Friday, December 27, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 42

 Psalms 42(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A special psalm for the people of Korah and for the music leader.) As a deer gets thirsty for streams of water, I truly am thirsty for you, my God.
  2. In my heart, I am thirsty for you, the living God. When will I see your face?
  3. Day and night my tears are my only food, as everyone keeps asking, "Where is your God?"
  4. Sorrow floods my heart, when I remember leading the worshipers to your house. I can still hear them shout their joyful praises.
  5. Why am I discouraged? Why am I restless? I trust you! And I will praise you again because you help me,
  6. and you are my God. I am deeply discouraged as I think about you from where the Jordan begins at Mount Hermon and from Mount Mizar.
  7. Your vicious waves have swept over me like an angry ocean or a roaring waterfall.
  8. Every day, you are kind, and at night you give me a song as my prayer to you, the living LORD God.
  9. You are my mighty rock. Why have you forgotten me? Why must enemies mistreat me and make me sad?
  10. Even my bones are in pain, while all day long my enemies sneer and ask, "Where is your God?"
  11. Why am I discouraged? Why am I restless? I trust you! And I will praise you again because you help me, and you are my God.

The psalmist had a longing in him that could only be satisfied by God. It was a longing that is in all of us, though not all recognize its source, and some would even reject the idea it could have anything to do with God. But why wouldn't we long for a connection to our Creator? The psalmist likened this longing to the thirst for water which is life-giving.

In particular, this psalmist desired the communion with God he only found in worship at the sanctuary. Though he was on Mount Mizar, he desired to be on Mount Zion worshiping God, but for some reason was hindered from doing so. There were apparently troubles he was encountering that also kept him from going to Mount Zion, and these troubles had others taunting him with the question, "Where is your God?" as if his God had abandoned him. He may have begun to wonder about that as well, and had become depressed.

But with renewed determination, the psalmist asked himself, "Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me?" And then he determined to put his, "hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God." (42:5) He decided he would not remain depressed nor dependent on his need to be at the sanctuary to draw strength from God. He would place his hope in God and praise Him nonetheless. In so doing, he was confident that "The LORD will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night--a prayer to the God of my life. (42:8)

We are given a hint of the psalmist's circumstances in verses 9-10 when he asks, "Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy's oppression?" and then states, "My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, "Where is your God?" He and his people may have been under the control and rule of an enemy oppressor who kept them from going to the sanctuary in Jerusalem.

He closes the psalm with a repeat of his earlier determination not to remain depressed but to put his "hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God." (42:11)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 41

 Psalms 41(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) You, LORD God, bless everyone who cares for the poor, and you rescue those people in times of trouble.
  2. You protect them and keep them alive. You make them happy here in this land, and you don't hand them over to their enemies.
  3. You always heal them and restore their strength when they are sick.
  4. I prayed, "Have pity, LORD! Heal me, though I have sinned against you."
  5. My vicious enemies ask me, "When will you die and be forgotten?"
  6. When visitors come, all they ever bring are worthless words, and when they leave, they spread gossip.
  7. My enemies whisper about me. They think the worst,
  8. and they say, "You have some fatal disease! You'll never get well."
  9. My most trusted friend has turned against me, though he ate at my table.
  10. Have pity, LORD! Heal me, so I can pay them back.
  11. Then my enemies won't defeat me, and I will know that you really care.
  12. You have helped me because I am innocent, and you will always be close to my side.
  13. You, the LORD God of Israel, will be praised forever! Amen and amen.

David, on his sickbed, called out to the Lord for healing. His appeal for healing relied on three factors: two of his own and one that was God's. The first was that David had cared for those in a similar situation to his own and he knew that God saves those who care for others who are down. "Happy is one who cares for the poor;" he says, "the LORD will save him in a day of adversity." (41:1) Here, "poor" is not so much a reference to those financially poor as to those who are weak or poor in health. Because of his own concern for those who were weak or poor in health, David knew the Lord would "sustain him on his sickbed." (41:3)

The second factor was his confession of sin. He said, "LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against You." (41:4) David's appeal here may have been based on the concept that through confession the Lord would then hear his prayer. Or, it may have been based on the idea that his sins had brought on his illness and he was asking God to forgive him and bring about his healing. Or, it may have been both.

And the third factor was the Lord's graciousness. Twice David asked the Lord to "be gracious to me." In the end, it all came down to God's willingness to heal him, for it was in God's hands alone. Besides the fact that God alone could give him healing, God was the only one to whom he could turn for help. It seemed everyone else was against him. Friend and foe alike wished him ill, even hoping his illness was fatal.

Having made his appeal for healing, David concluded in praise, "May the LORD, the God of Israel, be praised from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and amen." (41:13)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 40

 Psalms 40(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) I patiently waited, LORD, for you to hear my prayer. You listened
  2. and pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire. You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm,
  3. and you gave me a new song, a song of praise to you. Many will see this, and they will honor and trust you, the LORD God.
  4. You bless all of those who trust you, LORD, and refuse to worship idols or follow false gods.
  5. You, LORD God, have done many wonderful things, and you have planned marvelous things for us. No one is like you! I would never be able to tell all you have done.
  6. Sacrifices and offerings are not what please you; gifts and payment for sin are not what you demand. But you made me willing to listen and obey.
  7. And so, I said, "I am here to do what is written about me in the book, where it says,
  8. 'I enjoy pleasing you. Your Law is in my heart.' "
  9. When your people worshiped, you know I told them, "Our LORD always helps!"
  10. When all your people met, I did not keep silent. I said, "Our LORD is kind. He is faithful and caring, and he saves us."
  11. You, LORD, never fail to have pity on me; your love and faithfulness always keep me secure.
  12. I have more troubles than I can count. My sins are all around me, and I can't find my way. My sins outnumber the hairs on my head, and I feel weak.
  13. Please show that you care and come to my rescue. Hurry and help me!
  14. Disappoint and confuse all who want me dead; turn away and disgrace all who want to hurt me.
  15. Embarrass and shame all of those who say, "Just look at you now!"
  16. Our LORD, let your worshipers rejoice and be glad. They love you for saving them, so let them always say, "The LORD is wonderful!"
  17. I am poor and needy, but, LORD God, you care about me, and you come to my rescue. Please hurry and help.

One who has walked with the Lord for a while can identify with this psalm of David. He had experienced God's help in the past and needed His help in the present. Therefore, the form the psalm took began with praise for God's help in the past, followed by David's renewed commitment of himself to the Lord, and concluding with his plea for God's help in his present need.

David had learned the value of waiting for the Lord. He had done this in the past and the Lord, "turned to me and heard my cry for help." (40:1) He had brought David "from a desolate pit" and "set my feet on a rock," putting "a new song in my mouth." (40:2, 3) Because he knew from experience God's deliverance when he waited for Him, David proclaimed for anyone to hear, "How happy is the man who has put his trust in the LORD and has not turned to the proud or to those who run after lies!" (40:4) And to the Lord he proclaimed, "LORD my God, You have done many things--Your wonderful works and Your plans for us; none can compare with You. If I were to report and speak of them, they are more than can be told." (40:5)

In verses 6-10 David renewed his commitment of himself to the Lord, recognizing that it is not sacrifices and offerings in which the Lord delights the most, but in the offering of himself to the Lord. And so David said, "See, I have come . . . I delight to do Your will, my God; Your instruction resides within me." (40:7, 8)

In verse 11 David turned finally to his present need beginning with the words, "do not withhold Your compassion from me." Had David been in this need for a while and it seemed to him that the Lord might be withholding His compassion? Perhaps, though it might also be an expression of his urgency. But then we read in the next verse (40:12) "my sins have overtaken me" suggesting that he saw his present situation to be a result of his own sin. Guilt could also lead him to think God might withhold His compassion.

David's troubles are many, "more than the hairs of my head." And evidently took the form of enemies who "seek to take my life." (40:14) His request of the Lord, then, was for his enemies to "be driven back and humiliated." And, that "all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You." (40:16) In other words, may the Lord hear David's prayer and deliver him from his enemies so he is prompted to "rejoice and be glad" in the Lord.

David concluded with a combination statement of faith and further plea for God's help, "You are my help and my deliverer; my God, do not delay." He was not waiting for the Lord to deliver him to proclaim God as his help and deliverer. God had already been that to him in the past and he was confident He would be that to him in this present situation. He just hoped the Lord would not delay in His deliverance.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 39

 Psalms 39(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for Jeduthun, the music leader.) I told myself, "I'll be careful not to sin by what I say, and I'll muzzle my mouth when evil people are near."
  2. I kept completely silent, but it did no good, and I hurt even worse.
  3. I felt a fire burning inside, and the more I thought, the more it burned, until at last I said:
  4. "Please, LORD, show me my future. Will I soon be gone?
  5. You made my life short, so brief that the time means nothing to you. "Human life is but a breath,
  6. and it disappears like a shadow. Our struggles are senseless; we store up more and more, without ever knowing who will get it all.
  7. "What am I waiting for? I depend on you, Lord!
  8. Save me from my sins. Don't let fools sneer at me.
  9. You treated me like this, and I kept silent, not saying a word.
  10. "Won't you stop punishing me? You have worn me down.
  11. You punish us severely because of our sins. Like a moth, you destroy what we treasure most. We are as frail as a breath.
  12. "Listen, LORD, to my prayer! My eyes are flooded with tears, as I pray to you. I am merely a stranger visiting in your home as my ancestors did.
  13. Stop being angry with me and let me smile again before I am dead and gone."

