Praying the Psalms: Psalm 17

Have you ever been so frustrated and so hurt that all you can do is pray? Psalm 17 is a prayer of lament from King David. David is being attacked unjustly by another individual and he cries out to God in hope. How should Christians respond when we are unjustly criticized or accused of wrong doing? Well, as we look at psalm 17, David’s prayer will  help us learn to pray in such situations. Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v. 1-2 - David begins crying out to God in prayer, seeking his attention. David is again expressing personal suffering unjustly, accused by his enemies.  So, he cries out to God, the great arbiter of justice, to hear his plea and case. David comes before God to plea his case, because he trusts in the judgement and justice of God. God is not fooled by the deceitful lies and subtle twisting of tongues that so often dominates the judicial courts of humanity. God has no concern for popular consensus or opinion, rather God is a God of truth. David, knowing that he has been unjustly accused has confidence to go to God, the just judge, to get the account straight.

v. 3-5 - David then begins to plead his innocence before God. He tells God that he has tried his heart. God knows everything there is to know about David. Whether by day or by night, God has visited him and knows it all. David challenges God to examine him and he will find innocence. Though David is accused by others, he seeks God to have the final word. David's mouth has not transgressed. He has avoided the ways of the violent. His steps have held firm on the narrow path and have not slipped.

Now David's plea for innocence does not mean that David considered himself sinless, but rather David sees himself as seeking to live righteously under the law of God. The stones that his enemies are throwing at him for sin are unjust. There are no evidence for their accusations. David pleads his case as he has been examined by God and found innocence. The accusations have nothing to do with David's own life or character, but only from the malice of the enemies.

v. 6-9 - David then turns in this next stanza to pray and call out to God. He asks for God to incline his ear and hear his words.  He knows that God is a fitting refuge for him. God is a safe place to lean on in times of tribulation. He requests that God would protect him from his enemies. David knows that God is a safe place because God has his eye on him. Indeed David is the apple of his eye. David can safely reside in the shadow of God's wings. There is no safer place to be than in the arms of the living God. From those enemies that seek David harm and who surround him, God is a refuge for him.

v. 10-12 - David then begins to ponder on the malicious aggression of his enemies.  They have no pity; they only seek to devour. They are predators on the prowl. They surround like a pack of wolves, bent on bringing their prey to the ground. They are like lions lurking in the shrubs waiting to pounce and tear a part David's flesh.

Sometimes as Christians we will have enemies just like the ones David had. There is a hatred and an intention to destroy at any cost. As the church becomes increasingly marginalized in our country, we too will feel the deadly blood-thirst of our enemies as they plot our destruction. Sometimes following Christ, means making enemies, not because you are seeking to make them, but rather because following God runs contrary to the ways of the world. Therefore, men and women of evil and blindness begin to gather, lurk, and tear apart the people of God.

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v. 13-14 - Here, God is summoned for action. "Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!" This man who has such vicious hatred for David is to be taken out. David is crying out for deliverance from this man. Then the Psalm moves to some profound reflections on the nature of the wicked and the hope of the righteous. Men, who are like David's accuser, find hope only in this life. Though wicked men among us might be financially prosperous and wield great worldly success, that is the extent of their hope. Their portion is only in this life. Though they may have children, their riches cannot go with them to the grave. Their abundance is passed down to their children.

One of the great questions is the prosperity of the wicked? Why are so many wicked people so visibly prosperous while so many good and righteous people are in poverty? Well, David begins to look at things from God's perspective. Though the wicked might enjoy 70 years of wealth, comfort, and power, what is 70 years compared to 100 billion years? Even 100 billion is but a scratch on the surface to the unfathomable idea of eternity. David begins to recognize that his hope is not in a comfortable life now, but his hope is in a life to come.

v. 15 - David's confidence is found in God himself. He concludes his lament by reflecting on his true treasure. Though the wicked might have wealth and power, David’s hope is in the righteousness of God. Isn't that our hope as well? We don't need riches and we don't need comfort and we don't need fame. We need the righteousness of Jesus. We need God. And by the grace of God, His son is sent to liberate us from the bondage of sin and gift us with his righteousness! Our hope is not in this world, but in God himself.

