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Psalm 45 June 16, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 45.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah present an epithalamium to the king of Israel, where they:

  • proclaim his virtues – which are manifestations of God’s grace
  • pray for his continued success on the battlefield
  • extol the beauty of his bride
  • exhort her to devote herself to him
  • proclaim the permanence of His kingdom.

Thoughts: This psalm was written to celebrate a royal wedding in Israel. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

This song has the King for its only subject, and for the King’s honor alone was it composed…The psalmist wrote of what he had personally tasted and handled concerning the King.

While I agree that the ultimate object of this psalm should be God Himself, I am fairly certain that its original object was the contemporary ruler of Israel. That elicited questions such as: who was the contemporary ruler of Israel? Who was his royal bride, and how he make her acquaintance? How did he “love righteousness and hate wickedness?” Did the psalmist have any conception of the Messiah when they penned these verses? If so, did they view Him as this psalm’s ultimate object? Was this psalm composed before Israel was divided into northern and southern kingdoms?

In verse 4, the psalmist exhorts his sovereign to fight for God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

It is a most potent argument to urge with our Lord that the cause of the true, the humble, and the good calls for his advocacy. Truth will be ridiculed, meekness oppressed, and righteousness slain unless the God, the Man in whom these precious things are incarnated, rises for their vindication. Our earnest petition ought ever to be that Jesus lay his almighty arm to the work of grace lest the good cause languish and wickedness prevail.

This verse, along with the note in verse 2 that the monarch is “the most excellent of men…since God has blessed you forever” and the notes in verses 6 and 7 concerning justice and righteousness, respectively, imply that the monarch maintains his authority because his words and deeds conform to the standard that God has set for him. This is a valuable reminder that while the monarch has many virtues – as evidenced by this psalm – he relies on God to sustain and strengthen him. Moreover, if his words and deeds failed to conform to God’s standard, then the promises in verses 16 and 17 would be nullified. Perhaps we can apply this psalm to our modern context by adopting a more balanced view of our human leaders, since they also derive their authority from God.

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Psalm 44 June 16, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 44.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah begin by praising God, as He:

  • enabled their forefathers to conquer the Promised Land
  • has made them triumphant on the battlefield.

In light of these truths, they lament the fact that God has recently allowed their enemies to rout them – and make sport of them.

They are baffled by that fact, as they have not violated the terms of the covenant that He made with them. In particular, they have not committed idolatry.

Thus, they conclude by exhorting God – on the basis of His mercy and steadfast love – to succor them.

Thoughts: In verses 1-8, the psalmist praises God for the military triumphs that He has granted His people. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 2:

With judgments and plagues the condemned nations were harassed, by fire and sword they were hunted to the death, till they were all expelled, and the enemies of Israel were banished far away…The weight of mercy bestowed on Israel is balanced by the tremendous vengeance which swept the thousands of Amorites and Hittites down to hell.

These verses caused me to ponder the challenges – and blessings – of serving in the Israelite army during Biblical times. Would I have been paralyzed by fear at the sight of the opposing army, especially if they appeared to be well-armed and well-trained? Would the words of leaders including Joshua and David have inspired me to slay those who fought against my God? Would I have perished in battle? Perhaps I will meet at least some of those Israelite soldiers in the next life and hear how God empowered them on the battlefield.

In verses 17-22, the psalmist appeals to God, asserting that His people have not committed idolatry. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 21:

Could such idolatry be concealed from him…Not the heart only which is secret, but the secrets of the heart, which are secrets of the most secret thing, are as open to God as a book to a reader. The reasoning is that the Lord himself knew the people to be sincerely his followers, and therefore was not visiting them for sin; affliction evidently came from quite another cause.

Given my understanding of the relationship between God and His people in the Old Testament, I am skeptical of the psalmist’s assertions in this passage. Had Israel actually fulfilled the requirements of their covenant with God? Had they actually maintained their spiritual purity – especially in light of the temptation to worship the gods of their pagan neighbors? When was this psalm written, and what was its context? Who had triumphed over Israel on the battlefield? I hope to meet the Sons of Korah in the next life and probe them on this point.