The occasion of this psalm was a physical affliction David suffered which he attributed to God's discipline for some sin in his life. The experience had reduced him to the realization that life is completely in God's hands, including its length. The pursuit of possessions, or anything that does not enhance our lives with God, is vain for it will be left behind when this short life is ended.

In his affliction, which he attributed to sin, David tried not to sin further with his tongue, so he guarded his mouth, "with a muzzle as long as the wicked are in my presence." But his pain only intensified. So he turned to his only recourse which was to reach out to God saying, "Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You." (39:7) He asked the Lord to deliver him from his transgressions and to remove his torment. Under the Lord's punishment he had lost what was "precious to him." (39:11) Was this his health?

David concluded with a plea for God to "Turn Your angry gaze from me that I may be cheered up before I die and am gone." (39:13) As one of the wealthiest and most powerful kings of his time, David's primary concern at this time was to simply "be cheered up" in whatever time he had remaining in life. The wealth and power were of little consequence. This "cheering up" was only possible if God turned away His anger and smiled once again on David.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 38

 Psalms 38(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David to be used when an offering is made.) When you are angry, LORD, please don't punish me or even correct me.
  2. You shot me with your arrows, and you struck me with your hand.
  3. My body hurts all over because of your anger. Even my bones are in pain, and my sins
  4. are so heavy that I am crushed.
  5. Because of my foolishness, I am covered with sores that stink and spread.
  6. My body is twisted and bent, and I groan all day long.
  7. Fever has my back in flames, and I hurt all over.
  8. I am worn out and weak, moaning and in distress.
  9. You, Lord, know every one of my deepest desires, and my noisy groans are no secret to you.
  10. My heart is beating fast. I feel weak all over, and my eyes are red.
  11. Because of my sickness, no friends or neighbors will come near me.
  12. All who want me dead set traps to catch me, and those who want to harm and destroy me plan and plot all day.
  13. I am not able to hear or speak a word;
  14. I am completely deaf and can't make a sound.
  15. I trust you, LORD God, and you will do something.
  16. I said, "Don't let them laugh or brag because I slip."
  17. I am about to collapse from constant pain.
  18. I told you my sins, and I am sorry for them.
  19. Many deadly and powerful enemies hate me,
  20. and they repay evil for good because I try to do right.
  21. You are the LORD God! Stay nearby and don't desert me.
  22. You are the one who saves me. Please hurry and help.

David in this psalm expresses the pain of sin in his life. His pain seems to be a combination of the Lord's discipline upon him along with the devastation of his own guilt, for he says in verse 3, "There is no soundness in my body because of Your (the Lord's) indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin." The result of his sin is that it had become "a burden too heavy for (him) to bear." (38:4) He went around all day in mourning, and the burden of it took a toll on him physically, for his "heart races, my strength leaves me, and even the light of my eyes has faded." (38:10)

But the effects went beyond him personally to his friends and family. For whatever reason, they kept their distance from him. Were they uncaring or his condition so unpleasant they couldn't stand to be around him? Then there were his enemies who saw his suffering as an opportunity to destroy him - to strike him while he was down. He was defenseless to their attacks. He ignored them as if he didn't hear, nor did he speak in his own defense. He could only turn to the Lord, "I put my hope in You, LORD; You will answer, Lord my God." (38:15)

Between his physical and emotional suffering, his lack of support from friends and family, and the attacks from his enemies, he said, "I am about to fall." (38:18) So he confesses his guilt. It was not his friends, family, or enemies who were to blame for his situation. It was his sin, and he did not attempt to divert the guilt. His only recourse was to confess his guilt and place himself at God's mercy, seeking not only God's forgiveness but also His salvation from those who sought to destroy him. Was his confidence in the Lord ill-placed? No. He, himself, had already experienced God's forgiveness and mercy and proclaimed in Psalms 86, "For You, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, abundant in faithful love to all who call on You." Also, the Apostle John tells us in 1 John 1 that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 37

 Psalms 37(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (By David.) Don't be annoyed by anyone who does wrong, and don't envy them.
  2. They will soon disappear like grass without rain.
  3. Trust the LORD and live right! The land will be yours, and you will be safe.
  4. Do what the LORD wants, and he will give you your heart's desire.
  5. Let the LORD lead you and trust him to help.
  6. Then it will be as clear as the noonday sun that you were right.
  7. Be patient and trust the LORD. Don't let it bother you when all goes well for those who do sinful things.
  8. Don't be angry or furious. Anger can lead to sin.
  9. All sinners will disappear, but if you trust the LORD, the land will be yours.
  10. Sinners will soon disappear, never to be found,
  11. but the poor will take the land and enjoy a big harvest.
  12. Merciless people make plots against good people and snarl like animals,
  13. but the Lord laughs and knows their time is coming soon.
  14. The wicked kill with swords and shoot arrows to murder the poor and the needy and all who do right.
  15. But they will be killed by their own swords, and their arrows will be broken.
  16. It is better to live right and be poor than to be sinful and rich.
  17. The wicked will lose all of their power, but the LORD gives strength to everyone who is good.
  18. Those who obey the LORD are daily in his care, and what he has given them will be theirs forever.
  19. They won't be in trouble when times are bad, and they will have plenty when food is scarce.
  20. Wicked people are enemies of the LORD and will vanish like smoke from a field on fire.
  21. An evil person borrows and never pays back; a good person is generous and never stops giving.
  22. Everyone the LORD blesses will receive the land; everyone the LORD curses will be destroyed.
  23. If you do what the LORD wants, he will make certain each step you take is sure.
  24. The LORD will hold your hand, and if you stumble, you still won't fall.
  25. As long as I can remember, good people have never been left helpless, and their children have never gone begging for food.
  26. They gladly give and lend, and their children turn out good.
  27. If you stop sinning and start doing right, you will keep living and be secure forever.
  28. The LORD loves justice, and he won't ever desert his faithful people. He always protects them, but destroys the children of the wicked.
  29. God's people will own the land and live here forever.
  30. Words of wisdom come when good people speak for justice.
  31. They remember God's teachings, and they never take a wrong step.
  32. The wicked try to trap and kill good people,
  33. but the LORD is on their side, and he will defend them when they are on trial.
  34. Trust the LORD and follow him. He will give you the land, and you will see the wicked destroyed.
  35. I have seen brutal people abuse others and grow strong like trees in rich soil.
  36. Suddenly they disappeared! I looked, but they were gone and no longer there.
  37. Think of the bright future waiting for all the families of honest and innocent and peace-loving people.
  38. But not a trace will be left of the wicked or their families.
  39. The LORD protects his people, and they can come to him in times of trouble.
  40. The LORD helps them and saves them from the wicked because they run to him.

David had much experience with wicked people who sought to destroy him, and as an older man he shared his counsel in this psalm. His counsel is succinctly stated in the first three verses and then further developed in the remaining verses. It is this: "Do not be agitated by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong. For they wither quickly like grass and wilt like tender green plants. Trust in the LORD and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely."

Allowing ourselves to be agitated and envious of wicked people around us is a diversion that can keep us from doing what is good and threaten to take us down along with the wicked. Besides, attempts to respond to the wicked is an exercise in futility. It will not be our words or our actions against them that will thwart them, but God's. We need only to "Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you your heart's desires." (37:4) Our heart's desires will not be fulfilled by attacking the wicked who may be making our lives difficult. They will be fulfilled by taking delight in the Lord. We need only to "Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for Him," and to "Refrain from anger and give up your rage." Being agitated with the wicked "can only bring harm." (37:7, 8) We need to keep a single focus - taking delight in the Lord. In so doing we will gain a different perspective. Rather than the wicked seeming to loom so large and threatening, we will realize that "The Lord laughs at him because He sees that his day is coming." (37:13)

As we take delight in the Lord and take on His perspective of our situation, we come to realize that in the Lord we have all we need. We are better off with the Lord and a little than the wicked are with their abundance. The Lord will meet all our needs and watch over us and our inheritance in Him will last forever. But the wicked "will perish . . . they will fade away like smoke." (37:20)

Though verse 34 is not the last verse of the psalm, it is a good summary of David's counsel to us. "Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land. You will watch when the wicked are destroyed." Rather than fretting we need to wait. As tempting as it may be to fret and as powerful as our inclination may be to strike back, neither of these will be profitable. We will only profit by waiting for the Lord.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 36

 Psalms 36(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (For the music leader by David, the LORD's servant.) Sinners don't respect God; sin is all they think about.
  2. They like themselves too much to hate their own sins or even to see them.
  3. They tell deceitful lies, and they don't have the sense to live right.
  4. Those people stay awake, thinking up mischief, and they follow the wrong road, refusing to turn from sin.
  5. Your love is faithful, LORD, and even the clouds in the sky can depend on you.
  6. Your decisions are always fair. They are firm like mountains, deep like the sea, and all people and animals are under your care.
  7. Your love is a treasure, and everyone finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.
  8. You give your guests a feast in your house, and you serve a tasty drink that flows like a river.
  9. The life-giving fountain belongs to you, and your light gives light to each of us.
  10. Our LORD, keep showing love to everyone who knows you, and use your power to save all whose thoughts please you.
  11. Don't let those proud and merciless people kick me around or chase me away.
  12. Look at those wicked people! They are knocked down, never to get up again.

Psalm 36 is an oracle of David conveying what he has learned from the Lord. In it is contrasted the lives of those who live apart from God and those who take refuge in God's faithful love.

