Our Lord rules the earth according to definite and righteous principles. They are: 1) He blesses those who love Him and care for others, and 2) He curses those whose hearts are hard toward God and man.
David loves, admires and worships a God like that. In fact he absolutely delights in Him. The result is that he wants to be like Him - he too wants to "consider the poor." A further result is that God also blesses David. So David was called "a man after God's own heart." As David himself puts it - "The Lord will deliver (such a man) him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies." God delights in the man who delights in Him.
Because David loves such a God, he therefore loves the people of that God as well, so of course he wants them to know Him and rejoice in Him. So he has them repeat in song the words of this psalm as they begin their day, with the hope that, when they leave the temple, their lives, too, will be characterized by love to God and service to His people that day.
With that in mind, David sings of prayer and answered prayer - a loving relationship that God sustains to those who love him and who love and serve His people. The particular prayer that David was thinking of was prayed in an especially perilous situation, the situation of his own sickness. He describes it when he says, "I said, 'Lord, be merciful to me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.'" He tells of his enemies' hatred and of their hope that he will never rise again from his sickbed - even though they had been his "own familiar friends in whom I trusted."
But David particularly wanted to remind the people that the Lord did answer his prayer and help him. So he sings, "By this I know that You are well pleased with me, because my enemy does not triumph over me. As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, and set me before Your Face forever!" David would not have realized how much the Lord loved him if it had not been for just such a perilous time - the Lord used the trial to open David's eyes to that love. He does the same for us. He often opens our own eyes to His love by means of the trouble we experience.
Next, after describing how God blessed him and answered his prayer, he finally and simply leads the people in praise to the God Who deals in such a merciful way with His people. He sings,"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen."
How's your own relationship to God? Does it affect your relationship to other people? Do you love them because you love Him? Do you "consider the poor (poor in this world's goods, poor in spirit, poor by lack of friends)?" Do you therefore feel free to call on the Lord in all your own trials? Not that you've earned His favor by your "goodness" - but He's glorified by the work of His own Spirit within you - and you'll experience how much He loves you! It's a happy relationship with God, a relationship you evidence by loving God and caring for His people. If this is your case, then bless your graciously loving God today!
Have you ever been unable for a time to participate in the assembly of God's people (the church)? When that happens, do you feel as though God has left you to yourself, that He isn't with you, and that He's deserted you? GOOD! You should feel that way, because God has appointed the gathering of His people as one of the ordinary means by which He will meet with them, and if you don't really miss it, then perhaps there's something very wrong with your relationship to Him.
The "sons of Korah," to whom this psalm is attributed, knew this would occasionally happen to God's people - that they'd occasionally have to be away for some period of time from the ordinary means of worship in the temple at Jerusalem, and that they'd sometimes feel that God had deserted them. This song was for them, for those who had to say, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, 'Where is your God?'"
There was a solution. And you and I have the same solution available. The solution is prayer (and more prayer). In this psalm the people were led to sing, "The Lord will command His loving kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me - a prayer to the God of my life!"
And there WILL be a result! Right now, you have to say, "I will say to God my Rock, 'Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?'" But afterwards you'll be able to say, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God!"
The meeting of God's people, the Church, is one of His appointed means for your growth and blessing. It's therefore God's grace operating within you if you feel badly when you miss it. Prayer, prayer, and more prayer is the only solution. Use it!
Sometimes God doesn't answer prayer as quickly as we think He should. That's especially true when we're in difficult and painful situations, In fact sometimes it seems like we've waited a very long time and there's still no answer. And even when the answer does come, it isn't always what we thought it should be.
It wasn't any different for the Israel of David's day. Some of the people coming to the temple to worship early in the morning came with heavy hearts, sometimes even with hearts that were completely misunderstood by others. They came, after all, as they were - with all their daily problems and difficulties.
Sometimes problems might be with other people, or, as in David's case, with other nations. As the psalmist expresses it here, sometimes it seemed like the nations of the world were so unjust that they couldn't or wouldn't deal understandingly with anyone. Sometimes they were even downright deceitful in their dealings. In any case, sometimes it seemed as though God wasn't looking after His people, as if He had deserted them and wasn't hearing their crying.
But there was nowhere else to turn either. He was, after all, their only Source of help, so they still had to go to Him, whether the problem was with nations or with individuals. With these things in mind, the worship leader has the people sing an urgent prayer. He says,"Oh send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle!" They're just asking that God would make them aware that they're not just in an earthly tabernacle, but that they're truly before the throne of their caring God.
