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Psalm 73 October 5, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 73.

Summary: In this passage, Asaph recounts a time when he envied the wicked, as they enjoyed a plethora of (temporal) blessings. Indeed, he struggled to reconcile the following facts:

  • the wicked sinned in both word and deed – oppressing the righteous and blaspheming God – yet they enjoyed the twin blessings of good health and wealth
  • he strove to honor God with his thoughts, words, and deeds – yet he suffered many hardships.

After wrestling with God regarding this conundrum, He enabled him to grasp the following truths:

  • the wicked are ephemeral
  • the righteous are eternal – thanks to God and His grace towards them.

Asaph responds by 1) lamenting his ignorance concerning these truths and 2) renewing his confidence in God. He concludes by asserting that he will convey these truths to others.

Thoughts: In verses 2-16, Asaph wrestles with the fact that the wicked enjoy a plethora of blessings. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 12:

No bad debts and bankruptcies weigh them down, but robbery and usury pile up their substance. The rich grower [sic] richer, the proud grow prouder. Lord, thy poor servants, who become yet poorer, and groan under their burdens, are made to wonder at thy mysterious ways.

Asaph’s thoughts resonate with me, as I am perturbed by the fact that this world is plagued by various evils, e.g. mass shootings, migrant children being confined to cages, etc. When I read the news and encounter these evils in the headlines, I gravitate toward the thoughts that Asaph entertained before God revealed His perspective to him. One thought is that as modern-day believers, we can be reassured by Asaph’s struggles; since He has given us the capacity to reason, we will naturally wrestle with Him, as we strive to reconcile our understanding of Him and His attributes with current events.

In the KJV, verses 10 and 11 are rendered as, “Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 11:

I could not bring my mind to accept the rendering of many expositors by which this verse is referred to tried and perplexed saints. I am unable to conceive that such language could flow from their lips, even under the most depressing perplexities.

The NIV renders verse 10 as, “Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.” This translation would appear to resolve Spurgeon’s conundrum, as it indicates that the wicked have many followers. Yet the ESV renders verse 10 as “Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them” while the NASB renders verse 10 as “Therefore his people return to this place, And waters of abundance are drunk by them.” Thus, I am curious: which of these translations is in error? If the KJV, the ESV and the NASB are all correct, does “his” refer to God? I am eager to meet Asaph in the next life and probe him on this point.

In verse 17, Asaph notes that God worked through a divine encounter to shift his perspective on the prosperity of the wicked. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

His mind entered the eternity where God dwells as in a holy place; he left the things of sense for the things invisible, his heart gazed within the veil. Apparent disorder resolved itself into harmony…A wider view changed his judgment; he saw with his mind’s enlightened eye the future of the wicked, and his soul was in debate no longer as to the happiness of their condition.

This divine encounter must have been overwhelming, as it compelled Asaph to surrender himself to God – as expressed in verses 25 and 26. How did God speak to Asaph at that time? What were his thoughts and emotions as God revealed the fate of the wicked to him? As modern-day believers, how can God shape our perspective on the fate of those who strive to thwart His kingdom plan? How can we pray more earnestly to learn His assessment of current events? How can He enable us to draw closer to Him as we wrestle with the reality of evil in this world?

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Psalm 72 September 29, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 72.

Summary: In this passage, Solomon prays that God would empower him to rule justly and righteously.

In particular, he prays that God would:

  • empower him to deliver the oppressed from their oppressors
  • empower him to punish these oppressors
  • grant him a lengthy reign
  • always bless His people
  • increase the fruitfulness of their land
  • compel all nations to submit to his authority
  • work through him to bless all nations.

He concludes by praising God as the ultimate source of justice and righteousness.

Thoughts: Here, Solomon prays that God would enable him to govern justly and righteously. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 2:

Partiality has been too often shown to rich and great men, but the King of the last and best of monarchies deals out even-handed justice, to the delight of the poor despised. The sovereignty of God is a delightful theme to the poor in spirit; they love to see the Lord exalted, and have no quarrel with him for exercising the prerogatives of his crown.

The thrust of this passage can be stated as follows: if the ruler of Israel governs justly and righteously – especially towards those who are being oppressed – God will prolong his reign and bless his subjects. If the ruler of Israel governs unjustly and wickedly, though, then these promises may not be realized. As modern-day believers, we should ponder this passage and consider how our political leaders treat those who are victims of oppression. If they fail to show compassion to those in need, will God be merciful to them?

