This song reminds the worshipper of the two kinds of people in the world: those who love the Lord and those who don't, those who want to hear His Word and those who don't. In this song, then, the worship leader, standing in the temple on Mount Zion, leads the people, early in the morning, to sing out an exhortation for those who want to live as those who love God.
He sings out that those who do love the Lord and desire to please Him should want nothing to do with the ideas of those who don't - they shouldn't want to be influenced by them in any way. They don't walk with them, stand with them, or sit with them in conversation. In other words, they simply don't travel in that crowd, because they don't want to begin acting as they do. The song reminds them that the Lord "blesses" them in this - that He approves their behavior, that they've actually begun to please Him in that way.
Having sung about what they shouldn't do, the leader then turns to the positives. He says, "But his delight is in the law of the Lord (the entire Bible), and in His law he meditates day and night." In singing these words the leader paints a picture of those who love God: they are ones who gladly hear His Word, and they are always considering what it means for them - they meditate on it day and night. That means that even when they daydream, it's about how the Word might apply to what they do each day.
The people are next led to sing about the blessing of the Lord upon those who meditate in that way. He says, "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper." What encouragement! He leads them to see in other words, that they'll be very successful - just as a tree, planted by refreshing, strengthening water grows, blossoms, and is fruitful, so the lover of God succeeds in life (not necessarily as the world understands "success," but in God's view of things). Those who make it a habit to consider how they may please their Lord will abundantly succeed in doing so!
But that's not the way it is with the ungodly, with those who don't really care to consider how to please the Lord. They may at times think they're prospering in life, and they may think that getting ahead financially and socially is "where it's at," but in the sight of the Lord and in view of the reality of His eternity they are total losers. They'll have to stand before the Almighty and holy God to answer for their attitude and behavior, but they won't be present when God gathers the "congregation of the righteous" to Himself.
Finally, the people are led to sing the real clincher: "For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish." That's exactly what the godly need to know. They (we all) need to be aware that God CARES, that He's not out there somewhere, paying no attention when we're trying to please Him, but that He sees it ALL!
In this majestic song the worshippers were led to consider the very King of Kings and Lord of lords. Both leader and people probably sang very slowly and emphatically, because they were singing of the awesome majesty of the Lord God.
It begins with the foolishness of the "nations" (Gentile unbelievers), who try all their lives to ignore God and His sovereignty over all people and nations. Of course their attempt is rebellion against their rightful King, against Him Who made them and owns them. And of course that rebellion is not only against the King of kings, but also against His anointed earthly king in Jerusalem. But they need to know that they are imagining a "vain thing," that such rebellion is a useless, doomed venture.
The psalmist envisions the Lord of all the earth sitting upon His holy throne - and laughing! He's likened to a man making fun of inept bumblers who haven't the foggiest notion of what they're really doing. They just don't realize what it means to rebel against the sovereign, holy Majesty of the universe. They think they're merely conducting war against another earthly king like themselves, a king against whom their superior manpower and armament will surely be victorious in any battle.
But it's as though suddenly, in the midst of the earthly battle there came a great voice, a voice so powerful as to drown out all the sounds of battle, a voice that was instantly heard, a voice on account of which the battle came to a sudden and complete halt. Suddenly every warrior drops his sword in fear and falls prostrate upon the ground. The Voice says, "Yet I have set My King upon My holy hill of Zion!" Every terrified heart suddenly realizes that it isn't man against whom they've been fighting, but against the holy God Himself!
Then another voice is heard. It's the triumphant voice of God's earthly king on Mt. Zion. He says, "I will declare the decree (the command of the divine King): the Lord has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel!'"
God's earthly representative has spoken. All other earthly kings had best pay careful attention! In fact, this earthly representative of God goes on with heavenly confidence to say, "Now therefore, be wise, O kings, be instructed you judges of the earth: serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son (submit completely to the earthly king), lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little!" The advice is awesome, and the necessity of obeying it is absolute.
It's the same for us. In a much larger sphere, the heavenly King - the Son of God - speaks to all mankind. He "declares the decree" to all peoples of all time. They are all in rebellion against their rightful King. But in fear they must cease their rebellion, lay down their arms, and fall before this awful Voice of GOD. Even now His servants are calling men everywhere to repent.
These servants of Jehovah should declare their message with absolute confidence, because their King reigns upon His holy Throne in heavenly Zion, and all the noise and tumult of earthly rebellion doesn't change that fact.
"Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him!"
This song was sung in remembrance of the most perilous time of David's life, the time of the rebellion of his son Absalom. It was a time in which many discontent souls in Israel seized the occasion to join in the rebellion, and David was in peril of his life. In fact, he had to flee Jerusalem and hide at night in caves or in the forest.
We might well ask ourselves why this song, composed in remembrance of the peril of only the one man David, would continue to be used in the worship of all Israel. The reason is found in vs. 8: "Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is upon Your people" - all the people of God have the same Lord, the same protection, and the same care as David had.
So it is helpful to us as well to read that in the midst of an awful circumstance David prayed for help. He cried out, "Arise, O Lord; save me O my God!" He had confidence that God would hear him because he had many times before experienced such help. All those times came to mind at this moment of extreme need, and he said, "You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly." So now, in this present perilous situation, he calls upon God to do for him again as He has done in the past.