So as David falls into the deep sleep of death, when he wakes he will be satisfied with likeness of God. We have this hope too. No matter what enemies might attack us, those made righteous by Christ set their hope on the life to come. Our reward is not temporal treasures, but the eternal and satisfying treasure of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer Guide

  • What enemies are attacking you? Call out to God for help.
  • Ask God to help trust him as you refuge.
  • Ask God for strength and protection from the lions.
  • Trust in God’s wisdom in confronting and subduing your enemies.
  • Regardless of what happens, ask God to help you to find hope in Christ, not in this world.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 10

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. Psalm 10 is a continuation of Psalm 9. The two are connected thematically. The two also share an acrostic patter in the writing that continues into Psalm 10. In addition, their is no subscription to Psalm 10, indicating it is a continuation from the previous psalm. Psalm 10 is largely focused one big question. Why does God allow the wicked to prosper and get away with it? It is a perplexing question that even the most devoted Christians wrestle with in understanding God. Indeed, we can’t fully understand. Psalm 10 is a humble inquiry into the mind and will of God that culminates in an unshakeable faith in the goodness and justice of God.

Commentary

v. 1–11 - The Psalm begins with a question. “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?” If we are honest, in the present sufferings we face and in the wickedness of this world, it seems like God is absent. From the tyranny of Islamic terrorism to the rape and murder that floods the news or to the men and women who prosper in wealth by taking advantage of the weak, we cry out, “Where are you God?” The psalmist is wrestling with the same question that we wrestle with today. If God is completely in control and perfectly good, why does he allow evil to continue?

The psalmist spends the first half of this psalm describing the wicked who prosper. They take advantage of the poor. They are greedy in their lusts. They are proud and resist and reject the Lord. These wicked people openly mock the Lord stating “There is no God”. Yet, at least in the present, the wicked seem to continue to prosper at all times. Their unrestrained evil seems to continue with God not lifting a finger to do anything to put a stop to it. God’s judgments seem high and out of sight. The wicked perform such evil knowing that they will get away with it. They say in such proud self confidence, “I shall not be moved”.

The description against the wicked continues. They are filled with mischief and deceit. They ambush villages and murder anyone in their way. Like a lion on the prowl he keeps his eye always open for the weak, the runt, and the helpless to devour. The poor are drawn into a net for their own destruction. The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall.

In v. 11, their is a stunning confession of the wicked man’s heart. He arrogantly states, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” How many people today live just like this wicked man. They do things thinking no one will ever know, that they will never be found out, and that no one will ever see it. So many of us operate and live our lives thinking God is not watching. In summary, the wicked described in Psalm 10 are arrogant selfish brutes who take advantage of the weak and openly mock and defy God, yet the continue to prosper.

v. 12–15 - The reality of the wicked prospering is to much for the psalmist to watch. In v. 12, he turns to prayer begging God to arise and lift his hand. He is asking the Lord to do something and to intervene in the evil all around him. Yet, the psalmist affirms that though the wicked will say that God will not hold them accountable, the psalmist knows the truth. Even though the wicked think their evil deeds will never be revealed, God sees all. No matter their scheming and their deception, God knows. Every man secretly enjoying the perverse titillation of child pornography to the sexual trafficking taking place in a dark ally in India, God sees it all. Though wicked men think they are getting away with their evil deeds in secret, He sees their mischief and vexation. God does not turn a blind eye to evil. In fact, God knows the horrors and evil of this world better than any human being ever could.

Yet, God does not only see the evil of the wicked, he plans to take action. He is a God who protects the helpless and commits himself to their cause. Spiritually, we know this to be true. In Jesus’ arrival he came and surrounded himself with the weak and helpless. The Gospel of the kingdom came to the outcasts and oppressed in society. Jesus came to deliver us from our sins, and save us not only from our personal sins, but to restore this broken and fallen world from wicked men.