In verses 23 and 24, the psalmist wrestles with God, calling on Him to deliver His people. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 24:

Not petulantly, but piteously and inquiringly, we may question the Lord when his dealings are mysterious. We are permitted arguments. Why, Lord, dost thou become oblivious of thy children’s woes? This question is far more easily asked than answered.

Spurgeon’s thoughts have resonated with me in the midst of recent trials. Indeed, we can be thankful that God has given us the freedom to wrestle with Him while He puts us to the test – instead of commanding us to refrain from thoughts and words of protest. That being said, how can we tell when our queries have become more petulant than piteous? How can we properly wrestle with Him – while maintaining our fundamental trust and confidence in Him? I do not claim to have any deep insights on this topic; at this point, I simply ask Him for sufficient grace and strength to (genuinely) count my blessings on a daily basis.

Psalm 43 June 9, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 43.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah pray that God would:

  • vindicate them
  • deliver them from their opponents
  • enable them to worship Him in His house.

While they cannot fathom their predicament, they maintain their trust in Him.

Thoughts: In verse 5, the psalmist reaffirms their confidence in God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Wherefore indulge unreasonable sorrows, which benefit no one, fret yourself, and dishonor your God? Why overburden yourself with forebodings?

This verse – which appears twice in the preceding passage – encouraged me during a recent trial. While I pondered this verse, I made the following conjecture: we cannot expect a believer to initially respond to unwelcome tidings by exclaiming “praise God!” Indeed, a normal initial response to adverse circumstances includes feelings of shock, sadness, anger, etc. In light of this conjecture, I view the key words in the above-mentioned quote as “indulge” and “overburden.” While our initial response may be sorrowful, at some point we must decide to place our ultimate trust in God Himself. We must eventually resolve to allow the Holy Spirit to shape our words and deeds even in the midst of our difficulties. In this way we will see Him sustaining us through the vicissitudes of life.

Psalm 42 June 8, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 42.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah covet the presence of God. They are severely wounded by the taunts of those who assert that God has abandoned them; moreover, they lament the fact that they cannot worship Him in His house.

Yet they maintain their confidence in God, as He has sustained – and continues to sustain – them in the midst of severe trials.

Thoughts: In verse 1, the psalmist laments their separation from God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Debarred from public worship, David was heartsick. Ease he did not seek, honor he did not covet, but the enjoyment of communion with God was an urgent and absolute necessity, like water to a stag.

When I read Spurgeon’s thoughts, I was – and remain – baffled by them. Did Spurgeon completely overlook the title note that this psalm was “a maskil of the Sons of Korah”? Was Spurgeon’s error actually introduced in the editorial process for this Crossway Classic commentary? Was this title note added after Spurgeon wrote his original commentary? We do know that David could not have been a member of the Sons of Korah, as he belonged to the house of Judah – while the Korahites belonged to the house of Levi. I hope to meet Spurgeon in the next life and resolve this issue.

Verse 1 forms the basis of “As The Deer”. A quick Google search reveals that this song was written by Martin Nystrom. This link describes how Nystrom composed these memorable lyrics. I hope to meet Nystrom some day and learn more about his walk with God – especially his spiritual peaks and valleys. On a related note, as modern-day believers, we should evaluate verse 1; do we truly “pant” for the presence of God? Is He a mere accessory to our existence? If the former is true, how does He actually quench our spiritual “thirst”? If the latter is true, how should we reorient our souls to pursue Him?

Psalm 41 June 7, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 41.

Summary: In this passage, David asserts that those who seek the best interests of the less fortunate are “lucky bums” – as God will enable them to defeat severe illness and their enemies.

He then draws strength from this assertion, as he is severely ill; moreover, his enemies – including a close friend – delight in his condition and anticipate his demise. Thus, he prays that God would enable him to defeat his illness and his enemies – while reaffirming his confidence in Him.

