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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…

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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?

Psalm 15 February 23, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 15.

Summary: In this passage, David poses the following question: who can enter the presence of God? The answer is: those whose words and deeds reflect their desire to seek the best interests of others.

Thoughts: Here, David asserts that righteousness is a salient feature of the presence of God. After strolling through this psalm, I pondered the following thought: believers often struggle to maintain their integrity. For example, assume that in a meeting at work, colleague A unfairly disparages colleague B who is not present; should you avoid defending colleague B at that time, especially if you are conflict-averse? Also, assume that you are preparing a presentation at work, and you discover that a bug in your simulation invalidates your main result; should you pretend that your main result is still valid? I must admit that I have fallen short in similar situations, and I need His grace to honor Him even when I must pay a steep price.

Psalm 14 February 17, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 14.

Summary: In this passage, David asserts that humans are inherently wicked. For example, the enemies of Israel reject God and attempt to destroy His people. Yet David is confident that God will foil their plans and save His people.

Thoughts: In verse 1, David refers to those who deny the existence of God as fools. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

To say there is no God is to belie the plainest evidence, which is obstinacy; to oppose the common consent of mankind, which is stupidity; to stifle consciousness, which is madness.

I disagree with Spurgeon’s opinion that it is “obstinacy” to reject “the plainest evidence.” In general, we are aware of the existence of the universe. We are then called to answer the following question: what is the ultimate cause of the existence of the universe? Careful thought will reveal that there are multiple viable answers to this query, leading to the next question: what is the most likely cause of the existence of the universe? I believe that God is the answer to that query. Others, including atheists, would provide different answers to that query; I conjecture that their inferences from the available evidence are incorrect, but I would not assert that they are being obstinate – since I cannot prove (using human methods) that my inference is correct. Perhaps this is the essence of faith; while we cannot prove that the universe is caused by God, something intangible in our hearts prevents us from rejecting that inference…

Psalm 13 February 10, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 13.

Summary: In this passage, David laments God’s apparent unconcern about his struggles. He prays that He would deliver him from his current predicament – lest his enemies extol his demise. He then reaffirms his trust in God – in light of His blessings.

Thoughts: In verse 1, David assumes that God has abandoned him. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Ah, David, how like a fool you talk! Can God forget his own beloved child? Let us drive away the thought, and hear the word of our covenant God by the mouth of the prophet (Isaiah 49:14-16).

While I agree with Spurgeon’s assertion that God never forgets His children, I think that he is being somewhat uncharitable to David in this instance. When believers are confronted with severe trials, they naturally respond by wrestling with feelings of fear and doubt. While these feelings may be irrational in light of Scripture (e.g. “he will never leave you nor forsake you,” as noted in Deuteronomy 31:6), we are necessarily subject to them in this life. Thus, instead of regarding David as a “fool” in this instance, I empathize with him, knowing that even great faith cannot banish earthly thoughts from our earthly minds. The challenge for us, as believers, is this: how should we respond to these earthly thoughts?

Psalm 12 February 10, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 12.

Summary: In this passage, David implores God to punish those who use their words to oppress others. Although these oppressors are convinced of God’s inability to punish them, David declares that God will punish them – while vindicating those whom they oppress.

Thoughts: This psalm concludes on a relatively somber note, where David comments on the arrogance of those who oppose God. I believe that the psalms that precede this one have all concluded on relatively pleasant notes, where the psalmists praise God and affirm their confidence in Him. Was David feeling particularly burdened when he wrote this psalm? If so, did his feelings compel him to conclude this psalm on this somber note? Perhaps this somber note actually highlights the eternal relevance of the Psalms. Believers throughout the ages have experienced dry spells in their relationship with God, where feelings of doubt and frustration are not readily dismissed.

Psalm 11 February 8, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 11.

Summary: In this passage, David rebukes those who advise him to flee from his enemies. In particular, he asserts that:

  • God is acutely aware of the wicked deeds of his enemies
  • He has resolved to punish them for these wicked deeds
  • He has resolved to bless him – and all others whom He regards as being righteous.

Thoughts: Here, David declares his confidence in God even while his enemies plot against him. This psalm, then, furnishes another example of David’s fundamental trust in God. Now we know from 1 and 2 Samuel that God consistently punished David’s enemies (whether foreign or domestic). Thus, I wonder: were any psalms composed by people of faith who maintained their trust in God even if He did not deliver them from their trials? If so, it could be argued that those psalms would be more compelling testimonies than those composed by David. On a related note, since God does not always deliver us from our trials in this life, we need even greater faith than that of David in order to trust Him in the midst of hardships.

Psalm 10 February 7, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 10.

Summary: In this passage, David begins by wrestling with God over His seeming aloofness. He then levels the charges of pride and cruelty against the wicked man, presenting evidence to support his claims. This spurs him to beseech God to render His judgment on the wicked man. He concludes by declaring his confidence in God as the One who:

  • judges the wicked man
  • delivers those whom the wicked man oppresses.

Thoughts: In verse 1, David struggles with God’s apparent absence in the midst of his trials. Spurgeon offers some insights on this point:

Should the parent comfort his child while he is correcting him? It is only felt affliction that can become blest affliction. If we were carried in the arms of God over every stream, where would be the trial, and where the experience, which trouble is meant to teach us?

I still struggle in this regard, as I constantly wrestle with God – and my inability to sense His presence – during my trials. Indeed, the concept of a trial as “pure joy” (as noted in James 1:2) fails to resonate with me. Instead, I find trials to be stressful and painful. Lately, though, I sense that God has been enabling me to make progress in this regard in two ways. First, I have begun to mull over the following idea: it is natural for believers (as humans) to worry. If David, a man of great faith, wrestled with God’s apparent absence in the midst of his trials, why should I expect to sense God’s presence throughout my trials? Second, I have begun to “count my blessings” on a daily basis – even in the midst of trials. I have found that this exercise has been somewhat helpful in terms of maintaining my fundamental trust in God; indeed, God may be using feelings of thankfulness as a means of sustaining me in the midst of my trials.

In this passage, the wicked man is confident that God will not judge him for his pride and cruelty. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 6:

The man thinks himself immutable, and omnipotent too, for he is never to be in adversity. But let us remember that this man’s house is built upon the sand, upon a foundation no more substantial than the rolling waves of the sea. Be humble, for you are mortal, and your lot is mutable.

As modern-day believers, we are keenly aware of oppression throughout the world. Oppressors constantly harm others, causing believers to infer that God will not punish them for their deeds. We wrestle with God, asking, “do you feel the pain of the oppressed? Why do you fail to punish their oppressors?” We believe that God is just, omniscient and omnipotent; thus, we fail to reconcile these truths with His apparent inaction regarding oppression. Moreover, we may even begin to doubt these truths. We know that He calls us to trust in His timing in this regard – yet the ubiquity of evil and suffering challenges our faith on a daily basis.

Psalm 9 January 30, 2019

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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).