James Montgomery Boice calls Psalm 84 “The Janitor’s Psalm.” Psalm 84 is another Psalm of the sons of Korah. They wrote a total of a dozen (42-49, 84-85, 87-88).Permeating this Psalm is the language of those whose hearts delight in God. They delighted in joyful service rendered unto God. God is interested in the simplest tasks of the simplest men. Who were the sons of Korah? Let’s build the background for this Psalm before looking at it.
The Janitors of the Temple – The Sons of Korah
Rebellion: Their daddy (or distant relative) led a rebellion against Moses with 250 community leaders (See Numbers 26.9-11). Their daddy & his band died, but the sons of Korah did not die. In gratitude to God they devoted themselves to producing praise…
Religion: 1) Music: Korah was one of five major Levitical families (see Numbers 26.53; 1 Chronicles 6.31-33). The sons of Korah are a family of Levites David organized into a musical guild; they were a Levitical family of singers. 2) Doormen: or janitors, if you will. In 1 Chronicles 26, men of “great ability” and who were “qualified” were set over the east, north, south, & west gates of the temple. Korahites were among those whose duty involved the menial task of watching the gates.
The Janitors’ Worship (Psalm 84)
Sanctuary (1-4): the beatitude of the house-dwellers (v.4). The bliss of God belongs to those who are forever the houseguests of God. They are singing about the dwelling place (residence) of YHWH. Since God lived at Zion, those who lived there were the most blessed of all people on earth.
1How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
2My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Body (2): My whole nature, the very essence of my being has a holy homesickness, lovesickness for the King’s courts. Mind you, these are guys who worked and lived at the temple, but even then, they still craved God.
3Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Birds (3): Both the sparrows & the swallows find their place in God’s sanctuary. They built nests in the eaves of the temple. These birds sometimes actually nested inside the sleeping quarters of the priests. There is such security for these birds that their young are safe. So the psalmist is say that the people of God can find such security for themselves with no fear of enemies. There may even be some symbolism in the birds mentioned: typically the sparrow is used to symbolize worthlessness (were they not sold for small, copper coins of little value, Mt 10.29). Swallows seems to symbolize restlessness, flying here and there (Prov 26.2). So our souls away from God are restless until they find rest in Him.
Note: “My King and My God” – notice how personal this is, with the double “my.” It is as if the psalmist seeks to take hold of God with both hands.
4Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah
Strength (5-8): The beatitude of those whom God strengthens (v.5). The bliss of God is for those who do not rely upon their own strength. Since the focus on this Psalm is on getting to the place where God lives, then the strength provided here is to get the weary traveler to Zion.
5Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
The Valley (6): of Baca or weeping. This was a barren, desolate desert place. Those making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem would have ventured thru this rough terrain. But those who rely upon the blessing of God’s strength turn even that dry place into a valley of springs & pools of water.
7They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
The Victory (7): Since God is our Strengthener, we receive grace upon grace, strength upon strength to make our pilgrimage thru the Valley and up to Jerusalem where God is. So we appear before God in Zion. As we go to our heavenly Zion (a city with foundations), we are strengthening one another & blessing those we meet.
8O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Shield (9-12): The beatitude of those who trust in God (v.12). The bliss of God belongs to whose faith in in God & God alone (not self or some other). Typically our notion of a shield is for battle, a defensive part of the armor of a soldier. So God shields His people from the enemies – both material & spiritual. There is a second sense of this concept of shield tho. When a man seeks to kindle a fire, he may shield the flickering flame from the wind. So the God of Jacob did when He kindled a flame which would bless the whole world
9Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!
10For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Just One Day (10a): Remember: these are the sons of Korah who literally did dwell in the tents of the wicked rebels. But no more. Just one day in joyful service in His courts is greater than 1000 days elsewhere. “Earth holds no treasures but perish with using, However precious they be;/ Yet there’s a country to which I am going: Heaven holds all to me.”
Janitor Work (10b): You’ve probably heard someone say before, “I don’t care if I have to scrub toilets in heaven as long as I’m there!” That’s essentially what the psalmist is saying: give me the most menial, small task – that lowly station in God’s house is better than the highest position among the godless
11For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Good Things (11): God is sun (only place in the Bible God is called “a sun”) & shield, the fire starter (light source) & fire keeper. He gives grace (favor) & greatness (honor). His grace enables us to “walk uprightly” before Him; this secures for us the many & various good things (i.e. blessings). Matthew 7.11; Romans 8
12O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
Everything we do, no matter how small or mundane it may seem, is important to God. Even the birds of heaven find their home in God’s dwelling. Are we not much more valuable than the sparrow? We must learn to seek & trust God. Life in God & with God is blessed
Many Christians can agree with Isaac (Gen 27.2): “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of may death.” I am old – now what? Albert Barnes puts it this way: “Who would wish to be an old man? Who can look upon a man tottering with years, and broken down with infirmities; a man whose sight and hearing are gone; a man who is alone amidst the graves of all the friends that he had in early life; a man who is burden to himself, and to the world; a man who has reached the ‘Last scene’ of all that ends this strange eventful history?…And who, in view of such infirmities, can fail to see the propriety of seeking favor of God in early years?”
