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- Psalms

by Multiple Authors


Psalms has been called the hymnbook of Israel. The very word psalm is a musical word that comes from a root that means “a song sung to the harp.” Clearly, these psalms were sung by the people of God. This book is a collection of songs and prayers written by many different people of God spanning many centuries. As Jesus finished His Last Supper and prepared to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, He and His disciples sang a hymn, likely Psalms 118.

The majority of psalms were written by David; others were written by Levites whom he put in charge of worship. King Solomon wrote two (72 and 127) and Moses even wrote one (90). It is interesting to note that many psalms have headings that give context or authorship for the psalm, such as Psalms 3, “a Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.” These headings or inscriptions are part of the sacred text inspired by the Holy Spirit. So we can depend upon them as God’s own Word, not a later editor’s best guess.

Each psalm expresses the deep feelings of its composer, and thus taps into the depths of our hearts, our emotions, and our experiences. It is easy to identify with the range of emotions covered in the psalms: frustration and worry, thanksgiving and worship, begging for help or crying out for forgiveness, wondering at God’s Word and His wisdom, anger at God’s enemies, or sheer, jubilant praise. They lead us from our human experiences and struggles to God’s arms.

Introduction To Psalms

One comes to a point in life where they realize that if a detailed study of Psalms is not began now then time may run out to achieve it. A study of the Psalms will leave you a better person. Your character, approach to life, and faith will all be enriched. We learn more about God and his providential work in our lives by studying the Psalms. We gain greater fear of our heavenly Father as we acknowledge his "heavy hand" of chastisement and punishment when we sin (see Psalms 32). We see the value of forgiveness through a meek spirit. We are at times left loathing ourselves due to our dark characteristics past and present. We are made to bow our heads in lowliness before Jehovah God because we see what wretched creatures we are in relationship to his divine expectations (Leviticus 11:44 and 1 Peter 1:15-16). We are, at times, left feeling unworthy of God’s mercy and love (Psalms 38:6-9).

Studying the Psalms awakens our self awareness. We see ourselves for what we really are or what we are not. We are humbled at what we find. Our senses are sharpened so that we identify character flaws and purge them with a passion. We are challenged to be more Christ like. We find that we have never been alone in seeking out God in life. Our inner thoughts as a child are confirmed to be shared with others like David. When we were afraid we had always looked and prayed to God. When things were troublesome we turned to God. When the world around us was collapsing we had always turned to God. As we study the Psalms we gain a friend in David and learn that life can be made into an everyday pleasant experience as long as God is on our side.

A well known commentary writer once said, after completing a first edition to the Psalms, that they must now go back and redo the entire study. The lessons learned had occurred not from the beginning but through time and wading through chapter after chapter. At the start of the study we don’t have the wisdom that we have at the end. It seems to me; however, that if one starts over intending to be more wise from the beginning then those studying chronologically will be robbed of coming to the same conclusions through time and study.

If we were to fully explain the meaning of all the Psalms in one introductory paragraph the reader may feel compelled to walk away from the study. One may not feel the driving need to look into each verse and chapter of the book because the summary gives a satisfying overview. The objective of this introduction to Psalms is, therefore, not to inform you about the overall content of the book but rather to excite you about the content you are about to study. If one takes a casual approach to the Psalms you will miss out on a treasure trove of wisdom. We can make summary statements only when we have studied the whole. I can write the significance of the Psalms only by hard study yet it is I alone who have come to understand the deep meaning of the Psalms. It is like one writing the correct answer to a test because it is what someone told them the answer was. The answer to the question was right yet the one who copied it has little understanding as to how that answer was obtained. If there is little understanding to the answers to life’s questions then one remains simple and unaffected by the guidance of truth. Guidance occurs as you and I look and study truth and apply it to our lives. Never let others do the studying for you. Study yourself and come to the conclusions God intends for you. Wisdom and understanding will be the result of your hard work. Take the time now, if you have not already, to do more than reading the Psalms. Study them to show yourself approved of God!


The Psalms, whether as a section of our Bible or as an independent book (conveniently named the Psalter), are related to all literature by certain leading characteristics; such as authorship, transmission, multiplication, subject and object; and, like all other books, they have a peculiar history of their own.

The Psalter is obviously a book of Devotion, consisting of prayers and praises addressed to Jehovah the God of Israel, interspersed with personal and national reminiscences intended to promote the spirit of worship.

The Psalter is an ancient book, traceable backwards, through Latin, Greek and Syriac translations to the Hebrew in which it was first written.

The evidence of its antiquity is manifold and conclusive. Hebrew Bibles, containing The Psalms, began to be printed towards the close of the fifteenth century. These were printed from manuscripts, technically called codices, some of which were written centuries before the invention of printing and are still preserved in the great libraries of the world. The exemplars from which existing codices were made, or the exemplars of those exemplars, were the standards from which the Ancient Versions were executed, as is known from the practical identity of the Text in those versions with the Text preserved in existing Hebrew copies. The New Testament itself, which had an independent existence and has come down to us through channels of its own, quotes from the Psalter as an already existing book, partly in its Hebrew form and partly in the Greek translation of it and the rest of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint. The Septuagint was executed, in successive installments, during the interval between about B.C. 200 and the Christian Era.

The measure and kind of agreement between the Greek and the Hebrew clearly attest the priority of the latter; seeing that terms and idioms appear in the Greek which could only have been derived from the Hebrew, such as musical terms not understood by the Greek translators, and idioms native in Hebrew but foreign in Greek, which no Greek originators would have employed. We thus know that the Hebrew Bible is older than the Greek; and can affirm with confidence that the Psalms in particular were in existence at least two or three hundred years before Christ. At this point a new and very peculiar species of evidence comes in, carrying the witness to the antiquity of Hebrew Scriptures some centuries further back. The Hebrew Bible was gradually transliterated out of an old script, allied to the Samaritan, into the present square Hebrew letters. This process of transliteration, beginning about the time of Ezra the Scribe, took centuries to bring to completion. Traces of it can be detected by experts in transcription errors which could only arise by confounding with each other letters which were nearly alike in the old script but not in the new. This peculiar form of transcriptional evidence, accordingly, carries us back to a time considerably antedating that in which the Septuagint Version was brought into existence. The Hebrew Bible must have been extant before it could be transliterated into its present square Hebrew characters: which is as far back as we need at present go, inasmuch as we thus obtain a solid foundation on which further observations, specifically relating to the Psalms, can securely rest.

Some of the observations now to follow apply equally to the Hebrew Bible as a whole as to the Psalter. Others have special or sole reference to the Psalms: hence it is left to the reader to widen out the application as he sees fit, and we can concentrate our attention on the book immediately before us.

Observation 1.—The antiquity of the Psalter has given rise to an interesting and instructive History of Transmission, We have the Psalms in our possession: how did we get them? by what steps have they come down to us? Let us work out the answer in both directions, backwards and forwards: first beginning with the present, and stepping backwards to the point of origin; and then starting with the origin of the Psalms, and coming down to the present time.

a. The Psalms have been translated into English: no matter now by whom.

b. Most English versions of the Psalter have been made from the printed Hebrew Text.

c. This Text is a transcript of previously existing manuscript copies.

d. The copying of ancient Hebrew manuscripts naturally became, in the course of centuries, a fine art, on which various classes of literary artists were engaged.

They included the following,—still, for the present, working our way backwards:—

α. Manuscript correctors, named nakdanim.

β. Manuscript producers, or professional copyists.

γ. Massorites; or “hedgers,” custodians, guardians of the sacred text.

δ. Editors: as Ezra, the sopher or “scribe,” and his successors, the Sopherim.

ε. Authors; as David, Hezekiah, and their associates and helpers in authorship, such as Asaph, Jeduthun and others.

Throwing these now into the reverse or historical order, they stand as follows:—

A. AUTHORS, or original psalm-composers.

B. EDITORS, or authoritative collectors and care-takers.

C. MASSORITES—of whom more anon.

D. COPYISTS, or professional transcribers and multipliers of copies.

E. NAKDANIM, or professional inspectors and correctors of copies when made.

As it is important to have as clear notions as possible of these several functions, which to some extent overlap each other, it will not be superfluous to pass them again, and more deliberately, under review.

A. AUTHORS.—It should be remembered that the author of a psalm might employ an amanuensis to do the actual writing down of a composition at his master’s dictation. Such an amanuensis, when serving a royal author, would naturally be, permanently or for the time, a “king’s scribe”: not an author, but the author’s right-hand; not an editor, with an editor’s right of control and modification, such as was afterwards conceded to the Sopherim as a class, but the mere scribal executor of the composer’s wishes; although it would be too much to say that such king’s scribe had no liberty as to small details, since it may very well have been that, as a confidential servant and a competent penman, he may have paid chief regard to his master’s habits and known wishes, and may occasionally have saved his master from himself—in matters of inadvertence.

Still thinking primarily of the author of a psalm, it should be further remembered that he himself might, after composing a psalm, subsequently edit, modify and adapt his own composition to later circumstances. Indeed, it may be laid down as an axiom, which any good printing-office can verify: That if an author does not edit his own production, then someone else must do it for him. Doubtless, David thus edited some of his own early psalms, so as, for instance, to fit them for his ascension to the throne, or for his bringing up of the ark to Jerusalem; if not, indeed, also for subsequent use by his son Solomon on the anticipated occasion of the dedication of the Temple, for which we know that he otherwise made thoughtful and ample provision.

It is further worth bearing in mind that the author of some psalms may have suggested the composing of others. David, for example, had about him gifted and trusted men, competent and disposed to share the work of authorship along with their royal master. Such a helper in psalm-production would naturally come under classification as “king’s seer,” and such a coadjutor Asaph and other devout singers may well have been.

Hezekiah clearly occupied a unique position as a Joint-Author of psalms: not only composing new psalms to suit new occasions; but overhauling, curtailing, changing and extending old psalms, to adapt them to altered circumstances. It would be foolish to blame him for this; since, as a practical man, he no doubt judged, of certain old psalms preserved in the Royal Library, that they must either be thus renovated, or else be left still in disuse so far as temple-worship was concerned, Besides, as a divinely taught man, he may have been conscious of no disability to render this important service to his own generation; while yet his reverence for his great ancestor may have moved him to retain David’s name over a psalm wherever feasible. It may thus justifiably have come to pass that quite a number of Hezekiah’s adaptations are still superscribed as “by David.”

B. EDITORS.—Passing by the editorship of authors who were, and in so far as they were, their own editors, we come to Editors proper, such as Ezra and his successors. As to Ezra himself, perhaps we shall never know how much, under Divine goodness, we owe it to him that we have any preserved Old Testament at all. Moreover, his Divine commission is so generally accepted, that we are not likely to question the wisdom and authority of what he did, even though to him be largely remitted the question of the formation of the Old Testament canon. It is when we come to his successors, the Sopherim, as a class, that we shall probably be conscious of some serious questioning. Partly owing to our own dullness in grasping the necessities of the case, and partly due to our want of appreciation of our Heavenly Father’s favour in watching over his own Written Word, we may quite possibly be rather surprised—not to say shocked—to learn how broadly and boldly the Sopherim interpreted their commission. However that may be, let us patiently hear what Dr. Ginsburg has to tell us respecting the work of the Sopherim, or line of professional Editors of the Sacred Text:—“In accepting their transliteration of the text into the present square characters, their division of it into separate words, verses and sections, their orally transmitted pronunciation of the consonants, which determines the sense of the Hebrew Scriptures, and their finally fixing the canon of the Old Testament, we already concede to these spiritual guides of the Jewish Church a divine authority which almost amounts to co-authorship." It is clear, then, that we are not unduly exalting the office of the Sopherim, when we name them, distinctively, EDITORS. They were Editors with large editing functions. They were much more than mere copyists or revisers. They were almost co-authors—but not quite.

C. THE MASSORITES.—These “hedged about” the Sacred Text; and, in doing this, occupied a position peculiarly their own, in which they can have no modern successors. They stood between the Sopherim, whose oral decisions they received, and the ordinary professional copyists, on whom it devolved to carry those traditions into effect; as it then further devolved on the Nakdanim or “Massoretic annotators” to revise the codices which the copyists had made, and to see that the accepted traditions of the Sopherim had been scrupulously observed. It is of importance, as conducive to clearness, to bear in mind that the authoritative instructions of the Sopherim were orally handed down. It was the risks that attended this process that called into existence—first the Massorites and then the Nakdanim. The difference between these two classes was this: The Massorites “had to invent the graphic signs, to fix the pronunciation and the sense of the consonantal text, and formulate the Lists, of correct readings in accordance with the authoritative traditions”; but “the functions of the Nakdanim were not to create, but strictly to conserve the Massoretic labours”: much as modern Press Correctors conserve modern Editorial labours! “They”—these Nakdanim—“revised the consonantal text produced by professional copyists (nearly resembling modern Compositors) and furnished it with the Massoretic vowel-signs and accents, as well as with the Massorahs, both Parva and Magna, as transmitted to them by the Massorites." By way of Completeness it may here be added: That in the third century of our era, there were two recensions or standards of the Hebrew Text, known respectively as Eastern and Western, differing slightly from each other; and, further, that in the early part of the tenth century, there were two rival Nakdanim or Massoretic Annotators, named Ben-Asher and Ben-Naphtali, whose recensions differed still less, inasmuch as these worthy men were merely rival punctists. If this last circumstance had been heeded, scholars today would not have loosely asserted that our present Massoretic Text goes no further back than the tenth century—a statement which, though technically correct, yet is practically misleading, All the truth there is in it is: That the present pointing of the Massoretic Text goes no further back than the tenth century, The Massoretic Text itself, in its larger and more substantial features, must have been fixed more than a thousand years earlier, before the Septuagint Version was made.

The present section of our Introduction may be usefully condensed and restfully dismissed by the following approximate dates and divisions of labour:—

The authorship of the Psalms—excepting a very few psalms from the days of Ezra and Nehemiah and one or two from the time of the Maccabees—covered a period of about 300 years; namely from B.C. 1000 to B.C. 700: from David to Hezekiah.

The editing of the Psalms reached through a period of about 350 years: namely from B.C. 450 (Ezra) to B.C. 100.

The labours of the Massorites covered a period of about 800 years; namely, from B.C. 100 to A.D. 700.

Observation 2.—The Psalter is not one Continuous Treatise, but A COLLECTION OF INDIVIDUAL PSALMS. According to the division and enumeration current in the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, English and other Psalters, there are 150 individual psalms. If, however, we accept Dr. Thirtle’s suggestion, that it is only by taking the ancient incorporated Hebrew head-lines, such as “Psalm by David,” and catch-words such as “Bless thou,” “Praise ye Yah,” etc., that we obtain any real and ancient marks of division; and if, as a consequence we amalgamate those between which there are no such dividing signs we still get 139 distinct psalms, It is not the precise number that for the moment attracts our attention, but the broad and undeniable fact that the Psalter is a Collection of Individual Psalms; whose individuality is in many cases so clearly marked by changes of both topic and tone, that a mere listener to several psalms, read continuously without formal notice by the reader of the transitions from one to another, could perceive that several complete wholes were being read in his hearing. The deeper student, who has shut himself up to one psalm at a time for continuous meditation, can strongly confirm this individualisation; even though, in the final result, he gains an ability to sit in judgment on formal blendings and partings, so as to wax bold to pronounce on their’ correctness, judging from internal evidence alone. Brushing aside such exceptions as are thus marked off for special criticism, it remains competent to him to say, that between this psalm and that there is sometimes a difference comparable to that between night and noon; and, even as between the various relieving brightnesses, some of them amount to no more than sudden gleams from openings in a railway tunnel, whereas others are like an emergence from among tunnels and rock into a spacious sunlit plain.

Observation 3.—The Headlines of the Psalms have recently awakened fresh Interest, and their Due Discrimination is leading to Important Results. Confining ourselves to the more obvious Headlines as (at present) grouped together at the commencement of the psalms that have them, we discover in them one, two, three or even four elements: First, a description of the following composition, as a “psalm,” a “song,” a “miktham” or a “maskil”; secondly, a personal name (apparently) of the author, as “by David,” “Asaph,” and others; thirdly, a statement of the occasion when a psalm was written, as “When he fled from Absalom his son”; and fourthly, what looks like a musical or liturgical instruction, as, “To the, Chief Musician,” “upon” such and such an instrument, or “for” such and such a choir, as the case may be. These headings had until quite recently been greatly neglected; some leading reproductions of the Psalms actually appearing entirely without them!

Of late, however, a fresh interest has been awakened in these Headings; so that they no longer are regarded as so much literary incumbrance, seldom trustworthy, and of little or no critical or practical value; but are being investigated with the keenest zest, and are already yielding results which bid fair to revolutionise critical psalm exegesis. This renewed interest is principally due to Dr. Thirtle, who has put forth two books of profound importance: the first on “The Titles of the Psalms,” and the second on “Old Testament Problems.” They concern us here chiefly by the distinction, which their author has seen his way to draw, between the strictly literary titles of the Psalms and the purely musical instructions. The former, he contends, should stand, where they do at present, as superscribed lines; and the latter should be moved into a new position as subscribed lines, generally, if not always, needing merely to be disentangled from the literary lines and placed in each case, by a very easy removal, to the foot of the immediately foregoing psalm, This may seem a very small matter; but on examination is found to lead to far-reaching results, Leaving those results to be (some of them) investigated a little further on, we can now return to our classification of the contents of the Headlines collectively viewed.

First, a description of the kind of composition which follows; as “psalm,” “song,” etc. The primary use of these, Dr. Thirtle submits, was to describe the kind of document thus distinguished from legal and historical manuscripts, ready for placing in the right department of the Royal Library. It was primarily a Librarian’s mark, so attached for the purpose of orderly storage, and speedy reproduction when demanded. It does not especially concern us at present, except perhaps to observe that, when both “psalm” and “song” are inscribed over the same psalm, it becomes an interesting though nice question whether “psalm” was genus and “song” species, or vice-versa.

Secondly, the appearance of what seems to be an author’s name. Dr. Thirtle suggests that the insertion of any of these things in a closely written scroll or tablet was not so easy and obvious an achievement as that it should now be lightly regarded as an afterthought and treated as a phenomenon of no value. Thus admonished, the present writer can only express his gratitude for the hint, and testify that, in paying due regard to it, he has been led to the results he little anticipated, the chief of which is that in no case does the name “David” appear without reason—every psalm thus distinguished is, he believes, either David’s by original composition, or is an adaptation of a psalm, or fragment of a psalm of which David was the author. So confirmed did this impression little by little become as to impel to a narrow and jealous scrutiny in cases where sole Davidic authorship seemed very unlikely; with the result of arriving at the conclusion that David’s co-author Hezekiah, moved by fellowship in suffering, has saved from oblivion some fragments from David’s remorseful pen which no mere “king’s scribe” would have presumed to drag forth to the light, and thus, in short, was originated the clear and confident impression that David’s psalms, read partly in the lines and partly between the lines, contain a species of autobiography which it would have been an unspeakable loss to miss.

Thirdly, as with the author’s name, so with the avowed occasion of writing. Admonished by the respect felt to be due to these avowals of occasion, rather to look for the incidental element so rendered probable, than to look askance, the acknowledgement must again be made, that thereby an intenser interest in the compositions so introduced has uniformly been created. And probably the more frequent finding of David when named, has further conduced to a more frequent finding of Hezekiah when not named. The close scrutiny of internal evidence in the former case has probably led to much fuller and more fruitful finding of the anonymous author in the latter case. Of this, evidence must be sought in the Expositions that follow.

Fourthly, the disentangled musical instructions have been the incidental cause of other most attractive investigations; generally confirmatory of Dr. Thirtle’s conclusions, but in a few instances stimulating fresh departures towards divergent yet sympathetic results. Chief among the confirmed results are (a) That, naturally, the words, “To the Chief Musician” should always go to the foot of the psalm to which they rightly belong. (b) That detailed musical directions, specifying any particular choir to which the rendering of a psalm is assigned, or the air in which a psalm should be rendered should follow and not precede the note of delivery to the care of “The Chief Musician.”’ The observance of this rule has the remarkably happy effect of moving the Chief Musician’s direction—“For the dove of the distant terebinths” to the foot of the psalm (55) containing the wish—“Would that I had pinions like a dove!” (c) Among fresh results, indirectly traceable to Dr. Thirtle’s readjusting discovery; is the provision of bass voices to assist in the musical rendering of Psalms 45 : respecting which Dr. Thirtle himself had expressed the opinion that maidens’ alone could suitably render it,—an opinion which provoked instant dissent, as soon as the requirements of verses 16, 17 of that psalm were considered. Where then, were the needed male voices to come from? The modification of a line in the neighbourhood, whereby a company of authors was converted into a class of singers, ultimately settled this question to entire satisfaction. “The sons of korah” being—as was found on careful examination—a class of singers and not a company of psalm-writers, required to be transposed from the head of Psalms 46 to the foot of Psalms 45, and when so removed,—being, as was further discovered, a class of “patriarchs of song”—were both by voice (presumably) and especially by seniority and sex, admirably fitted to sustain in song the fatherly admonition contained in the specified verses—all the more completely seeing that the proposed moving up of this musical line would bring maidens along with the old men! The steps by which this conclusion was reached may be more suitably indicated in our Chapter III.—The Psalms as a Liturgy.


Inasmuch as Lyrics are a species of poetry, we may perhaps usefully tarry on the genus before we advance to the species. It will be rendering a service to young and inexperienced readers of the Psalms to emphasize the elementary fact that first of all the Psalms are poetry. We can then all the better consider them as lyrical poetry, fitted for song and for instrumental accompaniment.

1. That the Psalms are poetry, will be a familiar thought to all who have observed how much fervour and passion there is in them; and how, as a consequence, they abound in figures of speech. It would be enough to leave this element in their composition to be felt, without being formally recognised, were it not that the untrained reader is apt either to make no allowance for poetical license, or else to give up sober interpretation as hopeless. To save him from such uncertainty and helplessness, it may be serviceable to remind him that a statement may be substantially true even when not literally exact; that figures of speech have a natural meaning of their own, and are current coin in literature; that a poet may be a prophet and teacher with a burden to deliver and solemnly lay on the hearts of those to whom he is sent; and that we cannot with impunity close our ears to his message merely because it is enlivened with metaphors or even clothed in allegory.

At this point we may strike in with a few detailed exemplifications of figurative language to be found in the Psalms: on which, however, we cannot tarry—the young student may safely be left to multiply examples and amplify them for himself.

As to allegory: it is perhaps well that this figure of speech is not much employed in the Psalms, as undoubtedly it may easily be abused by the too luxuriant imagination of the reader. But, if an allegory is “a description of one thing under the image of another,” then it is obvious that we have an allegory in Psalms 80, in which Israel is represented under the image of a Vine. If climax is “a rising like the steps of a ladder or stair,” then we discover a very striking example of this in Psalms 40:1-3. If irony is “a mode of speech conveying the opposite of what is meant,” then instances of this may be seen in 115, 135. “I am like a flourishing olive-tree in the house of God” (Psalms 52:8) being a formal comparison, “they who are planted in the house of Jehovah” is an implied comparison, or a metaphor; and metaphors abound, as where the throat is called a sepulchre (Psalms 5:9), the tongue is termed a weaver’s loom (Psalms 50:19), or righteousness and peace are said to kiss each other (Psalms 85:10). Metonymy, or a change of name, is very frequent; as where Jehovah is termed “a crag,” “a stronghold,” “a rock,” “a shield” (Psalms 18:2). The rather similar figure of synecdoche, by which a part is made to comprehend the whole, is every now and then employed; as where “tongue” stands for the man who wickedly uses it (Psalms 52:4). Of course personification abounds; as where lute and lyre are summoned to awake (Psalms 57:8), or earth is said to be afraid (Psalms 76:8), prayer is described as a worshipper (Psalms 88:13), or the plain is said to exult, the trees of the forest to ring out their joy (Psalms 96:12), and the streams to clap their hands (Psalms 98:8). Of course, also, hyperbole is not infrequent, literally going beyond the truth, exaggeration; as where the joyful psalmist declares that he will awaken the dawn (Psalms 57:8).

Halfway between figures of speech and lyrical measure stands that largely looming method of speech called parallelism which so abounds in the Psalms as to be worthy of special attention. It may perhaps be most simply explained as the saying of the same thing twice over in parallel ways. This definition, however, must be extended by the further statement, that parallelism includes a similarity of manner in saying different things which distinctly carry forward the thought: perhaps the two phrases, “parallel statements,” and “parallel methods of statement,” cover the ground—at least with sufficient adequacy for the present. A curious thing about Hebrew parallelism is, that, while it is of the greatest service to the expositor—and therefore also to the ordinary reader who takes care to observe and comprehend it—it is the despair of English metrical-versionists, who with one mouth declare that this it is which baffles them in the endeavour to preserve Hebrew parallelism intact under the restraints of English metre and rhyme. Perhaps, however, in the future they may succeed where in the past they have failed.

While we would beware of mapping out more ground than we can usefully cover, we cannot resist the temptation to endeavour to present the whole scheme of the various forms of Hebrew Parallelism in one view; and though we may not have much further use for some of the details, yet this synopsis, it is believed, will serve to refresh the memories of such readers as may have forgotten the distinction e.g., between synonymous and synthetic parallelism—with which technical terms, and others similar, they may meet in the course of the following Expositions.

It may be said at the outset that the key to parallelism is the resolving of the solid Hebrew text into lines. Let any student, who cares to begin here, first look at the closely massed Hebrew text of (say) Bagster’s Polyglot, and then survey the same text (substantially) as set forth in lines in Ginsburg’s Hebrew Bible. He will not only be struck with the difference as attractive to the eye, but will be delighted to perceive what a large contribution has thereby been made towards the perception of the sense of the text. He may not, as he advances in critical culture, always remain satisfied with the length of the lines as set before him,—he may sometimes desire that a word be taken back from one line and attached to the previous, or vice-versa; or he may occasionally prefer that two lines be run on into one, whereas at other times he may prefer that the opposite method of rearrangement be followed by the breaking up of one line into two: all the same, the predominant feeling will be—that a promising start has been made on a path of progress.

Now it is the interrelation of the lines, as thus explained, which reveals different kinds of parallelism. These are due to the operation of the following simple principles; namely—repetition, variation, advancement, adornment, return, contrast, and reply. We must not be tempted to do more than refer to an example of each of these. But first let us see how they work out.

Mere repetitionyieldsa. emphatic parallelism
Repetition with variationb. synonymous
Mere advancec. synthetic
Repetition with advanced. stairlike
Repetition with adornmente. emblematic
Advance with contrastf. antithetic
Advance with returng. introverted
Appeal with replyh. responsory
a. Emphatic—Psalms 118:10-12e. Emblematic—Psalms 37:1-2, Psalms 63:1
b. Synonymous—Psalms 2:1, Psalms 2:3f. Antithetic—Psalms 1:6, Psalms 11:5
c. Synthetic—Psalms 2:2g. Introverted—Psalms 80:10-11
d. Stairlike—Psalms 77:1; Psalms 77:11; Psalms 77:16h. Responsory—Psalms 115:9-11

2. That the Psalms are lyric poetry will appear as soon as the two features in them are observed—first, that they best appear in measured lines, and secondly that they are intrinsically fitted for song. “Lyric (from the Greek lyra, a lyre)” is “the name given to a certain species of poetry because it was originally accompanied by the music of that instrument. Lyric poetry concerns itself with the thoughts and emotions of the composer’s own mind, and outward things are regarded chiefly as they affect him in any way. Hence it is characterised as subjective, in contradistinction to epic poetry, which is objective. Purely lyrical pieces are, from their nature, shorter than epics. They fall into several divisions, the most typical of which is the song, which is again subdivided into sacred (hymns) and secular (love-songs, war-songs, etc.).” It will be seen from this, that, while most of the Psalms are strictly lyrical, some of them (such as 78, 105, 106), both by reason of their length and from the nature of their contents, approach the epic; though even these are sufficiently regular in their measure and devotional in their setting to cause them to differ but little, save in their length, from lyrical pieces; it being easy to conceive of them as chanted if not sung; whereas, on the other hand, the longest of all the psalms, the 119th, by reason of its intensely subjective character, is not at all an epic; rather is it a lyrical dirge—lyrical, because well measured off into lines and stanzas, and a dirge by reason of the lingering cadence of its lines and the pervading pensiveness of its strains. Call it what we may, it is a wonderful triumph of poetic art. Its very monotony becomes a devotional lullaby, subduing the troubled soul to rest; while at the same time, its microscopic and never-ending variations more and more please as the spirit of the worshipper becomes whetted to perceive their kaleidoscopic beauties.


The musical measuring of the Psalms grows upon us as we investigate it: on the one hand throwing us back on the inquiry—How far we are indebted to the experimental sounds of the instrument for suggesting the appropriate words; and, on the other hand, urging us forward to discover, if we can—How far the sounds were fixed, and the words pliable in their adaptation thereto; or the words were fixed, and demanded of the sounds the pliability needful to bring the words well out in song.

A. The Musical Origin of the Psalms.—There is more evidence than has received adequate attention, that but for the LYRE we might never have had LYRICS; in other words, that but for the art of sweeping the strings which we call psallein (“psalming”) we might never have had in our hands the poetic products which we call psalmoi (“psalms”). It is, at least, significant of some profound connection between melody and inspiration, that, when the prophet Elisha was requested to give guidance to the two Kings of Israel and Judah, he felt his need of the service of a minstrel before he could give the desired reply (2 Kings 3:15); and equally suggestive, that when, in a given instance (Psalms 49), the psalmist was being moved to ponder and pronounce upon one of the profounder mysteries of Providence, he should plainly enough indicate that he had more hope of unfolding his “enigma” by the help of his lyre than without its genial aid. And it is not without suggestiveness of a like kind that when the psalmist desired in his joy to awaken the dawn he felt impelled first to summon lute and lyre to awaken that they might assist him in bringing to the birth his rousing songs.

B. The Musical Measurement of the Psalms in relation to Criticism.—The further question, as to the precise relation, in measurement, of sounds and sense, has a newly awakened interest in Biblical Criticism as concentrated on the Psalms. So little is known as to the ancient Temple music, that we have to proceed very cautiously. But the actual question before us assumes the following interesting and practical form: How far was harp playing in the East elastic, in its readiness to adapt itself to lines and stanzas of varying lengths; or how far were stanza and metrical arrangements so rigid and imperative as to warrant our bringing under suspicion—as interpolations and corruptions—such irregularities as made lines and stanzas longer or shorter than usual? From the best information we have been able to procure—including the testimony of a friend who has travelled frequently and extensively in harp-playing countries,—we conclude that harp-playing shows ready elasticity, in accommodating itself to more or fewer words; and, on the whole, we feel ourselves to be justified in concluding that we are not warranted in freely and forcibly expanding or contracting lines and stanzas merely because rigid uniformity in the measures might appear to demand such modifications. In a word, without independent confirmatory evidence, we are not justified in pronouncing present words to be superfluous or absent words to be demanded If a word or a line is found not only in the Hebrew but also in the ancient versions, we ought to be very sure of the imperious character of adverse internal evidence before we omit them; and vice-versa. Subject to these conditions, however, sober criticism need occasion no slavish fears.

C. The Musical Measurement of the Psalms in relation to Metre.After the setting up of the foregoing land-marks, we need have no hesitation in affirming the existence in the Psalms of the kind of measurement which, notwithstanding any irregularities in it, may best be described by the familiar term Metre. By this is meant, not the rigid metre of English hymns, but the less exact measurement of lines which is based upon the beats of word-groups instead of mere syllables. An example will make the difference clear. The following is taken from Cassell’s Bible Educator, Vol. II, p. 341: “Let us take the opening of the sublime Song of Moses at the end of the Book of Deuteronomy:—

Give-ear, O-ye-heavens, and-I-will-speak;

And-hear, O-earth, the-words-of-my-mouth.

“The hyphens are introduced to mark the phrases which represent one Hebrew term. The twofold symmetry of these lines must strike every ear. The second member is an echo of the first, both in thought and sound. And yet it is not a mere repetition of it. In the opposition of the earth to the sky, in the varied form of the prophet’s appeal, where each term is different and yet makes a true balance to the corresponding term of the preceding line, we get all the charm of freshness and change. The dullest ear will perceive the rise and fall, the wave-like motion, which is essential to musical rhythm. Each sentence is contained in a line and ends with it. In other languages a fixed recurrence of feet or rhymed syllables would mark the conclusion of the verse. Here voice and sense pause together, and the ear is satisfied with this natural cadence, which is doubtless improved in the original by the equality of the words in the two parts of the verse.”

In this example, two things will be observed: First, that the word-group beats are three to a line, rendering this a “trimeter” couplet; and second, that the equivalence of the sense in the two lines makes this a “synonymous” couplet—as to form, “trimeter”; as to sense, “synonymous.” It may be seen in quotations from ancient Church writers in Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology that the “ancient trimeters” were still famous in sub-apostolic times. It is, in fact, the favorite measure employed in the Psalms; doubtless owing to the prevailing joyousness of the songs of Zion, and the ease with which this simple measure dances along in the expression of sacred gladness. From the “trimeters” as a starting-point, the reader can easily conceive how more stately tetrameters, and more pensive pentameters would be formed by the simple contrivance of running the word-groups into longer lines. It is, for example, partly by the lingering meditativeness of Psalms 119 that any reader can easily see how the second half of Psalms 19 closely follows it,


(A) As our subsequent chapters will, in various ways, keep these characteristics well before us, we need not attempt more at present than to observe how far they are indicated by the descriptions which are found in superscribed lines. These may be arranged in the ascending order of their frequency.

