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Psalm 49 June 29, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 49.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah proclaim that no one is immortal, as all will eventually expire. Moreover, this outcome cannot be forestalled by wealth, possessions, or power – as these are ephemeral.

Thus, the people of God should not be intimidated by those who are affluent. Instead, they should seek wisdom from Him – as this is eternal.

Thoughts: In this passage, the psalmist exhorts the people of God to not fear those who are affluent. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 6:

We are not dismayed. Great strength, position, and estate make wicked men very lofty in their own esteem, but the heir of heaven is not overawed. He sees the small value of riches, and the helplessness of their owners in the hour of death.

This passage spurred me to consider a tangential topic: the lives of the affluent. One of the sidebar notes in my NIV Study Bible asserts that:

Wealth isolates the rich from some threats experienced by poor people, such as death by starvation, disease caused by malnutrition and lack of protection from wild animals. Wealth may also insulate people from some social problems such as riots, warfare and flooding.

While I (probably) belong to the upper middle class, I am curious as to how I would live if I were suddenly placed in the upper class. Would my habits and/or thought processes change? How would I treat my peers? Would I attempt to join a new social circle? Would I be compelled to utilize my additional income for God’s glory? Would I even remain mindful of God? If I were to fall gravely ill, how would I respond to my predicament?

In verse 20, the psalmist asserts the futility of accumulating wealth while neglecting wisdom from God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Understanding differentiates men from animals, but if they will not follow the highest wisdom, and like beasts find their all in this life, then their end shall be as mean and dishonorable as that of beasts slain in the chase, or killed by the butcher. Saddest of all is the reflection that though men are like beasts in the degradation of perishing, yet not in the rest which animal perishing secures, for alas it is written, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.”

This passage implies that living wisely has “everlasting” benefits, while wealth merely applies to “this life.” That point raises questions such as: how do we live for the next life? How can we actually store up treasures in heaven? Will those believers who live “more” wisely receive more blessings in heaven? Lately I have pondered the wisdom of doing good deeds in secret – or, at the very least, serving among acquaintances. Such acts force us to ponder God’s approval and combat our craving for the plaudits of our friends. How do we know when God is pleased with our acts of charity? How can we rest in His approval when we do not receive feedback from others?

Psalm 48 June 29, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 48.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah praise God – as He is the ultimate safeguard – and glory – of His city, Jerusalem. Indeed, He has empowered His people to rout those foreign armies who have attempted to seize Jerusalem.

They are compelled to meditate on His faithfulness to His city. They conclude by exhorting His people to convey His faithfulness to their descendants – increasing His glory.

Thoughts: Here, the psalmist marvels at God’s ability to deliver Jerusalem from her enemies. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 5:

They came, they saw, but they did not conquer. No sooner did they perceive that the Lord was in the Holy City, than they took to their heels. Before the Lord came to blows with them, they were faint-hearted, and beat a retreat…Panic seized them; they fled ignominiously, like children in a fright.

This passage spurred me to ponder the following question: did the Sons of Korah sense that one day, God would allow the Babylonians to sack Jerusalem – thereby punishing His people for consistently disobeying Him? My conjecture is that when they composed this psalm, they did not entertain that possibility; otherwise, how could they have declared their confidence in Him in verses 8 and 14? As modern-day believers, we should ponder this point; moreover, it should compel us to redouble our efforts to honor Him – lest He choose to withdraw His hand of protection from us in response to our disobedience.

In verse 14, the psalmist asserts that God will never abandon His people. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

He will be the covenant God of his people world without end. There is no other God; we wish for no other…Throughout life he will graciously conduct us, and even after death he will lead us to the living fountains of waters. We look to him for resurrection and eternal life.

This verse is a valuable complement to my thoughts above concerning the importance of honoring God in this life. As believers, we know that it is impossible to perfectly honor Him in this life. Our sinful natures compel us to fall short of perfection on a daily basis. Yet that fact does not paralyze us; instead, we can continue to rest in Him, knowing that He approves of our imperfect attempts to honor Him. Moreover, He will continue to guide us as we stumble – and even fall – on the path to sanctification.

Psalm 47 June 21, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 47.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah exhort all nations to praise God – as He is sovereign over the world.

Thoughts: Here, the psalmist asserts that God is the ultimate ruler of all nations. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

The joy is to extend to all nations; Israel may lead, but all the Gentiles are to follow, for they have an equal share in that kingdom where Christ is all in all. It is the best hope of all nations that Jehovah rules over them…All people will be ruled by the Lord in the latter days, and all will exult in that rule; were they wise they would submit to it now, and rejoice to do so.

