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Psalm 70 September 15, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 70.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would:

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

Thoughts: This passage is similar to Psalm 40. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

This is the second psalm which is a repetition of another, the former being Psalm 53, which was a rehearsal of Psalm 14. The present differs from Psalm 40 at the outset, for that begins with “Be pleased,” and this, in our version, more urgently with Make haste; or, as in the Hebrew, with an abrupt and broken cry: “O God, to deliver me; O LORD, to help me hasten.”

Spurgeon proceeds to highlight several minor differences between these two passages. This spurred me to ponder questions such as: did David compose both of these psalms? Did he compose neither of them? If these psalms had different authors, was the author of the later psalm inspired by the earlier psalm? What was the context for each passage? Since repetition in Scripture typically indicates a point of emphasis, should this passage spur us to fervently seek God’s assistance? Should this passage spur us to yearn for the defeat of those who oppose God and His kingdom plan?

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Psalm 69 September 13, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 69.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would deliver him from his enemies in light of his innocence. Indeed, his desire to honor God has elicited their opprobrium and mockery.

He then reiterates his prayer, appealing to God’s love and mercy. Moreover, he prays that God would punish – and even eradicate – his enemies in light of their mistreatment of him.

He declares that he will praise God, as he knows that He hears the prayers of the innocent. He concludes by exhorting all of creation to praise Him in light of the future restoration of Judah.

Thoughts: In verse 9, David proclaims his zeal for God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

His burning ardor, like the flame of a candle, fed on his strength and consumed it. Some men are eaten up with lechery, others with covetousness, and a third class with pride, but the master-passion with our great leader was the glory of God, jealousy for his name, and love to the divine family.

This verse caused me to ponder the following question: am I truly zealous for God? The definition of zeal is “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective”. I believe that when I am mindful of God – especially when I serve others – I am pursuing Him. Yet I would not say that I regularly display “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of” God, especially as I am an introvert. Does zeal for God depend on one’s personality? Can an introvert be zealous for God? Can one have a “quiet” zeal for God? Does zeal for God necessarily elicit the opposition of unbelievers?

In verse 21, David asserts that his enemies intentionally neglected his basic needs. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

A criminal’s draught was offered to our innocent Lord. How often have our sins filled the gall-cup for our Redeemer? While we blame the Jews, let us not excuse ourselves.

This passage is usually regarded as one of the Messianic Psalms, as it includes verses that allude to the Passion of Christ. While this passage describes the physical and mental anguish that Jesus endured in this life, Spurgeon’s comments remind us of the fact that we are not innocent in that regard. Indeed, we are reminded of the fact that our sins caused His pain. We cannot claim the moral high ground concerning His suffering; thus, instead of elevating ourselves over Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries, we must remain grateful for His mercy to us.

In verses 35 and 36, David declares that God will revitalize Judah. My NIV Study Bible includes the following sidebar note:

This may refer to the situation in Judah after the Babylonian exile, four centuries after David’s reign. All of Judah had been decimated by Nebuchadnezzar’s armies (2 Kings 25). Some think the writer of this psalm, rather than David, could have been the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote his Lamentations in response to Jerusalem’s fall.

If this conjecture is correct, then this passage furnishes another example of a psalm where one must not leap to conclusions regarding its authorship based on its title note. Indeed, the tone of this passage is reminiscent of the Davidic psalms; thus, one could argue that it was written in the style “of David.” Another thought is that David could have written the bulk of this psalm…before another writer added verses 30-36 to encourage their compatriots during their exile in Babylon. I anticipate meeting David in the next life and resolving my confusion on this point.

Psalm 68 September 7, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 68.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would rout His foes – thereby bringing joy to His people.

He then exhorts the people of God to praise Him, as He:

  • promotes social justice
  • delivered their ancestors from their bondage in Egypt
  • sustained their ancestors during their meanderings in the desert
  • enabled their ancestors to conquer the Promised Land
  • selected Jerusalem as His city – thereby elevating her over the surrounding nations
  • enabled them to annihilate their enemies
  • leads them in a triumphal procession towards His sanctuary.

He then prays that God would exercise His sovereignty over the neighbors of Israel. He concludes by exhorting these neighboring nations to join His people in praising the Sovereign God.

Thoughts: In verse 13, David praises God for enabling the Israelites to plunder the Canaanites as they invaded the Promised Land. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Does he mean that the women at home, who had been meanly clad as they performed their household work, would be so gorgeously arrayed in the spoil that they would be like doves of silver wing and golden plumage? Or, would he say that Israel, which had been begrimed in the brick-kilns of Egypt, would come forth lustrous and happy in triumph and liberty…If we knew all that was known when this ancient hymn was composed, the allusion would no doubt strike us as being beautifully appropriate, but as we do not, we will let it rest among the unriddled things.

