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Psalm 23 March 30, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 23.

Summary: In this passage, David asserts that God:

  • is his ultimate provider
  • is his ultimate guide – even in the face of death
  • has abundantly blessed him
  • will continue to bless him – especially with His presence.

Thoughts: In verse 4, David expresses his confidence that God will not leave him when he faces death. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

To walk indicates the steady advance of a soul which knows its road, knows its end, resolves to follow the path, feels quite safe, and is therefore perfectly calm and composed…We go through the dark tunnel of death and emerge into the light of immortality. We do not die; we do but sleep to wake in glory. Death is not the goal but the passage to it.

As death approaches, believers are faced with a severe test of their faith in God. Setting aside 1) accounts of near-death experiences and 2) the recorded miracles in Scripture where people were raised from the dead, no one has ever died and then returned from the grave; thus, uncertainty shrouds the other side of death, raising the following questions:

  • Can we maintain our faith in Him to the point of death?
  • Are we confident that we will eventually regain consciousness after death – and that He will welcome us into eternal bliss at that point?
  • Does our confidence rest on an inference to the best explanation?

These are challenging questions, but we must confront them.

Psalm 22 March 29, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 22.

Summary: In this passage, David wrestles with God, wondering how he can reconcile the following contradictory points:

  • He has abandoned him, causing others to mock him
  • his enemies have trapped him, and he is facing death at their hands
  • He has been faithful to his ancestors – and to him from birth.

He responds to his predicament by calling on God to deliver him from his enemies. He then declares his ultimate confidence in Him, as he knows that He can – and will – answer his prayer in the affirmative.

He concludes by calling on others to praise and worship Him, asserting that future generations will declare His excellence.

Thoughts: In verses 1 and 2, David wrestles with God regarding his inability to sense His presence. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 2:

For our prayer to appear to be unheard is no new trial. Jesus felt it before us. He still held fast on God, and cried still, “My God,” but his faith did not render him less importunate…No daylight is too glaring and no midnight too dark to pray in; no delay or apparent denial, however grievous, should tempt us to forbear from importunate pleading.

I can attest that it is both mentally and spiritually exhausting to repeatedly bring a particular request before God, especially when that request concerns a deeply felt, yet unfulfilled, desire. Indeed, believers are often tempted to “admit defeat” by assuming that God will not fulfill certain requests – and then resent Him for His apparent lack of care and concern for us. Somehow we must be attuned to the fact that God continues to work in – and around – us while we lay these petitions at His feet. Can we sense that God sustains us as we importunately plead with Him? Can we maintain our confidence that He loves us and approves of us while we wrestle with Him?

In verse 16, David asserts that his enemies pierce his hands and feet. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

This can by no means refer to David, or to anyone but Jesus of Nazareth. Pause, and view the wounds of the Redeemer.

This (relatively famous) passage is one of the clearest Messianic prophecies among the Psalms; in particular, David’s reference to the piercing of hands and feet should remind believers of the account in the Gospels of the crucifixion of our Savior. That being said, is Spurgeon’s assertion correct? Since David composed this psalm, can we infer that he did not intend to refer to himself in this verse? Is it plausible that David’s enemies were figuratively piercing his hands and feet? I certainly hope to meet David in the next life and query him on this point.

In verse 29, David asserts that “the rich of the earth” will worship God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

The rich and great are not shut out. Grace now finds most of its jewels among the poor, but in the latter days the mighty of the earth shall eat, shall taste of redeeming grace and dying love, and shall worship with all their hearts the God who deals so bountifully with us in Christ Jesus.

How can we reconcile Spurgeon’s thoughts with Jesus’ statements concerning the rich in Matthew 19:23-24 and Luke 12:13-21? Jesus clearly states that it is difficult for those with material wealth to enter His kingdom, as their wealth often distracts them from truly following Him. Thus, when David references “the rich of the earth”, is he referring to those with material wealth, or is he actually referring to those with spiritual wealth? Could David have been speaking hyperbolically in this case by using the word “all”?

Psalm 21 March 25, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 21.

Summary: In this passage, David praises God, as He has:

  • enabled him to defeat his enemies
  • enthroned him
  • blessed him with longevity
  • made him joyful.

He asserts that God will continue to enable him to defeat his enemies.

Thoughts: Here, David praises God, as He has bestowed countless blessings on him. Spurgeon offers some interesting thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

Jesus is not merely a King, but the King; King over minds and hearts, reigning with a dominion of love, before which all other rule is mere brute force.

Spurgeon proceeds to apply this entire passage to Jesus Himself. As in my earlier thoughts on Psalm 16, I am curious: did Spurgeon actually reference David – at least to some extent – in his original commentary on this psalm? If so, why did the editors (Alister McGrath and J.I. Packer) decide to remove those references to David? Did David intend to associate this psalm with the Messiah when he composed it? Would David have approved of the application that Spurgeon made in this case?

