Young couples sometimes pick out a popular song as theirs. When the song comes on the radio, she may say, “They are playing our song.”
A common question asked these days when powerful people are interviewed: “What’s on your iPod?” What do you listen to when your in the gym, in the car, at home, in the office? What is the soundtrack of your life?
No one ever asks: What would be the soundtrack of your death?
Have you ever wondered: What song was playing when Jesus died?
For many of the Psalms of David it is possible to connect them with certain events in David’s life. However, the 22nd has no life event from David in view because it is a description of an execution, specifically a crucifixion. “Being therefore a prophet…” David spoke concerning Messiah’s execution on a cross (Acts 2.30). Over 300 years before crucifixion is invented as a mode of death, David pictures it here. The gospels record the facts; the Psalms the feelings of the cross. Psalm 22 captures the agony & glory of the cross of Christ.
This Psalm is typically divided into two (2) sections: suffering (1-21a) & salvation (21b-31), with verse 21 acting as the turning point of the Psalm.
A Gruesome Crucifixion – the Humiliation of Christ (1-21)
Alienated from His Father (1-5): During His life & ministry, Jesus had never known a moment without the Father’s presence; uninterrupted fellowship. But on the cross when He who knew no sin the Father made to be sin for our sake (2 Corinthians 5.21), that changed. How lonely Calvary was for Christ!
1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
“Eloi, Eloi” – the double name denotes close, personal relationship. “Why?” There was a reason for the agony of the cross; there is a reason for suffering.
2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
It seems prayers go unanswered, even unheard. Keep praying!
3Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
The Psalmist is comforted by the holiness of God.
4In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob repeatedly trusted God & He never failed them.
5To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
“How you gonna do me like that, God?” These guys were heard; how about me?
Abused by His Foes (6-8, 12-18): From His youth, from His birth, from before His birth, the cross loomed & cast a dark shadow over the life of Christ. A millennium before God became flesh, David pictured the event. So graphic are David’s descriptions that it almost seems as tho he were present for the very crucifixion. Put down (6-7), scorned, despised, mocked; Poured out (14-15); pierced (16).
6But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
Here is the “I AM” saying “I am a worm.” Surely He thought this & perhaps it was uttered tho unrecorded in the gospels. Certainly Christ was hated & hounded.
7All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
See Matthew 27.41-43; Mark 15.29 for the fulfillment of these verses. How would you feel if in your darkest hour someone said this to you? Amplify it by infinity & you are coming close to how Christ felt.
12Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
Circling bulls, ready to charge & gore with their horns. Bashan was known for its fine cattle; here is pictured the raving, raging mob led by the leaders.
13they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
His heart is “melted” under the heat of divine wrath; & if Christ’s heart melts under the full force of divine wrath, what about ours if we reject Christ!
15my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
He is all dried up under the blistering heat of divine justice. Every drop of fluid is gone. Intense thirst.
16For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—
“Dogs” would be, prophetically, gentile Roman soldiers. Here crucifixion is described over 300 years before the first poor attempts at it are hinted & nearly 700 yrs before it is perfected & popularized by Alexander the Great.
Answered by His Father (9-11, 19-21)
9Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
“God, I need you here. Stay close” (11, 19). A present God is a present blessing!
19But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!
21Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
Part prayer; part praise. “Save me! You heard/answered/rescued.” “It was the will of YHWH to crush Him…He shall prolong His days” (Isaiah 53.10).
A Glorious Coronation – The Exaltation of Christ (22-31)
All at once the tone shifts. From the darkness of Calvary comes joy…
Joy in Israel (22-25): “Praise Him.” “I will [proclaim]…I will praise…I will perform…” Future tense. How can He do this if He’s dead? Resurrection! Perhaps these words of the song comforted Jesus on the cross as He hung dying; He whispers them thru parched lips.
23You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
Note the three-fold duty – praise Him, glorify Him, revere Him.
Great Spiritual Feast (26-29): Rich & poor (26, 29) from all over the earth (27) gather to feast and be satisfied by what YHWH has provided thru the Christ. Israel was to be a light to the nations (Isa 45.22; 49.6); in Christ this is fully realized.
27All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
Herein is universal evangelism pictured – “all the ends of the earth…all the families of the nations…” Not merely Jew but Gentile shall prosper because of Christ’s crucifixion & resurrection. “Remember” is reflection on sin; “Turn” & “worship” are repentance & holiness.
Future Grace (30-31): For “Coming generation” – 71.18; 78.6; 102.18; do you get the feeling that God cares about the next generation, i.e. the kids. May I just say to those of you who work in the education department of the local congregation that you are engaged in the glorious work of dispensing grace to the next generation.
30Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.
Here also are the future prospects of the church: “They shall come” – converts are certain. “They shall…proclaim His righteousness” – those converted will join us in the work of evangelism. “To a people yet unborn” – future generations will be blessed. Christ will be exalted in all this! “He has done it” or “It is finished.” “The Lord” (adoni) has accomplished the work of redemption. This is the last word of Christ on the cross. It is the heart of the gospel we proclaim.