Yet my NIV Study Bible includes the following sidebar note for this verse:

Some suggest an allusion here to the Song of Deborah which was sung following a decisive Israelite victory over the Canaanites. Deborah chided the tribe of Reuben for failing to fight, for staying among the campfires (Judges 5:16).

I am intrigued by that NIV Study Bible sidebar note, as I assume that the original audience of this psalm would have immediately grasped an allusion to Deborah, given their relative familiarity with the Old Testament. This caused me to ponder questions such as:

  • Was Spurgeon aware of the possibility that David was alluding to Judges 5:16 in this verse?
  • What was Spurgeon’s grasp of the Old Testament?
  • Could one advance a compelling argument that this verse does not contain an allusion to Judges 5:16?

I hope to discuss this verse with David in the next life and learn more about his thoughts as he composed it.

In verse 17, David praises God, as He commands a plethora of chariots. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

The marginal reading of our Bibles, “even many thousands,” is far more correct than the rendering even thousands of angels. It is not easy to see where our venerable translators found these “angels,” for they are not in the text; however, as it is a blessing to entertain them unawares, we are glad to meet with them in English, even though the Hebrew knows them not…

Spurgeon’s thoughts caused me to ponder questions such as:

  • How was the King James Version – which Spurgeon used while penning this commentary – produced?
  • How did the translators who developed the King James Version decide to include the term “angels” in this verse?
  • Why did modern translators, including those who developed the NIV, omit that term from this verse?
  • How did advances in hermeneutics affect the development of the NIV?

I anticipate meeting a plethora of Biblical scholars in the next life and probing them on these points.

In verses 21-23, David asserts that God will enable His people to destroy their enemies. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 23:

So overwhelming would be the defeat that dogs would lick their blood. To us, except in a spiritual sense, the verse sounds harsh, but read it with an inner sense, and we also desire the crushing defeat of all evil and that wrong and sin may be the objects of profound contempt. Contemplate Revelation 19.

Spurgeon’s comments are thought-provoking, especially as modern-day believers wrestle with the effects of evil in this world. While we desire the salvation of those who attempt to thwart God’s kingdom plans, we must remember that God calls us to resist evil in all forms. This raises the following question: how does one “hate the sin while loving the sinner?” Perhaps this question 1) highlights the fact that God is both loving and just, and 2) calls us to consider how we can be both loving and just toward nonbelievers.

Psalm 67 September 2, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 67.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist prays that God would:

  • bless His people – empowering them to bless the nations
  • enable all people to praise Him for His justice and sustaining grace.

They conclude by declaring that God has made their land fruitful, and they reiterate their initial prayer.

Thoughts: In verses 1 and 2, the psalmist draws a connection between God’s blessings upon His people and His blessings upon the nations. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 2:

As showers which first fall upon the hills afterwards run down in streams into the valleys, so the blessing of the Most High comes upon the world through the church. We are blessed for the sake of others as well as ourselves. God deals in a way of mercy with his saints, and then they make that way known far and wide, and the Lord’s name is made famous in the earth.

I recall a motif that the pastor at my old church emphasized throughout his final sermon series: as New Testament believers, we are fulfilling the promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, where He asserts that all people will be blessed through Abraham. Indeed, He blesses others through us as we live out our faith on a daily basis; his blessings never terminate on us after we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. Thus, we should ponder this question: how is God actually blessing others through us? It may be helpful to consider those in our orbit – including believers and non-believers – and pray that God would empower us to bless them in both tangible and intangible ways.

Psalm 66 September 1, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 66.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist exhorts all nations to praise God for His deeds and for His sovereignty over the earth. For example, He:

  • sustained the Israelites throughout their enslavement in Egypt
  • parted the Red Sea, enabling the Israelites to flee from Egypt
  • brought the Israelites to the Promised Land.

Thus, the psalmist resolves to fulfill the vows that they made to God during a recent trial. In particular, they resolve to offer Him the requisite sacrifices, as He saw their integrity and responded to their cries for relief. The psalmist concludes with another burst of praise.

Thoughts: In verses 10-12, the psalmist praises God, as He brought their ancestors through various trials. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 10:

He proved his Israel with sore trials. David had his temptations. God had one Son without sin, but he never had a son without trial. Why ought we to complain if we are subjected to the rule which is common to all the family, and from which so much benefit has flowed to them? The Lord himself tests us; who then will question the wisdom and the love which are displayed in the operation?