If I had a dollar for every time a seasoned veteran of the faith told me “Don’t get old” I could retire a rich man right now. But the reality is & we all know that growing old is a part of this life. The older we get the more we must rely/depend upon God. How can an older person keep his/her way pure? Let’s take a look at a Psalm written by David when he was an old man – Psalm 71.
The Problems with Old Age – Looking Around
It is not fun to be old, esp. in America. We once honored & respected the older folks, but sadly this no longer seems to be the case. We value youth & vitality, our culture is geared toward that age group. Plus…
9Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
Lack of Strength (9): See Ecc 12.1-7, Solomon paints the portrait of old age poetically – sight gives out, strength diminishes, your various sense dull, sleep is fleeting, your memory isn’t what it used to be.
10For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together.
Continuation of Trouble (10): Just because you get older doesn’t mean the many & various troubles you’ve had in life go away. In fact, often it is the same problems just a different day you have to deal with it. Finances, family, health, problems; regret, frustrations, depression – these are all real problems which persist even into old age. So…
4Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel. – Rescue me!
11They say, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.”
Being Alone (11): If you live long enough, you’ll live so long that you’ve outlived everybody else in your life who is/was dear to you. “Does Jesus care when I’ve said ‘good-by’ to the dearest on earth to me,/ And my sad heart breaks till it nearly breaks is it aught to Him? Does He see?”
The Perspective of Old Age – Looking Back
You still have God!
5For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Knowing God (5): Recall God’s faithfulness in your life, all your life. David grew up in Israel learning the faith of his father & forefathers. And as the Psalmist grew, so his trust in God grew. He felt persuaded that the God who had sustained him through his youthful exploits would likewise not forsake him now that he was old.
6Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.
Leaning on God (6): Before our bodies had strength to live, God carried us. He did it then & He continues to do it when strong legs grow weak. God knew us before we knew anything. Before he was able to understand the power that upheld him, he was sustained by it. And now that he is in old age & his feeble legs are giving out, that same power would be what he would lean upon.
7I have been as a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.
Providence of God (7): “Portent” or a marvel of divine dealings, a prodigy of God’s goodness. It is awe-inspiring how God has worked in David’s life. It is also awe-inspiring how God has worked in your life. Reflect back on where you would have been if not for God providing for you along the way. Protection & blessing, grace & mercy, salvation & sanctification. “All by God’s grace.”
The Potential of Old Age – Looking Forward
You still have a lot to do!
17O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
Proclamation (17-18): God is always concerned about the next generation and the seasoned veterans of the faith likewise should emulate that. “Don’t take me out of this world until I have finished my course and told the next generation about you. Verse 19 is the content of the message: Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? Even in old age God does great things…
20You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.
21You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.
Promotion (20-21): Two fold – greatness & comfort. Perhaps there is even a little hint prophetically of resurrection – “revive me again.” Hmm…But certainly God comforts the afflicted. The language used here is the language of a man who has fallen into deep water. God would “bring me up again,” my head above the waters of trouble.
Don’t be a Solomon or an Asa or a Lot who are stumbling across the finish line of life. Be a Caleb! “Give me this land!” (Joshua 14.10-12).
The Praise in Old Age – Looking Up
15My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.
19Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?
24And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disappointed who sought to do me hurt.
“You are Righteous” (15, 19, 24): v.15, “righteous acts” are those acts wherein God rewards piety & revenges injury. Everything God does is right & just. Even when He justifies the sinner and causes us to be in right relationship with Him in Christ.
22I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
“You are Faithful” (22): v.15, “their number is past my knowledge.” He just keeps doing it over & over again. So, I’m going to sing praises about how you have been faithful!
23My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.
“You are My Redeemer” (23): v. 15, “deeds of salvation.” God saved us so that we might be to the praise of His glory. He redeemed from sin, death, & hell. We were like out of tune instruments which just made noise. Now, in Christ, flows harmony & melody fit to magnify the King.
“I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.” (Psalm 37:25, ESV)
The godly are given to prayer. In old age there is a cry to pray more. Psalm 71 is a prayer for the grace necessary to stare down the dark corridor of death with your hand firmly in God’s hand. The more intimate we are with the Lord the firmer our trust will be.
God “has put eternity in man’s heart.”
