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.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 17

 Psalms 17(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A prayer by David.) I am innocent, LORD! Won't you listen as I pray and beg for help? I am honest! Please hear my prayer.
  2. Only you can say that I am innocent, because only your eyes can see the truth.
  3. You know my heart, and even during the night you have tested me and found me innocent. I have made up my mind never to tell a lie.
  4. I don't do like others. I obey your teachings and am not cruel.
  5. I have followed you, without ever stumbling.
  6. I pray to you, God, because you will help me. Listen and answer my prayer!
  7. Show your wonderful love. Your mighty arm protects those who run to you for safety from their enemies.
  8. Protect me as you would your very own eyes; hide me in the shadow of your wings.
  9. Don't let my brutal enemies attack from all sides and kill me.
  10. They refuse to show mercy, and they keep bragging.
  11. They have caught up with me! My enemies are everywhere, eagerly hoping to smear me in the dirt.
  12. They are like hungry lions hunting for food, or like young lions hiding in ambush.
  13. Do something, LORD! Attack and defeat them. Take your sword and save me from those evil people.
  14. Use your powerful arm and rescue me from the hands of mere humans whose world won't last. You provide food for those you love. Their children have plenty, and their grandchildren will have more than enough.
  15. I am innocent, LORD, and I will see your face! When I awake, all I want is to see you as you are.

David was surrounded by deadly enemies who treated him violently, accusing him of things for which he was not guilty. In light of this injustice he took his cause to a judge who is just - the Lord. First he plead his innocence and integrity and then he called on God to "Guard me as the apple of Your eye" against the violence of these wicked people.

In David's plea of innocence before the Lord he knew that God would "see what is right" and knew that in testing him at night, in the dark, as well as by day, in the light, He would find nothing evil in him. David had determined not to sin and so had avoided doing the violence others did. His steps were solidly on the Lord's path. In light of this he was calling upon the Lord to, "Display the wonders of Your faithful love, Savior of all who seek refuge from those who rebel against Your right hand." (17:7) Then he made the appeal that means so much to so many, "Guard me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings." (17:8) How special it is to be guarded by the Lord as carefully as one guards the pupil of his own eye or protected as an eagle protects its young under it wings. What comforting imagery!

Following a description of what his enemies were trying to do to him, David asks God to save him from men whose focus is only on this world. God allows them to have plenty - full bellies and enough surplus to leave as inheritance to their children. That is fine with David. He says in effect, "let them have it as far as I'm concerned. I am satisfied with spiritual treasures. It is enough for me to look upon your face and to be in Your presence as one who is considered by You to be righteous."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 16

 Psalms 16(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A special psalm by David.) Protect me, LORD God! I run to you for safety,
  2. and I have said, "Only you are my Lord! Every good thing I have is a gift from you."
  3. Your people are wonderful, and they make me happy,
  4. but worshipers of other gods will have much sorrow. I refuse to offer sacrifices of blood to those gods or worship in their name.
  5. You, LORD, are all I want! You are my choice, and you keep me safe.
  6. You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright.
  7. I praise you, LORD, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind.
  8. I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear.
  9. With all my heart, I will celebrate, and I can safely rest.
  10. I am your chosen one. You won't leave me in the grave or let my body decay.
  11. You have shown me the path to life, and you make me glad by being near to me. Sitting at your right side, I will always be joyful.

This 16th Psalm is summarized in the first verse, "Protect me, God, for I take refuge in You." The rest of the Psalm develops more the idea of taking refuge in the Lord.

David was king with all its benefits, but as far as he was concerned he had "no good besides You." (the Lord) (16:2) Had he done as those "who take another god," his life would also be as theirs with sorrows multiplying. He would not participate in their pursuit of this other god by even pouring out their drink offerings of blood. Nor would he speak their names. It was the Lord, not this other god, who was his "cup of blessing," and the Lord who held his future.

In verse 6 David compared the life God had given him to the best inheritance a person could receive. Therefore he would "praise the Lord who counsels me" both day and night. With God at his right hand, he would "not be shaken." (16:7, 8) This confidence in the Lord's refuge extended even to the threat of death, for he was confident the Lord would not allow him to see the grave and his body to decay there.

David concluded with further reason for taking refuge in the Lord. The Lord revealed the path of life to him, he found abundant joy in the Lord's presence, and in the Lord were "eternal pleasures." The joy David found in the Lord did not end with death but extended beyond the grave for eternity. These three reasons alone are sufficient for me to take refuge in the Lord. To have Him reveal the path of life to me so I do not find myself wandering aimlessly through life is significant. Also significant is the abundant joy that is found in the Lord. This is the happiness in life that everyone seeks, but this joy in the Lord is so much greater. Happiness is fleeting, it is momentary. It passes as quickly as it comes. But the joy that is found in the Lord is ongoing and rather than passing it grows as we abide in the Lord. It can even remain through times of difficulty which are certain to erode our happiness. Not even death will stop this joy we have in the Lord. But the key is to abide in the Lord.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 15

 Psalms 15(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David.) Who may stay in God's temple or live on the holy mountain of the LORD?
  2. Only those who obey God and do as they should. They speak the truth
  3. and don't spread gossip; they treat others fairly and don't say cruel things.
  4. They hate worthless people, but show respect for all who worship the LORD. And they keep their promises, no matter what the cost.
  5. They lend their money without charging interest, and they don't take bribes to hurt the innocent. Those who do these things will always stand firm.