This passage caused me to ponder questions such as:

  • did the Israelites meditate on this psalm during their exile in Babylon?
  • were other nations aware of the existence – and contents – of this psalm during the Old Testament?
  • if so, how did they respond to this psalm?
  • did the Jews reflect on this psalm while the Romans occupied Judea?
  • how do modern-day nonbelievers respond to this psalm?
  • as believers, how can we respectfully communicate God’s inherent sublimity to nonbelievers?
  • as believers, how can we hold fast to the psalmist’s declarations of God’s sovereignty – especially when we read the news?

Psalm 46 June 21, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 46.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah assert their ultimate confidence in God – especially in light of:

  • natural disasters
  • enemy assaults

because He dwells in the midst of His people. Moreover, all nations will acknowledge His sovereignty (in His timing).

Thus, His people should praise Him and rest in Him.

Thoughts: In this passage, the psalmist asserts that Israel relies on God for her security. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

Neither forget that God is our refuge just now as truly as when David penned the word. All other refuges are lies, all our strength is weakness.

Again, I find it odd that Spurgeon attributes this psalm to David. His thoughts do raise an interesting question, though: was this psalm composed during the reign of David? We do know that God granted Israel a slew of military triumphs during his reign, and perhaps those victories are depicted in these verses. If it was not penned during his reign, though, when was it written? Perhaps God’s miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrian army during the reign of Hezekiah provided the context for this psalm. Another thought is that the psalmist was encouraged by accounts of God’s faithfulness towards their forefathers – especially when He enabled them to conquer the Promised Land.

Verse 10 is often cited by believers as a message of comfort and strength. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this verse:

Hold off your hands, enemies! Sit down and wait in patience, believers! Acknowledge that Jehovah is God, you who feel the terrors of his wrath! Adore him, and him only, you who partake in the protections of his grace.

After strolling through this passage, I have sharpened my understanding of the context of this verse. In particular, as modern-day believers, we can rest in our knowledge of God’s sovereignty even in the face of persecution. Thus, believers who are being persecuted can use this verse to shift their focus from their short-term struggles to God’s long-term blessings. Those of us who are not being persecuted can also be encouraged by this verse, especially when we learn of assaults on our brethren; at some point, God will bring an end to persecution. On a related note, this page is a worthy read.

Psalm 45 June 16, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 45.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah present an epithalamium to the king of Israel, where they:

  • proclaim his virtues – which are manifestations of God’s grace
  • pray for his continued success on the battlefield
  • extol the beauty of his bride
  • exhort her to devote herself to him
  • proclaim the permanence of His kingdom.

Thoughts: This psalm was written to celebrate a royal wedding in Israel. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

This song has the King for its only subject, and for the King’s honor alone was it composed…The psalmist wrote of what he had personally tasted and handled concerning the King.

While I agree that the ultimate object of this psalm should be God Himself, I am fairly certain that its original object was the contemporary ruler of Israel. That elicited questions such as: who was the contemporary ruler of Israel? Who was his royal bride, and how he make her acquaintance? How did he “love righteousness and hate wickedness?” Did the psalmist have any conception of the Messiah when they penned these verses? If so, did they view Him as this psalm’s ultimate object? Was this psalm composed before Israel was divided into northern and southern kingdoms?

In verse 4, the psalmist exhorts his sovereign to fight for God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

It is a most potent argument to urge with our Lord that the cause of the true, the humble, and the good calls for his advocacy. Truth will be ridiculed, meekness oppressed, and righteousness slain unless the God, the Man in whom these precious things are incarnated, rises for their vindication. Our earnest petition ought ever to be that Jesus lay his almighty arm to the work of grace lest the good cause languish and wickedness prevail.

This verse, along with the note in verse 2 that the monarch is “the most excellent of men…since God has blessed you forever” and the notes in verses 6 and 7 concerning justice and righteousness, respectively, imply that the monarch maintains his authority because his words and deeds conform to the standard that God has set for him. This is a valuable reminder that while the monarch has many virtues – as evidenced by this psalm – he relies on God to sustain and strengthen him. Moreover, if his words and deeds failed to conform to God’s standard, then the promises in verses 16 and 17 would be nullified. Perhaps we can apply this psalm to our modern context by adopting a more balanced view of our human leaders, since they also derive their authority from God.

Psalm 44 June 16, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 44.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah begin by praising God, as He:

  • enabled their forefathers to conquer the Promised Land
  • has made them triumphant on the battlefield.

In light of these truths, they lament the fact that God has recently allowed their enemies to rout them – and make sport of them.

