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.
The haunting, terrible reality for all Christians is that we fall short of the glory of God far too often. Once is too often, by the way. We do slip up, trip up, & fall short or miss the mark. As Christians we strive to be like Jesus, but we sin. 1 John 1.8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Notice that John includes himself. It is right to feel guilt over sin; in fact we ought to because when we don’t something is wrong. What do you do when you are in the throes of despair over sin? Psalm 32 offers light & hope in darkness & despair. God thoroughly forgives our iniquity, transgressions, & sins.
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. “Of David” means this was written by David and this fact is confirmed by Paul (Romans 4.6-8).
God Deals With Our Sin (1-4)
Like the Sermon on the Mount this Psalm begins with a beatitude. This is the beatitude of the forgiven lawbreaker.
1Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
2Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Sin Expiated [atoned for] (1-2): Three (3) words are used in the 1st two verse to describe sin: transgression, sin, iniquity. 1) Transgression: crossing a boundary, i.e. God’s law. 2) Sin: missing the mark, not doing what God has commanded or doing what God has commanded not be done. 3) Iniquity: internal defilement of the soul, moral distortion. All three of these God handles. With transgressions, He “forgives,” i.e. they are taken away like a burden. With sin, He “covers,” i.e. they are hidden from His sight. With iniquity, He does not “count” them, i.e. they never hit the record. But cleansing of all sin begins with genuine, real repentance, not pretended penitence (“no deceit”). Salvation from sin flows into a sincere heart before God.
3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
Sin Experienced (3-4): Here is the soul crushing reality of sin. David “kept silent” about his sin. Why keep silent? Could have been out of pride (stubborn refusal to confess), neglect, despair (“How could God forgive me?”), guilt (don’t deserve? Exactly! That’s grace). But the longer he kept it in, his physical condition took a turn for the worse as he “wasted away” (weak, exhausted, aged). He groaned all day; so while he may have been silent over sin, he was groaning in sorrow. Verse 4: God’s hand is helpful when He reaches down to help us up, but it is heavy when it comes down upon us due to sin (cf. 38.2). If his finger can crush, what pressure must His hand bring? Further, the heat of divine justice has withered David, dried him up like a twig. All of this shows us the awful experience of unconfesed sin.
God Hears Our Confession (5-7)
Confession brings joy!
5I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
7You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
Individual (5, 7): Verse 5: Here is true repentance in action. First, David takes ownership of his sin – “my sin…my transgressions…my iniquity.” Mine, all mine. My rebellion & self-will & perversion (cf. James 1.14-15). All this he “will confess” to God, that is, his intention & inclination is toward God. Notice: David can’t even get the words out and God already forgives! Like prodigal son (Lk 15). AND God not only forgives the sin, but “the iniquity of my sin” or “the guilt of my sin” (NIV). The very blackest part God blots out! God deals with the root of sin, the virus of moral depravity. He does not merely mow over the weed; he pulls it out at the root! God’s pardon is deep, thorough. Verse 7: It is no wonder David views God as his personal city of refuge, city to hide from the avenger of blood, preserved from death, with shouts & songs because he is safe.
6Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.
Everyone (6): David says to God that everybody ought to do what I am doing. David wants everyone to experience the joy of salvation. This is the best deal around – total, full forgiveness of all sin & a new heart on top of it. This doesn’t make what we did right; it makes Him good.
God Instructs Our Hearts (8-11)
Some say this is David instructing others as he vowed to do (51.13). Others say this is God speaking & instructing us after reconciliation.
8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
God Guides the Godly (8-9): God guides us with spiritual & moral guidance. He reveals to us the way we should go thru His word. Further, He watches over us as we walk in His way. Verse 9: these beasts need a bit & are forced into service. Ours, tho, is a willing service. They are “without understanding,” but we are rational creatures rendering to our Maker what is rightfully His.
10Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
God Guards the Godly (10): Sorrows are guilt, shame, anxiety (over relationship with God), fear/terror, anger, bitterness. “The wicked” are acquainted with these. “He who sows sin will reap sorrow in heavy sheaves” (Spurgeon). “Every wicked man is a miserable man” (Clarke). However, those whose faith is in YHWH are surrounded by His unfailing love. Morning & evening, in company & alone, in sickness & health, in life & in death – everywhere & always.
11Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
God Gladdens the Godly (11): Joy accompanies forgiveness. So holiness & joy are welded together. Note that only “in the YHWH” can we experience joy for only YHWH can atone for & absolve us of sin thereby making us “righteous” & “upright in heart.”
I believe many Christians need this reminder of reassurance of remission of sin. Guilt is crippling & hinders us from fulfilling the purposes of God in our generation. But God has dealt with our sin & continues to deal with our sins. We are forgiven to the uttermost, and God calls us to live with & for Him.
Prayer: For the forgiveness of our sins, the blotting out of our transgressions, and the remission of our iniquity, even the iniquity of our sin, we praise thee, O Lord.
Whatever happened to the Ark of the Covenant?
Hollywood has made a lot of money off of the Ark of the Covenant (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) and this single item has been the object of a lot of speculation. Where is it? What happened to it?
Special Study – A Brief History of the Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant (AKA the ark of the Lord/God & the ark of the testimony) was the sacred portable chest which represented the presence of God. It was a rectangular box made of acacia wood and measured 2.5 X 1.5 X 1.5 cubits (or approx. 45 X 27 X 27 inches). It was overlaid with gold, had four gold rings (two on each side) through which two poles could be passed through to carry it, and was built by a man named Bezalel (see Exodus 25.10-22; 37.1-9).
God was very specific concerning its dimensions, how it was to be carried, and who could carry it. Levites were to cover it with the veil between the holy place & the Most Holy Place (Numbers 4.5) before they could carry it using the acacia wood poles. For 40 years they transported the Ark whenever the Israelites broke camp in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 10.8). Each time they departed and each time they rested, Moses sang a song or gave a brief benediction (Numbers 10.35-36).
The Ark contained a copy of the Ten Commandments written on stone, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s staff (Hebrews 9.4). The Ark served as the meeting place for the people of Israel where God would reveal His will for His people to His servants Moses (Exodus 25.22), Aaron (Leviticus 16.2), and Joshua (Joshua 7.6).
When Israel went in to conquer the Promised Land the Ark played significant roles. When the Israelites crossed the River Jordan, the priests who were carrying the Ark went in first to stop the waters from flowing so that all Israel passed through on dry ground (Joshua 3.13); it was as though YHWH Himself was passing through the river (v.11). At Jericho, seven priests blowing trumpets led the march around the city walls with the Ark following behind them and the rest of the army behind them (Joshua 6.8-9). When Israel renewed covenant at Mount Ebal & Mount Gerazim, there was the Ark between the two mounts in the midst of the Israel and surrounded by elders, officers, judges, and the priest who carried it (Joshua 8.33).
Following the conquest of the land the people set up the tent of meeting at Shiloh and this becomes the place where the Ark resides for some time (Judges 18.1). At some point during the time of the judges the Ark was moved to Bethel (Judges 20.24-27) before being moved back to Shiloh during the time of Samuel (1 Samuel 3.3) and remaining there until Israel went to war with the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). After suffering a loss in battle to the Philistines the Israelites concoct a superstitious idea that the Ark of God will save them rather than the God of the Ark (v.3). So the Ark is brought from Shiloh to Ebenezer where the Israelites were encamped and in the ensuing battle the Ark is captured by the Philistines (v.11). For seven months the Ark remains in Philistine hands but is quickly returned due to plagues among the people (1 Samuel 6). The two milk cows which pulled the cart upon which the Philstines had placed the Ark went straight to Beth-shemesh (v.12). The men of Beth-shemesh send messengers to Kiriath-Jearim to come get the Ark because 70 of the men have died because they looked upon the uncovered Ark (v.19-21). So the men of Kiriath-Jearim take the Ark to the house of Abinadab whose son Eleazar has charge of the Ark.
