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Psalm 133 August 2, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 133.

Summary: In this passage, David extols the virtues of unity among the people of God.

To illustrate those virtues, he compares them to:

  • the consecrating oil that is used to ordain the high priest
  • dew from Mount Hermon.

Thoughts: After strolling through this passage, I wondered: what spurred David to compose this psalm? Did he pen it after he assumed the throne of Israel? How would he – and the pilgrims to Jerusalem who sang this psalm – respond to the conflicts that often arise among modern-day believers? Would he have been repulsed by the notion of a church splitting over the actions of its pastor? Unfortunately I am aware of several instances of church splits, where well-meaning believers failed to reach a compromise on some pressing issues. I am curious as to whether any modern-day church conflict has been successfully resolved – and whether the opposing parties were able to genuinely love each other in the aftermath of that dispute…

Psalm 132 August 1, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 132.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist asserts that:

  • David promised to build a temple for God – and the ark of His covenant with His people – where they would worship Him
  • He established a covenant with the house of David – where He would bless them while cursing their enemies
  • He chose to dwell in Jerusalem – thereby blessing her denizens.

Based on these assertions, they pray that:

  • He would be mindful of David’s zeal for Him
  • He would not reject the current ruler of Judah – who belongs to the house of David.

Thoughts: In verses 2-5, David declares that he will not rest until he has built a temple for God. Spurgeon offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 5:

Good people may have on their hearts matters which seem to them of chief importance, and it may be acceptable to God that they should seek to carry them out; and yet in his infinite wisdom he may judge it best to prevent their executing their designs. God does not measure his people’s actions by their wisdom, or want of wisdom, but by the sincere desire for his glory which has led up to them…The Lord shows the acceptance of what we desire to do by permitting us to do something else which his infinite mind judges to be fitter for us, and more honorable to himself.

Indeed, it may be helpful for us to (occasionally) ponder how God has led us in unexpected directions in our walk with Him. We often believe that we know how to serve Him – given our grasp of His Word and our circumstances. Yet He often reminds us that our understanding is incomplete; moreover, He often reveals alternate methods of serving Him in those instances. We may respond to those revelations by attempting to resist Him – yet He graciously enables us to (eventually) find joy and satisfaction in those detours.

Here, the psalmist prays that God would not reject the current ruler of Judah – given the faithfulness of his ancestor, David. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 10:

King Solomon was praying, and here the people pray for him that his face may not be turned away, or that he may not be refused an audience…God blessed Solomon and succeeding kings, for David’s sake…

Spurgeon’s quote spurred me to ponder questions such as: why does he assume that verse 10 refers to Solomon? When was this psalm written? Did that monarch fulfill the precondition in verse 12, “If your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them”? Did any pilgrims to Jerusalem persist in singing this psalm during Judah’s spiritual and moral decline? If so, did they mourn the failure of their sovereign to obey God? As modern-day believers, how should we respond to the fact that Jesus did fulfill the precondition in verse 12?

Psalm 131 July 25, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 131.

Summary: In this passage, David asserts that he has learned to rest in God – just as a child eventually learns to rest in their mother.

He then exhorts his compatriots to always rest in Him.

Thoughts: In verses 1 and 2, David declares that he has found rest in God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

As a private man he did not usurp the power of the king or devise plots against him: he minded his own business, and left others to mind theirs. As a thoughtful man he did not pry into things unrevealed; he was not speculative, self-conceited or opinionated. As a secular person he did not thrust himself into the priesthood as Saul had done before him, and as Uzziah did after him.

When David stated, “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me”, that spurred me to ponder this question: how is his statement compatible with the practice of apologetics – and the fact that God has granted us the ability to reason? One thought is that God will never enable us to fully comprehend Him; if we could fully comprehend Him at some point, then one could argue that He would not be God. Instead of bewailing this fundamental limitation in our understanding of Him, we can still rest in the fact that He has allowed us some insights regarding His nature – and continue to find joy in those insights.

Psalm 122 July 3, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 122.

Summary: In this passage, David asserts that he delights in praising God with others as they ascend to Jerusalem.

He then asserts that those who ascend to Jerusalem to praise Him are obeying Him.

