Monthly Archives: November 2015

Psalm 74 & 75

Psalm 74 is a song of lament; God has judged his people and they are being sent into exile. This was done by the Chaldeans, which is another name for Babylonians, and happened in the 500s BC. After the writer laments what has happened, he recounts God’s powerful salvation in Israel’s history, prays for him to remember his covenant, and finally to destroy his enemies. The writer conflates God’s and Israel’s enemies as if they are the same, and the enemies of God’s people are indeed God’s enemies. So there is hope even though all seems dire.

I have no idea if 75 comes chronologically after 74, but it is another Psalm of Asaph and it is a declaration of victory, of trust in God’s power, of trust in God’s judgment and timing. In another words, what the Psalmist was pleading for in 75, Asaph says will happen in God’s perfect time; he will not let the wicked triumph, nor his people perish. God’s sovereign power is expressed well in these verses:

No one from the east or the west
    or from the desert can exalt a man.
7  But it is God who judges:
    He brings one down, he exalts another.

Either God is the Lord of history, or chance is, and regardless of how things appear, God’s will, will be done. The word wrath isn’t used in the following two verses, and I have to believe that these are the inspiration for the first stanza of The Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

And here is how the Psalmist puts it:

In the hand of the Lord is a cup
    full of foaming wine mixed with spices;
he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth
    drink it down to its very dregs.

It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God; his wrath is real, sin and rebellion will be paid for, and as the song says, hit truth will march on and on and on. This is a good thing to keep in mind as we hear and see daily the hubris and wickedness of man played out across the globe. God in his perfect time will judge, and his people will be vindicated.

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Psalm 73

This is one of the great Psalm of the human condition, of the constant struggle of perspective. The author Asaph knows God is good to his people, Israel:

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

These people who reject God and glory in their own wealth and achievements oppress Asaph. He hates that they get away with their mocking, and it seems his following God has been in vain. When he tried to understand all this and figure it out he was miserable, but when he entered “the sanctuary of God,” then he “understood their final destiny.” And it won’t be pretty. Here’s what happens when we rely on our own understanding and ignore the revelation of God:

21 When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.

We simply are not capable of a correct interpretation of reality on our own. We will always distort things, or make our own agenda or make our desires paramount. Everything in life must be seen in light of the ultimate telos of all things in the purposes of God. And now that we have the resurrected Lord of life we have a much clearer picture than Asaph could have. I memorized a couple verses of the Psalm back in the day and they say it as well as it can be said:

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And being with you, I desire nothing on earth.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

God relativizes all human achievement; death of course does as well, but we can have the proper perspective on things if we struggle through our first impressions, our feelings, our self-centered nature, and make God alone our portion.

Psalm 71 & 72

Psalm 71 is another from David and has similar themes to all the others he’s written. This must have been written later in life because he mentions being old and gray a couple times, and seems in a bit of a nostalgic mood.  In verse 16 he tells of the secret to his relationship to God, and why he I think God found in as a man after his own heart. It also showswhy he points so directly to Christ and the gospel:

16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
    I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone.

Our righteousness comes from God, the Sovereign Lord, alone, period. Nothing we can do or not do will change this fact. We can be no more accepted before him if we sin or don’t sin, which is why we can have a clear conscience. If we confess our sins, John says, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Yes, because he’s given us, granted us, bestowed upon us Christ’s righteousness. I’m not sure David would have fully understood imputation, and that God would literally give us his own righteousness, but looking back through the lens of the NT we can see this is exactly what God is communicating to us.

Psalm 72 say, “Of Solomon,” and starts with this prayer:

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
    the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
    your afflicted ones with justice.

At first I thought it was Solomon writing, but from the commentaries and the context it is David praying for his son. Yet it is as Messianic as any Psalm.This king is to judge with justice and bring safety and prosperity to his people. All the kings of the earth and the nations will bow down to him and serve him. He will deliver and rescue the needy and afflicted, and his name will endure forever. This verse clearly connects it directly with Christ and God’s covenant promise to his people:

Then all nations will be blessed through him,
    and they will call him blessed.