In verses 18 and 19, Solomon praises God for His sublimity. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

These verses explain themselves. They call rather for profound gratitude than for an exercise of the understanding; they are rather to be used for adoration than for exposition.

When I encountered this quote, I wrestled with it, as I believe that God has given us the capacity to engage in “an exercise of the understanding.” Eventually, though, I was able to view it from Spurgeon’s perspective. While God has given us the capacity to think and reason, I believe that He has placed limits on our cognitive faculties – thereby highlighting His sublimity and our need to submit to His authority. In particular, we fail to comprehend the complexity of God; thus, when we encounter verses such as these, the proper response is to completely submit to His excellence.

Psalm 71 September 26, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 71.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist prays that God would deliver them from their enemies, who act unrighteously. Their request is based on the following facts:

  • they trusted in God from an early age
  • they maintain their trust in Him
  • they display that trust by constantly praising Him.

They then pray that God would not abandon them in their dotage, as their enemies are already plotting their demise. After reiterating their prayer, they call on Him to effect the demise of their enemies.

Next, they vow that if God answers their prayer in the affirmative, they will convey His deeds to the next generation.

They conclude by praising God, as His righteousness surpasses their understanding; moreover, He will answer their prayer in the affirmative – compelling them to fulfill their vow.

Thoughts: In verse 18, the psalmist prays that God would sustain them until they have completed their task of conveying His sublimity to the next generation. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

He desired to continue his testimony and complete it; he had respect to the young men and little children about him, and knowing the vast importance of training them in the fear of God, he longed to make them all acquainted with the power of God to support his people, that they also might be led to walk by faith.

This verse caused me to reflect on the words and deeds of a family friend who passed away several years ago after battling a severe illness. I recall one of the last e-mails that he sent, where he presented his struggles with God, stating, “I still have plans on how to serve the Lord more effectively in my aging years, will God just end the life of this old soldier of His?” That being said, he did serve God throughout his life; for example, I fondly recall several articles that he wrote for a Christian newsletter concerning the harmony between science and faith. His faithfulness continues to inspire me; I hope that this blog will build on the work that he started.

In verses 20 and 21, the psalmist declares that even though God has severely tested them, He will bless them. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 20:

However low the Lord may permit us to sink, he will fix a limit to the descent, and in due time will bring us up again. Even when we are laid low in the tomb, the mercy is that we can go no lower, but will retrace our steps and mount to better lands; and all this because the Lord is ever mighty to save.

We readily make such declarations in the context of praise songs; when we are tested, though, we readily forget them. If God brings a trial upon us and allows “us to sink,” do we actually trust that He “in due time will bring us up again?” We readily blame God in the midst of our trials, as we are not inclined to look past our present struggles and anticipate future blessings. Admittedly I do not welcome trials – yet I pray that God would enable me to look past them to the time when His mercies will be more evident.

In verses 22-24, the psalmist declares that they will praise God, as He has answered their prayer in the affirmative. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 24:

As in many other psalms, the concluding stanzas speak of that as an accomplished fact which was only requested in former verses. Faith believes that she has her request, and she has it. She is the substance of things hoped for – a substance so real and tangible that it sets the glad soul singing. Already sin, Satan, and the world are vanquished, and the victory is ours.

This raises the following question: was this psalm composed in a single sitting…or were verses 22-24 written after God actually rescued the psalmist from their enemies? If the former is correct, then this passage would constitute an amazing display of faith on the part of the psalmist. If the latter is correct, then I wonder: how long did the psalmist need to wait before composing verses 22-24? Hopefully the former is correct, as that would spur us to 1) trust in God more deeply and 2) affirm our confidence in His ability and desire to bless us.

Psalm 70 September 15, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 70.

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

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

Thoughts: This passage is similar to Psalm 40. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

This is the second psalm which is a repetition of another, the former being Psalm 53, which was a rehearsal of Psalm 14. The present differs from Psalm 40 at the outset, for that begins with “Be pleased,” and this, in our version, more urgently with Make haste; or, as in the Hebrew, with an abrupt and broken cry: “O God, to deliver me; O LORD, to help me hasten.”