But by the grace of God this help is not for David only. May we see that no matter what the trouble or trial in life, no matter how deep or perilous, God is absolutely faithful to preserve and bless His people when they call to Him for help. The experience through which David successfully came proves it, and so it should be an example for us all.
See how he sings: "But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One Who lifts up my head! I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me!" David experienced first hand the salvation of the Lord in the most difficult of situations, and now he wants every Israelite (and every one of us) to have the same experience - God can be counted on to save each and every one of His people either in - or through - their troubles. He will hear their prayer for help just as He did David's, and He will come speedily to their rescue.
There are two conditions, though, for this kind of help from God. Firstly, those who receive it must be the people of God. He says, "Your blessing is upon Your people." Secondly, they must ask for it. They need to have experienced His grace previously, and they need - trustingly - to pray for the help they need now.
So you and I can count on Him to be our Rescuer. We too need to be the people of God, and we too need to trust Him enough to pray. Will you?
David's glory wasn't anything he had done. It wasn't even the fact that he was the king of God's special people. It wasn't his great army, fine house, or grand horses. David's great glory was God Himself. It was the fact that he belonged to God, and that God cared for him and for all Israel with him. In God he could truly glory.
There were many people of David's day, though, who, like many in our own day, scoffed at David's relationship to God. They thought that David's God was just like all the imagined gods of the nations - that He was nothing more than wood and metal. They considered David's faith to be nothing but superstition, a crutch that wouldn't help him when the chips were down, when these enemies of his and their technologically superior armies came to crush him and "put him out of his misery."
An attack by just such unbelievers was the background for this psalm. After the battle, when David had time to think about everything that had happened and how the Lord had given him a wonderful victory, he wrote this psalm to remind himself and future worshippers that "the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; the Lord will hear when I call to Him." After all, David's experience with God on this occasion was proof that Jehovah, unlike the gods of the nations, really relates in a living, daily, hourly way with His beloved people.
So, ever after these events, the worship leader in the temple called the worshippers to pray to their real, living, and covenant God when he sang, "Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer." Then, as the people responded to the leader, this became their prayer as well.
The song went on to remind them that their glory - GOD Himself - is always far better than the foolishness of their unbelieving and idolatrous enemies. Then, after the people had responded, he went on to call them to confidence by singing, "But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; the Lord will hear when I call to Him."
When the people had thereby sung out their confidence, the leader next turned as if to call upon their enemies themselves. He called them to quit their foolishness, to turn in repentance, to "be angry, and do not sin," to "Meditate within your own heart on your bed and be still," to "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord."
The leader's next words reminded the worshippers that there are always "many who say, 'Who will show us any good?'" But the leader answered such unbelief by leading them in a prayer that God would indeed answer, a prayer that would therefore make a real difference in the course of events. He sang, "Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us." It was a prayer for God to make His loving presence known.
Finally, the cantor closed with praise to the God Who answers prayer. He sang, "You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased. I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety!"
What about you and I? Is our God different than the gods of the nations? Does He "hear when we call?" Have you experienced answered prayer from the God Who is really there? Remember that "the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; the Lord WILL hear when I call to Him!"
Sometimes it seems like other people don't care what happens to us. In fact, it may even seem as though everyone around us is against us and actually hopes that we'll be taken out of their way. Under those circumstances, there's only One to Whom we can turn, and He's the One to Whom David turns in this psalm. He composed it not only for himself, but for all God's people, because he knew that anyone who is godly would sometimes face what he faced.
But David learned a wonderful thing from his experience: the godly CAN turn to God when people fail them. He says, "To You I will pray. My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up."
David knew that God knew. He knew also that God saw his heart - and the hearts of his enemies. He said, "For You are not a God Who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity." He knew, in other words, that he could pray to God, because God really knows and cares.
In fact he was really confident about it. He said, "But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; in fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple." It's as though he were saying, "Nobody else will listen to this complaint, Lord, but I know You will, because You're that kind of God, so I'm going to lay it all before You.
Then he went on to describe to the Lord those who were against him - "there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue." If he had gone to people like that to solve his problems, he would probably have ended up being like them, and that's why he prayed, "Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before my face." He wanted to be pleasing to the Lord so that the Lord would hear his prayer.
Knowing that all of God's worshippers have faced some of the same problem, David then led them in a common united prayer. He sang, "But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your Name be joyful in You."
Then he led them in a response of praise to the righteous God Who hears that kind of prayer. He sang, "For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield!"
How about you? Is He that kind of God for you? Can you - do you - turn to Him when all others fail?
In this song of deep distress, the worship leader, aware that some of God's people experience particularly intense trials, leads them to the only sure help. He first leads them through words of complaint, words that may well express their own feelings. Then, he leads them to close with an expression of triumph in the One Who can and does help.
The problem is truly intense - the song expresses the fearful thought that it may even be the Lord Himself Who is angry. With that possibility, the worshipper is led to cry out for mercy, to pour out all his fears, and to wail out that his body, soul, and spirit can't take much more of this trial - that he might actually be headed for an early grave! In such a circumstance he's forced to cry out to the Lord, "But You, O Lord - how long?" In other words, "Lord, how long are You going to ignore me? I'm DYING! Will You receive praise from me if I lie in the grave? I can't cry any harder! O deliver me!"