The Ark remains in his house for 20 years, except for a short field trip to Saul’s camp near Beth-aven (1 Samuel 14.18) though David says the people did not seek God during Saul’s days (1 Chronicles 13.3). After several decades (some say upwards to 70 years), David decides to move the Ark from the house of Abinadab at Kiriath-Jearim (AKA Baale-Judah, see 2 Samuel 6.2) to Jerusalem (about an 8 mile trek) where he has set up the tent of meeting (2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 13). However, during the transportation of the Ark, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark and is struck dead. Angry & afraid, David reroutes the Ark to Obed-Edom’s house. He appears to be a Levite since he is a Gittite, that is, a resident of the Levitical town Gath Rimmon.
For three months the Ark remains in Obed-Edom’s house and his household is blessed because of this. When David learns of this he decides the time is right to move the Ark again. This time, though, they are going to do it right with only Levites carrying it as YHWH had specified (1 Chronicles 15.2, 15). Further, every six steps a sacrifice is offered (2 Samuel 6.13). All of Israel shows up and celebrates as the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH is brought into Jerusalem.
During the reign of Solomon is when the first temple is built. This glorious & splendid temple becomes the permanent dwelling of the Ark. A great ceremony is held when they bring the Ark into the new temple (1 Kings 8). At some point it was moved out of the temple and had to be returned during the reign of Josiah (2 Chronicles 35.3).
Now this special study concerning the Ark of the Covenant is important to the study of Psalm 24. Psalm 24 is about the glorious entrance of the King into the temple, i.e. God, symbolically represented by the Ark, entering His temple. What must it have been like to see the Ark enter the temple? Psalm 24 transports us there when the Ark would have entered the designated place, first the tabernacle and later the temple.
Bringing the Ark to the Gate (1-6)
1The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
Total Rule (1-2): God is sovereign over everything – world & people. The Bible tells us He created the world (Gen 1.4).
3Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
Total Religion (3-4): 1) Question (3): For the Israelite, this would no doubt have conjured up Mt. Sinai – Ex 19.12-13, 23. Only Moses was allowed to ascend the mountain. 2) Quest (4): Asking the question leads to a quest, the quest for practical morality leading to holiness for the purpose of ascending the holy mountain of God. Four (4) aspects of practical morality: 1) Clean hands – pure actions. 2) Pure heart – pure motives. 3) Humble Soul – right relationship with God. 4) True Lips (right relationship with others.
5He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
Total Reward (5-6): Blessing & righteousness from God. This is the reward for seeking the face of God (cf. 27.8; 105.4). Selah is the pause button in Psalms – time to meditate & contemplate the things just sung.
Enter the King of Glory (7-10)
The follow closing section of the Psalm was intended to be sung antiphonally with three different parts: the crowd as they drew near the temple, the voice within the temple, & the spokesman for the King. It breaks down as follows:
7Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
8Who is this King of glory?
Spokesman for the King
The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!
9Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
10Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah
In this moment of pause, this is an “ah-ha” moment! They would have done this when David brought the ark into the tabernacle and then again when Solomon completed the temple.
The Ark of the Covenant & the Christian
Disappearance & Tradition: It is uncertain when & how the Ark was lost; the Bible is silent on the matter. After the deportations under Nebuchadnezzar and the destruction of the temple in 586 BC nothing is known concerning what became of the Ark. In fact, it is not listed as the spoils of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25.13-17; Jeremiah 52.17-23) leading some to think it may have already been lost. Indeed, Jeremiah had prophesied of the day when the Ark would no longer be visited, remembered, or talked about (Jeremiah 3.16). They wouldn’t even miss it.
Various traditions exist about what happened to the Ark of the Covenant: some Jewish traditions say Jeremiah took the Ark & hid it, some even specifying he hid it in the mountain where Moses is buried; another source says Josiah hid the Ark under a rock “in its place,” that is, under the temple; one legend says an angel came and removed the Ark before the destruction of Jerusalem. But all traditions point to the exile as the time for the disappearance of the Ark.
The Ark of the Covenant was conspicuously absent from the 2nd & 3rd temples. In fact, Josephus explains that in the Most Holy Place “there was nothing at all…and not to be seen by any” (War of the Jews 5.219). They didn’t even rebuild it just as Jeremiah said. Ezekiel’s vision (40-48) does not include the Ark. According to the rabbinic writings, where the Ark would have been was a “stone of foundation” three fingers high. The last sighting of the Ark of the Covenant was by the apostle John in the Revelation (11.19), but given the symbolic nature of the prophecy, it is doubtful this was the literal Ark of the Covenant.