He concludes by praying for the security (and prosperity) of Jerusalem – so that her denizens would be blessed.

Thoughts: In verse 1, David rejoices when others exhort him to join their ascent to Jerusalem. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

He was glad for the sake of others: glad that they wished to go themselves, glad that they had the courage and liberality to invite others…But David was glad for his own sake: he loved the invitation to the holy place, he delighted in being called to go to worship in company, and, moreover, he rejoiced that good people thought enough of him to extend their invitation to him.

I was curious about the Songs of Ascent. A quick Google search indicates that Jewish pilgrims to Jerusalem would actually sing those psalms as they ascended a hilly road to that city. Now I am curious: how should we apply the Songs of Ascent to our modern context? My initial thought is that we could sing praise songs as we travel to church for worship services. That being said, now that we are in the midst of a pandemic and cannot worship Him in our churches, perhaps we should consider the possibility that those psalms have a deeper meaning. How can we prepare to worship God at home?

Psalm 110 March 16, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 110.

Summary: In this passage, David asserts that God has made the following promises to each king of Israel:

  • He will enable them to subdue their enemies – by empowering their forces
  • they will always serve Him – and intercede with Him on behalf of His people.

He concludes by asserting that God is the ultimate victor when they subdue their enemies on the battlefield.

Thoughts: My NIV Study Bible includes the following note on this passage:

King David wrote this to be sung at the crowning of future kings of Israel.

That caused me to ponder questions such as: what was David’s conception of the Messiah? Did he know that the Messiah would be one of his (human) descendants? Was this psalm actually “sung at the crowning of future kings of Israel”? If so, did those rulers grasp the ultimate meaning of this psalm? Did they draw strength from this passage? Did they know that if they failed to reign in a righteous manner, then God would not fulfill the above-mentioned promises? What was their conception of the Messiah?

Psalm 109 March 15, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 109.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would respond to him – as he is in dire straits. In particular, some of those whom he has treated kindly have responded by inveighing against him.

He then focuses on one of those accusers, praying that God would:

  • cause someone to inveigh against him
  • condemn him – and destroy him
  • plunder his estate – thereby ruining the lives of his posterity
  • eternally curse his posterity.

These prayers stem from the wickedness of that accuser – especially in relation to the righteous.

Next, he prays that God would:

  • rescue him from his dire straits – as he is suffering both physically and mentally
  • compel his accusers to cringe – as they acknowledge that act of deliverance.

He concludes by asserting that he will praise God – as He is both willing and able to rescue the righteous from those who inveigh against them.

Thoughts: In this passage, David wrestles with the fact that those whom he treated kindly are now inveighing against him. My NIV Study Bible includes the following note on this point:

The occasion is uncertain. It seems to have been written to denounce the actions of one particular enemy, not enemies in general. Perhaps it was someone who betrayed David while he was king – perhaps Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:31), Shimei (2 Samuel 16:5-8) or Sheba (2 Samuel 20:1). In any case, David felt deeply betrayed; he released his pain before God, asking God for justice.

That spurred me to ponder questions such as: is it correct to assume that David was only concerned with one accuser when he composed this passage? If so, who was that accuser, and why did David feel that he had been betrayed? Would that accuser agree that he had betrayed David? Was David justified in feeling betrayed? Why did David mention “his place of leadership” in verse 8? Did God actually perform any of the curses that David mentioned in this passage? If so, how did David respond to those tidings?

In verses 6-20, David pronounces a plethora of curses on one of his accusers. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 10:

We confess that as we read some of these verses we have need of all our faith and reverence to accept them as the voice of inspiration, but the exercise is good for the soul, for it educates our sense of ignorance, and tests our teachableness. Yes, divine Spirit, we can and do believe that even these dread words from which we shrink have a meaning consistent with the attributes of the Judge of all the earth, though his name is Love. How this may be we shall know hereafter.

Admittedly, when I strolled through this passage, Spurgeon’s confession resonated with me. I wrestled with the propriety of these curses, and I pondered questions such as: do these curses challenge us to sharpen our understanding of God’s holiness – and our worldliness? Did God actually approve of these curses? Is it possible that both of the following propositions are correct: 1) the Bible is divinely inspired, and 2) certain passages from Scripture reflect the worldliness of their human authors? I am eager to meet David in the next life and probe him on these points.