He concludes with a doxology.

Thoughts: In verse 9, David bemoans the fact that a close friend has betrayed him. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

“The man of my peace,” so runs the original, with whom I had no differences, with whom I was in league, who had before ministered to my peace and comfort. This was Iscariot with our Lord: an apostle, admitted to the privacy of the great Teacher. The kiss of the traitor wounded our Lord’s heart as much as the nail wounded his hand.

Who was this close friend who chose to betray David? My (admittedly hazy) recollection of 1 and 2 Samuel spurred me to compile the following short list of hypotheses:

  • Jonathan; this would be odd, as we have no record of Jonathan betraying David
  • Absalom; this would also be odd, as it would seem more natural for David to refer to Absalom as his “son,” not a “close friend”
  • King Saul; I am most intrigued by this hypothesis.

A complicating factor is that we do not know when this betrayal occurred. Thus, I hope to meet David in the next life and probe him on this point.

This psalm concludes with a brief doxology. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

So let it surely, firmly, and eternally be. Thus the people joined in the psalm by a double shout of holy affirmation; let us unite in it with all our hearts. This last verse may serve for the prayer of the universal church in all ages, but none can sing it so sweetly as those who have experienced as David did the faithfulness of God in times of extremity.

This psalm marks the end of Book 1 of the Psalms. Overall I would say that I have mixed feelings after completing this “mini-stroll.” Some passages – especially those where David extols the wisdom, power, and sovereignty of God in creating and sustaining the universe – spur me to praise and glorify Him. Other passages – especially those where David makes sweeping assertions concerning the goodness of God towards His people – spur me to wrestle with Him. I am curious as to how my feelings on the Psalms will evolve as I stroll through Book 2.

Psalm 40 June 2, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 40.

Summary: In this passage, David declares that God has delivered him from a predicament; thus, he praises Him – and declares that others will follow his example. After contrasting the omnipotence of God with the impotence of false deities, he asserts that his desire to honor God is manifested in words – and deeds – of praise.

He concludes by praying that God would:

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

Thoughts: Here, David displays his confidence in God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

Patient waiting upon God was a special characteristic of our Lord Jesus. All through his agony in the garden, his trial of cruel mockings before Herod and Pilate, and his passion on the tree, he waited in omnipotence of patience. No glance of wrath, no word of murmuring, no deed of vengeance came from God’s patient Lamb. And shall we be petulant and rebellious?

While Spurgeon’s thoughts are correct, I am curious as to why he chose to apply this passage to Jesus. The reference to “my sins” in verse 12 implies that this passage should (at least in some sense) refer to David himself. I am also unaware of any New Testament references to this passage that attribute it to Jesus. Thus, I anticipate meeting David and Spurgeon in the next life and probing them on this point. Did David intend that this passage be interpreted as a Messianic psalm? How would he have responded to Spurgeon’s interpretation of it?

In verses 9 and 10, David asserts that he proclaims the excellence of God in the presence of “the great assembly.” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 9:

Hide not your lights, but reveal to others what your God has revealed to you, and especially by your lives testify for holiness, be champions for the right, both in word and deed.

This is a valuable reminder that we should anticipate – and capitalize on – opportunities to praise God for His work in our lives. These words of praise can strengthen and encourage fellow believers; they can also have a positive impact on nonbelievers. Spurgeon’s thoughts are especially pertinent when we are in the midst of – or have overcome – severe trials. Recounting God’s abundant provision of grace and strength in the midst of our afflictions can equip others for similar trials.

Psalm 39 May 26, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 39.

Summary: In this passage, David recounts an instance where God punished him for his sins. At that time, he implored Him to be merciful to him – especially given that:

  • life is short
  • his enemies increase his misery with their mockery.

Thoughts: In verses 4-6, David reflects on the relative brevity of human life. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 6:

Men fret, and fume, and worry, and all for mere nothing. Read well this text, and then listen to the clamor of the market, the hum of the exchange, the din of the city streets, and remember that all this noise (for so the word means) is made about unsubstantial, fleeting vanities.