One day, Jesus will come back for his church and break the arm of the wicked and evildoer. Those who practice such evil, greed, murder, and oppression will one day stand before a holy and blameless God to give an account. Every secret motive of the heart and every evil action done in secret will be revealed. As Hebrews 4:13 tells us, “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account”. There is a coming day of judgement, and on that day justice will be administered. The wicked will one day be exposed, naked, before the frightening and terrifying holiness of the glory of God. Those not in Christ will find themselves cast away from his presence into the eternal death and torment in hell.

v. 16–18 - The Psalm concludes with an affirmation and trust in God’s just rule. God is King forever and ever. God hears the cry of the afflicted. He will bring about justice to the fatherless and to the oppressed.

By the end of the Psalm, though there is a celebration of God’s kingship, the question is not fully revolved. Yes, the wicked will one day be held to account, but why does God allow them now to prosper? Why is his judgement and justice delayed? Well there are a few reasons why the Scriptures tell us. One of them is that God is being merciful in delaying his judgement so that his kindness is meant to lead to repentance (Rom 2:4). If God was to execute all of his justice immediately the sin was committed, than no human being would be left in existence. God in his kindness delays his just wrath towards the wicked in order to give them an opportunity to repent and trust in Christ.

Yet, the question of why God allows evil acts to continue ultimately remains a mystery. We are not God and we are not sovereign. He is. Therefore, as we struggle sometimes as to why God seems to be so very far away in light of the evil we experience in our lives, we can trust knowing that he is a good God who knows all. We know that he hears the cause of the afflicted and he will one day hold the wicked account for their actions in the final judgement. In those moments of struggle, as we witness evil men and women prosper, we can rest assured that there is coming a day when Christ returns when the King of Kings will execute his perfect justice “so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”

Prayer Guide

  • Express your concerns to God concerning the evil you witness.
  • Ask the Lord to intervene and bring justice in those situations
  • Praise the Lord that he knows all and is not ignorant of human evil.
  • Praise God for Jesus and for the day of his return to come quickly.
  • Express your concerns to God knowing that he hears the desire of the afflicted

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 7

The faithful of the Lord are often unfairly criticized by the wicked. In fact, Jesus tells us to expect persecution. The persecution that may befall a Christian is not only physical but also verbal. Christians are often slandered, misunderstood, and attacked by the main stream secular culture. As orthodox Christianity becomes a minority culture in the West, it is easy to fall victim to our times and believe that we are the first to ever receive this sort of mistreatment and verbal attacks from our culture. This is certainly not the case. God's people have always been attacked, not only since Jesus' day but even since David's.  The occasion of this Psalm is not fully known, but what we do know is that a man of Cush, a Bejaminite from the tribe of the former King Saul, slanders David.  Psalm 7 is a psalm of lament that can help us pray to God when we are attacked, criticized unfairly, and persecuted for the sake of righteousness.  It also addresses God’s justice towards the wicked and the need for repentance.

Commentary

v. 1-2 - David begins his prayer with a cry for refuge in God. He comes to God in desperate need. He is concerned and distressed from his enemies who are attacking him. He feels like a prey, where the mountainous lion of his enemies seek to rip his soul apart. David, at a place of desperation, seeks a place of protection in God. He looks to God alone to be his refuge.

v. 3-5 - In these next few verses David pleads with God on behalf of his innocence. David is not stating that he is sinless or perfect, but rather in this situation he is confronted with he believes he has done no wrong. He even ask God that if he has done something wrong such as repaying his friend with evil or plundering his enemy without cause, that he deserves to be pursued and overtaken by his enemies. Yet, David sees himself as blameless in this personal attack. The criticism he is facing from his critics are unfounded, unjust, and without cause.

We too must expect that we will face a belligerent and hostile culture often without cause. There are those who will have an inexplicable hatred towards Jesus’ followers. Like David, we may very well feel confronted by enemies who have no just accusation towards us, yet they bubble over in boiling hatred towards us.

v. 6-11 - Now that David has plead for his own righteousness in this situation he is facing, he appeals to God justice to urge him to do something about the situation he is facing. He asks God to arise in his anger to execute his fury on his enemies and to bring the swift hammer of justice upon them. God is a just God who is holy and blameless. David pleads with God on account of his own character, asking him to act in defense of his justice.  Although justice is attribute of God we tend to minimize in our modern world, David took great joy in the justice of God, appealing to it in his desperate situation.