When I read through this passage, I wrestled with its potential modern-day applications. In particular, I considered the following question: since God does not guarantee that He will answer our requests in the affirmative, is this psalm applicable to us? One thought is that even though we have the benefit of hindsight, knowing that God answered David’s requests in the affirmative, David did not know this when he presented these requests to God. There was more than one potential outcome for each request, e.g. David could have been routed on the battlefield – or even slain – by his enemies. He was not completely certain as to how God would respond to each of his requests. We, too, pray without knowing how God will respond to each of our requests; like David, we must maintain our trust in Him even if He allows the realization of a painful outcome.

Psalm 20 March 24, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 20.

Summary: In this passage, David prays for himself (and for all of his successors). In particular, he asks God to accept his sacrifices and enable him to defeat his enemies.

He then praises God, as He has previously answered this prayer. He concludes by reiterating his main request.

Thoughts: The focus of this psalm is a prayer for each monarch of Israel. When I strolled through this psalm, I wrestled with this question: how does this psalm apply to modern-day believers? Clearly its primary application concerned the Old Testament monarchs of Israel (and Judah); what is a valid secondary application? One idea is that perhaps God has guaranteed that believers will eventually defeat all of their enemies – whether physical or spiritual. This raises the following question: do we truly “trust in the name of the Lord our God?” Are we going to hold fast to Him in the face of uncertainty? I pray that I will be able to answer these questions in the affirmative.

Psalm 19 March 23, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 19.

Summary: In this passage, David praises God, as He has:

  • revealed Himself through the heavens and the celestial bodies (which He created)
  • promulgated inherently excellent laws that benefit their adherents.

He then asks God to:

  • forgive him of any offenses that he has committed
  • approve this psalm.

Thoughts: David leverages the literary device of anthropomorphism in verses 1-6, leaving the reader in awe of God and His power in the act of creation. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

He who would guess at divine sublimity should gaze upward into the starry vault; he who would imagine infinity must peer into the boundless expanse; he who desires to know divine fidelity must mark the regularity of the planetary motions; and he who would attain some conceptions of divine power, greatness, and majesty must estimate the forces of attraction, the magnitude of the fixed stars, and the brightness of the whole celestial train.

When I strolled through this passage, I was captivated by these six verses. Although I have a relatively shallow understanding of astronomy and physics, my limited knowledge still compels me to marvel at the omniscience and omnipotence of God. Indeed, I am overwhelmed by the fact that God created a multitude of celestial bodies and determined that their interactions should be governed by a set of fundamental principles that apply throughout the universe. Moreover, I am grateful that He has chosen to reveal at least some of these fundamental principles to us; what an amazing act of condescension on His part!

In verse 12, David prays that God would forgive him for the sins that he has committed unknowingly. Spurgeon offers a thought on this point:

He best knows himself who best knows the Word, but even such a person will be in a maze of wonder as to what he does not know, rather than on the mount of congratulation as to what he does know.

When I retire for the night, I confess the sins that I have committed during the day; after listing the sins that I have committed knowingly, I ask God to forgive me for the sins that I have committed unknowingly. As a flawed human being with unfortunate blind spots, I would not be surprised to learn that at least some of my ostensibly harmless words and deeds may have injured others. Thus, I pray that God would forgive me for those instances where I did not intend to injure others. As believers, we should pray that God would be sovereign over our blind spots.

Psalm 18 March 11, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 18.

Summary: In this passage, David recounts several instances where his enemies threatened him with death. At those times, he responded by calling on God to deliver him. God responded by completely routing his enemies – displaying His omnipotence in the process.

He then asserts that God routed his enemies because he was righteous in His eyes; in particular, he had consistently hewed to His laws and decrees. Indeed, He rewards those who hew to His laws and decrees – while punishing all others.

He reiterates the praiseworthy fact that God has enabled him to rout his enemies. He concludes by expressing his confidence that God will continue to enable him – and his descendants – to rout those who oppose Him.

Thoughts: In verses 7-15, God responds to David’s plea by displaying His omnipotence. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 8:

The whole passage is intended to depict God’s descent to the help of his child, attended by earthquake and tempest: at the majesty of his appearing the earth rocks, the clouds gather like smoke, and the lightning as flaming fire devours setting the world ablaze. What grandeur of description is here!

When I strolled through this psalm, I was completely overwhelmed by the imagery of these verses. They reminded me of the description of heaven as recorded by the apostle John in Revelation 4 and 5, where he struggled mightily to record the scope of his vision. Here, I wonder if David, like John, was overwhelmed by the presence of God; if so, did he struggle to depict His omnipotence in these verses? One thought is that if we are overwhelmed by the person and work of God, we should not be alarmed by any failure to express our feelings in such instances – as that is only human.

In verses 20-24, David affirms his righteousness before God. Spurgeon offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 20:

Viewing this psalm as prophetic of the Messiah, these strongly-expressed claims to righteousness are readily understood, for his garments were white as snow; but considered as the language of David they have perplexed many…Before God, the man after God’s own heart was a humble sinner, but before his slanderers he could with unblushing face speak of the cleanness of [his] hands and the righteousness of his life.