This coming right after his name enduring forever. David says the Lord God alone does marvelous deeds, specifically saving and caring for his people, and says finally, may the whole earth be filled with his glory. We know everything is leading to the complete restoration of all things, and it is the presence of his glory, his beauty, his life and light which we will bask in forever, and which Christ secured by his obedience to death, even death on a cross.

Psalm 69 & 70

Another Psalm of David. I knew much of it sounded familiar, and here is why:

The most interesting thing about this psalm is that “More than any other in the whole Psalter, except Psalms 22, this psalm is quoted in the New Testament.”[4]

“They hated me without a cause” (Psalms 69:4) was quoted by Jesus Christ in John 15:25.

“Zeal for thy house shall eat me up” (Psalms 69:9) is quoted in John 2:17.

“The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me” (Psalms 69:9b), is quoted in Romans 15:3.

“Let their table before them become a snare; and when they are in peace, let it become a trap” (Psalms 69:22) is quoted in Romans 11:9.

“Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see” (Psalms 69:23) is quoted in Romans 11:10, where the apostle Paul applied it to the hardening of Israel.

“Let their habitation be desolate” (Psalms 69:25) is quoted in Acts 1:20, where it is applied to Judas Iscariot.

In Romans 11:9, the apostle Paul unequivocally recognized David as the author of this psalm; and our own opinion is that a single word from Paul is worth more than a whole library of critical denials that David wrote it.

“They gave me also gall for my food; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalms 69:21). Although this verse is not quoted in the New Testament, it is significant that all four of the gospels recorded the giving of vinegar to Christ on the cross (Matthew 27:48-50; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36; andJohn 19:29). It is evident that all of the Gospel writers considered that action of giving Jesus vinegar to drink was a fulfillment in the Anti-Type of what had happened in the Type. Apparently, the motive for giving Christ vinegar on Calvary was different from what seems to be the motive here against David. The action of the Roman soldier who offered Christ vinegar is cited by Dummelow as an act of mercy designed to allay Jesus’ sufferings,[5] a view which this writer has often accepted, but Luke seems to deny this, writing that, “The soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, offering him vinegar” (Luke 23:36).

As I’m reading this and the Psalm, I was thinking about the time Jesus spent with the disciples post-resurrection. The very first thing he did with two of them on the road to Emmaus was say this:

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

In that same chapter after he’d appeared to the rest of the disciples and basically freaks them out, he takes a piece of fish, eats it and says:

This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.

Luke adds that “he” opened their minds so that “they could understand the Scriptures.” And it wasn’t just a time or two. Luke tells us in the first chapter of Acts:

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

So not only did he spend a lot of time teaching them how the Scriptures, our OT, all pointed to him, but proving to them that he was indeed alive, that he was in fact Jesus of Nazareth risen from the Dead!

There is also a theme in the Psalms, and elsewhere I am sure, that thanksgiving is more honoring to God than sacrifice. We see it in this Psalm as well:

I will praise God’s name in song
    and glorify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the Lord more than an ox,
    more than a bull with its horns and hooves.

If I bring a sacrifice for my sin, it is something I’m doing, whereas a heart, and lips, of gratitude are all about what God has done, does and will do. I need to think about this next time I’m tempted to let circumstances bum me out. Be thankful, speak praise to God in gratitude; bring glory to him, trust him, and the circumstances won’t appear so intimidating after all. After all forever is the context of our existence. As I was reminded Sunday at church, all men are like grass which withers and fades in mere moments, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40). We can be grateful because we know how the story ends, in a new, eternal beginning where all suffering, sickness and death will have finally be vanquished. Something indeed to look forward to.

Psalm 70 is a much shorter version of 69 with the same basic theme.