God answers a prayer like that! In fact the leader leads the people in anticipation. He has them sing, "Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God my God!"
Actually, the leader wants the people, when they finally leave the temple that morning, to believe that God always does send out the necessary light and truth. He has them sing, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God!"
Have you experienced these things? Do you ever feel as if God isn't answering your prayer, as if you've been deserted to an unjust and deceitful world? It may be that it's entirely necessary for you to feel that way. Sometimes, in fact, God may leave you in that situation for just a little while in order to create in your cold heart a real anticipation of what it will be like to be in His presence and blessing again.
Of course He may also do it in order to move you to pray, to beg for His light and truth - perhaps because you thought you could get along without them for a time. Whatever your case, join the worship leader: call on God - again - for you shall "yet praise Him, the help of your countenance and your God!" Pray today for a soul sensitive to His presence, a soul needing that presence, and a soul glad for that presence!
In every emergency, God's people need three things. They need to remember God's salvation in past emergencies, they need to confess present dependence upon Him, and they need simply to express their present emergency in the form of a prayer for help. So it was for Israel. Early in the morning, then, when the people came together to pray, to worship, and to praise their God, it was the time to remember those three things. As the first item in the necessary sequence, then, the people were led to sing of the wonderful deeds of the God of Israel in past days. They sing, "We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, the deeds You did in their days, in days of old." Next in the sequence they were led to sing their dependence upon God in the present. They sang, "You are my King, O God; command victories for Jacob! Through You we will push down our enemies." Finally, for the third and final item, they were led to express vividly the current emergency - with honesty about how things really seemed to them. They sang, "But You have cast us off and put us to shame. You do not go out with our armies." In that same honesty they also had to confess that they didn't understand why God had seemingly deserted them. They sang, "All this has come upon us; but we have not forgotten You, nor have we dealt falsely with Your covenant . . . if we had forgotten the Name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a foreign god, would not God search this out?" Finally, I think we can well imagine the pitch and volume of the song increasing as they are led to cry out, "Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast us off forever! . . . Arise for our help, and redeem us for Your mercies' sake!" Obviously, this isn't a psalm concerned with individuals' needs. It's a song for the nation, a song sung at the actual time of an emergency, a cry for Israel's help. If we're honest about it, the status of the Church today calls for just such a response. Is not the present experience of the Church one of deadness and of the need for revival by the Spirit of God? Are not the world, the flesh, and the Devil attacking us? Oh let us pray this prayer! This IS a time of need!
This song is unique among the psalms. It probably wasn't used in the morning worship of Israel. It was a psalm specifically penned for the people to sing at a royal wedding. They were to sing it to the royal couple.
But for us, as we consider that the present King of God's people, the King of the Church, is our Lord Jesus Christ, this psalm is therefore a messianic song, a song to be sung to the King in all ages by the people of God, the bride of Christ.
As you would expect, it's a joyous song - it gives its writer and singers great joy to sing it. They express this joy by singing, "My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer!"
Then, with such a joyful introduction, the actual song begins by addressing the groom. To Him they sing, "You are fairer than the sons of men; grace is poured upon Your lips; therefore God has blessed You forever!" So the King is praised for His "lips," for the way He speaks and for the words He says. His words are so wonderful that He is to be blessed forever. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ are indeed such words!
Then the people sing, "Gird on Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One." So the people encourage their King to be ready to lead them in battle. And their song says that His warfare will be prosperous because of His "truth, humility, and righteousness," and His enemies shall fall under Him.
In fact, not only will His enemies fall under Him, but His Kingdom will be an eternal kingdom! And it'll be a righteous, glorious kingdom, a kingdom in which all His judgements will be beautiful because of their righteousness! In fact the people sing that their King "loves righteousness and hates wickedness," and His God therefore will fill Him with gladness more than all other human beings! The glory of His reign is described by a similitude of garments scented with myrh, aloes, and cassia, and of ivory palaces, waiting women who are king's daughters, and a queen at his right hand in gold from Ophir. In other words, His reign will result in a glorious and eternal kingdom, a kingdom in which His Bride is resplendent in the glory He supplies.
Having praised the King, the song is then directed to the bride. It encourages her to forget her own people and her father's house, because the King will greatly desire her beauty. She is to worship Him and Him alone, and the result will be that the world she forgot and left behind will bring gifts and seek her favor!