The fact that all believers must suffer to some extent may be somewhat encouraging, but if that suffering did not lead to blessing, we would be frustrated (at the very least). Instead, we can ponder Spurgeon’s note about how “so much benefit has flowed to them.” Lately I have reflected on some of my trials and experienced a deep sense of thankfulness to God – especially for those whom He worked through to support me in those instances. God has also granted me opportunities to discuss those trials with other believers, and I am grateful that He has blessed them through these discussions. I trust that God will continue to teach me His ways through my trials…

In verses 13-15, the psalmist resolves to fulfill the vows that they made to God during a recent trial. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 14:

What we were so eager to vow, we should be equally earnest to perform…All people have trouble, but they act not in the same manner while under it; the profane take to swearing and the godly to praying. Both bad and good have been known to resort to vowing, but the one is a liar unto God, and the other a conscientious respecter of his word.

I can recall a trial where I made a vow to God that I would fulfill if He delivered me from the predicament in question. After He delivered me from that predicament, I failed to fulfill that vow. That is a sobering example of the inherent danger in making vows, as it is distressingly simple to break a vow – especially in the midst of relative prosperity, where one does not regularly reflect on God’s sustaining grace. Instead of making a vow to God in the midst of a trial, perhaps we should ask Him to simply help us reflect on His blessings when we are not in the midst of a trial.

Psalm 65 August 30, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 65.

Summary: In this passage, David praises God, since He:

  • answers prayers
  • forgives the sins of His people
  • uses His temple to bless His people
  • created the world
  • rules over His creation
  • elicits worship from His creation
  • uses water to nourish the land
  • uses the land to nourish the animals.

Thoughts: The title note for this psalm indicates that it is “a psalm of David.” Yet the sidebar note for verse 4 in my NIV Study Bible asserts that:

Most scholars feel that David did not write this psalm, despite the credit given to him in the title. Some think the phrase of David may have meant in the manner or style of David. Others observe that some titles were added years later, after the exile in Babylon, and such additions occasionally may have been inaccurate.

Spurgeon does not address this issue in his commentary, causing me to ponder questions such as: who was the actual author of this psalm? If David was not its author, what were his thoughts on the phrase “a psalm of David” in its title note? Are there other misattributions in the Psalms – and if so, which psalms include (arguably) misleading title notes? How did the original audience of this psalm view the phrase “a psalm of David?” I anticipate meeting David – and, potentially, the actual author of this psalm – and probing him on these points.

In verse 7, the psalmist notes that God exercises His sovereignty over the nations. Spurgeon offers a thought on this point:

Canute had not a more perilous seat by the rising billows than many a king and emperor has had when the multitude have been set on mischief, and have grown weary of their lords.

I had not heard of Canute before I read this quote; thus, I was inspired to learn about him. My understanding is that Canute encountered some difficulties in his quest to assume the English throne; once he assumed the throne, his reign was relatively peaceful and prosperous. Thus, I wonder what Spurgeon meant when he asserted that Canute’s position was “perilous,” and I hope to probe him on that point in the next life. In any event, Spurgeon’s quote is yet another example of the fascinating historical nuggets that one encounters while strolling through Crossway Classic Commentaries.

Psalm 64 August 25, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 64.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would protect him from those who plot his demise. Indeed, they assault him with their words and revel in the brilliance of their morbid schemes.

Yet he is confident that God will assault them with their words and effect their (shameful) demise. All will ruminate on His actions in his defense; moreover, His people will praise Him and renew their trust in Him.

Thoughts: Here, David notes the verbal assaults of his opponents. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 3:

Slander has ever been the master weapon of the good man’s enemies, and great is the care of the malicious to use it effectively. As warriors grind their swords, to give them an edge which will cut deep and wound desperately, so do the unscrupulous invent falsehoods calculated to inflict pain, to stab the reputation, to kill the honor of the righteous.

One of the themes of the Davidic psalms is that his enemies assault him with their words. Note that the NIV section heading of 2 Samuel 15:1-12 is “Absalom’s Conspiracy,” referencing Absalom’s (ultimately futile) revolt against David. This spurred me to ponder questions such as: when David references verbal assaults in his psalms, was he only reflecting on that particular incident? Did he thwart other coup attempts that were not mentioned in 2 Samuel? If so, who hatched those plots? Who were the other aspirants to the throne? Did they believe that they were honoring God with their schemes? Did any of them repent of their wickedness?

Psalm 63 August 24, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 63.