Those who live apart from God David refers to as "the wicked." This is because apart from God their thoughts and actions turn to wickedness. They have no sense of a power greater than themselves so they have no fear or "dread of God before their eyes." (36:1) Instead, they think of themselves more than they should, flattering themselves too much. They put themselves in the place of God, attributing to themselves what they should attribute to God. Thus they have no concept of sin or of evil and therefore do not "reject evil." (36:4) The result is that they become "malicious and deceptive" and stop "acting wisely and doing good." (36:3) Such a person spends his time making "malicious plans" rather than plans for good.

By contrast is the person who has come to recognize God's faithful love and discovered it to be "so valuable" they "take refuge in the shadow of (God's) wings." (36:7) In so doing, "They are filled from the abundance of (God's) house," and He let's "them drink from (His) refreshing stream." (36:8) As they dwell in God's light, they see light. Here is a great contrast between those apart from God and those who take refuge in the Lord. Those who dwell in the Lord are drawn increasingly to His light and those apart are drawn increasingly toward darkness.

David prays that God will not "let the foot of the arrogant come near me or the hand of the wicked drive me away." When those who seek after the things of God separate themselves from those who seek other things, they are thought to hold themselves above those from which they separate themselves. While this may be true in some cases, this is not the purpose of such action. To be with those who separate themselves from God also takes the one who desires refuge in God away from God, a choice that threatens to suck him into the same lifestyle as those who have chosen to live apart from God. But what is such a life compared to the life with God in which they are "filled from the abundance" of God's house and they drink from God's refreshing stream? It is a poor trade.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 35

 Psalms 35(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David.) Fight my enemies, LORD! Attack my attackers!
  2. Shield me and help me.
  3. Aim your spear at everyone who hunts me down, but promise to save me.
  4. Let all who want to kill me be disappointed and disgraced. Chase away and confuse all who plan to harm me.
  5. Send your angel after them and let them be like straw in the wind.
  6. Make them run in the dark on a slippery road, as your angel chases them.
  7. I did them no harm, but they hid a net to trap me, and they dug a deep pit to catch and kill me.
  8. Surprise them with disaster! Trap them in their own nets and let them fall and rot in the pits they have dug.
  9. I will celebrate and be joyful because you, LORD, have saved me.
  10. Every bone in my body will shout: "No one is like the LORD!" You protect the helpless from those in power; you save the poor and needy from those who hurt them.
  11. Liars accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.
  12. They repay evil for good, and I feel all alone.
  13. When they were sick, I wore sackcloth and went without food. I truly prayed for them,
  14. as I would for a friend or a relative. I was in sorrow and mourned, as I would for my mother.
  15. I have stumbled, and worthless liars I don't even know surround me and sneer.
  16. Worthless people make fun and never stop laughing.
  17. But all you do is watch! When will you do something? Save me from the attack of those vicious lions.
  18. And when your people meet, I will praise you and thank you, Lord, in front of them all.
  19. Don't let my brutal enemies be glad because of me. They hate me for no reason. Don't let them wink behind my back.
  20. They say hurtful things, and they lie to people who want to live in peace.
  21. They are quick to accuse me. They say, "You did it! We saw you ourselves."
  22. You see everything, LORD! Please don't keep silent or stay so far away.
  23. Fight to defend me, Lord God,
  24. and prove that I am right by your standards. Don't let them laugh at me
  25. or say to each other, "Now we've got what we want! We'll gobble him down!"
  26. Disappoint and confuse all who are glad to see me in trouble, but disgrace and embarrass my proud enemies who say to me, "You are nothing!"
  27. Let all who want me to win be happy and joyful. From now on let them say, "The LORD is wonderful! God is glad when all goes well for his servant."
  28. Then I will shout all day, "Praise the LORD God! He did what was right."

David petitioned God in this psalm to deliver him from enemies who sought to kill him without cause. These are people who had once been his friends. Friends for whom David had prayed and mourned when they were sick and yet when he stumbled they gathered against him "in glee." (35:15) David was not asking God to take his side in a dispute between friends but rather to deliver him from the unfounded maliciousness of those who had become his enemies. And, it was not just those who had once been his friends who were pursuing him. They had drawn others into the pursuit and he found that "Assailants I did not know tore at me and did not stop," and that "Malicious witnesses come forward; they question me about things I do not know." (35:11, 15)

In the face of these pursuits against him, David asked the Lord to be his defender and deliverer. "Fight those who fight me," he prays. And, he asks the Lord to let those "who seek to kill me be disgraced and humiliated," and to let "their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them." Furthermore, he asks that the Lord "let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it--to his ruin." (35:4, 6, 8)

In his desperation, David asks the Lord, "how long will You look on?" (35:17) He knew the Lord was aware of his situation, so why didn't He do something?! In fact, he says, "You saw it, LORD; do not be silent. Lord, do not be far from me." (35:22) We hear his exasperation as he goes on to say, "Wake up and rise to my defense." (35:23) In this request, David appealed to the Lord based on His own character, "Vindicate me, LORD, my God, in keeping with Your righteousness." (35:24) If the Lord were not to help him for his sake, at least help him because of the Lord's own character of righteousness. Then he prayed that those "who rejoice at my misfortune be disgraced," and "those who want my vindication shout for joy and be glad." (35:26, 27)

David wanted those who wished his vindication to be able to praise the Lord because of his deliverance from those who were after him. And, David wanted to proclaim the Lord's righteousness with his own tongue because of his deliverance.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 34

 Psalms 34(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (Written by David when he pretended to be crazy in front of Abimelech, so that Abimelech would send him away, and David could leave.) I will always praise the LORD.
  2. With all my heart, I will praise the LORD. Let all who are helpless, listen and be glad.
  3. Honor the LORD with me! Celebrate his great name.
  4. I asked the LORD for help, and he saved me from all my fears.
  5. Keep your eyes on the LORD! You will shine like the sun and never blush with shame.
  6. I was a nobody, but I prayed, and the LORD saved me from all my troubles.
  7. If you honor the LORD, his angel will protect you.
  8. Discover for yourself that the LORD is kind. Come to him for protection, and you will be glad.
  9. Honor the LORD! You are his special people. No one who honors the LORD will ever be in need.
  10. Young lions may go hungry or even starve, but if you trust the LORD, you will never miss out on anything good.
  11. Come, my children, listen as I teach you to respect the LORD.
  12. Do you want to live and enjoy a long life?
  13. Then don't say cruel things and don't tell lies.
  14. Do good instead of evil and try to live at peace.
  15. If you obey the LORD, he will watch over you and answer your prayers.
  16. But God despises evil people, and he will wipe them all from the earth, till they are forgotten.
  17. When his people pray for help, he listens and rescues them from their troubles.
  18. The LORD is there to rescue all who are discouraged and have given up hope.
  19. The LORD's people may suffer a lot, but he will always bring them safely through.
  20. Not one of their bones will ever be broken.
  21. Wicked people are killed by their own evil deeds, and if you hate God's people you will be punished.
  22. The LORD saves the lives of his servants. Run to him for protection, and you won't be punished.

Psalm 34 is attributed to an experience David had with the Philistine King Achish of Gath. The account is given in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. In short, David was on the run from King Saul and went to Gath to find safety. However, he recognized right away that the King Achish's servants were suspicious of him saying isn't this David of whom they sing, "Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands?" (1 Samuel 21:11) With the king's suspicions raised, David realized he was in danger so he faked insanity, scribbling on the doors of the gates and letting saliva drool down his beard. The act worked and the king sent him away saying, "Do I have such a shortage of crazy people that you brought this one to act crazy around me?" (1 Samuel 21:15) David took this opportunity to leave Gath and find refuge elsewhere.

Would you have attributed David's escape from King Achish to God's intervention? David did and acknowledged it in this psalm, saying, "I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears." (34:4) David sought the Lord's help in the situation with King Achish. Did the Lord give him the idea to fake insanity? Probably. But wherever David got the idea for this scheme, the scheme worked which was God's intervention. Therefore, David says, "I will praise the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips." (34:1)

It wasn't just David for whom the Lord provides deliverance, David proclaims the Lord's deliverance for all who take refuge in the Lord. In David's references to those whom God rescues, he speaks of those "who look to Him," those who cry out to Him, "those who fear Him," and "the man who takes refuge in Him." (34:5, 6, 7, 8) These are key descriptions of those on whose behalf God works to rescue. They describe a person who has taken initiative to seek God's help and submit themselves to His care, in other words to take refuge in Him. We are further led to believe this is important to receive God's deliverance when David says, "Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD." (34:11) Thus, fear of the Lord is important to receiving His deliverance.

Why is it a person will point the finger at God when trouble comes as if it is His fault? Then do nothing to seek God's help in getting through the trouble? It follows that one is not likely to turn to God for help when they blame God for their trouble in the first place. But why blame God? David says, "Many adversities come to the one who is righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all." (34:19) Everyone has adversities whether they are righteous, that is right with God, or not. But God is not the source of our problems. Many of our problems are a result of our own poor choices. But regardless of whether we cause our problems or Satan causes them or someone else does, God is our only hope of getting through them with a good outcome. And it is up to us to seek His help for that outcome.