Man has this built-in craving, longing for the eternal, esp. for God. If nothing else, one has a sneaking suspicion that there is more to all this than meets the eye. Some stifle & suppress this, but it never goes away. When a person becomes a part of the people of God this appetite for the Almighty is augmented & must be fed regularly. Sadly, some Christians starve this appetite and is one reason we see people walk away from the Lord. But those few happy souls who hunger & thirst for righteousness & are satisfied so that they might hunger for more, for them…
God is the singular desire of the searching, thirsty soul.
What does it look like to long for God? Psalm 63 captures this craving which Christians today ought to have.
The Soul’s Longing (1)
1O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Seeking God: Even “my God,” its personal. 1) Earnestly: With eagerness, zeal. I’m going to do this now, immediately; I can’t wait. 2) Early (KJV): First thing I’m going to do even before the sun comes up, I gotta find you. The pillow is despised & the coolness of the AM embraced so that sweet communion with God might be enjoyed.
The Thirst for God: “My soul…my flesh” – everything about me, my whole being craves God. All of me longs for Thee! Notice that God is the object of this thirst; not creeds & confessions & councils; not religious leaders & preachers; not even religious exercises & practices; GOD alone can satisfy this craving. And God is of such a nature that He will grant this request…
It seems that just about every night after the boys are scrubbed, their teeth washed, they’re in their pajamas, prays have been said, & the light turned off that I will hear from the boys’ room, “DAD!” And when I go in there they invariably ask the same thing, “Can I please have a drink of water?” Good dad that I am, I get it for them. So here is David on his bed (v.6) saying, “GOD! Can I have a drink please?” The Father is of such a nature that He readily fetches it for him. And for us!
The Soul’s Looking (2-4)
2So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
In the Sanctuary (2): David wasn’t at the sanctuary (the tabernacle in his day) to see the crude structure; nor if the temple had been built in his time would he have gone there to see the wonderful stones & wonderful buildings; whenever he went up to the sanctuary it was to seek “my God,” esp. His power & glory. This is what David longs for in the wilderness.
3Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
God’s Love > My Life (3): God’s covenantal, steadfast, unending love is better than life, or rather, “lives.” God’s love is better than 10,000 lives! Life is dear, but God’s love is dearer. Life is valuable, but God’s love is supreme. Why? Because life is temporary, but God’s love is eternal. Oh, that more people today understood what the saints of old knew. Too many people view their life as all important, as tho this is all there is. Indeed, some Christians do likewise. No! God’s love is eternal and the thing we are to reach out for.
4So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
Worship (4): Praise from his lips (3) will flow from his mouth as long as he lives. My whole life is given over to the lover of my soul. The lifting of holy hands (lit.) was an outward manifestation of the inward disposition – as the soul reached out for God so the body too reached to the heavens (or Jerusalem) in an attempt to grasp His presence. Here is the summation of man’s creation & purpose & destiny: the praise of God’s glory.
The Soul’s Living (5-6)
5My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
Satisfaction (5): “fat & rich foods” are the best of the best, the choice cuts of meat and freshest vegetables & fruit…but remember, this is a spiritual feast provided by God. This “hidden manna” brings spiritual refreshment as we eat with the lover of our soul. It is the food we eat which the world does not know, living water to drink which the world refuses to drink. So it has been that the saints of God have always been sustained & satisfied by the spiritual.
6when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
Meditation (6): Although David misses Jerusalem, he acknowledges that he doesn’t have to be in Zion to enjoy a spiritual feast. Right here on his bed as he recalls & ruminates on God, His glory & power (v.2), he fares sumptuously. “If day’s cares tempt us to forget God, it is well that night’s quiet should lead us to remember him” (Spurgeon). We see God best in the dark.
The Soul’s Lodging (7-8)
7for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
“Shadow of Your Wings” (7): The top of the Ark of the Covenant was called the mercy seat and this is where God’s presence abided. There were two (2) cherubim on either side of the ark with their wings outstretched and touching over the mercy seat, defending God’s glory. David alludes to these wings and in their shadow where God dwelt is where David finds His help & joy.
8My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
Intimacy with the Almighty (8): The word “cling” or “follows close” (NKJV) is the same word used for when a man leaves father & mother and “clings” or “cleaves” to his wife. It denotes the close, sacred union of the soul with its God. It means we are glued to God, the lover of our soul. So the soul clings to God & God clings to the soul with His right hand. Even as a husband’s “right hand embraces” his wife (Song of Sol 2.6; 8.3). This is close, personal, active love.
All of me longs for Thee! It should be, ought to be, must be the earnest desire of every Christian to see & enjoy more & more of the power & glory of God. We must long for deeper intimacy with the Almighty, even as our flesh craves food & drink. Only God can satisfy the souls appetite for Him.
Stay thirsty my brethren!
Psalm 53 is nearly identical to Psalm 14.
