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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.

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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 22 March 29, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 22.

Summary: In this passage, David wrestles with God, wondering how he can reconcile the following contradictory points:

  • He has abandoned him, causing others to mock him
  • his enemies have trapped him, and he is facing death at their hands
  • He has been faithful to his ancestors – and to him from birth.

He responds to his predicament by calling on God to deliver him from his enemies. He then declares his ultimate confidence in Him, as he knows that He can – and will – answer his prayer in the affirmative.

He concludes by calling on others to praise and worship Him, asserting that future generations will declare His excellence.

Thoughts: In verses 1 and 2, David wrestles with God regarding his inability to sense His presence. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 2:

For our prayer to appear to be unheard is no new trial. Jesus felt it before us. He still held fast on God, and cried still, “My God,” but his faith did not render him less importunate…No daylight is too glaring and no midnight too dark to pray in; no delay or apparent denial, however grievous, should tempt us to forbear from importunate pleading.

I can attest that it is both mentally and spiritually exhausting to repeatedly bring a particular request before God, especially when that request concerns a deeply felt, yet unfulfilled, desire. Indeed, believers are often tempted to “admit defeat” by assuming that God will not fulfill certain requests – and then resent Him for His apparent lack of care and concern for us. Somehow we must be attuned to the fact that God continues to work in – and around – us while we lay these petitions at His feet. Can we sense that God sustains us as we importunately plead with Him? Can we maintain our confidence that He loves us and approves of us while we wrestle with Him?

In verse 16, David asserts that his enemies pierce his hands and feet. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

This can by no means refer to David, or to anyone but Jesus of Nazareth. Pause, and view the wounds of the Redeemer.

This (relatively famous) passage is one of the clearest Messianic prophecies among the Psalms; in particular, David’s reference to the piercing of hands and feet should remind believers of the account in the Gospels of the crucifixion of our Savior. That being said, is Spurgeon’s assertion correct? Since David composed this psalm, can we infer that he did not intend to refer to himself in this verse? Is it plausible that David’s enemies were figuratively piercing his hands and feet? I certainly hope to meet David in the next life and query him on this point.

In verse 29, David asserts that “the rich of the earth” will worship God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

The rich and great are not shut out. Grace now finds most of its jewels among the poor, but in the latter days the mighty of the earth shall eat, shall taste of redeeming grace and dying love, and shall worship with all their hearts the God who deals so bountifully with us in Christ Jesus.

How can we reconcile Spurgeon’s thoughts with Jesus’ statements concerning the rich in Matthew 19:23-24 and Luke 12:13-21? Jesus clearly states that it is difficult for those with material wealth to enter His kingdom, as their wealth often distracts them from truly following Him. Thus, when David references “the rich of the earth”, is he referring to those with material wealth, or is he actually referring to those with spiritual wealth? Could David have been speaking hyperbolically in this case by using the word “all”?

Psalm 6 January 18, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 6.

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

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

Love for Enemies December 5, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 5:43-48.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus begins by presenting the Pharisees’ interpretation of Leviticus 19:18. He then contradicts that interpretation, asserting that believers should seek the best interests of their enemies. This stems from the fact that God seeks the best interests of all people; thus, believers should emulate Him through their words and deeds. He concludes by asking several questions that are designed to spur believers to display selfless love to their enemies.

Thoughts: This is a difficult passage, as I know that I harbor a grudge against several people. I do not merely view them as acquaintances – I strongly dislike them, as I believe that they have offended me. Thus, this passage confronts me with the following questions: do I have the strength to obey it by seeking their best interests? Instead of merely treating them politely if I happen to interact with them, can I actually care about them? Frankly speaking, I believe that I lack the strength at this point to overcome my negative perception of them by displaying selfless love to them. Thus, I need the Holy Spirit to transform me in this regard – enabling me to live as a genuine follower of Christ.