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Psalm 9 January 30, 2019

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 9.

Summary: In this passage, David responds to God’s judgment of his enemies with praise and thanksgiving. He rejoices in God’s righteousness, as He has vindicated him; moreover, He will:

  • vindicate those who are being oppressed
  • judge those who oppress them.

Thoughts: Verse 16 includes the initial appearance of the word “Higgaion” in the Psalms. Spurgeon offers a note on this point:

In considering this terrible picture of the Lord’s overwhelming judgments of his enemies, we are called upon to ponder it with deep seriousness by the two untranslated words Higgaion and Selah.

While I had already encountered the word “Selah” in my stroll through Psalm 3, I was unfamiliar with the word “Higgaion”. A Google search led me to this site, which indicates that “Higgaion” may denote an instrumental interlude and/or the concept of meditation. Thus, it may be linked to “Selah” in that it may compel the reader to reflect on the verses that encompass it. I will attempt to treat each “Higgaion” with more care when I encounter it – and draw closer to God in the process.

In this passage, the psalmist asserts that God does not overlook the suffering of “the afflicted.” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 12:

When an inquest is held concerning the blood of the oppressed, the martyred saints will have the first remembrance; he will avenge his own elect. Those saints who are living shall also be heard; they shall be exonerated from blame, and kept from destruction, even when the Lord’s most terrible work is going on. The humble cry of the poorest saints shall neither be drowned by the voice of thundering justice nor by the shrieks of the condemned.

It is evident that God does not overlook the suffering of believers. This raises the following question: does He overlook the suffering of nonbelievers? For example, consider:

  • the Rohingya Muslims, who may be experiencing ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Buddhist majority in Myanmar
  • the ongoing civil war in Yemen (a Muslim nation), which has fueled a massive humanitarian crisis.

These examples compel me to wrestle with questions such as: does God care for these suffering nonbelievers? If so, why does He allow their suffering to persist? Moreover, it seems that suffering nonbelievers who perish in this life will remain unsaved. I have great difficulty reconciling these examples with His care for suffering believers. Perhaps these examples highlight the truth and scope of God’s holiness – which I struggle to grasp (as a flawed human being with a finite mind).

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Psalm 8 January 26, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 8.

Summary: In this passage, David begins with a burst of praise to God. He then marvels at the contrast between the sublimity of the heavens and the ordinariness of mankind. In light of this contrast, he marvels at His condescension to mankind – fulfilled in His Son, Jesus Christ, whom He has given ultimate authority over His entire creation. He concludes by reiterating his burst of praise.

Thoughts: In verses 3 and 4, David marvels at the scope of God’s creation. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Astronomy shows us what an insignificant being man appears amidst the immensity of creation. Though he is an object of the paternal care and mercy of the Most High, yet he is but as a grain of sand to the whole earth, when compared to the countless myriads of beings that people the amplitudes of creation.

While I am not an amateur astronomer, I do fondly recall watching the Powers of Ten films as a student. This passage reminds me of my trips to Banff National Park and Denali National Park. On both of those occasions, I marveled at God’s creation, gazing at glacier-fed lakes and pondering the intricacies of orogenesis. I felt insignificant compared to the scope of God’s creation, and I was compelled to praise God for His wisdom and power as displayed in His creation (including the underlying math and science). Indeed, those memories spur me to thank my omniscient and omnipotent God for His amazing condescension to humanity. I am grateful that He has chosen to initiate and cultivate a personal relationship with this particular facet of His handiwork.

Psalm 7 January 26, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 7.

Summary: In this passage, David begins by praying that God would deliver him from his pursuers. After asserting his righteousness, he asks God to vindicate him – and punish his (unrighteous) pursuers. He then proclaims the fate of the unrighteous before praising God and His righteousness.

Thoughts: I anticipate meeting David in the next life and plying him with questions concerning the context of this psalm. For example, who was Cush the Benjamite? Was Cush a follower of Saul? Why was Cush pursuing him? Did Cush plan to kill him (or merely capture him)? How did God deliver him from Cush? Did Cush die a violent death? On a related note, this appears to be the first somewhat mysterious introductory note in the Psalms. I wonder if I will encounter others during my stroll through this book…

In verse 6, David exhorts God to wake up and judge those who unjustly pursue him. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

This is a bolder utterance still, for it implies sleep as well as inactivity, and can only be applied to God in a very limited sense. He never slumbers, yet he often seems to do so; for the wicked prevail, and the saints are trodden in the dust. God’s silence is the patience of longsuffering, and if wearisome to the saints, they should bear it cheerfully in the hope that sinners may thereby be led to repentance.