If God says something once it is important; it is His word after all. If He says it twice, we must give it special attention. But what if God says it thrice? This Psalm is quoted by Paul in Romans 3.10-12. “This demands out keenest concentration, contemplation, assimilation, and even memorization…we are to ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.’” (Boice). There is no vain repetition with God. Spurgeon suggests that David wrote the 14th when he was young and turned his attention to it later in life for a “revision” of sorts. What he found was that men were no better later in life as they were when he was younger. Yet God takes care of the faithful who live surrounded by sin & evil. How bad is it really in the world? According to Psalm 53, it is really, really bad. We might say it’s a bad, bad, bad, bad world.
“To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.” The superscription of this psalm calls it “a maskil.” A maskil could mean this is 1) a contemplative song [think about it, hmm…]; 2) a psalm imparting moral wisdom; 3) a well-written psalm (NET).
The Fountain of Sin (1a)
1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
“Fool”: this word is typically used to describe a moral deficient person, an impious individual. A fool is one who “finds pleasure in evil conduct” (Prov 10.23, NIV). Not intelligence but impiety is in view. This personal rebellion is what stimulated their “repentance” about God’s existence.
“Heart”: The moral corrupt person must first convince him/herself there is no God. So here is self-deception. So they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1.18).
“No God”: Ultimately, then, this is a choice to disbelieve in God. There may certainly be real challenges to their faith & attempts to make atheism appear reasonable or rational, but at the heart of atheism is personal rebellion.
The Filthiness of Sin (1b)
They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.
“Corrupt”: Here is the deceptiveness of sin – it masquerades as something beautiful & desirable. Like how homosexual behavior is simple another alternative lifestyle or being for abortion is “pro-choice” (who would want to take away options?). Sin makes men altogether filthy.
“Vile”: or “have committed abominable injustice” (NASB). Is there really any greater injustice men can commit than to make sin seem attractive?
The Fact of Sin (2)
2God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
“God Looks Down from Heaven”: Holy God, perfect & sinless, sitting upon His majestic throne looks down upon the earth. What does He see? A planet full of sinful men & women. All our sinful hearts & lives are open before Him.
The Witness of God: Do any seek after Him? When Paul quotes this verse in Romans 3.11 the answer is “no one understands…seek for God.”
The Fault of Sin (3)
3They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
“Fallen Away”: Is sin really that bad? YES! It is iniquity, unrighteousness, there is nothing good in it, it is evil. It is turning away from the right path, the path of life, to the path of death.
No One Does Good: Not only have we turned from God & corrupted ourselves, our interpersonal relationships are ruined because of sin. We do not do good to others.
The Folly of Sin (4)
4Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?
“no knowledge…do not call upon God” is language indicative of those who never made time for God in their lives and their foolishness will ultimately find them out. Listen to the excuses people make when it comes to knowing God…
“I didn’t know you existed”: God has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself in the world & the Word – how will this sound to Him?
“I didn’t think you were important”: How insulting to God! What was more important? TV, fantasy football, Facebook, work?
“I didn’t have time for you”: Yet you had time for every other frivolous, meaningless thing; everything you believed was important, but wasn’t.
The Fruit of Sin (4b)
“…who eat up my people as they eat bread…”
Barbarity: these “eat up my people as they eat bread.” These devour the weak & the poor that they might become strong & rich. This is an apt description of the dog-eat-dog world that then was and still is.
Cruelty: when the deceitfulness of sin hardens men’s hearts we should expect to see even the family unit being destroyed. Just plain mean, acting like junk yard dogs toward one another.
The Fear (and Shame) of Sin (5)
5There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.
God their Enemy: Here is the main variation between this and Pslam 14. “great terror where there is no terror.” Their own consciences frighten them, their imaginations fill them with terror. There is a very real fear that cannot be erased: God is & God fights against them.
“God has rejected them”: They are right to fear because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. “The wicked flees when no one pursues” because in reality God is hunting them!
The Faith of the Saints (6)
6Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
The Present Evil World: Sin abounds here & has made men barbaric & cruel. Our experience is one where sin wins: the righteous are vilified & destroyed. It’s as common as men eating bread. (Romans 3.10-20; 21-25)
Look Upward: First, our Savior has come & delivered us from the bonds of sin. We are no longer corrupt & vile because of Jesus. Second, we wait in anticipation for when Christ comes back to set to right all that is wrong:
“This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:5–12, ESV)
We are surrounded by sin & evil in this world. The world hates us but God has rejected them. When Jesus comes He will demonstrate that finally & fully. May we be found worthy when Jesus comes.