(1) Tehillah, “praise”: title of 145—a psalm most worthy of the title, since it is purely and only “praise.” From this, the whole book is named in Heb., Tehillim, “Praises.”

(2) Shiggayon, prob. “a discursive psalm” (title of Psalms 7), from sh-g-h, “to go astray.” According to some: “a reel, a wild passionate song, with rapid changes of rhythm.”—O.G.

(3) Tephillah, “prayer,” occurs 5 times, notably Psalms 90:1.

(4) Mikhtam, possibly “tablet,” 6 times.

(5) Maskil, “instructive psalm,” 13 times.

(6) Shir, “song,” 41 times.

(7) Mizmor, “psalm,” 57 times.

In 8 instances, the double description is prefixed—“a psalm, a song”; and, in 4 examples, the reverse—“a song, a psalm.”

To these descriptive names we may add the catch-words bareki, “bless thou,” which commences 103, 104; and hallelu, “praise ye,” which begins 18 psalms, namely:—105–107; 111–118; 135, 136; and 146–150. These are specified in full, as marking off the so-called “hallelujah” psalms, which we propose to call simply “hallels: selections from which are variously known as “the Egyptian Hallel” (113–118) and “the Great Hallel” (136).

It is obvious, therefore, that, for obtaining a general notion of the Psalms through this channel, the two chief names to consider are shir, “song,” and mizmor, “psalm”: to which can be added the “hallels,” not as bearing a distinctive name, but by reason of their number and importance, and the facility with which they can be grouped. It should be remembered that a large number of psalms have no such descriptive headings.

SONG, Heb. shir, shirah, (Sep. asma): with which compare the verb shir (Sep. aido). The acceptable thing about “song” in this connection is, the clearness with which it connotes gladness; and thereby throws a bright gleam of joy across the entire Book of Psalms. If it were not enough to point to such examples as Psalms 28:7, Psalms 33:3, Psalms 40:3, Psalms 96:1-2, Psalms 137:2-4 to shew that song-singing is at once a natural expression of joy and a signal for its renewed manifestation, we should still have the weighty testimony of the Proverbs (Proverbs 25:20) and the Prophets (Isaiah 30:29, Amos 8:10) to set that simple matter at rest. Hence, because so many of the Psalms are strictly and properly “songs,” we are warranted to expect a large element of thanksgiving, praise and expectation of blessing in the Psalter. It is observable that while we are frequently invited to “sing a new song,” we are never called upon to sing a new psalm. Does this indicate that “songs” were more frequently improvisations than “psalms”; and, that after a song had been written and set to music it then became a psalm? We must not assume from this that a “song,” as such, did not admit of musical accompaniment: the contrary is sufficiently shown by Psalms 21:13, Psalms 33:3, Psalms 68:4; Psalms 68:32, Psalms 105:2; Psalms 137:2-3, cp, Isaiah 23:16, Revelation 14:2-3; Revelation 15:2-3.

PSALM, Heb. mizmor, Sep, psalmos: cp. Heb. verb zimmer and Sep, psallo. “Psalm,” unlike “song,” does not necessarily carry with it the notion of joy, though it frequently does. It may be almost exclusively historical and hortatory: it may even be deeply penitential, and more or less mournful: yea, it may betray unbroken gloom, like 88, which, though a “psalm,” is certainly no “song”; and we are glad by a readjustment of headlines to have been emboldened to remove the anomaly of so designating it. Another difference between “psalm” and “song” is, that whereas the latter does not in itself necessarily imply instrumental accompaniment, the former in “more exact usage” does. Thus Delitzsch says: “As Hupfeld has shown, zimmer, as being a direct onomatopoetic word, signifies, like canere, ‘to make music’ in the widest sense; the more exact usage of the language, however, distinguishes between zimmer and shir as ‘to play’ and ‘to sing.’ With beth (preposition) instrumental, zimmer signifies to sing with a musical accompaniment, and zimrah is occasionally, as in Amos 5:23, directly music, melody. Accordingly mizmor (= ‘psalm) signifies technically, the piece of music, and shir . . . the words of the song” (Com. i 131, 132). Thus also Perowne (on Psalms 47:6-7): “Make melody, or ‘sing and play.’ The word means both to sing and to play. The Sep., rightly, psalate.” Kirkpatrick (Cambridge Bible) (same text): “The verb from which mizmor (= “psalm”) is derived . . . appears originally to have meant to make melody, like the Lat. canere, but came to be applied specially to instrumental music, as distinguished from vocal music. Mizmor then means a piece of music, a song with instrumental accompaniment.” The points of agreement which appear in these extracts should be noted. It is agreed that zimmer originally meant “to make melody,” in the broadest sense; and it is then further agreed, that when zimmer was differentiated from shir, the former meant “to play” and the latter “to sing.” Now it is the especial province of synonyms to differentiate; inasmuch as the broader meanings of words are thereby naturally shared with companion words set side by side with them for the purpose of bringing out the general sense.

It is just at this point that a defect becomes observable in the Revised Version of the Psalms. The difference between shir and zimmer is not clearly and consistently maintained. The two words occur concurrently, as synonyms, in the following places:—Psalms 21:13, Psalms 27:6, Psalms 57:7, Psalms 68:4, Psalms 68:30, Psalms 101:1, Psalms 104:33, Psalms 105:2, Psalms 108:1, Psalms 144:9. The attempt was made by the Revisers, in nine out of these ten instances, to mark the difference between shir and zimmer by translating the former “sing” and the latter “sing praises”; but the attempt must be pronounced feeble in the extreme, inasmuch as “singing” (alone, for shir) in all cases is nothing else than singing PRAISE. SO that, just where it would appear that some addition or some advance ought to be made, no addition or advance is made; and the “yea” which the Revisers have thrown in only reveals how feeble the discrimination was felt to be. In one case, the first named above, (Psalms 21:13), the Revisers’ hearts failed them altogether, and as they could not say, “So will we sing and sing praise thy power,” they dropped the word “sing” altogether out of their rendering of zimmer, and coined a special rendering, to which they have not adhered in any of the nine passages of the like kind which follow. This text should have been rendered: “So will we sing and harp thy power.” And, though the urgency for a clearer distinction is not so keenly felt in all the examples given above, it may safely be affirmed, that in all of them the discrimination should have been maintained.

It is interesting to note the effect of this same discrimination when carried forward into the new Testament—as it clearly ought to be on the strength of the Septuagint, which is therein quoted and in which the Hebrew distinction between shir and zimmer faithfully reappears in their representatives aido and psallo. That effect will be, on the one hand, to make us content with the generic force of psallo in Romans 15:9, 1 Corinthians 14:15 and James 5:13 : whereas, on the other hand, it will compel the affirmation that, according to the established law governing the use of synonyms, the companion nouns—“psalms,” “hymns,” and “spiritual songs”—in Ephesians 5:18 should be properly distinguished from each other; as in verse 19, also, the companion participles “singing” and “playing” should in like manner each receive its restricted or specific sense.

This brief study of shir and zimmer, “song” and “psalm,” will further invest the whole problem of psalm-making and psalm-using with new interest. In particular, the reader will be prepared for the very large part which one “Exposition” has assigned to the voice just where musical accompaniments were most in evidence (150). As to psalm-creation, it is easily conceivable how the lone lyre may have helped some sorrowing penitent to pour out his lament before God, without thought at the time of the public employment of his penitential lay; and just as easily conceivable how, by himself in brighter days or by a sympathetic successor in the service of song, a fragment spotted with the tears of the originator may have been rescued from oblivion and fitted for Temple worship as a psalm. In such cases, the individual would be permitted to sing on throughout the history of his nation, and the nation for centuries be stirred to its depths by the perception, in its public songs, of those touches of nature which make the whole world kin.

3. Not only from the fitness of these lyrics to be sung to musical accompaniment, but also from the instructions conveyed by inscriptions to the Psalms, it may safely be inferred that the Psalms were ultimately intended to form a liturgy for Temple worship. Respecting this Liturgy a few things are of sufficient permanent interest to be worthy of note here: as—

(a) That David was, under Divine guidance, its originator (1 Chronicles 28:11-12; 1 Chronicles 28:19).

(b) That he appointed three leading singers, Asaph, Heman and Ethan (or Jeduthun): all Levites (1 Chronicles 6).

(c) That under these leaders were ranged, in all probability, three choirs—a treble choir under Asaph, a mixed choir under Heman, and a bass choir (also called sheminith—“eighth” = “octave” = “bass”) under Ethan.

(d) That over these leaders and choirs was placed a “chief musician,” the first occupier of which important office was Chenaniah, who “used to give instructions, because skillful was he” (1 Chronicles 15:22; 1 Chronicles 15:27).

(e) That “the sons of Korah” were certainly singers; probably forming the bass choir of Ethan, or as a senior class constituting an important part of the same, whose services were frequently in especial request, as the psalm-inscriptions abundantly show. The evidence of this arises partly from treating korah as an appellative (= “sons of baldness” = “patriarchs of song”) and partly from the fine results obtained by revising and slightly modifying Thirtle’s readjustment of the musical subscriptions as distinct from the literary superscriptions attached to the Psalms.

(f) The revised readjustment above spoken of, when resolutely carried out, yields the following acceptable results:—it brings bass singers along with maidens to the foot of Psalms 45, where both classes are clearly needed; it rids Psalms 49 of any musical instruction, leaving it all the more probable that this sombre, philosophical psalm was intended rather for private use than for Temple-praise; and it brings “responsive dancings” to the foot of one of the few processional psalms (87) and the very one in the text of which “dancers” already appear. To exhibit here all the movements involved in working out these results would be too severe a tax to inflict on general readers; but the results themselves, in their own way, are of no small interest, and may provoke further useful research. (Cp. for “sons of korah” 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 84, 85, 87, 88).

(g) The highest and most permanent lesson obtained by resolving these sacred lyrics into a liturgy is seen as soon as we confront the practical question as to the part taken by the people in joining in this form of public worship. Considering the limited number of copies of the psalms to be read, chanted, or sung by the Levites obtainable by worshippers in general, it is natural to conclude that the chief part taken by the people was to say “Amen” (Psalms 106:48) to the readings and songs of the priests and of the choirs. That they were sometimes called upon to take a more active part is sufficiently evident from their being actually called upon to join (Psalms 115:9-11, Psalms 135:19-20; and this leads up to the conclusion that the pre-eminent response of the people was that which is appended to every verse of Psalms 136, and the meaning of which is expanded in our exposition of Psalms 150. Here we catch a glimpse of the Hebrew Liturgy at the precise angle, of vision which shows to advantage its fitness to exert its most potent spiritual influence over the Hebrew nation. There are here to be considered—the import of this refrain as singling out the kindness of Jehovah from among all his other perfections; the actual, individual and collective attestation that Jehovah their God was worthy of this pre-eminent praise; and the solemn and memorable circumstances under which they thus proclaimed their undying faith, amid all the solemnities of sacrifice and all the charm and impressiveness of musically accompanied praise. Disobedience and formality might of course invade and counteract even such holy influences, yet the intrinsic fitness of such a liturgy must have been to exert a mighty power over the religious life of the nation by bringing the people into fellowship with a God deemed worthy of such adoration.


That the Sacred Learning which is summarized in the Book of Psalms is sublimated into Song, detracts but little from its practical utility; for figures of speech have a recognized meaning of their own, and parallelism conduces to ultimate precision when couplets are quoted rather than clauses. A proof-text from the Psalms is generally as effective as one taken from the Law or the Prophets. The temporal and personal colouring may, indeed, in some measure fade from a psalm when held under the microscope of logical analysis, and yet may leave an abiding outline of permanent teaching. Prayers and praises rise on rapid wing to heaven, but their didactic presuppositions are generally clear enough to lead the listener forwards into the learning of theological and psychological lessons which will be found worthy to abide with him as a scholar, after they have by their spiritual influence moved him to become a worshipper. The only question is, how to collect and fix the rays of light radiated from struggling and adoring souls. The simplest method will be, to place in alphabetical order a few leading words which will occasion references to such psalms and verses of psalms as treat of the word or topic named.

If this course should impart to the present chapter something of the unattractive features of index and concordance, this will need no apology when it is remembered that the primary intention of this Introduction is, not to induce the curious to read the Psalms, but to give practical assistance to such as, having many times read them, are at length eager to devote to them patient study.

AGES.—Probably the time has not yet come when, unaided, the English reader can readily perceive and remember the latitude with which the Hebrew word ‘olam is used throughout the O.T. Primarily derived from a stem which simply means what is concealed, this word, when applied to time, comes to denote concealed and so indefinite duration. By the force of modern usage, however, the English phrase “for ever” is apt to carry the ordinary mind beyond this, and when hardened by dogmatic theologians may be put to a strain it will not bear. Hence the present translator is not as yet prepared wholly to forego the circumlocutory rendering “age-abiding” or “to times age-abiding.” Nevertheless he clearly perceives how heavy and cumbrous this translation is apt to become, especially in some connections. Impressed with the practical success of Dr. Weymouth’s phrase, adopted for corresponding use in the N.T., “to the ages,”—this lighter and easier phrase has been cautiously employed in the present translation. The following examples will serve as a specimen of the effect of this idiomatic rendering:—Psalms 5:11, Psalms 9:5-7, Psalms 10:16, Psalms 12:7, Psalms 15:5. The word occurs nearly 150 times throughout the Psalter; Psalms 145:13 is the chief instance in which the word is used in the plural, and definitely hardened into “ages” with “all” prefixed.

ANOINTED.—The Heb. word mashiah (“messiah,” “christ,” “anointed”) occurs 10 times in the Psalms (namely in Psalms 2:2, Psalms 18:50, Psalms 20:6, Psalms 28:8, Psalms 84:9, Psalms 89:38; Psalms 89:51, Psalms 105:15, Psalms 132:10; Psalms 132:17); and about 30 times elsewhere in the O.T. Christos (“christ”) is its uniform Greek (Septuagint) representative. Broadly it (or its verb) is used of priests (Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16), prophets (1 Kings 19:16), and kings (1 Kings 1:34); and therefore it is not surprising that it should be especially employed of David and the heirs with him of the covenant of kingship announced by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 7). In several of the above references in the Psalter, the primary allusion is to the holder of the typical messiahship for the time being (as in Psalms 84:9), although in some cases the allusion is couched in such terms as to point onwards to THE Messiah ultimately to come in David’s line. Outside the Psalter, one of the most beautiful and pathetic references to a typical Messiah is found in Lamentations 4:20. In one of the above instances (Psalms 105:15) the term “messiah” in the plural is used of the patriarchs, simply to signify their consecration to the office of speaking for God and to show the inviolability of their persons. The reference to The Messiah himself in Psalms 2:2 is plain from the scope of the psalm. There are many references to the Messiah in the Psalms where this particular official name is not mentioned.

EARTH.—“The earth” (Heb. erez) figures in the Psalms more largely than do “the heavens”; but does not severely tax the expositor. Still there are some interesting points about it demanding careful consideration: the chief of which is, whether the original word should be rendered “earth” or “land.” It all depends on the extent of the outlook; which may generally be gathered from the scope of the context, or from particular terms therein. The importance of the right determination may be seen in 37, in which the alternative “earth” “or land” is maintained throughout, and in the Exp. of 100, where conflicting considerations are weighed. The earth is regarded as resting on primeval waters (Psalms 24:1, Psalms 136:6), to which poetic allusions may possibly be found (in Psalms 40:2). Nevertheless it is firmly and abidingly founded (Psalms 104:5); though not beyond the possibility of destruction or change (Psalms 102:25-26). Perhaps with allusion to its primeval emergence from the wild waters of chaos it is said to have been “born” (Psalms 90:2), and to this event dramatic reference is probably made (Psalms 104:6; Psalms 104:8). Jehovah visits the earth with his bountiful showers (Psalms 65:9); and, indeed, it is full of his goodness (Psalms 33:5, Psalms 104:13; Psalms 104:24). To be wholly of earth is, however, a matter of reproach (Psalms 10:18); and a prevailing tendency to earth may be ground for lamentation (Psalms 44:25; cp. Psalms 119:25). As contrasted with its “lower parts” (doubtless synonymous with Hades, Psalms 63:9), the earth’s surface is styled “the land of the living” (Psalms 116:9, Psalms 142:5). In a picture of surpassing beauty, Truth is depicted as springing like a vigorous growth out of earth (Psalms 85:11): surely a prophetic word.

The World (Heb. tebhel: “perh. as orig. productive”—O.G.) forms an excellent synonym for “the earth.” It is to be found as follows:—Psalms 9:8, Psalms 18:15, Psalms 19:4, Psalms 24:1, Psalms 33:8, Psalms 50:12, Psalms 77:18, Psalms 89:11, Psalms 90:2, Psalms 96:10; Psalms 96:13, Psalms 97:4, Psalms 98:7; Psalms 98:9.

HADES.—This word occurs 16 times in the following version of the Psalms; namely, Psalms 6:5, Psalms 9:17, Psalms 16:10, Psalms 18:5, Psalms 30:3, Psalms 31:17, Psalms 49:14; Psalms 49:14-15, Psalms 55:5, Psalms 86:13, Psalms 88:3, Psalms 89:48, Psalms 116:3, Psalms 139:8, Psalms 141:7. It always stands for the Heb. sheol, a word which is found 65 times in the O.T., and of which in the Septuagint, hades is the Greek representative. Besides these 65 examples of the word in the O.T., there are 10 more in the N.T. in which “hades” occurs, in its own right, in the Greek original, still in the same sense as sheol in the Hebrew Bible. The great gain of employing the same word throughout the English Bible—whether as a translation or as a reproduction of an original word—is, that it brings into line, to the English eye and ear, all the direct allusions by name to the subject of Hades; and, in all reason, 75 examples ought to enable every English student to judge for himself what Hades in the Bible means—whether place or state or both, and whether the same now as it ever has been, or more or less changed by the coming of the Messiah.

“Hades” is the under-world considered as the realm of the dead. It includes the grave (Psalms 49:14, Psalms 141:7), but is wider, and deeper: wider, inasmuch as it embraces such dead as have received no burial (Genesis 37:33-34, Jonah 2:2); and deeper, in that it is set in contrast with the heavens for height (Job 11:8, Amos 9:2). It is so far synonymous with both “death” and the “grave” that it may frequently be employed for either without serious change of meaning (e.g., Psalms 6:5); and yet some things are affirmed of “hades” which cannot well be spoken of mere death or the grave—as, for example, “hades” has for inhabitants “shades” or “ghosts” (Heb. repha’im) (Job 25:6, Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 9:18; Proverbs 21:16, Isaiah 14:9; Isaiah 26:14; Isaiah 26:19, Psalms 88:10), and is divisible into lower and higher (Deuteronomy 32:22, Psalms 86:13), the lower hades being in one case pointedly expressed as “the well of the pit” (Psalms 55:23). It is undeniable that, before the coming of the Messiah, “hades” was invested with deep gloom, and caused, even in the minds of the godly, strong aversion, leading to earnest prayers to be saved from it and devout thanks for deliverance from the immediate prospect of entering it (Psalms 18:4-6, Psalms 30:3, Psalms 116:1-6). Not always, it is true, was this aversion felt; and, in one remarkable case, Job (Job 14:13) is heard crying out:—

Oh that in hades thou wouldst hide me!

That thou wouldst keep me secret, until the turn of thine anger!

That thou wouldst set for me a fixed time and remember me!

Notwithstanding such occasional sighing for “hades” as a relief,—not without some hope of deliverance,—the description of hades given by Dr. Driver in his Parallel Psalter (Glossary I., “sheol”) is scarcely too strong, when he says:—“The inhabitants of which pass a dim and shadowy existence, unworthy of the name of life, cut off from the memory and protecting help of God (Psalms 88:5), and where the voice of praise is for ever hushed (Psalms 6:5; Psalms 30:9; Psalms 88:10-12; Psalms 115:17, Is. 38:18).” At the same time it should be remembered, as against the extreme view that death ends all, that the very existence of such a place or state as hades is one of extreme significance, It seems expressly to wait some future development,

Turning now to the list of passages in the Psalms in which the “hades” is mentioned, and at once dismissing those in which the word appears as a mere synonym of “death” and “the grave,” and so serve more for general impressiveness than for specific teaching,—what do we find?

Doubtless we may gather up several incidental lessons; such as the graphic way in which the bones of the hastily buried, or the unburied, are described in the last passage in the list as lying scattered about the mouth of hades—which sustains the position that hades includes the grave; and such as the basis furnished, by the existence of a lower hades and the well of the pit (Psalms 55:15; Psalms 55:23), for the teaching of our Lord (in Luke 16), that whatever may be the measure of unconsciousness generally experienced by the selfish and unsaved dead, yet that it is possible they may be aroused to an acute consciousness of pain and to remorseful memories and apprehensions. Rising, however, far above these incidental lessons, is the prospect opened up by at least two of these hadean passages in the Psalms of a Divine Victory over hades. One of these (Psalms 49:15) is indeed general and theocratic rather than messianic; but it is positive in terms and highly inspiring: “God will do for me what with all your wealth ye rich men cannot do for yourselves, far less for each other: he will ransom my soul—my entire personality: out of the hand of Hades will he take me, as Enoch was taken according to the startling story in Genesis.” On the whole this sudden outburst of promise looks towards transformation without dying rather than to actual resurrection. The other and earlier passage (Psalms 16:10) just as strongly makes for resurrection after dying, inasmuch as the flesh so rests securely, that, although the body of the speaker should enter hades, yet should he not be abandoned to hades. This was either fulfilled in David or in one of David’s line for whom prophetically he spake. Jesus of Nazareth, rising from the dead and ascending to the Father’s right-hand, has, in beginning and pledge, abolished death and revolutionised hades: of the dwellers in which he has become Lord (Romans 14:9) and of the keys of which he has taken possession (Revelation 1:18).

HEART.—“All scholars know that the Hebrew word commonly rendered ‘heart’ is used very largely to denote not so much the seat of the emotions as the seat of thought.” So proclaims the Preface to the Standard American Revision; but there is still need of insistence in making more widely known among Bible readers this far-reaching fact, inasmuch as misapplications of Scripture are extensively prevalent, based on the erroneous assumption that, as in popular speech, so in the Bible, a strong contrast may be assumed to exist between the “heart” and the “head.” The mischief done by this single error is enormous, seeing that the disparagement thereby cast upon the “understanding” in matters of religion is often pushed to such an extreme as to exaggerate the emotional element not only to an unscriptural but to a practically dangerous degree. Nevertheless, let the emotions receive their due; and let the article “Reins,” below, be well considered.

HEAVENS.—“The heavens” (Heb. shammayim) hold a conspicuous place in the Psalms. Always plural in the Hebrew, probably owing to the primary conception of “height,” and so “height above height,” and generally “the heights,” the word has in it enough of amplitude to include varying degrees of elevation; such as that in which winds blow (Psalms 78:26) and birds fly (Psalms 8:8, Psalms 79:2) and that in which moon, stars (Psalms 8:3) and sun (Psalms 19:4) appear; until it includes the dwelling-place of Jehovah himself (Psalms 115:3; cp. 1 Kings 8:30 ff.). The elevation of “the heavens” above the earth is sometimes expressed (Psalms 103:11) and often implied (Psalms 14:2 = Psalms 53:2, Psalms 102:19). “The heavens” were made by Jehovah (Psalms 33:6, Psalms 96:5, Psalms 115:15, Psalms 121:2, Psalms 124:8, Psalms 134:3, Psalms 136:5, Psalms 146:6); and accordingly he is above them (Psalms 57:5; Psalms 57:11 = Psalms 118:5 and Psalms 113:6) and so, in fact or in prayer, is his “glory” (Psalms 113:4, Psalms 148:13). In some sense, Jehovah has reserved “the heavens” to himself, in contrast to the earth as the assigned portion of the sons of men (Psalms 115:16); in some sense also, as would seem, man’s dominion over the earth is to be used as a means of uplifting Jehovah’s glory above “the heavens” (Psalms 8:1 Exp.). Notwithstanding Jehovah’s omniscience (Psalms 139:7-10) and his peculiar rule in Zion (Psalms 99:1-2), his throne is emphatically in “the heavens” (Psalms 2:4, Psalms 11:4, Psalms 103:19, Psalms 123:1): there his attendants wait upon him, and from thence his messengers go forth (Psalms 103:20-21). The heavens were made with understanding (Psalms 136:5), are ancient (Psalms 68:33—though Del. thinks this text refers to “primeval” heavens, “in their origin reaching further back than the terrestrial heavens of the second and fourth days of creation”), are holy (Psalms 20:6; cp. Matthew 6:10), and are enduring (Psalms 89:29), although they may ultimately perish (Psalms 102:26—in view of which cp. Isaiah 65:17). This brief survey invests with deepened interest the gathering of all things in heaven and earth under one head (Ephesians 1:10), and their reconciliation (Colossians 1:20), as also the prospect of a practical descent of heaven to earth (Revelation 21:3-4).

The Skies (or “fleecy clouds”—Heb. shahakim) are an interesting synonym of “the heavens,” chiefly because used to exalt man’s conceptions of the Divine Government: see—Psalms 18:11, Psalms 35:5, Psalms 57:10, Psalms 68:34, Psalms 77:17, Psalms 78:23, Psalms 89:6; Psalms 89:37, Psalms 108:4.

HOW HAPPY.—It is worthy of note that the first word in the Psalter is a word expressive of emotion, being “an exclamation: O the blessedness of so and so”—Del. “A less solemn expression than Blessed, without any explicit reference to God. To Heb. word is often rendered Happy in the A.V. (as Psalms 127:5; Psalms 144:15; Psalms 144:15; Psalms 146:1, Deuteronomy 33:29, Job 5:17, Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 14:21; Proverbs 16:20; Proverbs 28:14); and it ought for distinctness to be so rendered always”—Dr. It occurs in the Psalter 26 times:—Psalms 1:1, Psalms 2:12, Psalms 32:1-2, Psalms 33:12, Psalms 34:8, Psalms 40:4, Psalms 41:1, Psalms 65:4, Psalms 84:4-5; Psalms 84:12, Psalms 89:15, Psalms 94:12, Psalms 106:3, Psalms 112:1, Psalms 119:1-2, Psalms 127:5, Psalms 128:1-2, Psalms 137:8-9, Psalms 144:15; Psalms 144:15, Psalms 146:5.

HUMBLE (D).—A man may be outwardly humbled without becoming inwardly humble: which suggests how great a difference in moral value may exist between two words nearly identical in form. Just about as great a difference in meaning is found between the two Hebrew words ‘anaw and ‘ani, the former, according to Dr. Driver, is used “of one who humbles or submits himself voluntarily, esp. under the hand of God,” and the latter signifies “one humbled involuntarily by external circumstances.” Instead of going so far afield as to call the latter “poor,” with Driver and others, the venture is made in the following translation to trust to the addition of the letter “d,” which is quite significant to careful readers, and closely imitates the slender difference between the two Hebrew forms, at the same time it is well adapted to keep in mind the additional circumstance, well set forth by Driver when he further says: “nevertheless they do not differ greatly in application, especially in the Psalms, both being designations of the pious servants of Jehovah, the one term describing them from the point of view of their external condition, the other from that of their mental character or disposition.” Incidentally, a lesson in various readings and in the inevitable risks of transmission, may be gleaned from the following initial examples of one of these words, which must show the dullest scholar how the inevitable happens in a case depending on the length of a down stroke, no miracle intervening to prevent it: namely, Psalms 9:12; Psalms 9:18, Psalms 10:12; Psalms 10:17. Moreover the decided difference in sense even where there is no diversity of application, will instruct learners to be careful how they read.

JEHOVAH.—The employment of this English form of the Memorial name (Exodus 3:18) in the present version of the Psalter does not arise from any misgiving as to the more correct pronunciation, as being Yahweh; but solely from practical evidence personally selected of the desirability of keeping in touch with the public ear and eye in a matter of this kind, in which the principal thing is the easy recognition of the Divine name intended; as to the meaning of which every reader can continue to judge according to the evidence before him. If the persistent use of the form Yahweh, only had the effect of keeping the English reader in mind of the almost certain significance of this gracious name as equivalent to “The Becoming One,” then the price of novelty and difficulty of recognition would not be too great to pay. But as the chief evidence of the significance of the name consists not nearly so much in its pronunciation as in the completeness with which it meets all requirements—especially as explaining how the Memorial name was fitted to become such, and to be the pre-eminent covenant name that it confessedly is, it has been thought desirable to fall back on the form of the name more familiar (while perfectly acceptable) to the general Bible-reading public. For a more complete statement of the derivation and meaning of this name, reference may be made to the present writer’s “Emphasised Bible,” Introduction, Chapter IV. See further “General Reflections” at the close of Psalms 92-99 and “Exposition” of 102.

KINDNESS.—It will appear incredible to such as have chiefly regarded Jehovah as revealed in the terrors of Sinai or through his judgments on his enemies, that the noun for “kindness” occurs 127 times in the Psalms alone, generally as attributed to himself as one of his own attributes. Yet this is strictly correct. If “loving kindness” is in form simplified to “kindness” in order to bring it into line with the adjective “kind,” and if we are content to conclude that “mercy,” when needed (as it so often is), is involved in “kindness,” and so consistently render the one Hebrew word hesedh by the one English word “kindness” thereby securing uniformity,—then all the impressiveness and significance of the constant recurrence of the word “kindness” throughout these “Songs of Zion” will be realised. No student worthy of the name will deem it superfluous that all the occurrences of this consoling and inspiring word are here set forth for convenient reference at any moment:—Psalms 5:7, Psalms 6:4, Psalms 13:5, Psalms 17:7, Psalms 18:50, Psalms 21:7, Psalms 23:6, Psalms 25:6-7; Psalms 25:10, Psalms 26:3, Psalms 31:6; Psalms 31:16; Psalms 31:21, Psalms 32:10, Psalms 33:5; Psalms 33:18; Psalms 33:22, Psalms 36:5; Psalms 36:7; Psalms 36:10, Psalms 40:10-11, Psalms 42:8, Psalms 44:26, Psalms 48:9, Psalms 51:1, Psalms 52:7-8, Psalms 57:3; Psalms 57:10, Psalms 59:10; Psalms 59:16-17, Psalms 61:7, Psalms 62:12, Psalms 63:3, Psalms 66:20, Psalms 69:13; Psalms 69:16, Psalms 77:8, Psalms 85:7; Psalms 85:10, Psalms 86:5; Psalms 86:13; Psalms 86:15, Psalms 88:11, Psalms 89:1-2; Psalms 89:14; Psalms 89:24; Psalms 89:28; Psalms 89:33; Psalms 89:49, Psalms 90:14, Psalms 92:2, Psalms 94:18, Psalms 98:3, Psalms 100:5, Psalms 101:1, Psalms 103:4; Psalms 103:8; Psalms 103:11; Psalms 103:17, Psalms 106:1; Psalms 106:7; Psalms 106:45, Psalms 107:1; Psalms 107:8; Psalms 107:15; Psalms 107:21; Psalms 107:31; Psalms 107:43, Psalms 108:4, Psalms 109:12; Psalms 109:16; Psalms 109:21; Psalms 109:26, Psalms 115:1, Psalms 117:2, Psalms 118:1-4; Psalms 118:29, Psalms 119:41; Psalms 119:64; Psalms 119:76; Psalms 119:88; Psalms 119:124; Psalms 119:149; Psalms 119:159, Psalms 130:7, Psalms 136:1-26, Psalms 138:2-3, Psalms 141:5, Psalms 143:8; Psalms 143:12, Psalms 144:2, Psalms 145:8, Psalms 147:11. To observe the companion words with which this term is frequently and significantly paired, will add an additional interest to the study hereby furnished.

Men of kindness may be regarded by some as an awkward circumlocution for representing the companion word hasidh, closely related to the abstract noun hesedh, “kindness”; but in a version so literal as the present, and under pressure of the great desirability of revealing the relation between the two Hebrew words, some awkwardness may be forgiven. Among the various translations which have been put forward to represent hasidh, none could be more acceptable than the familiar term “godly” provided that term could be relied upon to suggest likeness to God in respect of his attribute of kindness. In any case, it seems extremely desirable to keep this suggestion well in evidence by the most effective means within our reach. Even then the precise phase of relationship between the men of kindness and the God of kindness would remain undetermined: whether as descriptive of such as are the especial objects of Jehovah’s kindness, or of those who are honoured to be the representatives and reflectors of that kindness among men. Judging from the fact that some critics regard the word as of passive and others as of active formation, and that the evidence of usage leans about equally in either direction,—the probability is, that hasidh is a middle term which has absorbed into itself both of these delightful conceptions, and so signifies those who at one and the same time receive and reflect the kindness of God. It is all the more desirable that a happy term should be found, already possessed of this amount of flexibility or by consent invested therewith, because of the evidence, which though slight seems sufficient, to show that the Levites, as a tribe, were the abiding official representatives of the kindness of Jehovah; and that from this appropriation the term was further used to denote the entire class of Ideal Israelites. The primary grounds for thinking of the Levites in this connection are discovered in the significant application of the term to Levi himself in Deuteronomy 33:8, in the facility with which in Psalms 132:9; Psalms 132:16 the term would specify an especial class to accompany “priests” (which would naturally be Levites), and in the original calling of the tribe of Levi to be the representatives of all their brethren of the remaining tribes. With these elementary probabilities floating in the careful reader’s mind, it is believed that he will be glad for a second series of references to be appended in which the hasidhim or men of kindness are mentioned in the Psalms:—Psalms 4:3, Psalms 12:1, Psalms 16:10, Psalms 18:25, Psalms 30:4, Psalms 31:23, Psalms 32:6, Psalms 37:28, Psalms 43:1, Psalms 50:5, Psalms 52:9, Psalms 79:2, Psalms 85:8, Psalms 86:2, Psalms 89:19, Psalms 97:10, Psalms 116:15, Psalms 132:9; Psalms 132:16, Psalms 145:10; Psalms 145:17, Psalms 148:14, Psalms 149:1; Psalms 149:5; Psalms 149:9.

