Several passages from the Old Testament are quoted or alluded to in the New Testament, some of them more than once (e.g. “The just shall live by faith” – Rom 1.17; Gal 3.11; Heb 10.38). But there is no passage in the Old Testament quoted or alluded to more in the NT as Psalm 110. Far & away it is the most quoted Psalm. Why? It seems because it contains the epitome of the gospel: the coronation of Christ as King-Priest. Also contained here are core doctrinal principles: 1) Godhead/Trinity (v.1); 2) Suffering as priest poured out (v.4); 3) Resurrection (v.7); 4) Completed work (5-6); 5) Ascension (1, sit at my right hand); 6) Church (v.3); 7) Final judgment (1b); 8) Eternal life (v.4, “forever”).
The Lord (Jesus) is our king-priest according to the ancient oath of God. How can Christ be priest AND King? Psalm 110 provides clarity which would have been odd esp. to a Jew. Without doubt, as the superscription states, this is “a psalm of David.” So here is King David writing about the King-Priest: YHWH’s Lord.
The Kingdom (1-3)
1The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand…”
Christ’s Place (1a): YHWH speaks to adonai, which means David heard YWHH speak to Christ. Notice “right hand” which is the seat of power, dominion, dignity. YHWH tells Him to “sit” because His work is over and YHWH will fight for Him. The whole Godhead is involved here: Father speaks to the Son & the Holy Spirit permits David to hear this holy conversation and then enables him to record it in sacred writ. “What is man that thou shouldst impart thy secrets unto him” (Spurgeon).
Note: Verse 1 is the most quoted and alluded to OT verse in the NT – Mt 22.44; 26.64; Mk 13.36; 14.62; 16.19; Lk 20.42-43; 22.69; Acts 2.34-35; 5.31; 7.55-56; Rom 8.34; 1 Cor 15.25; Eph 1.20; Col 3.1; Heb 1.3, 13; 8.1; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Pt 3.22 – 24 verses in the NT quote or allude to this single OT verse.
“…until I make your enemies your footstool.”
2The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.
Christ’s Power (1b-2a): “scepter” is a typical description in Scripture for power & authority. How powerful? Enemies are made His footstool, viz. He puts His boot on their necks/throats, a common ANE practice. Think about when the victor puts his foot on the chest of his opponent in victory, arms extended overhead.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Christian Proclamation (2b): “Rule!” Even David the King cries out for the reign of Messiah. Don’t we pray for this? “Thy kingdom come.” Esp. when tragedy strikes we need this: though your enemies are many, rule!
3Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.
Christ’s People (3): “Willing” – that is, willingness is a key characteristic of the people of God. Indeed, willingness is the essence of holiness; Christ’s people must be willing to believe Him, love Him & others, obey Him, live in holiness, die to sin, crucify the flesh, abide in God’s will, suffer for Christ’s cause. All of this and more is how we offer ourselves freely to Christ.
The Priesthood (4)
Note: This is the 2nd most quoted or alluded to OT verse in the NT: John 12.24; Heb 5.6, 10; 6.20; 7.3, 17, 21 (7 times).
4The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
According to the Law: No king could be priest nor any priest a king under the Law. They came from different tribes (Judah – king, Levi – priest). Yet Christ is a king-priest! How?
According to the Lord: This is no ordinary priesthood. First, it is after the order of Melchizedek, a somewhat obscure figure from Gen 14 was king of Salem (proto-Jerusalem) as well as priest of God Most High. Second, this is not like the priests under the Law who served for just a few years or even had a lifetime appointment; this is “forever.” Third, notice that this is an ancient oath “sworn” by God and He will not back off. It’s a done deal.
Christ is both Sovereign (king) & Savior (priest) – He fights for us and forgives our sins. But notice His ultimate victory which closes this Psalm…
God’s Ultimate Victory (5-7)
5The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.
Wrath (5-6): Kings, nations, chiefs who oppose the progress of the gospel are shattered, turned to corpses. First, is it any wonder that Israel anticipated an earthly king? This is a song from their song book which is undoubtedly messianic (no king fits the bill here save Messiah). So they sing this for centuries about a king who would turn the nations to corpses, Who exercises universal might. Second, if God can get the kings who oppose Him (and He does, see Acts 12.22 and every other king historically which has opposed the Bible & Christianity), then no one who opposes the gospel is safe. Meaning: Fall in line with YHWH and things will go well!
7He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.
Refreshment (7): After a long day of exhausting spiritual work, the Lord drinks from “the brook by the way.” Pictured here is the pause in pursuit of an enemy, similar to Gideon & his band who were “exhausted yet pursuing” (Jud 8.4). So here is Adonai (the Lord), pausing at the brook and being refreshed to continue the pursuit. But some day, the pursuit will cease…
Now all this prefigures the end, cf. 1 Corinthians 15.23-28 where this text is alluded to (see v.25). At present we do not see all things in subjection (Heb 2.8). Here is God’s ultimate & final victory over death & evil, esp. v.28. Then, when all things are subjected to Him, God will be all in all.