Believers throughout the ages have wrestled with God, asking Him why He allows evil to reign in the world. Those of us who follow current events are acutely aware of oppression in various countries, and we ask God why He does not immediately punish those who oppress others. Indeed, we may even harbor doubts of either His ability or His willingness to punish oppressors. In such instances, we must hold fast to Him, renewing our faith in His righteousness and omnipotence. Perhaps we can be encouraged by testimonies of God’s work in the world through His people, as such accounts remind us that He is not idle.

Psalm 6 January 18, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 6.

Summary: In this passage, David beseeches God to have mercy on him by delivering him from his enemies. Although his heart is heavy, he is certain that God will answer his prayer.

Thoughts: The tone of this psalm shifts in verses 8-10. Thus, I am curious: did David compose this entire psalm in one sitting? If so, how did God sustain him through this emotional roller-coaster? If not, how long did David remain in a state of despair, and how did God eventually cause his enemies to “be put to shame?” I anticipate querying David on this point in the next life. I am also curious as to whether other psalms include conspicuous shifts in their tone; if so, did David compose all of them?

Psalm 5 January 14, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 5.

Summary: In this passage, David lifts up a prayer to God – while drawing a sharp contrast between two parties.

The first party consists of those – including David – who are in a right relationship with God. God invites them into His presence; moreover, His favor is upon them. David prays that He would always show His favor to them.

The second party consists of those who are not in a right relationship with God. God banishes them from His presence, as He abhors their sinful deeds. David prays that they would be punished for their actions.

Thoughts: In verse 3, David states that he prays in the morning. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

This is the fittest time for conversation with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.

I should note that in the morning, I read a passage from Scripture (usually with the aid of a commentary); I also pray, albeit briefly. Now I do pray for an extended period in the evening before I go to sleep, as I believe that it allows me to review the events of each day with God. On a related note, one of my friends from a previous church shared that he actually prays for an hour in the morning after he wakes up. Currently, I lack the discipline to wake up early and pray for an extended period in the morning, so I believe that I will adhere to my current approach for the time being.

In verse 9, David makes the following assertion concerning the wicked: “their throat is an open grave.” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

A sepulchre is full of loathsomeness, pestilence and death, and an open sepulchre has all its evil gases issuing to spread death and destruction all around. So with the throat of the wicked, it would be a great mercy if it could always be closed. All the wickedness of their heart exhales.

As believers, we must wrestle with this question: how can we maintain meaningful relationships with nonbelievers – while still honoring God with our thoughts, words and deeds? If our non-believing friend expresses an opinion on a topic that is incompatible with our Christian worldview, should we debate them on that point? Is it ever appropriate to sacrifice a relationship with a nonbeliever to maintain our holiness? How can we recognize unholy influences and minimize their negative impact on our walk with God? These are challenging questions, but we must not shy away from them.

Psalm 4 January 7, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 4.

Summary: In this passage, David beseeches God to hear his prayer. He then addresses those who oppose him, reminding them that God is with him and exhorting them to submit to Him. He concludes by:

  • asking God for His favor to be upon him
  • reaffirming his trust in Him.

Thoughts: Readers of the psalms written by David will note the strength of his conviction that God is on his side. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 8:

…God alone was his keeper; though alone, without human help, he was in good keeping, for he was “alone with God.”

My belief is that it was relatively easy for David to assert that God was on his side. In particular, as the leader of a theocracy, he was keenly aware of the following truths:

  • when Israel trusted in God, He enabled them to defeat their enemies
  • when Israel did not trust in God, He allowed their enemies to defeat them.

My sense is that modern-day believers struggle to a greater extent to determine if God is “on our side.” For example, if we sense that we are bearing fruit for Him, then we gain confidence in the belief that He is “on our side.” Yet what if we do not sense that we are bearing fruit for Him? Does that necessarily imply that He is not “on our side” – or could He have simply chosen to bear fruit through us at a later point? Perhaps modern-day believers must exercise even greater faith than that which David displayed, in light of the complexities of our circumstances.