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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.

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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?

Psalm 60 August 10, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 60.

Summary: In this passage, David laments the fact that God has brought calamities on His people. Thus, he prays that He would:

  • deliver His people from these calamities – thereby reasserting His sovereignty over Israel and her neighbors
  • enable him to subdue the foes of Israel.

Thoughts: The title note for this passage indicates that it was written when David and Joab fought the Arameans and the Edomites. The associated sidebar note in my NIV Study Bible references 1 Chronicles 19:6-19. I was baffled by that reference, though, since it describes an Israelite triumph over the Arameans and the Ammonites; moreover, it does not mention the Edomites. That caused me to ponder questions such as:

  • Did David suffer any setbacks during his campaign against the Arameans that were not described in that passage in 1 Chronicles?
  • Did David suffer any setbacks at the hands of the Edomites?
  • Did this title note actually refer to the humiliation of David’s envoys in 1 Chronicles 19:1-5?

I anticipate probing him on these points in the next life.

In verse 9, David asks who will enable him to defeat the Edomites. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

As yet the interior fortresses of Edom had not been subdued. Their invading bands had been slain in the valley of salt, and David intended to push his conquests to Petra, the city of the rock, deemed to be impregnable.

Spurgeon’s note inspired me to learn more about Petra. I was humbled by the sharp contrast between that city’s salient role in the spice trade and its subsequent status as a ghost town; one can only speculate as to whether the earthquake in 551 AD that hastened its decline was a divine act of judgment. As modern-day believers, what can we learn from the story of Petra? One thought is that today’s prominent cities could be tomorrow’s ghost towns. If so, then this should spur us to continually shift our focus from that the temporal to the eternal. While we are naturally inclined to focus on current events, God calls us to adopt a more expansive view of history.

Psalm 59 August 4, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 59.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would rescue him from Saul – and the men whom Saul has sent to watch his house – since he is blameless in His sight. Moreover, he calls on God to punish all who ultimately oppose Him.

He then notes that his enemies reject God’s holiness and sovereignty by sinning with their mouths. Thus, he prays that He would punish them, causing all to accept His holiness and sovereignty.

He asserts his confidence in God, as He can – and will – protect him. Thus, he will praise Him with his mouth.

Thoughts: In verses 11-13, David prays that God would eradicate his enemies. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 13:

When sin is manifestly punished it is a valuable lesson to all mankind. The overthrow of a Napoleon is a homily for all monarchs, the death of a Tom Paine a warning to all infidels, the siege of Paris a sermon to all cities.

When I read this quote, I wondered whether Spurgeon was referencing Thomas Paine. After a quick Google search, that seems to be the case; in particular, while I knew that Paine had written “Common Sense,” I did not know that he had also written “Age of Reason,” where he inveighed against orthodox Christianity. Apparently many Christians responded to that work by ostracizing him; in fact, only a few mourners attended his funeral. I must admit that these Crossway Classic commentaries, which do have their flaws, contain some fascinating historical nuggets.

In verses 14-16, David draws a sharp contrast between the speech of the wicked and the speech of the righteous. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 16:

The wicked howl, but I sing. Their power is weakness, but thine is omnipotence; I see them vanquished and thy power victorious, and forever will I sing of thee…When those lovers of darkness find their game is up, and their midnight howlings die away, then will I lift up my voice on high and praise the lovingkindness of God without fear of being disturbed.

These verses caused me to ponder the importance of using our words to glorify God. While the fact that we are trapped in our frail bodies implies that we will sin with our words, we can consider questions such as:

  • When has He granted us the opportunity to pause before speaking?
  • When has God granted us opportunities to speak wisely?
  • How can we use our words to bless others?
  • If others use their words to curse others, how should we respond?

These are challenging questions, but we must confront them.

Psalm 58 August 3, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 58.

Summary: In this passage, David excoriates several authority figures who have misused their power – thereby harming others. He asserts that their actions stem from their innate wickedness, preventing them from responding to divine rebukes.

Thus, he prays that God would:

  • render them powerless
  • promptly eradicate them.

This will compel the righteous to rejoice, reminding them that God is just – and sovereign over these authority figures.