Why God Would Allow the Ark to be Lost? Partly, because He knows men will worship anything & everything except Him. If we had the Ark of the Covenant, people would worship the relic rather than the Righteous One. But also, God paves the way for something greater by allowing the Ark to be lost to history. No longer would He dwell above the mercy seat, above the Ark of the Covenant, between the cherubim, in the Most Holy Place, behind the veil, in the temple in Jerusalem. No, now His Spirit resides in Christians who are the temple of God (1 Cor 3.16-17; 6.19-20; 2 Cor 6.16). When we became a Christian, we let the King come in, opening the door of your heart at which Jesus stood and knocked – “be lifted up, you doors!” And He continues to reside within us each day as we confess “YHWH Almighty is the King of glory” & therefore the King of my life.
What is very interesting about this Psalm is that it was always sung on the 1st day of the week in Jewish worship [Psalm 48 the 2nd day; 82 the 3rd; 94 the 4th; 81 the 5th; 93 the 6th; 92 the 7th, i.e. the Sabbath]. Every Lord’s Day, tho we may not sing this Psalm, we unite with the spirit of this, renewing our devotion to our King & calling on Him to enter our lives & live in, with, & thru us. The Lord wishes to enter your life so that He might save you and change you.
Won’t you let the King come in?
The superlatives concerning Psalm 23 are numerous: Spurgeon calls it “the pearl of Psalms.” Alexander Maclaren says we would be better off losing many of the big fat books written than we would losing this single Psalm. James Montgomery Boice calls it the most beloved psalm in the Psalter.
Not only is Psalm 23 the best known & most loved Psalm; it is perhaps the best known & most loved chapter in all of Scripture. Millions of people have memorized it even tho it may be the only text they’ve committed to memory. It has dried the eyes of many brokenhearted saints; it has shaped many hearts; it has brought many peace. It has spawned Christian urban legends like the one about the two men who recite this Psalm – one reading it with great elocution to applause, the other citing it from the heart leaving the crowd in tears. When asked the difference, the first man replied, “I know the Psalm; he knows the Shepherd.”
God is Shepherd of His people. What does it mean for YHWH to be my shepherd? Psalm 23 enables us to come to know the Shepherd.
YHWH My Shepherd (1a)
1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
The Sovereign: YHWH, the “I AM.” He is the infinite God (timeless), the self-sufficient one, lacking nothing & needing nothing. So…the One who needs nothing comes near to help the need. He condescends to be the shepherd of His people.
The Shepherd: As in other ancient societies (e.g. Egypt, Gen 46.34), shepherds were considered the lowest folks in society who engaged in the lowest of all work. Typically, the youngest in the family got the unpleasant assignment (e.g. David). It was unending, thankless work of nourishing, binding, caring, etc. some of the dumbest animals on the planet. No one choose to be a shepherd…no one except YHWH. The cosmic sovereign Ruler of the universe stoops down to care for His people. It was despised work, yet it is divine work.
“I Shall Not Want” (1b-6)
Or I have everything I need or I don’t need a thing. Come what may, I will not lack, not b/c of my skills or ability, not b/c of my wit or wisdom, but b/c YHWH is my shepherd. I shall not want…
2He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
Solace (2): Green pastures & still waters are pictures of peace. Laying down is a picture of rest. So with YHWH as my shepherd I have peaceful rest, solace. But for sheep to lie down, they need to be free from several things (see Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, 23) – fear, friction, flies, famine. In similar fashion, for us to rest in God/Christ we must be free from fear (“perfect love drives out fear”), friction (interpersonal conflict, “be at peace with one another”), spiritual “flies” (such as guilt, doubt, shame, bitterness), & famine of the Word. God is the perfect provider of all these so that we might find solace in the Savior.
3He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Salvation (3a): “Restores my soul,” i.e. He saves my life. Keller (51-52) says the parallel is a “cast” sheep. How often do we end up on our back spiritually & yet the shepherd comes & stands us upright? For the purpose of walking in paths of righteousness.