Reports of someone’s passing – especially one in the prime of their life – often compel us to confront the fact that we cannot control our lives. That being said, my conjecture is that humans are not naturally inclined to constantly reflect on the brevity of life, as that would fuel undue mental stress and anxiety. A more salubrious approach entails regular reflection on the meaning and purpose of our lives; do we strive to serve and honor God through our words and deeds? Do we endeavor to seek the good of others? These reflections lead to righteous thoughts, words and deeds – preparing us for the time when we, too, pass from this life.

After strolling through this passage, I struggled to comprehend David’s initial refusal to speak in the presence of the wicked. Was he afraid that he would accidentally unjustly blame God for his misery? Was he fearful that he would reject the authority of God in the midst of his pain? Was he tempted to castigate his enemies? Acting on these impulses would support his enemies’ assertions that his righteous image was actually a facade. How did they respond to his statements in this passage? Did his prayers chastise them? Were they angered by his mention of “fools” in verse 8?

Psalm 38 May 25, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 38.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would not be overzealous in punishing him for his sins. Indeed, he is already in abject misery; moreover, his enemies plan to destroy him. Thus, he offers a prayer of contrition and asks God to rescue him.

Thoughts: In this passage, David waxes poetic on the effects of his sins. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 2:

God’s law applied by the Spirit to the conviction of the soul confronts sin, wounds deeply and rankles long; it is an arrow not lightly to be brushed out by careless mirthfulness, or to be extracted by the flattering hand of self-righteousness. The Lord knows how to shoot so that his bolts not only strike but stick.

While I sin on a daily basis, occasionally I commit sins that genuinely prick my conscience, where I believe that I could have controlled my actions. At such times, I am acutely aware that God is displeased with me; moreover, I sense that a gulf has opened between us, and I regret the fact that I have disappointed Him. These feelings spur me to earnestly pray for mercy and forgiveness, as I cannot bear to be out of fellowship with Him; moreover, I earnestly pray that I would be cleansed of the sin in question.

In verses 13 and 14, David states that he was rendered deaf and mute during his punishment. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 13:

Well and bravely was this done. A sacred indifference to the slanders of malevolence is true courage and wise policy. It is well to be as if we could not hear or see…David was eminently typical of our Lord Jesus, whose marvelous silence before Pilate was far more eloquent than words. To abstain from self-defense is often most difficult, and frequently most wise.

Now a note in my NIV Study Bible regarding these verses includes the assertion that David was effectively “catatonic with inner distress.” Thus, I am curious: which of these interpretations is correct? Did David intentionally refrain from responding to the taunts of his enemies – or did his deep sense of guilt overwhelm his brain? I anticipate meeting him in the next life and querying him on this point.

In verses 17-20, David confesses his sins while asserting that his enemies are unjustly plotting against him. Spurgeon offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 20:

This verse is not inconsistent with the writer’s previous confession; we may feel deeply guilty before God, and yet be entirely innocent of any wrong to our fellow-men. It is one sin to acknowledge the truth, quite another thing to submit to be belied.

Admittedly, when I first strolled through this passage, I wrestled with this point. I wondered, “how could David confess his sins – yet then declare that his enemies wrongly plotted against him? Were his enemies aware of his sins? If so, did they leverage their knowledge in forming their accusations against him?” Given that we do not know the context of this passage, we cannot be certain that David was truly innocent of the charges that he faced. I anticipate meeting him in the next life and probing him on this point.

Psalm 37 May 19, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 37.

Summary: In this passage, David exhorts the people of God to:

  • remain calm in light of the ostensible prosperity of the wicked – as He will condemn and punish the wicked
  • maintain their confidence in God – as He will vindicate and bless them.