Living within the palace of her Husband, her clothing will be "woven with gold (holiness)," and she will in fact be brought to the King in robes of many colors. In such glorious array, then, she will enter the majestic palace of the King!
The results of this royal wedding will be that, instead of her worldly relations, she shall have sons who will be "princes in all the earth," and her name will be "remembered in all generations!"
It's a beautiful song, a song sung to the King and His bride, a song that should indeed also be sung by the bride of Christ, the Church, a song that praises her King and encourages her people, a song about her wonderful garments of righteousness and about her "sons" - those who believe and obey her testimony. It's a song that should bring with it thoughts of the glorious and eternal kingdom of which she is even now a part! This is a song, which WE can sing with JOY!
God is the Savior of His people in absolutely every situation. They are His kingdom, and He is willing and capable of successfully defending His own. That's the theme of this song. It's a theme calculated to renew the courage of Israel's warriors, of their loved ones, and of the entire nation in the face of war.
With that in mind, we should be reminded of Jehoshaphat's experience in his war against the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir. In that instance, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel, and he prophesied to them the day before they were to go out to face the enemy. He said to them, "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: 'Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord Who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you!'" It was God's kingdom, and He intended to defend it in a way that would reveal His power and glory.
Needless to say, the result was victory for God's army. And the lesson to be learned was simple and straightforward - You are GOD'S people, therefore HE will fight your battles! So the singer says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble!" The people were thus reminded, each time they used this song in worship, that in every battle they were to trust not themselves, but Jehovah their covenant Lord.
And it could never matter how strong the enemy or how great the odds against them. In all cases they could still sing, "Therefore we WILL NOT FEAR, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling!"
The reason for this trust in Jehovah is revealed in the promise of verses 4 and 5, where the people are told that "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved." God manifests His presence there, it is His special city, and it is therefore impregnable.
The promise is for us as well. We should be reminded of it in the prayer our Lord taught His disciples, a prayer in which He instructed them to say, "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever." The people of God are His kingdom, His property, His delightful possession, and He will always defend them - just because they are His!
There's a time coming when all battles will cease, when God's rule on earth will be complete and glorious. The psalm is about that glorious future as well. The people sing, "He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire!"
God is just telling them in this song that not only Israel, but all the universe is His, and there's a time coming when all evil shall be done away, when His rule alone will be seen not only in Israel, but in all His creation!
With that glorious end in view, and with the God Who brings it about doing the speaking, the conclusion is appropriate. It's an exhortation. He sys to them, "be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"
The application to those who sang this song in the temple is obvious - "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge!" They are to trust Him! But these things are still true. Only today we are closer to that glorious day when our Lord shall return to cleanse and renew His creation. In view of that hope, then, we too should be ready for all the battles of this world, whether they are against our own flesh, the world, or the Devil himself, and "the battle is not yours, but the Lord's"
When this song is sung, it should be preceded, followed, and interwoven with the triumphant sound of trumpets! It's that kind of song, a song of praise, not to a human king, but to the heavenly King of His people, to the King Who, in fact, is not only King of Israel, but who rules the entire universe!
It should remind us of Daniel 4:34, 35, where we read, "For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, 'What have you done?'"
It would have been a good thing for the people of Jerusalem to sing this song the day before their armies returned from battle. Then, the next day, they could go out and sing it again as the victorious armies entered the gates, the warriors themselves joining in as they came near. The sound - and the joy - would be overwhelming indeed!
The song focuses upon the reason for victory. It says, "For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth!" In other words, He can bring victory because He rules absolutely over all that happens on this spinning sphere, for it is all His!
And since it's His property, He gives His people whatever lands He will: "He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob whom He loves!" He gives it to them, and He maintains it for them. And then, each time He leads their armies to victory over those who would try to take their land from them - it's as though He gave their inheritance to them again.
So in every case His people are simply called upon to shout and sing praises to Him Who is "king of all the earth! - (Who) reigns over the nations (and). . . sits on His holy throne!" He IS greatly exalted, and His people should joyfully sing out that fact!
But let's bring the understanding of this psalm up to our own day and situation. In the present age our Lord Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and is exalted to the right hand of the Almighty on high. Regarding Himself our Lord Jesus Christ says that "all authority in heaven and earth has been given unto Me." So it is with that authority that He leads His Church into every battle of the modern age. In fact the battles are won even when they seem to us to have been lost! And of course the final triumph will also be His, for "all His enemies shall be made His footstool!"