A Standard (3b): He leads me in paths of righteousness. See Isa 53.6, left to our own desires, we end up on the wrong/crooked path. But with YHWH as our shepherd, He keeps us on the straight/right path. “For His Name’s sake” – i.e. to display His glory & grace; because He is good
4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Security (4): “Valley of the shadow of death” see Keller 76-77:
It is customary to use this verse as a consolation to those who are passing through the dark valley of death. But even here, for the child of God, death is not an end but merely the door into a higher and more exalted life of intimate contact with Christ…The Good Shepherd knows this. It is one reason why He has told us, “Lo, I am with you alway” – yes, even in the valley of death.
But this also points to the shepherd’s ability to protect his sheep in times of danger. Fearless because He is with me. Note also, the valley is as much the right path as the green pastures & still waters. The rod & staff, one a weapon to fight off predators, the other designed to correct the sheep. Again Keller:
It was the rod of God’s Word that Christ, our Good Shepherd, used in His own encounter with the serpant – Satan – during His desert temptation. It is the same Word of God which we can count on again and again to counter the assaults and attacks of Satan (91-92).
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Supplies (5): A great feast is prepared with oil & wine (“cup”). Some see here a shift in imagery, but Keller sees continuation in the sheep imagery. First, the “table” are the high table lands, a mesa where the good food is. Second the oil would be used during summer time (“fly time”) to ward off bugs & infection. Third, wine would be used during the winter to ward off chill. Point: all year round God is there with exactly what His people need.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Sanctuary (6): Out of God’s mercy comes His goodness. Thru black days & bright days, goodness will supply our needs & mercy will blot out our sins. Dwelling in His house forever. A heavenly home certainly, but in the here & now we have a “household,” that is, we are part of His flock. Why would we leave? We have everything we need. “I shall not want.” He is the good Shepherd.
Tho this imagery of God our shepherd is in the Old Testament, as New Testament Christians we must never forget that the same imagery is applied to Christ.
Jesus My Shepherd
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly...I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” (John 10:10, 14)
The Good Shepherd (Jn 10.11, 14): He promises self-sacrifice. He also promises to “know” us. That is, He is well acquainted with us. Jesus knows you & is always with you (Mt 28.20). So we can say, “You are with me.”
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13:20)
The Great Shepherd (Heb 13.20): He equips us to do His will. Notice what He equips us with – “everything good.” Isn’t that what we have seen in Psa 23- solace, salvation, a standard, security, supplies, sanctuary, & more!
“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4, ESV)
The Chief Shepherd (1 Pt 5.4): He will reward faithful under-shepherds with glory.
“The Lord is MY Shepherd,” but what happens when I am shepherd? Max Lucado helps us understand what that looks like:
I am my own shepherd. I am always in need.
I stumble from mall to mall and shrink to shrink, seeking relief but never finding it.
I creep through the valley of the shadow of death and fall apart.
I fear everything from pesticides to power lines, and I’m starting to act like my mother.
I go down to the weekly staff meeting and am surrounded by enemies. I go home, and even my goldfish scowls at me.
I anoint my headache with extra-strength Tylenol.
My Jack Daniels runneth over.
Surely misery and misfortune will follow me, and I will live in self-doubt for the rest of my lonely life.
Now – which of these would you rather have? God as your shepherd who richly provides you everything good so you say “I shall NOT want” or you as shepherd which only gives you headaches & heartbreak. Kind of a no brainer… Let HIM be YOUR Shepherd.
Young couples sometimes pick out a popular song as theirs. When the song comes on the radio, she may say, “They are playing our song.”
A common question asked these days when powerful people are interviewed: “What’s on your iPod?” What do you listen to when your in the gym, in the car, at home, in the office? What is the soundtrack of your life?
No one ever asks: What would be the soundtrack of your death?
Have you ever wondered: What song was playing when Jesus died?
For many of the Psalms of David it is possible to connect them with certain events in David’s life. However, the 22nd has no life event from David in view because it is a description of an execution, specifically a crucifixion. “Being therefore a prophet…” David spoke concerning Messiah’s execution on a cross (Acts 2.30). Over 300 years before crucifixion is invented as a mode of death, David pictures it here. The gospels record the facts; the Psalms the feelings of the cross. Psalm 22 captures the agony & glory of the cross of Christ.
