self-centeredness at the heart of every false word bent on its on self-preservation and self-exaltation. David’s prayer is that these liars would be exposed for who they are and that God would remove their very tongues if necessary.

v. 5–6 - The situation seems bleak. The poor are plundered and the needy groan. Yet, there is hope. David knows that the Lord will arise. He will take those oppressed by the lying snakes and bring them into his own safety. God is against the liars and will stand up against them in opposition. Though they seem like they have no master, the Lord will one day put them in their place. David recognizes that the Lord is the complete opposite from these forked tongue leaders.

David states that “the word of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times”. The Lord always speaks truth. He doesn’t not conceal truth in falsehood or disguise truth through vain flattery. His words are pure just like silver that has been purified through a furnace seven times. The word of the Lord is without blemish, spot, or corruption. Though we may live in the world’s web of lies, God’s word is reliably true. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). As a result we can trust that his word is true. This is why the Scriptures are reliable and true. If the Bible was given to us by God as he inspired human authors to write his word, we know that all of the Scriptures must be true. It is not corrupted silver where we have to refine through the furnace of hyper-criticalism to discern which part of the Bible is true and which is false. Rather, because God is truth and does not lie, his word cannot have falsehood in it. The reason the Bible is reliable in speaking truth is because God himself is truth. His word is pure.

This can provide great hope as we live in such a sly and fraudulent world. As we interact with our fellow men and women we wonder, who can we trust and who is reliable? Who will love me enough to speak truthfully and not flatter me for their own selfish gain? Whose word is reliable? The answer to these questions is God himself. David recognizes this. Though everyone around him has flattering lips, he trusts and places his hope in the Lord whose words are pure. As we look at the confusion today and the falsehood that surrounds us, we too can trust in the purity and truthfulness of the word of God.

Not only has God spoken his word, but he sent his word into the world. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Jesus Christ is the word of God made flesh. In Jesus is truth and in him is purity. Jesus’ coming is the arising of God from his throne and Jesus is the safety for the poor and needy. There is refuge and comfort in truth, and that truth is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the Gospel message of God’s redemption of sinners and through the atoning death of Jesus, those who are oppressed by liars can be protected in the safety of the gifted purity of Jesus.

v. 7–8 - The Psalm moves from lament to praise. David concludes that even though wicked may be on every side and though falsehood and vileness may be on the prowl against men, the Lord will keep us. He will guard us from the fork-tongue men and women all around us.

In JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, there is a deceitful man speaking lies to the Théodon of Rohan named Grima. The people called him Wormtongue. He whispered lies into the ear of the king. He was a master of deceit and used his flattering lips to manipulate Théodon, the ruler of the people of Rohan. The white wizard Gandalf who passed through from death to life in his fight against the Balrog comes before Wormtongue and says,

The wise speak only of what they know, Gríma son of Gálmód. A witless worm have you become. Therefore be silent, and keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a serving-man till the lightning falls.

As we think about Jesus, the author of truth, I’m sure Jesus will say something very similar to the legion of liars that lead our world today. These witless worms will be made silent. For the Lord Jesus Christ did not pass from death and life to listen to their crooked words. One day Christ will return and the lightening will fall and the forked tongues will be cut from the mouth’s of liars and truth will rule again.

Prayer Guide

  • Present your concerns to the Lord concerning liars who are in authority.
  • Ask the Lord to remove the corrupt from power and leadership.
  • Thank God for the reliability and purity of his word as truth.
  • Thank God for protecting the weak through Jesus, the word of God incarnate.
  • Ask God to help you trust in him and in his promised victory that will come when Christ returns.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 9

The Psalms are not just songs, but prayers. By studying the Psalms we can learn how to better pray and engage in communion with God. Each Thursday I’ll be posting a commentary and prayer guide for the Psalms to help us learn and practice prayer.  This psalm hits many different themes. This palm of David praises God for his judgement and justice, his protection of the righteous and the poor, and calls for God for deliverance from enemies. In this psalm also we will see many ways in which it anticipates the coming of Christ. Jesus makes it clear that all the scriptures point to him, and that is most assuredly the case when it comes to Psalm 9.

Commentary

v. 1–2 - The Psalm begins as the psalmist comes before God in a posture of praise. He gives thanks to God from his whole heart as he reflects on the wonderful deeds of God. True worship comes from the depths of our souls and the very well spring of our hearts. When we come to praise God our hearts are filled with gladness. Many people search and long for happiness. In fact, humanity looks for it in many different places. Yet, true gladness and joy comes from a heart filled with worship and praise to the most high God. When we praise the Lord and give him glory, we are satisfied in God as we do what God designed us as his image bearers to do.

v. 3–6 - David turns to reflect on his enemies. He remembers the wonderful deeds of how God has preserved him and maintained his just cause. God in his justice and rule sat on his throne and administered judgement on his enemies. God is not just the God of Israel but he is the God of all nations. Even though they worship false gods and though they may reject Israel’s God, this does not mean that they escape his judgement as the one true God. This is an important principle for us to remember in this secular age. Though the world may reject and deny the very existence of God, their denial does not alleviate his sovereign justice and judgement over their lives. You cannot simply wish away God or flee from his rule.