But then, remembering how great is the mercy of the God to Whom he prays, remembering that He is the Covenant God of Israel, remembering that His covenant mercies are forever to them that fear Him, the worshipper comes to realize that the Lord does indeed hear him. But, realizing the meaning of such a thought, his joy in the sureness of God's salvation is almost more than his fear and sorrow were previously. He turns toward all his enemies, and, almost shouting at them, he says, "Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; for the Lord HAS HEARD my supplication!"
Do you sometimes have needs so deep and so intense that you don't know what to do? Relief may be much nearer than you imagine. Do as the song leader did, and express your pain truthfully and in detail to a merciful God. Sing this song to Him. Realize Who it is to Whom you cry. Realize that your Lord went through the deepest, most sorrowful experience of all - for YOU - and that He can and will therefore care for you. Then turn to Satan your enemy, and shout at him that your God has heard you!
Throughout human history there have always been innocent people who have been falsely accused, tried in absentia, and then persecuted unmercifully for crimes they didn't commit. Whether the crime itself is a heinous crime against humanity or merely a minor transgression against individuals, the injustice and suffering of the falsely accused always hurts - deeply.
Sometimes it seems to the innocent party that there is nothing he or she can do to change the situation - the accuser is immovable, has a closed mind, and doesn't believe mercy is appropriate. The problem of what to do, of how the accused can prove innocence to those who are so thoroughly prejudiced is a most distressing problem, especially when the penalty for the supposed crime is extreme.
That's the problem expressed in Psalm 7. I think we may safely assume that the reason such a problem has been expressed in the form of a worship song is simply that the solution to the problem lies nowhere but in God, the just Judge Who alone can deal with it effectively. Since therefore the psalm reflects the one practical relief, the one and only hope for all falsely accused persons, it's ultimately a song of prayer and praise to that God of hope.
It begins with simple request: "O Lord my God, in You I put my trust; save me from all those who persecute me; and deliver me . . ." Then follows a beautiful expression of trust in that omniscient and perfectly just God. The psalmist knows he can leave his case in God's hands with confidence. He can say, "O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there is iniquity in my hands...let the enemy pursue and overtake me, and lay my honor in the dust!" And two verses later, in a similar vein, he can say, "Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to my integrity within me." He could only say such things if, 1) he was truly innocent, and 2) he knew God knew him completely.
Though the prayer is David's prayer, yet he's not thinking of himself alone. He is aware, apparently, that the rest of the people also know he is innocent. So he asks for relief so that the "congregation of the people will surround You. For their sakes, therefore, return on high." In other words, in asking God to "return on high," he's asking Him to make His just presence known so that the people will see it and will praise Him, and so that they'll renew their own confidence in the justice of their God.
David expresses to God the lesson such justice on God's part would be for the people. He says, "For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds . . . is a just Judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he does not turn back, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready. He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts." The lesson is that God's justice is real and that He really cares about affairs of justice for people in this world.
Then, leading the worshippers to exult in that justice, David sings, "Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity; yes he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood. He made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he made - his trouble shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown." Upon seeing this justice on God's part, the conclusion must be praise to such a righteous and caring God. He says, "I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the Name of the Lord most High!"
How is your life? Do you need vindication? Have you been falsely accused? Do you want others to know how just and righteous your God is? This is your song.
Our God is absolutely holy. That means that He's totally separate from and far above all His creation. He doesn't need anything to make Him happy, for He is and should be entirely satisfied with His infinitely glorious Self. All creation gloriously expresses His Nature, yet it mustn't be assumed that He has any need for that expression. He is not incomplete without it. God creates because it's His nature thus to express Himself, not out of any need for it.
That's the theme of David's hymn of praise and wonder here in Psalm 8. When he leads the worshippers to sing, "O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Your Name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens," he's praising the Self-existent, Self-sufficient, yet at the same time Self-expressing God.
Yet while he praises the God Who is high above even all these Self-expressing works, yet he is also praising the God Who allows even the humblest of His creation to bring Him praise: "Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength."
David is referring to himself. Though he isn't literally a "babe" or a "nursing infant," yet in comparison both to God Himself and to the majesty of the creation, he is as comparatively helpless as they. And by inspiring and allowing even such an insignificant one as David to be the successful king of God's people, God thereby reveals His own keeping, strengthening, blessing power - and therefore silences Israel's enemies.
But the thought of such an infinitely wise and powerful God awes David. He's forced to say, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" He's amazed that so great a God would use humble mankind (including himself) to accomplish His works!
For this reason he goes on to express the amazing privilege and responsibility God has bestowed upon mankind - to be over "the works of Your hands." By using such humble servants, God just reveals His own immense wisdom and power in the earth, and David therefore concludes by singing, with all his might, "O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your Name in all the earth!"
We should join David in this song of praise. It should be our song as well as his. Let's thank our gracious God for giving us work to do in this His world, however humble or seemingly insignificant. We do it by His wisdom and power, and we thereby reveal His glory in what we do.