David says, "The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them from all their troubles." This is the assurance we have if we will seek God's help.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 33

 Psalms 33(Contemporary English Version)
  1. You are the LORD's people. Obey him and celebrate! He deserves your praise.
  2. Praise the LORD with harps! Use harps with ten strings to make music for him.
  3. Sing a new song. Shout! Play beautiful music.
  4. The LORD is truthful; he can be trusted.
  5. He loves justice and fairness, and he is kind to everyone everywhere on earth.
  6. The LORD made the heavens and everything in them by his word.
  7. He scooped up the ocean and stored the water.
  8. Everyone in this world should worship and honor the LORD!
  9. As soon as he spoke the world was created; at his command, the earth was formed.
  10. The LORD destroys the plans and spoils the schemes of the nations.
  11. But what the LORD has planned will stand forever. His thoughts never change.
  12. The LORD blesses each nation that worships only him. He blesses his chosen ones.
  13. The LORD looks at the world
  14. from his throne in heaven, and he watches us all.
  15. The LORD gave us each a mind, and nothing we do can be hidden from him.
  16. Mighty armies alone cannot win wars for a king; great strength by itself cannot keep a soldier safe.
  17. In war the strength of a horse cannot be trusted to take you to safety.
  18. But the LORD watches over all who honor him and trust his kindness.
  19. He protects them from death and starvation.
  20. We depend on you, LORD, to help and protect us.
  21. You make our hearts glad because we trust you, the only God.
  22. Be kind and bless us! We depend on you.

Psalm 33 does not come out of a time of trouble but rather a time of blessing. It calls on Israel first and then the whole earth to praise God because He is praiseworthy.
The psalm points to certain attributes of God in its call to praise:
  • "The word of the Lord is right, and all His work is trustworthy." (33:4)
  • "He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the LORD's unfailing love." (33:5)
  • "The heavens were made by the word of the LORD, and all the stars, by the breath of His mouth." (33:6)
  • "He gathers the waters of the sea into a heap; He puts the depths into storehouses." (33:7)
These are God's attributes in creation, but the psalm continues with His attributes in regard to the people He has created:
  • "The LORD frustrates the counsel of the nations; He thwarts the plans of the peoples. (33:10)
  • "The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation." (33:11)
It is God's plans and not our own that will succeed. God thwarts our plans made apart from Him, but His plans stand forever from generation to generation. Therefore, we do best to adopt His plans as our plans. "Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord." In other words, happy are those who have adopted God's plans as their own. When we depend on our own plans, more and more is required to succeed. This is the case with kings and their armies. They plan for large armies with horses and chariots thinking this will be their victory. But with the Lord these are not necessary to succeed. Depending on large armies with horses is a false hope, but not so with the Lord.

The psalmist concludes then, that "We wait for the Lord; He is our help and shield." (33:20) He will place his hope in the only One who is sure to deliver - that is the Lord.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 32

 Psalms 32(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A special psalm by David.) Our God, you bless everyone whose sins you forgive and wipe away.
  2. You bless them by saying, "You told me your sins, without trying to hide them, and now I forgive you."
  3. Before I confessed my sins, my bones felt limp, and I groaned all day long.
  4. Night and day your hand weighed heavily on me, and my strength was gone as in the summer heat.
  5. So I confessed my sins and told them all to you. I said, "I'll tell the LORD each one of my sins." Then you forgave me and took away my guilt.
  6. We worship you, Lord, and we should always pray whenever we find out that we have sinned. Then we won't be swept away by a raging flood.
  7. You are my hiding place! You protect me from trouble, and you put songs in my heart because you have saved me.
  8. You said to me, "I will point out the road that you should follow. I will be your teacher and watch over you.
  9. Don't be stupid like horses and mules that must be led with ropes to make them obey."
  10. All kinds of troubles will strike the wicked, but your kindness shields those who trust you, LORD.
  11. And so your good people should celebrate and shout.

David expressed through this psalm the joy of being forgiven by God for sin he had tried to ignore. Perhaps he was trying to hide it or even deny it. For a long period he "kept silent" about it. (32:3) But in his silence his guilt ate away at him and God dealt with him. He became so miserable his "bones became brittle from (his) groaning all day long." (32:3) Furthermore, he says, "my strength was drained as in the summer's heat." (32:4)

This is the effect of sin on us. Sin affects us in a variety of ways that we cannot escape as hard as we may try. We become so miserable we are desperate to get rid of the way we feel and turn to any number of things to dull or suppress our misery. But strangely, we often avoid the only thing that will rid us of our misery - confession. David said, "I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity." When he did, the Lord "took away the guilt" of his sin. (32:5) His misery turned to joy. To one who has not experienced the joy and freedom of confession and the resulting forgiveness God gives, this may seem strange and even foolish. But it is real, and the foolishness is in avoiding it. There is no freedom and no peace like that which comes from confession.

David has a word for those who avoid taking their sin to God in confession. He says, "Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, that must be controlled with bit and bridle, or else it will not come near you." (32:9) He goes on to say, "Many pains come to the wicked, but the one who trusts in the LORD will have faithful love surrounding him." (32:10)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 31

 Psalms 31(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) I come to you, LORD, for protection. Don't let me be ashamed. Do as you have promised and rescue me.
  2. Listen to my prayer and hurry to save me. Be my mighty rock and the fortress where I am safe.
  3. You, LORD God, are my mighty rock and my fortress. Lead me and guide me, so that your name will be honored.
  4. Protect me from hidden traps and keep me safe.
  5. You are faithful, and I trust you because you rescued me.
  6. I hate the worshipers of worthless idols, but I trust you, LORD.
  7. I celebrate and shout because you are kind. You saw all my suffering, and you cared for me.
  8. You kept me from the hands of my enemies, and you set me free.
  9. Have pity, LORD! I am hurting and almost blind. My whole body aches.
  10. I have known only sorrow all my life long, and I suffer year after year. I am weak from sin, and my bones are limp.
  11. My enemies insult me. Neighbors are even worse, and I disgust my friends. People meet me on the street, and they turn and run.
  12. I am completely forgotten like someone dead. I am merely a broken dish.
  13. I hear the crowds whisper, "Everyone is afraid!" They are plotting and scheming to murder me.
  14. But I trust you, LORD, and I claim you as my God.
  15. My life is in your hands. Save me from enemies who hunt me down.
  16. Smile on me, your servant. Have pity and rescue me.
  17. I pray only to you. Don't disappoint me. Disappoint my cruel enemies until they lie silent in their graves.
  18. Silence those proud liars! Make them stop bragging and insulting your people.
  19. You are wonderful, and while everyone watches, you store up blessings for all who honor and trust you.
  20. You are their shelter from harmful plots, and you are their protection from vicious gossip.
  21. I will praise you, LORD, for showing great kindness when I was like a city under attack.
  22. I was terrified and thought, "They've chased me far away from you!" But you answered my prayer when I shouted for help.
  23. All who belong to the LORD, show how you love him. The LORD protects the faithful, but he severely punishes everyone who is proud.
  24. All who trust the LORD, be cheerful and strong.

The psalm begins with David's statement of confidence in the Lord as his "rock and my fortress." For the Lord leads and guides him and therefore He will "free me from the net that is secretly set for me." Then he firmly states, "Into Your hand I entrust my spirit." This is not a blind trust, however, for David had already had much experience with the Lord in the face of affliction. The Lord had seen his affliction and known his troubles and had "not handed me over to the enemy. You have set my feet in a spacious place." (31:8)

Having stated his confidence in the Lord as his refuge, David then voiced his petition. "Be gracious to me, LORD, because I am in distress; my eyes are worn out from angry sorrow--my whole being as well." With more detail he goes into his plight. Then comes the reality of his situation as it is for anyone in any situation, "The course of my life is in Your power." (31:15) It is not circumstances themselves or evil people or even Satan who holds our lives in their control, but it is God who has our lives in His power. Therefore, David asked that God, in His power, deliver him from the power of his enemies. His power trumps their power if He will only act on David's behalf. There was no formula necessary for David to follow or ritual to enact for God to fullfil his request for help. It was God's faithful love on which he was depending and upon which he merely needed to call upon.

God does not force Himself upon us or act without our permission. In verse 19 he says, "How great is Your goodness that You have stored up . . . and accomplished in the sight of everyone." For whom does He exercise His goodness? For those who fear Him and who take refuge in Him. He does not exercise His goodness and power for those who do not have confidence in Him or want His help. Nor does He use His attributes to entice people to come to Him. They are reserved for those who take refuge in Him.

I especially identify with verse 22 in which David says, "In my alarm I had said, "I am cut off from Your sight." In time of distress I sometimes ask myself why I am so troubled by the situation if my trust is truly in the Lord. But it is my alarm at the situation that has triggered my distress and worry. However, when I take it to the Lord and keep going back, my confidence in Him begins to override my distress.

Let us take David's closing words to heart. Let us put our hope in the Lord and then be strong and courageous.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 30

 Psalms 30(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the dedication of the temple.) I will praise you, LORD! You saved me from the grave and kept my enemies from celebrating my death.
  2. I prayed to you, LORD God, and you healed me,
  3. saving me from death and the grave.
  4. Your faithful people, LORD, will praise you with songs and honor your holy name.
  5. Your anger lasts a little while, but your kindness lasts for a lifetime. At night we may cry, but when morning comes we will celebrate.
  6. I was carefree and thought, "I'll never be shaken!"
  7. You, LORD, were my friend, and you made me strong as a mighty mountain. But when you hid your face, I was crushed.
  8. I prayed to you, LORD, and in my prayer I said,
  9. "What good will it do you if I am in the grave? Once I have turned to dust, how can I praise you or tell how loyal you are?
  10. Have pity, LORD! Help!"
  11. You have turned my sorrow into joyful dancing. No longer am I sad and wearing sackcloth.
  12. I thank you from my heart, and I will never stop singing your praises, my LORD and my God.

