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

A Gospel Meditation

Who can say he has understood the mind of the almighty? Who can say I have figured out the creator? Who can say "I have done this" apart from the Lord of the universe? All of humanity rests helpless in the hands of almighty God. He has the power to crush and the power to save, the power to destroy and the power to deliver. He can pour out in vengeance his wrath, or he can pour out his mercy in love.

However, our God is a gracious God. A God of justice? Yes. A God of mercy? Yes. In his divine forbearance, God passed over the wickedness of humanity. He looked over those with crooked tongues. He looked over those who fondle the breast of one not their own. He looked over those who weigh the scales deceitfully for monetary gain. He looked over these who are puffed up with conceit and arrogant in pride. He looked over those who outwardly display holiness, but inwardly are bitter and self-righteous. He looked over those who gossip on the street corners. He looked over all of us who took the infinitely valuable glory of God and mocked it with the damnable treason of self-worship. By God's grace he looked over all of our sins and all our condemnable thoughts, actions, and deeds.

But don't you know that God's kindness and patience is meant to lead you to repentance?

God would be just to annihilate us and throw us to the pit of hell at the littlest sinful action. Indeed, God should throw us into the fiery furnace as soon as damnable acts are committed. Delaying His wrathful judgement is allowing the further mocking of his transcendence and eminence to continue.

However, God is merciful. He has shown us great kindness in delaying his judgement. Indeed he has been patient because he has been waiting for His plan to come into play. God does not desire that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance and faith. As a result, God set forth a plan. It is a plan to crush the head of the serpent and destroy sin once and for all. This plan would be fulfilled by God himself. Indeed the creator would write himself into the story of humanity. God himself would become a man, putting on humanity and walking among us. God has become one of us. God is one of us, and his name is Jesus.

Jesus, the sinless son of God, lived his life and ministry on this earth for one purpose. That purpose was to become the solution to the problem of sin. That purpose was to redeem those human rebels who mock the glory of God. That purpose was to save those who are lost and have compassion on the weak. That purpose was to lay down his life, absorbing the wrathful punishment those rebels were due. Jesus himself became the sin bearer. Jesus himself became the sacrifice of atonement. God placed the wrath due our sin onto Jesus. He made him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus paid it all. He paid your debt, and has credited all the riches of heaven to your account. God has provided a means of escape from the coming wrath, and that escape is through Jesus.

Why would God do this? Why would Jesus be willing to go to the cross for you and me? It is one of the great mysteries of why God would do this for us. I do not understand fully understand the why. Why would God deliver me from my sin? How could God show his love to me? Why would God want to adopt me as his child? It is an astonishing truth, but the truth it is. This is the great reality. This is the true story of the whole world. God has reached out to you through Jesus because He loves you and wants to save you from your greatest enemy, you. He wants to wash you and make you clean. He wants to use you for the spread of this glorious good news. He wants you to be apart of his family.

Trust in this most glorious king, who desires to save you through His son, Jesus. Call on the name of Christ and be saved from your sins. Put your faith in His work on the cross. Then joyously live your life proclaiming to all this great gift that you have been given. Proclaim to all the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus! Tell the world that hope has arrived, peace has come, and joy is found!

"I Deserve This" - The Poison of Entitlement

"I deserve this". Have you ever thought that before? The more I observe my thoughts and motives, the more I find myself thinking like this. I've had a long day at work and I drive by Starbucks and I think, "I deserve this", and I find myself stopping in for a hot drink.

You see, many people think just like me. Our sinful flesh tells us that we are entitled to good things. Entitlement is a lie that we deserve blessings and good gifts. When our thanks and enjoyment of what God gives us turns into harsh demands we go from humble gratitude to spoiled Brat.

We are just like spoiled Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate factory (the good one, not the weird Johnny Depp one). We stomp our feet, raise our voice and yell "I want the golden egg now!" We want the gift. We want the blessing, and if we don'g get it, we make everyone else's life miserable including our own.

Entitlement is the opposite of the Gospel, yet many of us treat our relationship with God just like this. We demand. We yell. We get angry, demanding that God give us ___       . If he doesn't give it to us, we throw a temper tantrum, just like a 3-year old. Although most of us don't still bang our hands on the ground kicking and screaming, we do the spiritual equivalent. How can you tell if you have a heart of entitlement? Two quick tests:

  1. Do you get angry when you don't get what you want? Do you scold God by saying, "I deserved that promotion!" or, "I don't deserve this health ailment!"
  2. Do you reward yourself or think God ought to reward you with presents when life gets difficult? Do you angrily pray, "God, I just went on that missions trip to Mexico, why haven't I found my husband yet?" or "I deserve that new HDTV, I've had a rough season at work!"