Spurgeon proceeds to highlight several minor differences between these two passages. This spurred me to ponder questions such as: did David compose both of these psalms? Did he compose neither of them? If these psalms had different authors, was the author of the later psalm inspired by the earlier psalm? What was the context for each passage? Since repetition in Scripture typically indicates a point of emphasis, should this passage spur us to fervently seek God’s assistance? Should this passage spur us to yearn for the defeat of those who oppose God and His kingdom plan?

Psalm 69 September 13, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 69.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would deliver him from his enemies in light of his innocence. Indeed, his desire to honor God has elicited their opprobrium and mockery.

He then reiterates his prayer, appealing to God’s love and mercy. Moreover, he prays that God would punish – and even eradicate – his enemies in light of their mistreatment of him.

He declares that he will praise God, as he knows that He hears the prayers of the innocent. He concludes by exhorting all of creation to praise Him in light of the future restoration of Judah.

Thoughts: In verse 9, David proclaims his zeal for God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

His burning ardor, like the flame of a candle, fed on his strength and consumed it. Some men are eaten up with lechery, others with covetousness, and a third class with pride, but the master-passion with our great leader was the glory of God, jealousy for his name, and love to the divine family.

This verse caused me to ponder the following question: am I truly zealous for God? The definition of zeal is “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective”. I believe that when I am mindful of God – especially when I serve others – I am pursuing Him. Yet I would not say that I regularly display “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of” God, especially as I am an introvert. Does zeal for God depend on one’s personality? Can an introvert be zealous for God? Can one have a “quiet” zeal for God? Does zeal for God necessarily elicit the opposition of unbelievers?

In verse 21, David asserts that his enemies intentionally neglected his basic needs. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

A criminal’s draught was offered to our innocent Lord. How often have our sins filled the gall-cup for our Redeemer? While we blame the Jews, let us not excuse ourselves.

This passage is usually regarded as one of the Messianic Psalms, as it includes verses that allude to the Passion of Christ. While this passage describes the physical and mental anguish that Jesus endured in this life, Spurgeon’s comments remind us of the fact that we are not innocent in that regard. Indeed, we are reminded of the fact that our sins caused His pain. We cannot claim the moral high ground concerning His suffering; thus, instead of elevating ourselves over Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries, we must remain grateful for His mercy to us.

In verses 35 and 36, David declares that God will revitalize Judah. My NIV Study Bible includes the following sidebar note:

This may refer to the situation in Judah after the Babylonian exile, four centuries after David’s reign. All of Judah had been decimated by Nebuchadnezzar’s armies (2 Kings 25). Some think the writer of this psalm, rather than David, could have been the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote his Lamentations in response to Jerusalem’s fall.

If this conjecture is correct, then this passage furnishes another example of a psalm where one must not leap to conclusions regarding its authorship based on its title note. Indeed, the tone of this passage is reminiscent of the Davidic psalms; thus, one could argue that it was written in the style “of David.” Another thought is that David could have written the bulk of this psalm…before another writer added verses 30-36 to encourage their compatriots during their exile in Babylon. I anticipate meeting David in the next life and resolving my confusion on this point.

Psalm 68 September 7, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 68.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would rout His foes – thereby bringing joy to His people.

He then exhorts the people of God to praise Him, as He:

  • promotes social justice
  • delivered their ancestors from their bondage in Egypt
  • sustained their ancestors during their meanderings in the desert
  • enabled their ancestors to conquer the Promised Land
  • selected Jerusalem as His city – thereby elevating her over the surrounding nations
  • enabled them to annihilate their enemies
  • leads them in a triumphal procession towards His sanctuary.

He then prays that God would exercise His sovereignty over the neighbors of Israel. He concludes by exhorting these neighboring nations to join His people in praising the Sovereign God.

Thoughts: In verse 13, David praises God for enabling the Israelites to plunder the Canaanites as they invaded the Promised Land. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Does he mean that the women at home, who had been meanly clad as they performed their household work, would be so gorgeously arrayed in the spoil that they would be like doves of silver wing and golden plumage? Or, would he say that Israel, which had been begrimed in the brick-kilns of Egypt, would come forth lustrous and happy in triumph and liberty…If we knew all that was known when this ancient hymn was composed, the allusion would no doubt strike us as being beautifully appropriate, but as we do not, we will let it rest among the unriddled things.

Yet my NIV Study Bible includes the following sidebar note for this verse:

Some suggest an allusion here to the Song of Deborah which was sung following a decisive Israelite victory over the Canaanites. Deborah chided the tribe of Reuben for failing to fight, for staying among the campfires (Judges 5:16).