They are baffled by that fact, as they have not violated the terms of the covenant that He made with them. In particular, they have not committed idolatry.

Thus, they conclude by exhorting God – on the basis of His mercy and steadfast love – to succor them.

Thoughts: In verses 1-8, the psalmist praises God for the military triumphs that He has granted His people. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 2:

With judgments and plagues the condemned nations were harassed, by fire and sword they were hunted to the death, till they were all expelled, and the enemies of Israel were banished far away…The weight of mercy bestowed on Israel is balanced by the tremendous vengeance which swept the thousands of Amorites and Hittites down to hell.

These verses caused me to ponder the challenges – and blessings – of serving in the Israelite army during Biblical times. Would I have been paralyzed by fear at the sight of the opposing army, especially if they appeared to be well-armed and well-trained? Would the words of leaders including Joshua and David have inspired me to slay those who fought against my God? Would I have perished in battle? Perhaps I will meet at least some of those Israelite soldiers in the next life and hear how God empowered them on the battlefield.

In verses 17-22, the psalmist appeals to God, asserting that His people have not committed idolatry. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 21:

Could such idolatry be concealed from him…Not the heart only which is secret, but the secrets of the heart, which are secrets of the most secret thing, are as open to God as a book to a reader. The reasoning is that the Lord himself knew the people to be sincerely his followers, and therefore was not visiting them for sin; affliction evidently came from quite another cause.

Given my understanding of the relationship between God and His people in the Old Testament, I am skeptical of the psalmist’s assertions in this passage. Had Israel actually fulfilled the requirements of their covenant with God? Had they actually maintained their spiritual purity – especially in light of the temptation to worship the gods of their pagan neighbors? When was this psalm written, and what was its context? Who had triumphed over Israel on the battlefield? I hope to meet the Sons of Korah in the next life and probe them on this point.

In verses 23 and 24, the psalmist wrestles with God, calling on Him to deliver His people. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 24:

Not petulantly, but piteously and inquiringly, we may question the Lord when his dealings are mysterious. We are permitted arguments. Why, Lord, dost thou become oblivious of thy children’s woes? This question is far more easily asked than answered.

Spurgeon’s thoughts have resonated with me in the midst of recent trials. Indeed, we can be thankful that God has given us the freedom to wrestle with Him while He puts us to the test – instead of commanding us to refrain from thoughts and words of protest. That being said, how can we tell when our queries have become more petulant than piteous? How can we properly wrestle with Him – while maintaining our fundamental trust and confidence in Him? I do not claim to have any deep insights on this topic; at this point, I simply ask Him for sufficient grace and strength to (genuinely) count my blessings on a daily basis.

Psalm 43 June 9, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 43.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah pray that God would:

  • vindicate them
  • deliver them from their opponents
  • enable them to worship Him in His house.

While they cannot fathom their predicament, they maintain their trust in Him.

Thoughts: In verse 5, the psalmist reaffirms their confidence in God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Wherefore indulge unreasonable sorrows, which benefit no one, fret yourself, and dishonor your God? Why overburden yourself with forebodings?

This verse – which appears twice in the preceding passage – encouraged me during a recent trial. While I pondered this verse, I made the following conjecture: we cannot expect a believer to initially respond to unwelcome tidings by exclaiming “praise God!” Indeed, a normal initial response to adverse circumstances includes feelings of shock, sadness, anger, etc. In light of this conjecture, I view the key words in the above-mentioned quote as “indulge” and “overburden.” While our initial response may be sorrowful, at some point we must decide to place our ultimate trust in God Himself. We must eventually resolve to allow the Holy Spirit to shape our words and deeds even in the midst of our difficulties. In this way we will see Him sustaining us through the vicissitudes of life.

Psalm 42 June 8, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 42.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah covet the presence of God. They are severely wounded by the taunts of those who assert that God has abandoned them; moreover, they lament the fact that they cannot worship Him in His house.

Yet they maintain their confidence in God, as He has sustained – and continues to sustain – them in the midst of severe trials.

Thoughts: In verse 1, the psalmist laments their separation from God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Debarred from public worship, David was heartsick. Ease he did not seek, honor he did not covet, but the enjoyment of communion with God was an urgent and absolute necessity, like water to a stag.

When I read Spurgeon’s thoughts, I was – and remain – baffled by them. Did Spurgeon completely overlook the title note that this psalm was “a maskil of the Sons of Korah”? Was Spurgeon’s error actually introduced in the editorial process for this Crossway Classic commentary? Was this title note added after Spurgeon wrote his original commentary? We do know that David could not have been a member of the Sons of Korah, as he belonged to the house of Judah – while the Korahites belonged to the house of Levi. I hope to meet Spurgeon in the next life and resolve this issue.