It would do us well to be reminded of that sovereignty over all, that final triumph that has already been won. Let us, in fact, be reminded of it as we join His people in songs of praise like this one.
The people have come, early in the morning, to worship their covenant God at the temple on Mount Zion. As they come, and as they hear the trumpet blowing and calling them to worship, they can look up ahead and see the majestic temple itself. It's an imposing sight, a sight that could never be forgotten - the place God had chosen to meet with His people, a place they excitedly, yet quietly and reverently entered each day to worship and praise Jehovah.
The song led by their worship leader was appropriate to that view of the temple. They sang, "great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King!"
It must have seemed so very natural to sing of the great King Who ruled from this holy mountain over all the kingdoms of the world. As the early-morning sun glistened on the high walls and as the trumpet sounded for the people to gather, they came and they sang of their sovereign God, of His holy temple, and of His chosen nation Israel. It had to be a thrill just to be there taking all this in!
Even foreign kings passing by would have to be impressed as they saw the imposing temple and heard the praises. They might even feel conviction for their sin of worshiping other gods, and they might leave with the thought that this just might be the true and only God!
It was wonderful for Israel to have Jehovah as their heavenly King! They would gladly sing, "We have thought, O God, on Your loving kindness (a kindness that made them His special people) in the midst of Your temple!" In awe and wonder they would realize that they alone, of all the peoples of the earth were worshiping the only, the true and the majestic GOD. It was only reasonable under such circumstances to sing, "According to Your name, O God, so is Your praise to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness!" And it was only right that the people of such a God should sing to one another, "Let Mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of Your judgements!"
Finally, at the close of the song, they were encouraged to carefully observe the capitol city of their great God, to "walk about Zion, and go all around her, count her towers; mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following. For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our Guide even to death!" In other words, "Pass it on!"
Even in our own day we should sing this song. Christ's Church is the Zion of our day. It's an inheritance your children too should treasure.
We don't have an earthly temple today. Today God's people gather as His Church in every place, and He meets with them wherever they are. But they too should be aware of His awesome Presence and of His loving kindness to allow them access to Himself. They cannot inspect a city, but they can carefully inspect the Church, the people of God, and they may observe His wonderful works in each and every life. They can see the gifts He has given in order to build them up.
In other words, the symbolic has passed away, and the true has come - the majestic temple is no more, but the true City, the Church, has replaced it. Each of us can and should see what our God has done and is doing - our God forever and ever, our guide, even to death!
Why should human beings live in a righteous relationship to God? Look around. Observe. Don't those who forget God prosper? Don't they become rich, have great houses and lands, many children, happiness? Why worry about God when it doesn't seem to bring prosperity?
The people of Israel, like ourselves, needed reminding of these basic questions from time to time. They needed, as we also do, to live daily in conscious realization of the answers. With this psalm to start the day, the people could return down Mt. Zion to their ordinary lives contemplating the answers. Perhaps we need to do the same.
And this is a psalm for ALL to consider - low and high, rich and poor alike. It should begin with contemplation of an event everyone has to face - the final event of death. The worshippers at Zion hear themselves singing, "Why should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity at my heels surrounds me?" It's just telling them that all their iniquities follow them and finally catch up to them ("surround" them) at their time of death - they're going to have to face them at that final juncture. But the question is whether that's something to fear.
A possible reason for just such fear follows: "Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches - none of them can by any means redeem his brother (or himself, either)." Such a redemption is too costly even for the rich in this world, yet all without exception will indeed make a final journey to the pit (hades, the place of the dead). What awaits them there? The psalm continues, "For he sees the wise men die; likewise the fool and the senseless perish, and leave their wealth to others."
Of course most people haven't thought of themselves that way during their lives on this earth. Deep in themselves they felt that their houses would last forever, that their real estate would be named after them and their wealth would be their permanent foundation. What they didn't consider, though, is that they're going to perish just like the beasts of field and forest- death comes to all.
But after they perish in death, it isn't the end. The song goes on and they must hear these words: "Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning (at the resurrection), and their beauty (riches, lands, houses) shall be consumed in the grave, far from their dwelling." All those "permanent" things weren't so permanent!
But for those who trust in the salvation of the covenant God through His Messiah, it isn't that way. On a triumphant note, those worshipers can sing, "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me!"