Psalm 30 apparently came from a time of severe illness for David, or perhaps a time of great emotional distress in which he felt ill. How this setting relates with the opening note that the psalm was used as "a dedication song for the house" is not clear.

Unlike many of the previous psalms, David had already witnessed God's answer to his prayer when writing this psalm and so it does not open with words of concern that God might not hear his prayer. Instead, he begins with the words, "I will exalt You, LORD, because You have lifted me up." And in the next verse he says, "LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me."

Verse 5 is a key verse in at least a couple of ways. First, it adds to our understanding of David's situation behind the psalm. His illness, or whatever the circumstance, was due to God's anger - or at least David felt that to be the cause. Whether real or imagined, it feels the same. Some have suggested this psalm came from an event found in 1 Chronicles 21 in which David's pride and disobedience caused the Lord to send a plague that killed 70,000 people and now the Lord's anger was turned on David causing him to be ill which is the setting for this psalm. That is only conjecture, though it is possible. But verse 5 lets us know that David had felt God's anger.

Another reason verse 5 is key is its powerful message to us about God's anger. It tells us that God's anger is not His primary emotion toward us. His favor toward us is His primary emotion we experience: "His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a lifetime." We need to hang onto this truth (and this verse) and allow it to encourage us when we feel God is angry with us. But the second part of the verse is just as powerful. Though we may go through a time (a night) of weeping, as David had with this experience, the morning will come and the weeping will pass and there will be joy. This truth we also need to hold onto tenaciously to help us through the time of weeping. Though the time of weeping feels it will never end, this is not the reality. Reality is that moring will come when the suffering is past and there will be joy once again. How it will come and how long it will be in coming is in God's hands as is the joy that will come.

Next, David points to another misconception we have. As when times are bad and we feel they will never end, we also feel that when times are good they will never end. David said in verse 6: "When I was secure, I said, 'I will never be shaken.'" When he was secure and all was good he thought it would never change. What was the basis of this confidence? Was it in himself or in God? The longer our time of being secure and all is good continues the more we are prone to take credit for this state. We occasionally need a little "shaking up" to remind us who is in control. The truth for David was that when he was secure it was because of God's favor, which "made me stand like a strong mountain." But then, God hid His face and David "was terrified." But remember, this lasted only for a moment compared to the time in which David experienced His favor.

When morning came and the weeping was past for David, the Lord, "turned my lament into dancing." Joy had returned. Therefore, David says, "I will praise You forever."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 29

 Psalms 29(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David.) All of you angels in heaven, honor the glory and power of the LORD!
  2. Honor the wonderful name of the LORD, and worship the LORD most holy and glorious.
  3. The voice of the LORD echoes over the oceans. The glorious LORD God thunders above the roar of the raging sea,
  4. and his voice is mighty and marvelous.
  5. The voice of the LORD destroys the cedar trees; the LORD shatters cedars on Mount Lebanon.
  6. God makes Mount Lebanon skip like a calf and Mount Hermon jump like a wild ox.
  7. The voice of the LORD makes lightning flash
  8. and the desert tremble. And because of the LORD, the desert near Kadesh shivers and shakes.
  9. The voice of the LORD makes deer give birth before their time. Forests are stripped of leaves, and the temple is filled with shouts of praise.
  10. The LORD rules on his throne, king of the flood forever.
  11. Pray that our LORD will make us strong and give us peace.

Psalm 29 is David's commentary on God's majesty as seen in a powerful thunderstorm. Insurance companies today refer to property damage caused by weather as "acts of God." This was David's point in this psalm. The storm he witnessed was indeed an act of God demonstrating the power of the Creator. He spoke of the thunder in this storm as the "The voice of the LORD." The voice of the Lord, David said, spoke in power and in splendor. It shattered the cedars of Lebanon and caused the mountains of Lebanon and Sirion to skip like calves as it caused them to quake. The voice of the Lord shot out flames of fire with the streaking lightening and shook the wilderness of Kadesh, causing the deer to give birth prematurely and stripping the woodlands bare.

Storms can be majestic, but also frightening. When viewed as an act of God, envisioning God in the storm, God might be seen as angry and destructive. But if we understand God's nature as loving and merciful, we can see in the storm God's power and splendor that He offers on our behalf when we place our trust in Him and call upon Him for help. The pagans of David's day attributed the storms to their false gods, but David was saying, no, it is the work of the Lord. The athiest may say it is just our imagination attributing nature to the handiwork of God, but the disciples of Jesus got a first-hand demonstration when Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. There was no doubt who controlled that storm.

In verse 11 David brings home his point, "The LORD gives His people strength; the LORD blesses His people with peace." The same God who causes the powerful storm "gives His people strength" and blesses them with peace.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 28

 Psalms 28(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (By David.) Only you, LORD, are a mighty rock! Don't refuse to help me when I pray. If you don't answer me, I will soon be dead.
  2. Please listen to my prayer and my cry for help, as I lift my hands toward your holy temple.
  3. Don't drag me away, LORD, with those cruel people, who speak kind words, while planning trouble.
  4. Treat them as they deserve! Punish them for their sins.
  5. They don't pay any attention to your wonderful deeds. Now you will destroy them and leave them in ruin.
  6. I praise you, LORD, for answering my prayers.
  7. You are my strong shield, and I trust you completely. You have helped me, and I will celebrate and thank you in song.
  8. You give strength to your people, LORD, and you save and protect your chosen ones.
  9. Come save us and bless us. Be our shepherd and always carry us in your arms.

David seems to have been in imminent danger when he wrote this psalm. This was not his first appeal to God for help regarding this particular danger as is suggested in the first verse, "If You remain silent to me, I will be like those going down to the Pit." His situation was becoming more urgent and he feared his fate would be the same as the wicked who tormented him: "Do not drag me away with the wicked."

In Psalm 27 David encouraged others to "Wait for the LORD." (27:14) In my reflections on this psalm I mentioned that in waiting on the Lord we demonstrate true faith, and the longer the wait the greater the demonstration. Waiting on the Lord is one of the hardest things we will ever do. In our waiting it begins to appear to us that the wicked who give no thought to the Lord are better off than are we. This may be what David was experiencing when he wrote this psalm. He had prayed for God's help repeatedly and then waited and waited for it to come and yet he was still in his predicament. He became concerned that though he trusted in the Lord his plight was no better than those who gave no thought to the Lord and who practiced wickedness.

In verses 4 & 5 David asked the Lord to repay the wicked, "according to what they have done--according to the evil of their deeds." He was appealing to a God He believed to be just. If He dealt with the wicked according to their deeds He would also deal with the righteous according to theirs. Though the wicked "do not consider what the LORD has done or the work of His hands," David knew that he did consider what the Lord has done. Justice demanded that the wicked be torn down and he be built up. This was David's plea.

Though David may have come to the Lord expressing doubt ("do not be deaf to me"), he did not go away from the Lord in doubt, but in praising. "May the LORD be praised, for He has heard the sound of my pleading." (28:6) Had David yet witnessed the Lord's response to his prayer? No! But through prayer he was encouraged and assured that the Lord had heard him and would help him. Out of this assurance his "heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song." (28:7)

David began the psalm, as he entered into prayer, in weakness and concluded it, after spending time in prayer, in strength. Prayer is not so much about putting in our request to God and expecting Him to deliver, but is much more about changing us as we relate to the Lord. It is more about relationship and less about getting what we ask for. It is even possible that through the relationship what we ask for may change.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 27

 Psalms 27(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (By David.) You, LORD, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears.
  2. Brutal people may attack and try to kill me, but they will stumble. Fierce enemies may attack, but they will fall.
  3. Armies may surround me, but I won't be afraid; war may break out, but I will trust you.
  4. I ask only one thing, LORD: Let me live in your house every day of my life to see how wonderful you are and to pray in your temple.
  5. In times of trouble, you will protect me. You will hide me in your tent and keep me safe on top of a mighty rock.
  6. You will let me defeat all of my enemies. Then I will celebrate, as I enter your tent with animal sacrifices and songs of praise.
  7. Please listen when I pray! Have pity. Answer my prayer.
  8. My heart tells me to pray. I am eager to see your face,
  9. so don't hide from me. I am your servant, and you have helped me. Don't turn from me in anger. You alone keep me safe. Don't reject or desert me.
  10. Even if my father and mother should desert me, you will take care of me.
  11. Teach me to follow, LORD, and lead me on the right path because of my enemies.
  12. Don't let them do to me what they want. People tell lies about me and make terrible threats,
  13. but I know I will live to see how kind you are.
  14. Trust the LORD! Be brave and strong and trust the LORD.

David began this Psalm with his statement of faith: "The LORD is my light and my salvation--whom should I fear?" And the implied answer to this question is "no one." David was confident that he had nothing to fear as long as he made the Lord his light and salvation. The Lord would then "conceal me in His shelter in the day of adversity" and would "hide me under the cover of His tent" and would "set me high on a rock." (27:5) As a result, "my head will be high above my enemies around me." (27:6) Because of his confidence in the Lord, David envisioned praising and worshiping the Lord even before he saw the Lord's deliverance: "I will offer sacrifices in His tent with shouts of joy. I will sing and make music to the LORD."