Per crucem ad lucem – thru the cross into the light. Without the darkness of the cross there cannot be the light of glory. Maybe the tune started like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata before ending like Vivaldi’s Spring.
“It is finished” so respond to God’s grace.
A college philosophy professor asked one question on his final exam. He picked up a chair, put it on his desk, and wrote on the board, “Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist.” Philosophy classes get into that kind of thing.
The students opened their notebooks and wrote as much as they could think of for a while hour, some of them churning out 30 pages of heady philosophical debate and logic. But one student turned in his paper after less than a minute and he was the only one to get an “A.” What did he write so quickly that turned out to be just the right answer? He wrote: “What chair?”
In the beginning, Satan used a single question to get Adam & Eve to doubt whether God can be trusted. Satan wants to get people to the point where they not only don’t trust God… but that God doesn’t even exist. He wants to get people to the point where they ask: What God?
Enter Psalm 19. The Psalm tells us that above the questions Satan poses, there is a better word which is spoken announcing that there is a God, He has spoken, and He continues to speak. The question we must ask is not “What God?” but “Are we listening?” If we will listen to the silent witness of the world & the spoken witness of the Word these will evoke a spiritual response in us, namely, worship
God’s still speaking; are we listening? The world & the Word combine to invoke worship from us.
The Works of God (1-6) – General Revelation
The Glory of the Sovereign (1-4a)
1The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
When we speak of glory of God, we are talking about “the sum of His perfection” or His character. So all of creation is “celebrating” the character of God. The sky “announces” His handiwork, or they are saying, “Hey, guess who made us!”
2Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
Everyday “gushes” speech & every night is revealing knowledge about where everything came from. So there is an abundant, continuous revelation from creation testifying to a Creator.
3There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
So here is the interesting thing: there’s no words being used. Creation is a silent witness to the Creator. It is divine sign language and everyone sees the pictorial message & therefore should draw certain conclusions, esp. there is a God.
4Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Though there are no words, the “voice” of creation is universal going to “all the earth…the end of the world.”
The Glory of the Sun (4b-6)
David uses the sun as a specific example of God’s glory on display, the crowning achievement of God’s creative power.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
The “tent” for the sun may be night; the sun retreats there each night.
5which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
What is pictured here is youthful vigor, energy, strength.
6Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Though their knowledge about what the sun is was limited, they knew enough to give proper praise to the God who made the sun. Much more should we praise God!
The Word of God (7-11) – Special Revelation
Like the sun from which “nothing is hidden from its heat,” so the Word is likewise inescapable, “no creature is hidden from His sight” (Heb 4.13). The Psalmist gives 6 titles for the word; 6 qualities of the word; 6 effects from the word.
The Law of YHWH (7a): 7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
The doctrine of God, the great body of truth used to instruct God’s people. The Law is “perfect” as a whole, lacking nothing & needing nothing. “It is a crime to add to it, treason to alter it, and felony to take from it” (Spurgeon). The law “revives the soul” or “converts the soul.” It brings back the spirit from death to life & is able to raise up children for Abraham from even the most hard of hearts.
The Testimony of YHWH (7b): the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
Divine declaration of right & wrong, truth & error, sin & righteousness. God’s testimony is “sure,” that is, it is a firm foundation & permanent. “All other ground is sinking sand” but God’s word is terra firma. It makes the simple wise, enlightens their moral judgments.
The Precepts of YHWH (8a): 8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
Or statutes which indicate a specific duty. The precepts are “right” or straight & smooth path thru a dark woods. The heart rejoices in knowing that remaining on such a path will ensure it safe travel. Notice: the converted soul becomes wise and finds joy (progression).
The Commandment of YHWH (8b): the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
Rules to regulate the entire life. The command is “pure” and produces & promotes purity of life. How? By causing the light to shine upon darkened eyes (cf Eph 1.18). Sin & sorrow are driven away by the pure light of God’s word.
The Fear of YHWH (9a): 9the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
Reverence and respect produced by the word; awe & piety. The fear of God is “clean,” both ceremonially & ethically, for this reverence for God drives away the love of sin. “Endures forever” with God’s word is something greater than Pilate’s decree, “What I have written, I have written” (John 19.22). Or as Jesus, “Heaven & earth will pass away, but my Word will no not never pass away” (Matthew 24.35; Mark 13.31; Luke 21.33). Wise men still fear God.
The Rules of YHWH (9b): the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
His just decrees or “rules” against sin & in favor of righteousness; the right settings. These are “true,” not only in the sense that they contain no falsehood, but also that they are trustworthy & faithful words. So God’s judgments are just, in history or pertaining to sin. His justice is always above reproach to the enlightened mind.