People like that don't have to worry about the fact that they weren't rich. They can say, "Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him." Those who trust in riches are locked into darkness even while they live. The song says that "a man who is in honor (in this life) yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish." In other words, they just don't realize the unavoidable end that's coming to that earthly honor. But to those who trust in God earthly riches don't have lasting value anyway, because such people seek far greater and eternal riches in Christ.
The lesson of the psalm, then, is a simple one. It's expressed well in the words of another Psalm, the ninetieth: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Will you live your life today with eternity in view? Will you go about your business with the awareness that one day you're going to face God, and that you're going to live eternally either with Him or without Him? Which will it be? Is your most important savings account in the bank, or is it in heaven?
Every Israelite needed, just as we do, to begin his day conscious of God and conscious of the race God wanted him to run that day. Singing the fiftieth psalm early in the morning at the temple would help to accomplish that purpose. It would boil it all down to one simple formula. That formula goes like this: "Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."
But before focusing on that formula, the song states another fact, a fact we all need to keep in view. It's the fact of final judgement. As the people sing, they hear themselves saying, "God will shine forth. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him." Simply put, Final judgement is not a figment of imagination - it's coming for sure!
Everyone must face that judgement, believer and unbeliever alike. And there is one and only one judgement criteria: In the words of this psalm, each one must have "made a covenant with Me by sacrifice." What does it mean? What kind of "sacrifice" is needed? The first thing the singer needed to understand was that it wasn't the sacrifice of animals! In our own day that just means that -then or now - it isn't religious ritual that He desires from His people!
Things have never changed. There's always been just one kind of sacrifice that's acceptable. The formula at the beginning stated it, but it needs to be mentioned again because it's so vital. The sacrifice God desires is an offering to Him of thanksgiving, obedience, and dependence. The people sing, "Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." That says it all. The "sacrifice" God requires of His people is thanksgiving - living through each day in awareness of God's wonderful gifts, of His gracious providence - and responding with thanksgiving. In other words, what God wants for all of us is an all-day relationship to Himself.
And He wants the worshiper to "pay . . . vows to the Most High." Simply put, He wants them to keep their promises to Him. When they promise to live in the way He requires, they need to actually live that way. He requires obedience.
Finally, He wants them to come to Him throughout the day, to pray to Him, to call upon Him for help, and to experience answers to those prayers in His merciful deliverances. Simply put, God wants their hearts in grateful dependence!
The rest of the song just goes on to describe people who are "religious," but who don't have that necessary heart relationship to God, people who talk a good religion but, in their hearts, don't relate to Him at all.
Which will it be for you today? Do you carry your Christianity with you in the form of a cross around your neck, or does it radiate out to people around you in goodness and love because it comes from a heart that is walking hand in hand with GOD?
This is a song of personal repentance, about David's own confession and forgiveness. We could well wonder how it found a place among the songs composed for public worship. How could anyone have sinned as David had sinned? But the truth of the matter is that everyone HAS! Not that everyone has committed adultery. Not that everyone has committed murder. Not necessarily have any of us done all these things. But just as David had to confess, "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight," so every one of God's people have to make the same confession - regardless of specific sins - because all of our sins are against GOD.
David composed this song to provide all the people, including us, with an example of the one thing that can be done about sin against God. He's provided us with an example of confession. It's a good example, an excellent example of the only thing a sinner can do about a relationship with God that has, after all, been broken.
David begins by begging for mercy. That's what we too need to do! In fact, lovingkindness in the face of undeservedness - mercy - is what every sinner needs all the time. What then should be our cry? It should be the cry of David: "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!" The word for "wash" is the word the Hebrews used for washing clothing, etc., and that's appropriate because sin results in a soul that's filthy and needs laundering. And the point here is that unless GOD launders it, it must remain unclean upon us.
That's what David knows he has to say next. He has to admit, "For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." It just won't go away. It's going to take the action of a merciful God to really rid him of it.
And though every sinner is God's creation, yet we must remember that the sin belongs to the sinner, not to God the Creator. The whole race fell away from Him, and that fall remains the responsibility of each sinner. We have to say with David, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me!" He's talking about us - about the fallen race we all belong to.
But while sin belongs to the sinner alone, cleansing from it can only be accomplished by God, because it has to be a cleansing of the heart and soul. David makes allusion to Leviticus 14:6, 7, in which hyssop is used for symbolic cleansing of a leper - a harsh kind of cleansing needed because of the clinging results of leprosy - and sin. So the sinner confesses his sin and begs merciful cleansing.