Thoughts: The title note for this psalm indicates that it should be recited “To the tune of ‘Do Not Destroy.'” I noticed that “Do Not Destroy” is also referenced in the title note for the previous psalm, causing me to ponder questions such as:

  • Why does a Selah appear at the end of verses 3 and 6 in the previous psalm – while no Selah appears in this psalm?
  • Given this discrepancy in Selahs, how was the same tune used to accompany both psalms?
  • Who was the composer of “Do Not Destroy?”
  • How was that tune chosen to accompany this psalm?
  • Did those who chose “Do Not Destroy” to accompany this psalm note the incongruity between the title of that tune and David’s prayer concerning the wicked in verses 6-10?

In verse 8, David prays that God would cause the wicked to be “like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Their character is shapeless, hideous, revolting. Their life never comes to ripeness, their sins are abortive, their only achievement is to have brought misery to others, and horror to themselves. Every unregenerate person is an abortion, missing the true form of God-manhood, corrupting in the darkness of sin, never seeing the light of God in purity, in heaven.

This is a challenging verse, especially as it may rankle modern sensibilities. Did God approve of this verse when David composed it? Did any of David’s female contemporaries castigate him for penning this verse? Was stillbirth viewed as a sign of God’s judgment? If Spurgeon were alive today, would he have revised his commentary on this verse? As modern-day believers, can this verse heighten our sense of God’s holiness and purity? Can this verse stoke our zeal for God and His righteousness? How can we strive against injustice?

Psalm 57 August 2, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 57.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would deliver him from Saul – who is attempting to trap and kill him.

He then asserts his confidence in God, declaring that He will answer his prayer, as He:

  • is sovereign over the heavens and the earth
  • is faithful
  • loves His people
  • will ensnare Saul in the trap that he has set for David.

Thus, he will praise Him both inwardly and outwardly.

Thoughts: The title note for this passage indicates that David composed it “when he had fled from Saul into the cave.” This caused me to ponder questions such as:

  • Did he have access to a writing instrument – and parchment – in that cave?
  • If so, did he use them to jot down this psalm?
  • If not, how did God enable him to organize his thoughts at that time?
  • Did he suffer a panic attack while he was in that cave?
  • If he did not jot down this psalm in that cave, how did God enable him to remember it?
  • Was this passage edited – by David and/or another writer – before it appeared in the Psalms?

David’s prayer in verse 5 is repeated in verse 11. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 5:

This is the chorus of the psalm. Before he has quite concluded his prayer, the good man interjects a verse of praise. Higher than the heavens is the Most High, and so high ought our praises to rise…Let thy praises be universally proclaimed. Let thy praises gird the earth with a zone of song.

I was drawn to these two verses as I strolled through this passage, and they caused me to ponder the following thought: in the midst of life’s distractions – and setbacks – it is helpful to meditate on God and His sublimity. We are naturally inclined to focus on mundane (and temporal) things, yet these verses call us to shift our focus to sublime (and permanent) things. How can our understanding of God’s sovereignty and glory shape our outlook on life? How can our sense of His excellence enable us to respond in faith to setbacks? How can we rest in His sublimity, trusting that He can – and will – make all things right in His timing?

Psalm 56 July 28, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 56.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would deliver him from the Philistines, who continuously seek to effect his demise. Indeed, they even attempt to manipulate his words to that end, increasing his sorrow.

Yet he is confident in God; he praises Him, knowing that He will protect him from those who are ultimately subject to Him.

He concludes by declaring that because God has answered his prayer, he will fulfill the vows that he made during his predicament; moreover, he will present offerings to Him with a spirit of thankfulness.

Thoughts: David’s declaration of his confidence in God in verses 3 and 4 also appears in verses 10 and 11. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 11:

This and the former verse are evidently the chorus of the psalm. We cannot be too careful of our faith, or see too sedulously that it is grounded on the Lord alone…Faith has banished fear. He views his foes in their most forcible character, calling them not flesh, but man, yet he dreads them not; though the whole race were his enemies he would not be afraid now that his trust is stayed on God.

These verses caused me to ponder questions such as: what was David’s understanding of life after death? Did he have any conception of being able to spend eternity with God in heaven? Did he have any notion of the immortality of his soul? When he proclaims his trust in God in these verses, was he declaring that God would not allow him to suffer an early death? Was he utterly convinced that he would not perish in the prime of his life? I should also note that these questions could be asked of any Old Testament figure – not just David.

In verses 12 and 13, David declares that God preserves his life. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 13:

Walking at liberty, in holy service, in sacred communion, in constant progress in holiness, enjoying the smile of heaven – this I seek after. Here is the loftiest reach of a good person’s ambition: to dwell with God, to walk in righteousness before him, to rejoice in his presence, and in the light and glory which it yields.