(Outline adapted from Matthew Henry)
The superscription for this Psalm gives us the historical background: To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba” (Psalm 51:title, ESV). These events are recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12 when David lusted after & committed adultery with Bathsheba, covered up his sin by deceit & murder, and presumed he had committed the perfect crime with none the wiser. But God sent the prophet Nathan – “You are the man!” In contrition & repentance, David cried out to God in prayer which is recorded in this Psalm. His spirit & heart is broken so he turns to the only One who can mend heart & soul. This Psalm shows how God is abundantly merciful on the penitent sinner. In the New Testament we read about God being “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2.4). But how rich is He in mercy? Make no mistake, the riches of His mercy are on display in the Old Testament just as they are in the New. God demonstrates the riches of His mercy in David’s life in Psalm 51.
Note: Observe that David addresses his prayer to Elohim and not Yahweh, Jehovah. It is as if he feels absolutely unworthy of voicing the proper name of God and simply prostrates himself before the Make
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
David immediately appeals to God for mercy, even before he mentions his sin. He begs/pleads for mercy as a brokenhearted sinner. This mercy comes from the “steadfast love” or “loving-kindness” of God. What a fitting word: loving-kindness. Wrapped up in it we see the certainly the love of God (that wonderful, matchless love) and the kindness/tenderness of God. And certainly it is steadfast.
By this mercy, God, “blot out my transgressions.” The first prayer is for mercy; this second is for the removal entirely of his offences from the book of God. Think India ink with a fountain pen – when you commit sin, the India ink bites into the pages of your life, mar it. Only the divine ink can blot it out, completely cover over that sin. This is according to the abundance of God’s mercy. Are you concerned about the abundance of your sins? Be advised that God has an abundance of mercy for the penitent sinner.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
Not like a man washing his body but as a person would wash a fouled, dirty garment. The stains are not removable by human ability and work; only divine detergent, only the blood of the unblemished can wash thoroughly the offender. Wash me, the penitent sinner from my iniquity, that thing which pollutes me.
Hebrew parallelism is used to repeat the request: Cleanse me from my sin. Transgressions, iniquity, sin – in other words, cover every form of moral impurity, every offensive stain that is evil. And truly David’s sins are multiplied: adultery, fornication, lies, murder, self-deception.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
David, once self-deceived and refusing to acknowledge that he had done any wrong, fully acknowledges his wrongs. But truly he knew them for he committed them. They have been told him and he has been found out. I assume there is embarrassment, shame, guilt…as well there should be. Knowledge of sin will produce
But not only has David acknowledged his sins, but they are ever before him. On every face, over ever scene, in every place David looks he cannot escape his sin. It weighs on him and it is impossible to forget as long it oppresses the soul of man. Only God can remove this weight of guilt.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
While there are other parties David has offended (Bathsheba, Uriah, Israel), there is none that is higher than God. Every sin is against God! And every sin is an open offense before God and all of heaven. Nothing escapes his sight and he recognizes the evil of sin.
Hence, the perfect God is found true and right in his words and judgments. The iniquity was indisputably committed; it is unquestionably foul and wrong; and God’s condemnation of that sin is just and without blame.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Not that any baby is born with sin; sin must be committed and a baby can no more commit sin than it could perform arithmetic. Rather, David, in the throes of contrition over his sin, overstates the case in his confession to God. There is no good thing in his life at this point and David’s whole life is painted the hue of sin.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Mark 1 of mercy: Honesty with self over what you have done; truthfulness (6). The preceding 5 verses have been bringing us to this first mark. A person who receives divine mercy must first be honest about their state before a holy God. Honesty concerning your sin will enable you to recognize your sin and admit it plainly to God (that’s confession). And this recognition of sin will produce the contrition we see in this Psalm, the broken-heartedness over sin, the sorrow for his iniquity, and will lead to repentance.
David is saying he is an adulterer, he stole another man’s wife, he had that man killed, he lied about it, covered it up, he deceived people about it. What do we need to be honest about in our life? What’s your secret sin that your hiding from everyone else. You may fool the whole world, but the eyes of God are on you.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Mark 2 of mercy: Request for forgiveness (7-8). Hyssop is from the mint family of plants and was used for cleansing a person from defilement from touching a corpse or from leprosy. And surely David is defiled. So he asks to be purged (purified, removed) from his sin. Only with the complete removal of sin can David be clean/pure. Again the request to be washed (see v.2).
But if we are going to ask for forgiveness, be sure we also receive that forgiveness. God wants to hear the pleading of our hearts as we confess wrong. But don’t continue carrying around what God has forgiven. Have faith God has forgiven (and he has, 1 John 1.9) and move on to service (Heb 9.14). God can, will, and does forgive the penitent sinner.
Satan will whisper doubts in our ear; he’s been since the beginning. “Has God really forgiven you?” We need to confident and stand on the word of God – “Yes He has!” Don’t put a question mark where God has put a period.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Request forgiveness and receive it. God wants to hear the pleading of our hearts as we confess wrong. But don’t continue carrying around what God has forgiven. Have faith God has forgiven (and he has, 1 John 1.9) and move on to service (Heb 9.14). God can, will, and does forgive the penitent sinner. Rejoice in His forgiveness!