Whenever we think like this, we must remind ourselves of the Gospel. We must remind ourselves of what we actually deserve. I don't deserve that new car. I don't deserve that great new job. I deserve hell. I don't deserve material blessing. As a rebel sinner, I deserve condemnation. Then we must remind ourselves of what we've been given in Christ! In Jesus, I have everything I will ever need. I don't need to reward myself with food, Jesus is the reward! I don't need to find comfort in shopping, in Jesus I've found everlasting comfort.

The Gospel purges all self-sufficiency and all entitlement. The wonderful promise of the Gospel is that although I deserve death, I've been given life. Even though I deserve hell, God in Jesus has lavished me with every spiritual blessing! The truth of the Gospel runs in opposition to our sinful entitlement. We must put this sinful root to death in our lives with the life altering truth of the Gospel!

Jonah Part 2: Nineveh Repents

Click the link to read the first post in this series, Jonah Part 1

Have you ever seen someone’s life totally turned around? Do you have a friend who has come to Christ and it is like a 180 degree turn?  It is always amazing to me to hear the stories of these amazing testimonies of these people.  God has truly done the miraculous in their lives.  We might not always have such a radical testimony, but they are encouraging to hear none the less.  The people of Nineveh are a people with that sort of testimony.  The whole city makes a 180 degree turn when Jonah comes to preach the Word of the Lord.

Jonah Goes to Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-5)

Jonah gets a second chance at obedience.  After deliberately disobeying God and going to Tarshish, God calls Jonah a second time.  He tells him to go to Nineveh again.  God intends to use Jonah to deliver this message to Nineveh, whether he wants to or not.  God is going to use him.  Jonah goes to the city of Nineveh.  It was a big city.  The Scripture says it was three days in breadth, meaning that it took him three whole days to preach his message to the surrounding areas of the city.

What was the heart of Jonah’s message?  In 40 days, Nineveh will be over thrown.

Although I’m sure Jonah’s message was more lengthy than this one sentence, but this one sentence does reveal a little bit about Jonah’s heart.  Notice Jonah preaches the condemnation of the people without calling them to repentance.  Jonah doesn’t invite them to turn away from their wicked deeds, he just tells them.... You’ve got 40 days.

Jonah continues to remain apathetic towards the people God has called him to minister too.  He didn’t care for the pagan sailors on the boat, he doesn’t really care for the Ninevites.  He wants God’s wrath to be poured out on the people.  In some twisted way, Jonah desires that the city perish.  We don’t see that fully here, but in chapter 4 Jonah reveals to us his true heart and motivation.  The wretched hate in Jonah’s heart is despicable and describes the same hate in our own hearts.  We look at people who are different than us.  Who are maybe of a different skin color or a different nationality.  We see those who live in open flagrant sin, and we hate them.  We don’t want them to repent.  We don’t want them to turn to God.  We just want them to burn.

If we are really honest with ourselves, many of us think more like Westboro Baptist Church than we would like to admit.  We refuse to cross the rail road tracks to share the Gospel with another ethnicity.  A heart of racism runs through many Christians.  Although none of us would claim to be racist, many of us live that way.  We joke about racial stereotypes.  We segregate ourselves at our schools.  We even segregate our churches so often.  At the end of the day, we find ourselves wanting God to bring down his wrath on them rather than God’s kindness leading them to repentance.  Westboro Baptist Church is just like Jonah.  They preach condemnation and wrath, but the do not desire repentance.  The do not desire this nation come to Christ.  They hate this country and they hate the people who live here.  You and I must not be like this.  We are not to hate the very people God has called us to reach.  If God shows his love to wicked idolatrous people, so should we.  We shouldn’t hate them, but love them and share with them about Jesus in hopes that they would repent and believe the Gospel!

Yet, even though Jonah wishes ill on the city.  God does the miraculous.  Jonah preaches his fire and brimstone message of coming destruction, and the people begin to repent!  Verse 5 tells us that the people of Nineveh believed God.  The fasted and put on sackcloth, which is a sign of humble repentance.  And this wasn’t just the poor and lowly people who were repenting.  All of them, from the greatest of them to the least of them.  The whole city began to abandon their evil ways and trust God!