I was struck by the phrase, “constant progress in holiness,” as it reminds me of a small group meeting several years ago at my former church. One of the attendees, who happened to be a seeker, raised the following (apt) question: how do we, as believers, know that we are actually growing closer to God? I suppose that the notion of “closeness” is not readily quantifiable; one idea is that as one grows closer to God, their faith increases. This can be expressed by taking more risks that are intended to glorify God. Given this conjecture, how can we step outside of our comfort zone at any point in our walk with Him? What are the benefits – and challenges – of taking steps in that regard?

Psalm 55 July 27, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 55.

Summary: In this passage, David is deeply perturbed, since:

  • his enemies plan to effect his demise
  • their malicious thoughts and deeds have marred Jerusalem
  • a close friend has betrayed him by covertly joining their ranks.

Thus, he desires to flee from Jerusalem to an outpost.

Yet he resolves to call on God, asking Him to:

  • thwart the plans of his enemies
  • destroy them.

Indeed, he is confident that God will answer his prayer, as his enemies fail to acknowledge His authority.

He concludes by exhorting the people of God to emulate him by calling on God when they are deeply perturbed, since they acknowledge His authority.

Thoughts: During my stroll through the Psalms, I had only skimmed the title notes for each passage. For this passage, though, I was struck by the phrase, “For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David.” This caused me to ponder questions such as:

  • Who was “the director of music” when David composed this psalm?
  • The instruction “With stringed instruments” is vague to a modern-day reader; did David intend that only certain stringed instruments accompany this psalm?
  • Would the director of music – and the ensemble under his direction – have known which notes to play on their instruments?
  • What was their conception of dynamics, meter, pitch, and tempo?
  • What is the precise meaning of the word “maskil”?

In verse 15, David prays that his enemies would suffer an untimely demise. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Not thus would Jesus pray, but the rough soldier David so poured out the anguish of his spirit, under treachery and malice altogether unprovoked. The soldier desires the overthrow of his foes; for this very end he fights; David was waging a just, defensive war against men utterly regardless of truth and justice. Read the words as a warrior’s imprecation.

This verse caused me to ponder the following conjecture: God is not necessarily pleased by every word in the Scriptures. Since I find the concept of eternal punishment to be rather unpleasant, I refuse to pray that God would slay those who clearly oppose Him and His kingdom (I believe that they could not be saved after their passing). Even in the face of long odds, I pray that God would, in His timing, compel them to repent of their sins, allowing them to experience the joy of eternal life. Indeed, I wonder if David revisited this psalm in his declining years and regretted his imprecation in this verse.

In this passage, David is appalled by the disloyalty of a close friend. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 20:

The psalmist cannot forget the traitor’s conduct, and returns again to consider it…He smites those to whom he had given the hand of friendship, he breaks the bonds of alliance, he is perfidious to those who dwell at ease because of his friendly professions…The most solemn league he has profaned; he is regardless of oaths and promises.

One of the sidebar notes for this passage in my NIV Study Bible mentions that this psalm may have been written during the rebellion of Absalom; moreover, the close friend who is referenced here may have been Ahithophel. Thus, I anticipate meeting David in the next life and probing him on this point. What was the nature of his relationship with Ahithophel before Absalom rebelled against him? What were his thoughts and feelings when he learned that his trusted counselor had abandoned him, casting his lot with his favored son? How did he respond to the news that Ahithophel had committed suicide? Did he employ any counselors after Ahithophel’s death, and if so, did he harbor any doubts concerning their loyalty to him?

Psalm 54 July 19, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 54.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would deliver him from Saul and the Ziphites – who are attempting to slay him.

He then asserts his confidence in God, declaring that He will answer his prayer; moreover, He will enable him to defeat Saul and the Ziphites. Thus, he will praise Him.

Thoughts: Here, David declares that God will rescue him from his current predicament. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verses 6 and 7:

So certain is he of deliverance that he offers a vow by anticipation…Up to that time deliverance had come, and for that danger also he felt that rescue was near.

When I strolled through this passage, I noted the ostensibly abrupt transition between verses 5 and 6. Thus, I am curious: was this psalm written in one setting? If so, had God spoken to David in an audible voice, assuring him that He would deliver him in His timing? If this psalm was not written in one setting, what was the length of the delay between the composition of verses 5 and 6? I anticipate meeting David in the next life and delving into his writing process; did his approach vary from psalm to psalm?