What the Lord can do, however, is not necessarily what the Lord will do. Prayer is an important key in making the difference between what the Lord can do and what He will do. It is more than a request for His help, but is also a placing of our trust in Him rather than other sources for the help we need. In verse 7 David turned to prayer, making his petition to the Lord to hear and answer his plea for help. He asked the Lord to "hear my voice when I call." (27:7) The Lord had been his help in the past but he could not assume this to be the case in the future, so he asked the Lord, "You have been my help; do not leave me or abandon me." (27:9) Having asked the Lord not to abandon him, how confident was he that the Lord would not abandon him? He was more confident of the Lord's care than of the care of his own parents: "Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD cares for me." (27:10) From a human standpoint, our parents are those on whom we can most rely. But God's care is even more reliable. But we must ask.

Having asked the Lord for His help, David returned to his statement of faith: "I am certain that I will see the LORD's goodness in the land of the living." (27:13) And then he gave this advise: "Wait for the LORD." Waiting on the Lord is faith in action. It is in waiting that we truly demonstrate our faith. And the longer the wait the greater our demonstration. For as time passes we are prone to falter and turn our reliance toward other sources. Faith is the key to seeing God act on our behalf, and faith is more than a mental or verbal assent to God's ability and desire to act on our behalf. Waiting on the Lord is our actual expression of faith.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 26

 Psalms 26(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (By David.) Show that I am right, LORD! I stay true to myself, and I have trusted you without doubting.
  2. Test my thoughts and find out what I am like.
  3. I never forget your kindness, and I am always faithful to you.
  4. I don't spend my time with worthless liars
  5. or go with evil crowds.
  6. I wash my hands, LORD, to show my innocence, and I worship at your altar,
  7. while gratefully singing about your wonders.
  8. I love the temple where you live, and where your glory shines.
  9. Don't sweep me away, as you do sinners. Don't punish me with death as you do those people who are brutal
  10. or full of meanness or who bribe others.
  11. I stay true to myself. Be kind and rescue me.
  12. Now I stand on solid ground! And when your people meet, I will praise you, LORD.

David placed himself at God's mercy to be his just judge. People certainly could not be trusted to be /just when judging one's character. Attacks on his character David had experienced in abundance and such an occurrence might be the occasion of this psalm. Thus David turned to the Lord to "vindicate" him and to "test" him. "Try me;" he said to God. "Examine my heart and mind." In so doing, David was certain God would find that His "faithful love is before my eyes, and I live by Your truth." (26:3) Furthermore, God would find that he does "not sit with the worthless or associate with hypocrites." (26:4) This may have been the accusation made against him by his accusers.

In God's testing of David He would find that, "I hate a crowd of evildoers, and I do not sit with the wicked." Instead of hanging out with evildoers, David says, "I love the house where You (the Lord) dwell, the place where Your glory resides." (26:5, 8) Upon finding these things to be true of David, David made his appeal to God that He not "destroy me along with sinners, or my life along with men of bloodshed." (26:9) Instead of destroying him along with evildoers, David asks that God "redeem me and be gracious to me." (26:11) In turn, David says, "I will praise the LORD in the assemblies." (26:12)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 25

 Psalms 25(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (By David.) I offer you my heart, LORD God,
  2. and I trust you. Don't make me ashamed or let enemies defeat me.
  3. Don't disappoint any of your worshipers, but disappoint all deceitful liars.
  4. Show me your paths and teach me to follow;
  5. guide me by your truth and instruct me. You keep me safe, and I always trust you.
  6. Please, LORD, remember, you have always been patient and kind.
  7. Forget each wrong I did when I was young. Show how truly kind you are and remember me.
  8. You are honest and merciful, and you teach sinners how to follow your path.
  9. You lead humble people to do what is right and to stay on your path.
  10. In everything you do, you are kind and faithful to everyone who keeps our agreement with you.
  11. Be true to your name, LORD, by forgiving each one of my terrible sins.
  12. You will show the right path to all who worship you.
  13. They will have plenty, and then their children will receive the land.
  14. Our LORD, you are the friend of your worshipers, and you make an agreement with all of us.
  15. I always look to you, because you rescue me from every trap.
  16. I am lonely and troubled. Show that you care and have pity on me.
  17. My awful worries keep growing. Rescue me from sadness.
  18. See my troubles and misery and forgive my sins.
  19. Look at all my enemies! See how much they hate me.
  20. I come to you for shelter. Protect me, keep me safe, and don't disappoint me.
  21. I obey you with all my heart, and I trust you, knowing that you will save me.
  22. Our God, please save Israel from all of its troubles.

Psalm 25 has the sense of being a page from David's daily prayer book. There is no common theme throughout but instead David covers the spectrum from a prayer of protection to seeking instruction to asking forgiveness of his sin to upholding God's faithful love.

David seeks God's protection in the opening verses of the psalm and again later in the psalm. Repeatedly he asks that God not let him be disgraced or put to shame before his enemies. Is this about protecting his pride? I think it is more likely about his trust in the Lord being well-placed. Having placed his trust in the Lord for protection against his enemies he doesn't want to discover that it was an ill-placed trust. Nor does he want to be taunted by his enemies because his reliance on the Lord turned out to be in vain. But having voiced his request that he not be disgraced, he confidently states that "Not one person who waits for You will be disgraced." (25:3)

In David's petition to the Lord both for protection and forgiveness of sin, his appeal is not on his own merit but on God's. "Remember, LORD, Your compassion and Your faithful love," he says. These qualities that God has had "from antiquity" are the motivation to which David appeals for God's protection and for guiding him in truth. It was also because of God's name that David asked Him to forgive his sin. Not because David deserved it but because God's name was at stake.

David extols the benefits of fearing the Lord in verses 12-14. What is in store for the person who fears the Lord? Such a person will be shown the way he should choose and will thus live a good life. His descendants will also benefit by inheriting the land. In addition he will receive the "secret counsel of the Lord." (25:14) The Lord blessed the Israelites with a land of their own. He promised they would have this land as long as they feared Him and obeyed His instructions to them. This promise that the descendants of the one who feared the Lord would inherit the land is saying that the land the Lord gave them will remain in the possession of those who fear the Lord and be passed down to their descendants. This would not be true for those who no longer feared the Lord but turned instead to other gods. I understand this to mean to me that as I fear the Lord and follow in His teachings that His blessings I enjoy will be passed on to my descendants.

David makes his stand in verse 21, "for I wait for You." He made his choice. He will wait on the Lord. In so doing he asks that he be kept in integrity and uprightness.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 24

 Psalms 24(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David.) The earth and everything on it belong to the LORD. The world and its people belong to him.
  2. The LORD placed it all on the oceans and rivers.
  3. Who may climb the LORD's hill or stand in his holy temple?
  4. Only those who do right for the right reasons, and don't worship idols or tell lies under oath.
  5. The LORD God, who saves them, will bless and reward them,
  6. because they worship and serve the God of Jacob.
  7. Open the ancient gates, so that the glorious king may come in.
  8. Who is this glorious king? He is our LORD, a strong and mighty warrior.
  9. Open the ancient gates, so that the glorious king may come in.
  10. Who is this glorious king? He is our LORD, the All-Powerful!

The occasion of this Psalm is thought by many to be David's moving of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem which would fit the imagery of verse 7, "Lift up your heads, you gates! Rise up, ancient doors! Then the King of glory will come in." The psalmist was calling upon the gates of the city to open so the King of glory, represented by the ark, might enter.

The first half of the psalm gives the attributes of the Lord and of who may "stand in His holy place." The Lord is the one to Whom the world and all its inhabitants belong. He made the world, laying its foundations, and made all that is in it including all its inhabitants. Who, then, may stand in His holy place? "The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully." (24:4) In other words, one whose outward conduct is upright (clean hands) and whose intentions and motives are pure (pure heart).

The picture we are given, then, is that everyone belongs to the Lord. This is true whether we desire it to be true or admit it to be true. Not only does everyone belong to the Lord, but they inhabit His domain - the world. He made it - it is His. These truths, however, do not automatically establish a relationship between each person and their Creator allowing them to "stand in His holy place," that is, to stand in His presence. This privilege is for those who seek their creator with right actions and right motives. This they will do only if they have not set their minds "on what is false," and have not "sworn deceitfully." Setting one's mind on what is false might be to accept as true anything contrary to the truth that the Lord is the Creator of all that is and we belong to Him.

Praise to the King of glory is the theme of the last half of the psalm. Even inanimate objects, the gates of the city, are called upon to give praise to the Lord who is strong and mighty. This brings to mind the words of Jesus to the Pharisees who wanted Him to rebuke His disciples for praising Him in a loud voice. He told them that even if His disciples "were to keep silent, the stones would cry out!"

Friday, November 22, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 23

 Psalms 23(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David.) You, LORD, are my shepherd. I will never be in need.
  2. You let me rest in fields of green grass. You lead me to streams of peaceful water,
  3. and you refresh my life. You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths.
  4. I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won't be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd's rod makes me feel safe.
  5. You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch. You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows.
  6. Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life, and I will live forever in your house, LORD.

Those for whom the Lord is their shepherd lack nothing, David says. Then he proceeds to support this statement with what the Lord provides.

First, we are nourished, both physically and spiritually, as we "lie down in green pastures." and are led "beside the still waters." The Lord also provides us spiritual restoration as He "renews my life." Furthermore He leads us along the right path that guides us in the life He has provided us. And then He keeps us from danger, going with us through the dark valleys of life. Therefore, we need not fear.