Spurgeon’s thoughts remind us to consider the context in each psalm where David affirms his righteousness before God. While we know that David was not sinless, we also know that he was not guilty of the charges that were leveled against him in this instance. When we evaluate our walk with God, we must consider the following question: could others bring legitimate charges against us? We should also query others on this point, as we are prone to overlook our weaknesses. If such charges exist, then we must ask Him for assistance in overcoming our faults. If such charges do not exist, then we must thank Him for His grace to us in that regard.

In verse 25, David asserts that God is pleased by our righteous words and deeds. Spurgeon offers an interesting thought on this point:

Note that even the merciful need mercy; no amount of generosity to the poor, or forgiveness to enemies, can set us beyond the need of mercy.

This is a valuable reminder for believers, as we may fall into the trap of assuming that our acts of service secure our righteous standing before God. Indeed, we may forget our inherent sinfulness when we focus on advancing the kingdom of God through our words and deeds. One thought is that as believers, we should regularly reflect on what God has done for us and how utterly dependent we are on Him for our salvation – especially in light of the fact that we fall short of His grace on a daily basis. On a related note, we must also strive to avoid falling into the trap of becoming numb to our sins…

Psalm 17 March 1, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 17.

Summary: In this passage, David implores God to:

  • vindicate him – as his words and deeds are righteous
  • protect him from his enemies – as they are plotting against him
  • punish his enemies.

He is confident that God will respond to his entreaty.

Thoughts: In verses 3-5, David affirms his righteousness in God’s eyes. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 3:

Surely the psalmist means nothing hypocritical or wicked in the sense in which his slanderers accused him; for if the Lord should put the best of his people into the crucible, the dross would be a fearful sight.

When I strolled through this psalm, I was frustrated with David, as I am acutely aware of his flaws (e.g. Psalm 51). I dismissed his confidence that God would vindicate him after assessing his righteousness. Upon further reflection, I now believe that this passage may actually support the notion that not all sins are equally severe. In particular, some sins (e.g. improper thoughts) may be categorized as sins that are inherently human. Other sins (e.g. murder, rape) may be categorized as sins that are not committed by believers. This leads to the following questions:

  • What are the sins that we can realistically avoid?
  • What are the sins that constitute our “thorns in the flesh?”

When I read through verse 14 in my NIV 1984 Study Bible and compared it with the same verse in the NIV 2011 edition, I noticed an interesting discrepancy between them. In particular, the NIV 1984 version of this verse includes:

You still the hunger of those you cherish; their sons have plenty, and they store up wealth for their children.

In contrast, the NIV 2011 version of this verse includes:

May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies; may their children gorge themselves on it, and may there be leftovers for their little ones.

Spurgeon offers the following germane thought:

Almost every word of this verse has furnished matter for discussion to scholars, for it is very obscure.

Thus, I hope to meet David in the next life and probe him on the intended meaning of this verse. Did his intentions conform to the NIV 1984 or NIV 2011 editions? Did his intentions actually conform to neither edition? Why is this verse difficult to translate?

Psalm 16 March 1, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 16.

Summary: In this passage, David pledges allegiance to God, asserting that he will not worship any other deity. He praises God, as He has given him abundant blessings – including wisdom. He rejoices in the fact that God – the ultimate source of life – has delivered him from a severe illness.

Thoughts: Here, David rejoices in the fact that God has preserved his life. My NIV Study Bible includes the following germane note:

Some scholars associate Psalms 16 and 30 with the dedication of the citadel, David’s palace, on Zion. David regarded the palace as God’s pledge of the stability and exaltation of his kingdom (2 Samuel 5:12). Apparently a severe illness (Psalm 16:9-10, 30:1-12) had delayed him from moving into the new building.

If the above-mentioned scholars are correct in making that association, then we could gain a greater appreciation for the depth of David’s gratitude to God in this instance. In particular, David’s note in verse 10 that God “will not abandon me to the realm of the dead” would take on greater significance – i.e. instead of viewing that verse as mere hyperbole, we could marvel at the extent of God’s healing power at that time. Moreover, we could draw strength from this verse if we are in dire straits.

While this psalm was written by David, Spurgeon associates it with Jesus Christ. For example, consider the following part of his commentary on verse 1:

Tempted in all points as we are, the humanity of Jesus needed to be preserved from the power of evil; and though in itself pure, the Lord Jesus did not confide in that purity of nature, but as an example to his followers, looked to the Lord, his God, for preservation.

Clearly Spurgeon is correct in making that association, as Peter quotes verses 8-11 in Acts 2:25-28 during his sermon on Pentecost concerning Jesus. That being said, Spurgeon’s commentary on this psalm only references Jesus – not David. Thus, I am curious: did Spurgeon actually reference David in his original commentary? If so, why did the editors, Alister McGrath and J.I. Packer, decide to remove his references to David? Also, was David mindful of Jesus Christ while writing this psalm? Would David have approved of Peter’s decision to associate verses 8-11 with Jesus Christ?