This Psalm is typically divided into two (2) sections: suffering (1-21a) & salvation (21b-31), with verse 21 acting as the turning point of the Psalm.
A Gruesome Crucifixion – the Humiliation of Christ (1-21)
Alienated from His Father (1-5): During His life & ministry, Jesus had never known a moment without the Father’s presence; uninterrupted fellowship. But on the cross when He who knew no sin the Father made to be sin for our sake (2 Corinthians 5.21), that changed. How lonely Calvary was for Christ!
1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
“Eloi, Eloi” – the double name denotes close, personal relationship. “Why?” There was a reason for the agony of the cross; there is a reason for suffering.
2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
It seems prayers go unanswered, even unheard. Keep praying!
3Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
The Psalmist is comforted by the holiness of God.
4In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob repeatedly trusted God & He never failed them.
5To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
“How you gonna do me like that, God?” These guys were heard; how about me?
Abused by His Foes (6-8, 12-18): From His youth, from His birth, from before His birth, the cross loomed & cast a dark shadow over the life of Christ. A millennium before God became flesh, David pictured the event. So graphic are David’s descriptions that it almost seems as tho he were present for the very crucifixion. Put down (6-7), scorned, despised, mocked; Poured out (14-15); pierced (16).
6But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
Here is the “I AM” saying “I am a worm.” Surely He thought this & perhaps it was uttered tho unrecorded in the gospels. Certainly Christ was hated & hounded.
7All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
See Matthew 27.41-43; Mark 15.29 for the fulfillment of these verses. How would you feel if in your darkest hour someone said this to you? Amplify it by infinity & you are coming close to how Christ felt.
12Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
Circling bulls, ready to charge & gore with their horns. Bashan was known for its fine cattle; here is pictured the raving, raging mob led by the leaders.
13they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
His heart is “melted” under the heat of divine wrath; & if Christ’s heart melts under the full force of divine wrath, what about ours if we reject Christ!
15my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
He is all dried up under the blistering heat of divine justice. Every drop of fluid is gone. Intense thirst.
16For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—
“Dogs” would be, prophetically, gentile Roman soldiers. Here crucifixion is described over 300 years before the first poor attempts at it are hinted & nearly 700 yrs before it is perfected & popularized by Alexander the Great.
Answered by His Father (9-11, 19-21)
9Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
“God, I need you here. Stay close” (11, 19). A present God is a present blessing!
19But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!
21Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
Part prayer; part praise. “Save me! You heard/answered/rescued.” “It was the will of YHWH to crush Him…He shall prolong His days” (Isaiah 53.10).
A Glorious Coronation – The Exaltation of Christ (22-31)
All at once the tone shifts. From the darkness of Calvary comes joy…
Joy in Israel (22-25): “Praise Him.” “I will [proclaim]…I will praise…I will perform…” Future tense. How can He do this if He’s dead? Resurrection! Perhaps these words of the song comforted Jesus on the cross as He hung dying; He whispers them thru parched lips.
23You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
Note the three-fold duty – praise Him, glorify Him, revere Him.
Great Spiritual Feast (26-29): Rich & poor (26, 29) from all over the earth (27) gather to feast and be satisfied by what YHWH has provided thru the Christ. Israel was to be a light to the nations (Isa 45.22; 49.6); in Christ this is fully realized.
27All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
Herein is universal evangelism pictured – “all the ends of the earth…all the families of the nations…” Not merely Jew but Gentile shall prosper because of Christ’s crucifixion & resurrection. “Remember” is reflection on sin; “Turn” & “worship” are repentance & holiness.
Future Grace (30-31): For “Coming generation” – 71.18; 78.6; 102.18; do you get the feeling that God cares about the next generation, i.e. the kids. May I just say to those of you who work in the education department of the local congregation that you are engaged in the glorious work of dispensing grace to the next generation.
30Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.
Here also are the future prospects of the church: “They shall come” – converts are certain. “They shall…proclaim His righteousness” – those converted will join us in the work of evangelism. “To a people yet unborn” – future generations will be blessed. Christ will be exalted in all this! “He has done it” or “It is finished.” “The Lord” (adoni) has accomplished the work of redemption. This is the last word of Christ on the cross. It is the heart of the gospel we proclaim.