The scene then changes from a shepherd in green pastures to a banquet table which is set in "the presence of my enemies." This scene conveys an image of all God's blessings being provided us in full view of our enemies. In other words, though in God's care we lack nothing, it is not in the absence of life's threats that we receive these. With the image of being in the care of the shepherd who lets us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside quet waters, we may envision being withdrawn from life and its difficulties in order to enjoy the nourishment and restoration the Lord provides.

With such an image we may picture ourselves swinging back and forth between this idyllic setting with the Lord as our shepherd and then back to the treadmill of life. David is saying to us that this isn't quite the way it is. Rather than withdrawning from the difficulties of life to enjoy the Lord's provisions, He lays them before us in the midst of life. We don't have to withdraw to enjoy the Lord's blessings. He provides these blessings in spite of life's challenges. Or as David says in this psalm, "in the presence of my enemies." whatever they may be.

If all that has gone before is true, then "Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live." (23:6)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 22

 Psalms 22(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader. To the tune "A Deer at Dawn." ) My God, my God, why have you deserted me? Why are you so far away? Won't you listen to my groans and come to my rescue?
  2. I cry out day and night, but you don't answer, and I can never rest.
  3. Yet you are the holy God, ruling from your throne and praised by Israel.
  4. Our ancestors trusted you, and you rescued them.
  5. When they cried out for help, you saved them, and you did not let them down when they depended on you.
  6. But I am merely a worm, far less than human, and I am hated and rejected by people everywhere.
  7. Everyone who sees me makes fun and sneers. They shake their heads,
  8. and say, "Trust the LORD! If you are his favorite, let him protect you and keep you safe."
  9. You, LORD, brought me safely through birth, and you protected me when I was a baby at my mother's breast.
  10. From the day I was born, I have been in your care, and from the time of my birth, you have been my God.
  11. Don't stay far off when I am in trouble with no one to help me.
  12. Enemies are all around like a herd of wild bulls. Powerful bulls from Bashan are everywhere.
  13. My enemies are like lions roaring and attacking with jaws open wide.
  14. I have no more strength than a few drops of water. All my bones are out of joint; my heart is like melted wax.
  15. My strength has dried up like a broken clay pot, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You, God, have left me to die in the dirt.
  16. Brutal enemies attack me like a pack of dogs, tearing at my hands and my feet.
  17. I can count all my bones, and my enemies just stare and sneer at me.
  18. They took my clothes and gambled for them.
  19. Don't stay far away, LORD! My strength comes from you, so hurry and help.
  20. Rescue me from enemy swords and save me from those dogs.
  21. Don't let lions eat me. You rescued me from the horns of wild bulls,
  22. and when your people meet, I will praise you, LORD.
  23. All who worship the LORD, now praise him! You belong to Jacob's family and to the people of Israel, so fear and honor the LORD!
  24. The LORD doesn't hate or despise the helpless in all of their troubles. When I cried out, he listened and did not turn away.
  25. When your people meet, you will fill my heart with your praises, LORD, and everyone will see me keep my promises to you.
  26. The poor will eat and be full, and all who worship you will be thankful and live in hope.
  27. Everyone on this earth will remember you, LORD. People all over the world will turn and worship you,
  28. because you are in control, the ruler of all nations.
  29. All who are rich and have more than enough will bow down to you, Lord. Even those who are dying and almost in the grave will come and bow down.
  30. In the future, everyone will worship and learn about you, our Lord.
  31. People not yet born will be told, "The Lord has saved us!"

Desperation is heard in the words of the Psalmist in the opening verse of this psalm: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" If these words have a familiar ring it is because the were also spoken by Jesus as He was dying on the cross. David continued his desperate cry to God saying, "My God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest. " (22:2) Few followers of God have not felt something akin to what David expressed here, and so we readily identify with him in his suffering and draw comfort from his source of comfort.

Nothing we learn from scripture regarding the life of David can be identified with this experience to which is referred in this psalm. He was apparently facing execution by his enemies, possibly even imprisoned by them and given little if any food or water. In verse 15 he says, "My strength is dried up like baked clay; my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth." And then in verse 17, "I can count all my bones; people look and stare at me." Verse 18 again reminds us of Christ's death when he says, "They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing."

Whether or not we have faced the prospect of imminent death, we identify with David's feeling of abandonment by God in the face of overwhelming circumstances and are encouraged to hold on and keep looking to God for deliverance. This is not the only psalm of David in which he expresses such desperation, but he never expressed such feelings without also telling of God's faithfulness in hearing his prayer and giving him deliverance. In this psalm David first expressed his hope in God's deliverance in verses 3-5 as he remembered how his ancesters had placed their trust in God and He had rescued them. When they trusted God, He did not disgrace them.

This was the hope to which David held, but his praise for God's deliverance is seen in verses 22 and following. Once again, God heard his cry and was faithful to deliver him. In verse 24 he says, "For He has not despised or detested the torment of the afflicted. He did not hide His face from him, but listened when he cried to Him for help." Though David related God's deliverance in second person as if speaking of others, he no doubt also spoke of his own deliverance. God listened when David cried to Him for help. And God "did not hide His face from him." His cry to God in the first two verses sound as if he feared that God had hid His face. But that was not the case. God showed up and helped him.

As David found strength and hope in his remembrance of the faith of his ancestors, so can we find such strength and hope in his faith.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 21

 Psalms 21(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) Our LORD, your mighty power makes the king glad, and he celebrates victories that you have given him.
  2. You did what he wanted most and never told him "No."
  3. You truly blessed the king, and you placed on him a crown of finest gold.
  4. He asked to live a long time, and you promised him life that never ends.
  5. The king is highly honored. You have let him win victories that have made him famous.
  6. You have given him blessings that will last forever, and you have made him glad by being so near to him.
  7. LORD Most High, the king trusts you, and your kindness keeps him from defeat.
  8. With your mighty arm, LORD, you will strike down all of your hateful enemies.
  9. They will be destroyed by fire once you are here, and because of your anger, flames will swallow them.
  10. You will wipe their families from the earth, and they will disappear.
  11. All their plans to harm you will come to nothing.
  12. You will make them run away by shooting your arrows at their faces.
  13. Show your strength, LORD, so that we may sing and praise your power.

This psalm may well be a follow up to the previous psalm. In Psalm 20 the people took their petition to the Lord asking that He give the king victory in battle over his enemies. They anticipated that they would soon shout for joy at the victory the Lord gave the king. Psalm 21 may be their expression of joy to the Lord for the victory He gave in response to their petition in Psalm 20.

As in Psalm 20, the people were voicing this psalm on behalf of king David. They gave full credit to the Lord for the victory the king had over his enemies, but because of the victory the Lord gave the king was also given glory, as verses 5 and 6 state, "His glory is great through Your victory; You confer majesty and splendor on him. You give him blessings forever; You cheer him with joy in Your presence."

Because of the victory the Lord gave, the people looked with confidence to future successes. They spoke of the king's hand capturing his enemies and destroying them, ending their hopes of any posterity. But it was the Lord who was behind the king's ability to destroy his enemies. For though it was the king's hand carrying out this judgment, in reality it was the Lord engulfing them "in His wrath." (21:9)

In conclusion they raised their voices in praise to the Lord, "Be exalted, LORD, in Your strength; we will sing and praise Your might." (21:13)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 20

 Psalms 20(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) I pray that the LORD will listen when you are in trouble, and that the God of Jacob will keep you safe.
  2. May the LORD send help from his temple and come to your rescue from Mount Zion.
  3. May he remember your gifts and be pleased with what you bring.
  4. May God do what you want most and let all go well for you.
  5. Then you will win victories, and we will celebrate, while raising our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD answer all of your prayers!
  6. I am certain, LORD, that you will help your chosen king. You will answer my prayers from your holy place in heaven, and you will save me with your mighty arm.
  7. Some people trust the power of chariots or horses, but we trust you, LORD God.
  8. Others will stumble and fall, but we will be strong and stand firm.
  9. Give the king victory, LORD, and answer our prayers.

While David authored this Psalm, he was joined in voicing it by a congregation of people who gathered with him to invoke God's intervention on his behalf as he went to war. The basis of this request for God's help in battle was the king's faithfulness in offering his burnt offerings in worship. (20:3) Because David offered his burnt offerings to the Lord, the psalm asks that God give the king his, "heart desires and fulfill (his) whole purpose."

Having made this brief request, the people then anticipated the Lord's fulfilling of their request by giving the king victory in battle. They envisioned themselves shouting for joy at the king's victory and lifting a banner "in the name of our God." Further confidence in the Lord's granting of their request is stated in verse 6, "He will answer him from His holy heaven with mighty victories from His right hand."

The people gave a statement of their faith and trust in the Lord in the final verses of the psalm, stating that it was not chariots and horses in which they took pride, but in the "name of the Lord our God." It will be by His right hand and not by their weaponry that the enemy will "collapse and fall," and they will "rise and stand firm." (20:8) The psalm closes with a repeat of their request that the Lord give "victory to the king!"