The People of Nineveh Repent (Jonah 3:6-10)

The word of God eventually reached the king of Nineveh, and something amazing happens.  He repents too!  He coveres himself with sack cloth and ashes.  The King of Nineveh publishes a proclamation that everyone in the city, including the beasts, fast and be covered in sackcloth.  He commands them to call out to God.  So the whole city, down to the animals fall on their face calling out to God to mercy! Imagine how extravagant this scene must have been to watch!  Seeing a whole city repent and believe God!  Imagine of something like that happened in your city. What kind of transformation would happen?  Can you picture the thousands and thousands of people falling on their face calling out to God. The whole city turned from their evil ways.  They pray that God might spare them from His wrath.  They do not want to perish!

The contrast between Jonah and the Ninevites could not be more stark.  The Ninevites do not want to perish, and Jonah could care less.  He did the same thing with the sailors on the boat.  Jonah is only concerned about number one.  He doesn't want himself to perish by being tossed into the sea, but when it comes to lost people, Jonah doesn’t want to see them saved.  He is completely apathetic towards them.  Then we see something even more amazing.  Not only does the whole city repent, but God shows them mercy (v. 10).  When God sees how the city of Nineveh turned from their evil ways, God has compassion on them.  He spares them from his wrath.  As we will see in chapter 4, Jonah isn’t going to respond to well to this!

Jonah Points us to Jesus

Despite Jonah’s failures, his life points us to the greater Jonah, Jesus.  Jesus succeeds where Jonah fails.  You see, Jesus the jewish Messiah, brings the nations to repentance and faith.  Jonah who has figuratively been raised from the dead after three days in the belly of the fish calls out to the pagan people and they come to repentance and faith.  Jesus who was literally raised from the dead after three days in the tomb calls out to the nations of the earth and they come to repentance and faith.

You see, a major theme that runs throughout all the Bible is God’s passion to bring every nation and people group to praise his glorious name.  He wants all the nations to worship him.  He says in Psalm 46, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”.  So when God chooses the children of Abraham, the nation of Israel as his covenant people, God never intends to isolate his love and mercy only on them. The people of Israel were supposed to be a nation of priests interceding on behalf of the nations of the earth to the great and powerful God. However, Israel’s election as the people of God bolstered them with pride and ego.  They began to despise the very nations God had called them to interceded for.  They began to look down on all the other sinners, and feel self-righteous and confident.  The tragic mistake of Israel is that they would not repent of their idolatry.  They continued to become like the nations rather than reaching the nations.  The contrast between Israel and Nineveh is astounding.  Nineveh repents and turns to God at the word of the prophet Jonah.  Israel rebels and disobeys God.  The pagan nations repent, Israel rebels.

Israel fails all through out their history.  They are condemned because the do not repent.  This is why in Matthew 12:41 Jesus says, “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”  What is Jesus saying here?  He is telling the Jews that the Ninevites put them to shame.  The pagan nations repent, but the chosen people of God do not.  Jesus tells them the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, and Jesus tells them “I am the greater Jonah and you, Israel, do not listen to me and repent”.  This stiff-necked people refuses to believe the Prophets of God.  Indeed Israel rejected their own Messiah.  They mocked him.  They tried him.  They crucified him.  They rejected THE prophet of God, Yet Jesus tells us that the stone that the builders rejected has become the corner stone.  The rejected Messiah of Israel is the Messiah for the whole world and now invites the nations, pagan, gentile sinners like many of us, to repentance and faith.

Jesus is the greater Jonah. I know the temptation for us is to look upon Israel with disgust.  How could the people of God refuse repentance?  How could the people of God reject their prophets?  How could they become so self-righteous and filled with pride?  How could they hate the people God asked them to reach? Be very careful Christian, your thinking indicates that you might very well be like the nation of Israel.  In fact, those of us who grow up in the church have a tendency to be far more like the people of Israel than we may know.   You and I have the Word of the Lord.  We have faithful pastors who preach it to us week in and week out, yet we deliberately disobey.  We look down on others because we think that we are more moral and superior.  We refuse to share the Gospel with others, and do not desire to see our friends come to repentance and faith.  You and I are much more like Israel than we care to admit.