Reward for Desiring God’s Word (10-11)
10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
cf. 119.72, 127. Greater than gold & sweeter than honey – that’s God’s Word! Better than profits & pleasure. Do we always desire God’s word like this, though? Consider Jerome, 5th century theologian who more readily desired the philosophers’ writings to the prophets’ writings:
Many years ago, when for the kingdom of heaven’s sake I had cut myself off from home, parents, sister, relations, and—harder still—from the dainty food to which I had been accustomed; and when I was on my way to Jerusalem to wage my warfare, I still could not bring myself to forego the library which I had formed for myself at Rome with great care and toil. And so, miserable man that I was, I would fast only that I might afterwards read Cicero. After many nights spent in vigil, after floods of tears called from my inmost heart, after the recollection of my past sins, I would once more take up Plautus. And when at times I returned to my right mind, and began to read the prophets, their style seemed rude and repellent. I failed to see the light with my blinded eyes; but I attributed the fault not to them, but to the sun. (Letter XXII – To Eustochium; see Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, vol 6. Pg.35)
How often do we desire to watch the latest TV show or sports match more than Scripture? But “there is great reward” in keeping or observing the Word. But to keep it we must know it; and to know it we must read it; and to read we must deny ourselves the various activities & things which would steal our attention away from the word. “Great reward” when? Someday, sure, in heaven. But today also & absolutely as we live life with God.
Our Worship to God (12-14) – The Revelation of Our Hearts
One cannot think about the Law without being reminded of disobedience to the Law. This led David to intense prayer to YHWH, his Rock & Redeemer.
Cleanse Me (12)
12Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
“Declare me innocent” is the language of forgiveness. “Hidden faults” are either 1) Sins practiced in secret or 2) Sins we commit which are secret even to ourselves. Both are grievous, but surely the former is most grievous. One of the saddest sights is when a long-time brother or sister or even a minister is found out to be engrossed in secret sin. Those kinds of incidents cause grief & astonishment. Which sheds light on the first clause: “Who can understand error?” Who can unravel the deceitfulness of sin? However, the latter category – sins God sees in us which we fail to see in ourselves – which David has in mind. No doubt we fail to love as we ought, being humble, judging to harshly, hastily, &/or ignorantly; we perform some duty while neglecting another more urgent tho uninteresting one; we fail to forgive as God forgave us. The list goes on and we know these are sins in need of God’s forgiveness because we feel guilty when they are pointed out. What a multitude of sins are hidden faults, hidden from our memory & imperfectly enlightened conscience! With David let us plead with God, forgive, cleanse, declare me innocent!
Correct Me (13)
13Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
“Keep back your servant” thru the word. “Presumptuous sin” is also called sinning with a “high hand.” It is arrogant, self-willed sin. So grievous is this kind of sin that there was no atonement for it (cf. Numbers 15.30-31; Deuteronomy 17.12). This kind of evil was purged from the land. No wonder David prayed to be kept from this. And so also should we.
Commend Me (14)
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Let my words & thoughts be acceptable. David wanted what he thought & said to be pleasing to God. Here is a sweet prayer which every Christian ought to take up. Before words leave our mouth, we ought to meditate about it. In other words, think before you speak lest you say something which is unacceptable to God.
“Let the door of my lips by kept, that I utter no evil word, and the recesses of my heart be purged, that I think no evil thought” (Pulpit Commentary 130).
Natural theology (world), revelation (Word), spiritual experience (worship) – this is the successive course of this psalm. “He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, ‘My Father wrote them both.’” (Spurgeon) God still speaks – through the world He tells us He exists; thru His word He tells us He loves us; and in our worship we tell Him we love Him.
Psalm 16 begins with the inscription “A Miktam of David.” Depending upon who you ask, miktam indicates how to sing the psalm or means “a golden psalm” (also 56-60). Either way, this Psalm contains the golden truth of the resurrection. According to Peter (Acts 2.25) & Paul (Acts 13.35), this psalm is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
“Preserve me” – keep me, protect me, guard me, save me. As shepherd with his sheep, a figure David would have identified with immediately. Here he is as a sheep calling out to the Shepherd.
2I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
Without God, all is lost. Notice – three (3) names for God used in the first 2 verses: El, YHWH, Adoni.
3As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.
“the saints…are the excellent ones”: though they have no excellence in themselves; any excellence comes from God. “In whom is all my delight” – David finds his place among the people of God. On a more profound level, since this Psalm looks forward to Christ, Christ delights in His people.
Many people love God; but do they love being with God’s people? Do they love coming to church? Even among Christians, do you delight in being with God’s people? David did; Christ does – the Savior delights in the saints.
4The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
Notice the contrast: with God & His people there is “delight;” but away from God with other gods is “sorrow.” Idolatry only breeds “sorrow,” woe, pain. “Run after” can mean wed. Those who “marry” other gods end up with a sorrowful marriage. “Drink offerings of blood” may allude to the sacrifice of Molech which required a child. David says he never sacrificed to another God.