Per crucem ad lucem – thru the cross into the light. Without the darkness of the cross there cannot be the light of glory. Maybe the tune started like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata before ending like Vivaldi’s Spring.
“It is finished” so respond to God’s grace.
A college philosophy professor asked one question on his final exam. He picked up a chair, put it on his desk, and wrote on the board, “Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist.” Philosophy classes get into that kind of thing.
The students opened their notebooks and wrote as much as they could think of for a while hour, some of them churning out 30 pages of heady philosophical debate and logic. But one student turned in his paper after less than a minute and he was the only one to get an “A.” What did he write so quickly that turned out to be just the right answer? He wrote: “What chair?”
In the beginning, Satan used a single question to get Adam & Eve to doubt whether God can be trusted. Satan wants to get people to the point where they not only don’t trust God… but that God doesn’t even exist. He wants to get people to the point where they ask: What God?
Enter Psalm 19. The Psalm tells us that above the questions Satan poses, there is a better word which is spoken announcing that there is a God, He has spoken, and He continues to speak. The question we must ask is not “What God?” but “Are we listening?” If we will listen to the silent witness of the world & the spoken witness of the Word these will evoke a spiritual response in us, namely, worship
God’s still speaking; are we listening? The world & the Word combine to invoke worship from us.
The Works of God (1-6) – General Revelation
The Glory of the Sovereign (1-4a)
1The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
When we speak of glory of God, we are talking about “the sum of His perfection” or His character. So all of creation is “celebrating” the character of God. The sky “announces” His handiwork, or they are saying, “Hey, guess who made us!”
2Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
Everyday “gushes” speech & every night is revealing knowledge about where everything came from. So there is an abundant, continuous revelation from creation testifying to a Creator.
3There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
So here is the interesting thing: there’s no words being used. Creation is a silent witness to the Creator. It is divine sign language and everyone sees the pictorial message & therefore should draw certain conclusions, esp. there is a God.
4Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Though there are no words, the “voice” of creation is universal going to “all the earth…the end of the world.”
The Glory of the Sun (4b-6)
David uses the sun as a specific example of God’s glory on display, the crowning achievement of God’s creative power.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
The “tent” for the sun may be night; the sun retreats there each night.
5which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
What is pictured here is youthful vigor, energy, strength.
6Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Though their knowledge about what the sun is was limited, they knew enough to give proper praise to the God who made the sun. Much more should we praise God!
The Word of God (7-11) – Special Revelation
Like the sun from which “nothing is hidden from its heat,” so the Word is likewise inescapable, “no creature is hidden from His sight” (Heb 4.13). The Psalmist gives 6 titles for the word; 6 qualities of the word; 6 effects from the word.
The Law of YHWH (7a): 7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
The doctrine of God, the great body of truth used to instruct God’s people. The Law is “perfect” as a whole, lacking nothing & needing nothing. “It is a crime to add to it, treason to alter it, and felony to take from it” (Spurgeon). The law “revives the soul” or “converts the soul.” It brings back the spirit from death to life & is able to raise up children for Abraham from even the most hard of hearts.
The Testimony of YHWH (7b): the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
Divine declaration of right & wrong, truth & error, sin & righteousness. God’s testimony is “sure,” that is, it is a firm foundation & permanent. “All other ground is sinking sand” but God’s word is terra firma. It makes the simple wise, enlightens their moral judgments.
The Precepts of YHWH (8a): 8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
Or statutes which indicate a specific duty. The precepts are “right” or straight & smooth path thru a dark woods. The heart rejoices in knowing that remaining on such a path will ensure it safe travel. Notice: the converted soul becomes wise and finds joy (progression).
The Commandment of YHWH (8b): the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
Rules to regulate the entire life. The command is “pure” and produces & promotes purity of life. How? By causing the light to shine upon darkened eyes (cf Eph 1.18). Sin & sorrow are driven away by the pure light of God’s word.
The Fear of YHWH (9a): 9the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
Reverence and respect produced by the word; awe & piety. The fear of God is “clean,” both ceremonially & ethically, for this reverence for God drives away the love of sin. “Endures forever” with God’s word is something greater than Pilate’s decree, “What I have written, I have written” (John 19.22). Or as Jesus, “Heaven & earth will pass away, but my Word will no not never pass away” (Matthew 24.35; Mark 13.31; Luke 21.33). Wise men still fear God.