I am intrigued by that NIV Study Bible sidebar note, as I assume that the original audience of this psalm would have immediately grasped an allusion to Deborah, given their relative familiarity with the Old Testament. This caused me to ponder questions such as:

  • Was Spurgeon aware of the possibility that David was alluding to Judges 5:16 in this verse?
  • What was Spurgeon’s grasp of the Old Testament?
  • Could one advance a compelling argument that this verse does not contain an allusion to Judges 5:16?

I hope to discuss this verse with David in the next life and learn more about his thoughts as he composed it.

In verse 17, David praises God, as He commands a plethora of chariots. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

The marginal reading of our Bibles, “even many thousands,” is far more correct than the rendering even thousands of angels. It is not easy to see where our venerable translators found these “angels,” for they are not in the text; however, as it is a blessing to entertain them unawares, we are glad to meet with them in English, even though the Hebrew knows them not…

Spurgeon’s thoughts caused me to ponder questions such as:

  • How was the King James Version – which Spurgeon used while penning this commentary – produced?
  • How did the translators who developed the King James Version decide to include the term “angels” in this verse?
  • Why did modern translators, including those who developed the NIV, omit that term from this verse?
  • How did advances in hermeneutics affect the development of the NIV?

I anticipate meeting a plethora of Biblical scholars in the next life and probing them on these points.

In verses 21-23, David asserts that God will enable His people to destroy their enemies. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 23:

So overwhelming would be the defeat that dogs would lick their blood. To us, except in a spiritual sense, the verse sounds harsh, but read it with an inner sense, and we also desire the crushing defeat of all evil and that wrong and sin may be the objects of profound contempt. Contemplate Revelation 19.

Spurgeon’s comments are thought-provoking, especially as modern-day believers wrestle with the effects of evil in this world. While we desire the salvation of those who attempt to thwart God’s kingdom plans, we must remember that God calls us to resist evil in all forms. This raises the following question: how does one “hate the sin while loving the sinner?” Perhaps this question 1) highlights the fact that God is both loving and just, and 2) calls us to consider how we can be both loving and just toward nonbelievers.

Psalm 67 September 2, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 67.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist prays that God would:

  • bless His people – empowering them to bless the nations
  • enable all people to praise Him for His justice and sustaining grace.

They conclude by declaring that God has made their land fruitful, and they reiterate their initial prayer.

Thoughts: In verses 1 and 2, the psalmist draws a connection between God’s blessings upon His people and His blessings upon the nations. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 2:

As showers which first fall upon the hills afterwards run down in streams into the valleys, so the blessing of the Most High comes upon the world through the church. We are blessed for the sake of others as well as ourselves. God deals in a way of mercy with his saints, and then they make that way known far and wide, and the Lord’s name is made famous in the earth.

I recall a motif that the pastor at my old church emphasized throughout his final sermon series: as New Testament believers, we are fulfilling the promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, where He asserts that all people will be blessed through Abraham. Indeed, He blesses others through us as we live out our faith on a daily basis; his blessings never terminate on us after we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. Thus, we should ponder this question: how is God actually blessing others through us? It may be helpful to consider those in our orbit – including believers and non-believers – and pray that God would empower us to bless them in both tangible and intangible ways.

Psalm 66 September 1, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 66.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist exhorts all nations to praise God for His deeds and for His sovereignty over the earth. For example, He:

  • sustained the Israelites throughout their enslavement in Egypt
  • parted the Red Sea, enabling the Israelites to flee from Egypt
  • brought the Israelites to the Promised Land.

Thus, the psalmist resolves to fulfill the vows that they made to God during a recent trial. In particular, they resolve to offer Him the requisite sacrifices, as He saw their integrity and responded to their cries for relief. The psalmist concludes with another burst of praise.

Thoughts: In verses 10-12, the psalmist praises God, as He brought their ancestors through various trials. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 10:

He proved his Israel with sore trials. David had his temptations. God had one Son without sin, but he never had a son without trial. Why ought we to complain if we are subjected to the rule which is common to all the family, and from which so much benefit has flowed to them? The Lord himself tests us; who then will question the wisdom and the love which are displayed in the operation?