KINGDOM.—The Psalms are peculiarly rich in instruction as to the Coming Kingdom of God upon earth. The reader who will study in succession Psalms 2, 45, 72, 92-99, , 110,—first independently of the author’s expositions, for the purpose of maturing a judgment of his own,—and then entering into a comparison with the views set forth by the writer of these Studies,—will probably not feel any need of an extended summary in this chapter. The chief things to bear in mind as preliminaries to a profitable investigation are: First, a clear apprehension of the vast difference between the physical and moral spheres of the Divine Government, in that, within the former realm, God speaks and it is done without fail, disobedience being an impossibility; whereas, within the latter—the moral—realm, the promulgation of Jehovah’s will is always in fact, even if not in form, an appeal to created wills, calling for but not compelling obedience; and, second, that in point of fact Jehovah is always and unchangeably the absolutely rightful ruler of all the universe. There is always an abiding reign of God—whether of right in the moral world or of effectuating force in the natural world—which never begins, never lapses, never ends. Jehovah never abdicates the throne of his own essential supremacy. In regard of this, his reign never waits, never comes, never goes. The more clearly this is seen and the more firmly it is held, the more constant will be the perception that where undeniably such movements and changes are predicated, there some especial phase or form or manifestation of the Divine Kingdom must be intended. Thus David’s throne, David’s reign, David’s Kingdom must be some conditioned form of Jehovah’s own reign. So with the Messiah’s Kingdom—whether considered as a continuation of David’s or as its antitype—it must always be Jehovah’s absolute reign only as conditioned and modified by the intervention of the Messiah, The only other caution which needs to be borne in mind, is formally treated of in the following exposition of Psalms 2, where it is pointed out that, according to the evidence undeniably present in the sacred text, Messiah’s reign will combine the two principles of suasion and force. It only remains to add, that a careful discrimination between the Church and the Kingdom which has been scrupulously maintained throughout the following Expositions (cp. 45, 87, 102, 105), appears strongly to make for the awakening conclusion, that a goodly number of the Psalms are emphatically Songs of Messiah’s Coming Kingdom which await the fulfillment of the necessary conditions to render them in deed and in truth fitted in all their length and breadth to be sung throughout the whole ransomed earth (cp. e.g. 66 & 92–99 and General Reflections). To see that only then can they be sung with conscious fitness of self-appropriation, is to discover exactly how they can even now be sung by faith.

REINS,—The Heb. kelayoth, “as seat of emotion and affection” (O.G.), has by no means received the attention from Bible readers which it deserves. The “reins” were “regarded by the Hebrews as the springs of feeling: hence, when it is said of God that He trieth (or seeth) the ‘hearts and reins’ it implies that he is cognisant of man’s emotions and affections, not less than of his thoughts”—Dr. The word for “reins” is found in the following places in the Psalms: Psalms 7:9; Psalms 16:7; Psalms 26:2; Psalms 73:21; Psalms 139:13, with which Job 19:27, Proverbs 23:16, Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 12:2; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 22:12 may be usefully compared. See also “Heart.”

RIGHTEOUSNESS.—“Righteousness” is not only the love and practice of what is right—which may be distinguished as ethical; and the rightful righting of such as have been in the wrong—which may be named evangelical; but also the righting of the wronged by the punishment of those who have injured them—and this for convenience we term vindicatory righteousness, a species of righteousness which—as towards those in whose behalf it is wrought—is synonymous with “kindness” and “salvation”; and which figures largely in the prophets, especially Isaiah and in the Psalms. From Isaiah may be selected, as good examples, Isaiah 48:18 and Isaiah 62:1; and, in the Psalms, the following places may be consulted:—Psalms 22:31, Psalms 24:5, Psalms 31:1, Psalms 33:5, Psalms 35:28, Psalms 36:6; Psalms 36:10, Psalms 40:9-10, Psalms 48:10, Psalms 65:5, Psalms 71:15, Psalms 85:10-11, Psalms 94:14-15, Psalms 98:2-3, Psalms 103:6; Psalms 103:17, Psalms 111:7-8, Psalms 119:40; Psalms 119:137-138; Psalms 119:142, Psalms 132:9; Psalms 132:16 (cp. 2 Chronicles 6:41), Psalms 143:1; Psalms 143:11, Psalms 145:7; Psalms 145:17.

In such connections as the above the word “judgment” itself assumes the meaning of vindication: Psalms 1:5, Psalms 35:23, Psalms 72:4, Psalms 103:6, Psalms 140:12, cp. Isaiah 40:27; Isaiah 49:4.

SELAH.—The precise significance of this word must be said to be still uncertain. That it generally implies a pause may safely be asserted; though the object of the pause remains obscure. That it practically serves as a musical Nota bene, and by an interlude of musical instruments makes impressive the fact or sentiment just uttered, is with some eminent scholars a favourite theory. The most ingenious and probable conclusion, drawn from actual usage, is that suggested by Dr. Bullinger in “Things to Come”; namely, that it virtually says: “Such being the case then note what follows;” and, to suggest as much without dogmatically affirming it, the symbolic device has here been adopted of a double “fist” with fingers pointing both ways, which may at least hold the place until more conclusive evidence has been secured. That the word is chiefly confined to old psalms suggests the doubt whether it was not originally a mere copyist’s acknowledgement of some peculiarity in his exemplar now wholly and hopelessly lost in obscurity.

SOUL.—If the convenience of translators were the chief thing to be considered, it could be wished they might rely on the English word “soul” as the uniform rendering of the Hebrew word nephesh, and leave it to the English reader to discriminate between the divergent shades of meaning involved in the various usages. Whether “soul” stand for “principle of life” (as in Psalms 7:3) or as “principle or organ of feeling” (as in Psalms 6:3) the observant reader could soon judge; and he might not be long before waking up to the fact that, as Dr. Driver beautifully expresses it, “soul” is frequently used “as a pathetic circumlocution for the personal pronoun, esp. where it is desired to represent a person as vividly conscious of some emotion or experience whether pleasurable or painful, Psalms 3:1 (‘that say of my soul’—‘that say of me,’ but of ‘me’ represented as keenly sensible of what is said), Psalms 11:1, Psalms 25:13 (‘his soul’= he himself, but depicting him as keenly sensible of the enjoyment described).” But when nephesh is freely used to convey the motion of desire, appetite or greed, then it seems desirable for a translation to say so plainly; since “Aha, our soul!” (Psalms 35:25), “Give me not over to the soul of my enemies” (Psalms 27:12), are scarcely intelligible to the untrained English reader. It may be doubted whether Driver has given quite enough prominence to the simple idea of personality as filling the word “soul,” though undoubtedly he recognises it. See our Exposition of Psalms 16:10; and cp. Ezekiel 18:4. Apart from any nice shades of meaning in the word “soul,” the broad psychological fact remains that by means of it a man is solicited to exercise his marvellous capacity of projecting himself from himself, to view himself from without himself, and to address himself in the language of expostulation and exhortation; of which Psalms 42:5; Psalms 42:11, Psalms 43:5 and Psalms 103:1-2; Psalms 103:22 (see Expositions) are memorable examples.


Holy Living is here regarded as something more than righteous conduct; just as being is more than doing, and holiness goes beyond righteousness. Correct conduct in all its forms is necessarily included, but holy living has in it the vitality and the bloom which spring from communion with a holy God. To such living, the Psalms are, by experience, found to supply a mighty stimulus.

That they should do so, lies in the very nature of things. Not only do they emphasise character in a remarkably varied and persistently recurring way, but they set the sympathetic soul in pursuit of character by moving the deepest springs of desire and endeavour. They bring the soul into contact with God, in the highest and most spiritual acts of adoration, praise and prayer. To use the Psalms devoutly, is to come into the presence-chamber of the All-Holy. One has only to consider the proportion of direct address to Deity which the Psalms contain, to perceive the extent to which the man who sincerely uses them commits himself to sentiments of penitence, confidence, adoration, love, desire; so as to place himself under moral compulsion either to mean what he says, or to desist from saying it,—unless he would recklessly embark on the repugnant course of daring hypocrisy.

It is not meant that a man cannot respectfully listen to prayers and praises in which he is not for the present prepared to commit himself by voluntary personal undertaking. Yet still, setting callous formalism aside as downright iniquity and mockery, the compelling power of devout compositions,—especially when voiced by worshippers believed to be sincere,—must ever be either sympathetically to join, or candidly to dissent and refrain. Supposing, however, the beginnings of faith and desire to be present in ever so feeble a degree, and the inclination be indulged to join in the devout utterance of the Psalms—then, what is the nature of the influence under which a man’s mind consents to come? It must be—to become holy.

Is God himself holy? And is he, in psalms like these, directly addressed? To the first of these two vital questions an affirmative answer is here assumed—without argument. To the second, some fresh emphasis is sought to be given. At this point the appeal of necessity lies to experience. Thousands—myriads—now living—can attest that, to the best of their judgment when turned towards the witness of their own consciousness, there is such a thing as speaking directly to the Omniscient, in perfect confidence of being heard of Him. There is such a thing as communion with God. There is such a thing as doing that which these holy psalms are evermore doing. And it is a part of this consciousness that thereby is let in upon the worshipper’s soul the mightiest stimulus to become—what the God addressed is—holy.

Nothing further claims admission into this Chapter, save to strengthen what has already, in brief, been expressed.

It is conceivable that the importance which the Psalter attaches to human character, should be obscured by the incidental nature of its enforcement and especially by the surpassing energy with which the influences fitted to bear on character are concentrated on the worshipper’s mind. In other words, the grand mission of the psalmists seems to be, rather to display and illustrate the character which Jehovah already bears, than to enforce the character which his adorers are called upon to work out. Their songs of set purpose glorify God: incidentally, they educate man.

But their educative influence, when concentrated, is very strong. The first psalm—introductory to the whole collection—is devoted to character. The fifteenth, dramatically extols character: so does the twenty-fourth, with still more brilliant scenic energy. The fifty-first, with bitter tears for failure, exactingly enforces character—thorough, pure, influential, The seventy-second, in a quite unexpected way, extols character as exemplified in the person of its ideal King; and, out of many to name but one more, the extremely dramatic one-hundred-and eighteenth in a remarkable manner sets character on the highest conceivable pedestal by opening the gate of Jehovah only to the righteous. If behind these direct and indirect encomiums on good character there be massed the strongly disapproving reflections with which the Psalter abounds on men of the stamp of Cush and Doeg and Ahithophel—to name no more of the throng of the cunning, the double-tongued, the ungrateful, the impious—it will in candour be confessed that the mighty moral influence of the Psalms is in favour of the noble, the trusty, the devout, the merciful, the God-like. And even if the execration of the Psalter on the perfidious and vile are sometimes carried to what in ourselves would be a culpable and un-Christ-like excess which we whole-heartedly deplore, nevertheless they reveal a passion for righteousness which, when refined, is of incalculable moral value.

We have alluded to the larger freedom of the Psalter in displaying the character of God than in prescribing the attributes needful to constitute godly men. And this, indeed, is one of the crowning glories of the Psalms. They extol God with a will. They are never tired of praising Him. They delight to effloresce on this ever-welcome theme. For example, they pile up epithets of delight and satisfaction in Jehovah (as witness Psalms 18:1-3; Psalms 144:1-2); they echo and re-echo his most gracious Divine Name, (Psalms 146:5-10); by the aid of a simple pronoun of reference, they unfurl clause after clause in his praise (Psalms 103:3-5); they begrudge not to exhaust the whole alphabet to initial his sole doings and perfections (Psalms 111, 145).

Not as a feeble, doubtful God, do the psalmists extol Jehovah. His character, in their esteem, is weighted with wisdom: it is nerved with moral energy. Their God is a good hater: he detests cruel men, and he abhors hypocrites. His pity does not blind his judgment. He searches men through and through, and sees them as they are. Those who have loved and served him, and walked in his ways, and then, alas! have sinned against him, are not here seen easily commending themselves to be received back into Divine favour. No! their repentance has to go down to the springs of their life; and their restoration has to be a re-creation. Not otherwise can they have given back to them the joys of Jehovah’s salvation.

When restored, or as already serving God with loyalty, they not only adore him, but they think of his presence with a holy passion of desire to be admitted thereinto. The very- blaze of holiness warms their craving to be with him. It was, then, not without amplest warrant that we said at the beginning of this chapter that the stimplating power of the Psalms to move to holy living is grounded in the very nature of things. Educatively, that is what the Psalms mean: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”

It would not be frank—it would not be honest—in a Christian—to say that the Psalms perfectly meet every want. In truth, they create a demand for more than they supply. To express this abstract assertion in concrete form suggested by the Psalms themselves, how remarkable a thing it is that, whereas it is foretold of David (Psalms 89:26) that he should do the very thing which Christians are always doing, namely call God “Father!”, yet he never once does it. He well-nigh says this in hundreds of instances: adoration, admiration, affection, fond comparison—these are ever springing to his lips, ever drawing forth from his lyre the sweetest of sounds; and yet his inspired lips never well-over with the one decisive child’s word in recognition of his Father. There is no “Abba Father” in the Psalms! Where direct address is so conspicuously dominant, where terms of direct address are so various and abundant, from “Shield” to “Sun,” from “Shepherd” to “King,”—the omission is symptomatic. The Spirit of Sonship had not been bestowed: the Son himself had not arrived: the relationship itself, though founded and figured, had not been personally perfected; and so the adequate channel of utterance was not in existence:—hence the lack. But the Son—of David and of God—has come at length, personally realised the endearing relationship, received first for himself and then for us the Spirit of Sonship, and so—now—we cannot desist from the outcry for the utterance of which our inmost heart years, as, to David’s Shield, Sun, Shepherd, King, even to Jehovah, we cry, “Abba! oh Father!” Henceforth the holiness of the Psalms acquires in our esteem a refinement of moral beauty it never before possessed, because now we view it as illumined by a Messianic light; and we are moved to its pursuit by a charm and a power which we gratefully acknowledge as reaching us through the mediation through the death, resurrection and ascension into heavenly glory, of David’s Son and Lord.



1.. The Righteous Man and the Lawless contrasted.

2. The Messiah’s Reign in Zion Assured,

3. Conspiracy, Confidence, Courage and Victory. Chief Conspirator left unnamed!

4. The Ideal Levite’s Evening Prayer.

5. A Morning Prayer for Deliverance from Conspirators.

6. A Prayer for Deliverance from Sickness and Death,

7. One Wrongfully Accused commits his Vindication to the Righteous Judge of all the Earth.

8. Jehovah’s Majesty Exalted by means of Man’s Dominion.

9. 10. The Kingship of Jehovah in Zion finally triumphant over a League between the Nations and the Lawless One.

11. Faith’s Brave Answer to the Counsels of Fear.

12. General Corruption, evidenced by Sins of the Tongue, impels to Prayer, and calls forth a Divine Answer.

13. A sorely-tried Believer in Jehovah Expostulates, Entreats, and ultimately Exults.

14. A vile Person’s Testimony to Prevalent Wickedness, when Confirmed by Jehovah, occasions Warning and Prayer.

15. The Approved Citizen-Guest of Jehovah.

16. An Ideal Israelite’s Triumph over Death.

17. One who is Righteous Prays, in Great Trouble, for Divine Deliverance and Manifestation.

18. David’s Song of Deliverance.

19. Greater than the Glory of God in the Heavens, is the Grace of Jehovah in the Law.

20. To Prayer for a King in Distress, a Favourable Answer is Confidently Awaited.

21. Thanks for the King’s Victory, and Confidence of Further Triumphs.

22. The Voice of a Forsaken Sufferer—Loudly Lamenting his Lot, Minutely Describing his Pain and Shame, without Reproaching God or Accusing Himself—is Suddenly Silenced (in Death); and then as suddenly is heard in a Strain of Triumph, in which Other Voices join, All celebrating the Praises of Jehovah as Sovereign Lord.

23. The All-Sufficiency of Jehovah.

24. The Admission of Worshippers into the Presence of the Previously Admitted King.

25. An Alphabetical Psalm of Supplication.

26. An Ideal Levite’s Prayer for Vindication by the Prolongation of his Life.

27. Trust and Prayer in the Hour of Danger.

28. Prayer turned into Praise.

29. Glory in the Temple and in the Tempest: Jehovah’s Kingship of Judgment in the Past, and of Blessing in the Future.

30. A Song of Joy on Recovery from Sickness.

31. Fellowship in Suffering and Salvation.

32. 33. Felicitations to the Forgiven, and Examples of the Songs that they Sing.

34. An Alphabetical Psalm of Praise and Instruction.

35. Prayers against Open and Concealed Enemies, followed by Promises of Praise.

36. Oracles False and True, Prompting Prayer and Praise.

37. An Alphabetical Exhortation to Patience in Well-doing.

38. Prayer for Deliverance from Disease and from Enemies.

39. The Lament and Prayer of a Divinely-Stricken-One.

40. Three Stirring Reminiscences of King David’s History.

41. Regretting that Enemies and Friends should Meanly Rejoice in his Sickness, the Psalmist nevertheless Perseveres in Prayer for Pardon and Recovery.

42. 43. A Debarred Worshipper Mastering his Sorrow.

44. Israel Suffers for God.

45. A Royal Marriage.

46. Trust in God, Joyfully Maintained in Face of Peril, Speedily Rewarded.

47. Israel Invites the Nations to Rejoice in the Universal Kingship of her God.

48. Jehovah Worthy to be Praised in his Holy City, whose History Rebounds to the Honour of her Shepherd-King, who will yet Lead Israel against Death.

49. Death and Redemption: Oppressed Saints Comforted, and Oppressors Rebuked.

50. Judgment on Israel Pronounced amid the solemnities of an Audible and Visible Divine Manifestation.

51. The Prayer of a Penitent.

52. Doeg the Edomite Denounced.

53. A Vile Person’s Witness to Prevalent Wickedness, when Confirmed by Jehovah, occasions Warning and Prayer.

54. A Prayer prompted by the Hostile Action of the Ziphites.

55. A Bitter Complaint of the Treachery of an Intimate Friend.

56. A Song composed by David in Captivity.

57. A Reminiscence of David’s Early Troubles when Pursued by Saul, subsequently adapted to Brighter Times.

58. A Significant Warning to Corrupt Judges.

59. The Beleagured Psalmist Prays for Rescue and Avenging.

60. An Outcry of Anguish, Expostulation, and Entreaty, under a Severe Reverse.

61. The Psalmist, in Banishment, Prays for Restoration.

62. Restful Resolution, Exposing the Treacherous and Encouraging the Timorous, traces both Power and Kindness to God the Judge of All.

63. A Banished Soul, Athirst for God, Anticipates Satisfaction and Vindication.

64. A Prayer against the Evil Tongues of Conspirators, who are Destroyed by their Own Weapon.

65. Israel’s Temple-Song of Praise, on behalf of Herself and All Nations, chiefly in Grateful Acknowledgement of Seedtime and Harvest.

66. An Invitation to All the Earth to join in Israel’s Song of Praise.

67. Prayer for Blessing on Israel as a Means of Blessing to all Nations.

68. Glimpses of Jehovah’s Visible Reign over Israel and the Nations.

69. Pictures of Distress and Outcries for Deliverance, followed by Imprecations on Cruel Enemies, and by promises of Praise.

70. 71. Prayer not to be forsaken in Old Age.

72. A People’s Prayer for a Perfect King.

73. Temptation, arising from the Prosperity of the Lawless, Triumphantly Overcome.

74. Ruthless Injuries to the Sanctuary and Oppression in the Land by an Enemy, call forth Expostulation with God for his Quiescence.

75. A Song, enshrining an Oracular Assurance of Equitable Judgment by the Judge of the Earth.

76. A Song of Triumph over a Divinely Smitten Foe.

77. Comfort in Distress obtained by the Study of a Song.

78. A Didactic Poem, Counselling the Reunion of the Tribes.

79. Invasion, Desecration, Demolition, Massacre and Derision call forth Lamentation, Expostulation, Petition and Pleading; and the Hope of Deliverance evokes a Promise of Perpetual Praise.

80. Prayer for the Flock and Vine of Israel.

81. A Mission-Song to be Sung to the Northern Tribes.

82. The Judgment of Unjust Judges.

83. An Appeal to God for Deliverance from an Impending Invasion.

84. The Longing of a Levite for the Habitations of Jehovah in Zion, with Inspiring Memories of a Past Pilgrimage and Exultant Joy in Renewed Service.

85. Praise, Prayer, and Prophecy lead up to the Reconciliation of Earth and Heaven.

86. Prayer of a Tried and Faithful Servant of Jehovah.

87. The Glorious Destiny of Zion as the Metropolis of the Nations.

88. The Anguished Cry of One Smitten and Forsaken.

89. The Covenant with David Contrasted with the Present Dishonour of David’s Heir.

90. A Prayer against the Dominion of Death.

91. A Personal Application of the Foregoing Psalm.

92––97. A Service of Song for a Sabbath-Day.

92. Personal Song—Probably by a King.

93. Jehovah Proclaimed King.

94. Prayer for Vengeance on the Lawless.

95. Invitation—“O Come!” “Come In!” Warning—“Harden not your Hearts!”

96. The Land called upon to Sing to Jehovah, and to Proclaim his Kingship to the Nations.

97. Third Proclamation—Decisive Results, by way of Joy, Fear, Conviction, Shame, Homage, Thanks, Exhortation and Triumph.

98. 99. A shorter Service of Song (for a Sabbath Day).

100. Invitation to all the Earth to come In before Jehovah and Worship.

101. A King’s Resolve to have a Pure House and Court and Royal City.

102. The Prayer of a Humbled One brings a Three-fold Answer of Peace.

103. Bless Jehovah, for he is Worthy.

104. A Creation Hymn.

105. Hymn of Praise to Jehovah for giving Israel a Covenant-Land in which to observe his Law.

106. Humbled Israel Confessing her Sins as a Nation.

107. Examples of Men’s Straits, leading to Prayer; and of Jehovah’s Deliverances, calling for Praise.

108. Two Fragments of Earlier Psalms.

109. David, Rehearsing how his Enemies Cursed him, refers his Cause to Jehovah.

110. A Revelation—through David—to his Lord the Messiah.

111. Alphabetical Psalm in Praise of Jehovah.

112. Alphabetical Psalm in Praise of the Man who Revereth Jehovah.

113. A Song of Sublime Simplicity: reaching its Climax by Rejoicing with a Glad Mother.

114.A Passover Song.

115. Not for her own Glory, but for his, Israel moves herself to trust in Jehovah to show his superiority to Idols.

116. Individual Thanks for Deliverance from Peril of Death.

117. All Nations invited to Join in Israel’s Tribute of Praise.

118. The Passover “Hosanna” Song.

119. Jehovah’s Will in relation to Human Character and Conduct, as celebrated in Twenty-Two Alphabetical Stanzas, and by the aid of Eight Comprehensive Synonyms.

120. Peace versus War: First Step-Song.

121. Jehovah the true Helper and Keeper of Israel: Second Step-Song.

122. The Tribes Welcomed to the Passover: Third Step-Song.

123. The King’s Response to the Injunction to Lift up his Eyes as High as Heaven: Fourth Step-Song.

124. Sudden and Complete Deliverance acknowledged as Jehovah’s own Work: Fifth Step-Song.

125. Trust in Jehovah encouraged in presence of the Invader: Sixth Step-Song.

126. The Invader Gone—The First Sowing Begun: Seventh Step-Song.

127. In Relief of Domestic and Civic Anxiety: Eighth Step-Song.

128. A Happy Home and a Prosperous Commonwealth: Ninth Step-Song.

129. Israel’s Thanks for Past Deliverances, and Prayer for Continued Vindication: Tenth Step-Song.

130.Ransomed out of the Depths: Eleventh Step-Song.

131. The Sinking of Self in Seeking Israel’s Welfare: Twelfth Step-Song.

132. The Davidic Dynasty Humbled and Exalted: Thirteenth Step-Song.

133. Brethren in Fellowship—a Charming Spectacle: Fourteenth Step-Song.

134. The Night-Service in the Temple: Fifteenth Step-Song.

135. A Call to Temple Worship.

136. A Second Call to Temple Worship, with Responses inserted.

137. A Returned Levite’s Memories of Babylon, Apostrophe to Jerusalem, and Imprecations on Edom and Babylon.

138. A King’s Public Thanks for Advancement in Royal Dignity.

139. An Individual submits himself to Jehovah’s All-Searching Eye.

140. Deliverance from Slanderous and Violent Enemies, Implored and Expected.

141. A Temptation to Conspiracy Shunned.

142. Loud Outcries in a Cave Succeed Guarded Petitions at Court.

143. Continued Concealment in a Cave—its Griefs and its Gains.

144. From David’s Psalms are selected Strains by one of his sons—emboldening him to plead for Deliverance from Foreigners.

An Appendix anticipates Happy Times.

145. An Alphabetical Psalm in Praise of Jehovah’s Greatness, Goodness, and Righteousness.

146. Twelve Reasons for Trusting in Jehovah.

147. Praise for the Restoration of Jerusalem, and for Israel’s pre-eminence: with Grateful Recognition of Rain and of Spring.

148. Praise Invoked from all Creation.

149. A New Song for Israel, which others may NOT Sing.

150. An Expansion and Enforcement of the Public Reader’s Invitation to the People to join in the Responses in the Temple Worship.


This introductory lesson will provide an overview of the Psalms and their purpose, and will feature a study of Psalms 1, to illustrate the major goals we have when studying the Psalms in the church today, and to show us how the Psalms can help us in our relationship with God.

Overview/Background of the Psalms

The Psalms, unlike most books of the Bible, were collected over the course of many years of Israel’s history, and include writings by numerous different authors. They served many uses for the Jewish nation, but were especially seen as a collection of divinely inspired songs and prayers that could be used for worship in a number of settings. A basic understanding of how the book came to be, and of how it was used historically, can give us a little direction with which to begin our own study of the Psalms.

Most books of the Bible were written by one particular writer, as that person was inspired by the Holy Spirit. But in the Psalms, we have a collection of similar writings by a number of different authors from differing time periods. These individually inspired writings were then collected over a period of years by God’s people, and organized into the Psalms. They all share some of the same obvious characteristics, such as the poetic nature and format of the writing, the topical material, and the goal or theme of the compositions.

A large number of the Psalms are connected to the era of King David. No fewer than 73 are attributed to David personally, and another 12 to Asaph, his director of music (see 1 Chronicles 16:4-6). Others may have come from this era as well. Certainly, all of the Psalms reflect in some way the values exemplified by "the man after God’s own heart", whose relationship with God is in many ways the ideal for those who want to know God more personally.

Since the book of Psalms was assembled over the course of time, there were points in Israel’s ancient history when the collection of Psalms was shorter than it is now. There are actually five collections, or Books, of Psalms, which in a general way give us an indication of how they were historically collected. The 5 books are respectively: Book One, Psalms 1-41; Book Two, Psalms 42-72; Book Three, Psalms 73-89; Book Four, Psalms 90-106; Book Five, Psalms 107-150. (Take a look at the first Psalm in each of these books, and you will see a heading above that Psalm, indicating a new book.) While there are a few stylistic characteristics that can sometimes be generally associated with particular books, in practical study there is no real significance to the division into books, aside from its usefulness in helping us understand the historical collection of the Psalms. It is unknown exactly when the Psalms were assembled in their now final form, other than that it is certain they existed in this form before the creation of the Septuagint in the 3rd century BC. At some point early in the collection process, Psalms 1 was selected as the most suitable introductory Psalm, and given a place before the rest. Psalms 1 has no specific title or author listed. Most Psalms do, and especially those in Books One and Two.

Technical notes: (1) the numbering of the Psalms is slightly different in many of the ancient manuscripts, since at times some of the present Psalms were combined. For example, Psalms 9/10 and 42/43 were often written as one Psalm. Note that the second of each of these pairs has no heading or author in the actual text; (2) The Hebrew text, and the usage by ancient Jews and Christians alike, generally considered the brief headings and authors’ names to be as inspired as the rest of the text; (3) Modern 2 "scholars" have concocted many speculative theories about other books of the Bible being pieced together as were the Psalms, but such theories deny and discredit the work of the Holy Spirit. The multiple authorship of the Psalms, however, is attested to in the Bible itself, and is in fact an important feature of the book; (4) Many Psalms have a description such as "miktam", "maskil", or "shiggaion". These are musical terms whose meaning is now lost to us. One that is fairly certain is the occasional use of the term "Selah" in the text of a Psalm, which probably referred to a musical interlude for the purpose of meditation. If you are interested in these more technical aspects of the Psalms, see me or refer to the sources listed, since we will not spend much class time on most of these topics.

The collection of Psalms was used by the Jewish Nation as an inspired collection of prayers and songs, especially useful for worship, both formal and informal. Some Psalms became associated with particular holidays or occasions. Many were designed to be performed with musical accompaniment, while others were more likely read or sung without instrumentation. Most of the Psalms had an inspirational and instructive value of their own, irrespective of the particular occasion on which they were used. So today, we find the Psalms to be suitable for inspiration and instruction in a great variety of contexts. They have furnished material for many Christian songs, and even for popular songs. We see the Psalms on plaques and other decorations in addition to their use as reading and study material.

The earliest Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, often used the Psalms in similar ways. The Psalms also furnished material for many early hymns of a definite Christian nature. In addition, many of the writers of the New Testament saw in the Psalms some values and themes that were not fully realized until the coming of Christ. A few Psalms are even explicitly Messianic, and are so used and interpreted both by the inspired writers of the New Testament and by later generations of Christian writers. The Messianic perspectives in the Psalms are meant to be something different from the predictive Messianic teachings of prophecy; they are meant also to emphasize the personal aspects of Jesus’ redemptive mission, and to illuminate those aspects of his ministry that we may not always fully appreciate.

Goals & Principles in Studying the Psalms

The Psalms are part of the Bible’s "Wisdom Literature", or Poetic Literature, which deals much more personally with our relationship with God than do books of history, the prophets, or the epistles. (The Jews called books like Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and others simply "The Writings".) Further, each individual Psalm can be considered a complete study in itself. We shall review just a few of the consequences of these characteristics that can help us in our study. For a more detailed discussion of the general principles involved in studying the Psalms (and other parts of the Bible), an excellent beginning source is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

The Psalms, as well as the other books that are more poetical in nature, are meant to play a particular role in our relationship with God. This is true of other portions of the Bible as well. For example, the historical books give us factual background and practical examples to follow, and the epistles give us direct instruction which almost always is meant to be followed literally by the church in any era. When studying the Psalms, we are looking at some very personal aspects of our relationship with God. We see how to express our positive emotions and how to deal with our negative emotions. We see David and other godly persons both praising God and wrestling with their doubts. We find many examples of personal thoughts expressed between a believer and God, which can help us in similar circumstances. The Psalms thus can do two things for us. They can teach us about the ways that God views our emotions, our doubts, our 3 struggles, and the like, and they can also help us to handle such things in a godly and positive way.

When studying any book in the Bible, context is important. In studying the Psalms, context plays a somewhat different role than it does in other books. Each Psalm can be studied as more of an individual unit or self-contained study than can other parts of the Bible. (I realize that it is very popular to pull verses out of context from other parts of the Bible as well, but it is a dangerous practice.) For this reason, Psalms particularly lend themselves to topical study. But it is also to keep any Scripture in context. In studying a Psalm, there are usually just two key things to remember. First, many of the Psalms do have a personal or historical context, as indicated by the headings some of them bear. When that is the case, it is important to keep that in mind when interpreting the Psalm. More importantly, the Psalms have an overall context, and are part of the Bible as a whole. There is nothing in the Psalms that contradicts any other part of the Bible, if understood properly.

The key to a proper interpretive emphasis in Psalms is to keep the focus on the personal. They are not meant to give doctrinal teachings or points. A well-known example of the importance of this comes from Psalms 51:5, wherein the writer says, "Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." There are some commentators who use this verse to teach that a newborn infant carries a burden of "original sin", and thus must be baptized. Read in context, it is an expression of how deeply convicted David has become of a horrible sin he committed. (Note the heading to Psalms 51, giving us the occasion.) It is a deliberately exaggerated expression of his anguish and his realization of what he has done, and was never meant to be taken literally. Some other obvious examples would be in the book of Job, in which Job’s three friends express many erroneous opinions about God. They are recorded in the Bible to contrast this kind of human error with the truth about God that is revealed later in the book.

When reading the Psalms, we should be looking for a few basic things. What is the main theme of the Psalms? That is, what feeling or emotion is being expressed (positive or negative), or, what situation does the writer find himself in? Our tentative topic lists will give you an idea of some of the more common topics addressed in the Psalms. It is then always a good idea to try to relate to the writer’s own feelings. Can we identify with his doubts or struggles? Can we remember moments when we too broke into praise or thanksgiving to God? Then, we want to look for the things God teaches to the writer about this main topic, and of course how we also can learn from them. This is the appropriate emphasis in studying Psalms, which will both prevent us from getting off-track and will enable us to get the most out of these beautiful prayers and songs.

Psalms 1 : The Introduction to the Book of Psalms

Psalms 1 was intended to serve as a suitable preface to the rest of the Psalms, and it brings out the most basic themes that are examined from various perspectives in most of the other Psalms. We shall survey Psalms 1 as an introductory study to the others that we shall study in more detail in the coming weeks. This week, our primary goal is to bring out some ideas that we shall keep in mind, not to cover all the details. So when studying this Psalm, we may deliberately bring up more questions than we can answer!

