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Psalm 53 July 14, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 53.

Summary: See my summary of Psalm 14.

Thoughts: This passage is notably similar to Psalm 14. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point; here is an excerpt from his commentary on verse 3:

The whole mass of humanity, all of it, is gone back. In Psalm 14 it was said to turn aside, which was bad enough, but here it is described as running in a diametrically opposite direction.

Also, here is an excerpt from his commentary on verse 5:

David sees the end of the ungodly, and the ultimate triumph of the spiritual. The rebellious march in fury against the gracious, but suddenly they are seized with a causeless panic. In this, Psalm 53 differs much from Psalm 14. It expresses a higher state of realization in the poet; he emphasizes the truth by stronger expressions.

I anticipate meeting David in the next life and delving into the context of these two psalms. Would he concur with Spurgeon’s commentary regarding the distinction between these passages? Did he compose both psalms – or did an unknown writer edit Psalm 14, yielding Psalm 53? Who were those who had abandoned David as he battled his adversaries? How did God deliver His people from “those who attacked [them]?” How did He fill His enemies with panic when “there was nothing to dread?”

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Psalm 52 July 13, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 52.

Summary: In this passage, David excoriates Doeg the Edomite, asserting that:

  • he is a prevaricator
  • his words promote wickedness
  • he places his confidence in his wealth
  • God will respond by punishing him
  • the righteous will rejoice at his comeuppance.

He then draws a sharp contrast between himself and Doeg, asserting that:

  • he places his confidence in God
  • God will respond by rewarding him
  • he will praise Him among His people.

Thoughts: Here, David asserts that God will punish Doeg the Edomite. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

Doeg had small matter for boasting in having procured the slaughter of a band of defenseless priests…The tyrant’s fury cannot dry up the stream of divine mercy. The Lord will outlive Doeg and right the wrongs which he has done.

Given my understanding of the story of Doeg, I was baffled by some of the quotes in this passage, including “you who practice deceit”, “you love…falsehood rather than speaking the truth”, and “the man who…trusted in his great wealth.” I assume that 1 Samuel – and this passage – do not constitute the complete record of the notable deeds of Doeg. Perhaps we should note, for now, that Doeg did not use his words to glorify God. While he did tell the truth concerning David’s visit to Ahimelech, he failed to grasp the connection between 1) David’s safety and 2) God’s desires for His people. Since his words essentially worked against God’s desires for His people, one could assert that he promoted “deceit” and “falsehood.”

Psalm 51 July 7, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 51.

Summary: In this passage, David beseeches God to show mercy to him, as he has committed adultery with Bathsheba and attempted to conceal that sin by murdering her husband, Uriah the Hittite.

He asserts that he has acted based on his inherent sinfulness – heightening the contrast between his sinfulness and God’s righteousness.

He then prays that God would:

  • cleanse him of his sins – not counting them against him
  • restore him to a right relationship with Him
  • incline his soul towards Him.

He then asserts that he will respond by praising Him – and exhorting other sinners to do likewise. Moreover, he will praise him based on an acute awareness of his inherent sinfulness.

He concludes by praying for the people of Israel – especially that they would praise Him based on an acute awareness of their inherent sinfulness.

Thoughts: I enjoyed reading the following note that Spurgeon included in the preface to his commentary:

In commenting upon some of [the Psalms], I have been overwhelmed with awe, and said with Jacob, “How dreadful is this place, it is none other than the house of God.” Especially was this the case with Psalm 51; I postponed expounding it week after week, feeling more and more my inability for the work. Often I sat down to it, and rose up again without having penned a line. It is a bush burning with fire yet not consumed, and out of it a voice seemed to cry to me, “Draw not nigh hither, put off thy shoes from off thy feet.” The psalm is very human, its cries and sobs are of one born of woman; but it is freighted with an inspiration all divine, as if the great Father were putting words into his child’s mouth. Such a psalm may be wept over, absorbed into the soul, and exhaled again in devotion; but, commented on – ah! where is he who having attempted it can do other than blush at his defeat?