This passage neatly fits into the category of a “Davidic” psalm, as it:

  • draws a sharp contrast between the “righteous” (including the psalmist) and the “wicked” (including the psalmist’s enemies)
  • appeals to God – a neutral party – to decide between the “righteous” and the “wicked”
  • argues that God should vindicate and bless the “righteous”
  • argues that God should condemn and punish the wicked”.

Whether we concur with David’s perception of his righteousness – and the wickedness of his opponents – we should meditate on the reality of this sharp contrast, which has confronted believers throughout the ages. In light of this sharp contrast, we must cling to God as our (righteous) Judge as we strive to live righteously in this broken world.

Psalm 108 March 5, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 108.

Summary: In this passage, David asserts he will praise God both inwardly and outwardly, as He:

  • is sovereign over the heavens and the earth
  • is faithful
  • loves His people.

He then prays that God would:

  • deliver His people from the calamities that He has brought on them – thereby reasserting His sovereignty over Israel and her neighbors
  • enable him to subdue the foes of Israel.

Thoughts: As I strolled through this psalm, I had the sense that I had encountered parts of it in other psalms. A quick search revealed that I was correct: verses 1-5 appear in Psalm 57:7-11, and verses 6-13 appear in Psalm 60:5-12. Thus, I am curious: did David actually compose this psalm – or did another psalmist compose it by copying from Psalms 57 and 60? If the latter is correct, would David have approved of that action? Did at least some of the Israelites note this psalm’s lack of originality – or were they sufficiently moved by Psalms 57 and 60 to the point that they celebrated their appearance in this passage? A quick Google search reveals that others have noted the link between these three psalms, e.g. the author(s) of this page. I anticipate meeting David in the next life and probing him on this point.

Psalm 103 February 17, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 103.

Summary: In this passage, David exhorts his soul to praise God, as He:

  • has healed his physical – and spiritual – maladies
  • has granted him physical – and spiritual – blessings
  • is righteous and just – especially towards the disadvantaged
  • is merciful to His people – in light of their transitory nature; in particular, He does not hold their sins against them
  • displays His eternal love to His people – who respond with obedience
  • is sovereign.

Thus, he exhorts all of creation to praise Him. He concludes by reiterating that exhortation to his soul.

Thoughts: In verse 6, David asserts that God defends the disadvantaged. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Our own personal obligations must not absorb our song; we must also magnify the Lord for his goodness to others. He does not leave the poor and needy to perish at the hands of their enemies, but interposes on their behalf, for he is the executor of the poor and the executioner of the cruel.

While current events may lead us to question whether God is really “the executor of the poor and the executioner of the cruel,” we must be cognizant of His good work on behalf of the less fortunate (as a bad deed often trumps a good deed when a news organization selects headlines). Indeed, His people continue to bless others throughout the world in myriad ways; we must give thanks for these good words and deeds, lest we allow feelings of negativity to overwhelm us. We wrestle with the wickedness effected by oppressors – yet we must praise Him for the righteousness effected by Him through His people. I believe that He calls us to balance these feelings.

I conjecture that verse 11 forms the basis of “Think About His Love”; a quick Google search reveals that this song was written by Don Moen. I hope to meet him at some point and learn how he composed those memorable lyrics. How did this passage inspire him at that time? Did he consider weaving other sections of this passage into that song? What are his thoughts on the caveat in verse 11 that God’s love is “great…for those who fear him”, and why did he omit that caveat from that song? On a related note, as modern-day believers, we should evaluate verses 8-12; how do we rest in God’s compassion and grace on a daily basis? Does His mercy give us carte blanche – or do we grasp the meaning of “freedom in Christ”?

Verses 1 and 22 are neat bookends of this passage. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 22:

He closes on his key-note. He cannot be content to call on others without taking his own part; nor because others sing more loudly and perfectly will he be content to be set aside. O my soul, come home to thyself and to thy God, and let the little world within thee keep time and tune to the spheres which are ringing out Jehovah’s praise.