Thoughts: Many believers – including me – enjoy reciting verse 4, yet we often fail to consider its context. In particular, not long after the 2015 San Bernardino attack, I attended a Bible study at a church that I was visiting. The pastor who led that study used that tragedy to help us grasp the thrust of this passage: although the wicked perpetrate their crimes, David exhorts the people of God to hold fast to Him. Now, whenever current events appear to advance the kingdom of Satan, I meditate on this verse and resolve to maintain my confidence in God, trusting that He will finally defeat Satan at some definite point in the future.

Throughout this passage, David draws a sharp contrast between the destiny of the righteous and the destiny of the wicked. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 36:

If we inquire for the ungodly, they have left no trace; like birds of ill omen, none desire to remember them. Some of the humblest of the ungodly are immortalized, their names are imperishably fragrant in the church, while of the ablest of unbelievers and blasphemers hardly their names are remembered beyond a few years. Only virtue is immortal.

I should note that the mention of “ungodly” in the second sentence may be a typo, i.e. I believe Spurgeon meant to state, “the humblest of the godly.” In any event, Spurgeon’s note caused me to ponder how various historical figures are remembered (or forgotten) today. I conjecture that at least some wicked people have been forgotten at this point; other wicked people (e.g. Hitler) are remembered today, yet many loathe their memories in light of the evil that they perpetrated. I would also conjecture that at least some righteous people have been forgotten at this point; other righteous people (e.g. Dietrich Bonhoeffer) are remembered today, and many cherish their memories, marveling at their good words and deeds.

In verse 40, David asserts that God rescues those who trust in Him. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Not their merit, but their believing, will distinguish them. Who would not try the walk of faith? Whoever truly believes in God will be no longer fretful against the apparent irregularities of this present life, but will rest assured that what is mysterious is nevertheless just, and what seems hard is, beyond a doubt, ordered in mercy.

While strolling through this book, I occasionally fell into the trap of assuming that Spurgeon failed to fully comprehend the difficulties of “this present life.” Thus, I was encouraged by this quote, as it revealed the folly of my assumption. The fact that Spurgeon references “apparent irregularities…that which is mysterious…what seems hard” indicates that he wrestled with many of the same issues that trouble modern-day believers – yet he would not allow those issues to sever his relationship with God. We would do well to emulate Spurgeon’s example in this regard.

Psalm 36 May 19, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 36.

Summary: In this passage, David declares that because the wicked do not fear God, their thoughts, words, and deeds are sinful. He then contrasts their wickedness with God and His righteousness.

He praises Him, as He has abundantly blessed His people. He concludes by praying that He would continue to bless His people and protect him – while punishing the wicked.

Thoughts: Verses 5-7 form the basis of “Your Love Oh Lord”. A quick Google search reveals that this song was written by the members of Third Day. I hope to meet them at some point and and learn how they composed those memorable lyrics. How did this passage inspire them at that time? Since this passage includes a sharp contrast between the wicked in verses 1-4 and God in verses 5-9, did they consider that context while composing these lyrics? Did they consider weaving other sections of this passage into that song? On a related note, as modern-day believers, we should evaluate verses 5-7; are we cognizant of the extent of God’s love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice? Do the cares of this world distract us from meditating on His excellence?

In verse 9, David asserts the revelatory nature of God’s light. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

The Lord alone can give natural, intellectual, and spiritual life. In spiritual things the knowledge of God sheds a light on all other subjects. We need no candle to see the sun; we see it by its own radiance, and then see everything else by the same light. We never see Jesus by the light of self, but self in the light of Jesus.

I have previously noted that my knowledge of God has enhanced my love of math and science; indeed, I believe that those disciplines point to Him and His excellence. That being said, I am struggling with the notion that the knowledge of God can enhance my understanding of evil and suffering. I know that evil and suffering sharpen the contrast between the unholiness of man and the holiness of God. Yet I wonder: when will this contrast be “fully” sharpened? Does this world need to experience more evil and suffering? When will God’s holiness be fully revealed, and why must others suffer before that time? These are challenging queries, and I pray that He would not tarry in responding to them.