5The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
According to the Law (Num 18.20), the sons of Aaron (priesthood) and the tribe of Levi had no portion of the land. God tells them He is their portion. David says YHWH is his portion, He is more than enough. “My cup” which satisfies the thirst of the dry soul.
“You hold my lot” – “A minister may fill his pews…but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and nothing more.” – John Owen.
6The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
As David scoped out Jerusalem and surveyed the surrounding territory, he saw the “beautiful inheritance” of land God had given His people. On a higher level, Christ (Eph 1.18), when He surveys His people, His bride, the church, He sees His “beautiful inheritance.” Indeed, we, because we know Christ, consider the various blessings we now enjoy and how those will give way to something even more profound someday, we have a “beautiful inheritance.”
7I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
Counsel from the YHWH blossoms & grows in our heart & mind. David would meditate upon God’s counsels even at midnight, being instructed by them.
“Wise men see more with their eyes shut by night that fools can see by day with their eyes open” (Spurgeon).
8I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Perhaps at this point in his life the 1st part of this verse were true for David. “Always” had he set YHWH before him. However, you & I know the tragic episode in David’s life with Bathsheba where David set aside the Lord. But when you set the Lord always before you, He is close by and ready to save. While David is the type, Christ is the antitype. His is a life which never set aside the Lord, but truly kept Him ever before Him.
9Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
“Therefore” since God is continually close…there is true joy & gladness that comes from the abiding presence of God. Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit (Lk 10.21). Brother Lawrence was a humble cook in a monastery, but his book on The Practice of the Presence of God is enlightening. “It isn’t necessary that we stay in church in order to remain in God’s presence. We can make our hearts personal chapels where we can enter anytime to talk to God privately. These conversations can be so loving and gentle, and anyone can have them” (37).
10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
“Sheol” is the unseen realm of disembodied souls (New Testament counterpart is Hades). When a person dies, they go here as a waiting place for final judgment. When David died, that’s where his soul went and his body saw decay. How much did David understand about what he is writing here? We know it speaks of resurrection (dead body coming back to life), but that was wholly unknown to David. It will be a century or two before the first resurrection takes place (by Elijah, 1 Kings 17). He had some inkling (v.11a)…
11You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The path to eternal life realized in Christ. Christ lived that He might die. Christ died that He might live again forevermore. Christ lives to make us partakers of His life. “In His presence” is where Christ is with all His glory & full joy.
Several generations of God’s people sang, read, pondered, and prayed this psalm. The temple was built by David’s son and then razed to ashes; the Israelites went into captivity, taking this psalm with them. 70 years later, the Israelites returned to the land, carrying this psalm with them. Temples were built, desecrated, and rebuilt. Empires rose & fell. And then, after nearly 1,000 years, one summer morning, when the feast of Pentecost was in full swing, Jerusalem was full of cheer & gladness, the time arrived to put the key in the lock & unlock the full meaning of this psalm. The same Spirit that had inspired it, interpreted it through apostolic lips.
Statisticians have long been forecasting the rise of secularism in America. George Barna in his book The Seven Faith Tribes sets the number of Spiritual Skeptics at 11% – atheists (9%) and agnostics (2%) (99). When one factors in the number of “nons” you end up closer to 1 in 5 or 20% of the American population being somewhat skeptical of God, the Bible, & religion in general. All of these numbers are figures which have nearly doubled in size in the past 25 years. The 24 hour media cycle does not help. Every moment there is more bad news. Turmoil & tumult are the order of the day. It appears that evil is winning. Satan’s kingdom is advancing. What can the righteous do? Enter Psalm 10. The message of this Psalm is simple: Though it seems like evil wins in this world, God ultimately wins. What do we do when evil is winning? Psalm 10 provides insight concerning what we do in troubled times.
The Perplexity of Theism
1Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Why is God Silent? Verse 1, why is God far off and hidden? We are inclined to think that 1) if we are God’s people, He would never allow us to fall into the hands of our enemies or 2) if we are oppressed by evil men, God will be quick to rescue. However, the psalmist’s own experience does not bear this out. Surely you can identify with this to some degree. There is the creeping influence of secularism with the growing acceptance of ungodly practices; there is the threat of radical, militant Islam which largely goes unchecked though they broadcast their violent videos; maybe in your own life you have experienced some kind of oppression from evil people. Where is God in all of this? Why does He tolerate it?
13Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
Why Be an Atheist? Verse 13, why do the wicked renounce God? And they do! 1) They deny there is a God (v.4); 2) They deny God sees their actions (v.11); 3) They deny God will judge them (13). Even today there are many who a) reject God & Christianity outright or b) claim the name of Christ while living their life as though He does not exist, what one writer calls “Christian Atheism.” Why would anyone exchange the safe shores of sanity which is theism for the roaring waves of insanity which is atheism, practical, Christian, or otherwise? Well, verses 2-11 will serve to explain why many choose this course.