David portrays in this Psalm the one who is worthy to dwell with the Lord, giving some of the qualities of such a person. This is the obvious aspect of the Psalm, but less obvious is that it also describes the one who desires to dwell with the Lord. Those who do not fit this description have other desires and have made other choices.

The one who is eligible to be a "guest" of the Lord, and who desires to be the Lord's guest, "lives honestly, practices righteousness, and acknowledges the truth in his heart." (15:2) This verse sums up the qualities of who who is eligible to dwell with the Lord while the remainder of the Psalm describes what is meant by living honestly, practicing righteousness, and acknowledging truth in ones heart. In essence, the person who is eligible to be the Lord's guest lives in harmony with God's standards, which is what it means to be righteous. Such a lifestyle conveys that such a person is in agreement with God standards.

Listing some of the characteristics of those whose lifestyle is in agreement with God's standards can be helpful, but it can also become problematic if one becomes caught up in keeping a checklist. In so doing they may become more concerned with meeting the qualifications than they are in genuinely living in agreement with God's standards. It then is more a matter of the will than of the heart. Such a one may do the right things but it is not who they are nor do they take joy in doing it. As soon as life throws them a curve they will decide keeping the checklist didn't work and go about living the way they wanted to in the first place.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 14

 Psalms 14(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) Only a fool would say, "There is no God!" People like that are worthless; they are heartless and cruel and never do right.
  2. From heaven the LORD looks down to see if anyone is wise enough to search for him.
  3. But all of them are corrupt; no one does right.
  4. Won't you evil people learn? You refuse to pray, and you gobble down the LORD's people.
  5. But you will be frightened, because God is on the side of every good person.
  6. You may spoil the plans of the poor, but the LORD protects them.
  7. I long for someone from Zion to come and save Israel! Our LORD, when you bless your people again, Jacob's family will be glad, and Israel will celebrate.

David, in this Psalm, indicts mankind observing that there is "no one who does good." (14:1) He is not saying there are none who are righteous for he makes reference to those who are righteous. But he is saying that righteousness does not come naturally to man for he is naturally corrupt.

It is a fool who says, "God does not exist," (14:1) and it is a wise person "who seeks God." (14:2) The rejection of God is not a result of wise observation but is a conclusion that ignores the wonders of God in creation. It actually separates one from wisdom which comes only from God. Apart from Him there is no wisdom. In this Psalm, as elsewhere in scripture, there is a relationship between one believing there is no God and the leading of a corrupt life. It is between the two that one makes their choice: the choice to reject God results from a choice to live a corrupt life. Conversely, the choice to accept the reality of God rejects that there is wisdom in living a corrupt life.

Those who reject God and choose to do evil see the righteous as weak, easy prey and "consume" them "as they consume bread." What they fail to understand is that "God is with those who are righteous." (14:5) A time will come when the evildoers who consume God's people "will be filled with terror" at God's judgment on them.

David's prayer in this Psalm is that the day will soon come when God restores His people from evildoers.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 13

 Psalms 13(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) How much longer, LORD, will you forget about me? Will it be forever? How long will you hide?
  2. How long must I be confused and miserable all day? How long will my enemies keep beating me down?
  3. Please listen, LORD God, and answer my prayers. Make my eyes sparkle again, or else I will fall into the sleep of death.
  4. My enemies will say, "Now we've won!" They will be greatly pleased when I am defeated.
  5. I trust your love, and I feel like celebrating because you rescued me.
  6. You have been good to me, LORD, and I will sing about you.

David began this Psalm with the question, "Lord, how long will You continually forget me?" and concluded it with the words, "But I have trusted in Your faithful love; my heart will rejoice in Your deliverance." Though there is a significant difference in David's tone between the question and the statement of trust, nothing transpired in between them to bring this change. David simply chose to trust in the Lord's faithful love even though it seemed to him that the Lord had forgotten him. And in this choice, he anticipated that the conclusion of this situation would result in his singing to the Lord "because He has treated me generously."

In verse two David asked of God, "How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day?" This is a question he could well have asked of himself as well. He asked it of God wondering when He would deliver him from his enemies so he could put aside his concerns. But he might also have asked himself how long he would store up his concerns rather than trusting them to the Lord and leaving them with Him. This too is a part of trust. Because our heart is assured that the Lord's deliverance will come, we put aside our concerns because we know God will keep us from the dangers that feed our concerns.