God rebukes the nations and he makes the wicked perish. God deals justly with sinners. Those who rebel and reject his rule he will crush and he will blot out their name forever. Though God’s heart is filled with love, he is also equally filled with holiness. Since God is good and morally perfect in every way, every sinner will be punished as God executes his righteous judgement. Those who refuse the rule of God and rebel against him he will rebuke, cast out, and ruin them. David here primarily has the nations in the view, those wicked pagan people outside of Israel. God will execute his wrath on them in that their cities will be rooted out and even the very memory of them will be gone forever.

v. 7–12 - David celebrates the rule of God over this world. He is enthroned forever and though humanity may try to replace him, God is permanently fixed as King over the universe. His throne is justice and he judges the world with righteousness and uprightness. David sees this not as a frightening reality, but as worthy of praise! For the Lord is also a stronghold for the oppressed and for those who are in times of trouble.

v. 10 is key in understanding the balance of this Psalm. Those who know the name of God and trust in him will not be forsaken by God. Those who seek after the Lord and his ways will be spared not only from their enemies, but from divine judgement. Though we are all sinners, those who will be saved are those who trust God and who have entered into a relationship with him. This is exactly what God has done for us in sending his son Jesus. Jesus was crushed in our place and the judgement of God was placed on him so that the oppressed could be saved in times of trouble. The stronghold of God and the fortress of our protection is under the crucified son of God who bears the full weight of God’s wrath in our place. As we turn and place our faith in Jesus we are preserved and redeemed. Jesus is the stronghold for the oppressed and those who enter into that stronghold through the door of faith will find they are protected from God’s judgement.

This truth leads to a call of corporate praise. This good news of God’s protection of the oppressed and judgement of the wicked causes singing and praise. Not only is it worth praising God for, it is also worth telling others of his deed. As we think about the Christ and what he has done, surely this is worth sharing with other people. The world must know of the love of God and the telling of this news complete the joy of the praise. The news is summed up in verse 12, “For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.” The good news is that God did not fall asleep in the watchtower He is not unaware the wicked and he himself will bring vengeance and justice by his own holy judgement. At the same time he is mindful of the oppressed people of God and remembers their cry.

v. 13–14 - The psalm turns into a prayer for help and relief in the midst of affliction. There are those who seek the life of the godly even to the very gates of death. Yet, the good news is that God is the one who lifts us up from the gates of death. Not only did Christ die, he was also raised into the resurrected life. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we die to sin and though we sit at the gates of death he lifts us from the pit and gives us a living hope and a resurrected life. David asks for help so that he might praise the Lord for his deliverance and salvation. The culmination of our salvation to deepen our joy and thus our praise of God. As God increases our joy in him so does his praise increase. God is glorified by his people’s delight in his gift he has provided, most namely the salvation given through his son Jesus.

v. 15–18 - The wicked nations will one day sink in the pit they have made. Though they may momentarily prosper, their defeat will come by the hand of God’s own judgement. He will execute it and the wicked will find themselves ensnared in the trap of their own making. We are told again just what happens to those who live in wickedness and rebellion against God. They will bear the weight of the judgement of the God who is enthroned over all. Those who forget God will be thrown into the very pit of hell where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

v. 19–20 - The final cry of the psalmist is for God to arise and crush the rebellion of men. Though the nations of men may be powerful in military might or wealthy with the riches gold, they are still only mere men who cannot stand before the pure righteous wrath of the judgement of God. Though men may have such great confidence in their own ingenuity, philosophy, or wisdom, one day Jesus will arise from his throne and return to his people in the shimmering radiance of holiness and all will fear the rider on the white horse who sits on the throne. May we pray that the wicked will come to fear God now, before they will be forced too when the true King returns.

Prayer Guide

  • Ask God that your chief joy would be to extol his name in your life.
  • Pray that God would one day bring wickedness to an end
  • Thank God that he protects us from his judgement through Jesus, the stronghold.
  • Praise the Lord for the Gospel and the Lord Jesus.
  • Ask God to help you tell this good news to others
  • Thank God for the resurrection of Jesus which lifts you from the gates of death.
  • Pray that wicked men would come to fear the Lord