Psalms 1:1-2 tells us about delighting in God and in his Word:

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel

of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in

the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of

the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

We see right away the ideal for our lives that God gives us, and the Psalmists will tell us about. The ideal human life is spent following God, seeking his will in all things, and devoting oneself to the study and fulfillment of God’s Word. In studying the Psalms, we will see this goal both upheld and explained. What exactly does it mean to be "blessed"? Is this a promise that we shall have everything we want if we follow God, or is there a deeper meaning to it? Further, how does one "delight in the law of the Lord?" Clearly, this does not mean to promote a love of legalism, but something more spiritual and personal.

The next verse (Psalms 1:3) tells us that faith leads to life and fruitfulness:

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season and whose

leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.

Note the images in this verse, which are intended to suggest life and growth: tree, water, and fruit are typical and common ways of suggesting the life lived by a follower of God, and the growth and fruitfulness that accompany faithful living. Many Psalms that we shall study will both emphasize this and will explore what it means. Christians are often frustrated when their faithful efforts seem to be unappreciated or unproductive, and it can strengthen our faith and give us perseverance to have a deeper understanding of the life found in Christ.

Finally, Psalms 1:4-6 teach us that, while the ungodly have much to fear, God takes care of and protects his own:

Not so the wicked!

They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the

judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of

the righteous. For the Lord watches over

the way of the righteous, but the way

of the wicked will perish.

These verses in part echo the first part of the Psalm, assuring us of the benefits of a faithful life, and they also indicate the risks and dangers involved in rejecting the way of God. Again, we will need to ask ourselves what exactly this teaches, since there are clearly many ungodly and sinful persons who experience positive things in their lives, at least in the short run.

In addition to that, these verses teach us another idea that is prominent in the Psalms. Note that the fate of the sinner is described, and the fate of the righteous is also indicated, but there is no reference to the fate of the one who tries to be middle-of-the-road. Each human simply must decide whether he or she wants to follow God whole-heartedly or not at all. This will be stressed in many of the Psalms, as it is so many times elsewhere in the Bible. The definition and implications of this are among the many things we will hope to learn more about.

Survey of Types of Psalms

See the General Introduction for a more complete description of the kinds of topics we plan to study in our class. Here is the basic list:

Psalms of Faith & Trust (Examples: 3, 11, 16, 23, 42)

Psalms of Praise to God (Examples: 96, 97, 98, 148, 149, 150)

Celebrating God as Creator (Examples: 8, 19, 33, 104)

Prayers For God’s Help or Deliverance (Examples: 40, 55, 70, 77, 90, 142)

Psalms of Penitence (Examples: 38, 51)

Delighting in God’s Word (Survey of Psalms 119)

The Struggle Between Good & Evil (Examples: 36, 37, 73) God & His People (Examples: 78, 89, 105, 106, 114)

Messianic Psalms (Examples: 2, 22, 110)

Psalms of Thanksgiving & Victory (Examples: 9, 18, 20, 21, 30, 34, 65, 68)

The Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120 through 134)

Sources & References

Of the many possible sources for studying the Psalms, the following are particularly recommended. Each one has different strengths and its own perspective. If you would like to do further study on your own and would like to know what books may be especially helpful, just let me know

Frank Gaebelein (editor), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 5: Psalms - Song of Songs

Derek Kidner, Psalms, Volumes 1 & 2 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)

James L. Mays, Psalms (Interpretation Commentary)

Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon on the Psalms (also published as The Treasury of David)

John T. Willis, Insights From the Psalms (3 volumes), ACU

- Mark W. Garner, March 2000

The Person God Blesses and The Way of the Wicked

Psalms 1:1-6

Brent Kercheville

The Person God Blesses


Many times the word “blessed” is understood to mean “happy.” Generally speaking this definition is true except that by saying “happy,” we misunderstand what the writer is saying. The writer is not saying that if you do all of these things, you will be happy. The psalmist is not talking about our feelings or emotions. He is going far beyond that.

“Blessed” means to have a fullness of life. Another way to say this would be “a deep sense of peace, contentment, and satisfaction in life.” The writer is not talking about always having a feeling of happiness, because we will all experience things in life that will cause pain, sorrow, and sadness. But the writer is telling us that we can find fullness in our lives. Therefore, “blessed is the man” who will do the things that he says.

What the blessed one does not do (Psalms 1:1)

The psalmist begins by describing what the blessed person does not do. He says there are three things that a blessed person will not do: walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers.

The person that is blessed in this life will not accept the advice of those who are ungodly. We sometimes commit the error of looking to the ungodly and thinking that since many seem to be prosperous that we need to solicit their advice. But what real, practical advice can the ungodly give to those who are followers of God? The ungodly have different values, different goals, different standards, and different concerns than what we are supposed to have. The blessed do not heed the advice of the ungodly.

Further, the one that is blessed does not stand in the way of sinners. There is a path that sinners are walking down. Matthew 7:13 says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” The one who is blessed by God will not find himself standing on the path of sinners that leads to destruction. Once we see we are standing on that road, we need to quickly get ourselves off that road and turn around before it is too late.

Finally, the one that is blessed by God is someone who does not sit in the seat of mockers or scornful. To sit with them suggests that you are one with them. You have fellowship with the mockers and have taken your seat with them. Clearly, those who are mockers of God will not be blessed by God.

Before we leave this verse we need to see the progression that the psalmist is describing. I believe the psalmist is describing to us the nature of sin and the schemes of the devil. Notice that first the person is walking in the proximity of the ungodly. But then the person stops, and is now standing with the sinners. Before he knows it, he has taken his seat with them.

Notice also the downward progression of those that we befriend. First, it simply begins with the ungodly. They may not be bad people so much, but they are without God. Soon that turns into being with those that are sinners until we are with those who are completely rebellious and hardhearted against God, the mockers and the scornful.

How did this all begin? Notice in Psalms 1:1 we see the person was listening to the counsel of the ungodly. But by heeding that counsel, the person is now on the same path to destruction as the sinners. Finally, the person has become one of them and has strapped on his seatbelt, seated in the way to destruction. We can rationalize and tell ourselves that it is just the counsel of the ungodly. But such an action not only leads us down the wrong path, it also means that we will not have a blessed life by God.

What the blessed one does (Psalms 1:2)

After describing what the blessed one does not do, now the psalmist describes for us what the one who is blessed by God is doing. First, the writer tells us that the one who is blessed delights in the law of the Lord. The blessed take pleasure in the law of the Lord.

Now this may be a rather unusual statement at first glance. How is it possible to delight and take pleasure in laws? Generally speaking, we think of laws as rules that prevent us and limit us from doing things. We usually have a negative outlook toward laws. However, we need to see that the laws of God are for our benefit. The laws of God are given to increase goodness in our lives so that we will live a blessed life. God’s commands are given so that we can maximize our lives, not so that we will be miserable and limited from what we want.

How can we delight in the law of the Lord? The psalmist tells us in the rest of the verse. He says, “on his law he meditates day and night.” The scriptures are always on his mind. Meditation is something that we usually make fun of and reject because it sounds like it requires going up to the top of some mountain, sitting down, crossing our legs, holding up our hands in a strange position, and making funny sounds.

But to mediate is to have a focused mind. It is not some sort of new age hocus-pocus. God is telling us that we need to have a focused mind on Him and on His words. Our minds are not to be centered on the things of the world, the lusts of the eyes, the pride of the world, or the possessions to obtain. Our minds are to be thinking about godly things. Paul said in Philippians 4:8, “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.” Those that are blessed by God are ones who focus their minds on God.

It should be no strange coincidence to us that if we meditate on God’s law, we will delight and take pleasure from His word. Further, when we are meditating on God’s law, we will avoid the pitfalls that we read about in verse 1 that would cause us to be on the path to destruction. The psalmist has already revealed the great benefits for us to undertake this meditation. However, the psalmist is going to describe for us the end result of these things in Psalms 1:3.

The end result (Psalms 1:3)

When we are not casting our lot with the sinners, but are meditating on the laws of God, then the psalmist tells us that we are like a tree planted by the streams of waters. This is a common illustration used in the Old Testament to describe the strength that we will receive from the Lord. Isaiah, in prophesying to wicked Jerusalem , said in Isaiah 1:30 , “For you will be like an oak whose leaf fades away or as a garden that has no water.” This was a pronouncement of judgment upon Jerusalem . For the oak’s leaf to fade suggests that it is dying, and for a garden to not have water suggests that it is dried out and fruitless.

Here we see that the blessed one is like a tree by the streams of waters. Jeremiah gives a similar image in Jeremiah 17:7-8, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.” The waters will not dry up, but will continue to give its needed water for sustenance. Further, the tree is planted. The tree will not be uprooted or tumble over. The tree is firmly planted by God. We are anchored down and cannot be moved. The writer of Proverbs said it like this, “A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous cannot be moved” (Proverbs 12:3). We will be anchored down to handle any difficulties that can come along. The winds may roar, the waters may rise, and the ground may move, but he is like a tree firmly planted that will not be shaken.

Further, the blessed one is a fruitful person to the Lord. To bear fruit is to be a person that is useful to God. Jesus said in John 15 that those who do not bear fruit do not abide in Him. Fruit is the natural product of a healthy plant. In the same way, fruit is also a natural product of a healthy Christian. Jesus said that those who have a good heart will bear fruit, some thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred fold (Mark 4:20 ). If we are not bearing fruit, then there is a very good chance that we have not been planted and blessed by God. We are more likely in one of the three categories the psalmist listed in Psalms 1:1.

The psalmist also says that the leaf does not wither. This image continues to show us the strength that is given to us by God. A plant that is withering is not strong, but suffering. The plant is unable to stand against the scorching sun and other earthly elements. When the droughts of life come along, we will still stand strong and will not wither away. God will continue to be that stream of water to us to give us strength. Notice that strength comes to us by meditating on the law of the Lord (Psalms 1:2). Too many times the hard times come and we stop meditating on God and His word and we become weak. Most of the time we do not understand why we are withering under the trial, but it is usually because we have lost our focus on God. We have turned our focus to the trial and have not kept our eyes on God. Keep your eyes on God and you will not wither in the drought.

Finally, the psalmist says that “whatever he does prospers.” We should know from the tone of this psalm that the writer is not teaching that when we do these things we will be prosperous in physical things. This is not teaching that we will be wealthy or accumulate possessions. If we think such, then we are not focused upon God as the psalmist as commanded. I believe the prosperity is endurance. Just as the tree will be able to endure all the disasters that may come because it is firmly planted by waters, so we will also be able to endure.

After hurricane Andrew, I had taken a trip to the Florida Keys . On the way down I saw a tree that looked like stumps and toothpicks after the great storm had come through. A couple of years ago I was able to go back to the Keys and all of those trees had grown back up to their greatness of before. Jesus used the same analogy in John 15 when he said that the branches that do not bear fruit he cuts off, but those that bear fruit are pruned (John 15:2). There is going to be pruning and cutting that will come, but those planted by God will continue to prosper and endure.

The Way of the Wicked

Immediate result of the wicked (Psalms 1:4)

All of these great things that we have described that the blessed have hope in from Psalms 1:3 are not true for the wicked. The wicked are not planted by streams of waters, are not fruitful, do wither, and do not prosper. When the trouble comes, the wicked do not understand, are not anchored down, and therefore do not endure.

This imagery is more clearly seen in the rest of Psalms 1:4. “They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” They are not firmly rooted and they simply blow away. But, the psalmist literally says that the chaff are driven away or thrust out. This is a picture of harshness and severity. The wicked will not simply come to their natural end. The wicked will be driven out by the Lord. They cannot and will not endure.

The use of chaff to describe the wicked is also very common throughout the scriptures. Most notable is probably in Matthew 3:12 , “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” The chaff will be driven out and burned. There is not a good ending to the ungodly.

Final result of the wicked (Psalms 1:5)

The psalmist further tells us that “the wicked will not stand in the judgment.” The wicked are not going to be given a forum before the Lord for which they will be able to plead their case. They are not going to be able to present their arguments before God and successfully make their way into heaven. The wicked will not be able to stand at all before the fury and wrath of the judgment of the Lord. Every knee will bow and every mouth will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Romans 14:11 ).

Nor will the sinners be able to mix themselves in with the assembly of the righteous. They are not going to get in with the assembly of the righteous and be able to walk their way into heaven. Sinners will not be able to even stand among the righteous on the day of judgment. The sheep will be separated from the goats (Matthew 25:32-33) and only those who are the Lord’s will be with Him.

Final reminders (Psalms 1:6)

With these end results in mind, the psalmist now concludes with a reminder in Psalms 1:6. First, “the Lord watches over the way of the righteous.” Do not think that God is not seeing what is taking place to His righteous people and that justice will not come. The Lord is watching over our paths and will straighten out all that is crooked in the end. Literally, the psalmist is saying that God knows our ways. It is an intimate relationship that the righteous have with the Lord. We also need to note the implied opposite, which is that the wicked are not watched over by the Lord. The Lord is not watching over and protecting the wicked. The wicked do not have an intimate relationship with God. They are on their own path, walking alone to the pits of destruction.

Thus, the rest of Psalms 1:6, “but the way of the wicked will perish.” It is ludicrous for the people of God to look at the way of the unrighteous and think that they will prosper. We should not look at the things that they are doing longingly, surmising that they are getting away with their evil deeds. They will be judged and they will perish. They will not endure. Let us notice again the implied opposite, which is that the righteous will not perish. As Jesus said in Matthew 13:43, “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”


Surrender to God daily. Every day we must arise and make the choice that we want to be the righteous ones who will be before God and have an intimate relationship with Him. Every day we are presented with choices as to who is number one in our lives. Will I choose to do the things I want to do or what God wants me to do? We must surrender our will to God so that He can plant us by the streams of living waters.

Spend time with God daily. The psalmist has told us that the ones who live the blessed life are those who meditate on God’s laws day and night. We must focus our minds on God and spend time with Him every day. Relationships do not last when time is not spent together. Spend time talking to Him, reading His words, and thinking about the goodness of God.

Separate from defilement daily. We have also been told that to live the blessed life we must separate ourselves from the ungodly. We cannot heed the advice of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor take our seat with those that are rebellious against God. Keeping ourselves from these things will enhance our lives and grow us closer and stronger to the Lord.

There is only one person who perfectly did these things. Jesus Christ showed us the way. It is not our friends or even the other heroes of faith. Jesus has shown us how to enter through the narrow gate. There are two roads to choose from. One road is the easy path that many are traveling on, but its end is destruction. The other road is more difficult. No one is denying the difficulty of the road. And because of the difficulty, not many are traveling on it. But it is the right road to be on and its end is prosperity and an intimacy with God. Choose who you will serve today. Choose to follow Jesus that leads to life.



This Psalm is a commendation of the godly life. It opens with an expression of admiration for the man who lives that life: which it proceeds to describe in a simple and engaging manner, by telling us what such a man avoids—what he delights in—and what he resembles. He avoids the downward course by not beginning it; he delights in Jehovah’s law, and shows his pleasure in it by diligent study; and he thereby resembles a tree planted in a spot where it is well-watered. Each of these points is enlarged sufficiently to make it impressive. The man described avoids three things: he walks not in the counsel of the lawless—that is, he does not take the advice of those who care not how they live; he stands not in the way of sinners—in other words, he declines bad men as his companions; and he sits not in the seat of scoffers—he refuses to form one of a circle who spend their time and wit in ridiculing religion. The things to be avoided are thus presented in the form of a double climax: worse and worse companions, and more and more submission to their influence. The unprincipled may prepare you for the immoral, and the immoral for the contemptuous: you may take bad advice, then seek bad company, and at last scoff at all goodness. Happy the man who does none of these things! Thrice happy he who has not begun to do them!

But life cannot thrive on negations. He that would hate wickedness must love goodness. Now, as the law, or instruction, of Jehovah, the holy and loving God, affords guidance to a good and holy life, it follows that he who would shun evil will take so much pleasure in divine guidance that he will look out for it, learn it, linger over it. The laws of nature he will revere and observe: the laws of revelation he will welcome and obey. If he is so happy as to know Christ, he will find in him the spirit and sum of all law (1 Corinthians 9:21). Christ will be the law of his being. As The Christ rejoiced that Jehovah’s “law of righteousness was enshrined in his deepest affections” (Psalms 40:8), so will Christ’s follower make it his greatest joy to do his Master’s will, The newspaper, the novel, will be less highly esteemed than the Bible. He may be compelled, or find it serviceable, to consult the first; he may be able to choose and utilise the second; but it is to the third that his mind will gravitate, from the third that he will store his memory, in the third that he will discover his songs of immortal hope; and though—not being an Oriental—he may not be heard literally soliloquising out of the Holy Scriptures, yet will he count every day lost in which he does not gain clearer insight into its wisdom, and will feel every wakeful night-hour soothed which lights up any of its great and precious promises.

His best life, thus thrives. He is like a well-planted treetransplanted that it might be well-planted. He comes directly under the care of the Divine Husbandman, whose well-planned and well-watched irrigation keeps him constantly supplied with the waters of life through the channels of appropriate means coducive of spiritual growth and fruitfulness. Seasonable fruit is the glory of fruit-bearing trees: learning and liveliness in youth, steady work and sturdy endurance in middle life, patience and serene hope in old age as the better-land draws near—these are the fruits to be looked for in the garden of Jehovah. Everything is beautiful in its season (Ecclesiastes 3:11): yea, even the leaf that does not wither: the ornamental as well as the useful has place, and the ornamental conceals and shields the useful, as the leaf does the fruit; and so even beauty is not to be despised—especially that of modesty; even the leaf that hides the fruit may help its growth. But, as a man is better than a sheep (Matthew 12:12), so also is a man better than a “tree”: no tree being fit adequately to symbolise a “man, made in the image of God” (James 3:9). Therefore the psalmist, returning from the manlike tree to the tree-like man, and leaving the tree behind, as unable to bear the weight of such a clause as whatsoever he doeth, says of the man with his multifarious capacities, of the man under Divine culture, who soliloquises day and night in the law of Jehovah,—And whatsoever he doeth prospereth; and so it does, sooner or later: if not during “the night when Weeping has come to lodge,” then “in the morning when Jubilation” appears (Psalms 30:5): then shall we be made “glad according to the years Jehovah had humbled us—the years we had seen misfortune”; and discover that, after all, “the work of our hands had been established upon us” (Psalms 90:15).

Not so the lawless: very much “not so”! Surprise, therefore, need not be felt that the Septuagint repeats the negative, both for feeling and for filling out the line: “Not so the ungodly, not so”; even though it must be confessed that the half line in Hebrew is still more effective, and more symmetrically answers to the half-line at the commencement of the psalm, But rather as chaff which the wind driveth away—as of no worth and no further account. For this cause shall the lawless not rise in the vindication; and, from the Old Testament, scarcely could we learn that they will rise at all: certainly not in the vindication, a well-sustained rendering, which anticipates the distinction made by our Lord when he spake of “the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14). Sinners shall not enter the congregation of the righteous: whose way, life, character will NOT vanish, but continue evermore. For Jehovah doth acknowledge—know, approve, perpetuate—the way of the righteous; but the way of the lawless shall vanish—like a track lost in the waste, where no footsteps can make a path. “Only the way of the righteous is derek olam (“a way age-abiding”) (Psalms 139:24), a way that issues in eternal life”—Del.

This psalm(Psalms 1:1-6) and the next(Psalms 2:1-12) are anonymous, and without any superscribed or subscribed lines. They are admirably adapted for the purpose they were manifestly intended to serve: namely, as introductory to the whole Book of Psalms—the former penned from a purely ethical point of view, and the latter from a national, Davidic, and Messianic standpoint. One or both of these psalms may have been placed here by Ezra; but each may have been first brought into use as introductory to a smaller and earlier collection. Though probably placed here by Ezra, this first psalm was almost certainly composed by Hezekiah, whose spirit it breathes—as may be seen by a comparison if it with the latter half of Psalms 19 and the whole of Psalms 119,—a conclusion confirmed by the fact that it was expanded by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:8) and therefore must have already been in existence.

Lesson One: Introduction Via Psalm 1

This introductory lesson will provide an overview of the Psalms and their purpose, and will feature a study of Psalms 1, to illustrate the major goals we have when studying the Psalms in the church today, and to show us how the Psalms can help us in our relationship with God.

Overview/Background of the Psalms

The Psalms, unlike most books of the Bible, were collected over the course of many years of Israel’s history, and include writings by numerous different authors. They served many uses for the Jewish nation, but were especially seen as a collection of divinely inspired songs and prayers that could be used for worship in a number of settings. A basic understanding of how the book came to be, and of how it was used historically, can give us a little direction with which to begin our own study of the Psalms.

Most books of the Bible were written by one particular writer, as that person was inspired by the Holy Spirit. But in the Psalms, we have a collection of similar writings by a number of different authors from differing time periods. These individually inspired writings were then collected over a period of years by God’s people, and organized into the Psalms. They all share some of the same obvious characteristics, such as the poetic nature and format of the writing, the topical material, and the goal or theme of the compositions.

A large number of the Psalms are connected to the era of King David. No fewer than 73 are attributed to David personally, and another 12 to Asaph, his director of music (see 1 Chronicles 16:4-6). Others may have come from this era as well. Certainly, all of the Psalms reflect in some way the values exemplified by "the man after God’s own heart", whose relationship with God is in many ways the ideal for those who want to know God more personally.

Since the book of Psalms was assembled over the course of time, there were points in Israel’s ancient history when the collection of Psalms was shorter than it is now. There are actually five collections, or Books, of Psalms, which in a general way give us an indication of how they were historically collected. The 5 books are respectively: Book One, Psalms 1-41; Book Two, Psalms 42-72; Book Three, Psalms 73-89; Book Four, Psalms 90-106; Book Five, Psalms 107-150. (Take a look at the first Psalm in each of these books, and you will see a heading above that Psalm, indicating a new book.) While there are a few stylistic characteristics that can sometimes be generally associated with particular books, in practical study there is no real significance to the division into books, aside from its usefulness in helping us understand the historical collection of the Psalms. It is unknown exactly when the Psalms were assembled in their now final form, other than that it is certain they existed in this form before the creation of the Septuagint in the 3rd century BC. At some point early in the collection process, Psalms 1 was selected as the most suitable introductory Psalm, and given a place before the rest. Psalms 1 has no specific title or author listed. Most Psalms do, and especially those in Books One and Two.

Technical notes: (1) the numbering of the Psalms is slightly different in many of the ancient manuscripts, since at times some of the present Psalms were combined. For example, Psalms 9/10 and 42/43 were often written as one Psalm. Note that the second of each of these pairs has no heading or author in the actual text; (2) The Hebrew text, and the usage by ancient Jews and Christians alike, generally considered the brief headings and authors’ names to be as inspired as the rest of the text; (3) Modern "scholars" have concocted many speculative theories about other books of the Bible being pieced together as were the Psalms, but such theories deny and discredit the work of the Holy Spirit. The multiple authorship of the Psalms, however, is attested to in the Bible itself, and is in fact an important feature of the book; (4) Many Psalms have a description such as "miktam", "maskil", or "shiggaion". These are musical terms whose meaning is now lost to us. One that is fairly certain is the occasional use of the term "Selah" in the text of a Psalm, which probably referred to a musical interlude for the purpose of meditation. If you are interested in these more technical aspects of the Psalms, see me or refer to the sources listed, since we will not spend much class time on most of these topics.

The collection of Psalms was used by the Jewish Nation as an inspired collection of prayers and songs, especially useful for worship, both formal and informal. Some Psalms became associated with particular holidays or occasions. Many were designed to be performed with musical accompaniment, while others were more likely read or sung without instrumentation. Most of the Psalms had an inspirational and instructive value of their own, irrespective of the particular occasion on which they were used. So today, we find the Psalms to be suitable for inspiration and instruction in a great variety of contexts. They have furnished material for many Christian songs, and even for popular songs. We see the Psalms on plaques and other decorations in addition to their use as reading and study material.

The earliest Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, often used the Psalms in similar ways. The Psalms also furnished material for many early hymns of a definite Christian nature. In addition, many of the writers of the New Testament saw in the Psalms some values and themes that were not fully realized until the coming of Christ. A few Psalms are even explicitly Messianic, and are so used and interpreted both by the inspired writers of the New Testament and by later generations of Christian writers. The Messianic perspectives in the Psalms are meant to be something different from the predictive Messianic teachings of prophecy; they are meant also to emphasize the personal aspects of Jesus’ redemptive mission, and to illuminate those aspects of his ministry that we may not always fully appreciate.

Goals & Principles in Studying the Psalms

The Psalms are part of the Bible’s "Wisdom Literature", or Poetic Literature, which deals much more personally with our relationship with God than do books of history, the prophets, or the epistles. (The Jews called books like Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and others simply "The Writings".) Further, each individual Psalm can be considered a complete study in itself. We shall review just a few of the consequences of these characteristics that can help us in our study. For a more detailed discussion of the general principles involved in studying the Psalms (and other parts of the Bible), an excellent beginning source is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

The Psalms, as well as the other books that are more poetical in nature, are meant to play a particular role in our relationship with God. This is true of other portions of the Bible as well. For example, the historical books give us factual background and practical examples to follow, and the epistles give us direct instruction which almost always is meant to be followed literally by the church in any era. When studying the Psalms, we are looking at some very personal aspects of our relationship with God. We see how to express our positive emotions and how to deal with our negative emotions. We see David and other godly persons both praising God and wrestling with their doubts. We find many examples of personal thoughts expressed between a believer and God, which can help us in similar circumstances. The Psalms thus can do two things for us. They can teach us about the ways that God views our emotions, our doubts, our struggles, and the like, and they can also help us to handle such things in a godly and positive way.

When studying any book in the Bible, context is important. In studying the Psalms, context plays a somewhat different role than it does in other books. Each Psalm can be studied as more of an individual unit or self-contained study than can other parts of the Bible. (I realize that it is very popular to pull verses out of context from other parts of the Bible as well, but it is a dangerous practice.) For this reason, Psalms particularly lend themselves to topical study. But it is also to keep any Scripture in context. In studying a Psalm, there are usually just two key things to remember. First, many of the Psalms do have a personal or historical context, as indicated by the headings some of them bear. When that is the case, it is important to keep that in mind when interpreting the Psalm. More importantly, the Psalms have an overall context, and are part of the Bible as a whole. There is nothing in the Psalms that contradicts any other part of the Bible, if understood properly.

The key to a proper interpretive emphasis in Psalms is to keep the focus on the personal. They are not meant to give doctrinal teachings or points. A well-known example of the importance of this comes from Psalms 51:5, wherein the writer says, "Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." There are some commentators who use this verse to teach that a newborn infant carries a burden of "original sin", and thus must be baptized. Read in context, it is an expression of how deeply convicted David has become of a horrible sin he committed. (Note the heading to Psalms 51, giving us the occasion.) It is a deliberately exaggerated expression of his anguish and his realization of what he has done, and was never meant to be taken literally. Some other obvious examples would be in the book of Job, in which Job’s three friends express many erroneous opinions about God. They are recorded in the Bible to contrast this kind of human error with the truth about God that is revealed later in the book.

When reading the Psalms, we should be looking for a few basic things. What is the main theme of the Psalms? That is, what feeling or emotion is being expressed (positive or negative), or, what situation does the writer find himself in? Our tentative topic lists will give you an idea of some of the more common topics addressed in the Psalms. It is then always a good idea to try to relate to the writer’s own feelings. Can we identify with his doubts or struggles? Can we remember moments when we too broke into praise or thanksgiving to God? Then, we want to look for the things God teaches to the writer about this main topic, and of course how we also can learn from them. This is the appropriate emphasis in studying Psalms, which will both prevent us from getting off-track and will enable us to get the most out of these beautiful prayers and songs.

Psalms 1 : The Introduction to the Book of Psalms

Psalms 1 was intended to serve as a suitable preface to the rest of the Psalms, and it brings out the most basic themes that are examined from various perspectives in most of the other Psalms. We shall survey Psalms 1 as an introductory study to the others that we shall study in more detail in the coming weeks. This week, our primary goal is to bring out some ideas that we shall keep in mind, not to cover all the details. So when studying this Psalm, we may deliberately bring up more questions than we can answer!

Psalms 1:1-2 tells us about delighting in God and in his Word: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

We see right away the ideal for our lives that God gives us, and the Psalmists will tell us about. The ideal human life is spent following God, seeking his will in all things, and devoting oneself to the study and fulfillment of God’s Word. In studying the Psalms, we will see this goal both upheld and explained. What exactly does it mean to be "blessed"? Is this a promise that we shall have everything we want if we follow God, or is there a deeper meaning to it? Further, how does one "delight in the law of the Lord?" Clearly, this does not mean to promote a love of legalism, but something more spiritual and personal.

The next verse (Psalms 1:3) tells us that faith leads to life and fruitfulness:

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.

Note the images in this verse, which are intended to suggest life and growth: tree, water, and fruit are typical and common ways of suggesting the life lived by a follower of God, and the growth and fruitfulness that accompany faithful living. Many Psalms that we shall study will both emphasize this and will explore what it means. Christians are often frustrated when their faithful efforts seem to be unappreciated or unproductive, and it can strengthen our faith and give us perseverance to have a deeper understanding of the life found in Christ.

Finally, Psalms 1:4-6 teach us that, while the ungodly have much to fear, God takes care of and protects his own:

Not so the wicked!

They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

These verses in part echo the first part of the Psalm, assuring us of the benefits of a faithful life, and they also indicate the risks and dangers involved in rejecting the way of God. Again, we will need to ask ourselves what exactly this teaches, since there are clearly many ungodly and sinful persons who experience positive things in their lives, at least in the short run.

In addition to that, these verses teach us another idea that is prominent in the Psalms. Note that the fate of the sinner is described, and the fate of the righteous is also indicated, but there is no reference to the fate of the one who tries to be middle-of-the-road. Each human simply must decide whether he or she wants to follow God whole-heartedly or not at all. This will be stressed in many of the Psalms, as it is so many times elsewhere in the Bible. The definition and implications of this are among the many things we will hope to learn more about.

Survey of Types of Psalms

See the General Introduction for a more complete description of the kinds of topics we plan to study in our class. Here is the basic list:

Psalms of Faith & Trust (Examples: 3, 11, 16, 23, 42)

Psalms of Praise to God (Examples: 96, 97, 98, 148, 149, 150)

Celebrating God as Creator (Examples: 8, 19, 33, 104)

Prayers For God’s Help or Deliverance (Examples: 40, 55, 70, 77, 90, 142)

Psalms of Penitence (Examples: 38, 51)

Delighting in God’s Word (Survey of Psalms 119)

The Struggle Between Good & Evil (Examples: 36, 37, 73)

God & His People (Examples: 78, 89, 105, 106, 114)

Messianic Psalms (Examples: 2, 22, 110)

Psalms of Thanksgiving & Victory (Examples: 9, 18, 20, 21, 30, 34, 65, 68)

The Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120 through 134)

Sources & References

Of the many possible sources for studying the Psalms, the following are particularly recommended. Each one has different strengths and its own perspective. If you would like to do further study on your own and would like to know what books may be especially helpful, just let me know.

Frank Gaebelein (editor), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 5: Psalms - Song of Songs

Derek Kidner, Psalms, Volumes 1 & 2 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)

James L. Mays, Psalms (Interpretation Commentary)

Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon on the Psalms (also published as The Treasury of David)

John T. Willis, Insights From the Psalms (3 volumes), ACU

- Mark W. Garner, March 2000

I Have Set My King On Zion

Psalms 2:1-12

By Brent Kercheville


As we begin I would like for you to consider that there is a lack of a superscription for the second psalm. The compiler of the psalms chose not to record for us the writer of this psalm or the situation under which it was written. The Jews considered this psalm to be written by David, as well as the first century Christians (Acts 4:25 ). Since the disciples declare that David wrote the psalm, I believe that this should remove all doubt as to who is the author of the psalm. There is great debate concerning this psalm as to whether it is messianic or not. Further debate stems as to how much of the psalm refers to the Messiah and how much refers to the writer of the psalm. The reason for the debate comes from liberal scholars and commentators who cannot accept that Old Testament writers could write about future events concerning the Messiah, and not only about personal situations.

We need to understand that there are two types of messianic psalms: direct and indirect. Direct messianic psalms are those that are not referring to the writer whatsoever, but are prophesying of future things, particularly of the Christ. Indirect messianic psalms are those that have a duality, in which the writer is describing his own personal situation, while also typifying things the future Christ would go through. Liberal scholars do not believe it is possible that David or any of the other psalmists could have possibly written direct psalms of prophecy of the Messiah. Instead, these scholars force the reading to apply to the writer and then show that this was a type of the Christ to come. But I want to deny the premise these scholars advance upon the religious community. Why is it so difficult to believe that David prophesied of things to come concerning the Messiah? Why must David have needed to personally experience these things and then merely stand as a type? Turn to Acts 2:25-31. Here we read of Peter’s sermon, and in this particular passage Peter is quoting David. I think it is important to note the scripture in Acts 2:30 where it reads, “Therefore, being a prophet….” Peter readily and clearly declares David to be a prophet. Further in Acts 2:31, “he, foreseeing this….” Again, Peter declares that David was able to foresee that the Messiah would resurrect and spoke clearly in his psalms of such. Writers and scholars have tried to apply these words to one of the earthly kings that rules in Israel or Judah , but have been very unsuccessful. These words do not fit any king that would rule on the earth. The simple understanding of this psalm is that this is a direct messianic psalm in which David is exclusively prophesying of the Christ. I believe this must be our understanding of this psalm. Throughout the psalm we will see many Messianic references. This is further proven by the fact that this psalm is one of the most quoted by New Testament writers and applied to Jesus. Clearly the stage is set before us. David, as a prophet of God, now writes concerning the coming of the Messiah.