But those who have come, early in the morning, to sing this minor-keyed song of repentance need next to turn to a major key. They have confessed the awfulness of their sin, and now they need to confess the perfect and complete cleansing that God CAN accomplish! They need to sing, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow!" When GOD does that, when He answers the plea for mercy, then the next words will be true: "Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice!" Only God can bring such forgiveness. Only God can COMPLETELY reverse the effects of sin in the inmost being!
Once God grants that gracious miracle, then the sinner can hope for even more - he can hope for a future life free from the sins of the past! In fact, the song goes on to pray for that very thing: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me!" It's what every sinner needs. It's an expression of dependence upon God's Spirit for every moment of life!
With such a miracle of forgiveness and cleansing, the sinner can then even help others like himself. He can hope for the truth of the following words in which he says, "Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You!" Not only so, but all this forgiving, cleansing work of God is the only - but adequate - means for opening the lips of the sinner for praise. So David sings, "O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise!" Let us not presume to worship God without His cleansing.
Looking back on the way God has dealt with him, David - and every sinner - can say, "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart - these, O God, You will not despise!" The repentant sinner can say this because he has learned that relief can only come through confession!
So, after such confession, after such forgiveness, then God's people can look forward to spiritual prosperity, to freedom to worship Him from a clean conscience.
How is it with you? Have you seen what sin really is in God's sight? Do you know God well enough to realize, at least a little, the ugliness of sin against Him? Do you confess it with broken heart? Do you really care? It's the caring sinner that God forgives and justifies through His Son.
Wickedness always hates righteousness. That's why those who carry in their souls the great burden of their own rebellion against God hate those who are forgiven. Guilt always does that - it produces hatred toward innocence, a desire to be rid of those whose very existence make the guilt worse by contrast. This morning worship song recognizes that common problem, the problem of hatred that puts the justified, righteous man in danger from the unrighteous. It's a song of assurance for the saints of God who have to live in a hostile and sinful world. It begins with God's indictment against the rebellious. He says to them, "Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually. Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. You love evil more than good, lying rather than speaking righteousness. You love all devouring words, you deceitful tongue!" You see, the problem, is that the "rebellious" are failures! They can't win, because God's goodness to the righteous stands like a mighty mountain, unmoved by all their rebellion. It continues even though they fight it, even though they persecute the godly, even when in their hatred they attempt to "devour" them. They can't win, and, on top of that, they're doomed forever! Unless there's repentance, there's just one sure end for it all. The song expresses that terrible end when it says, "He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place, and uproot you from the land of the living!" Oh the self-deceived souls of fallen men! What an awful and certain doom they face! But the worshippers sing, "The righteous also shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, 'Here is the man who did not make God his strength!" This just means that even those who are redeemed by the Lord will experience awe and reverential fear when they behold the justice of God upon such people. After all, they themselves could have experienced that justice. But they'll also "laugh" at their persecutors because they'll finally be safe from them, finally be freed from the terrors of this fallen world! The redeemed can look forward to that final end and sing, "But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God - I will praise You forever, because You have done it, and in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your Name, for it is good." God's people can absolutely trust Him for a definite and final victory over the evil of this world! How about you? Are there people around you who taunt you? Are there even some who hate you and try, sometimes very hard, to drag you down to their level, or, failing that, to get rid of you? Don't give in. God's goodness hasn't ceased. A blessedly perfect end is still before you!
This psalm is exactly like Psalm 14, except that the Hebrew word for "God" is different in verse 2. In Psalm 14, the word was "Jehovah" - the covenant Lord of His people. In that psalm the verse read, "God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek the covenant Lord." Here it reads, " . . . who seek God." In other words, the question of Psalm 14 was whether anyone was seeking Israel's Covenant Lord. The question here is whether anyone is even seeking the one true God. The answer is still "no."
Put in modern terms, we could paraphrase, "Not only are there very few Christians out there in the world, but there are even very, very few who consider the possibility of a God at all."
It's not a happy theme. It seems reasonable that this portion of the psalm would be sung in a very minor key, possibly with accompanying dissonance. It's a picture of the real world, the world of total unbelief, the world that hates believers and seeks to be rid of them!
And the results are predictable. Following their leader, the temple worshippers have to repeat after him, "They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity. There is none who does good!" It reads like the headlines of our modern newspapers! It's a prediction from ancient times of the development of human depravity in our own day, with all the rampant political corruption, all the demands for homosexual "rights," all the schoolground shootings, and all the releases of dangerous criminals from prison to prey once again upon society!
