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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…

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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).

Psalm 8 January 26, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 8.

Summary: In this passage, David begins with a burst of praise to God. He then marvels at the contrast between the sublimity of the heavens and the ordinariness of mankind. In light of this contrast, he marvels at His condescension to mankind – fulfilled in His Son, Jesus Christ, whom He has given ultimate authority over His entire creation. He concludes by reiterating his burst of praise.

Thoughts: In verses 3 and 4, David marvels at the scope of God’s creation. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Astronomy shows us what an insignificant being man appears amidst the immensity of creation. Though he is an object of the paternal care and mercy of the Most High, yet he is but as a grain of sand to the whole earth, when compared to the countless myriads of beings that people the amplitudes of creation.

While I am not an amateur astronomer, I do fondly recall watching the Powers of Ten films as a student. This passage reminds me of my trips to Banff National Park and Denali National Park. On both of those occasions, I marveled at God’s creation, gazing at glacier-fed lakes and pondering the intricacies of orogenesis. I felt insignificant compared to the scope of God’s creation, and I was compelled to praise God for His wisdom and power as displayed in His creation (including the underlying math and science). Indeed, those memories spur me to thank my omniscient and omnipotent God for His amazing condescension to humanity. I am grateful that He has chosen to initiate and cultivate a personal relationship with this particular facet of His handiwork.

Psalm 7 January 26, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 7.

Summary: In this passage, David begins by praying that God would deliver him from his pursuers. After asserting his righteousness, he asks God to vindicate him – and punish his (unrighteous) pursuers. He then proclaims the fate of the unrighteous before praising God and His righteousness.

Thoughts: I anticipate meeting David in the next life and plying him with questions concerning the context of this psalm. For example, who was Cush the Benjamite? Was Cush a follower of Saul? Why was Cush pursuing him? Did Cush plan to kill him (or merely capture him)? How did God deliver him from Cush? Did Cush die a violent death? On a related note, this appears to be the first somewhat mysterious introductory note in the Psalms. I wonder if I will encounter others during my stroll through this book…

In verse 6, David exhorts God to wake up and judge those who unjustly pursue him. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

This is a bolder utterance still, for it implies sleep as well as inactivity, and can only be applied to God in a very limited sense. He never slumbers, yet he often seems to do so; for the wicked prevail, and the saints are trodden in the dust. God’s silence is the patience of longsuffering, and if wearisome to the saints, they should bear it cheerfully in the hope that sinners may thereby be led to repentance.

Believers throughout the ages have wrestled with God, asking Him why He allows evil to reign in the world. Those of us who follow current events are acutely aware of oppression in various countries, and we ask God why He does not immediately punish those who oppress others. Indeed, we may even harbor doubts of either His ability or His willingness to punish oppressors. In such instances, we must hold fast to Him, renewing our faith in His righteousness and omnipotence. Perhaps we can be encouraged by testimonies of God’s work in the world through His people, as such accounts remind us that He is not idle.

Psalm 6 January 18, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 6.

Summary: In this passage, David beseeches God to have mercy on him by delivering him from his enemies. Although his heart is heavy, he is certain that God will answer his prayer.

Thoughts: The tone of this psalm shifts in verses 8-10. Thus, I am curious: did David compose this entire psalm in one sitting? If so, how did God sustain him through this emotional roller-coaster? If not, how long did David remain in a state of despair, and how did God eventually cause his enemies to “be put to shame?” I anticipate querying David on this point in the next life. I am also curious as to whether other psalms include conspicuous shifts in their tone; if so, did David compose all of them?

Psalm 5 January 14, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 5.

Summary: In this passage, David lifts up a prayer to God – while drawing a sharp contrast between two parties.

The first party consists of those – including David – who are in a right relationship with God. God invites them into His presence; moreover, His favor is upon them. David prays that He would always show His favor to them.

The second party consists of those who are not in a right relationship with God. God banishes them from His presence, as He abhors their sinful deeds. David prays that they would be punished for their actions.

Thoughts: In verse 3, David states that he prays in the morning. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

This is the fittest time for conversation with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.

I should note that in the morning, I read a passage from Scripture (usually with the aid of a commentary); I also pray, albeit briefly. Now I do pray for an extended period in the evening before I go to sleep, as I believe that it allows me to review the events of each day with God. On a related note, one of my friends from a previous church shared that he actually prays for an hour in the morning after he wakes up. Currently, I lack the discipline to wake up early and pray for an extended period in the morning, so I believe that I will adhere to my current approach for the time being.

In verse 9, David makes the following assertion concerning the wicked: “their throat is an open grave.” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

A sepulchre is full of loathsomeness, pestilence and death, and an open sepulchre has all its evil gases issuing to spread death and destruction all around. So with the throat of the wicked, it would be a great mercy if it could always be closed. All the wickedness of their heart exhales.

As believers, we must wrestle with this question: how can we maintain meaningful relationships with nonbelievers – while still honoring God with our thoughts, words and deeds? If our non-believing friend expresses an opinion on a topic that is incompatible with our Christian worldview, should we debate them on that point? Is it ever appropriate to sacrifice a relationship with a nonbeliever to maintain our holiness? How can we recognize unholy influences and minimize their negative impact on our walk with God? These are challenging questions, but we must not shy away from them.