Concerning the Nations (Psalms 2:1-3)

The message

David begins the psalm in a description concerning the world nations by asking a question. “Why do the nations rage?” The word “rage” literally means “to assemble tumultuously,” which some translations have as a marginal reading. The word can also mean “to conspire,” as the NIV has as its translation. The second question is similar to the first, “Why do the people plot a vain thing?” As we are reading this psalm we are left with two natural questions in our minds: “What are the people plotting?” and “Why is their plotting vain?” The answers to our questions are found in Psalms 2:2. The kings and rulers of the earth are plotting against God. They are gathering together to make their stand against God and against His anointed. Here we already see a reference to the Messiah, called “His Anointed.” Further, we are given a glimpse at the outcome of the psalm before we have hardly begun with the clue, “in vain.” The nations are plotting in vain to stand against the Lord and His anointed. In verse 3 we read the words of the nations who declare that they are trying to break free from God’s rule. They do not want to be under the power of God and in submission to Him. They want to break the bonds and cast away the cords which tie them to the Lord. This is a general description concerning the world: heathen nations. The nations are always going against God, are always in defiance, and always trying to make their break from the Lord.

NT application

This part of the psalm is quoted by the disciples in Acts 4:25-26. Recall the context of Acts 4 where Peter and John have been put in prison, questioned by the Sanhedrin, and released. Peter and John gather the disciples and tell them all that has happened to them. In Acts 4:24 we read the beginning of the disciples’ prayer. In the midst of the prayer, they quote Psalms 2:1-2. Notice who the apostles stated were the ones who plotted and stood against God. In Acts 4:27 we read, “both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles….” These would certainly be expected. These sinful, heathen Gentiles were the ones who conspired together and stood against the Lord and His anointed. But finish reading the verse. Acts 4:27 also says, “…with the Gentiles and the people of Israel , were gathered together.” Not only are the heathen nations described as the nations who raged against the Lord and His anointed, but so is the nation of Israel . The people of Israel , the ones who were to be looking for and preaching concerning the Messiah, were actually part of the ones gathering together to stand against the Lord’s anointed. All of these, Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews, plotted in the death of Jesus Christ. All of them participated in standing against the Lord. Now God the Father will respond to the nations conspiring against Him.

God the Father Speaks (Psalms 2:4-6)

God’s reaction

What is God’s reaction to the nations conspiring against Him and His anointed? Is God concerned? Is God worried? No, God laughs at what the people try to plot. The Lord scoffs and holds in derision those who would try to plot against the plans of God. Plotting against the Lord is vain and foolish. Further, God rebukes those who plot against Him in His anger and in His wrath. Not only does the Lord scoff at those who would dare to go up against Him, but now those very ones will stand in the face of the fiery wrath of the Lord. In Psalms 2:6 we see that it does not matter what man may try to plot against the Lord and His anointed, God’s purpose will still come to pass. In Psalms 2:6 we read, “I have installed my King on Zion , my holy hill.” Notice that this is written in the past tense as if the setting of the King on His holy hill has already taken place. This is the certainty of the Lord’s plan. It cannot be changed or ruined even if man tries to thwart the plans of God.


There is certain application for us from these words of God. How foolish men are when they think they can go against the Lord! How ridiculous it is for anyone to think that they will be able to stand against the Lord! However, men and nations take their stand against the Lord all the time. Those who think they are the people of God can also find themselves taking their stand against God. Remember, we saw that the people of Israel were also named as those who stood against the Lord and His anointed. When we choose not to obey our Father, then we have taken our stand against Him. The Lord laughs at our big schemes and devious plans. He knows what man is doing and will not be prevented by His own creation. Further, the wrath of God stands against those who stand against Him.

The Anointed Speaks (Psalms 2:7-9)

The words of the anointed

Now we read the Lord’s anointed speaking. In Psalms 2:7 we see that He is going to proclaim the decree which the Lord gave. Here is what the Lord said to His anointed one: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” As we ought to know, this is not describing the Messiah being physically born by the Father. John 1:1 tells us that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Messiah is also eternal. The New Testament writers give us their explanation of what it means for the Father to say to His anointed, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” There are many places in the scriptures where we read the Father saying to Jesus, “You are My Son.” Such instances occur at Jesus’ baptism and at the transfiguration. But there are three places where we see the New Testament writers quote, “today I have begotten You.” These are the passages we want to focus upon to understand the meaning of the Father saying these words to His anointed.

Acts 13:33 says, “God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’” Notice that it is the resurrection of Jesus that is promised in the Father saying to the anointed, “today I have begotten You.” It was not at Christ’s baptism, nor at His incarnation that He was begotten. It was when Jesus subjected himself to all things, even to the point of death that he learned obedience and was therefore begotten by the Father in resurrection (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 5:8).

Hebrews 5:5 also has the same quotation from our psalm. Notice that the writer of Hebrews ties together the timing of Jesus becoming our High Priest and the statement by the Lord, “Today I have begotten You.” When did Jesus become our High Priest? At His death and resurrection, just as the writer goes on to point out in Hebrews 5:7-10.

The quotation is also found in Hebrews 1:5. In this passage the question is asked, “To which of the angels did He ever say: you are My Son, today I have begotten You?” At what point did these things take place? If you back up to Hebrews 5:3-4, the writer of Hebrews tells us that it was when Jesus purged our sins and sat down at the right hand of God. Again, we are told it was at Christ’s resurrection. This was when the anointed received the inheritance of the Lord and began to rule. And this is the point of Psalms 2:8-9.

In Psalms 2:8, the anointed describes more of what the Father said to Him. “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” This was the promise of the Father to His Son. When Jesus would live His life and give it as a perfect sacrifice and then resurrect, Jesus would sit on the throne and rule. This is what we just saw the writer of Hebrews describe. Paul said the same thing in 1 Corinthians 15:25 that Christ is reigning until all the enemies are put under His feet. I think we better understand the temptation that Satan was providing to Jesus in Matthew 4:8-10. Satan takes Jesus up to a very high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Satan offers these things to Jesus if He will bow down and worship him. Satan is offering Jesus a way out of the suffering. Jesus is tempted to have these things without going through the humiliation and suffering of the cross. This is what Satan’s offer was all about. Yet, for us, Jesus rejected the temptation to become our Savior.

Christ crushes the enemies

Turning our attention back to Psalms 2:9 we read more of what the Father said to the anointed. The anointed will rule the nations with an iron scepter and dash them (his enemies, as seen in Psalms 2:1) into pieces. This imagery is also seen many times in the New Testament, most notably in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 19:15 we read, “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Here is a picture of the victorious Christ going out with His armies and destroying the enemies of God and His people. Revelation 12:5 says, “She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” Here is another image used to show the power of Christ that Satan would try to crush. Finally, notice Revelation 2:26-27, “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations–He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’–as I also have received from My Father;” If we read this carefully we will see the promise given to us. Christ is ruling with a rod of iron and dashing into pieces all the enemies. When we hold fast to the Lord, then we will also overcome our enemies, just as Jesus did. What a great promise to His children.

Heed the Warning (Psalms 2:10-12)

Be wise

As we return to the psalm, the final three verses are now a warning to all the people. The psalmist says to be wise and be warned. This is the outcome of standing against the Lord: enduring the Lord’s wrath and receiving a crushing from the Anointed Son. Wisdom would tell us to heed the one who rules and not to disobey. The outcome is clearly seen. The choice is ours to make.


The second point made by the psalmist is to serve. But notice how we are to serve: with fear. Further, we are to rejoice, but notice how: in trembling. We must serve with these realities in mind. While we can have great rejoicing in being children of God, we must always remember that the wrath of God still exists. We must remember that Christ will crush His enemies. We must make sure we are on the right side and not found to be an enemy of the Lord. We must become a servant in the court of our King, Jesus Christ, or else we are the enemy.

Kiss the Son

Finally, the psalmist says to kiss the Son. This is an act of homage and reverence, as kissing the hand of a king. So we are to have reverence for who He is. It is important that we never lose sight of our position before the king. We are simply the servants who can be quickly removed. We do not deserve to be in His court, but are in His presence by His gracious kindness and mercy. Those who will not pay homage and will not serve him will face the Lord’s anger and be destroyed. God will destroy those who go down their own path and refuse to walk in the way of the Lord. Psalms 2:12 also reminds us of the fierce anger of the Lord. The psalm then concludes with a description of the blessed. Remember when we studied Psalm 1 that the word “blessed” means “a fullness and deep peace and joy in life.” Blessed are those who find refuge in the Lord. Those who put their trust in God will find hope and salvation offered from the Father and His anointed.



This psalm is obviously and confessedly Messianic. The word messiah of course means “anointed”—whether applied to David, Hezekiah, or Jesus of Nazareth. On what level this psalm is Messianic, whether on the lower or the higher level, remains to be seen; but Messianic it is, on its surface and down into its deepest depths. To ascertain its scope it must be carefully and correctly interpreted; and this at once raises the whole question of the Interpretation of Prophecy in general, and the exegesis of Messianic Prophecy in particular.

It is here assumed that much Scripture prophecy is typical, and therefore indirect; that is to say, that it first points to a type as foreshadowing some person or thing greater than itself. But it is not here assumed that there is no such thing as direct prediction, going straight to its mark without the intervention of a type: we do not know that, and must not take it for granted.

To apply these principles to this first Messianic psalm: let us by all means give preference to the supposition that this psalm is typically prophetic; and see whether that hypothesis will carry us satisfactorily through the whole psalm, doing justice to all its leading statements: statements in any case poetical, but not necessarily extravagant,—save, it may be, apparently so, when intended to go beyond the type to the antitype.

Now the most striking thing in this psalm is the concerted opposition of certain enemies to Jehovah and his Anointed One; and, next to that, the unique way in which that opposition is overthrown—by counter Divine Proclamation. Who is Jehovah’s Anointed One? It is David, or Hezekiah, or Jesus of Nazareth? Whoever he is, Divine Sonship as well as Messiahship is attributed to him. Whoever he is, his destiny includes the dominion of the world.

Doubtless, David in his time and degree was Jehovah’s Anointed One; but will the language of the psalm, as a whole, apply to him and find reasonable satisfaction in him? Or, if not in him, then in Hezekiah, or in both combined? But if the two combined—with any other scion of the royal house added to them—still fail to satisfy the outlook of the psalm,—then on what principle are we to be restrained from applying to Jesus of Nazareth the whole psalm, provided we can fairly show that it has been, or is now being, or will certainly yet be exhaustively fulfilled in him?

In point of fact, these two famous Hebrew monarchs do fit the terms of the psalm remarkably well—up to a point; and then completely fail to satisfy them. Both David and Hezekiah were triumphantly enthroned in Zion; both had enemies who were set aside or overthrown; and both had extensive dominion. Moreover, in a very singular way, both these kings answer to the statement, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee. For the “day” referred to can scarcely be an ordinary birthday; seeing that, save in high ceremonial, it is not customary solemnly to accost children on the day of their birth. Hence the probability is, that the “day” alluded to here is the day on which something took place comparable to a birth, so as to make such a speech appropriate. Now, certainly it might look rather magniloquent to say of David, that on the day when Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 7) revealed to him the royal destiny of his descendants, to whom He—Jehovah—would become a “Father,”—that, on that very day, Jehovah virtually said, “Thou art my son! this day, by my supreme decree, have I begotten thee to this sonly, regal office.” It may; and yet there is something remarkable in it. Still more remarkable, when the representation is transferred to Hezekiah, who was raised up from the very gates of death to be more firmly than ever seated as king on Jehovah’s holy mountain. This, in all candour, must be confessed, even though we hesitate to say with Thirtle, O.T.P. 142: “The new life that was given to Hezekiah, simultaneously with the discomfiture of the Assyrian host, justifies these remarkable words—words of resurrection.” They are indeed words typical of resurrection!

But, with all this frankly admitted, it must be maintained that these and other incidents in the Davidic House are simply beggared by the language of the psalm. It is questionable whether the opening scene of the psalm found more than a partial realisation in either of the lives we have so far been considering; but, in any case, neither David nor Hezekiah asked and received universal dominion—which, however, is writ large on the psalm, and cannot be erased by any legitimate plea of poetic license. Besides, we shall probably do well to guard against bulking out and hardening the type in order to make it as large as the language, fairly interpreted, appears to indicate: in other words we must beware of assuming that the Spirit of Prophecy could not easily carry away the psalmist’s mind far beyond any type that was within range of his vision. Let us use types as helps and not as hindrances. We need have no craving to add to the letters of the typical alphabet; but the free Spirit of God may well be expected sometimes to combine those letters in unprecedented forms, and so spell out revelations which’ have never before been divulged.

If these things are so, then we must beware of inferring that because a clearly foretold event did not happen in the type, therefore it will not be fulfilled in the antitype; or that, seeing it is attenuated to mere shadow in the type, therefore it has no further significance. For example, the appearance of the semblance of a New Birth which we have detected in the life of David, and the still more striking semblance of a New Birth easily seen in the sickness and recovery of Hezekiah, should not blind us to the comparative feebleness of the fulfillment on either of these lines. David himself was not declared Jehovah’s Son by Nathan the prophet: neither did David, that we know of, ever say to Jehovah, in the gushing tide of the spirit of adoption, “Abba! Father!” It was, indeed, foretold that he should so address the Most High (Psalms 89:26); but we have no record that he ever actually did so. In like manner, there are circumstances which obviously enfeeble the fulfillment of the psalm in Hezekiah, who, for example, was Jehovah’s king in Zion for years before he passed under the shadow of death and resurrection: and who greatly as he loved Jehovah,—as he had much reason to love him,—yet never ventured to call him his Father, so far as the records show.

To go back from the centre of the psalm to its beginning, and remarking that it opens with the unmasking of a conspiracy between kings and nations against Jehovah and his Anointed,—why should we close our eyes to the plain fact, that the Assyrian invasion was not such a conspiracy, but merely one of the ordinary doings of an Oriental despot? Then, turning in the other direction from the centre of the psalm, and glancing forward to the iron sceptre that was to dash enemies to pieces like potters’ vessels,—ought we not to be quite sure of our ground before—even under guise of high-flown poetry—we conclude such absoluteness of rule to have been here encouraged in either David or Hezekiah?

On all hands, then, we see abounding indications that a Greater than either David or Hezekiah is here. And therefore we point with confidence to that Greater One as the Hero of this psalm. The conspiracy of the Nations—though it may have been often attempted—has not yet been brought to a head; and, although the Heir to the Throne has appeared, and been saluted as Divine Son on the day of his literal Resurrection (Acts 13:30-32), yet has he not at present been installed on Jehovah’s holy mount of Zion. When he is brought forth from his hiding-place in heaven (Colossians 3:3, Acts 3:21) then the kings and judges of the earth will need show all their prudence; for, assuredly, the iron scepture that will appear in his hand will be no meaningless symbol, but will stand for what it naturally means,—absolute, resistless physical force, which is far more fittingly entrusted to immortal hands than to mortal. Yes! this psalm is Messianic; but on the higher level. The astounding pledge already given by the literal resurrection of the Messiah from the dead, assures us that in due time the entire psalm, in all its length and breadth, will be amply fulfilled, not as mere grandiloquent speech, but in commensurate and therefore amazing facts.

We are indebted to Delitzsch for calling attention to the obvious but much overlooked circumstance, that those kings and counsellors who are discovered in rebellion when the psalm opens, have already come under obligation to Jehovah and to his Anointed One. They are already under the restraints of duty to Jehovah and to his Christ; since it is under those restraints that they turn restive, against those restraints that they rebel.

There is food for thought here. Indeed, we are so impressed with the possibility of framing out of this element in the psalm an eirenicon which may be welcomed by expositors who have differed among themselves as to the character and incidence of the Messiah’s predicted kingdom, that we pause here just long enough to remind ourselves that, although Prophecy (if it have any definiteness in its inception) cannot need to await fulfillment before it takes on a reliable meaning, yet may most naturally and legitimately assume a clearer and yet clearer intention as fulfillment advances.

To apply this thought: It follows that, if Jesus of Nazareth is the Anointed One of this psalm; and if the day of his resurrection was the day of his being begotten to their Heirship of the Davidic dynasty; then it may be reasonably anticipated that, whether fulfillment has lingered or has greatly advanced since Jesus rose from the dead,—at least we ought to begin to see our way more and more clearly as to how to interpret the Messianic Prophecies as a class.

It is just at this point that Delitzsch’s simple and obvious reminder flashes like a beacon-light across the troubled waters of Messianic Interpretation. The movements of our labouring oar are facilitated by the following encouraging considerations:—Since this psalm was written (a) other similar ones have been penned, such as—notably—that strictly cognate psalm, the 110th, which may be expected to throw light on this; (b) a part fulfillment of this psalm has confessedly been witnessed in the Messiah’s Resurrection, and in the broad facts consequent on that outstanding event, such as his ascension to the right hand of God. (c) The notorious negative fact arrests our attention, that no one imagines that the Risen Messiah is now in any special sense reigning in and from Mount Zion in Palestine. Is it too much to hope that, by advancing on these lines, substantial progress in Messianic exegesis may be made?

(a) The very first helpful suggestion actually comes from Psalms 110. There we discover a link missing from this second psalm—that is, if we have but opened our eyes to miss it here, Clear as a sunbeam, it is written in Psalms 2 that Jehovah’s derision of the rebels there revealed simply consists in the announcement of an accomplished fact; which accomplished fact constitutes such a counter-movement to the conspiracy as to reduce it to ridicule—that, in a word, is how Jehovah in heaven laughs at this conspiracy: he has already taken a step which nullifies all the counsels of the grave men, all the stand of kings, all the gathering of the nations; he has already installed his King on Zion his holy mountain! The implication is: That Zion’s King will make decisive work with the conspirators! And the further implication is: That the rebels little dreamed how Heaven was prepared to deride their plot. And yet all the while, beforehand, these selfsame conspirators had been bound by the bands and cords of obligation to Jehovah and his Anointed One! How can this be explained?

Quite easily—taking Psalms 110 as our guide. It will be seen from our Exposition of that psalm, that we conclude its natural meaning to be, that the elevation of the Messiah to Jehovah’s right hand in heaven out of the midst of his enemies, and his session above, run on until he descends to his centre of subduing activity on Mount Zion. That explains everything; inasmuch as the seat of honour at Jehovah’s right hand is not a mere seat of honour, but a heavenly enthronement; David’s lord is seated at Jehovah’s right hand as jointly regnant with him. He is, as he himself expresses it (Revelation 3:21), sitting during all this waiting interval (Hebrews 10:13) on his Father’s throne. That fact unlocks the difficulty which just now appeared in the 2nd psalm. It is during the joint session of the Son with the Father in heaven that these kings, senators and nations were brought under those obligations to Jehovah and his Anointed One from which they ultimately desire to break loose.

All of which presents the current proclamation of the Gospel in a light which, if not new, is more widely illuminative than it has been deemed heretofore. It thus appears that the appointed current proclamation of “the Gospel of the Kingdom” of which we read in Matthew 24:14, not only serves as a testimony that earth’s rightful King is coming, but by its intrinsic force, as news of salvation to men, binds kings, senators and nations with “bonds” and “cords” from which they can by no means escape. Men may hear the Gospel or they may forbear; but they can never be quite the same as if they had not heard it. These kings and nations must have heard the Gospel; they must have heard the story of Crucified Love and of Death-Vanquishing Power; and been admonished to amend their ways, and their laws—to reign in righteousness—to undo heavy burdens—to educate their subjects for the Immortal Life. As the result of Antichrist’s seductions, however, they grow tired of these restraints, and they rebel. The conspiracy into which they enter comes to a head before the Divine Installation of a King in Zion is known. The announcement of that startling fact—that is how Jehovah will laugh at them. Well may they be admonished to beware, and show their prudence.

The discerning will not fail to perceive how essential a part is played in the above interpretation by the assumption that, in the Psalms, Zion means Zion—the earthly Zion, a part of and frequently synonymous with the historical city Jerusalem. It is on the strength of this assumption that, in the second psalm, it could be supposed that the same rebels as were aware of the Messiah’s heavenly reign on the throne of the Father, and so had come under allegiance to Jehovah and his Anointed,—in that sense and to that degree,—were at the same time and up to that moment unaware that Jehovah had now recently installed his Christ on his holy hill of Zion. It is the absolute difference between the two enthronements which renders it possible for men to have been rendering nominal homage to the one, and yet be in absolute ignorance of the other. It is the sudden announcement of the earthly enthronement, which renders their conspiracy an object of Divine derision. Accustomed to do as they pleased in governing or misgoverning their subjects, fearless of eternal issues to be tried before an invisible throne, they are suddenly confronted by a counter Divine movement, evidently and utterly subversive of their rebellious schemes, with the prospect of their being called to account by this newly installed monarch who wields an iron scepture and holds a commission where necessary to dash his enemies in pieces like a potter’s vessel. In like manner, the same assumption—that Zion in the Old Testament means the earthly Zion—is vital to our exegesis of Psalms 110. It is that, and that only, which resolves Psalms 2:1 of that psalm into an invitation to the Messiah to come out of the midst of his earthly enemies; and Psalms 2:2 into a commission to return into their midst, for the purpose of demanding their submission.

Under these circumstances, it is manifestly desirable that each reader should confront this question for himself, and if possible once for all settle it:—Is the Zion of the Psalms practically identical with the historical city of Jerusalem? The highest court of appeal is the usage of the name in the very book we are seeking to interpret. The name “Zion” occurs in the following places in the Psalter, namely:—Psalms 2:6, Psalms 9:11; Psalms 9:14, Psalms 14:7, Psalms 20:2, Psalms 48:2; Psalms 48:11-12, Psalms 50:2, Psalms 51:18, Psalms 53:6, Psalms 65:1, Psalms 69:35, Psalms 74:2, Psalms 76:2, Psalms 78:68, Psalms 84:7, Psalms 87:2; Psalms 87:5, Psalms 97:8, Psalms 99:2, Psalms 102:13; Psalms 102:16; Psalms 102:21, Psalms 110:2, Psalms 125:1, Psalms 126:1, Psalms 128:5, Psalms 129:5, Psalms 132:13, Psalms 133:3, Psalms 134:3, Psalms 135:21, Psalms 137:1; Psalms 137:3, Psalms 146:10, Psalms 147:12, Psalms 149:2. It would be unreasonable to expect that all these examples should be demonstrative as to the point at issue: it will suffice, to render the appeal conclusive, that (a) there should be no instances where plainly “Zion” cannot be identical with the earthly Jerusalem; and (b) that there should be a large number in which an alleged reference to a heavenly Zion would bring the Holy Scriptures into ridicule. This reference to a “heavenly” Jerusalem is suggested by a few allusions in the New Testament which name a Jerusalem which is so distinguished: as to which it is obvious to remark that the very term “heavenly” presupposes and earthly Jerusalem to which a contrastive allusion is made; and further that such qualifying term is never found in the Old Testament. The Psalms, in particular, know nothing of a Zion or a Jerusalem in heaven. It would seem like an insult to readers of ordinary intelligence to remind them of such decisive phrases as “Go about Zion,” “wherein thou didst make thy habitation,” “and his lair in Zion hath been placed,” “Zion heard and was glad,” “Thou wilt arise and have compassion upon Zion,” “Jehovah hath built up Zion,’ “turned the fortunes of Zion.” Plainly it is the earthly Zion that is intended; and it is fearlessly submitted that there is nothing demonstrative on the other side.

It will conduce to perfect fairness of exegesis, and at the same, time lead on to a becoming conclusion to our present study, to call attention to an attractive hortatory element in this psalm which it would be a misfortune to overlook. There is a gracious, subduing light which falls back on the earlier portions of the psalm from the closing stanza, in which the poet is led to fill the part of a kindly monitor. In the opening verses the mutterings of enemies are heard; then comes Jehovah’s counter-proclamation in tones of thunder, alarming in the last degree; the terror naturally caused by such a warning of wrath is seen to be abundantly justified when the Son rehearses his commission, which includes stern rule, in some cases at least issuing in utter destruction. Now, although it would be a very hasty exegesis to infer that none of the Son’s enemies will relent, or relenting and suing for mercy will notwithstanding be destroyed; yet it is most acceptable to perceive in the poet’s mind a yearning for the salvation of those who have been seen in imminent danger of rushing on to ruin. For that is clearly the spirit at work in the entire conclusion of the psalm; and when the peculiar perils of kings and senators are remembered—with few or none above them to represent and enforce Divine claims—it is especially grateful to us to recognise the wooing note which is directly addressed to them, entreating them to show prudence and accept of admonition. It reminds us of our own Scripture which assures us that God willeth all men to be saved—even though they are such as are “in eminent station.” wielding authority over us. But the Divine Father is, as our own Scriptures assure us, jealous of any withholding of worshipful honour from the Son of his Love; and we are therefore predisposed to value at its highest rendering the pointed appeal of Jehovah that such honour be accorded; and, moreover, to interpret the wrath looming against such as withhold it as the Father’s wrath; and the refuge into which they are pronounced happy who flee as the refuge which, according to the whole tenor of the Psalms, Jehovah is ready to become to all who seek refuge in Him.

Quietness Amid Troubles

Psalms 3:1-8

Brent Kercheville


Psalms 3 has been considered a psalm of “firsts” in many ways. The third psalm is the first that is ascribed to David. Though we noted the New Testament writers ascribed the second psalm to David, this is the first superscription within the psalm that speaks of David. This is also the first psalm that is related to an event in David’s life. In particular, the event surrounding the writing of this psalm is the fleeing from his son Absalom. The third psalm is also the first psalm of lament. Finally, this is also the first psalm that contains the word “selah.” In consideration of the word “selah,” we cannot state with absolute precision as to the meaning of this word. The general consensus is that this word probably meant for there to be a break or pause in the music. Others say that the word means to increase the volume and lift up the strain. Some suggest that the word is a direction to change the music to a higher pitch. In any event, it seems that this is simply musical notation or a marker and should not cause us to be distraught over the precise meaning of the word.

Next, we want to consider the background for the writing of this psalm. The account of David fleeing from his son Absalom is found in 2 Samuel 15-17. Absalom had stolen the hearts of the people away from David and created a conspiracy to usurp the throne. Absalom had sent spies throughout the tribes to bring support for his cause. Further, Absalom had taken control of some of the armies of Israel . The coup was so sudden that David, with a few of his trusted counselors, fled Jerusalem to preserve their lives. The scene is interesting in 2 Samuel 15:30, “So David went up by the Ascent of the Mount of Olives , and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went up.” We see some of the sorrow and anguish that David experienced since he had been run out of town by his own son. With this background in mind, let us read the third psalm.

Psalm 3

Psalms 3:1-2

As the psalm opens, we are reading about the problems of David. David begins with an exclamation to the Lord concerning the great number of his enemies and foes. The enemies of David have risen up against him. Things are so bad for this man who is after God’s own heart that many of the people are saying to him that God will not deliver him. We are able to read one instance of a person cursing David in 2 Samuel 16:6-8. As David is fleeing, he passes through the town of Bahurim . A man named Shimai comes out cursing David and says in 2 Samuel 16:7-8, “Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you scoundrel! The Lord has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!” This is just one instance of the many that David describes who are saying that God is not going to deliver him. How depressing when those around us are suggesting that we are getting what we deserve! How difficult to hear people say that God is not going to help us out of our turmoil! This is certainly a unique situation, one that I do not believe any of us can say we have fully endured. I do not suppose that we have had the trial of running for our physical lives from the hands of our own children. However, I believe all of us can relate to the feelings that everywhere we turn, there are foes who are rising up against us. We have enemies on a more contemporary level. We have foes that stand against us at our place of work, with our families, and against our governments. There are times when we are put to the point of distress. During times of distress, David leaves us a good example: express your grief to God. We have the right to bring our grief and our turmoil before God. Thus David begins this psalm “O Lord” in his call to God concerning his difficult circumstance. God desires that we bring our problems to Him. Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we can go before the throne of grace to receive help in our time of need. David’s first reaction is correct and we ought to emulate that in our lives. When trouble comes, turn to God. When problems appear on every side, turn to the Lord. Make this our first response.

Psalms 3:3-4

David now speaks of the confidence that he has in the Lord. How is it possible as David is surrounded by his enemies that he is able to turn in confidence to the Lord? It seems clear that David is no longer focusing upon the woes he is facing, but now is focusing upon God. This was the fundamental difference in Numbers 13:31-33 in regard to the twelve spies. Why did ten say that they could not conquer the land? Because they were focusing on the enemies. Why did the two say that they could conquer the land? They were focusing on the power of God. Therefore David expresses three great things that God was for David.

You are a shield. First, David says that the Lord is his shield. In the midst of trouble, David has something to protect him, a shield. Shields do not carry as much imagery for us today with our modern warfare, but this was a necessary piece of defense when going to battle. The shield was for protection from whatever the enemy threw at you. Further, we need to see that the Lord’s shield is such that it fully surrounds the person of God. With the shield of God, there are no parts that are left exposed. Thus, David says that the Lord is a shield all around him. We know that we have to put on the shield of faith which can quench the fiery darts of Satan (Ephesians 6). But we may not have considered that our shield is also effective against our enemies. Our shield is effective in the midst of trials. We will not suffer utter ruin with the Lord as our shield. While the physical body may suffer and we may lose things near and important to us, we cannot lose that which is of utmost importance: God. Romans 8:39 tells us that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ. We are protected. We have a shield.

You are my glory. Some translations capitalize the word “my” suggesting that the glory is referring to the Lord, and thus David is giving the Lord the name, “My glory.” However, I do not believe this to be the case. Remember that the translators are “supposing” when they capitalize pronouns in reference to God. The original manuscripts do not have such notations. I believe David is saying that the Lord is his glory. Though David is suffering the loss of the kingdom at this point, he still finds his glory in the Lord. David is suffering ridicule and cursings by his very subjects. But David does not find his glory in the words of man. True glory is only found in the Lord. We worry far too much about the glory of man and do not care enough about the glory of God. We can be so concerned about what others are saying and what others think about us. But these things amount to nothing. The glory of God is all that matters, and it is what can and must sustain us.

You lift up my head. David now describes what God is able to do for the downcast. This is a picture of being in utter despair such that one’s head hangs low. We all know what that feeling is when we simply hang our head and sigh. But God can lift up our heads. Hebrews 12:3-4 says, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.” We must remember that while our sufferings are difficult, they truly are small. We have not resisted to bloodshed. We have not suffered for the name of Christ as we see Christ and his first century disciples suffering. It is a momentary affliction. I have personally endured difficult times when my parents divorced. I had a lot of suffering in high school concerning all the issues and realities that it brought. It changed how life would be for all the days that I will know. But I realize that even though this stripped me away from my father and means that there are problems every time I return to California and I have issues with trying to have equal visitation, these things do not matter when compared to the sufferings of Christ. I must always remain focused that I have not and will not endure more than what Christ has endured for me. I must be ready to face the challenge every day. One of the reasons that David gives for having confidence in the face of his foes is that the Lord is answering his prayers. David knows that his cries are being heard by the Lord and that he will receive an answer. This is true confidence and trust in the Lord. To know that though invisible, God is listening and will respond. David has complete faith in God to rescue him.

Psalms 3:5-6

In the midst of all this trouble and fleeing for his life, David says that he is able to lie down and sleep. Though there are the tens of thousands that have drawn up against David, he is still able to lie down and sleep. How is that possible? When we are in the midst of turmoil, sleep is often the thing that alludes us. We lie awake at night, tossing and turning, as we ponder the problems that we are dealing with. For David, we would expect anxiety and worry to seize him during this time. Anxiety for his own life, sorrow for his son who has driven him out, and many other things would be running through David’s mind. David says that these things are possible because the Lord sustains him. In a very subtle way, we are reading about the confidence that David placed in the Lord to bring him through to the next day. David had confidence that he could go to sleep and God would bring him to another day.

But it is not just about having protection while he slept. David says that the Lord sustains him. This is not a commonly used word in our language today. However, we understand the meaning when we see this word in light of a word that we use more frequently, “sustenance.” When we speak of sustenance, we are usually talking about the things that keep us alive, like food and water. While on the run, it is the Lord that is giving the sustenance to David. The Lord is what is keeping David going. The ability to see the Lord as the one who sustains us through difficulties and will pull us through to the other side is so important for the Christian. We must always have the knowledge that God is in control and will bring about what needs to be done in our lives. David, in so many instances, would not kill Saul because Saul was the Lord’s anointed, though David was running for his life from him. Why didn’t David just take matters into his own hands? He had the firm belief and confidence that God would work all of these things out. And now, here, in this situation as well. Absalom his son has seized the throne. But David had confidence that the Lord’s will would be accomplished. If David was to remain king on the throne, then that is what would happen. God would do it. If this was not God’s plan, then David would go along with that as well. This is an important characteristic to be one who is a person after God’s own heart. We must be people who are fully trusting in what God is doing in our lives. The willingness to accept the circumstances and know that the end result will be a place that God will have us to be. I am fairly certain that if it were not for the divorce in my family, I would not have found my wife whom I love, I would not be in Florida , and I would not be preaching. Through turmoil, God had a direction and purpose laid out for me. We must always trust in the Lord, for He will sustain us.