Verse 1 forms the basis of “As The Deer”. A quick Google search reveals that this song was written by Martin Nystrom. This link describes how Nystrom composed these memorable lyrics. I hope to meet Nystrom some day and learn more about his walk with God – especially his spiritual peaks and valleys. On a related note, as modern-day believers, we should evaluate verse 1; do we truly “pant” for the presence of God? Is He a mere accessory to our existence? If the former is true, how does He actually quench our spiritual “thirst”? If the latter is true, how should we reorient our souls to pursue Him?

Psalm 41 June 7, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 41.

Summary: In this passage, David asserts that those who seek the best interests of the less fortunate are “lucky bums” – as God will enable them to defeat severe illness and their enemies.

He then draws strength from this assertion, as he is severely ill; moreover, his enemies – including a close friend – delight in his condition and anticipate his demise. Thus, he prays that God would enable him to defeat his illness and his enemies – while reaffirming his confidence in Him.

He concludes with a doxology.

Thoughts: In verse 9, David bemoans the fact that a close friend has betrayed him. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

“The man of my peace,” so runs the original, with whom I had no differences, with whom I was in league, who had before ministered to my peace and comfort. This was Iscariot with our Lord: an apostle, admitted to the privacy of the great Teacher. The kiss of the traitor wounded our Lord’s heart as much as the nail wounded his hand.

Who was this close friend who chose to betray David? My (admittedly hazy) recollection of 1 and 2 Samuel spurred me to compile the following short list of hypotheses:

  • Jonathan; this would be odd, as we have no record of Jonathan betraying David
  • Absalom; this would also be odd, as it would seem more natural for David to refer to Absalom as his “son,” not a “close friend”
  • King Saul; I am most intrigued by this hypothesis.

A complicating factor is that we do not know when this betrayal occurred. Thus, I hope to meet David in the next life and probe him on this point.

This psalm concludes with a brief doxology. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

So let it surely, firmly, and eternally be. Thus the people joined in the psalm by a double shout of holy affirmation; let us unite in it with all our hearts. This last verse may serve for the prayer of the universal church in all ages, but none can sing it so sweetly as those who have experienced as David did the faithfulness of God in times of extremity.

This psalm marks the end of Book 1 of the Psalms. Overall I would say that I have mixed feelings after completing this “mini-stroll.” Some passages – especially those where David extols the wisdom, power, and sovereignty of God in creating and sustaining the universe – spur me to praise and glorify Him. Other passages – especially those where David makes sweeping assertions concerning the goodness of God towards His people – spur me to wrestle with Him. I am curious as to how my feelings on the Psalms will evolve as I stroll through Book 2.

Psalm 40 June 2, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 40.

Summary: In this passage, David declares that God has delivered him from a predicament; thus, he praises Him – and declares that others will follow his example. After contrasting the omnipotence of God with the impotence of false deities, he asserts that his desire to honor God is manifested in words – and deeds – of praise.

He concludes by praying that God would:

  • deliver him from his enemies
  • defeat his enemies
  • vindicate those who trust in Him – enabling them to praise Him.

Thoughts: Here, David displays his confidence in God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

Patient waiting upon God was a special characteristic of our Lord Jesus. All through his agony in the garden, his trial of cruel mockings before Herod and Pilate, and his passion on the tree, he waited in omnipotence of patience. No glance of wrath, no word of murmuring, no deed of vengeance came from God’s patient Lamb. And shall we be petulant and rebellious?

While Spurgeon’s thoughts are correct, I am curious as to why he chose to apply this passage to Jesus. The reference to “my sins” in verse 12 implies that this passage should (at least in some sense) refer to David himself. I am also unaware of any New Testament references to this passage that attribute it to Jesus. Thus, I anticipate meeting David and Spurgeon in the next life and probing them on this point. Did David intend that this passage be interpreted as a Messianic psalm? How would he have responded to Spurgeon’s interpretation of it?

In verses 9 and 10, David asserts that he proclaims the excellence of God in the presence of “the great assembly.” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 9:

Hide not your lights, but reveal to others what your God has revealed to you, and especially by your lives testify for holiness, be champions for the right, both in word and deed.

This is a valuable reminder that we should anticipate – and capitalize on – opportunities to praise God for His work in our lives. These words of praise can strengthen and encourage fellow believers; they can also have a positive impact on nonbelievers. Spurgeon’s thoughts are especially pertinent when we are in the midst of – or have overcome – severe trials. Recounting God’s abundant provision of grace and strength in the midst of our afflictions can equip others for similar trials.