9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Mark 3 of mercy: Believe that God has forgotten as well as forgiven. And here is the difficulty for humans: that an omniscient God can forget sin. Nevertheless, Jeremiah 31.34b, Hebrews 8.12b. God can turn his face from our sins, blotting them out so as to never remember them. He no longer sees them. This harkens to the mercy seat (Exodus 25.17-22). The mercy seat was above the Ark of the Covenant and was the resting place of God. Every year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat 7 times to make atonement for the people. The people drew near the mercy seat to receive mercy from the Lord.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Mark 4 of mercy: Allow God to work in you (v.10). See 2 Corinthians 5.17, God creates new motivation (heart) and desire (spirit). David is asking for restoration to the place he was before: a faithful and fruitful person. “Give me the fortitude to get on track and stay on track.”
11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Mark 5 of mercy: Believe in God’s presence (v.11). Does David have Saul in mind? Perhaps. But he has seen what it looks like to live without the presence of God and he does not want that. According to Ephesians 3.16-17, Christians have both the Spirit and Christ within them. Take heart that if you are forgiven, you are fit for His abiding presence.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Mark 6 of mercy: Restoration of joy (v.12). He’s back with a song in his heart and smile on his lips. Does not mean he has forgotten, but he has joy. Like Paul: he never forgot where he came from (chief of sinners) but he had joy (Philippians 4.4).
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
Mark 7 of mercy: Proclamation of salvation (v.13). Go tell someone about the God who saved you, what he has done. Was sin bad? Yes, but once on track, headed in the right direction, now we can benefit others.
In order to fully experience the mercy of God, it may be helpful to ask several pointed question to see if you are fully back.
Is the anger, hurt, & resentment still in force? Is the guilt, shame, & disappointment still overwhelming?
Are we in prayer as much as before or even more? It is not embarrassment but sweet conversation.
Can I thank God for the lessons learned & the character gained from this experience?
Can I talk about the hurt without recalling all the stuff that devastates? Can I do that without being hurt? Can I help others?
Do I accept full responsibility for my sins? Or am I still trying to blame someone or something else?
Do I still love myself or am I punishing myself?
Am I imposing some kind of consequence or penance for what I have done? By the way, that is legalism.
So long as anger, lack of prayer, blaming, self-imposed punishment remains, we hinder the full experience of God’s mercy.
We need to trust that Jesus has forgiven fully. God shows this kind of mercy to those who are merciful (see Matthew 5.8). That is the final question: it is not a question of what sort of life you are living; it is not a question of if you have interest in the kingdom of God. It is simply “are you showing mercy?” That is the test from the beatitude from Jesus. For if you do not show mercy, how can you expect God to show mercy to you? Since God has been so merciful to you, how could not show mercy to others? “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6.36). Receive His mercy.
Book 2 of the Psalms begins with this desperate desire for God expressed by men who shouldn’t even be alive. Psalm 42 is the 1st of a dozen Psalms (42-49, 84-85, 87-88) written by the sons of Korah and is intended to be coupled with Psalm 43 (cf. 42.5, 11; 43.5 – same chorus). Their daddy (or distant relative) led a rebellion against Moses with 250 community leaders. See Numbers 26.9-11, their daddy & his band died, but the sons of Korah did not die. In fact, Korah was one of five major Levitical families (see Numbers 26.53; 1 Chronicles 6.31-33). The sons of Korah are a family of Levites David organized into a musical guild; they were a Levitical family of singers. In gratitude to God they devoted themselves to producing praise. God is the craving and desire of the depressed and despairing soul. How vital is knowing God to the saint? Psalms 42-43 reveal how vital God is to the soul.
The superscription of this psalm calls it “a maskil.” A maskil could mean this is 1) a contemplative song [think about it, hmm…]; 2) a psalm imparting moral wisdom; 3) a well-written psalm (NET). Psalms 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89, & 102 are also maskil Psalms.
Desire for God (42.1-5)
1As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
Thirst (1-2): “My soul” speaks to the Psalmist’s inmost self, his deepest life, his essential being; this is what is most desperate for God. This desire for God is just as vital as the body’s need to drink. Is communion with God an urgent need of your soul, even as drink is vital to your body?
3My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
Tears (3): Tears are the bread of the brokenhearted & the drink of the despairing (cf. Psalm 80.5). Tears come because of the hatred of his enemies
4These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
Tabernacle/Temple (4): Although the temple may yet to be built, they certainly had the tabernacle as the house of God. Regardless, this verse communicates the Psalmists intense desire to be in God’s presence & seek His face. Essentially he says he was the 1st one through the doors when they were opened. He probably would have lingered as long as possible, being the last one out the door when the shouts & songs were over. What about us in the temple of the Lord today? Do we have this intense longing for God’s presence? Wild dogs couldn’t drag us away from being here!