Notwithstanding the last sentence, I approached Spurgeon’s commentary on this psalm with great anticipation in light of this note. Thus, I was displeased with the edited – and abridged, I assume – version that appeared in my Crossway Classic Commentary; my conjecture is that the original version was relatively lengthy and included a great deal of soul-searching. In light of this disappointment, I anticipate meeting Spurgeon in the next life and probing him on this point. Were his thoughts and feelings on this psalm influenced by any personal failings, e.g. temptations to commit adultery and/or murder? How long did it take for him to complete his commentary on this psalm? How did he eventually find the wisdom – and strength – to write it? How would he have responded to the abridged version that was produced by Alister McGrath and J.I. Packer?

In verses 18 and 19, David prays that God would bless Jerusalem – and the people of Israel. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 18:

Zion was David’s favorite spot, whereon he had hoped to erect a temple. He felt he had hindered the project honoring the Lord there as he desired, but he prayed God still to let the place of his ark be glorious, and to establish his worship and his worshiping people…He had done mischief by his sin, and has as it were polluted down her walls; he therefore implores the Lord to undo the evil and establish his church.

These two verses form an interesting conclusion to this famous psalm, and they call us to ponder the (potential) broader impact of our sinfulness. Can our personal failings lead others away from God? Can our ostensibly private sins hamper our public efforts to honor God? Can God respond to our sins by rejecting our acts of service – and not blessing those whom we desire to bless? While we should recoil at the fact that our personal failings damage our relationship with God, we should also consider how our wrong choices may hurt others. Perhaps such ruminations will spur us to be more circumspect in our private lives.

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.

Psalm 35 May 14, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 35.

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

  • fight against his enemies
  • cause their downfall – since they have unjustly plotted against him.

Indeed, he prayed for the health of his enemies – yet they responded by slandering and mocking him.

Thus, he reiterates his prayers; he also prays that those who support him would be able to rejoice and praise Him. He concludes by asserting that he will always praise Him.

Thoughts: In verses 11-16, David asserts that although he prayed for his enemies, they reveled in his misfortunes. Spurgeon offers a thought on this point in his commentary on verse 14:

This may refer to those days when David played on the harp, and chased away the evil spirit from Saul.

This caused me to ponder the following question: is 1 and 2 Samuel the complete record of the life of David? I wonder if the events that are recorded in these verses correspond to events in 1 and 2 Samuel – or if they can be found in extra-biblical texts. If these events were not recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel, was Samuel at least aware of them? If so, why did Samuel choose to omit them from 1 and 2 Samuel? Also, who were these “ruthless witnesses” and “assailants”, and what ailments caused David to pray for them?

In verse 13, David notes that God did not answer his prayers for his enemies. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Prayer is never lost; if it bless not those for whom intercession is made, it will bless the intercessors. Clouds do not always descend in showers upon the same spot from which the vapors ascended, but they come down somewhere and so do supplications in some place or other yield their showers of mercy.

We naturally expect that when we pray for others, God will grant our requests. When He does not choose to grant our requests, though, how should we respond to Him? We should consider the following questions:

  • How are we blessed when we present these requests to Him?
  • Do we place more of our trust in Him regardless of how He responds to our requests?
  • Do we maintain our relationship with Him in the face of His ostensible silence?
  • How does He continue to work in and around us?

In verses 22-27, David prays that God would vindicate him – bringing Him praise and glory. As a modern-day believer, these are challenging verses. When other believers are persecuted and suffer, we know from Scripture that God approves of their sacrifices. Yet unbelievers may look at their sacrifices and wonder how we can praise and glorify God when He fails to protect those who place their trust in Him. How can we offer Him genuine praise when His people – especially those who do not live in First World countries – are suffering? These realities challenge our faith; we wrestle with the apparent contradictions between the joys that some believers experience in this life and the suffering of their brethren.