The Practice of Atheism (2-11)
Contained in these vs. is a lengthy picture of human wickedness & as terrify as any found in all the Bible.
2In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
3For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
4In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
Pride (2-4): One reason people choose atheism is pride. “In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek Him,” i.e. God. Arrogance births & nourishes godlessness. The arrogant, prideful boaster shows contempt for God and for his fellow man, seeking to create & devour the permanent underclass (“pursue the poor”), exploiting & crushing the weak in their greed.
5His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
Prosperity (5): Herein lies the rub – the godly might expect God to strike down the practical atheist. Instead, though, “His ways prosper at all times.” In fact, his prosperity makes his continued atheism possible. The practical atheist 1) has no need for God’s moral code (“judgments” or “laws”), they are “out of his sight” & 2) he makes fun of us for upholding God’s standard of conduct (he “makes fun of his enemies”). So worldly wisdom says, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world; survival of the fittest; God won’t help you.”
6He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
Protection (6): The phrase “he says in his heart” is key – this is the language of self-deception (cf. Psa 14.1). His pride & prosperity have so deceived the practical atheist that he believes he is guaranteed security. He’ll never be moved nor will adversity come his way. Not even God Himself can touch him!
A vivid illustration of this happened during WWII. The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was shot at & nearly killed. He laughed it off: “The bullet has never been made that can kill me.”
7His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
Profanity (7): This is vile, destructive language; wicked words. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” says the Lord. See Matthew 12.34-37. Our language matters to God. But if you don’t believe in God or believe He will hold you accountable, well, you will say whatever you please.
8He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
9he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket; he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
10The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might.
11He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Persecution (8-11): Three images are employed to paint the vivid picture of the practical atheist’s violence: an assassin, a lion, & a hunter. The parallel between all three is that all stalk their prey, hiding in wait for their victim.
The practical atheist does all this under the self-deluded idea that “God has forgotten…He will never see.” This is a very bad, wicked person.
The Prayer of Theists (12-18)
As NT Christians, we would expect “Love your enemy” or pray for them. Even under the Law, “Love your neighbor.” However, that is not the chord struck by the Psalmist at all…
12Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted.
Do Something! (12): Don’t just stand there…do something! Do not sit on your hands… “Arise…lift up your hand!” Talk about coming boldly to the throne of grace! Lift up your hand and take vengeance, which is God’s alone.
13Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
14But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.
15Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.
Don’t Let Them Get Away With This! (13-15): “The Way of the Wicked Will Perish,” cf. Psa 1.6. Verse 13, they think they are getting away with it. “There’s no judgment, no hell.” This side of Calvary Peter ran into similar thinking, 2 Pet 3.1ff. There’s the New Testament update. There is a God who will judge the world. Verse 14, and God does see & while put to right all wrongs. God sees the schemes of the oppressors and the grief of those oppressed. Verse 15, the arm was the symbol of strength. So break his strength, take away his ability to do evil. Don’t let him get away with it!
16The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.
17O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
YHWH is King (16-18): When evil is winning, and sometimes that happens, always keep in mind that YHWH still rules over all. No one will ever dethrone Him. Further, the weak ones have His ear; He inclines His ear to hear the oppressed. God has had the sovereignty & will always rule.
The bottom line is God is faithful, cf. Habakkuk 3.17-19. It is Habakkuk who also uttered, “The just shall live by faith” which is quoted all over the New Testament. Yes, when surrounded by ungodliness & godlessness, when all the news is of oppression & violence, the just must live by faith; faith in a faithful God who ultimately wins.
Psalm 6 is the first of what are known as the penitentials (32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143); these are Psalms of great lamentation over sin. This one is probably not as well-known as the others (32, esp. 51), but it communicates feelings I believe we can all identify with: the feeling of failing God. What do we do when we have failed God, sinned? This Psalm tells us there is hope when we bow it spiritually. Psalm 6 provides hope for when we’ve blown it morally. Two things to mention initially: 1) though the sin is not mentioned, the conscience is clearly stricken; and 2) though the sin is unnamed, the Lord knows what it is.
Psalm 6 (ESV)
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.
1O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.
2Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
3My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?
4Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?
6I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.
7My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.
8Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
9The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.
10All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.
When You’ve Blown It
A Lurking Sense of God’s Displeasure (1-3): The Psalmist speaks of “Your anger…Your wrath” (v.1). The wrath of God over sin is very real. Sin is no small matter, lightly overlooked. The true gravity of sin is seen in what it cost God to redeem us from sin: His unique Son, Jesus.
A Lost Sense of God’s Presence (4-5): “Turn” or “return” says come back. Why? Implication is the Psalmist feels as tho God has departed due to sin. But the return of YHWH will mean salvation & deliverance. So yes – come back! Don’t stay away forever! Restore me that I may praise you.
