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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 50 July 5, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 50.

Summary: In this passage, God addresses all nations through Asaph, summoning them to a divine tribunal.

He initially addresses His people, asserting that they have erred by assuming that He is satisfied by their adherence to the ceremonial aspect of the Mosaic law. He exhorts them to shift their focus from external acts to internal acts; if their hearts are not inclined towards Him, then He will not deliver them from their enemies.

He then addresses His enemies, asserting that they have erred by assuming that He has overlooked their sins. He rebukes them for breaking His commandments; if they adhere to His commandments (and if their hearts are inclined towards Him), then He will deliver them from their enemies.

Thoughts: I was unfamiliar with Asaph before I strolled through this passage; a quick Google search indicates that he was a gifted singer and poet. I anticipate meeting him in the next life and probing him on the context of this psalm. Did God enable him to discern the hypocrisy of those who offered sacrifices – while harboring evil thoughts in their hearts? What were his thoughts and emotions when He became cognizant of their insincerity? Did he gain a deeper appreciation for God – and His holiness – while composing these verses? How did he avoid the trap of dwelling on external acts? How did God nurture his soul?

In verses 7-15, God asserts that He does not actually depend on the sacrifices of His people. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 10:

How could they imagine that the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, had need of beasts, when all the countless hordes that find shelter in a thousand forests and wildernesses belong to him…Not only the wild beasts, but the tamer creatures are all his own.

This passage spurred me to consider a (somewhat) tangential point: God does not depend on our spiritual sacrifices to advance His kingdom. If I refused to honor Him with my thoughts, words, or deeds, He would simply work through another believer to fulfill the responsibilities that He had initially assigned to me. I mulled over the following analogy: while a parent can rapidly complete a simple task, they allow their child to complete it. When the child performs that task, their parent rejoices – and conveys their joy to the child. How does God rejoice in our feeble efforts to honor Him? How does He convey His joy to us in those moments?

In verses 16-23, God condemns those who merely claim to adhere to His regulations. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 16:

You violate openly my moral law, and yet are great sticklers for my ceremonial commands! Do you dare to teach my law to others, and profane it yourselves? Even if you claim to be sons of Levi, what of that? Your wickedness disqualifies you. It should silence you, and would if my people were as spiritual as I would have them, for they would refuse to hear you, and to pay you the portion of temporal things which is due to my true servants.

Initially, I responded to these verses by condemning the “wicked.” I thought, “were they completely unaware of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18? Didn’t they regularly recite those commandments? What explains their hypocrisy?” I then considered the fact that as modern-day believers, we, too, are aware of those commandments. They may even appear in our personal list of memory verses. Why, then, do we fail to obey them on a daily basis? Clearly we are not inherently better than the “wicked” who are addressed in this passage; thus, we are in desperate need of His grace to consistently:

  • reflect on these commandments
  • strive to obey them – even when obedience is painful.

Psalm 49 June 29, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 49.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah proclaim that no one is immortal, as all will eventually expire. Moreover, this outcome cannot be forestalled by wealth, possessions, or power – as these are ephemeral.

Thus, the people of God should not be intimidated by those who are affluent. Instead, they should seek wisdom from Him – as this is eternal.

Thoughts: In this passage, the psalmist exhorts the people of God to not fear those who are affluent. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 6:

We are not dismayed. Great strength, position, and estate make wicked men very lofty in their own esteem, but the heir of heaven is not overawed. He sees the small value of riches, and the helplessness of their owners in the hour of death.

This passage spurred me to consider a tangential topic: the lives of the affluent. One of the sidebar notes in my NIV Study Bible asserts that:

Wealth isolates the rich from some threats experienced by poor people, such as death by starvation, disease caused by malnutrition and lack of protection from wild animals. Wealth may also insulate people from some social problems such as riots, warfare and flooding.

While I (probably) belong to the upper middle class, I am curious as to how I would live if I were suddenly placed in the upper class. Would my habits and/or thought processes change? How would I treat my peers? Would I attempt to join a new social circle? Would I be compelled to utilize my additional income for God’s glory? Would I even remain mindful of God? If I were to fall gravely ill, how would I respond to my predicament?

In verse 20, the psalmist asserts the futility of accumulating wealth while neglecting wisdom from God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Understanding differentiates men from animals, but if they will not follow the highest wisdom, and like beasts find their all in this life, then their end shall be as mean and dishonorable as that of beasts slain in the chase, or killed by the butcher. Saddest of all is the reflection that though men are like beasts in the degradation of perishing, yet not in the rest which animal perishing secures, for alas it is written, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.”

This passage implies that living wisely has “everlasting” benefits, while wealth merely applies to “this life.” That point raises questions such as: how do we live for the next life? How can we actually store up treasures in heaven? Will those believers who live “more” wisely receive more blessings in heaven? Lately I have pondered the wisdom of doing good deeds in secret – or, at the very least, serving among acquaintances. Such acts force us to ponder God’s approval and combat our craving for the plaudits of our friends. How do we know when God is pleased with our acts of charity? How can we rest in His approval when we do not receive feedback from others?