Our own prayers should echo those of Israel: "Oh that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When God brings back the captivity of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!" If you can tolerate the evil surrounding the people of God in our day, if you can simply ignore the corruption that has been foisted upon God's good creation, if you can easily ignore the rebellion against God's rule that is all around you - without crying out a prayer like this one for the return of Christ, for release and relief from the rebellion of this world against God - then perhaps He isn't your God at all!
Oh sing this prayer in its minor key, and plead for the soon return of the Lord of righteousness!
This psalm is a complaint about being "used" by supposed friends. But it also includes boasting, boasting about a God Who isn't merely "afar off up there in heaven," but Whose hand deals with real affairs down here on earth as well, a God Who really cares and really acts in response to His people's prayers.
These are things every Israelite needed to know each day as he went out into an unfriendly world. It was good for him to hear and repeat the words of this song. And it's good for us too.
David had gone to the Ziphites, thinking that these supposed friends would provide him refuge from Saul's persecutions. He thought he could "lie low" there for a little while until he "caught his breath," so to speak. But the Ziphites saw an opportunity to get favors from the king - maybe a little more tax money for their district. So they went and told Saul that David was hiding out among them.
Obviously the Ziphites hadn't even considered the fact that God's plan was to set David upon Israel's throne and that He would therefore deliver David and at the same time make things go very, very badly for anyone who betrayed him. The temple worshippers sang, "And oppressors have sought after my life; they have not set God before them." It's a common problem in the world: men concoct schemes without any consideration at all of the unseen Ruler of the universe.
But David, later on, after God delivered him and blessed him greatly, remembers this episode, and he leads the people to sing, "Behold, God is my Helper; the Lord is with those who uphold my life. He will repay my enemies for their evil!" He says "behold" because he wrote this song after the fact - people could see that God had indeed been his helper!
Because of such a great deliverance, David could conclude his song on a very joyful note. He sang, "I will freely sacrifice to You; I will praise Your Name, O Lord, for it is good. For He has delivered me out of all trouble; and my eye has seen its desire upon my enemies!"
Later on, when worshipers sang this song to start their day, they could use it to renew their trust in a trustworthy God. They could leave the service of worship with confidence that it didn't matter what man did to them that day, because God's plan for them would always be fulfilled!
Does He have a plan for you? If you trust Him today, if you love Him and desire to serve Him today, then He DOES have such a plan! And NO scheme of man can overthrow that plan!
This psalm reflects back on a time of deepest trouble for David. It was so bad that His life was in danger, but there wasn't a thing he couldn't do about it! Not only so, but the enemy causing the trouble was even in control of Jerusalem, and the result was that there was iniquity and corruption throughout the city. To make it worse, it was all the work of a formerly close friend! Later on, after the trouble was past and God had delivered him, David wrote this psalm for all among God's people who might experience betrayal at the hands of a "friend." The scene isn't one of possible future trouble, but of extreme and present danger. It's one in which deliverance seems impossible and a horrible end seems imminent. Painting that scene, the people sing, "My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me!" They sing of a desire to escape, but no means to do so: "I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." And not only personal trouble, but trouble for the entire covenant people of God was in view. The song therefore turns to prayer for deliverance, not only for the singer, but for the people as well - including their need for cleansing and righteousness as well as deliverance. It's a prayer for the return of God's own kingdom rule over them. The deliverance they needed was deliverance from one who used to come with David and all the people to the morning worship - one who seemed to love God and was familiar to them all. But yet now the traitor has shown his true colors, so the request has to be that God will deal with him in judgement. In minor-keyed dissonance and sorrow, this singing prayer must ask God to "let death seize them; let them go down alive into hell, for wickedness is in their dwellings and among them!" The next stanza deals with the desired deliverance itself, a deliverance that can only come from God, for there isn't any other help to be found. They sing, "As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice." It's not the time for casual, ritualistic prayer - the only kind that will do is constant prayer, fervent prayer, and intense prayer. But the result of that kind of prayer is always triumph! People who have experienced it sing, "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction. Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in You!" That's the answer! It was the answer for David's greater Son during His life as well. Our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed by a very close friend, but He has risen from the dead to sovereignly deliver each of His people! If you are His, then you WILL participate in His triumph!
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