A Lacking Sense of God’s Peace (6-7): Notice the Psalmist is up all night, every night mourning his sin (every night I flood my bed with tears). Sleep eludes the conscience stricken person. Indeed, his whole being – mind, body, soul – is in distress. There is no rest, no peace, even if you are a king like David was. Have you ever experienced this kind of spiritual & bodily fatigue – unable to get out of bed, too tired to go to work, too worn out to clean the house, maybe even too depressed to go to church, read the Bible, even pray? I know some have. Perhaps the only thing you can pray is v.3 – How long, O Lord?
A Longing for God’s Deliverance (8-10): How long until I am delivered from this? From my enemies (all you workers of evil), esp. the spiritual forces of darkness which are probably at the source of many of our troubles. You want it so desperately. You plead & pray for God to deliver.
What Do We Do When We’ve Sinned
Feel the Guilt (1-3): Godly grief produces repentance unto salvation (2 Cor 7.10). We ought to feel guilty when we sin. If we do not, we’re in trouble. Lack of guilt is indicative of a seared conscience. 1) The Psalmist feels the guilt & knows he deserves rebuke just “not in Your anger,” discipline but “not in Your wrath” (v.1). 2) The Psalmist is “languishing,” that is, he is withered like a plant or flower; lit. he is one who droops (v.2). 3) The Psalmist seems absolutely worn out by his grief; so weary in fact, that he can’t finish the sentence. “How long?” he asks without specifying for what. See Habakkuk 1.2; given v.9, this makes sense.
Pro Top Tip: When someone comes forward following a sermon I am very mindful to not minimize the action of one by lumping it in with the masses. Saying things like “We all have…” minimizes their repentance when instead, they need to feel the weight & gravity of this.
Pray to God (4-7): “Save me,” cries the Psalmist to God. Also, notice how often God is mentioned in these opening verses – my count is five (5) times in four (4) verses. He is the only and best hope we have for these dark nights of the soul: YHWH. He is the hope of the David & He is our hope as well. This is the turning point – when David, by habit, training, or sheer desperation, hurls himself to God and calls upon God.
Repent (8): Verse 8 is the turning-point of this Psalm. The grief & guilt should lead to true repentance. “Depart from me, all you workers of evil” – this is the language of practical repentance. You sweep out the wicked, purge yourself of the impure so that you are holy unto the Lord. The change of mood continues into the next verses. Why? God has heard my prayer!
Know God Hears (9-10): Though you sin, you are still a child of God. Unless you up & leave home, live in open, willful rebellion…that’s a different story. But when a child of God fails the Father, know you still have the Father’s ear. When Simon (the Magician), a child of God, fails the Father thinking to buy the miraculous demonstration of the Holy Spirit with money, what does Peter tell him to do? Acts 8.22, though he has sinned, he still has the Father’s ear. Back in Psalm 6, notice the three-fold assertion – “YHWH has heard…YHWHW has heard…YHWH has accepted…” this denotes absolute conviction. No doubt about it.
When Others Blow It
Be Gracious (2): Even as we desire for God to be gracious us so we ought to be people who show grace to one another. Remind them of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. Pray with & for them.
Mourn (6-7): We should agonize over sin in our brothers & sisters. Especially if they persist in their sin. “Cemeteries are quiet places where damp earth covers dumb mouths” (Spurgeon). Now is the time to remember God.
Remember God’s There (8-10): God is not lost, those who rebel against Him & reject Him are. God was always there, even when we’ve blown it. He’s still there for our brothers & sisters who choose to walk away from the Father.
When you sin, you should feel guilty, but do not therefore feel lost. In the dark night of the soul, when we have failed to live up to the high, holy standard, call upon God. Request light. God is our light & pathway through the darkness.
Turmoil in the world tempts us to worry and wonder. Several of the Psalms are Messianic in significance. Psalm 2 is one such Psalm. Yet each Psalm had its own meaning when originally penned. This Psalm communicated to Israel that no matter how chaotic the world scene may be, their King is the Anointed of God. That David wrote this Psalm is unquestionable (Acts 4.25). Paul affirms this is the second Psalm (Acts 13.33). Author & location are established in NT. This Psalm’s main emphasis is to highlight God’s sovereignty over man’s depravity. How is God sovereign over man’s depravity? Psalm 2 answers this.
Man’s Depravity (1-3)
1Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
“Nations” are heathen nations, the Gentiles. “The peoples” are all mankind. They “rage” like the waves of the ocean. Why? B/c they are opposed to YHWH. It really is that simple. Since the beginning, man has rebelled against God’s way. Throughout history mankind has plotted in vain against God.
The Roman Empire plotted to vanquish Christianity from the earth…in vain.
19th century philosophers declared God is dead…in vain.
Militant Islam seeks to eliminate Christianity by killing the infidels…in vain.
Show me the burial place of Christianity. Show me where they buried God when He died. In fact, His tomb was found open, empty, with His grave clothes still there.