 

 

Psalm 68

This Psalm of David is dense with meaning and difficult to figure out. The commentators agree. David Guzik calls it, “The Victorious Procession of God to Zion”:

The title of this Psalm is, To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. A Song. Most commentators believe this Psalm is connected with the coming of the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6) celebrating not only that event, but also the faithfulness of God to give Israel victory over her enemies, secure enough to bring the ark into Jerusalem.

Horne described how this Psalm was assigned to Pentecost in the Anglican liturgy, no doubt because it describes gifts given upon ascension and is quoted in Ephesians 4. “This beautiful, sublime, and comprehensive, but very difficult Psalm, is one of those which the church has appointed to be used on Whitsunday.”

I know not how to undertake a comment on this Psalm: it is the most difficult in the whole Psalter.”

It starts with God scattering his enemies, and ends with God giving strength and power to his people. David’s faith is all oriented toward God, what he does, who he his, his plans, his accomplishments. Regardless of the circumstances, God is on his throne; his purposes in history and in eternity will not be thwarted. This is tied directly to the Gospel by Paul in Ephesians 4 with a slight word change.

18 You ascended on high,
    leading a host of captives in your train
    and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.

Whom David calls God, Paul refers to as Christ, and everything that is happening in this Psalm is pointing toward him establishing his Church, where he dwells. The following verse says it all, why we praise God and what this means for our ultimate salvation:

19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
    who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves;
    from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.

Everything comes down to the ultimate enemy, death. Jesus resurrection proved that God himself has power over what seems like an implacable foe, and as Paul says, our resurrected body will be like his! I love the ending of this Psalm:

34 Proclaim the power of God,
    whose majesty is over Israel,
    whose power is in the heavens.
35 You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
    the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

Praise be to God!

Amen!

Psalm 64-67

Psalm 64 and 65 are Psalms of David. The latter is similar to others that speak of his enemies and his cry to God for vindication. Psalm 65, however, is full of praise for God’s blessings. God again is the Savior because he has “atoned for transgressions.” Because David is familiar with his “Old Testament” he knows sin’s guilt must be paid for, and it is God who pays it. God is the initiator and primary actor in salvation, as David says, “Blessed is the man you choose and bring near to live in your courts!” Calvin couldn’t have said it any better. The rest of the Psalm is his recognition of God’s blessings in creation, which most of us take for granted on a daily basis, and praising him for it.

Psalm 66 is not attributed to any author. It appears to be eschatological, with God’s ultimate victory over his enemies on behalf of man. The author cried out to God when he was in trouble, and in his confidence in what God could do he fulfilled his vows to God. At that time it was sacrifices, but in ours after Christ we offer a sacrifice of praise. From the writer to the Hebrews:

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

This in the context of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Gratitude before a holy God is only possible because of the gospel, because of what Christ did for us, the shame and curse he bore for us on a tree outside of the city. Very heavy.

Psalm 67 is an eschatological prayer that God’s ways may be known on earth and his salvation “among all nations.” This verse is repeated twice:

May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.

Since the writer knows his OT, he would know of God’s covenant with Abram that through him “all the peoples of the earth will be blessed.” God’s covenant promise should always be on our lips and in our prayers. His ultimate integrity, his power, his faithfulness, his unfailing love, his mercy and grace, on these alone does our salvation and hope rest.

Psalm 61-63

David begins Psalm 61 with these classic words:

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

And like Psalm 60 there is a present and eschatological note in David’s pleading, with forever used here and throughout his Psalms.  The theme continues in 62:

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Verse two is repeated verbatim several verses later. And we read this in the first verse of 63:

1 O God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
My soul thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

This Psalm was written when he was in the desert, and David uses the physical reality of thirst to focus on his true need. Through all of these, and his many Psalms, David’s focus is always on God, where alone will come his strength, his satisfaction, his fulfillment, his vindication, his ultimate meaning. His life is no life if it is not in the living God, whose power and glory he has beheld in the sanctuary. He was relentless in his pursuit of God, as do we need to be. As Jesus says, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then everything else we need will be added to us as well. Reading the Psalms of David tells us something of what that looks like.