The fact that all believers must suffer to some extent may be somewhat encouraging, but if that suffering did not lead to blessing, we would be frustrated (at the very least). Instead, we can ponder Spurgeon’s note about how “so much benefit has flowed to them.” Lately I have reflected on some of my trials and experienced a deep sense of thankfulness to God – especially for those whom He worked through to support me in those instances. God has also granted me opportunities to discuss those trials with other believers, and I am grateful that He has blessed them through these discussions. I trust that God will continue to teach me His ways through my trials…

In verses 13-15, the psalmist resolves to fulfill the vows that they made to God during a recent trial. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 14:

What we were so eager to vow, we should be equally earnest to perform…All people have trouble, but they act not in the same manner while under it; the profane take to swearing and the godly to praying. Both bad and good have been known to resort to vowing, but the one is a liar unto God, and the other a conscientious respecter of his word.

I can recall a trial where I made a vow to God that I would fulfill if He delivered me from the predicament in question. After He delivered me from that predicament, I failed to fulfill that vow. That is a sobering example of the inherent danger in making vows, as it is distressingly simple to break a vow – especially in the midst of relative prosperity, where one does not regularly reflect on God’s sustaining grace. Instead of making a vow to God in the midst of a trial, perhaps we should ask Him to simply help us reflect on His blessings when we are not in the midst of a trial.

Psalm 65 August 30, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 65.

Summary: In this passage, David praises God, since He:

  • answers prayers
  • forgives the sins of His people
  • uses His temple to bless His people
  • created the world
  • rules over His creation
  • elicits worship from His creation
  • uses water to nourish the land
  • uses the land to nourish the animals.

Thoughts: The title note for this psalm indicates that it is “a psalm of David.” Yet the sidebar note for verse 4 in my NIV Study Bible asserts that:

Most scholars feel that David did not write this psalm, despite the credit given to him in the title. Some think the phrase of David may have meant in the manner or style of David. Others observe that some titles were added years later, after the exile in Babylon, and such additions occasionally may have been inaccurate.

Spurgeon does not address this issue in his commentary, causing me to ponder questions such as: who was the actual author of this psalm? If David was not its author, what were his thoughts on the phrase “a psalm of David” in its title note? Are there other misattributions in the Psalms – and if so, which psalms include (arguably) misleading title notes? How did the original audience of this psalm view the phrase “a psalm of David?” I anticipate meeting David – and, potentially, the actual author of this psalm – and probing him on these points.

In verse 7, the psalmist notes that God exercises His sovereignty over the nations. Spurgeon offers a thought on this point:

Canute had not a more perilous seat by the rising billows than many a king and emperor has had when the multitude have been set on mischief, and have grown weary of their lords.

I had not heard of Canute before I read this quote; thus, I was inspired to learn about him. My understanding is that Canute encountered some difficulties in his quest to assume the English throne; once he assumed the throne, his reign was relatively peaceful and prosperous. Thus, I wonder what Spurgeon meant when he asserted that Canute’s position was “perilous,” and I hope to probe him on that point in the next life. In any event, Spurgeon’s quote is yet another example of the fascinating historical nuggets that one encounters while strolling through Crossway Classic Commentaries.

Psalm 64 August 25, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 64.

Summary: In this passage, David prays that God would protect him from those who plot his demise. Indeed, they assault him with their words and revel in the brilliance of their morbid schemes.

Yet he is confident that God will assault them with their words and effect their (shameful) demise. All will ruminate on His actions in his defense; moreover, His people will praise Him and renew their trust in Him.

Thoughts: Here, David notes the verbal assaults of his opponents. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 3:

Slander has ever been the master weapon of the good man’s enemies, and great is the care of the malicious to use it effectively. As warriors grind their swords, to give them an edge which will cut deep and wound desperately, so do the unscrupulous invent falsehoods calculated to inflict pain, to stab the reputation, to kill the honor of the righteous.

One of the themes of the Davidic psalms is that his enemies assault him with their words. Note that the NIV section heading of 2 Samuel 15:1-12 is “Absalom’s Conspiracy,” referencing Absalom’s (ultimately futile) revolt against David. This spurred me to ponder questions such as: when David references verbal assaults in his psalms, was he only reflecting on that particular incident? Did he thwart other coup attempts that were not mentioned in 2 Samuel? If so, who hatched those plots? Who were the other aspirants to the throne? Did they believe that they were honoring God with their schemes? Did any of them repent of their wickedness?