Psalm 48 June 29, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 48.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah praise God – as He is the ultimate safeguard – and glory – of His city, Jerusalem. Indeed, He has empowered His people to rout those foreign armies who have attempted to seize Jerusalem.

They are compelled to meditate on His faithfulness to His city. They conclude by exhorting His people to convey His faithfulness to their descendants – increasing His glory.

Thoughts: Here, the psalmist marvels at God’s ability to deliver Jerusalem from her enemies. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 5:

They came, they saw, but they did not conquer. No sooner did they perceive that the Lord was in the Holy City, than they took to their heels. Before the Lord came to blows with them, they were faint-hearted, and beat a retreat…Panic seized them; they fled ignominiously, like children in a fright.

This passage spurred me to ponder the following question: did the Sons of Korah sense that one day, God would allow the Babylonians to sack Jerusalem – thereby punishing His people for consistently disobeying Him? My conjecture is that when they composed this psalm, they did not entertain that possibility; otherwise, how could they have declared their confidence in Him in verses 8 and 14? As modern-day believers, we should ponder this point; moreover, it should compel us to redouble our efforts to honor Him – lest He choose to withdraw His hand of protection from us in response to our disobedience.

In verse 14, the psalmist asserts that God will never abandon His people. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

He will be the covenant God of his people world without end. There is no other God; we wish for no other…Throughout life he will graciously conduct us, and even after death he will lead us to the living fountains of waters. We look to him for resurrection and eternal life.

This verse is a valuable complement to my thoughts above concerning the importance of honoring God in this life. As believers, we know that it is impossible to perfectly honor Him in this life. Our sinful natures compel us to fall short of perfection on a daily basis. Yet that fact does not paralyze us; instead, we can continue to rest in Him, knowing that He approves of our imperfect attempts to honor Him. Moreover, He will continue to guide us as we stumble – and even fall – on the path to sanctification.

Psalm 47 June 21, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 47.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah exhort all nations to praise God – as He is sovereign over the world.

Thoughts: Here, the psalmist asserts that God is the ultimate ruler of all nations. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

The joy is to extend to all nations; Israel may lead, but all the Gentiles are to follow, for they have an equal share in that kingdom where Christ is all in all. It is the best hope of all nations that Jehovah rules over them…All people will be ruled by the Lord in the latter days, and all will exult in that rule; were they wise they would submit to it now, and rejoice to do so.

This passage caused me to ponder questions such as:

  • did the Israelites meditate on this psalm during their exile in Babylon?
  • were other nations aware of the existence – and contents – of this psalm during the Old Testament?
  • if so, how did they respond to this psalm?
  • did the Jews reflect on this psalm while the Romans occupied Judea?
  • how do modern-day nonbelievers respond to this psalm?
  • as believers, how can we respectfully communicate God’s inherent sublimity to nonbelievers?
  • as believers, how can we hold fast to the psalmist’s declarations of God’s sovereignty – especially when we read the news?

Psalm 46 June 21, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 46.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah assert their ultimate confidence in God – especially in light of:

  • natural disasters
  • enemy assaults

because He dwells in the midst of His people. Moreover, all nations will acknowledge His sovereignty (in His timing).

Thus, His people should praise Him and rest in Him.

Thoughts: In this passage, the psalmist asserts that Israel relies on God for her security. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

Neither forget that God is our refuge just now as truly as when David penned the word. All other refuges are lies, all our strength is weakness.

Again, I find it odd that Spurgeon attributes this psalm to David. His thoughts do raise an interesting question, though: was this psalm composed during the reign of David? We do know that God granted Israel a slew of military triumphs during his reign, and perhaps those victories are depicted in these verses. If it was not penned during his reign, though, when was it written? Perhaps God’s miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrian army during the reign of Hezekiah provided the context for this psalm. Another thought is that the psalmist was encouraged by accounts of God’s faithfulness towards their forefathers – especially when He enabled them to conquer the Promised Land.

Verse 10 is often cited by believers as a message of comfort and strength. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this verse:

Hold off your hands, enemies! Sit down and wait in patience, believers! Acknowledge that Jehovah is God, you who feel the terrors of his wrath! Adore him, and him only, you who partake in the protections of his grace.

After strolling through this passage, I have sharpened my understanding of the context of this verse. In particular, as modern-day believers, we can rest in our knowledge of God’s sovereignty even in the face of persecution. Thus, believers who are being persecuted can use this verse to shift their focus from their short-term struggles to God’s long-term blessings. Those of us who are not being persecuted can also be encouraged by this verse, especially when we learn of assaults on our brethren; at some point, God will bring an end to persecution. On a related note, this page is a worthy read.

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.

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.