Psalms 3:7-8

David concludes his psalm with the cry for deliverance. There is a cry of confidence as he asks for deliverance, for Psalms 3:4 states that he knows God is answering his prayer. The words of David actually appear to be a cry of war. Recall that during the wilderness wandering of the children of Israel , the people would be led by a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. When it was time to stop, the cloud would stop and rest upon the ark of the covenant. When it was time to walk, the cloud would rise up from the ark and lead the people. Notice Numbers 10:35, “Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, ‘Rise up, O Lord! And let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.’” David is requesting a call to action and victory of the Lord. Rise up and scatter the enemies! This was the cry of the Israelites as they marched to the promised land. David uses this language here as a call for God leading the way to victory and deliverance. In these verses, not only do we see a cry for deliverance, but we also see a cry for justice. David says “break the teeth of the wicked.” Those who stand against the Lord’s plan will be broken by God. Those who will be an enemy of the Lord will by struck down by the Lord. David asks for that to happen now to his enemies. David concludes his psalm by noting that deliverance and salvation only come from the Lord. There is no other place to turn to if we desire to have deliverance from what we are enduring. Salvation and deliverance belong to the Lord. Then David prays for the people, desiring God’s blessing to be upon them as well. David is not only concerned about his own well-being, but he is also desiring good and righteousness to be with the people of God. Thus concludes the third psalm.

Final Lessons

Focus upward

In the midst of problems and troubles, the first place to turn is to the Lord. It is time to immediately stop all that we are doing and pray to the Lord. These are the first two words of the psalm, “O Lord.” Turn our attention to the Lord and tell him what is going on. Notice that David describes what his situation is to the Lord. We also need to express what we are enduring and the help we seek to God as well. When it seemed that everyone stood against him and the people declared that it would not be possible for the Lord to deliver him now, David turned to the Lord for deliverance and salvation. We make a faulty move when our first step is not to embrace the Lord and draw closer to Him.

Focus outward

Further, in the midst of problems we are not allowed to become self-centered people. This is usually the route that we take when we are suffering. We no longer pay attention to anyone else because we are wrapped up in our own troubles. But David’s prayer is not all about himself. He is also praying for the interests of God’s people in the middle of this turmoil. Remember the turmoil that the people of Israel are enduring as David is made to flee and Absalom has seized the throne. David remembers his people and prays for their blessing. We must make sure that we continue to be outward looking people, even in the midst of troubles. It is easy to become consumed in our own problems and wallow in the mire of self-pity. But our Lord did not teach us to seek the interests of others before ourselves if we do not have our own troubles. If he had, we would never have to fulfill this command, because each of us will always have troubles to one degree or another. Instead of focusing on ourselves, focus on God and focus upon helping and serving others. Seeing other people’s troubles and helping them not only will take our minds off our own mess, but will also make us realize that we may not being doing so badly after all.

Focus on the outcome

Finally, we also need to look at the bigger picture and see the final outcome. Though things seemed to be the darkest for David at this time, he looked to the end result for confidence. He had trust that God would deliver him from his enemies. We also need to try our best to pull ourselves out of the depths of the situation and see that there is an outcome that we can endure. There is deliverance that can be found in the Lord. The Lord demands our trust in Him and will test us to see if we are people after God’s own heart. Have confidence that the Lord will provide.



This is the first psalm ascribed to David, and it well sustains Thirtle’s theory of the joint-authorship of the Psalter; which maintains that Hezekiah freely utilised the work of his famous ancestor David, adapting it to the service of the Temple in his own day; but taking care, while himself remaining anonymous, to do homage to David whenever any material portion of a psalm had come down from the father of Hebrew Psalmody. To start with the assumption that this psalm was not at all from David, is not only to pay wanton disregard to the literary headline embodying a tradition which has come down from time immemorial, but is to miss the exquisite fitness between David’s known circumstances and all the earlier portion of this psalm. On the other hand, to infer that David must have composed the whole of the psalm as it now stands, is to bring ourselves into trouble before we reach the end. With David in mind as author, all is well up to the stirring outcry which opens Psalms 3:7; but then we get into perplexity; for the next line either announces a sudden victory (surely!) in which case it is incredible that no anxiety for the safety of Absalom should have been betrayed; or (with ki as “For”) it brings up past deliverances as a plea for present rescue, of which allusion the language contains no trace, and it is extremely unlikely, to say the least, that the writer would come so near to the contradiction of pleading, “O save! for thou hast saved!” without inserting some little word determining the accomplished salvation to the past. This perplexity is removed the instant we detect here Hezekiah’s adapting hand; since every line of the final stanza suits the overthrow of the Assyrians. David, in no case, could very well have written, “Thou has smitten all my foes,” without adding, “heretofore;” whereas Hezekiah, on receiving news of Sennacherib’s overthrow, could write in the conviction that he had no other enemies to fear; and, moreover, if there is any fitness in the word “lawless” (cp. Psalms 1:1, note) to point to foreigners, then that is the very work Hezekiah would be likely to employ.

Thus released from all embarrassment respecting authorship, we are in a position to appreciate to the full the encouraging, yea even inspiring, spectacle of lofty confidence with which the lately fallen but now spiritually restored monarch—the hero of so many triumphs and the singer of so many songs—now faces the sore chastisements which confront him in the thorny path of discipline which he must henceforth for a long time tread. God has had mercy upon him; has restored to him the joys of his salvation; has renewed to him the gift of his ennobling Spirit. He is inwardly a new man: has had granted to him Divine healing. Hence he is now again a strong man. He can by faith behold Jehovah about him as a shield. He stands erect: his Divine Supporter has lifted up his head. The God whose ark he has dutifully sent back to Jerusalem is already, as by angels’ mouths, sending him answers of peace from his holy mountain. And, thus sustained, he soundly sleeps; and, refreshed, rises without fear to confront the myriads of Israel who have been led astray into rebellion.

We can imagine Hezekiah’s muse poising itself on that outburst of supplication from the pen of his ancestor, Arise, Jehovah! save me O my God!—lingering over it, as still most suitable to himself ere yet Assyria’s power in the land was broken; and perhaps wondering how much of the original closing stanza could be saved from oblivion: when further uncertainty was obviated by the decisive rebuke of the great Eastern Power; and two good lines remain to weave into his own climax. David first and then Hezekiah would be ready to own—

To Jehovah belongeth salvation;

and both alike—nobly caring for the flock of Jehovah’s pasturing—would be prepared, with a full heart, to exclaim—

On thy people be thy blessing!

Thus we need not deny ourselves the pleasure of repeating the delightful words in which Ewald and Delitzsch unite to honour David:—

“As in olden times, he still bears his people upon a loving, interceding heart. He commiserates those who have been led astray, without being angry with them. Distinctions vanish altogether from his mind when he prays for the nation as a whole. The one concluding expression of the psalm—remarks Ewald—throws a bright light into the depths of his noble soul.”

Resolving Personal Conflicts

Psalms 4:1-8

Brent Kercheville


As you turn to Psalms 4, I would like for you to consider a little background concerning this psalm. Many have termed Psalms 3, 4 as morning and evening psalms. The reason for this designation is that in the third psalm we read “I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” In the fourth psalm we read “in peace I will both lie down and sleep.” Therefore, some have suggested Psalms 3 as useful for when one arises from sleep and Psalms 4 when one goes to sleep. Further, some have made a connection between Psalms 3, 4 to the point of suggesting that the fourth psalm is a continuation of the third psalm. However, this connection seems to be arbitrary and merely the speculation of scholars. Further, the appeals that we read in Psalms 4 do not fit with the scene of David running for his life from Absalom. We will notice this to be the case when we begin the study of the text. The heading we are given is that this psalm was to be given to the director of music to be played upon stringed instruments. This is merely the notation of how the psalm was to be when used in worship. The inscription does not describe a connection to the previous psalm. The only connection that we are given is that the author is the same, who is David.

Appeal to God (Psalms 4:1)

Calling to God

David begins with a declaration to the Lord to answer his prayer. This is not a selfish demand that David is placing upon the Lord. It is the cry of confidence that the Lord will respond to the requests he is making. As we look at the psalm we are able to see that David is writing this psalm because of some trouble in his life. However, it does not appear to be the trouble like we read about in the third psalm. In the third psalm we read David pleads for physical deliverance. However, in this psalm, the trouble David is experiencing is more on a personal level. We have a conflict between persons, and David is in need of resolution of these personal problems. Therefore David begins to fix the personal conflicts through prayer. David immediately turns to the Lord and asks Him to answer him.

This first verse (Psalms 4:1) is the foundation of the movement of the psalm. The foundation upon which David makes his appeal is that he has full confidence that God will answer him. This is fundamental to our faith and is an anchor for us in our lives. If we are unsure whether God will answer our prayer, then we have no hope nor reason for faith. To have doubt in prayer destroys the very groundwork for growing and building up in Jesus Christ. According to James 1:6-8, the person that asks the Lord doubting cannot suppose to receive anything from the Lord. We have reason for confidence that the Lord will answer our prayers. James concludes his letter by saying that the prayer of the righteous is powerful and avails much (James 5:16 ). Jesus repeatedly taught His disciples to continue in prayer, for the Father wants to give to His children (Luke 18:1-8; Matthew 6; Mark 11:24 ). Thus, we must begin with a confidence that the Lord desires to answer our prayers.

Three Appeals to God

–Appeal for relief. David begins his appeals to the Lord by first asking for relief. You may remember the old Rolaids commercial that asked the question, “How do you spell relief.” The answer was the spelling of Rolaids, R-O-L-A-I-D-S. These antacids are advertised as the real solution to bad heartburn. We can see also how David spelled relief from the problems of personal conflicts: P-R-A-Y-E-R-S. David found relief through his prayers to the Lord. Prayer is the real solution to personal troubles. We so often begin at the wrong place when resolving personal problems. We think that we are following the plan of the scriptures by going to the person and trying to talk it out or we bring in other people to help to mediate the conflict. But these are not the first things to do. The first thing that must always take place is prayer. In Matthew 7:3-5 Jesus gave the warning about looking at the speck in another’s eye and not removing the log that is in our own eye. Remember the admonition in Matthew 7:5 : “Hypocrites, first take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” How can we get our own log out first? Only through talking to the Lord. In the midst of personal conflicts we can believe that we are so right, and yet we are the one who is wrong and fail to see the big log of problems in ourselves that may be causing these conflicts. It is sad how often we think problems are everyone else’s fault and that we are not the cause. To make sure we are not the cause, we need to humbly open our hearts before God for an examination. The appeal for relief begins in prayer.

–Appeal for mercy. David requests that the Lord show favor and pity upon him while he is enduring the conflicts. We must pray for mercy for ourselves because of how we may have caused the problems to grow worse. We must pray for mercy for the one who it seems to us is causing the problems in our lives. We must pray for mercy so that God will intervene and help us in our situation. We all need mercy and before we start asking for judgments, let us also remember that we have not been perfect ourselves.

–Appeal for righteousness. David then makes an appeal for righteousness. David makes this appeal at the beginning “answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness.” There is always the ability for us to pray to God for Him to act out of His righteousness. When there is wrongdoing and evil that is being done, we can pray for things to be made right. But notice carefully that the description of righteousness is not given to God in this verse, though He is righteous. David describes his own righteousness. David makes his appeal based upon his innocence. This is not a power struggle between two evils. David, after searching his heart, is praying for an answer and help because he has been innocent and justified in the things he has done. Thus we began our study that we must always consider ourselves before we consider the acts of others. David proclaims his innocence before the Lord.

Appeal to the Enemies (Psalms 4:2-5)

The problem (Psalms 4:2)

David now turns his appeal to those who are the cause of his problems and conflicts. In verse 2 we see the problem verbalized more clearly. There are two problems that David addresses that his enemies are involved in which have caused these conflicts. First, David says that they are turning his honor into shame. This is a personal attack upon David. David is dealing with his reputation and his dignity being turned into shame and disgrace. I do not believe that any of us are exempt from enduring such attacks. From time to time there are those who call into question our motives and our reputation. Those who are against David are seeking to destroy his reputation in an effort to destroy the person. How were they doing this? They were destroying his reputation by loving vain words and seeking after lies. This is the second cause of the conflicts that David is involved in. These enemies of David are more interested in spreading lies and rumors about him than in honoring him for who he is as king and the righteousness he is performing. How bad it is when our reputations are ruined by our own foolish acts! How much worse it is when our reputations are destroyed based upon lies and empty words! Now we are exposed to the heart of the problem. David is not being attacked as we saw in the last psalm when Absalom went to war against him. David is being attacked with words concerning his reputation. Perhaps this is the worst attack of all that we can endure.

We need to see the pure evil of heart that is required for one to try to destroy one’s reputation through lies and empty words. Further, we need to see the devastating effects that such an assault has upon a person. How dare anyone participate in such evil acts! Christians are some of the most susceptible to this problem because we have a trust with one another through which we have opened ourselves up. When we use the information that we know about one another to hurt and destroy another intentionally or unintentionally, we have committed the gravest of sins. We better never dare say a slanderous word against another person. If Michael the archangel would not slander the devil, then we better not dare consider such words against another of God’s creation (Judges 1:9).

Know this: you will be targeted because of godliness

Instead of flying into a fit of rage or taking a victim mentality and having a pity party, David now is going to do what he can to take care of this situation. David says that there is something that he and his enemies must know and remember. We must know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself. Why is this useful knowledge? Those who are set apart will be targets because of their godliness. Peter made mention of this in 1 Peter 4:4, “In regard to this, they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation–and they slander you.” Before we get overly worked up about the personal problems that we are involved in, we must remember that we are going to endure these things because of our righteousness. In fact, following in the footsteps of Jesus will lead others to slander us. Consider the amount of slander Jesus and Paul endured because of their righteous acts! We must know that because we are set apart and God hears us that we will be slandered.

Act: be angry and do not sin

David now states that for all “be angry and do not sin.” This is an important principle that Paul would reiterate in Ephesians 4:26. I believe we see David making a two-fold admonition. First, we must understand this principle as David applied it to his enemies. David tells his enemies that they may be angry at him and his relationship as king and his relationship with God. But that is not a reason to plunge themselves into sins. David teaches them to offer sacrifices of righteousness and to put their trust in the Lord. Instead of having people jealous and angry about what we have going for us, we can help point people in the right direction. Tell them what they can do to have the same successes. How is it that I am growing in knowledge in the scriptures? Only through hours and hours of study, not by any intellect or magical pills. You too can have the same knowledge through the study of God’s word. David is telling his enemies that they can be blessed as well if they will put their trust in the Lord. This reminds me of God’s words to Cain, who had been angry toward Abel because his brother’s sacrifice was accepted while his was not. What was the thrust of God’s words? You can do the same thing as your brother. Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord and you will be accepted also. We can help people overcome so they can also enjoy the blessings of God.

But I also believe that this statement “be angry and do not sin” can also be applied to the one who has been wronged. Though we are in the middle of conflict with people falsely slandering us, we do not have the right to commit sin ourselves. We cannot have a reactionary attitude that because this person did something, I will do something to him. While we can be angry at the evil that is being perpetrated against us, we cannot allow that to lead us to sin. Consider the example of Jesus who, though falsely accused and slandered, did not retaliate. He accepted His condemnation though it was false. We must live according to this example though we suffer through personal conflicts.

Appeal to Self (Psalms 4:6-8)

Let the light of the Lord’s face shine upon you

In Psalms 4:6 we see that there are many who say, “who will show us good?” The word “any” or “some” is not in the original manuscripts and can lead us to a false understanding of this passage if we are not careful. What I believe we are reading is the pity party that some people throw for themselves when this kind of personal adversity comes along. Some people will claim that there is no one who will show them good. They believe that everyone is against them and that everyone is out to harm them. But David issues a reminder to those who feel this way. “Let the light of your face shine upon us.” Instead of focusing on what our enemies are saying against us, we must focus our attention upon using our time for the Lord. We can spend the rest of our lives answering our critics, working to change public opinion, and trying to please those who slander us. But we will be unsuccessful. We will always have someone who has an unwarranted bad attitude toward us. Our own proverbs say that those who try to please everyone please no one. Instead, we need to focus on pleasing God and let God take care of the rest. Look at how God has shed His light upon us. Count the blessings that He has given us today. Look for the good things that God is doing in our lives to help overcome those who slander us.

Joy in our heart

One of the things we need to look at is the joy that God has given us. It is so easy to lose sight of the joy and pleasures of being a child of God. David makes a comparison between the joy the child of God has in the Lord and what the ungodly have in their grain and wine. The joy that God puts into our hearts from serving Him is greater than the joy from the pleasures of this life.

I wonder if we agree with that statement. Do we find more pleasure in the spiritual things of God than the physical pleasures of this world? If we answer no, then we have not changed ourselves to be in the likeness of God and are still clinging to the old man of sin. Why are the pleasures of the earth not as great as the pleasures of God? I believe there is one obvious answer: duration. Name any pleasure that you receive in physical things, whether they are sinful or not, and consider how long your pleasure lasts in such things. For a time we receive joy in eating, but it is lost. For a time we have joy in our purchases like our new cars, but they become mundane. Everything of this earth has passing joy and pleasure. Only the spiritual things of God continue to have a lasting joy and pleasure. We must make an effort to retrain and renew our minds to seek after the pleasures of God, and we will find that it is these pleasures that will give our lives meaning. To teach someone you know and see him become a Christian is one of the greatest joys I have experienced that is unmatched and unrivaled. The joy of discovering another precious truth from God’s word that I had not known before and had found on my own gives me great joy. These are the types of things that you and I can find true joy in if we will train ourselves in these things.

Peace from the Lord

David finally mentions the peace that we have in our Lord. When the world does not make sense and things seem to spiral out of our control, we can still have peace to lie down and sleep because of our confidence in the Lord. I believe this psalm has now come full circle. David began this psalm with the confidence in the Lord to answer his prayer. We have seen a multitude of emotions that will be experienced when enduring such personal conflicts. Yet, in the end, we can still lay down and rest because God gives us inner peace. While the outer may be full of conflicts, we can still have inner peace. Philippians 4:7 says, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” The godly have a security that others do not have. The tranquility we need is not going to be found in self-help books, Dr. Phil and other pop psychology television shows, or even in those who are close to us. The peace that passes understanding that will guard our hearts comes from God alone. Despite the turmoil, God is still with you and will help see you through the situation.


I hope we see that how David handled the adversity of the slander of his enemies is not how people today would tell us to take care of the problem. People today will tell us to take things into our own hands, to strike with retribution, or any of a myriad of things to do. But David shows us how to handle this adversity. Prayer and knowledge goes a long way in serving the Lord. Turn to God first in prayer. Turn inwardly and make sure that we are living righteously and innocently. Expect to be targeted by others because we are godly. See the light of God’s face through the joy and peace He brings to us which is greater than our conflicts.



The presumption is that David wrote this psalm, and that he intended it for evening worship; but on what occasion did he write it, and for whom? Did he write it for himself, when yet fleeing from Absalom, as some suppose; or did he write it for a Levite for ordinary evening worship, as the subscribed line suggests?

It is perhaps not an unnatural supposition that as David wrote the previous psalm, which, in fact, whether so intended or not, comes out well as a morning prayer; therefore he wrote this psalm also as an evening prayer, soon after, under similar circumstances, in fact while yet fleeing from before his rebellious son. Now while the grounds for such a conclusion are very slight, still, if the contents of the psalm had decidedly favoured it, we might have accepted it:—but do they? It is submitted that they do not; and the more obviously that this psalm on its own merits is fitted for evening worship, the more is that circumstance alone sufficient to account for its position here, quite apart from the precise circumstances that gave it birth.

Is it likely that David would compare his escape from Jerusalem to a deliverance from a narrow place into one of more ample room (Psalms 4:1)? Is it likely that he would imply that Absalom’s partizans were composed of the great men of the nation (Psalms 4:2)? Is it likely that he would advise rebels on the march to reflect on their beds before further committing themselves (Psalms 4:4)? Is it likely that, merely because the Levitical services were left going in Jerusalem, he would advise conspirators to sacrifice sacrifices of righteousness and trust in Jehovah (Psalms 4:5)? And, finally, is it likely that he would represent Absalom’s men as revelling in an abundance of corn and new wine, while he, the rightful king, was acting the poor pilgrim, “beggar’s staff” in hand (Psalms 4:7)? The extreme unlikelihood that David would do any of these things, emboldens us to decline such an hypothesis of origin, even though sustained by all the eloquence of Professor Delitzsch.

As soon, however, as we entertain the other account of origin suggested, every step in our inquiry deepens our impression in its favour.

David, as we know, was in deepest sympathy with the Levites as a tribe; and after he discovered how he had neglected them in his first essay to bring up the ark to Jerusalem, he took care to assign them the place of honour to which their calling as a tribe entitled them. And when we see him dancing before the ark in a linen ephod we are led to regard him as a Levite in spirit, wanting only the name and the formal appointment. If, therefore, the Levites came to feel their need of an evening psalm, and revealed their want to David, we may be sure that they would readily secure the services of his harp and of his muse.

Turning now to the subscribed line of the psalm and discovering there words which, when properly deciphered and rendered, refer to Inheritances, we are at once reminded that Jehovah himself was the inheritance of the Tribe of Levi, and that he, by the bountiful provision which he made in the holy ritual connected with offerings and sacrifices, took care that this consecrated and peculiarly dependent tribe should not in vain look to him for their temporal supplies. (Cp. Numbers 18:20-24, Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 18:2, Joshua 13:14; Joshua 13:33, Psalms 132:9; Psalms 132:16.) We have only to add to this the great truth, attested by Numbers 3:11; Numbers 3:13; Numbers 3:45, that the tribe of Levi was by express Divine appointment a representative tribe, in order to realise how certainly and how fully the Levites as a class were an ideal tribe. All the godly in Israel were, by calling, Jehovah’s hasidhim, or men of kindness; but the Levites were officially this, and it was peculiarly their duty and privilege to keep all Israel in mind of this their high calling to represent among men the essential kindness of their God. If, therefore, we may assume that the two kinds of inheritance would naturally combine in one celebration,—namely the inheritance of the Levites in Israel, and the inheritance of Israel among the nations,—and one evening song would blend two such congenial memories, then nothing would be more becoming than that the Levites should have and should sustain in the Temple service just such an anthem of praise as this.

The more narrowly we examine this psalm, so subscribed, the more admirably do we find it fitted for such a purpose.

The Levite proclaims that his right is in Jehovah, who has made room for him in Jerusalem, although he has given him no landed estate among his brethren of the other tribes. His peculiar position exposes him to especial trials; and, among them is his liability to be taunted for his poverty and dependence by the insolent rich. These are apt to turn the glory of his position into a reproach. He would, therefore, have such lovers of emptiness, such seekers of falsehood, know that the great principle of Divine kindness of which his tribe is the embodied representative has been made wonderful by Jehovah: who will assuredly now hearken to his evening prayer. Indeed he seems to be already possessed of an answer: counselling him when deeply moved by the taunts of the wealthy to beware of the sin of dissatisfaction and envy: let him, therefore, school his mind to contentment in the silence of the wakeful midnight hour, as he lies on his lonely bed; let him do his duty when offering sacrifice for himself and for the sins of his people; and so let him direct his trust unto Jehovah. To this answer, he gratefully responds. Having observed how multitudes in their prayers when offering their temple-gifts, appear with all their possessions, to be harassed by adversity and hoping for better times; having noticed also the gladness of his clients when their corn and their new wine have increased; he acknowledges that Jehovah has put into his heart a deeper and more lasting joy than any which the wealthy have experienced. Thus refreshed in spirit, at peace with God and with his fellow-men,—he lays him down to sleep in his temple-chamber,—in seclusion from the world—apart, it may be, from his loved ones in the distant Levitical city; but in conscious safety as he thus reposes under the very wings of the God of Israel. Thus concludes the Ideal Levite’s evening psalm.

Approaching God In Prayer

Psalms 5:1-12

Brent Kercheville


How we approach God matters to Him. One of the lessons the Lord was trying to teach the people of Israel by having a special priesthood was that God desires His people to approach with holy hands and godly hearts. The book of Leviticus describes how the priests were to work in the presence of God. Thus, when Nadab and Abihu were killed for offering an unauthorized fire, one of the main lessons was that how we come to God matters.

In Psalm 5 we are able to see the characteristics God desires for us to have when we approach Him in prayer. Many times we can have a very flippant attitude in prayer. Many times prayer is an afterthought or merely a ritual around a dinner table. But to be able to enter into the presence of God and lay our petition at His feet, there are certain requirements that the Lord demands. This will be the thrust of our study this evening.

Before we begin examining the details of Psalm 5, I would like for us to notice the overall movement of the psalm. Psalm 5 moves in contrasts between the righteous request of David and the wicked enemies of God. This psalm consists of five stanzas which alternate between these contrasts. The first, third, and fifth stanzas show the psalmist standing face to face before God. The second and the fourth stanzas illuminate the contrast between God and the wicked and the righteous and the wicked. The title reveals that this is a psalm composed by David.

Our Spirit In Prayer (Psalms 5:1-3)


The psalm immediately begins with a sense of urgency on the part of David. Notice in the first and second verses the words used by David: give ear, consider, and listen. To give ear has a literal meaning of “broadening the ear” as with the hand. The word “listen” literally means “to incline the ear.” Therefore, David is asking the Lord to perk up His ears to the things that David is about to say, if you will.

Prayer was important to David. David is not merely going through a prayer routine as he begins to speak to God. David has an intensity and urgency in his prayer. It is so important for us to move our prayers from the optional to the urgent. How often our prayers merely come from a sense of routine and not a sense of urgency. Yet it is this spirit of urgency that is needed in our prayers. When is the last time that we put our prayer to God with such urgency that we said “Give ear to my words, O Lord?” We have that right and ability to do so, yet how rarely we bring a zeal to the Lord concerning our requests. David shows us that to approach God in prayer, we ought to have intensity and not a prayer formula. In the New Testament, James refers to Elijah who “prayed earnestly” that it would not rain, and it did not (James 5:17-18). It is that kind of urgency that receives answered prayer.


Further, we also see a persistency in the prayer David is bringing to God. Twice, in Psalms 5:3, we read that David prayed “in the morning.” David was not praying only on one morning. By David saying “in the morning” he was saying that he was praying every morning.

We have spent many lessons noting the various times Jesus taught the need for persistence in prayer. In Luke 18:1 we are told that Jesus “spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” David shows us the example that we need to continue to ask of the Lord even when the answer is delayed. In our study of the psalms thus far, we have already seen the many desperate situations David found himself in. Yet David still relied upon prayer, repeatedly asking for the Lord to answer.


The third verse ends with David saying that he will wait in expectation for an answer to his prayer. The NKJV says “and I will look up.” But this is not an entirely accurate rendering of the Hebrew. Instead, the Hebrew literally means “to look out, to be on watch.” Therefore we are presented with the image of David offering his prayer and then looking all around him for the answer. David is offering a prayer in faith and not in doubt.

This is another excellent example of the type of spirit we must have in prayer. Many times we have a spirit of hopelessness and not a spirit of expectation which the Lord is looking for. When we ask in doubt, we cannot expect to receive anything from the Lord. The Lord desires us to have the spirit of expectation when we approach the throne.

In noting these three characteristics of spirit in approaching God, one may notice that it is a contrast between a spirit of optimism and pessimism. If we have the positive outlook of expectation in prayer, we would be more persistent in prayer and our prayers would have more urgency. However, a pessimistic spirit toward God will not expect answered prayer and therefore will not be persistent and urgent in prayer. We must have an attitude change when approaching God in prayer.

Manner Of Prayer (Psalms 5:1-3)

Types of prayers

I would also like to notice the types of prayers that David says he has been uttering to God. In Psalms 5:1 David says, “give ear to my words.” This is the most common and most obvious form of prayer to the Lord. But we should notice that this is not the only way to offer prayer to God.

Notice also in Psalms 5:1 David says, “consider my sighing.” The word “sighing” also can mean “groaning,” as translated by the New American Standard Version. There are prayers that are a matter of our spirits groaning and sighing to God. We cannot muster the power to speak any words, but the agony is so strong that we simply turn to God and groan for help. God hears our groaning and sighing, showing all the more what kind of compassionate God we have.

In Psalms 5:2 we see that David is also crying to God. Our cries are heard by God as well. Those times of pain when tears flow so great that we would believe we could make a pool out of our beds, God hears. This reinforces our knowledge that God knows our suffering, our anguish, and our hurts, and hears and sees us in our times of struggle.

We learn that we can approach God even with pain that cannot be put into words. God does not hear us simply because we begin with “our Father in heaven” and close with “in Jesus’ name.” As we saw earlier, God hears when we approach with a righteous spirit.

Relationship with God

God also hears when we are in a right relationship with God. Notice that David does not speak of God as being in a third person relationship. In Psalms 5:2 David does not say that the Lord is king and is God. Such a statement would be a mere acknowledgement of the character of God. David, however, is describing the relationship he has with the Lord. David says that the Lord is “my King” and “my God.”

I am afraid that too many of us do not really have a relationship with God. The only connection that many have is simply through attendance on Sunday. When we do not have the feeling and knowledge of intimacy that God is really a Father for us, then we have not taken advantage of the spiritual blessings that are available. How poor we are when we have not brought the Lord on our side! We can deepen our relationship with God by surrendering ourselves to Him and continuing in prayer, study, and meditation.

Contrasting the Relationship of Wicked and Righteous

God does not hear the wicked (Psalms 5:4-6)

While David has the confidence of answered prayer, he recognizes that others who are outside the covenant relationship with God do not have these blessings. Notice how strong the Lord is against those who sin:

God takes no pleasure in evil (Psalms 5:4).

God cannot dwell with the wicked (Psalms 5:4)

God cannot have in His presence the arrogant (Psalms 5:5)

God hates those who do wrong (Psalms 5:5)

God destroys those who tell lies (Psalms 5:6)

God abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men (Psalms 5:6)

We need to see the severity of sin, for we often take sin too lightly. If we did not take sin so lightly we would likely not sin as often as we do. Instead of abhorring sin as the Lord says He does, we are more interested in knowing how much sin we can be involved in and get away with and still go to heaven. This is usually the frame of our questions, when we say “Do you think God really cares if I do….” We want to know if we can do something that is extremely questionable or sinful and still be right in God’s eyes. The answer is that we cannot get away with any sin.

Notice that God does not overlook the workers of iniquity and wrongdoers. God hates them; God does not send to heaven those who lie. God destroys them, He does not give them eternal life. We must understand where we stand with God when we sin. Sin prevents us from approaching God. Sins must be removed before we can come into His presence.

Further, God’s children must adopt the same attitude toward sins as God has. We must abhor sin and have a hatred of sin down to our very core. When our Father hates sin, we cannot cling to it and consider ourselves His children. True children will act just like their Father, and so if we are Christians we must adopt this characteristic in our lives.

Why we can approach God (Psalms 5:7-8)

This leads David to speak about why he and others can approach God. In Psalms 5:7 David says that he can come into the house of God “by Your great mercy.” David does not begin by trying to plead his own righteousness. Our own righteousness gets us nowhere with God. All of us have committed wickedness and have been workers of iniquity and wrong. It is only by God’s mercy that we can have any standing with God and are not destroyed. In Titus 3:5 we read that it is according to God’s mercy that we are saved and not by our works of righteousness. Because we need the mercy of God, we are led to two actions.

Reverence. First, David says that he will have fear, or reverence, toward God when he worships. We must be in awe of the great mercy of God that allows such vile creatures as ourselves to offer Him honor. How careful we must act in regard to our worship to God. Since the Lord hates and abhors all things that miss the mark, how terrible it is for us to miss the mark in how we should worship the Lord! Worship is only true and reverent worship when it is done the way the one being worshipped desires. Therefore, we only show reverence when we worship God in His way. We cannot add or remove things from the worship for our benefit.

Led in righteousness. Knowing that the wicked are abhorred and will be destroyed, we need the Lord to lead us in His paths of righteousness. Our path of righteousness will not do us any good since we lead ourselves to destruction. But because of God’s mercy we can be led in His righteousness, which leads to justification. This request is really at the heart of David’s prayer, which is found at the end of Psalms 5:8. David requests the Lord to guide him down God’s straight way. How rarely we remember to pray for guidance in our decisions, yet how badly we need God’s direction in our lives. Only God’s guidance and direction can keep us from destruction with the rest of the ungodly. We show true wisdom to ask God to guide our lives.

Corrupt words of the wicked (Psalms 5:9-10)

David now turns his attention back to the wicked. Earlier David noted how the Lord would destroy all those who tell lies (Psalms 5:6). Now David is going to spend more time talking about the speech of the wicked. David begins by stating that none of their words can be trusted. Why do we listen to counsel of sinners and the advice of the ungodly? Why do we think that they can help us with life decisions better than God? Their throat is an open grave and all who follow their words will make their grave. Their tongues are full of lies and deceit, their mouths are not trustworthy, and their hearts are filled with destruction.

The heart is where the lies and deceitfulness stem from. The corrupt and wicked heart is the problem of the deceitful. This is a common problem that afflicts all people. In Romans 3:13 Paul quotes this verse of the psalm and applies it to the whole human race. All people have been charged under the guilt of sin, both Jews and Gentiles. Can we get away with having corrupted hearts and deceitful words? No.

According to Psalms 5:10, David warns that God will declare them guilty. The very thing that is devised and done by the wicked will be their own downfall. In our language today, we say “what goes around comes around.” Thus, David implores the Lord for this justice to be executed. Let the wickedness come back upon them.

This needs to be a reminder for us when we think about speaking malicious words and plotting against others. Eventually these things will come back upon us. Proverbs 29:6 says, “An evil man is snared by his own sin, but a righteous one can sing and be glad.” God takes note of these things and will judge them according to their actions. Because of their rebellion, they are cast away from God. No one who speaks these words and has this kind of heart can approach God.