It is a mark of David's close relationship with God, though, that enabled him to take his frustration to the Lord and question His lack of response to David's prayers for deliverance while also stating his assurance that God would indeed deliver him. He knew that God's love was broad enough to embrace his doubts and frustrations and allow him to voice what the Lord already knew was in his heart. The same is true of David's statement of the danger he was in, telling the Lord that unless He answered David's prayer he would otherwise "sleep in death." The Lord already knew this and didn't need David to inform Him nor provide motivation for Him to act. It was David's need to voice it that was involved, and that too was okay with the Lord.

This open exchange between David and the Lord is one of the big reasons we are so drawn to the Psalms. We see ourselves in David's anger and frustration with the Lord as well as his doubts. We are emboldened by him to take these feelings to the Lord rather than holding them back and letting our anger grow causing us to withdraw from the Lord. But we are encouraged by David's persistent trust in the Lord despite these emotions and come away from the Psalms renewed in spirit.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 12

 Psalms 12(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) Please help me, LORD! All who were faithful and all who were loyal have disappeared.
  2. Everyone tells lies, and no one is sincere.
  3. Won't you chop off all flattering tongues that brag so loudly?
  4. They say to themselves, "We are great speakers. No one else has a chance."
  5. But you, LORD, tell them, "I will do something! The poor are mistreated and helpless people moan. I'll rescue all who suffer."
  6. Our LORD, you are true to your promises, and your word is like silver heated seven times in a fiery furnace.
  7. You will protect us and always keep us safe from those people.
  8. But all who are wicked will keep on strutting, while everyone praises their shameless deeds.

Again in this Psalm, as in Psalm 11, David expressed confidence in God's deliverance. In this case it is deliverance from those who have no scrupples and who take pleasure in oppressing others through the use of their tongues. Such people had become so prevalent David felt that "no faithful one remains; the loyal have disappeared from the human race." (12:1) The loyalty to which David refers is loyalty to God's covenant with His people.

Through their tongues these people felt powerful to the point they asked, "who can be our master?" (12:4) With their tongues they lied and deceived through false flattery. It was not only God and those faithful to God for whom they had no loyalty, they were not even loyal to one another for they lied to each other. If one is not loyal to God is there anyone to whom they will be loyal?

In contrast, David pointed to the Lord whose words are pure, "like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times." (12:6) God's word can be trusted! "Because of the oppression of the afflicted and the groaning of the poor," God said, "I will now rise up. "I will put in a safe place the one who longs for it." (12:5) God said He would make safe those who longed for it, and unlike the words of the deceivers, God's word could, and can, be depended on. It might be noted that in verse 5 despite the fact that some translations of the Bible say, " I'll rescue all who suffer," the verse actually says God will put in a safe place "the one who longs for it." The point being, that God will deliver those who look to Him and "moan" for His deliverance. However, that deliverance is not guaranteed if we look elsewhere for it.

No doubt every generation has felt that David's words in verses 7 and 8 applied also to their generation, and our generation is no exception. God will protect us "from this generation" in which "The wicked wander everywhere, and what is worthless is exalted by the human race." (12:8)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 11

 Psalms 11(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) The LORD is my fortress! Don't say to me, "Escape like a bird to the mountains!"
  2. You tell me, "Watch out! Those evil people have put their arrows on their bows, and they are standing in the shadows, aiming at good people.
  3. What can an honest person do when everything crumbles?"
  4. The LORD is sitting in his sacred temple on his throne in heaven. He knows everything we do because he sees us all.
  5. The LORD tests honest people, but despises those who are cruel and love violence.
  6. He will send fiery coals and flaming sulfur down on the wicked, and they will drink nothing but a scorching wind.
  7. The LORD always does right and wants justice done. Everyone who does right will see his face.

Another Davidic psalm. Though the circumstances are not identified, David was faced with a choice of what to do in the face of danger. Here was the problem: The wicked were stringing their bows and aiming their arrows from the shadows preparing to shoot the upright in heart. When (not if) the foundations were destroyed what could the righteous do? According to the pessimists advising David, the only thing to be done was to run for the mountains! In their pessimistic minds the wicked had already won, as in their statement of, "When the foundations are destroyed." (11:3) It wasn't "If," but "When." In their minds it was a foregone conclusion.

But David had another answer for this dilemma. The Lord was still in His holy temple and on His throne. He was watching and examining everyone. He would deal with the wicked. And the upright would see His face. David's answer to this threat? Don't flee to the mountains, flee to the Lord. Take refuge in Him.

Was this a literal attack with bows and arrows or, more likely, a slanderous attack with destructive words? Either way, the inclination was, and is, to flee for safety. But any appearance of safety apart from the Lord is elusive. The only true safety is in the Lord. He is the only one who can truly rescue us from any danger.

The question was raised, "What can the righteous do?" It was as if the righteous had no defense unless they take on the same tactics as the wicked who supposedly have the upper hand over the righteous. But David's answer was that neither fleeing or resorting to the tactics of the wicked was the answer. The Lord is the answer. He is the source of a strength much greater than that of any enemy. A strength capable of raining down "burning coals and sulfur on the wicked." (11:6)