David was faced with a situation not of his choosing - he was under attack by an enemy army. He was not attempting to expand his kingdom but to defend it. Thus, this request of the Lord was not one of helping him to prosper but of helping him to survive. We, too, can approach the Lord with our petition for His help with greater confidence that He will defend us than that He will prosper us, though He does also help us to prosper.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 19

 Psalms 19(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) The heavens keep telling the wonders of God, and the skies declare what he has done.
  2. Each day informs the following day; each night announces to the next.
  3. They don't speak a word, and there is never the sound of a voice.
  4. Yet their message reaches all the earth, and it travels around the world. In the heavens a tent is set up for the sun.
  5. It rises like a bridegroom and gets ready like a hero eager to run a race.
  6. It travels all the way across the sky. Nothing hides from its heat.
  7. The Law of the LORD is perfect; it gives us new life. His teachings last forever, and they give wisdom to ordinary people.
  8. The LORD's instruction is right; it makes our hearts glad. His commands shine brightly, and they give us light.
  9. Worshiping the LORD is sacred; he will always be worshiped. All of his decisions are correct and fair.
  10. They are worth more than the finest gold and are sweeter than honey from a honeycomb.
  11. By your teachings, Lord, I am warned; by obeying them, I am greatly rewarded.
  12. None of us know our faults. Forgive me when I sin without knowing it.
  13. Don't let me do wrong on purpose, Lord, or let sin have control over my life. Then I will be innocent, and not guilty of some terrible fault.
  14. Let my words and my thoughts be pleasing to you, LORD, because you are my mighty rock and my protector.

David testifies in this psalm of two sources of revelation we have of God: His creation and His word. The first does not involve words while the second does. Together they form a whole.

What is communicated by the revelation of God's creation? It declares God's glory and proclaims "the work of His hands." (19:1) Throughout creation we are told that God exists, that He is glorious and He is capable of amazing things. For the thoughtful person this is enough to be drawn to God with a desire to worship Him and learn from Him. In Romans chapter 1, the apostle Paul says that through God's creation His eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen. This communication of God is clear enough, Paul says, that people have no excuse for failing to accept these truths. He went on to say that though people know God they do not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. This is not an informed choice but rather an intention choice. A choice such people claim to be wise but is, instead, foolish. Such people become fools, Paul says, and their thinking becomes nonsense and senseless.

What, then, is communicated by the revelation of God's word? It gives instruction that will make one wise. This instruction is perfect and it is trustworthy. To those who receive the Lord's instruction, they are of greater value than pure gold and are sweeter than honey. In other words, there is nothing of greater value to us than God's instruction, nor are they distasteful to who seek them. This is not to say that some people find them to be distasteful. But this is only because they do not want to accept God's instruction. They have decided they have a better idea. They are convinced God's instructions are aimed at making their lives miserable. Such thinking is an example of the senseless thinking of those who have chosen not to accept the revelation of God's creation.

David jumps from referring to the great reward of keeping God's instructions in verse 11 to speaking of hidden and willful sins in verse 12 and following. His message to us is that failing to follow God's instructions is not only foolish but is sinful. David's prayer was that God would cleanse him from those sins that were hidden from him and therefore unintentional as well as helping him not to willfully sin, allowing sin to rule him. Instead, he prayed, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, LORD, my rock and my Redeemer." (19:14)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 18

 Psalms 18(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (For the music leader. A psalm by David, the LORD's servant. David sang this to the LORD after the LORD had rescued him from his enemies, but especially from Saul.) I love you, LORD God, and you make me strong.
  2. You are my mighty rock, my fortress, my protector, the rock where I am safe, my shield, my powerful weapon, and my place of shelter.
  3. I praise you, LORD! I prayed, and you rescued me from my enemies.
  4. Death had wrapped its ropes around me, and I was almost swallowed by its flooding waters.
  5. Ropes from the world of the dead had coiled around me, and death had set a trap in my path.
  6. I was in terrible trouble when I called out to you, but from your temple you heard me and answered my prayer.
  7. The earth shook and shivered, and the mountains trembled down to their roots. You were angry
  8. and breathed out smoke. Scorching heat and fiery flames spewed from your mouth.
  9. You opened the heavens like curtains, and you came down with storm clouds under your feet.
  10. You rode on the backs of flying creatures and swooped down with the wind as wings.
  11. Darkness was your robe; thunderclouds filled the sky, hiding you from sight.
  12. Hailstones and fiery coals lit up the sky in front of you.
  13. LORD Most High, your voice thundered from the heavens, as hailstones and fiery coals poured down like rain.
  14. You scattered your enemies with arrows of lightning.
  15. You roared at the sea, and its deepest channels could be seen. You snorted, and the earth shook to its foundations.
  16. You reached down from heaven, and you lifted me from deep in the ocean.
  17. You rescued me from enemies, who were hateful and too powerful for me.
  18. On the day disaster struck, they came and attacked, but you defended me.
  19. When I was fenced in, you freed and rescued me because you love me.
  20. You are good to me, LORD, because I do right, and you reward me because I am innocent.
  21. I do what you want and never turn to do evil.
  22. I keep your laws in mind and never look away from your teachings.
  23. I obey you completely and guard against sin.
  24. You have been good to me because I do right; you have rewarded me for being innocent by your standards.
  25. You are always loyal to your loyal people, and you are faithful to the faithful.
  26. With all who are sincere, you are sincere, but you treat the unfaithful as their deeds deserve.
  27. You rescue the humble, but you put down all who are proud.
  28. You, the LORD God, keep my lamp burning and turn darkness to light.
  29. You help me defeat armies and capture cities.
  30. Your way is perfect, LORD, and your word is correct. You are a shield for those who run to you for help.
  31. You alone are God! Only you are a mighty rock.
  32. You give me strength and guide me right.
  33. You make my feet run as fast as those of a deer, and you help me stand on the mountains.
  34. You teach my hands to fight and my arms to use a bow of bronze.
  35. You alone are my shield. Your right hand supports me, and by coming to help me, you have made me famous.
  36. You clear the way for me, and now I won't stumble.
  37. I kept chasing my enemies, until I caught them and destroyed them.
  38. I stuck my sword through my enemies, and they were crushed under my feet.
  39. You helped me win victories, and you forced my attackers to fall victim to me.
  40. You made my enemies run, and I killed them.
  41. They cried out for help, but no one saved them; they called out to you, but there was no answer.
  42. I ground them to dust blown by the wind, and I poured them out like mud in the streets.
  43. You rescued me from stubborn people, and you made me the leader of foreign nations, who are now my slaves.
  44. They obey and come crawling.
  45. They have lost all courage, and from their fortresses, they come trembling.
  46. You are the living LORD! I will praise you. You are a mighty rock. I will honor you for keeping me safe.
  47. You took revenge for me, and you put nations in my power.
  48. You protected me from violent enemies and made me much greater than all of them.
  49. I will praise you, LORD, and I will honor you among the nations.
  50. You give glorious victories to your chosen king. Your faithful love for David and for his descendants will never end.

This Psalm is said to have been composed by David following his rescue from Saul and other enemies. It was not written immediately following Saul's death but came much later after David had been through several skirmishes with his enemies and was reflecting on God's deliverance from numerous circumstances over a period of time. The Psalm is given in this context in 2 Samuel 22.

The Psalm begins with praise to the Lord and ends with another section of praise. In between are three sections. In two of them David described the Lord's deliverance poetically, using metaphor. Sandwiched between these two sections is one in which David upholds his own integrity as the reason for God's deliverance.

In David's opening praise to the Lord, he describes the Lord as his rock and fortress and also as his mountain where he sought refuge and again as his shield and the horn of his salvation and yet again as his stronghold. All powerful images of the Lord's refuge for His people.

Then David launched into the first section, starting in verse 4, poetically describing his plight and the Lord's deliverance. "The ropes of death were wrapped around me," he said. He also described his plight as torrents of destruction that terrified him and ropes of Sheol that entangled him. His point being that he had no escape from his plight without divine deliverance. This deliverance is portrayed in dramatic fashion. When David cried out for help the Lord heard him from within His temple. When the Lord responded, the earth shook and quaked, the foundations of the mountains trembled as the Lord burned with anger at David's enemies. These descriptions continued on through verse 19. David's deliverance, by this account, was due completely to the Lord's intervention.

In the next section, verses 20-28, David upholds his own integrity as the reason for God's intervention. "The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness," he states. (18:20) He continued saying, "For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not turned from my God to wickedness." (18:21) After other similar statements he then commended the Lord as the rescuer of the afflicted. In verses 25 and 26 he says, "With the faithful You prove Yourself faithful; with the blameless man You prove Yourself blameless; with the pure You prove Yourself pure, but with the crooked You prove Yourself shrewd." In essence, the Lord reponds to us in kind. To those who are faithful, He is faithful. To those who are blameless, He is blameless, etc. However, to the crooked, the Lord is shrewd, thus thwarting them. David concludes this section by saying of the Lord, "You light my lamp," and He "illuminates my darkness."

Then comes another section portraying the Lord's deliverance. Whereas the first such section portrayed the Lord acting totally through divine intervention, this section portrays Him enabling David to overcome his enemies in battle. He opens the section saying, "With You I can attack a barrier, and with my God I can leap over a wall." (18:29) Elsewhere he says, "He trains my hands for war; my arms can bend a bow of bronze." (18:34) Because the Lord gave him such ability and strength, he was able to "pulverize them like dust before the wind; I trample them like mud in the streets." (18:42) Though he crushed his enemies by his own hand, he credited it all to the Lord who made him able. It was the Lord who delivered him and not he himself.

In the closing section of praise, David returned to his description of God as his rock saying, "may my rock be praised!" (18:46) The Lord's deliverance should not be kept silent. Instead, David said, "Therefore I will praise You, LORD, among the nations; I will sing about Your name." (18:49) God delivers us not only for our sake but also as a witness to others of what He will do for them. They need to know this and we are God's voice to tell them.