2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
Notice that man in rebellion 1) rages, 2) plots, 3) set themselves, 4) take counsel together, & 5) speak against God (YHWH) & His Anointed. “Anointed” in Hebrew is Messiah which translated into Greek became Christos from which we get Christ. Prophets (Isa 61.1), priests (Ex 30.30), and kings (1 Sam 16.13) were all anointed. So it is with Christ.
3“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
In other words, “Let us be out own gods.” This has been the cry of man since Eden when Satan tempted Eve to “be like God, knowing good & evil” or “to play at God, defining good & evil.” The inclination of man’s fallen heart is to reject God’s rule, even hating His Christ. Man’s inclination is to play at God and we are surrounded by a society whose favorite pastime is to (re)define good & evil.
The Lord’s Derision (4-6)
What is God’s reaction to all the depravity & rejection from mankind?
4He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
The Lord sits in heaven and His kingdom is over all (103.19) whether man likes it or not, whether man acknowledges it or not. In heaven, the Lord laughs. What’s so funny? God laughs these puny men to scorn and His scorn is for vengeance. He is a jealous God – jealous for His glory & the glory of His Anointed. So He mocks at man’s attempts to diminish Him or even erase Him, as though such a thing were possible. He ridicules man’s attempts to escape His cosmic sovereign rule.
5Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
Some have attempted to eliminate the wrath of God from their Bibles. Nevertheless, it is a Bible subject. God’s holy wrath is kindled against sin, esp. the sin of self-deification (making self God), which is what the nations are about. Be assured: The love of God has averted His wrath away from us in Christ.
6“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
Consider what a mess this world is in and then remember what God says here. “God’s anointed is appointed & shall not be disappointed.” He rules from Zion regardless of how chaotic the world may be.
It’s as if God says to a rebellious mankind, “Ha! Rebel against me all you want. No matter what you do, what I’ve determined will come to pass will come to pass! Look! It’s as good as done. I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill”
A man once met Horace Greely, the famous newspaper editor, on the street and said, “Mr. Greely, I have stopped your paper.” “Have you?” Mr. Greely said, “that’s too bad,” and went on his way. The next morning, Mr. Greely met the man again, and said, “I thought you had stopped the Tribune?” “So I did,” was the reply. “Then there must be some mistake,” said Mr. Greely, “for I just came from the office and the presses were running, the clerks were as busy as ever, the compositors were hard at work, and the business was going on as yesterday and the day before.” “Oh,” said the man, “I didn’t mean I had stopped the entire newspaper. I meant that I had stopped my copy of it because I didn’t like your editorials.”
In the same way, individuals who rebel against God are like the man who proudly announced to Horace Greely that he had stopped his newspaper. They think that if they reject God’s rule in their life that they will stop God’s rule in the earth. But that’s not so. Whether a person rebels against God’s rule in his life or submits to God’s rule in his life, God is going to do what He has declared. God has declared that one day, despite mankind’s rebellion; Jesus Christ will reign upon the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
YHWH’s Decree (7-9)
7I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
This is the decree of YHWH; it is the purpose of God – for David and the kingdom of Israel (the antitype/shadow) and for Jesus & the eternal kingdom (the type/substance). Herein lay the gospel (Acts 13.33). Thru His resurrection, Jesus was declared, finally & fully, to be the Son of God.
8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
A common custom among ancient near east kings was to give those to whom they favored whatever they ask. Thus, YHWH is pictured as sovereign monarch even over David.
9You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Those who refuse to bend the knee the King will break with an iron rod. The words “break” & “dash” denote strong force even tho it is merely a “potter’s vessel” which is struck. Once more the frailty of man is juxtaposed with the supreme power of God. Let’s just say you do not want to be found opposing or rebelling against God!
Man’s Devotion (10-12)
Given the unalterable, eternal purposes of God, what should man do?
10Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
If kings should take notice, how much more the subjects. God is supreme & the wise thing to do would be to take notice that God’s eternal purposes are fixed. It would be easier for a spider to move a mountain than for puny men to thwart God’s purposes or bring to nothing His Christ. Rather, men must “Serve YHWH…and rejoice…” Submission to & service in the kingdom is the wisest course men could take. Rejoicing under the rule of God is best. But all this is with “fear & trembling” (cf Phil 2.12-13) “Fear without joy, is torment; and joy, without holy fear, would be presumption.”
12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
“Kiss the Son,” i.e. pay homage to Him. Replace hatred with homage. In modern vernacular, “Don’t be hatin’.” Hatred toward God will only serve to ignite the wrath of God. “The way” spoken of is the way of rebellion; that way only leads to rebellion.
The 1st Psalm taught us the character of the righteous; the 2nd Psalm teaches us the character of the Righteous One. Turmoil in the world tempts us to worry & wonder – Where’s God? This Psalm answers: “Reigning in His heaven.”
This Psalm ends with a beatitude & can be translated “Blessed are all those who trust in Him.” Honor the Son by trusting in Him.