The people of God should always be talking about the many, many good things He has done for them. And, while they're doing that, while they're still thinking about how good and gracious He is, they'll also be in the best possible frame of mind to ask Him for the things they still need. In the psalm before us, David leads the worshippers in exactly that way: he begins with praise and thanksgiving, then he leads them to call on the goodness of God for what they still need.
It would do us well to follow David's lead. It would do us well to remember God's goodness at the very beginning of our prayers. Like David, we can sing, "I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works." We can and should follow this by being more specific about His blessings, as David does here. Then, finally, while still thinking about the goodness of God, we can go on to lay before Him our needs.
This prayer of David is a good example. He sings, "Have mercy on me, O Lord! Consider my trouble from those who hate me." We should be careful to notice that he goes on to express his confidence in God's care, based on what he had already said. He sings, "You Who lift me up from the gates of death, that I may tell of all Your praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion. I will rejoice in Your salvation." We too should first express our needs, then, based on what God has already done in our lives, we should also express our confidence in His care.
Like David, we can follow this with meditation. He thinks over what has happened to his enemies. We too should think over what has happened in our lives and see the way God has led. From this we can draw the conclusions that David draws: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God, for the needy shall not always be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever." David is confident that his prayers WILL be granted, and, knowing how caring is our God, we too can be confident!
We can finally close our prayer as David does when he sings, "Arise, O Lord, do not let man prevail; let the nations be judged in Your sight. Put them in fear, O Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men." We might use different words. We might say something like, "Arise, O Lord, do not let them pass me over for the next promotion (or "Do not let me fail in this assignment," or "Don't let me fail in this work I have to do," or . . .)." Then we too can say, "let people be glad that I belong to You. Let them come to You also because of my witness to Your grace.
The people of Jerusalem gather, early in the morning, at the temple on Mount Zion. Among them are many of the poor, some of the middle-class, and perhaps even a very few of the wealthy. They've gathered for morning worship and to receive encouragement. They want to hear about and worship the God of Israel. They want to hear about the God Who cares, Who cares not only about great issues, but even about their social concerns, about the troubles of the poor, about the righteousness or unrighteousness of the merchants, about the kind or cruel treatment they receive from the magistrates - about daily living in general. They've come to be led in prayer to their merciful God and to join together in praise and thanksgiving to Him.
So the worship leader, knowing many of their needs and concerns, brings out for them a psalm, a song of prayer, praise, remembrance, and thanksgiving. He sings the first line: "Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?" The people repeat the line, and their hearts respond knowingly, because at that moment it does seem for some of them like the Lord has forgotten their individual concerns.
Then the second line just amplifies the thought of the first line. They sing, "Why do You hide in times of trouble?" Many of the worshippers feel exactly that way - as though the Lord were hiding from them just when they need Him most.
Then the leader sings out about the kinds of circumstances that bring on these feelings. He says, "The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor." Capturing the feelings of the worshippers, the leader then sings a prayer about it: "Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised!" He goes on to describe the wicked person as boasting of how he's going to "get" the poor, about his complete carelessness about God. He describes the wicked as boasting about how he seems to prosper anyway, despite what he does to the poor, about his unkind and cruel words, and about his deceit and oppression.
Then, continuing to lead the people in a song they understand only too well, he describes how the godless and cruel oppressors go about their oppression in secret, like preying animals, and how they're entirely persuaded that God doesn't concern Himself with what they're doing.
Then the leader turns back to the people themselves again and leads them in prayerful song. He leads them to sing, "Arise, O Lord! O God, lift up Your hand. Do not forget the humble!" Then, paraphrasing his next words, he might be saying, "Don't let them mock Your care, Lord!!" Finally, he then leads the people in an expression of confidence: "But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand! The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless!" THAT'S what the people need to know!
Finally, knowing that the Lord DOES care, the leader naturally turns to praise. He sings, "The Lord is King forever and ever; the nations have perished out of His land. Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more."
As the people repeat each line their hearts grow more and more confident, more and more glad in the Lord, more and more sure that they have a God Who actually cares.
How about you? Can you slowly read this song, slowly gain confidence, and then can you finally come to the conclusion that HE CARES ABOUT YOU?
This is a song about a war. In it, David the king is receiving various kinds of advice, some of which tells him that he should "flee as a bird to" his "mountain," possibly a mountain fortress outside Jerusalem. The thought is that he could be safe there.
David's answer to this advice is in three parts. First, he points out that fleeing to such a mountain fortress won't do any good, because the "bow" of the wicked is already "bent," so that if David exited Jerusalem he would be shot upon leaving. Secondly, David points out that if he left Jerusalem, then Jerusalem itself would be taken by the enemy. This would be disastrous, because Jerusalem is the hub, the center, or to use the language used here, the "foundation" of Israel, and if it's taken by the enemy, there really wouldn't be much use fighting any longer - Israel would be defeated already.
Thirdly, David doesn't need to "flee." Why? Because "The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord's throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men." In other words, the Lord knows all about David's predicament, and He can, at any time, bring His righteous wrath upon David's enemies - and the war will be over!
David points out that "the Lord tests the righteous - but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals - fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup." He's just expressing the fact that he doesn't need to worry, because the Lord can and will take care of the wicked enemy. He's just saying, in other words, that if he, David, is righteous, then the Lord will take care of him. As he says, "the Lord is righteous. He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright." David needn't worry.