The Lord judges the people. There is no human being that escapes the judgement of God. No matter how much we may think we are in control of our own lives, all of us will one day stand before God to give an account of our lives. Our actions will be laid bear before us; things that are hidden and secret as well as things that are public and well known to all. God sees and knows everything about us including our actual motives and intentions of our heart. As David says God is the one "who test the minds and hearts" (7:9).  This sort of vulnerability can be frightening or paralyzing to us. We tend to be experts at hiding our sin not only from others, but from ourselves. Yet, when we stand before God in his holiness and splendor the light of his righteousness will leave us naked and exposed.

Yet, David doesn't seem to be overwhelmed in anxiety over the judgement of God, rather he seems to be confident. In fact, he urges God to come and judge him according to his righteousness and integrity.  Does this mean that David thinks of himself as able to save himself with his good deeds? No not at all. In v. 10 he tells us that God "saves the upright in heart".  The Bible from Genesis to Revelation teaches us that we are justified by faith. We are saved by placing our faith and trust in Jesus as savior and Lord of our lives.  The Gospel tells us that Jesus came to stand under the crushing weight of God's wrathful judgement of our sins while gifting us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus. This means that the Christian has great confidence in our salvation. The judgement we will one day face before God is not a frightening reality for the Christian. As we stand before God we stand knowing that it is only because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus that we will be saved.  Yet, the righteousness of Jesus turns us into righteous people. As we live the Christian life we grow in the gifted righteousness of Jesus like a toddler trying to put on his daddy's shoes.  We possess righteousness completely and totally, but God's grace sanctifies us and causes us to grow in righteousness.  This is why David has such confidence. Those who are pure in heart and who turn from their sins and trust in God by faith will be saved from the coming judgement.

v. 12-16 - Yet, there are those who do not repent from sin. David makes it clear what comes to those who practice evil. "If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword" (7:12). The sword of God's wrath will come upon the evil. The bow of God is bent and pointed at his enemies, only waiting to release the arrow towards sinners. God is a warrior prepared for battle and his deadly weapons are ready.  For those who refuse to repent and turn to Jesus, the full and terrifying wrath of God is ready to be unleashed in hell.

Those who practice evil always will have it returned to them. The wicked man is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.  The wicked dig their own graves. As they sin they dig a hole only for it to be the cause of their own destruction. The mischief they cause returns to them. Sin has consequences, not only when it comes to eternity but also in this life. Sin doesn't stay secret. No matter how much we may try to cover our tracks our sins finds us. Sin is at its core destructive and those who zealously and unrepentantly live in sin will find themselves not only enslaved to it but destroyed by it.

v. 17 - David concludes his psalm giving thanks to God on behalf of his righteousness.  The fact that God is a just God who punished sinners is a good thing. No matter what great evil we are victim too, we know that God will settle accounts.  Justice is coming if not in this life, then before the judgement seat of God.  As a result, even though we may be facing great persecution from evil people, we have a confident hope in the justice of God to administer righteousness accordingly.  The fact that God is holy and just towards sinners is a catalyst for hope and worship.

Prayer Guide

  • Who is attacking you unjustly and unfairly? Share with God your struggle.
  • Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal any sin in you in this crises your facing.
  • Call out to God for justice on the earth
  • Praise God for his justice on the earth
  • Thank God that he saves the upright in heart. Thank him for your savior Jesus.
  • Pray for those who have yet to repent and turn to Jesus that God would save them from their sins.

Lessons From a Tragic News Week

If you have been even mildly been paying attention this week, you will know that it has been a tragic week for America. It seems like every time we turn on the news we are hearing of some devastating story. The Boston Bombing. Poision Letters. Explosions in Texas.

It seems like every time we turn around, especially this past week we are hearing account after account of evil and tragedy. However, observing all of these events and the discussions surrounding them, there are a few lessons about ourselves and the nature of reality that we can learn.