The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then too the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is the poetic idea of what Psalm 1 is depicting. Jesus likewise spoke of two gates, two ways, two trees & two types of fruit, two houses, & two foundations (cf Mt 7.13-27, esp. 13-14). What are the two ways before every person? Psalm 1 is actually the first full expression of this idea in the Bible. It is clear, concise, and yet carefully crafted…
The blessing of delighting in God & His Word.
1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
Purity before God (1): Maintaining purity before God is contingent upon the way in which you walk. 1) The Wicked Way: Notice the progression – from walking to standing to sitting. There is even progression in the company – the wicked (or ungodly) are those who have no fear of God before their eyes and are perpetually restless in their self-will; the sinners are those who indulge in open sin; the scoffers are those who ridicule religion and laugh at those who fear God. Said another way, the wicked/ungodly are unconcerned with religion, even apathetic; sinners have a particular way of transgressing (i.e. drunkards, etc.); scoffers have brought an end to all religious & moral impulse in themselves (“he is a believer in all unbelief”). The progression goes from forgetting about God (“wicked”), to habitual violation of God’s commands (“sinners”), to becoming a professor & promoter of sin to others (“scoffers”). 2) The Righteous Way: The righteous person will avoid all this progression down the pathway of wickedness. Instead, a) He will walk in the council of YHWH; b) He will stand in the way of God; c) He will sit at the feet of the Almighty.
2but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Pleasure in God’s Law (2a): He loves it! Consider also, just how little of God’s word David had when he wrote this: Pentateuch and a few Psalms. Today we have the complete written word of God; how much more should we prize this volume and think deeply on it!
Pondering on God’s Law (2b): He carries the law of God with him in his mind all day & all night; turning it over, ruminating, musing, thinking. He treats Scripture like hard candy, savoring it all day,, not a candy bar quickly devoured.
3He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Picture (3): Not planted by chance or self; the righteous are “planted” by the Father, rooted in Christ (Col 2.7), by these flowing streams of living water (cf. Jn 7.38-39). He is the One who establishes us so we are fruit-bearing evergreens. “Prospers”: Adversity, yes, however, it is the best life there is.
Not long ago I was visiting with a member who had recently repented and rededicated himself to the Lord. He shared with me that “When I do things His way, life is good.” “How about that?” I replied. How about that indeed!
The Godless (4-6)
The fate of those who neither know God nor follow after His ways.
4The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Worthless: Chaff was the dead, worthless stuff which came off the grain. So the wicked are like chaff, carried away. The contrast is sharp: the righteous are planted firmly by God whereas the wicked are blown away. By the way, these are the novices of evil (wicked), the first phase of spiritual degradation; if this is their fate, how much worse will it be for the sinners and scoffers.
5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
Judgment: “The judgment” here seems to be the final judgment by God on the last day. Of course, no one will be standing because “every knee will bow” but here the inability to stand is connected to their guilt. Sinners will be cast out of the presence of the saints (i.e. heaven, though how much David knew about that is not known). And scoffers…are not mentioned, probably because if the wicked & sinners are not going to make it, there is no need to mention the scoffers.
Charles Spurgeon says, “Every church had one devil in it.” Weeds grow up with the wheat (cf Matt 13.24-30; 37-43). But there is coming a day when the “congregation of the righteous” will be purged, the weeds will be burned, but the wheat goes into the barn. May God grant that we find our place there!
6for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Known: “Knows” carries the idea of constant awareness. No one is going to game God who has marched down the way of the wicked nor will anyone be forgotten who has tread the way of the righteous. God is constantly watching over the way of the righteous; Yea, though we walk thru the shadow of death!
Purity & Pleasure: Some may lay hold of the purity of verse 1 and avoid the path of the wicked, avoid sin. But do you delight in God’s word as verse 2 says? This beatitude (“Blessed,” v.1) is two-fold: purity & pleasure in pondering God’s word. Do you love God’s word? Do you seek to be alone with your Bible to read & study?
Meditate: Mentally chew the cud, like what a cow does. Get the sweetness & virtue out to nourish the soul & grow. This is hard candy, not a candy bar; it is a sucker, not a Snickers. Constant meditation upon God’s word has always characterized God’s people. It should characterize us today!
Fruit-Bearing Evergreens: In seasons of doubt we bear the fruit of faith; in seasons of worry, we bear the fruit of contentment; in seasons of trial, we bear the fruit of patience; in seasons of temptation, we bear the fruit of dependence on God. We bear fruit in its season!
Theme: This Psalm sets the tone for all the Psalms. The theme contained in this Psalm is found through the Psalms. No matter how bad it is, the righteous are known by God and the wicked perish. “Yeah, but it is really bad, Lord!” He says, “I got you!” God defends the Godly & destroys the godless.
The rest of the Psalms serve as exposition of this principle. But we have before us two portraits with the unspoken question looming: Which are we? Are we the righteous one which knows God, knows God’s law, and is known by God? Or are we the wicked, useless, with only impending destruction awaiting?