Blessings of the righteous (Psalms 5:11-12)

The final stanza is the joy that can be found among the righteous. When righteous people approach the Lord, they will find the Lord as their refuge. When we go to God for protection, we will not be turned away and left to defend ourselves. When we approach God with the proper spirit and holy hands, we will find gladness and joy. We know this is the case, but how quickly we forget the good that God can do for us.

David continues by saying that God will spread a covering of protection over the righteous so that they may rejoice. Notice the movement and emphasis that David is trying to place within our minds for us to learn. When we turn to God for protection we will find joy. When we turn for help, we will find gladness. When we turn to God as a refuge, we will find rejoicing.

The final verse strikes this point the strongest. “For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous. You surround them with your favor as with a shield.” Look at the great spiritual blessings we come away with when we approach the Lord! The blessings of God continue to be given to us to aid us and strengthen us for the Lord.

Finally, the righteous are surrounded with the favor of God like a shield. This shield is a buckler which when set up would offer protection for the warrior. We are surrounded by the favor and mercy of God. Though the world is condemned with sin, by God’s mercy He still shows favor to us when we approach Him properly.


Ephesians 3:12 says, “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Let us properly approach Him and receive His great blessings of help and protection.



This psalm is attributed to David; and its contents well sustain the inscription—especially if we date its origin at the time when the rebellion of Absalom was being fomented by men who were yet maintaining the appearance of loyalty to the king, though really plotting against him.

The danger prompting the prayer was evidently most serious. It seems to have been caused by one chief offender, aided by associates: hence the alternation of the language between the leader and his followers—his mouth, their tongue, and the like. The character of these workers of mischief is described in unsparing terms. They are lawless men, patrons of wrong, guilty of defying Jehovah: boastful, yet deceitful; their language is fair, for they smooth their tongue, but their principles are foul: their transgressions abound, and at least one of their number is a man of bloodshed and deceit. They are plotters; with nefarious designs not yet avowed. Probably the perfidy of Ahithophel is already evident to the king, although he does not yet point to him so plainly as in later psalms.

It is perfectly clear that the psalmist perceives himself to be aimed at by the conspirators: hence his prayer for Divine guidance because of his watchful foes.

It is further clear that the psalmist perceives the very government of Jehovah in Israel to be at stake, so that deliverance vouchsafed to the petitioner by bringing him out of this crisis will cause great joy to the godly men of the nation.

It is no objection to the Davidic authorship of this psalm that the writer appears to be animated by the Levitical spirit of consecration—so much so that we are tempted to ask whether he was not himself a Priest with the ordering of the sacrifices on the altar under his own charge. But this spirit and this lively interest in the Divinely appointed ritual, as we know, had found a remarkable embodiment in David himself, as the history indicates, and as these psalms are themselves beginning to reveal. Hence it is perfectly natural that the king should seem to count on his psalm being used in the next morning’s worship, and that he should liken his prayer itself to an ordered sacrifice, promising himself that he will watch for a divine response.

The yet deeper element of instruction to be discovered in this psalm, is, the evidence it affords of spiritual restoration on the part of the king. If we are right in dating this psalm at the time when the fire of rebellion was already glowing in secret, then we know where we are, with reference to the antecedent event of David’s deplorable fall. He is no longer under the spell of that spiritual paralysis which followed his transgression: he has humbled himself in the dust, has sought and found forgiveness, is once more in fellowship with his forgiving God. Hence, now again, Jehovah’s cause is his own; and the spiritual well-being of those who love Him is near to his heart. Restored to fellowship with his holy God, he realises his covenant relation to Him who is carrying forward his vast plans for Redemption; and therefore anticipates abiding gladness to all who love Jehovah’s name.

The Distress of Sin and Relief of Repentance

Psalms 6:1-9

Brent Kercheville


The treating of depression has become a multimillion dollar industry. Billions upon billions of dollars are spent each year on prescription drugs for depression. While there seem to be many sources for depression, there is one source that is overlooked. In my unprofessional opinion, one reason depression is on the rise is because something else is dramatically on the rise in this country. In Psalms 6, David describes his depression as being caused by sin. There is a sinking feeling, a low feeling, and a guilty feeling from a conscience involved in sin. Now I am certainly not suggesting that depression is always caused by sin. However, it is true that sin causes depression, and David admits this in the sixth psalm. There is a distress that occurs in a sinful life. In this lesson we are going to notice many of the feelings of David and note how these feelings are comparable to the things we may feel in our own lives. In this lesson we will notice David’s distress of sin and the relief he finds in repentance.

The Distress of Sin (Psalms 6:1-7)

Feeling the anger of the Lord (Psalms 6:1-3)

In the first three verses we see the distress of David concerning his sins. In verse 2 we see David speak about his bones being in agony, or as the NKJV puts it, “my bones are troubled.” In Psalms 6:3 David says that his soul is in anguish being greatly troubled. In Psalms 6:2 David declares that he is weak and faint. We see David with a pricked conscience. He is in anguish and is faint from sin. How often we feel the same way as David did. The heavy burdens we carry from the guilt of our sins. While sin is pleasurable for the time, the after effects are not. Our conscience begins to eat at us. We feel a building sense of guilt within us. There is a sense that things are wrong in our lives and we need to make changes to correct them.

Many times we make the wrong changes. Sometimes the reason we are unhappy is because of sin. We think we need to change our jobs, change our location, change friends, and other such physical solutions. But often what is eating at us is the need to change ourselves. Our conscience is calling within us that we are not doing what is right and there must be changes made.

Severed from God (Psalms 6:4)

David also feels severed from the Lord. We notice this feeling expressed in verse 4 where David cries out “Return!” David calls for God to come back because it feels as if God has left him alone. There are many times in our lives that we will feel distant from the Lord as if He were so far away and is not watching out for us any longer. We also need to be aware of those times that we have that feeling of distance from God. Do we feel this way because there is sin in our lives that is severing the relationship with God? Is there something blocking the way for us to draw near to God? Many times this will be the case as the distress of sin causes a lonely feeling, as if we have been left alone by God.

Loss of sleep (Psalms 6:6)

David also declares that he is experiencing quite a bit of sleeplessness. In Psalms 6:6 David says that all night he makes his bed swim. The understanding of this sentence is that this is taking place all night, every night. This is not just one day of restless sleep. Every night and all through the night, David is experiencing the grief and tears from sins. Again, I do not believe we have to stretch our minds to know this feeling of anguish and grief. I can think of times in my life where there was little sleep and much crying. I can remember thinking that my bed was going to turn into a pool of water. I am sure you have felt the same in your times of grief and suffering. Besides suffering and grief, sin is another player that can keep us up, nagging us through the night that something is amiss and needs correcting. Here we seem to have an imagery of committing sin, and its consequences have caused David to be so burdened that sleep is lost.

Spiritual and physical fatigue (Psalms 6:6-7)

David also describes great fatigue that he is experiencing both spiritually and physically. In Psalms 6:6 David says that he is weary from his groaning. His eyes are weak with sorrow and grief and these things continue to pound upon him. How worn out we can feel after battling sin. How worn out we can be after fighting the battles and enduring the consequences of sin. I hope, at the very least, that we can use these things as reminders to deter us from sin. Though sin seems that it will bring lasting pleasure, what we find out is that the pleasure is temporary, but the consequences are severe, not only eternal, but upon our spiritual, emotional, and physical beings at this time. These are the things that we will be subjecting ourselves to by falling into the snare of sins. This is the reality of it all. How many fornications and adulteries occur each day and each year under the fantasy of lasting joy, true love, and meaning from life. But the consequences continue to be the opposite–broken families, devastated lives, scarred children, emptiness in life, and continual guilt. What did David do under the distress of sin?

David’s Responses (Psalms 6:1-7)

Do not discipline in wrath (Psalms 6:1)

David begins this psalm with the request to not be disciplined in God’s wrath. I think we need to consider that David does not request to not be disciplined. This would be a foolish request. Discipline must take place. There are severe consequences to our actions that must be given to all who sin. David is not naïve to think that he is going to avoid the discipline and the correction of the Lord. David asks that the discipline not come in God’s anger.

We need to realize that discipline will come when we sin. We are foolish if our request to God is that we not be disciplined for what we have done. This is a societal error that is gaining steam even among Christians and being taught to our children. There is this idea that sorrow should make everything better. How many times we see people on television say that they are sorry for what they have done. Then both fans and family will get on television and say that since he is sorry, this is good enough and he should not have to go to jail. They cry, “what more do you want him or her to do?” The answer is that punishment must come. My friend and I when we were in elementary school would go in my backyard and throw rocks into a canyon. At the bottom of this more than 100 foot canyon was a shed and beyond that a house where someone lived. We would throw rocks trying to hit the windows in the shed. Of course, we really were not trying to hit the windows because we did not want to break them. It seemed like an impossible goal and so we would throw rocks to see who could get the closest. One day, one of us actually hit our seemingly impossible target. That was big trouble. Do you think I got off the hook simply because I said sorry? No, I was grounded for playing with my friend, had to apologize, had to pay for it, and all sorts of other punishments were dealt out for my error. I learned my lesson.

We have a problem today where people do not expect severe consequences for their actions. And this is being taught to children as well. No punishment is given when they are sorry. But this is not the justice of God that we are using. This is a warped sense of reality when we believe that we can get away with things just because we are sorry. David knew he would be corrected. By being forthright with God, he prayed that God not act in wrath.

Mercy (Psalms 6:2-3)

Thus, David was praying for mercy, and he explicitly says such in Psalms 6:2. Mercy, generally speaking, is that one does not receive the full punishment due for the action committed. My father had a general rule with me that my punishment would be lesser if I was forthcoming with my transgression and admitted my guilt rather than be sneaky. This was the mercy of my father. Did this mean that I was not punished? Not at all, but the punishment was less severe than could have been given for what I had done. I believe this is the idea behind David’s request for mercy. Since he is coming with an honest and sorrowful heart to God, he is asking for mercy in the punishment that is given. We have the right to ask God for mercy. I do not think of these words as often as I ought, and we need to consider that mercy is most certainly what we need our Lord to show toward us.

Ephesians 2:4 tells us that God is rich in mercy and has great love for us. God will be merciful to His children. When we consider our continued violations of God’s law, it becomes easy for us to see God’s mercy shown toward us. In California they have a law called three strikes and you’re out. The idea is that if you commit three felony crimes, you are in jail for life. I believe that is fair and merciful since everyone has three chances. But imagine if God had a three strikes rule for us. Would anyone of us be here today? God is rich in mercy. Let us thank Him for His mercy and realize that we need and can request His mercy. Tied closely to these things, David also asks how long he is going to endure these things. Here we see David communicating with God, pointing that he is suffering and enduring this grief. How long will he be plagued this way? Again, it is a call for mercy.

Return to me and deliver me (Psalms 6:4-5)

David now requests a restoration to the relationship. David desires God to turn back to Him. It brings the image to mind of God having His back to David because of sin, and now David requests God to turn His face back to him. The relationship had been broken, but David earnestly desires to repair the relationship and pleads with God to turn back to him. In this request, David is making an interesting point to the Lord that we must notice, which is found in Psalms 6:5. David says, “in the grave who will give You thanks?” The point I believe David is making is that if he is destroyed for his sins, as all of us deserve, how can he proclaim thanks and praise to God? David is making the proclamation of repentance. David is telling the Lord that he is going to serve Him, but that will not be possible if he is destroyed for his sins. David desires to serve God completely. We are seeing David express his turning of heart and purposing himself to obeying the Lord again. David is going to glory and serve the Lord.

This is a critical decision that we must make when we have committed sin. It is time for us to go before God with a change of mind and purpose. David expresses a realization that punishment is necessary and can be severe, but he is ready to serve the Lord with all his heart. How needed this is among us today. In the distress of sin is the time for us to turn to the Lord and not run from the Lord. In the distress of sin we must seek after the Lord and ask for reconciliation. Amazingly, when we return to the Lord, He is always there to take us back. It does not matter what sins have been committed, the Lord welcomes us home with open arms.

The Relief of Repentance

Iniquity repelled (Psalms 6:8)

Now we suddenly see confidence in the words of David. David says that the workers of iniquity have been repelled and are to depart from him. David is able to stand up from the mire of sin and fight against all that have been working against him. Many commentators seem to have a difficult time understanding why the change of tone in the psalm takes place right here. What has suddenly changed that has given David a renewed hope and confidence that he did not have before. The obvious answer is found at the end of Psalms 6:8 and also in Psalms 6:9 : God has answered David’s prayer.

God hears our cries (Psalms 6:9)

What a powerful thing for us to know. In the midst of the distress of sin, God will hear our prayers and our cries. David needed to be disciplined and rebuked by the Lord, but God was still near to answer David’s pleas. Notice the three things that God has heard David utter: 1) The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping, 2) the Lord has heard my supplication, and 3) the Lord will receive my prayer. All of these forms of petition to God have been heard. From the crying in the bed late at night to the formal requests for help, God has heard and God has answered.

Enemies will pay (Psalms 6:10 )

Those who are workers of iniquity will be judged. The imagery seems to suggest the enemies turning with tail between the legs and running away. David is overcoming and the evildoers do not have any leverage against him now. God gives us the power to overcome our enemies and conquer sin. There is nothing given to us that we cannot endure and overcome with the power of God. David is proof of this precious truth. You and I can endure any suffering that may come from Satan or even self-inflicted by our own bad decisions, when we turn to the Lord. We can overcome the distress of sin. We must notice not only the confidence and hope in David, but the relief in David’s words from God answering prayer. Is there any better blessing than God responding to our needs and helping us overcome the challenges we face? What a friend we truly have in Jesus the Christ.


1. Be warned concerning the severe consequences of sin.

2. Know what to do in the distress of sin.

3. Look for God to carry you through.



This is the first of a series of psalms of profound importance in the inward and spiritual history of redemption; inasmuch as, among them, they disclose a fact never formally stated in David’s history nor made obtrusive in his psalms. David’s lamentable fall being in any case notorious, it has ever been a satisfaction to the spiritual-minded to be able to point to his penitential psalms as proof that, if he sinned wickedly, he repented very humbly and sincerely. Had it been otherwise, his eminence as a king and as a psalmist would have been a stumbling-block to the superficial and unwary. His penitential psalms, therefore, have been made none too prominent. They have served as a salutary warning to morally weak souls, who have been only too ready to stumble at David’s great offence, if not also to extenuate their own errors under the specious cover of his example.

This invaluable lesson is susceptible of being all the more strongly enforced when the disclosure to which we have alluded becomes evident. It is, that before David repented, he had to be severely chastised. Not only was he soon after punished by the death of his child, the fruit of his illicit connection with Bathsheba; not only was he long held under chastisement by the various retributions in kind which for years served to remind him of his own guilt; but, as it would seem, even before the death of that child, he had to endure a severe infliction from the hand of his offended God, which smote him in his own person, disfigured his otherwise noble face, caused him excruciating and long protracted pain, compelled him to make midnight outcries of agony which spread consternation through his palace, not unattended by the aversion of some of the members of his household and the evil surmisings and whisperings of others. Indeed, it is tolerably clear that these whisperings reached the ears of his courtiers, some of whom were moved thereby into base though cloaked disloyalty.

The evidence of this comes out little by little, partly in the lines and partly between the lines, of the series of psalms of which that before us is the first. Attribute to David the psalms to which his name is prefixed—render them fearlessly and consistently—read them one after another with the apprehensiveness which the known circumstances of David’s life are fitted to suggest, and the conclusion emerges, with a cogency which candour cannot resist, that the very punishment threatened on David’s sons in the event of their transgressing (2 Sam. 27), actually fell on himself—and he, David, for a time, though perhaps none about him dare say it save with bated breath—became a leper! This explains many words and facts which are otherwise inexplicable.

From this point of view, this sixth psalm falls into its place, as the first of a series which have liturgically and conveniently been called “penitential.” In truth there is in this psalm no actual confession of sin—rather an awkward circumstance, one might think, considering the frankness which becomes avowed confession, but which is fully explained when we remember that the name “penitential” is in this case purely conventional, and that what we miss here we find explicit enough later on. Nevertheless, there is this convenience in the classification—that by bringing back to this psalm what we learn from subsequent evidence, we are rewarded by the discovery of a richer meaning in these words than we might otherwise have detected.

Well might David apprehend that his present pains were a token of Divine displeasure: well might he feel as though he were carrying in himself the sentence of death: well might he be quite unable, under the circumstances, to rise above the more gloomy views of hades which were current in his day (op. Intro. Chap. III. “Hades”), intensified by the contrast between the silence of the underworld, as usually apprehended, and the musical and joyful memorial of thanksgiving now being daily rendered in Jerusalem under the fostering care of his own inventive genius: well might the discovered presence at his court of adversaries add to, the bitterness of his shame that he could not conceal from them its visible as well as audible manifestations. And now to think that these adversaries to his person were plotting mischief to his throne and realm, on the assumption that his demise could not long be delayed,—this was perhaps the bitterest ingredient in his cup. From this point of view, the psalm before us becomes intensely dramatic.

The suddenness and completeness with which the scene changes, in the last stanza, would appear psychologically puzzling in the last degree, had the writer of the psalm been any other than David, No prophet with a message of peace comes on the scene; and yet the storm within is hushed in a moment. It is instant peace, which brings active power; the Divine healing simultaneously penetrates and pervades body and mind. Somehow, the petitioner knows in a moment that he is heard. His courage rises commensurately as in a kingly soul accustomed to command. Depart, says he, to the faithless cowards who were secretly gloating over his ignominious humiliation; and, with prophetic glance, he apprehends the completeness of their overthrow, rendered certain by his recovery.

How is this? How has it come about? David KNEW, as his three-fold assurance, twice of the hearing, and then—with changed emphasis—of the hearer of his prayer—attests. How did he know?

He was a prophet. He had been long ago anointed with the Holy Spirit. His spirit had for years been responsive to God’s Spirit. Full many a time had the Divine Artist’s invisible fingers swept over the chords of his soul, calling forth music which he knew well had come from heaven. And, however obstinately slow he had been to perceive it, at length his loss of spiritual power had become to him too painfully evident. Hence, when just now he had exclaimed, Oh return, Jehovah! there was a conscious void, the refilling of which had behind it a background of experience which made it most real, most certain, most invigorating. Jehovah’s restored presence was its own witness; and, once more, “Jehovah’s word” of prophetic certainty “was on his tongue.”

Hence this psalm fills us also with a chastened joy. We are instructed, that the spiritual life is no imaginary thing; that our Heavenly Father has efficacious means at his command whereby to make his absence felt when we willfully and persistently offend him; and again, at his command, when he would restore unto us the joy of his salvation. And though we are not prophets, and may not in some ways be as directly conscious of Divine activities upon our spirits as though we could pour forth prophetic strains admittedly given from above, yet is there a residuum of identity between the influences of the one Divine Spirit on all men in all ages. The Spirit of Jehovah is always and everywhere a holy spirit, both demanding and creating holiness Where he dwells: demanding it in David, demanding it in ourselves. Hence psalms like these have a value that is perennial.

Handling Evil and Its Snares

Psalms 7:1-17

Brent Kercheville


Before we begin to read Psalms 7:1-17, we are given some insight as to the nature of this psalm. In the superscription we read that this is a psalm of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush, a Benjamite. David writes this psalm because of one particular person in his life who is giving him some great problems. Unfortunately, we know nothing about this man named Cush during the days of David. It would certainly have been nice if we could have gone to other scriptures to know the circumstances David is dealing with as he writes this. Much has been done in speculation concerning this matter, but that is all it is. We simply do not know anything about this man or the circumstances except that which is revealed here. We can begin by noticing that in the first two verses the things which Cush had done were not good toward David. David is not writing a psalm of praise for the kindness of Cush . Instead, we see David crying out for refuge, salvation, and deliverance from those who pursue him. So great is the oppression that David says that he will be ripped to pieces like a lion tears at prey if he is not rescued. In this lesson we are going to notice how David handled those who did evil against him. What are you to do when someone is declaring evil against you and is out to destroy you? What should be your plan of action? When evil stands against us, particularly in the form of someone who desires to do us harm, what shall we do? Thus we will consider the example of David, a man after God’s own heart.

The Steps of David

Trust God (Psalms 7:1)

The first verse tells us that David takes his refuge in the Lord. It is very easy for us to pass over such a statement and not truly grasp the meaning of the Lord as a refuge. Under the old covenant, the need for refuge was very important in the law. Refuge had a rich meaning to the people of Israel . In Numbers 35 the Lord commanded that the people designate six cities as the cities of refuge. These cities were given to the Levites, since they were not allotted land in the conquest of Canaan . But the purpose of the cities of refuge is what is important. These six cities were refuge for those who accidentally killed someone, what we would call in our legal society manslaughter. An example would be that if a man were swinging an ax and the ax head flew off and killed another man, this would be manslaughter. To prevent his life from being avenged by the victim’s kinsmen, the man could flee to the city of refuge to preserve his life from death. This was the meaning and idea of refuge to the people of Israel . Refuge was the place to run to when your life was endangered to be protected. There was no other place to run to for the person to find protection from death.

We must realize that there is no other place to turn to for safety than God. When trouble came to the Israelite, there was nothing else that should have come to their mind than the six cities of refuge that God had designated. Friends, there should be nothing else that comes to our minds in the times of trouble than fleeing to the Lord for refuge. This was a great theme of the major and the minor prophets. Notice Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” Refuge is about trusting in God. You and I will never find refuge from the troubles of this world and we will never find refuge from those who commit evil against us until we put our trust in God. Unfortunately, in religious arenas putting one’s trust in God means saying that I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. But that is confession and not trust. Trust is about turning over control to someone else. Trust is about depending upon another for the outcome. Trust is about what you are relying upon when under fire and in a tight bind. Trust is seen in a man like Abraham who could leave all that he had and had known to go to a place that God would show. He was trusting that the outcome would be good, though he did not know what he would encounter along the way. Without this releasing and surrendering of our lives to the Lord, the rest of the steps of David are not going to matter. If we are simply unwilling to let go, then the rest of this lesson has no value. God is a refuge if we will put our trust in Him.

Confidence in innocence (Psalms 7:3-5)

In Psalms 7:3-5 David makes a declaration of his innocence. However, David does not simply state that he is innocent. Listen to his tone about how sure he is concerning his condition. David is laying it out before God. “If I have done this….” David is making it clear that the things which Cush has charged against him are not true. So great is David’s confidence concerning the matters for which he is charged that he makes a very bold statement in Psalms 7:5. If any of these things have happened, then David tells God to let the enemy pursue and overtake him. In fact, David says let the enemy put him to death if any of the charges are true. Now, those are strong words to be saying to God. We must see the confidence David has in his purity and in his blamelessness.

This is a character trait that God has called us to have. We must have a blameless character. 2 Peter 3:14 says, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.” Blameless does not happen by luck or mere chance. The only way to have a spotless and blameless life is to make a conscious effort about everything that is said and done. What purity in life is demanded of us so that we can say that we are blameless! Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Too often we underestimate the importance of blamelessness and purity in our lives. We forget that this is a call to be a follower of Jesus. Our blamelessness ought to be seen by those we are around, that they would not be able to blaspheme the name of God. Remember one of the condemnations against the people of Israel was that the Gentiles had opportunity to blaspheme God. Purity of life does not allow it. Further, when the evildoers come and try to charge us with error, we can be vindicated from such charges when we have led blameless lives. If we are not blameless, then the charges can stick whether they are true or not. Let us dedicate our minds to purity of life so that we can be found blameless and spotless in the eyes of God and in the eyes of those around us.

Leaves vengeance to God (Psalms 7:6)

How strongly we desire to take vengeance upon those who falsely charge us, speak evil of us, and try to destroy us. We want to do something because of the injustice that has taken place against us. How strongly we can burn to act! How desirous we can be for retribution! Let us notice what David does concerning these evildoers. David calls upon the Lord’s anger, not upon his own anger. I am impressed with such a statement made by David. David does not act out of his own fury and rage for what is happening against him. David knows that what is being done is wrong. David knows that the Lord is angry at what is happening. Therefore, David pleads for action out of God’s anger and not from his own. This is an impressive act of self-control. In fact, David describes the rage of the enemies and not of himself.

The people of God are not to take vengeance for themselves. The people of God are not to take matters into their own hands when they are wronged. Our reaction may be that this does not seem right. We have been wronged. We have been sinned against while we have been innocent. How can we say that the people of God are not to take matters into their own hands? Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” Romans 12:17 says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” Romans 12:19 says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We must remember to allow these things to happen to us without retaliation because it is in the hands of God and He will give His wrath against the evildoers. We must trust God to give the appropriate measure of judgment.

Call for God’s judgment (Psalms 7:7-8)

We also see David call for God’s judgment. But he realizes something that many of us fail to realize when we call upon God to judge evildoers. David understands that judgment must come upon all. David calls for the people to be assembled and judged, but he does not leave himself out of the judging process. David asks that he also be judged according to his righteousness and integrity. Before we can call for judgment upon our enemies, we need to look at ourselves and make sure that we can endure judgment upon ourselves. It is easy for us to demand that God take vengeance on others, but we usually are not so bold when it comes to our own actions. But we cannot expect judgment upon others until we are ready to accept judgment ourselves. David says that he is ready to be judged.

Compare my actions to theirs and vindicate me. Do we have the integrity in our lives that we can ask God to judge? Are we ready for God’s judgment? If not, we need to make changes now to be prepared for the judgment.

The Nature of God’s Judgment

God’s discernment (Psalms 7:9-10)

David now describes the nature of God’s judgment. How can we know that God will judge rightly? How can we trust that in God vengeance is His and He will repay? David expresses the reasons for his trust. First, David declares that God searches the mind and the hearts. God is able to discern the hearts and minds of men and women. Those with secret intentions, with callous hearts, and with evil motives will be known by God. They are not escaping the notice of the Lord. Why do we think that God does not know what we are doing? Why do we think that God does not know what we are thinking? Why do we think that God does not care? Oh, how we fool ourselves into believing that God does not know or God does not care. God knows and He will bring an end to the evildoer to make the righteous secure.

God’s actions (Psalms 7:11-13)

Notice the imagery David uses to describe God in judgment. The first image is a shield to the upright in heart. In the judgment, those with the cleansed hearts will be protected and defended by the Lord. David is able to say with confidence that his shield is God Most High. The second image is God as a righteous judge. But notice the frequency of His judgments. David says that God expresses His wrath every day. Too often we merely think about God giving judgment in the very end of time. But this is not the only time the Lord judges. Consider the history of Israel. The 586 B.C. destruction of Jerusalem was not the only judgment of the nation. There had been numerous judgments that the prophets declared in an effort to turn the people to the Lord. The Lord is judging continuously. Judgments occur now and on the final day. This is further seen by the rest of the imagery found in Psalms 7:11-13. What is the purpose of God’s continual judgments and expressing of wrath? To make the people relent, according to Psalms 7:12. God wants His people to turn back to Him. God will use judgments and troubles to get the people to turn back to Him. But what will happen to the people who will not turn to God?

Notice the imagery again. God will sharpen His sword, bend back the bow, and will make ready the deadly weapons and flaming arrows. This is a very interesting image to describe the condition of those who will not turn their hearts and minds to the Lord. God is standing at the ready to judge. Such a person stands in the condition of an archer with the bow pulled back and flaming arrows ready to fire. Destruction is eminent for those who will not yield to the Lord and those who do evil against God and His people. What greater image of warning could God give us to describe where the disobedient stand with God? God is ready to judge. So what can we do to overcome the snare of sin when we see that we have judgment pointed against us? How can we overcome? David describes some steps in the conclusion of the psalm.

The Snare of Evil (Psalms 7:14-16)

Sin is a birthing process (Psalm 7:14 )

David describes the snare of evil and problem of sin. In Psalm 7:14 David begins by describing the birthing process of sin. When evil is allowed to remain in the heart, it is going to be carried out into action and that will bring about trouble on the evildoer. When evil is allowed to remain in the mind and continues to be in our thoughts, the thoughts will lead us to conceive sin. This is exactly what James described in James 1:14-15. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown brings forth death.” We wonder why we struggle with sin and the reason is that we are hatching out these thoughts in our minds. When we are thinking about these things, we are going to carry them out.

Sin is a trap (Psalm 7:15 )

David further describes that when we have evil in our hearts, we are going to be caught in a trap and fall into a pit. We only hurt ourselves when these things are going on in our hearts. Numbers 32:23 says that your sin will find you out. We are going to get what we deserve. We are going to fall into our own pits and take our own bait when we allow evil within the heart. I believe the best example of this principle is found in the book of Esther concerning a man named Haman. Haman conceived a plot to kill Mordecai through deceiving the king of Persia . So excited was Haman to kill Mordecai that Haman had built the gallows to hang Mordecai. But Haman was caught in his own trap and was hung on the gallows he built himself. Sin is a trap that we will fall into if we allow evil to remain in the heart. We trap ourselves in sorrows, guilt, foolishness, harmful lusts, destruction, and problems beyond measure. We do all of these things to ourselves when we will not clean out our minds and purify our hearts.

Sin is a boomerang (Psalm 7:16 )

David enhances this thought further in verse 16. Sin will come back to your face and capture you. In 1 Kings 21 we read about King Ahab and Naboth. Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard so badly that his wife Jezebel had Naboth killed so that he could take over the vineyard. Note the condemnation in 1 Kings 21:19. “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours.” What was God saying? As you have done to others, so it will be done to you. There is a saying that what goes around comes around. We are going to pay for our actions. We cast blame upon others but many times it is because of our own traps that we have fallen into that we have such problems. Yet many times we are just getting what we deserve as consequences for our foolish and sinful actions.

Sin begins with a lack of thankfulness (Psalm 7:17 )

This is one thing that I do not think we are very willing to believe. How can it be possible that sin can come by a lack of thankfulness? It does not make any sense to us. We want to blame all sorts of other variables in life as the reason why we commit so many sins. But Paul in the book of Romans states very clearly the beginning steps to sinful activity. Romans 1:21-32 describes the sins of the Gentiles, who had given themselves up to every kind of impurity and lust. They worshipped the creature instead of the Creator. They exchanged normal relationship for shameless acts. They had murdered, were covetous, slanderers, and gossips. It is all listed there as you can see. How did the people begin down this road? Verse 21 tells us what were the beginning steps. “They did not honor Him as God or give that to Him.” Sin begins when we take our eyes off God and do not give Him the glory and honor that He deserves in our lives. How easy it is to slip away! How simple it is to fall into our desires and lusts when we lose our focus and take our minds away from God. David reminds us that we need to praise God continually.


David’s story is twofold in this psalm. First, remember the steps of David when the evildoers charge against you. Trust in God, live a pure life to be innocent of the charges and let God do the judging. How do we avoid becoming the evildoer? Realize that sin begins in the heart and if left there will turn into evil acts. Sin is a snare in our lives that will come back to haunt us. Because of our sins, the fiery arrows of God’s judgment are pointed at us. We must obey God’s call to receive mercy for what we have done. Let us turn to God before it is too late. The things we feel and endure are meant to get us to focus upon God and set our lives to Him.



As this psalm is avowedly discursive, we need not be oversolicitous about its framework of its precise line of thought. Nevertheless, in its author and its occasion, we may find fruitful suggestions wherewith to attempt our exposition. We have no subsidiary information respecting Cush the Benjamite, but may infer, with some probability, that his tribe is mentioned for the very purpose of suggesting that he was a partisan of King Saul. It is plain that he had slandered David to his royal master; and it is not difficult to make out the nature of the accusations he had made—with sufficient clearness, at least, to show how untrue they were, how base, and how hard to David’s noble and sensitive nature to bear. Cush had, apparently, accused David of wrongfully retaining in his own hands spoils which belonged to the king; of returning evil for the good which Saul as his early friend had done him; and, in some way, of taking toll for his professed generosity in twice over sparing Saul’s life. Not only were these accusations hard to bear, but in all probability David had no opportunity to defend himself, and was satisfied that he would now be heard even if admitted into Saul’s presence. Under these circumstances his whole soul turns to Jehovah as his supreme Judge; and to him he pours out his complaint.

Probably this was the chief feature of the Psalm as David first wrote it; and was well and effectively closed by those concluding stanzas which picturesquely show how wrongdoers often prepare their own punishment. That he afterwards added to it, and greatly strengthened it, is a perfectly natural supposition; and this may have occasioned the irregularity of the composition, at the same time that it materially added to its permanent value.

It is so instructive to trace the ways in which Jehovah prepares his prophetic servants to receive and make known their messages, that we may be pardoned for surmising that David’s subsequent discharge of the duties of judge of Israel, and his enlarged outlook on surrounding nations, which doubtless afforded him opportunities of perceiving how often the great ones of the earth suffered justice to their subjects to be trampled in the dust,—became the educative means of enabling David to grasp some of the deeper problems involved in Jehovah’s judgeship over the individuals and nations of the earth.