David leads the people in singing this psalm so that they too might place their trust where it really belongs - not in fortresses, not in armor, not in horses, but in the Lord. All they have to do is to be sure they are righteous before Him Who alone is their safety.
How about you? Do you get worried about what human beings can do to you? Your best course of action is to busy yourself in becoming more and more righteous before God. When you're doing that, no human being can harm you, for God will take care of you quite adequately! Fleeing won't help, but righteously trusting God will.
This is a song for vexed and frustrated people, for relatively poor, unnoticed people, for people who won't be helped much by the civil authorities because they're just not important enough (the authorities might even be part of the problem). It's a song intended to bring hope to such people, a song that speaks to them with the voice of God's salvation!
It begins with their complaint. They cry out, "Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak." Does it sound like modern politics? It should.
Now that the people are 100% with the song leader because their innermost feelings have been expressed, he's able to lead them in a straightforward prayer for practical relief from the oppression. In their prayer they plead with the Lord of earthly governments to rid them of these authorities who have flattering lips (to get votes?). The flatterers speak "proud things," and they flaunt their authority and their high positions. They explain their behavior by telling the people how busy they are and how they can't possibly help every person with every complaint. They say there are other, more important issues that they really must dealt with first.
Not only so, but these so-called "public servants" feel that they can tell these poor people who come to them for help anything they want, because, as they put it, "our lips are our own; who is lord over us?" They have no concept of a real Covenant God Who sees every action, Who hears every word, who knows every thought - and Who CARES.
But the song leader leads the people to sing the sure response made by that loving, caring God Himself. They sing, "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now I will arise, says the Lord; I will set him in the safety for which he yearns!" This is the sure promise of the Lord God of Israel, a promise He has repeated to them many times, a promise very dear to His heart because these are His chosen, His covenant people.
Such a realization should bring consolation to these troubled people. It should lead them to the conclusion that, "the words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times!" In other words, as they hear themselves singing, they can come to realize that God Himself really IS their Protector! This is absolutely and always true, even though, as they must say, "The wicked prowl on every side, when vileness is exalted among the sons of men."
It's the same in every age, isn't it? Corrupt, godless authorities become hard and uncaring about those under them. But also true in every age is the fact that the Lord knows and cares - and will deal with them. Let us pray even now with the confidence of the psalmist. God has not changed!
This song is for all who are deeply distressed, for those who have prayed and prayed again, but who haven't seen God's hand of mercy yet. To them it seems as though God has hid His eyes from their problem. That notion has made the distress ever so much worse.
David had had experiences like that. He'd been in dangerous situations brought on by enemies who sought to defeat him and be rid of him. The situation had been made much worse by God's seeming indifference to his prayers. But then, after more distress and more prayer, God had blessed him and then, when the problem was past, David wrote and introduced a psalm like this one into the songs of Israel's worship. He knew that all of God's people have problems to which God seems indifferent sometimes, and he wanted them to enter with Him into the realization of God's care for them. Even if the problems were not always with foreign enemies, yet there was always their - and our - common enemy the Devil.
David's example makes it clear that it's important at the outset for the worshipper to be extremely honest with Jehovah about his feelings. He needs to admit that he feels like God has ignored him, ceased to protect him, and, apparently, has cast him off - and he needs to say so.
Our prayers, too, should be honest like that with our Father. After all, He knows our hearts anyway, so we may as well express them to Him.
Next, in his petition for relief, what the worshipper needs should be expressed with extreme simplicity. He should say with David, "Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death!" In other words, "Oh Lord, give me understanding to overcome this problem - or I die!"
Then the song ends in a unique way - It closes with an expression of the worshipper's will to trust in God's mercy and to rejoice in His salvation. Even though he hasn't seen that salvation yet, still, knowing God, he's quite confident that he will receive it, so he deliberately and decisively tells God that He will trust Him for it, and he begins rejoicing as if he's already got it! He can do so because he's casting himself upon the Character and love of his covenant God.
So can we. Sometimes we just need to cease from our moaning long enough to shift our focus from our troubles to the faithfulness of our God.
In this song David the king is telling his people about a very, very special status they have with Jehovah. While he doesn't mention that status by name, yet he makes it extremely plain by what he sings.
He begins with the general principle: fools say no to God in their hearts - they simply deny His existence. But the result of such atheism is corruption: "They are corrupt. They have done abominable works." That's the way it is with those who don't think anyone cares.
David probably sang all the words up to this point in a minor key, possibly even with dissonance. But then the minor key dissonance reaches a climax as he expresses the fact that the whole world is involved in that awful atheism and corruption. He sings, "They have ALL turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is NONE who does good - no, not one!" We can almost hear the crashing and clashing of the cymbals!
But then, amid such resounding declarations of the guilt of absolutely every member of the human race, David the king sings a very surprising line. He asks the question, "Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call on the Lord?" It's as though David was claiming that his kingdom wasn't involved in the general atheism and corruption, but that it was the rest of the world that was like that, and Israel was being attacked by those wicked "other people."