5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation
Chorus (5, 11; 43.5): “Cast down” is the language of depression. “Why?” Persecution? Sure, v.3, 9-10; 43.1 all indicate this is the case. Deprived from word & worship of God? Absolutely, v.1-2 indicates this is probably the primary reason for a downcast disposition. Ever been here? Drowning in tears, with a heavy heart. Feelings of sadness like a prison you can’t break free from?
Depressed Over God (42.6-11)
6and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
7Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
8By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
9I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me?
Abandoned by God (6-9a): This is how the Psalmist feels. Verse 6: “Jordan…Harmon…Mount Mizar” are all places east of the Jordan River & are a long way off from Jerusalem. It is as far as you can go and still catch just a glimpse of the Promised Land. “God, I feel far away from you” whether physically or figuratively. Verse 7: Billow upon billow like he is lost as sea with the waves crashing upon him. The Psalmist is overwhelmed by trials. Rarely is it just on trial, one problem; it is not single file trials, but a battalion of billows. Verse 8: I know He loves me & I sing songs of His steadfast love every day. Verse 9: God is not acting quickly enough; it feels like He has forgotten me.
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
Attacked by His Enemies (9b-10): Builds from verse 3. “When you need Him your God is absent!” All day long they taunt. Non-stop.
11Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Reasons People Get Depressed: Even the saints of God can struggle with depression. “Why?” Could be because of temperament, physical conditions (weather, environment), down reaction following great blessing, attacks from Satan, attacks from unbelievers, unbelief (in self or others), disappointment with life, personal failure, burden of growing old. In these Psalms there are several reasons also: 1) Absence from God’s presence (1-2); 2) Challenges from unbelievers (3, 10); 3) Remembering better times (4); 4) Overwhelming trials (7); 5) Impatience with God acting (9) – God is not acting quickly enough; 6) Attacks from ungodly people (43.1). These and other reasons are why people struggle with depression.
How to Overcome Depression: Not only does this Psalm give reasons for depression but it also gives us hope in overcoming it. 1) Long for God (1-2) – run to the living water just as a deer flees to the flowing streams. 2) Remember (4): Those happy memories are meant to help not hurt you. 3) Self-reflection (5, 11; 43.5): “Why do I feel this way?” Think about your thinking, identify the lies & replace those with truth. 4) Hope in God (5, 11; 43.5): He is a recourse for your soul. 5) God still loves you (8): We are reminded of His “steadfast love” upwards to 50 times in Scripture for a reason. 6) Wait for God’s defense (9; 43.1-2): We don’t like to wait, esp. when times are hard. We get impatient & want to fight our own battles. But it is God who justifies. 7) Worship (43.4): The soul is nourished by coming into His presence & seeking His face.
Defense from God (43.1-5)
1Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!
2For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
Remember God’s Defense (1-2): Let God fight your battles.
3Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
4Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
Rest in God’s Goodness (3-4): Come taste His goodness & worship Him.
5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Revel in God’s Hope (5): “Why?” is asked over & over. It is the question which won’t go away. After each one – “Hope in God.” A stunning, surprising declaration. He is the answer which won’t go away. We are surprised by hope in God who saves & secures us. For us under the New Covenant we have the added promise of the peace of Christ (Phil 4.6-7).
We were dead in our trespasses & sins; we are not supposed to be alive & yet we live forevermore because of God. If by grace God has spared us a fate worse than death, wouldn’t we desire to be in His presence, thirsting for His living water?
At its heart this is a psalm for the depressed, those down in the dumps, those saints of God who are feeling blue. In gratitude, praise God for His mercy & grace.
The occasion for Psalm 41 is the aftermath of David’s sin with Bathsheba. God had told David “the sword shall never depart from your house…Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house” (2 Samuel 12.10-11). A couple years after this prophecy is uttered, Absalom, David’s son, steals the hearts of the people (ch.15) & performs a coup to steal the throne from David. Sick & on the run, with the sword of his own house in his back, David pens this Psalm. The main idea of this Psalm is that God’s blessings are upon the man of integrity. What do you do when you’ve been stabbed in the back? Psalm 41 speaks a word from to God to the betrayed.
The Beatitude of the Social Worker (1-3)
1Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
Consider the Poor (1a): The bliss of God belongs to those who give attention to poor/weak and treat them proper. “Poor” here could be the impoverished, tho David saw himself as “poor & needy” (40.17). Could be the humiliated & weak. Not merely in thought (“bless their hearts”) but in action (cf. 1 Jn 3.18). Brethren, we’ve done some of this; let us seek to do this even more.
