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Psalm 77 October 27, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 77.

Summary: In this passage, Asaph recounts an instance where his restlessness compelled him to call out to God, as he could not sleep. In particular, he wrestled with the thought that He had rejected His people.

At that time, God enabled him to ponder the miracles that He had performed on their behalf. In particular, he marveled at the fact that He displayed His sovereignty over nature during the Exodus; he praised Him for parting the Red Sea, thereby enabling His people to cross it on dry ground.

Thoughts: In the first part of this passage, Asaph recounts his struggles with God concerning His faithfulness. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 4:

Sleep is a great comforter, but it forsakes the sorrowful, and then their sorrow deepens and eats into the soul…Great griefs are dumb. Deep streams brawl not among the pebbles like the shallow brooklets which live on passing showers. Words fail the man whose heart fails him. He had cried to God, but he could not speak to man…

I know – from personal experience – that it is difficult to maintain my confidence in God in the midst of trials. While God has promised that believers will enjoy spiritual blessings (especially in the next life) He does not guarantee that believers will enjoy physical blessings in this life. As human beings, we are wired to enjoy physical blessings; when we do not receive them, we will wrestle with God, raising the same questions that Asaph posed in verses 7-9. Indeed, the mere thought of God withholding physical blessings is almost unbearable, as we are not wired to appreciate spiritual blessings.

In verses 10-12, Asaph resolves to reflect on the miracles that God has performed, and he is strengthened by that exercise. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 12:

Sweet work to enter into Jehovah’s work of grace, and there to lie down and ruminate, every thought being absorbed in the one precious object…The subject of our meditation should be choice, and then our talk will be edifying…Holy talk following upon meditation has a consoling power in it for ourselves as well as for those who listen.

Since I made a New Year’s resolution to “count my blessings” this year, Asaph’s meditations in this passage resonated with me. Indeed, when I am in the midst of a trial, I, too, am strengthened by my reflections on concrete examples of His grace. Trials often shake my confidence in the unchanging nature of God, as I wonder if He will choose to withhold physical blessings in those instances. Yet my meditations on His grace remind me of His concern for my best interests – granting me the strength that I need to move forward.

Psalm 76 October 19, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 76.

Summary: In this passage, Asaph praises God – as He has:

  • delivered Jerusalem from an invading force
  • decimated those enemy troops
  • displayed His righteous anger – thereby rescuing His people.

Asaph concludes by exhorting all nations to respond to this divine act by submitting to God.

Thoughts: In this passage, Asaph extols God for His miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from her enemies. Thus, I am curious: was this psalm inspired by a particular battle…or was it inspired by multiple battles? How did God effect His victory in that instance? When God defeated that invading force, did He leave any survivors? If so, did they acknowledge His role in their demise and reject their false gods? How did the inhabitants of Jerusalem – besides Asaph himself – respond to this miracle? If any of them were exiled to Babylon, did they reflect on this psalm and wrestle with God in prayer?

In verse 1, Asaph asserts that “God is renowned in Judah; in Israel his name is great.” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

To be known, in the Lord’s case, is to be honored: those who know his name admire the greatness of it. Although Judah and Israel were unhappily divided politically, yet the godly of both nations were agreed concerning Jehovah their God; and truly whatever schisms may mar the visible church, the saints always “appear as one” in magnifying the Lord their God.

As modern-day believers, we should meditate on “the greatness of” God and His name. For example, I have recorded various prayer requests and praises in a journal for almost ten years; reviewing previous entries in that journal reminds me that God has worked in both big and small ways in my life – and in the lives of others. When I reflect on those divine acts, I muse on the fact that He has condescended to bless His feeble creatures. Such reflections compel me to respond with words and deeds that honor Him.

Psalm 75 October 12, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 75.

Summary: In this passage, Asaph praises God, as He:

  • is sovereign over the world
  • rebukes the wicked for rejecting this fact.

Asaph then asserts that God will punish the wicked for rejecting His sovereignty; moreover, His punishment will afflict their minds. He concludes by drawing a sharp contrast between their fate and that of the righteous; in particular, he praises God for blessing the latter.

Thoughts: In verse 8, Asaph asserts that God will pour out His wrath on the wicked. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Their misdeeds, their blasphemies, their persecutions have strengthened the liquor as with potent drugs…The full cup must be drunk; the wicked cannot refuse the terrible draught, for God himself pours it out for them and into them. They could once defy him, but that hour is over, and the time to requite them is fully come…They must drink even the dregs of deep damnation.

Spurgeon’s note that “God himself pours it…into” the wicked reminded me of scenes in various action flicks where the chief villain compels the hero to imbibe an excessive amount of liquor – with devastating effects. In any event, the thought of God forcing the wicked to submit to His punishment is unsettling – yet it also compels me to meditate on His holiness and how His holiness prevents Him from leaving sins unpunished. Did any of the wicked read this psalm? If so, how did they respond to it? If it was written before the Babylonians destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, did the Israelites meditate on it after that cataclysmic event?

Psalm 74 October 12, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 74.

Summary: In this passage, Asaph laments God’s (apparent) rejection of His people; thus, he beseeches Him to respond to their plight.

He then bemoans the fact that foreigners have:

  • defiled – and ravaged – the temple in Jerusalem
  • blasphemed God’s name.

Thus, he exhorts Him to uphold His name by punishing them.