We have to come to an obvious and necessary conclusion: Israel was involved all right, but by pure grace they were the covenant people of God nevertheless! They were rescued sinners, chosen and redeemed people of God! The result is that the God-hating world hates them and "eats them up as they eat bread!"
But they do it at a price. David sings, "There they are in great fear - for God is with the generation of the righteous (Israel)." It needs very much to be understood that the rebels of this world, the fallen human race - knows its own guilt, knows the just wrath of God. It may not be expressed in so many words, but deep down they know they're doomed. David turns to them and sings, "You shame the counsel of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge." In other words, "You'll have to pay for this - God sees!"
Finally, realizing what a sinful world this is, realizing all the pain and shame that sin has caused and is causing - David, looking forward to the fulfillment of God's Messianic promise, sings, "Oh that the salvation of Israel (Christ) would come out of Zion! When the Lord brings back the captivity of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!"
The great difference in our day is that Christ has come! It's the beginning of the end for this sinful world. But what is it to YOU? Do you long for His coming again and for the judgement of man's rebellion? Do you long for the final salvation of God's saints? If so, then let's join David in this song!
The people are coming to the door of the temple. The worship leader has already begun to sing, and the people hear and repeat, even from outside. They sing, "Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?" What it means is "Who can come into this place; who can come before the infinite, almighty, holy Lord God?"
As the leader sings on, All the people are made aware of the only answer to that question. He sings, "He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; he who swears to his own hurt and does not change; he who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent." Of course each time the leader sings a few of these words the people repeat them, and then they can't but consider their own hearts to see if they meet the requirements.
It's a practical lesson in personal righteousness - righteousness which the Lord requires of any earthdweller who would presume to come into His presence - who would presume to be one of His special people. As they sang about Him Who sees and cares about even their most insignificant activities, their awe of such a holy God surely must have increased!
That's why the leader then sings, slowly, distinctly, and possibly almost in a whisper, "He who does these things shall never be moved." The people repeat it in reverence, and then every soul is silent, every heart in deep meditation on the question of whether he or she meets these requirements and can come before such a God.
It's a lesson for us as well. We should ask ourselves the question, "Am I aware that God sees absolutely everything that's in my life"? Have I been concerned enough for personal holiness while I live on His property? How indeed do I treat other people? God grant us to walk in carefulness before His Face all the day!
This psalm is intensely personal, but since it's also the prayer of the king, every Israelite should want to enter into it with him. After all, to pray for the king's concerns is to pray for the welfare of the people as well.
With this in mind, the worshipper is led to begin with David's own urgent petition. He prays, "Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust." David is asking that his life be preserved for Israel's sake - that he might continue usefully and fruitfully as their king.
Then, having gotten the most important thing "off his chest," he continues in a more confessional mode, a mode in which he simply confesses that he, David, is nothing apart from Israel's true King in heaven.
In fact, David says, it would just be in the best interests of the true King in heaven to answer the prayer of this psalm. That's because the prayer is really for the sake of God's own beloved people. We could paraphrase, "Do these things for me, Lord, because You are my Lord - my goodness is nothing apart from You - and Your people are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight!" In other words, he's asking for help from the Lord not only because the Lord is the only help there is, but also because that help will benefit the people Jehovah loves as well. It is in God's best interest to help David, because He will thus be helping the shepherd of His people.
David continues by confessing that anyone who seeks after any other god is only pursuing sorrow, and that he himself doesn't intend to go their way at all. He's glad to tell Jehovah that He alone is his eternal resting place - that He means everything to him - because all of God's goodness to him thus far has been wonderful indeed.
Not only so, but he also confesses that the instruction the Lord has given him is all he'll ever need, and that he knows that as long as he keeps the Lord before Him, he'll always be safe! In fact, he says, "Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope." So joyful do such thoughts make him, in fact, that he says that he knows that even in death there will be no loss, because the Lord "will show me the path of life," and "in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore!"
It's important for us to realize that the relationship of our Lord Jesus Christ to His Father was very similar to the one David had with the same God. In fact, our Lord quotes these very verses as belonging to Him as well as to David. As in David's case, our Lord's relationship to the Father was one of joy, trust, and love to God's people. In fact, even though our Savior had to experience all the curse of our sin and all the trials we must experience, yet He could still rejoice because it would bring salvation to us! And, most importantly as we read this psalm, He can lead us to that same joy and trust by His Spirit.
It would be very good for us to come before our Lord with David's attitude of love to God and His people. In our cries to Him for help we too, after beginning with a simple statement of need, should tell Him of our love for His people. Then we too, as in David's case, need to be so taken up with Who and What the Lord Himself is to us, that we can end our prayer as he did by expressing our confidence and joy in Him! We need to meditate on what He has given us - upon the "good inheritance" we have when we have Him and are among His people. We need to consider how great it is to be associated with those people and to know that both they and ourselves are going to be forever in His presence! Then, in union with our Lord Jesus Christ, we too can sing praise to Him!
Men are not always fair in their judgements, but God is always fair. That's what this song is about. It's for all those who are unfairly judged by men, and who therefore want instead God's true and righteous judgement of their case.
So the song leader is leading those who have been unfairly judged by men. They know they're innocent of at least some of the issues in which men accuse them, so he lead them to say, "Let my vindication come from Your presence; let Your eyes look on the things that are upright."