Verse 1 is either quoted or alluded 24 times in the NT. If I may, that’s one for every hour of the day to remind us constantly that Christ is STILL on the throne. Verse 7 is referenced 7 times, once for each day of the week to remind us Christ’s atoning work is complete. One day He will get up & come back and finally & fully deal with every foe including death.
A career with benefits. Some of you have a job which has benefits (perks) which you enjoy: maybe a company car, expense account, retirement stuff, bonuses, etc. Maybe you don’t have a career with benefits and want one. As Christians we have a career with benefits: our career is our Christian walk which we daily engage in and the benefits are manifold from our gracious God. Someone has called Psalm 103 “Heaven’s benefits package.” Our gracious God is worthy of praise for His great benefits He gives. What are the various benefits of our gracious God? In Psalm 103, David highlights several benefits YHWH provides His people.
1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
The Psalmist calls on “all that is within me” to remember “all His (Gods) benefits” (1-2). “God’s all cannot be praised with less than our all” (Spurgeon 2: 276).
Benefit #1: Salvation (3-5)
3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
Forgiving (3a): certainly God has forgiven in the past, but He continues to forgive (pres. Tense). It’s continual – He is still forgiving. The scope of forgiveness is “all iniquity.” All wrongdoing is removed. From His immense steadfast love (v.12) He removes all our sins, transgressions, and iniquity (v.13).
Healing (3b): the term “diseases” is used figuratively (poetically) for the sickness of sin. Further, the parallelism of this verse combined in the larger context of v.3-5 and Psalm 103 generally points to spiritual sickness & healing.
Note: I do not, though, wish to minimize the healing power of YHWH, the God of health. “Among the greatest blessings which we receive of God is recovery from sickness” (Pulpit 8.2.382). Whether by natural or supernatural means, God is able to work healing (See Psa 30.2). That’s why, when we one of us gets sick, we pray. And there is NT precedence for this (James 5.14).
4who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
Redeeming (4a): “redeems your life from the pit” seems to be language that would be familiar to the Jewish mind concerning the patriarch Joseph. God redeemed Joseph from the pit thru the Ishmaelites. Rescue by ransom.
Adorning (4b): with steadfast love and mercy. More in #2…
5who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Satisfying (5): “good” things come from our good God and He “satisfies” us with them. The people of God are the only satisfied people on earth. While unbelievers search in vain for satisfaction, Christians have found true satisfaction from the only source of satisfaction. See 1 Timothy 6.17.
Benefit #2: Steadfast Love (4b, 8, 11, 17-18)
Intentionally in the middle (of the sermon) because this is the lynch-pin to this Psalm.
4who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
The Crown of Steadfast Love (4): exclusively reserved for His people who enter into covenant with Him (“us”). Not a crown of jewels and gems, but of grace and “lovingkindness” (ASV, KJV). This is something which God continues to do (“adorning”), He is continuously pouring our His steadfast love (and mercy, too!) upon our heads.
8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
The Cornucopia of Steadfast Love (8, 11): He’s got lots of it! So great is His is love, it is inexhaustible! Like the horn with all the food and vegetables coming out we often see at Thanksgiving, so God’s love is pictured as overflowing. What’s it like David? Verse 11.
17But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
18to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
The Conditions for Steadfast Love (17-18): 1) Fear YHWH – that reverential awe and respect of the one true Creator. 2) Faithfulness (keep covenant) – even as God keeps covenant; God says, “I will be your God” to which the people say, “We will be you people.” Involved in this is a standard of conduct shaped by principles and values established by God. 3) Obedience (remember commandments) – perhaps some parallelism here; we remember His commandments when we keep covenant.
Note: Nelson Glueck on Heb. Hesed “in its secular usage as ‘conduct in accord with a mutual relationship of rights and duties’; he also emphasized the mutual or reciprocal and the obligatory character of the term in its religious usage for persons in relation to each other and to God.” “Israel understood God to be committed to the community in covenant relationship as the One who provided for all needs, yet One also always free and uncoercible.” This Hebrew term “compactly incorporates all three of these dimensions (commitment, provision for need, freedom) in a single word” (ABD 4: 377). Unconditional? Hardly! See Ex 20.5-6, 2nd commandment.
Benefit #3: Slow to Anger (8, 13-16)
Does He get angry? Oh, yes. We read about the wrath of God. But of His slowness… 2 Peter 3.9; Romans 2.4
8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
13As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
15As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
YHWH the Father (13): While Jesus would come to show us God the Father, even in the OT, the concept was there. David recognizes the paternal patience of YHWH, like a father is patient and compassionate with his children.
YHWH the Creator (14): He knows and remembers certain things about us (our frame, we are dust). How does He know these things? He’s the one who created us! And since He knows us, He knows we are “frail children of dust” (esp. seen in 15-16) and cannot withstand His holy, righteous anger.
Since God is the Father and since He is the Creator, He is slow to become angry. He treats us, His children, with compassion, mercy, and grace.
It’s the greatest benefits package in the world. And it’s ours! So it’s no wonder David closes this with a doxology of praise to God. Everything needs to praise God because He’s given us salvation, shows us steadfast love, and is slow to anger.
Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1996. CD-ROM.
Spence, H.D.M. and Joseph S. Exell. The Pulpit Commentary. 23 vols. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1962. Print.
Spurgeon, Charles. The Treasury of David. 2 vols. Nashville: Nelson, n.d. Print.
“The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” (Psalm 93:1, ESV)
“The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” (Psalm 97:1, ESV)
“The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!” (Psalm 99:1, ESV)
The LORD (Heb. YHWW, the covenant God of Israel) reigns. Therefore, YHWH is King. That YHWH is King is a thread which is all over the OT. Indeed, God’s kingdom is an eternal kingdom (2 Peter 1.11, which speaks of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. Christ’s kingdom is NOT almost 2,000 yrs old as some in the brotherhood have claimed). Psalms 93-99 picture the majestic King & what it means for YHWH to be King. YHWH is the majestic King. But what does that mean?
The Majesty of Seeing God
Ezekiel (ch.1): Ezekiel sees the chariot of God, God’s Rolls Royce, a living vehicle transporting the living God. Then God rides up and notice that the best Ezekiel can do is use simile to describe the majesty & glory of God (esp.v. 26-28). He is beholding the glorious majesty of God.
Daniel (ch.7): We typically come to Daniel 7 because of the vision of the eternal kingdom of the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus), running straight for the interpretation; however, I want us to pause here and note the glory of the Lord described here. Here is God – the Ancient of Days – and Christ – the Son of Man – in heavenly glory, majesty. Daniel gets a glimpse and records it.
Transfiguration (Matt 17.1-8; Mark 9.2-8; Luke 9.22-27): Building on the Son of Man motif, the gospels record the glory of Jesus as His humanity is pulled back & His deity shows forth for a moment in time.
Revelation (chs.4-5): Described here is heaven, even the throne room of God. Words fail to completely capture what John sees and like the prophets of old, he struggles to capture the majesty of God.
These written accounts serve to describe the glorious majesty of God, picturing God “robed in majesty” as the King YHWH.
The Majesty & The Earth (93.1; 96.10)
“The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” (Psalm 93:1, ESV)
“Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”” (Psalm 96:10, ESV)
Immovable, Unshakeable: God does this; He makes the earth established. We know from the NT He does this thru Christ (Heb 1.3, “sustaining all things by His powerful word”). He holds absolute sway over the world and everything in it. Nothing disturbs it unless God allows it to do so. Notice, the earth is happy about that (97.1) – it rejoices & is glad God is in control. So too should we be happy. We should adore God for His majestic power. “Atheism is the mother of anarchy; the reigning power of God exhibited in true religion is the only security for the human common-wealth. A belief in God is the foundation and corner-stone of a well-ordered state.” (Spurgeon 2:135).
Earthquake! Then the holy splendor of God causes the earth to quake. His glory is earth shaking! Let the whole world be moved to adoring awe, every tribe, language, people must bow before His infinite majesty.
The Majesty of God’s Vengeance (94.1)
“O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!” (Psalm 94:1, ESV)
Revenge? No, not revenge, which denotes an evil intention, delighting in the return for injury for injury. Throughout the NT we are told “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil,” that is, do not seek revenge. Certainly God is not in the revenge business. However…
Avenge: When it comes to upholding justice & righteousness, God will avenge and mete out vengeance upon those public wrongs. We must understanding that this serves to preserve a society. For example, the punishment of a criminal by the state is what is necessary to maintain law & order – it is not revenge, but it does seek to uphold justice by avenging bad (evil) behavior. So God, robed in majestic justice & righteousness, perfectly judges the earth and repays the wicked what they deserve for their evil behavior.
The Majesty of the King’s Holiness (99.3, 5, 9)
“Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:3, ESV)
“Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:5, ESV)
“Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy!” (Psalm 99:9, ESV)
Let us tremble – not at His power, or His greatness but at His holiness. Notice the triple “holy, holy, holy” in Psalm 99. This seems to correspond to the “holy, holy, holy” of the seraphim in God’s throne in Isa 6. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Holiness Rules According to the Perfect Standard: “God is light” and His holy reign will be absolutely (morally) perfect. cf. Psa 19.7-9
Holiness Works Toward Highest Ends: God is infinitely wise and infinitely good. These combine so that He always seeks what is best for all men, esp. His people. “God so loved the world…” to see Christ in us.
Holiness Sees Patient Suffering: We’ve seen a number of Psalms where the psalmists are right on the brink of throwing in the towel. But God sees this & everything. And He sustains them and us through it; you have breath in your lungs because He allows it.
Holiness Elicits Worship from Creation: “Worship at His holy mountain…at His footstool.” How could we do otherwise? The angels of heaven are praising His holiness even as we speak.
Behold your King! This same King left the splendor of heaven, put on flesh, lived among us a perfect life and died on a cross so that we might have the right & privilege of enter into His rule & reign as citizens. One day we will meet Him – we’ll have our Revelation 4, Ezekiel 1, Daniel 7 moment and see the King face-to-face.
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)