The Rules of YHWH (9b): the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
His just decrees or “rules” against sin & in favor of righteousness; the right settings. These are “true,” not only in the sense that they contain no falsehood, but also that they are trustworthy & faithful words. So God’s judgments are just, in history or pertaining to sin. His justice is always above reproach to the enlightened mind.
Reward for Desiring God’s Word (10-11)
10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
cf. 119.72, 127. Greater than gold & sweeter than honey – that’s God’s Word! Better than profits & pleasure. Do we always desire God’s word like this, though? Consider Jerome, 5th century theologian who more readily desired the philosophers’ writings to the prophets’ writings:
Many years ago, when for the kingdom of heaven’s sake I had cut myself off from home, parents, sister, relations, and—harder still—from the dainty food to which I had been accustomed; and when I was on my way to Jerusalem to wage my warfare, I still could not bring myself to forego the library which I had formed for myself at Rome with great care and toil. And so, miserable man that I was, I would fast only that I might afterwards read Cicero. After many nights spent in vigil, after floods of tears called from my inmost heart, after the recollection of my past sins, I would once more take up Plautus. And when at times I returned to my right mind, and began to read the prophets, their style seemed rude and repellent. I failed to see the light with my blinded eyes; but I attributed the fault not to them, but to the sun. (Letter XXII – To Eustochium; see Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, vol 6. Pg.35)
How often do we desire to watch the latest TV show or sports match more than Scripture? But “there is great reward” in keeping or observing the Word. But to keep it we must know it; and to know it we must read it; and to read we must deny ourselves the various activities & things which would steal our attention away from the word. “Great reward” when? Someday, sure, in heaven. But today also & absolutely as we live life with God.
Our Worship to God (12-14) – The Revelation of Our Hearts
One cannot think about the Law without being reminded of disobedience to the Law. This led David to intense prayer to YHWH, his Rock & Redeemer.
Cleanse Me (12)
12Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
“Declare me innocent” is the language of forgiveness. “Hidden faults” are either 1) Sins practiced in secret or 2) Sins we commit which are secret even to ourselves. Both are grievous, but surely the former is most grievous. One of the saddest sights is when a long-time brother or sister or even a minister is found out to be engrossed in secret sin. Those kinds of incidents cause grief & astonishment. Which sheds light on the first clause: “Who can understand error?” Who can unravel the deceitfulness of sin? However, the latter category – sins God sees in us which we fail to see in ourselves – which David has in mind. No doubt we fail to love as we ought, being humble, judging to harshly, hastily, &/or ignorantly; we perform some duty while neglecting another more urgent tho uninteresting one; we fail to forgive as God forgave us. The list goes on and we know these are sins in need of God’s forgiveness because we feel guilty when they are pointed out. What a multitude of sins are hidden faults, hidden from our memory & imperfectly enlightened conscience! With David let us plead with God, forgive, cleanse, declare me innocent!
Correct Me (13)
13Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
“Keep back your servant” thru the word. “Presumptuous sin” is also called sinning with a “high hand.” It is arrogant, self-willed sin. So grievous is this kind of sin that there was no atonement for it (cf. Numbers 15.30-31; Deuteronomy 17.12). This kind of evil was purged from the land. No wonder David prayed to be kept from this. And so also should we.
Commend Me (14)
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Let my words & thoughts be acceptable. David wanted what he thought & said to be pleasing to God. Here is a sweet prayer which every Christian ought to take up. Before words leave our mouth, we ought to meditate about it. In other words, think before you speak lest you say something which is unacceptable to God.
“Let the door of my lips by kept, that I utter no evil word, and the recesses of my heart be purged, that I think no evil thought” (Pulpit Commentary 130).
Natural theology (world), revelation (Word), spiritual experience (worship) – this is the successive course of this psalm. “He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, ‘My Father wrote them both.’” (Spurgeon) God still speaks – through the world He tells us He exists; thru His word He tells us He loves us; and in our worship we tell Him we love Him.