He then proclaims his confidence in Him, as He displayed His power and glory when He created the heavens and the earth. He concludes by renewing his appeal for Him to exercise His justice.

Thoughts: In verses 4-7, Asaph laments the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Now I should note that I have not strolled through 1 Kings; thus, I only have a superficial understanding of the process that Solomon employed to construct that edifice. Yet I am aware that many skilled craftsmen employed a variety of precious materials in that endeavor – and the product of their ingenuity and toil was eradicated by the Babylonians in one fell swoop. I simply cannot fathom the pain that gripped the Israelites as they witnessed the destruction of the temple. Did they ponder their sinfulness – and the offenses of their forefathers – at that time?

In verse 11, Asaph essentially orders God to punish those who have defiled His temple in Jerusalem. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

A bold simile, but dying men must venture for their lives. When God seems to fold his arms we must not fold ours, but rather renew our intreaties that he would again put his hand to the work. Oh for more agony in prayer among professing Christians! Then should we see miracles of grace.

Lately I have been reading Daring to Draw Near by John White. In that classic text, White asserts that Christians should pray more boldly. He supports that assertion by noting that God has called us to partner with Him in achieving His kingdom plan; thus, we have an incentive to pray for it. I must admit, though, that my prayers tend to be rather conservative. Thus, I wonder: can I pray more boldly? When can I make specific demands of God? Can I pray more boldly without straying from His will?

In verses 13-17, Asaph praises God for His sublimity – as displayed in the creation of the universe. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 17:

Everything is ascribed to the divine agency by the use of the pronoun thou; not a word about natural laws, and original forces, but the Lord is seen as working all. It will be well when the Creator is seen at work amid his universe. The argument of our text is that he who bounds the sea can restrain his foes, and he who guards the borders of the dry land can protect his chosen.

One can view these verses as the basis for Asaph’s prayer that God would punish those who have defiled His temple; if God can create the universe, He can certainly punish those who attempt to besmirch His name. Yet I – and other modern-day believers – wrestle with this point. If God created the universe, why does He refrain from punishing the wicked? Clearly He does not lack the ability to punish them; why, then, does He appear to be absent while they commit various atrocities? Perhaps He calls us to ponder the following points: 1) His act of creation was also a supreme act of love, and 2) a loving God will not overlook evil.

Psalm 73 October 5, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 73.

Summary: In this passage, Asaph recounts a time when he envied the wicked, as they enjoyed a plethora of (temporal) blessings. Indeed, he struggled to reconcile the following facts:

  • the wicked sinned in both word and deed – oppressing the righteous and blaspheming God – yet they enjoyed the twin blessings of good health and wealth
  • he strove to honor God with his thoughts, words, and deeds – yet he suffered many hardships.

After wrestling with God regarding this conundrum, He enabled him to grasp the following truths:

  • the wicked are ephemeral
  • the righteous are eternal – thanks to God and His grace towards them.

Asaph responds by 1) lamenting his ignorance concerning these truths and 2) renewing his confidence in God. He concludes by asserting that he will convey these truths to others.

Thoughts: In verses 2-16, Asaph wrestles with the fact that the wicked enjoy a plethora of blessings. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 12:

No bad debts and bankruptcies weigh them down, but robbery and usury pile up their substance. The rich grower [sic] richer, the proud grow prouder. Lord, thy poor servants, who become yet poorer, and groan under their burdens, are made to wonder at thy mysterious ways.

Asaph’s thoughts resonate with me, as I am perturbed by the fact that this world is plagued by various evils, e.g. mass shootings, migrant children being confined to cages, etc. When I read the news and encounter these evils in the headlines, I gravitate toward the thoughts that Asaph entertained before God revealed His perspective to him. One thought is that as modern-day believers, we can be reassured by Asaph’s struggles; since He has given us the capacity to reason, we will naturally wrestle with Him, as we strive to reconcile our understanding of Him and His attributes with current events.

In the KJV, verses 10 and 11 are rendered as, “Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 11:

I could not bring my mind to accept the rendering of many expositors by which this verse is referred to tried and perplexed saints. I am unable to conceive that such language could flow from their lips, even under the most depressing perplexities.

The NIV renders verse 10 as, “Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.” This translation would appear to resolve Spurgeon’s conundrum, as it indicates that the wicked have many followers. Yet the ESV renders verse 10 as “Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them” while the NASB renders verse 10 as “Therefore his people return to this place, And waters of abundance are drunk by them.” Thus, I am curious: which of these translations is in error? If the KJV, the ESV and the NASB are all correct, does “his” refer to God? I am eager to meet Asaph in the next life and probe him on this point.

In verse 17, Asaph notes that God worked through a divine encounter to shift his perspective on the prosperity of the wicked. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

His mind entered the eternity where God dwells as in a holy place; he left the things of sense for the things invisible, his heart gazed within the veil. Apparent disorder resolved itself into harmony…A wider view changed his judgment; he saw with his mind’s enlightened eye the future of the wicked, and his soul was in debate no longer as to the happiness of their condition.

This divine encounter must have been overwhelming, as it compelled Asaph to surrender himself to God – as expressed in verses 25 and 26. How did God speak to Asaph at that time? What were his thoughts and emotions as God revealed the fate of the wicked to him? As modern-day believers, how can God shape our perspective on the fate of those who strive to thwart His kingdom plan? How can we pray more earnestly to learn His assessment of current events? How can He enable us to draw closer to Him as we wrestle with the reality of evil in this world?