Human Beings Long to Know Why

Anytime some unspeakable tragedy happens the question of why develops. Whether it is Aurora, Newtown, or Boston, we want to understand what would motivate someone to do the hanous acts. Our questions reveal something about the way we were created. Our souls desperatly long for justice and we desperatly long for understanding. We crave meaning. We are purpose seekers. It is our questions that reveal that we are more than just biochemical reactions. We are more than just the result of random naturalistic process. Our constant search for answers reveals that we are created in the image of God. The law of God is written on our hearts. We long for justice and we long for answers because God has created us that way.

The Fall Has Corrupted Humanity

As we look for answers, the question of humanities nature rises to the fore front of our minds. Are humans basically good or evil? With the rise of the humanist movement, the argument is that humans are generally good. However events over this past week shatter the dillusion of humanism and prove that their beliefs about humanity and the world fail to hold up in the face of reality.

It is here I believe that the Christian faith provides the best answer to the question of why and the nature of humanity. Humanity was created good in the image of God. However due to the Fall, man's rebellion against God, sin has come into the world and corrupted the created order including the human heart. You see the Christian faith alone provides answers to why humans can do incredible altruistic good and at the same time do unspeakable evil. The reason humanity is capable of the boston bombings is because of sin's power and influence in this world. The world is not as it should be, and it is only by the restraining grace of God that things are not nearly as bad as they could be.

Humanity Knows that there is Absolute Truth

In an age were postmodernism continues to greatly influence and shape contemporary culture, deep down we know that truth is not relative but absolute. Reading the articles and hearing the news shows we still use absolute terminology by throwing words around like evil. Deep down we all know that there is right and there is wrong. There are moral absolutes that are not decided by popular consensus. The terminology of referring to the actions this week show that even a media far removed from a Christian worldview will acknowledge that some acts deserve the label of evil and rightly so.

Christ is the Only Hope for this Broken World

The tragedies over the past week reveal that we live in a broken world. The world is torn apart by sorrow, suffering, and death. As families mourn the loss of loved ones and as amputees heal and learn to live without their limbs, cries of anguish will be heard and tears will be shed. Here again, Christianity alone provides any sort of comfort to those suffering. Justice is coming and judgement will be had. At the return of Christ all the evils of this world will be abolished and the effects of sin will be removed. Christ will execute his judgement because he is faithful and true. We long for justice, and justice will be delivered by God.

However, we must remember that you and I are broken too. We are sinners and rebels deserving of judgement and punishment. Yet it was by the mercy of God that he sent his son Jesus to die in our place for our sins. This is the incredible truth of the Gospel! The justice of God is preserved and for those who place their faith in Jesus, they will be spared of the judgement to come by receiving forgiveness of sins.

Christ is the only hope for this broken world. As we mourn, grieve, and cry in response to this unspeakable tragedies that have unfolded this week may we cry "Come, Lord Jesus". The King is coming. He has risen from the grave. He is coming back for his church. Sin will be eliminated and evil will be defeated. The sufferings of this earth will pass away and the kingdom of our God and King will endure for eternity!

Why Would a Man Shoot Children?

Why would a man walk into an elementary school and start murdering people? That is the question that is on the mind of every person as the report of what took place in Connecticut comes to light. What took place today is an absolute travesty. It is a painful reminder about just how deep sin has pervaded the human heart. The depravity of mankind knows no bound. It is no wonder that we all by nature are under the wrath of God (Rom 1:18).

A tragic mass murder like this, especially to children, reminds us that justice cannot fully be achieved in this lifetime. However our sins have eternal consequences. God will have his justice. Every person will be justified, either through faith in our sin bearing, punishment taking, Jesus -- or we will be justified in eternal torment where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Justice will be had, either through Jesus or through Hell. We do not yet know the identity of this gunman, nor his motive, but it reminds us of the depths of the depraved human heart and it reminds us that justice in this life is limited.

Pray for the families of those victims. Pray for the community of Newtown Connecticut. Pray for the churches in that city that they will be a source of comfort and share the hope that can only be found in Christ. Pray for the quick return of our Lord Jesus, when sin will be abolished and God's justice will be made complete.