Summary: In this passage, David yearns for God, as he has been exiled from Jerusalem. He reflects on previous divine encounters in the tabernacle; these pleasant memories compel him to praise and glorify Him in the midst of this severe trial.

Moreover, he declares that God will sustain him and deliver him from his suffering. Thus, he – and the people of God – will praise Him with their songs. In contrast, his enemies will be silenced – and destroyed.

Thoughts: Verses 1-5 form the basis of “O God My God”. A quick Google search reveals that this song was written by Bob Kauflin. I hope to meet him at some point and and learn how he composed those memorable lyrics. How did this passage inspire him at that time? Did he consider weaving verses 6-11 into this song? On a related note, this song helped sustain me through a severe trial many years ago. At that time, I made several blunders that caused me to question the meaning and purpose of my life. Yet God was at work during that trial; He sustained me in the midst of my weakness and helped me grow closer to my best friend from college. Whenever I hear this song, I reflect on that trial and thank God for His grace to me, a poor sinner.

In verses 9-11, David expresses his confidence that those who would rejoice in his demise will be destroyed. These verses are part of an intriguing trend that I have noticed in my stroll through the Psalms, i.e. David never names his enemies and opponents. Even in Psalm 52, which, according to its title note, was composed in response to the actions of Doeg the Edomite, David references a “mighty hero” instead of naming his adversary. Did David make a conscious effort to omit the names of his opponents when composing his psalms? If so, did he intend that these psalms be applied to other contexts? Did he intend to humble his enemies by refusing to name them – compelling them to repent of their sinfulness? I hope to meet him in the next life and probe him on this point.

Psalm 62 August 16, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 62.

Summary: In this passage, David asserts that God is the source of his salvation and security.

He then notes the efforts of his enemies to undermine him. Yet he is not troubled by their plots, reaffirming God as His divine protector. Moreover, he exhorts His people to view Him as the source of their salvation and security.

After asserting that all men are ephemeral – regardless of their station – he exhorts the people of God to reject worldly wealth as the source of their salvation and security.

He concludes by praising God for:

  • His strength and love
  • the fact that He blesses His people.

Thoughts: This passage forms the basis of “Psalm 62”. A quick Google search reveals that this song was written by Aaron Keyes. I hope to meet him at some point and and learn how he composed those memorable lyrics. How did this passage inspire him at that time? How did he decide to weave certain verses into this song? Why did he omit verses 11 and 12 from this song? On a related note, as modern-day believers, how does this passage impact our thoughts, words and deeds? Do we actually “trust in him at all times,” or does our confidence (frequently) waver? Do our souls actually “find rest in God?” These are challenging verses, but we must confront them.

In verse 9, David asserts that regardless of one’s station, their lives are relatively short. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

We gain little by putting our trust in the aristocracy; they are not one whit better than the democracy. May we not trust the elite? Surely reliance may be placed in the educated, the chivalrous, the intelligent? For this reason are they a lie: because they promise so much, and in the end, when relied upon, yield nothing but disappointment. The more we rely upon God, the more we shall perceive the utter hollowness of every other confidence.

David’s assertion – and Spurgeon’s thoughts – are germane to our modern context, as we wrestle with the effects of economic inequality. One thought is that since Confucianism stresses respect for authority, modern-day believers of Asian descent may naturally “trust the elite”, especially as one can readily quantify their achievements. Yet believers are called to reject “the elite” as the source of our confidence; instead, we should “rely upon God.” What does it mean to “rely upon God?” Can we rely on our military and other first responders? How should we reconcile Spurgeon’s thoughts with New Testament commands to respect our governing authorities?

Psalm 61 August 11, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 61.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would continue to protect him from the assaults of his enemies. Moreover, since he worships Him, he desires His perpetual presence.

He then offers a general prayer for God’s perpetual blessings on each monarch of Israel.

He concludes by asserting that if God answers his prayers, then he will worship Him perpetually.

Thoughts: In verse 2, David states that he is calling on God from a remote location. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

To be absent from the place of divine worship was a sore sorrow to saints in the olden times; they looked upon the tabernacle as the center of the world, and they counted themselves to be at the end of the universe when they could no longer resort to the sacred shrine; their heart was heavy as in a strange land when they were banished from its solemnities.

As a believer in a First World country, I am thankful that I can exercise my freedom of religion. Indeed, I do not face any obstacles in terms of attending my church for Sunday worship. Perhaps I – and other believers in similar circumstances – should be more mindful of our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate in this regard (e.g. the Shouwang Church in Beijing). Can our cognizance of their suffering enable us to worship Him more fervently in His house? How should we pray for them, especially as they face strong opposition? How can God work through us to bless them in concrete ways?