It doesn't mean that any singers of this psalm could ever be entirely innocent before the holy God. But these are the words of a man who has already come before the Lord, a man who has agonized lest he might have sinned in some way of which he is unaware. He's already stayed awake nights, tossing and turning, considering, confessing known sins, begging the Lord to show him the ones he doesn't know. He can say, "You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing."
Not only so, but he's been very, very careful since the problem with other people's accusations came up, trying with all his might to avoid sin of any kind. He knows he can't do it alone, though, so he seeks the only help there is. He sings, "Uphold my steps in Your paths, that my footsteps may not slip." He at least wants to be pure before the Lord.
But even after this self-examination, this careful consideration of his own actions and of God's laws, he still feels he has been wrongly accused by others. Little by little, day after self-examining day, he becomes more and more confident. Finally, he can sing, "I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God; incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech. Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand. O You Who save those who trust in You from those who rise up against them."
So he's finally concluded that it isn't he himself who is guilty, but instead it's his accuser. And it's an awful thing he has to behold when he thinks upon those who unjustly accuse him. He has to say, "They have closed up their fat hearts; with their mouths they speak proudly. They have now surrounded us in our steps; they have set their eyes crouching down to the earth . . . as a young lion . . . lurking in secret places."
But because he is praying to the Lord Who knows him he can sing his prayer with confidence. He can sing, "Arise, O Lord, confront him, cast him down; deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword!" These unrighteous accusers are themselves in rebellion against Jehovah, and their hope for happiness is therefore limited to this life only.
So, because their joy in their possessions and pleasures is limited to this life, they must therefore leave their treasures to their children. Not so with the righteous singer of this psalm. He can sing joyfully, "As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness!"
Do these things ever happen to you? Do people sometimes falsely accuse you? If they do, remember that your Lord Jesus was also falsely accused. They crucified Him. But He arose. He sits at God's right hand, waiting until God makes His enemies His footstool. That includes your enemies as well. But there are conditions.
You need to be ever so careful to confess known sin. You need to be ever so careful not to react unrighteously toward those who accuse you. Ask Your all-seeing Lord to make you aware of your own secret faults, and then be sure to confess them to Him. Then He Who has gone before will raise you up to be with Him!
This psalm stands as one of the best definitions of God's praise. If we want to know how to praise Him, then we need merely summarize the content of this psalm. The psalm makes it clear that such praise is just telling about the good things God has done, and this psalm does it magnificently.
The background of the psalm is that David had recently concluded the most difficult period of his life, the period during which he was constantly persecuted and pursued by Saul. It was a period during which he had God's promise to make him king, but it was also a time during which the fulfillment of that promise seemed extremely remote. But in this psalm David describes poetically how God successfully brought him through that period so that he now could indeed wear the crown of God's nation Israel!
An important thing for us to remember, though, is that God did these things in order to fulfill His promise, not only to David, but also to Israel itself. In giving them David as king, He was giving them a "man after His own heart," and He was in that way establishing the blessing of His covenant sovereignty over them. For that reason, all that God did, all the things for which this psalm praises Him, are things He has done not only for David, but for His covenant people Israel as well. Since God doesn't change, we can truthfully say that it's a song about how God will ALWAYS act toward His people. In other words, He's just that kind of God!
Looking back, then, at the wonderful things the Lord has done, the songleader begins by singing out His feelings for such a God. He sings, "I will love You O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in Whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!" So David first and all of God's people ever after confess that it is GOD alone Who has brought them through troubles. They will therefore always love Him and trust Him. In fact, as a resounding summary of all the psalmist wants to say, they sing, "I will call upon the Lord, Who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies!" That's what David has learned from the difficult years, and that's what Israel should learn from him. The trouble God's people must face is worth it!
David then proceeds to describe some of the difficulties through which he's come. He sings of fears of death, floods of ungodliness that threatened to sweep him away, the hopelessness of a sheol (the place of the dead) that was reaching up to grasp him in a never-relenting hold, the snares of death on every hand - but also the wonderful, saving availability of prayer to a powerful and caring God.
Then he goes on to sing of God's answer - of His powerful intervention in his daily struggles. That intervention can only be described poetically - no ordinary words could adequately describe it. He has to use powerful imagery, imagery that, at best, can only give us a little feeling for the power and wonder of God's acts. He says, "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken. Because He was angry, smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth . . ." It's an overwhelmingly powerful scene. It's as though, upon hearing David's prayer, God became angry at his enemy and flew like the wind to help him!
Then, still using imagery, he sings that "the Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice - hailstones and coals of fire!" It's as though God commanded all nature to conspire together against David's enemies.
The result of this intervention on God's part was that David was delivered. Expressed poetically, the psalm sings that "He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me - they confronted me in the day of my calamity. But the LORD was my support. He also brought me into a broad place - He delivered me because He delighted in me!"
David knew in his own heart that he had never tried to take Saul's kingdom, but that he had constantly sought only good for "God's anointed." He could therefore sing, "The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me." In fact he could sincerely sing, "I was also blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity (he knew he was a fallen sinner). Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight!" God loves righteousness!