The fact that the expression “Praise the Lord” appears six times in this passage is awe-inspiring; I was overwhelmed by that phrase when I first strolled through this passage. Indeed, this passage reminds us of our ultimate calling in this life: we must praise and worship Him. The sixfold repetition of “Praise the Lord” also caused me to contemplate my relative insignificance in light of His relative sublimity; I felt compelled to acknowledge His sovereignty over all of creation. Perhaps David experienced similar feelings as He composed this passage…

Psalm 101 February 9, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 101.

Summary: In this passage, David praises God and asserts that he will live a righteous life.

To that end, he will shun all who live unrighteous lives, as they sin with their thoughts, words, and deeds. Moreover, he resolves to banish them from his kingdom.

He asserts that only those who live righteous lives will be allowed to reside in his kingdom.

Thoughts: In verse 7, David declares that he cannot associate with those who are deceitful. Spurgeon offers some odd thoughts on this point:

Deceit among most Orientals is reckoned to be a virtue, and is only censured when it is not sufficiently cunning, and therefore comes to be found out; it is therefore all the more remarkable that David should have so determinedly set his face against it.

Since I had celebrated Spurgeon’s abhorrence of slavery in this post, I found his thoughts on “Orientals” to be puzzling. Did Spurgeon actually harbor some racist views? How did he know that “deceit among most Orientals is reckoned to be a virtue”? Had he been deceived by some “Orientals” – either in England or on an overseas trip? I hope that my questions reflect a fundamental misunderstanding on my part – and that Spurgeon actually did not harbor racist views regarding “Orientals”. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to probe him on this point in the next life…

Psalm 86 December 14, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 86.

Summary: In this passage, David entreats God to answer his prayer (in the affirmative), since he 1) is in a predicament and 2) trusts in Him.

Indeed, he is certain that He:

  • blesses those who trust in Him
  • reigns over all (false) deities
  • will compel all nations to acknowledge His sovereignty.

He then prays that God would enable him to hew to His righteousness, and he praises Him as the One who has delivered him from other predicaments; moreover, he resolves to persist in offering these praises to Him.

Finally, he reveals the reason for his entreaties: his enemies seek his life. Yet he repeats his assertion that God blesses those who trust in Him. After reiterating his prayer, he concludes by “putting out a fleece” – as he wants to compel his enemies to acknowledge His faithfulness.

Thoughts: Throughout this passage, David makes an appeal to God and then immediately justifies it (e.g. verses 1-4, 7). Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

Our distress is a forcible reason for our being heard by the Lord God, merciful, and gracious, for misery is ever the master argument with mercy. Such reasoning as this would never be adopted by a proud man. Of all despicable sinners those are the worst who use the language of spiritual poverty while they think themselves to be rich and increased in goods.

My stroll through this passage dovetailed with my recent excursion through John White’s classic text “Daring to Draw Near,” as it reinforced White’s argument that one’s prayer life can be enhanced by a willingness to engage with God on a deeper level. When I present a specific request to God, I typically resort to offering a default prayer of “Your will be done” and then leave it at that. Yet this passage – and the examples from Scripture that White cites – demonstrate that we can still honor God while wrestling with Him in our prayers. In fact, earnest prayers often reflect a fundamental trust in God – specifically, His goodness – while acknowledging one’s necessarily limited understanding of how a given request fits into His kingdom plan. I hope that God will continue to shape my prayer life in this regard.

In verse 9, David asserts that “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

It makes us content to be in the minority today, when we are sure that the majority will be with us tomorrow. David was not a believer in the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensation will wind up with general darkness and idolatry. We look for a day when the dwellers in all lands worship thee alone, O God…

Admittedly I subscribe to “the theory that the world will grow worse and worse,” as I ponder the worldviews of many friends and acquaintances (and contemplate the daily news, which usually reflects the failings of humanity). Consequently, I wrestle with David’s assertion. We know that God is still working out His kingdom plan through the good words and deeds of believers around the world (e.g. people are being brought to faith, they are serving the disadvantaged). Do such good words and deeds overcome the spiritual decline in First World countries (and the pain that is reflected by the daily news)? My (possibly mistaken) belief is that when the world reaches its “spiritual nadir,” we will see the Second Coming of Christ…