In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;
2the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
3The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.
Count Your Blessings (1b-3): The common denominator of all these is peace. 1) Deliverance (1b): “Day of trouble” or “evil day” (cf. Ephesians 6.13, any day the evil one or evil ones come against you). 2) Protection (2a): Mortal life is kept by the immortal God. 3) Prosperity (2b): material & financial blessing in the land. 4) Sustenance (3a): YHWH is the God of health so when you’re sick He sees you thru it. 5) Restoration (3b): YWHW ensures you make a full recovery after illness.
YHWH’s deliverance in the evil day; His protection from foes and keeping you alive; how blessed you are in life; God seeing you thru sickness & bringing about full recovery – all of these blessings are related to how you treat the poor. You are blessed with these IF you consider the poor. Think about how much we pray for the sick among us; God answering those prayers is directly related to how we treat the poor. Your peace is related to how you treat the poor, the little guy. God cares for them; we should too.
The Plea of the Sick Warrior (4-9)
4As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
Heal Me (4): “Be gracious to me” is a common plea found throughout the Psalms (15 x’s in the Psalms; twice in this Psalm). We especially need God’s grace when we “have sinned against You.” Herein is why sin is most grievous: it is directed toward God. So David cries out for healing (lit. heal my soul), body & soul, the whole being because of sickness & sin.
5My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?”
6And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
7All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.
8They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.”
9Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
Help Me (5-9): Verse 5: Modern vernacular – “Drop dead!” This is akin to Ike Taylor in Tombstone saying “I hope you die” to Doc Holiday after losing to him in gambling. But also, may there be no memory of him in the pages of history. Wow!
Verse 6: Lies are crafted & spread abroad. “It is perfectly marvelous how spite spins webs out of no materials whatsoever” (Spurgeon).
Verse 7: Many commentators put the writing of this Psalm when David was running for his life from his son Absalom. One of his advisers, Ahithophel, seems to now hate David, advising Absalom to go kill David & he would lead the charge (2 Samuel 17).
Verse 8: “deadly thing” or “evil disease” (NKJV) seems to indicate David has fallen ill. Meanwhile, his enemies gloat over this.
Verse 9: For David, Ahithophel, his adviser, had betrayed him, stabbed him in the back. Further, when Ahithophel realizes his advice has not been taken by Absalom, he goes home & hangs himself (2 Samuel 17.23). Why did he betray David? Why such a violent response when his advice is rejected?
Ahithophel had a son named Eliam who was one of David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23.34). That’s the same group Urijah ran with. He was married to Bathsheba whom David committed adultery with back in 2 Samuel 12. Want to take a guess who Bathsheba’s daddy was? 2 Samuel 11.3, Eliam, making her Ahithophel’s granddaughter. AND if David could do what he did to Urijah…what’s stopping him from doing this to my son? This was his chance to finally get David after years of his rage simmering. Bitterness, hatred, anger, revenge…this stuff ate him alive.
Help Me Again: While this certainly explains David’s situation, being a prophet he spoke of Christ. Indeed, the latter portion of verse 9 is quoted in John 13.18 by Jesus of Judas. Truly, you go through these verses & Christ is seen in each of them. Though He was sinless, He certainly needed the grace of God (v.4). His malicious enemies did want Him to die & His name to be forgotten (v.5). Their hearts were full of iniquity & they crafted lies to convict Him (v.6). The chief priests & Pharisees imagined the worst for Him, even death on a cross (v.7). They were so adamant about Him not rising from the grave they posted guards at His tomb (v.8). And it was Judas who betrayed Him, even one of His disciples (v.9).
The Prayer of a Sincere Worshiper (10-13)
10But you, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!
11By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
Imprecation (10-11): “I may repay him.” For self-revenge? No, but the righteousness of God is at stake because these guys are seeking to hurt the Lord’s anointed, something even David did not dare do though he had opportunity. As his kingly duty required of him (cf. Romans 13.4), he would change their shouts of victory into cries of mourning or silence them permanently. But that would be the sign that God took pleasure in His servant. NT Update: Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1.8-10.
12But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.
Integrity (12): David is confident that he has treated the poor, weak, emarginated right. In fact, although at one point he had a “lame” policy for his kingdom (2 Sam 5.8). However, when it came to Jonathan’s relative Mephibosheth, who was crippled, David allowed him to eat at his table. So David too longs to sit in the King’s presence forever.
13Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.
Invocation (13): As this Psalm closes & as Book 1 of the Psalms closes, we have a final exclamation praising God.
Again, David’s deliverance was related to how he treated the poor/weak. This was his integrity. When you’re stabbed in the back, that may be all you have. Keep looking to God’s grace, His blessings during these hard times.