May we be like Nineveh and respond to our sin with incredible repentance!  May we fall on our face and be humbled.  May we turn from our wicked ways and turn to Jesus and be saved!

They Put Away Serious Reflection as the Very Bane of Pleasure

In my reading, I stumbled upon this great quote from an older work by Archibald Alexander on Thoughts on Religious Experiences (1841).  In his book he has a great description of the lost and of man's natural state apart from the grace of Christ.  All though this was written many years ago, it still bears a vivid picture of humanity today.  Because technology and progress come, but sinners like myself never change.  Thanks be to Jesus for redeeming us through His blood!

There is, moreover, another class, who seems never to feel the force of religious truth.  They are such as spend their whole waking hours in the giddy whirl of amusement or company.   Full of health and spirits, and sanguine in their hopes of enjoyment from the world, they put away serious reflection as the very bane of pleasure.  The very name of religion is hateful to them: and all they ask of religious people is to let them alone, and seize the pleasures of life while within their reach.  If we may judge from appearances, this class is very large.  We find them the majority in many places of fashionable resort.  The theatre, ball-room, and the very streets are full of such.  They flutter gaily along, and keep each other in countenance; while they are strangers to all grave reflection, even in regard to the sober concerns of this life.  If a pious friend ever gets the opportunity of addressing a word of serious advice to them, their politeness may prevent them from behaving rudely, but no sooner is his back turned, than they laugh him to scorn, and hate and despise him for his pains.  They habituate themselves to think that religion is an awkward unseemly thing, and wonder how any person of sense can bear to attend to it.

Freedom from Past Guilt

We all have skeletons in our closet. Even for the best of us, there are some sins that seem to haunt us when our soul gets quiet and still. Our past failures tend to come back over and over again to remind us of just how much we fall short. For some of us, these memories make us feel worthless and empty. So often we get plagued by thoughts such as, “I will never be good enough for God to accept me” or thoughts like, “I’ve failed so many times, there is no way I can be saved!” Oh friend, if this is you, you are being deceived by the lies of the enemy. You have forgotten the beauty of the Gospel! You see, the Gospel breaks us free from the chains of past failures. Although we are all failures, and although we have committed horrendous sins, the Gospel is the good news that Jesus was righteous for you. The apostle Paul tells us that, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus took on your sins past, present, and future on the cross. If you believe in him, and trust in Jesus you are given the righteousness of Christ. You were once an enemy of God, but now you are adopted as a son or daughter.

Don’t be haunted by your past failures, the Gospel has freed you from guilt. In Christ, God sees you as valuable and righteous. You can never be good enough to earn God’s favor, but by God’s grace he has given you his favor through Jesus. Remind yourself of the Gospel daily. Preach it to yourself often, and counter attack the lies of the enemy with the truth. You are accepted and righteous before God not on your own merit, but on the merit of Jesus. What glorious news!

Grace When We Stumble

Failure happens.  Rather than a strong consistent walk with Christ we tend to bumble around with two left feet. We trip.  We fall.  We fail.

As we sit in our disappointment, with our scuffed knees and our broken pride, we must make a decision.  Are we going to run to God or from God?  Running away from God is our gut impulse.  It's our sinful precondition.  We try to pick ourselves up and try harder and do better all the while carrying the guilt and weight of failure on our already burdened shoulders.  We go on our way again stumbling and falling in the isolation of our own self-sufficiency.  It is a repeated cycle drowned in the lunacy of blinding pride.

Are you running away from God?  Are you carrying the burden and weight of your failures on your own strength?

As a Christian, purchased by the blood of Jesus and sealed by the Holy Spirit, we must run to God in our failures.  For some reason we forget that at the cross Jesus' subsititionary death covered our sins past, present, and future.  If God's grace is great canvas covering all the failures we do or will do, why is our gut impulse to run from him?  God's showed you mercy even though you were completely underserving.  As a result, God's love for you is unbreakable and cannot be torn away.  Our God who began a good work in you will see it through to completion.

God's unconditional love frees us to live as obedient children.  Knowing that God's love for us doesn't change despite our performance means that even in our failures we can run to Him.  We need not fear Him in our failures.  So today, stop running away from God. Run to Him.  Like a loving Father, God is there to raise you and restore you, because big brother Jesus laid down his life for you.