With all this in mind, David goes on singing of what a good and gracious Lord he serves. He says, "With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; with a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; with the pure You will show Yourself pure; and with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd: You will save the humble people, but will bring down haughty looks." That's the kind of God Who helped David, and that's the kind of God Who will always help all of His people!
The song goes on to express how God's strength became David's strength against his enemies, and it concludes with still more praise. He says, "For who is God, except the Lord? And Who is a rock, except our God? It is GOD Who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. HE makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places. HE teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Finally, though, even imagery can't adequately describe the goodness of God, so David just uses plain words. He sings, no doubt at the top of his voice, "You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up. Your gentleness has made me great!"
Then he goes on to describe in detail the victory God has brought about. He says, "I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed!" God has DONE it! He has brought him through! He has given him the crown! David has to look, open mouthed, at the wonderful things God has done. He sings, "You have delivered me from the strivings of the people; You have made me the head of the nations; a people I have not known shall serve me - as soon as they hear of me they obey me; the foreigners submit to me!"
It is the LORD alone Who has done all this, and David knows it, so he brings the song to a resounding conclusion by singing, "The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted! It is GOD Who avenges me, and subdues the people under me!. . . Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles (because, due to the wonderful salvation of the Lord, his kingdom will spread even that far!) and sing praises to Your Name: great deliverance He gives to His king, and shows mercy to His anointed, to David and his descendants forevermore!"
You and I need to remember that this is not merely a song about David's victories. Instead it's a song about the victories of all of God's people in all ages through the Lord Jesus Christ. It's a song about the God Who truly hears us when we call on Him, about the God Who can and does deliver us from all the power of sin and the Devil, from enemies much too powerful for us. He will ALWAYS be our victory. HE will be our final salvation!
By means of this song David attempts to lead the people to a greater awareness of God and to a greater awareness of the kind of response they should have to Him, considering Who and What He is. He begins by singing about God's revelation as seen in Creation. He says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork." The "voice" of this revelation, he says, "has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." In short, there is no place in this world where the handiwork of God is not manifest, where the creation does not, as it were, shout forth the creating power and wisdom of it's Creator and Ruler. Even the sun's daily journey from one end of the heaven to the other clearly and powerfully declares His power and wisdom.
But while all of nature declares God's glory, that glory is even more plain in His written revelation, the Bible. In David's day, that written revelation was limited to the Torah, the first five books of the Law. But in David's mind, if he could have been acquainted with the rest of the Bible, "the Law" would certainly have included all of it. For us then, the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments alike, is in view when David sings, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul ("converting" = setting it back on track each and every time it strays). The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple . . ."
That revelation is precious because it discloses our God to us! So, speaking of its words, David sings, "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter are they than honey and the honeycomb." Why is it so precious? Because we are a fallen race of people, and because sin has clouded our minds. We need it, says David, because, "Who can understand his errors?" Without the Bible we can't really know God, and we can't really even know ourselves!
Our response to all this should be great thankfulness for all of God's revelation, both natural and written. It reveals Him, and it reveals our errors. Oh how we need it! In view of it we should sing with David, "Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins (the ones that aren't "secret"). Let them not have dominion over me!" When God answers this prayer, then - and then only - can we go on to sing, "Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression (great because it is against a great God)."
Along with David, our final response to God's Book should be, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer!"
David was about to set out for war. Because he knew he could never achieve victory on his own, he first conducted morning prayer at the tabernacle, leading the people to pray for the upcoming battles. The psalm we have before us today is that prayer.
The first thing David does in the prayer is lead the people to pronounce a benediction - on himself! They sing, "May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble; may the Name of the God of Jacob defend you; may He send you help from the sanctuary, and strengthen you out of Zion; may He remember all your offerings, and accept your burnt sacrifices!" That's just what David was going to need when he got out onto the battlefield - he was going to need "help in the day of trouble" - defense at the hand of God, help from the God Who revealed Himself in the sanctuary, and strength from the God Who dwelt in Zion.
So all the people are led to pray for their field commander. They pray, "May He grant you according to your heart's desire, and fulfill all your purpose."
He follows this by leading them to express what they should feel as they hear of God's blessing on the army. They repeat, "We will rejoice in your salvation, and in the Name of our God we will set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!"
So, because all Israel would be blessed by a successful war, David leads them in prayer for himself and the army. But he also knows that Israel is God's special people, so he he then leads them in an expression of confidence. They sing, "Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand." He knows he is the Lord's anointed, that he is therefore acting on behalf of the Lord, and that he will therefore experience the Lord's salvation in battle!
Of course David also wants the people to realize that there's no use of them trusting in military power for victory, so he leads them to sing, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God!" The result of such trust will be the enemy's defeat. The people sing, "They (the enemy) have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stand upright!"
Then he leads them in one final prayer, this time for themselves and their nation. He leads them to sing, "Save, Lord! May the King answer us when we call." He wants them to pray that he, David, will be their defender, that he will this time, as always, be able to answer their call for defense.
A war psalm like this is directly applicable to our own lives as God's people. We too are involved in an intense warfare. Our war, too, cannot be won by our own strength or wisdom. Since Jesus Christ is our Warrior-King, we too should sing,"May the King answer us when we call!" May Jesus Christ defend us against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Amen!