Be this as it may, we are struck and impressed by the strong gleams of light which are here focused upon several portions of the judicial province pertaining to the Judge of all the earth. In the first place, we observe the Divine Judge’s frequent apparent unconcern with the moral quality of the actions of men. In his holy wisdom, he, to some considerable extent, allows his human creatures to do as they please, even when they are rebelling against him. We may well believe that he does this, partly to suffer the wicked to work out what is in them in the exercise of their birthright of moral freedom, and partly to discipline the righteous in patience, courage and undying faith. But, whatever his reasons, the fact is undoubted; and the consequent trial to such as are earnestly trying to please God is such as sometimes to make it appear as though Jehovah were asleep. Hence the outcries of a psalm like this:—Arise—lift up thyselfawake for me. In the next place, this psalmist recognizes that in Jehovah there is and must be such a fund of holy passion for righteousness as to ensure not only that he must ultimately do right, but that there must be in him such a cumulative storage of anger with wrong-doing as to render natural and inevitable outbursts of wrath on fitting occasions: otherwise there would be something deficient in Jehovah’s personal sanction of his own holy laws. David as judge in Israel would be able to feel this. Moreover, as he himself had been commanded to do right, as between man and man among his people; how could he afford to lose faith in Jehovah’s own observance of the justice which he had commanded to those who judicially represented him among men? Amid the throngs that gathered around him in the gates of Jerusalem from day to day, David had learned the lesson that justice to the masses demands justice to individuals; and though Jehovah had nations to govern and judge, David was assured that his own individual case must pass under Divine recognition—he could not be lost in a crowd before God: Jehovah judgeth peoplesdo me justice—the transition was easy. All the more is individual judgment demanded, that Jehovah is a trier of minds and motives, without which outward actions cannot be accurately weighed. It is probable that the slanders of Cush the Benjamite had brought this home to David’s painful experience. There may have been a colourable element of truth in every fact alleged against David by his accuser, and yet the damaging suggestions grafted upon them have been most unjust and cruel. Hence the solace derived by David from his conscious integrity: hence his ultimate feeling of safety as shielded by the Saviour of the upright in heart. Whether with individuals or with nations, the processes of Divine government are preparatory, educative, transitional. It is right that liberty even to rebel should be granted for a time; and yet right that it should not be allowed to continue for ever: hence the prayer of-the psalmist should find an echo in every upright heart—Let the wrong of the lawless, I pray, come to an end. Wherefore should it be perpetuated for ever? Then the lawless must forsake his way and the man of iniquity his thoughts. If he will not part with his iniquity by salvation, then he must perish with it in destruction; for the decree has gone forth. GOD, however, is a righteous judge in the large sense that giveth mercy every chance to triumph over judgment; and therefore he is an El—a Mighty One—who threateneth every day. His anger is not manifested in punitive action every day, or else where would be the apparent unconcern which prompted the opening outcry of this very psalm? All the more, then, that the wrath of God against sin is not every day revealed in Divine action, must the Divine word which faithfully threatens, be sounded forth among men. The Divine method plainly is, that scope should be given for fear to prepare the way for love.

It may be admitted that there is some doubt as to the precise way in which the two concluding stanzas of this psalm follow up those which have preceded. But if we are right in concluding that the opening words of Psalms 7:12 refer to the pursuer of the early part of the psalm: If he—the offender—turn not from his evil ways; then He—the Divine Judge—whetteth his sword, etc.; that is, holdeth himself ready to stop the offender’s wicked course by visiting him with sudden arrest and punishment:—if, we say, this be the onward course of the psalm, then two principles are evolved which are worthy of being laid side by side; namely that, while Jehovah is prepared himself to stop evil-doers; evil-doers are preparing their own destruction: Their mischief returneth upon their own head. Is it possible that this is how evil will at length be swept out of the universe? and that this is the reason why it is so long permitted? We may not precipitate the teaching of the psalms; but this at least is unquestionable; namely, that the cessation of moral evil in this psalm becomes an object of desire and prayer. How will it end? Is Jehovah preparing to destroy it, by permitting it to continue until it destroys itself? The question, thus presented, is perhaps too vague to arrest the student’s mind. A preliminary question is needed:—Has moral evil a personal embodiment in one who is, par eminence, The Evil One? That question will recur in the next psalm.

The main tenor of this psalm being what it is, it must be regarded as a significant coincidence, that the musical line,—moved up from the head of the next psalm (where its appropriateness was not evident) to the foot of this, in conformity with Dr. Thirtle’s readjustment of the psalm-titles,—should so fully vindicate its new position. “The Wine-presses,” reminding us of the complete ingathering of the fruits of the year, serve at once directly to anticipate the closing of Jehovah’s retributive dealings with men, and at the same time to lead on to such Scriptures as Isaiah 63:1-6, Joel 3:12-17, and Revelation 19:15, where this solemn subject is more fully set forth.

O Lord, Our Lord

Psalms 8:1-9

Brent Kercheville

The Majesty of God (Psalm8:1-2)

His greatness

David begins this psalm by ascribing greatness to the name of the Lord. How excellent is His name in all the earth! How majestic is His name in all the earth! This was most certainly true to the Jews. In the later ages of Israel ‘s history, the Jewish people considered the name Jehovah to be so sacred that they would not pronounce it for fear of taking the Lord’s name in vain. How unfortunate that the name of the Lord is not held in greatness among men in general today. The name of the Lord is so majestic, and yet man has turned His name into a byword and even a curse word. We must remember that even just the name of the Lord is to be held sacred and holy and only used to speak of His mighty works and wonders.

His glory

David not only praises the name of the Lord, but also the glory of the Lord. The glory of the Lord is above the heavens themselves. Even this creation cannot fully contain nor reveal the great glory of the Lord. We are allowed to get small glimpses of the glory of God when we read sections of scripture like Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1. At the completion of the construction of the temple, Solomon said, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27 ). Nothing can contain the glory of the Lord. What is interesting about this thought is that we cannot fully comprehend the majesty of the creation. We still do not fully understand the details of the creation. We are amazed at the perfect balance that is found in the world, from processes like photosynthesis to even abilities of the mind. Yet we do not fully know all that the mind can do! It is said that we generally use only 10% of our brain. There are still parts of our bodies that we are still learning about, like our tonsils and appendix. We do not even think about breathing, and yet these things come naturally. We are amazed at the creation, and yet these things are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to comprehending the glory of God.

Glory to be praised by men

Therefore, the glory of the Lord is to be praised by men. Verse 2 is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 21:16, where Jesus responds to the chief priests and scribes in the triumphal entry into Jerusalem . The multitudes are crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David” and the Jewish leaders are indignant about this. Jesus responds, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” God is deserving of our praise and glory. Jesus went even further by making that quotation, for He was saying to the Jewish leaders that He is God. Jesus ties the words of “son of David” to being God Himself. Jesus therefore placed the scribes and teachers, those who resisted His claims of being the Son of God, in the category of “the foe and the avenger.” Jesus identified them as God’s enemies, all the more reason why the Jewish leaders wanted to destroy Jesus. Those who will not glory the Lord are the enemies of the Lord.

The Relation of Man and the Creation (Psalms 8:3-8)

The insignificance of man

In the next two verses, David describes the insignificance of man. When one begins to consider the work of God’s fingers, man becomes unimportant. It has been the studying of the stars that has led many to consider their own smallness. When one looks at the expanse of the universe, we are very small people. The vastness of creation is mind-boggling. There is debate as to whether there is even an end to space or if it just goes on and on. We do not know if there is an edge to space that one would have to turn around and go to the other side. The distance of the planets shows the insignificance of man. We cannot even visit other planets in person because it takes years for our space shuttles to reach them. The power of the sun is immense, burning millions of degrees Fahrenheit. And yet this is considered only a medium size star that we cannot look at without damaging our eyes. We cannot be in its heat without burning. It was only just a little over 30 years ago that we could put our feet on the moon. The Voyager II spacecraft sent transmissions back to earth at the speed of light, about 186,000 miles per second. Yet it took four hours for us to receive the transmission. These planets are millions of miles away, such that we cannot comprehend. How powerful the Lord is! What is man that God is mindful of man and cares for him! We must see how small we are in light of all that is around us in the creation. We are placed on a planet that is perfect for life. The earth is just the right distance from the sun for there to be life. Any farther from the sun and we would suffer from severe freezing and even farther out would be uninhabitable. Any closer to the sun and it would be too hot for life to exist. Yet we see things that we do not understand. Why does Venus spin backwards on its axis? Why does Saturn have rings that the other planets do not have? Why is there a red spot which appears to be a perpetual hurricane on Jupiter? We ask these questions to see our insignificance even within the framework of the creation. The creation is a wonderful place to look to remind ourselves of the humility we must have before the Lord. It does not take much effort to realize how small we are when we stop to see all the great things of creation. Let us always see where we stand before the Lord.

Man’s God given significance

Before we get depressed about our insignificance in this world, we now see that God has given man a great amount of significance. What is man that God is mindful of him? The answer is that man is nothing. However, God has made man just a little lower than the heavenly beings. Now let us analyze this statement for a moment. The Hebrew says that man is made a little lower than elohim. If we recognize that word from the Hebrew we realize that this is the word used for God. It is the same word used in Genesis 1:1 where in the beginning God (elohim) created the heavens and the earth. It seems that we are nothing, but God has made us just a little lower than Him. This gives some light to the statement in Genesis 1:26 where we see that mankind was made in the image of God and in the likeness of God. Further, man has been crowned with glory and honor. This is an image of being a ruler, that there is a crown that has been placed on our heads that gives us glory and honor because we have God given significance. We also see the dominion given to man in that we read that God has placed all things under his feet. This dominion is also stated in the creation of man in Genesis 1:26 , “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” This is exactly what David says in Psalms 8:6-8. Man has been placed in charge of these things.

This puts man in a unique position. We have been made lower than God, for we are not God. But we are not as low as the animals of the earth. We have been placed above them and have dominion over the created things of the earth. We are placed between the two and what we look toward is what we become like. Allow me to explain for a moment. One of our current problems in society is that no one is looking to God but looking to animals for comparisons. Man looks at the animal world and suggests that since animals do such and such, mankind is of the same likeness. This is the fundamental idea behind evolution. Since man is considered to be from animals, we are in their likeness and ought to behave like animals. Animals have reached such a glorified status that they are protected over the greater good of the human race. What happens when we look to the animals is that we become like animals. But we are in the likeness of God and not in the likeness of animals. When our eyes focus downward, then we are removing from ourselves dominion and rule given to us by God. Our eyes, instead, are to focus upward toward God, for we are in His image and His likeness. We are to be like Him and not like the animals. God never said to look at the animals and be like them. God said to look at Him and be like Him. It is this thought that is being carried into the mind of the writer of Hebrews. In Hebrews 2:5-9 the writer quotes this section of Psalms 8 in a proof concerning the superiority of Christ. Chapter 1 of Hebrews argues the superiority of Christ because of His deity. For example, we read in Hebrews 1:5, “For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You?’” Christ is superior because He is God. The writer of Hebrews now turns the argument the other way and says that Christ is superior because He became man in chapter 2 and therefore acts as high priest for us. What superiority is there in being man? All the dominion and rule and glory that has been given to man. As Hebrews 2:5 points out, the world to come is not in subjection to angels. The world is in subjection to man and the Hebrews writer uses Psalms 8 to prove that argument. Psalms 8:8 concludes that even now we do not see all the things that God has subjected to man. We cannot fully understand nor see into the spiritual realm all that God has placed under our feet. We are blown away by Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 6:3, “Do you not know that we shall judge angels?” We do not see all the dominion and glory that God has placed upon man. It is not deserved by us, for we are insignificant creatures in this vast universe. But God has given man the dominion over the world and over the things we cannot even see as yet.

So, how do we know we have this kind of dominion? Psalms 8:9 continues, that though we do not see all that has been put under us, “we see Jesus.” We see the dominion and glory of Jesus who for a time was made a little lower than the angels also and suffered as humans suffer. But what happened to Christ? He was crowned with glory and honor. He was given a name that is above all names. He was given the throne upon which to rule until every enemy is destroyed. You see we are in that likeness “for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11 ). We are considered brothers and sisters with Christ. We are able to see all that was placed upon Him and all that was given to Him and we share in these things. 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” In singing about those redeemed by Christ’s blood, Revelation 5:10 says, “And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” The book of Revelation closes with the image of the people of God joined with the Lord, “And they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).

We have been crowned with the glory of God and yet we do not see all that we rule over yet. We have a “crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8), an “imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25 ), a “crown of life” (James 1:12 ), and a “crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4) awaiting us. How do we know? We know because we see Jesus. We see His glory in His teachings. We see His glory in His sufferings. We see His glory in His death. We see His glory in His resurrection. We see His glory as He rules in the world. We see Jesus and we know that we have been given great rule and authority by God. We see Him and will be just like Him. Let us be sure to focus our eyes upward and not downward. Let us not look to earth and the scum of the earth as the models of our lives. Let us look up to the heavens and see the Lord so that we will be like Him. We see Jesus and we see His example. We have the model to which we are to pattern our lives.


There is no better way to conclude this psalm with such grandeur in our minds than the way David closed this psalm. It is the same words he used to begin this psalm of praise. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” Without God, we have no value. Without God, we are no better than the animals. Without God, we are small in this universe and our lives have no meaning. It is enough to be depressed for life. But with God, we have meaning and significance. God has given us dominion on the earth and rule in the heavenly places. He has “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). We do not see this now, but we see Jesus and our hope rests in Him. Have you placed your hope in Jesus Christ? If you have not been baptized for the forgiveness of sins, then your hope rests somewhere else. It is time to turn to the Lord today and be crowned with the glory and honor of the Lord.



The reason for resolving the chief part of this psalm (Psalms 8:3-8) into a Solo, is written upon its face, by the appearance of the personal pronoun I. From that point onward, the strain runs on breathlessly, as a single magnificent sentence, to the end, where the voice of the soloist is hushed in the renewed acclaim of the united congregation, in which, for a second time, the whole people adoringly address Jehovah as our Sovereign Lord. The introductory stanza (Psalms 8:1 c., Psalms 8:2), interposed between the prelude and the solo, is in any case special, and indeed remarkably unique: probably imparting to the whole psalm its deepest prophetic import.

In attributing the solo to David’s early shepherd days, there is no need to overlook the analogical argument so beautifully put by Delitzsch, in favour of not dating the finished production of the psalm earlier than that momentous day on which the Spirit of Prophecy came upon the youthful harpist. “Just as the Gospels contain no discourses delivered by our Lord previous to his baptism in the Jordan, and the Canon of the New Testament contains no writings of the Apostles dating from the time before Pentecost, so the Canon of the Old Testament contains no Psalms of David that were composed by him prior to his anointing. Not till after he is the anointed of the God of Jacob does he become the sweet singer of Israel, upon whose tongue is the word of Jahve (2 Samuel 23:1-2).” Already, therefore, even in this early psalm, may we regard its composer as “a prophet,” carried away into things to come by the Holy Spirit of insight, foresight and wisdom.

The Solo gives a night-view of the heavens, in their vastness stability and splendour; which would have made weak man, by contrast, seem small and evanescent, but for the recollection of his creation and destiny as revealed in the first chapter of the book of Genesis, with the great words of which the poet’s mind was manifestly filled. Creation, seen in one of her most lovely moods, and the Creation Story, recalled in one of its most suggestive features, are, so to speak, the alphabet employed by the Illuminating Spirit to quicken the psalmist’s mind. That the scene is a night-scene, naturally follows from the absence of the sun; and is confirmed by the fact that the blaze of the sun by day renders the heavens as a whole practically invisible; whereas, here, not only are the heavens scanned with lingering delight, but their minute and variegated beauties call forth admiration of the skill of the Divine Artist’s fingers. Nevertheless, vastness is here, as the poet’s eye sweeps the whole heavens; and permanence, as he recalls how many times he has gazed at the same spectacle, and his ancestors before him have been similarly delighted: and so his mind is carried back to the Creation Story, to realize how abiding are moon and stars which Jehovah has established in the heavens. The first effect of this midnight survey of the heavens is to make man appear weak and short-lived. Because I see this, or when I see it afresh, I am moved to exclaim—What is weak manwhat the son of the earth-born that thou shouldst remember him, visit him, set him in charge over this lower world? And so, by the aid of the Creation Story, a reaction is induced in the poet’s mind; and there come into view Man’s capacity, charge, dignity, destiny. After all, such a responsible being cannot be wholly weak and short-lived.

Besides: to “weak man” succeeds a son of man, for Adam is not only an individual, but a race; and it is to the race, as such, that the charge to wield dominion is given: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,—and have dominion.” The earth is to be filled and subdued in order to the exercise of dominion. Therefore the commission is to the race; and this alone justifies the conclusion that the allusion to the first chapter of Genesis begins with Psalms 8:4 of our psalm, and not merely with Psalms 8:5 as some critics have thought.

With such a charge laid upon him, to rule inferior creatures, Man appears to be little less than the messengers divine, here termed in Hebrew ’elohim, a word of wider applicability than our English word “God” when spelled with a capital initial; as will appear from an examination of Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8-9; Exodus 22:28, and Psalms 82:1-2; Psalms 82:6-7. If, as appears from these passages, human judges, as representing the Divine Judge, could be called ’elohim; much more may heavenly messengers have been so named in this place; and, to them, accordingly, we conclude that reference is here made.

Whether the crowning of Man with glory and state, when he was visited and installed into office, imports the bestowment on him of any visible splendour calculated to strike his animal subjects with reverence and challenge at once their submission, we are not plainly told; and yet the discovery of the “nakedness” which made man “ashamed” after his transgression may, not unnaturally, be deciphered as suggesting something more akin to an actual disrobing than the inner consciousness of disobedience alone.

It is probably of greater importance to connect with Man’s commission to govern this lower world his possession of the Divine Image: “Let us make man in our image . . . and (qualified by that endowment) let him have dominion.” It is the Image bestowed which qualifies for the Dominion assigned. This consideration ought probably to go a long way towards settling the question: Wherein consisted that Image? If we could only be content to derive our answer from the First of Genesis, that answer might stand thus: The Image of God in which man was created was his capacity to rule—his capacity to rule over and care for beings beneath himself. It cannot be denied that God possessed that capacity: that it was His glory and honour to know his subjects, to appraise their powers, to foresee their needs, and to provide with an unspeakably gracious goodwill (Psalms 145:16) for the due and orderly satisfaction of every propensity with which he himself had endowed them. If so, it cannot be denied that the bestowment of the same capacity on man would render him God-like just to the degree to which he came to possess it. It is surely to some extent confirmatory of this, to note the seeming pride with which the psalmist lingers on the extent of Man’s realm, in the several orders of which it is composed, and the several areas in which his subjects dwell. Indeed, the apparent inclusion of wild animals under the terms beasts of the field or plain, and the comprehension of birds and fishes, to say nothing of the monsters of the deep, as all placed under Man’s dominion, go to show that so vast a kingdom needs a God-like king; and to raise the question, whether Man ought not to be able to wield a wider and more potent control over his subjects than he is now seen to possess, In any case, Man was originally majestically crowned; and if to any extent he has lost his dominion, it can scarcely be that he has lost it for ever. To assume that he has, would afford a poor prospect of silencing for ever the foe and the avenger.

This reference reminds us that Stanza I (Psalms 8:1 c, Psalms 8:2) now demands our patient attention, The attachment of the third line of the psalm to this stanza, as its introduction, is presumably correct; inasmuch as we can scarcely think that the prelude of the psalm and its final refrain were not meant to be identical. If so, the precise form which this third line should assume and the meaning it should bear, become all the more important when it is seen to be the very base on which the charming “child and suckling” stanza is made to rest. Critics are nearly agreed that some word or letter has gone wrong in this line; and we should be content implicitly to follow Dr. Ginsburg’s lead in emending it by reference to Numbers 27:20, save for the difficulty of seeing any comparison whatever between the putting by Moses of some of his majesty on Joshua and the putting by Jehovah of his majesty on the heavens. Under these circumstances, while gladly accepting the suggestion of Ginsburg and others by restoring the word nathatta out of the seemingly broken fragment tenah of the M.T., we would prefer to follow the Septuagint, which reads, as we think, with profound significance: Because thy majesty hath been uplifted above the heavens. The preciousness of the result, by heightening the prophetic significance of the whole psalm, must be our excuse for detaining the reader on a point so critical.

Advancing at once to the broad meaning of the introductory stanza when thus emended, we remark: That we are thus warranted in concluding, that it is in some way this very uplifting of Jehovah’s majesty into the heavens, which makes way for the ministry of children; and that at least the ministry of children is to assist in silencing the foe and avenger whose existence is so singularly introduced into this psalm at its very head and front. It cannot be denied that he is here brought forward with a circumstantiality which is positively startling. For first there is a general reference to Jehovah’s adversaries, as furnishing a reason for the Divine procedure of preparing the mighty ministry of children’s praise, which praise is made the foundation of a bulwark which Jehovah rears in the midst of his foes. That is the general statement; which is then particularised by the more specific assertion of the result expected to follow from the testimony of infant voices. So that, in fact, we are here confronted with a company of adversaries; headed, as it would seem, by one foe in particular, who is not only a foe but an avenger, with vengeance in his heart; as though he had a wrong to redress, and injury real or supposed to resent by retaliation. Such is the natural and proper force and setting of the words. It is a conceivable state of things: a band of adversaries, with a champion foe and avenger at their head. Even as, in the early days of David—probably not far from the time when this psalm was written—the Philistines were “the adversaries” of Israel, and of Israel’s God, Jehovah; and then there stood forth, at the head of those adversaries, and in their name, a foe and avenger, by name Goliath: who, indeed, by a well-aimed blow from David’s sling was for ever silenced in death. This is not to say, that such an incident could by any means fill out the words before us; but only that we may do well to seize the words in their proper force and full significance. Jehovah has adversaries: at their head is a chieftain, who is determined, resentful and relentless. He is to be silenced. Children are to be employed to close his mouth. Their weapons will be their words. Jehovah founds a tower of strength in their words; which, presumably—as the Septuagint interprets—will be words of “praise.” Children praise Jehovah for his majesty. His majesty is seen in creation, on which and through which glimpses of it are seen. His name—that is the revelation of his power, wisdom, and goodness in creation—fills the whole earth. This revelation is already an objective reality: the moon-and-star-lit heavens are stretched forth over all the earth. Wherever the sons of the earth-born tread, they find above them the same eloquent heavens. The Maker of the stars above is the Creator of the flowers beneath. The tokens of God fill all the earth. But this objective revelation has not yet become subjective. The wonderful fact of Jehovah’s creatorship has not yet been translated into the worshipful feeling of adoration and gratitude in all the earth. Until this is realised, the very refrain of this psalm is unfulfilled prophecy. Jehovah does not receive back “the fullness of all the earth” as “his glory” (Isaiah 6:3) so long as “man is vile.” Adversaries to Jehovah abound; his foe is at large; and his friends are much in the position of a beleaguered fortress.

But the process of fulfillment has received an auspicious beginning. In one sense, Jehovah’s glory was uplifted into the heavens when Man fell into disobedience. In another, and a redemptive sense, it is receiving a new and more wonderful elevation in Jesus as the Son of Man. This elevation was inaugurated by the resurrection, ascension and coronation in heaven of the Man Christ Jesus. And, on earth, children have begun to sing their hosannahs with new point and with adoring ecstasy. They not only know how to wonder at the stars, but they are learning from generation to generation to love the Man who died for them and rose again. By-and-by, when the Lord of Life has glorified his Suffering Assembly and presented it before the heavenly throne, the process of uplifting Jehovah’s majesty above the heavens will be complete, and the whole earth will be filled with a bright reflection of his glory. The adversaries of Jehovah are doomed to defeat. Their Champion—the Adversary—the Foe and Avenger of this psalm—has met with his equal. But the process of silencing the Enemy is moral before it is physical. Hence the more than symbolic employment of infants’ tongues to silence the Devil. The victory will be earned by Self-sacrificing Love before it is confirmed and consummated by expelling and destroying power. The Foe hates children; and has had good reason, ever since the promise came that the Seed of the Woman should bruise the Serpent’s head. The child-spirit of humble and trustful love will yet finally and for ever silence the Foe and Avenger.

David may well have felt himself to have been a mere child when he went forth to meet Goliath; and his son Hezekiah must have been possessed of much of the childlike spirit, when he quietly rested in Jerusalem, waiting for the overthrow of Sennacherib. Whether the introductory stanza of this psalm was written by the one or the other of these psalmists, the Spirit of God has by its means turned this Shepherd’s lay into a psalm as far-reaching as it is beautiful, dramatic and above all instructive as to the ways of Jehovah with men.

The possible concurrence of meanings decipherable in the musical instruction now moved to the foot of this psalm are so astounding as almost to pass belief: and we are quite content with the first named as abundantly sufficient. Those who are prepared for further cryptic meanings can discreetly ponder how much further they may wisely go.

Praise The Lord For Deliverance!

Psalms 9:1-20

Brent Kercheville

Praise For Past Deliverance (Psalms 9:1-12)

The heart of praise

In Psalms 9:1-2, David begins by describing his need to praise God and particularly how he will praise God. There are three ways that David is going to praise the Lord. David declares that he will sing praise to His name. Singing to the Lord is probably the most obvious thing we think of when we speak of praising the Lord. But there are other ways that David says he will praise the Lord that we must consider. David also says that he will praise the Lord by telling of all God’s wonders. Praising the Lord also includes telling others about all of God’s wonders. David is not only recounting the great wonders of the Lord for his own benefit, but as a method of telling others about God. Praise is not only directing our words to God but also to others about the great deeds of the Lord. Have you ever thought that we are neglecting a form of praising the Lord when we are not speaking to others about the wonders and works of the Lord? Yet this is an important way that we praise the Lord when we are willing to tell others about Him. The third way that David would praise the Lord was with all of his heart. This is the only way to praise the Lord, for if we are not praising with the whole heart, then it is not the worship God wants. Unfortunately the heart can frequently be missing when we come together to praise and worship the Lord. Instead of praising, Christians complain about how God is treating them, carrying on about their needs and desires, and gossip. How easy it is for Christians to sing well-known songs such that they do not even think about the words or pay attention to what they are thinking or doing during prayer, Lord’s supper, and sermon. Praise is only praise when it involves our whole heart. Anything less falls short of what God demands of us to offer Him as worship.

The reasons for praise

David is now going to express four reasons why he is praising the Lord with all of his heart and telling of all God’s wonders. David now describes some things of the past that are reasons for his praise.

God gives victory over enemies (Psalms 9:3-6).

The enemies of David have been judged by the Lord. David’s cause has been upheld by the Lord and the wicked have been blotted out. David presents to us hope in the midst of our enemies. We have already read about many of David’s problems where the enemies were against David, such as Psalms 7. We see that not only do we know as followers of God that we will overcome in the final judgment, but the Lord is upholding our cause now. Judgment upon the enemies can come upon them in the foreseeable future and not only in the final judgment. David is able to stand back and see the Lord working in his life and in the world. The nations are rebuked and the wicked are destroyed. God had blotted out their name and ruin had overtaken them. Evil is only successful for a short time. Eventually, the lawless deeds of the wicked come back upon them. David also expresses this victory on a national level, according to Psalms 9:5. Eventually, wicked nations will be judged and blotted out. God will not allow evil to endure, and this fact is seen in history and biblically. Nations fall when they turn their backs on the Lord. David praises the Lord for upholding the cause of the righteous and judging the evildoers.

God rules and is just (Psalms 9:7-8).

David now praises the Lord who reigns forever. Notice that David says that God’s throne is established. The throne was not something that needed to be established in the future. God was not part of a succession of failed attempts to establish His throne, as premillennialism suggests. God’s throne has been established and it is ruling in righteousness. Our God is a perfect judge who governs the people in justice. This is the character of God. Therefore, God, through the prophet Micah, declares, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We are called to be like God, and therefore we must add to our character these same attributes.

God gives refuge from the wicked (Psalms 9:9-10).

The third thing for which David praises God is that He is a refuge for the oppressed in times of trouble. Have you noticed the number of times David has called the Lord a refuge just in these first eight psalms? Psalms 3, 4, 5, , 7 all have spoken to this idea and now David again refers to God as a refuge. Do you think David is trying to get each of us to understand that we should turn to the Lord because He will protect us? The repetition of this theme should not be ignored. This refuge is literally in the Hebrew “a high place.” God is the escape we need to “get away from it all.” God can lift us up in our times of trouble and put us in a safe place. Man turns to all sorts of other places and vices for relief and escape, such as alcohol, sex, violence, anger, and addictions. But God is the place to run to for protection and escape.

Psalms 9:10 is, in my mind, the key verse of this psalm and it is a key verse that I would like for you to take away from this lesson. David declares, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Let us start with the first part of this declaration. David says that those who know the name of the Lord will trust in Him. Would you not expect this declaration to be stated in the opposite order? We think if we trust in the Lord, then we can know the Lord. So we work on putting more of our trust in the Lord so that we can know Him more fully. But that is not what David says. David says “Those who know your name will trust in you.” Let us ask ourselves a question: Do we trust in the Lord? If you want to trust in God, then you have to know God. If we are not putting our full trust in the Lord, fully sacrificing and surrendering to the Lord, with our full confidence in God, then we truly do not know God. For if we knew God, we would want to put our trust in Him and we would be compelled to put our trust in Him. You must know God to put your trust in God. If you do not trust God, then you do not know Him. If we knew Him, then we would know that He will never forsake those who seek Him. We would know that we will not be let down when we put our trust in God. People let us down and fail us, causing us to be untrusting. If we knew God, then we would know that God never fails and will never forsake us. You and I can only know God through prayer, study of the scriptures, and meditation on Him.

God will not overlook sins (Psalms 9:11-12).

God does not ignore the cry of the afflicted. God exacts vengeance upon the enemies. Just as Paul said in Romans 12:19 , “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” The Christian can be assured that God will right those who have been wronged. This is the message of Revelation 6:9-11. The saints who had been slain for the word of the Lord cried out how long for vengeance. They were told that it would be just a little bit longer. God will judge. It may not be immediate, but God will not overlook the sins and evils of the peoples and the nations.

Prayer For Future Deliverance

Prayer for mercy (Psalms 9:13 )

In Psalms 9:13 David stops recalling the works of God in the past and directs his attention to the present distress. David says that there are enemies that are currently persecuting. David derived his hope from the past victories God had caused in his life. Because of what God has done to the enemies in the past, David has confidence to pray to God now concerning his present enemies. Because of his current situation, David prays for mercy. This is an interesting way to request help. David does not tell God what needs to be done or how to go about fixing his situation. David leaves all of this in the hands of God and simply makes his request for mercy. This is very similar to the two prayers we see compared in Luke 18:9-14 concerning the prayer of the Pharisee and the prayer of the tax collector. The tax collector boiled his request down to one thing: mercy. He said, “Have mercy on me, a sinner!” This prayer must really be at the heart of all our requests. We can tell God all that is going on and explain what we want and need. But our request must really boil down to needed mercy. How often we forget that we need the mercy of the Lord. Our sins and burdens weigh heavily upon us. We are deserving of judgment and condemnation. Let us never forget to cry out for mercy from the Lord daily.

Reasons for mercy (Psalms 9:14 )

David also expresses two reasons why he wants mercy from the Lord. The first point David makes for mercy is so he can declare praise for God in the gates of the Daughter of Zion. David desires mercy so that he can glory in the Lord all the more. David will use the opportunities of mercy to declare the mercies of the Lord to all those who will listen. David will declare these mercies even in the gates of the city of Jerusalem . David will express his praise for the Lord in the most public way. The gates of the city were the meeting place for the wise, knowledgeable, and powerful people of the city. David will declare these things even to those very people, who in our minds are the most intimidating to speak to. We are afraid to declare the glory and the mercies of the Lord to the powerful, the knowledgeable, and the wise. Despite these things, David would speak about the Lord and so must we.

The second reason for David desiring the mercy of the Lord is to be able to rejoice in salvation. How great it is to look and see how deep a pit of despair we have found ourselves in and watch God lift us out and set us up in an elevated place again! It is wonderful to rejoice in the turnarounds that God can cause in our lives. Time after time, God can deliver us from the darkest of pits and set us on track to the brightest of paths. But let us not only consider the darkest physical pits that we fall into in our lives, but also the spiritual pits and the salvation God has offered. All of us were in a position of hopelessness concerning our eternal welfare, destined for eternal punishment because we all have violated the will of God. Praise be to God who has delivered us from this body of death, redeemed us, and raised us up with Him to sit in the heavenly places. What a great salvation the Lord has extended to every person to accept. For these things, David desires mercy and the opportunities to share his stories of mercy with others.

Prayer for judgment

In the last few verses of this psalm, David prays for judgment from the Lord. But the prayer is not simply about requesting future judgment, but declaring the way God judges the nations and the peoples of the world.

God’s justice: evil is repaid (Psalms 9:15-16)

The key to this section is the simple statement, “The Lord is known by His justice.” However, the Lord’s justice is not always blatant and clear. God’s justice is not found in lightning striking people dead, or the earth swallowing up evildoers. God’s justice is very subtle. Those who plan and scheme evil deeds will be caught in their evil plans. Dig a pit for your neighbor and you will be the one who falls in. Set a trap for another and you will be caught in your trap. The hands of the wicked will catch themselves in their own work.

God’s warning: do not forget Him (Psalms 9:17 )

Psalms 9:17 is a strong warning declared by David. David says that the wicked return to the grave. There is nothing that is too earth shattering by this statement. But notice who David defines as the wicked, for this is much more amazing. David says the wicked are those who forget God. What a powerful warning that we need to take to heart. David does not say that the wicked are only those who forsake God. It is true that those who forsake God are those that God calls the wicked. David is issuing a warning that the writer of Hebrews spoke about in Hebrews 2:3. Hebrews 2:3 says, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” The writer of Hebrews was warning against neglecting the work of the Lord. This is the same idea that David presents in Psalms 9. The wicked includes not only those who forsake God, and not only those who neglect God, but also those who forget God. Do we have days that we forget God? Are there days that we forget God by not talking to Him, listening to Him by reading the scriptures, and thinking about Him and His righteousness? I believe we have those days. Let us be warned about forgetting the Lord. How dangerous it is when we forget God one day, but how easily that one day turns into a few days, which can turn into a week. Sometimes we only remember God on Sundays and how tragic and dangerous that is. When we choose to forget God or choose to be so busy that we become absentminded about godly things, we are no longer walking in the light but walking in the path of the wicked.

God’s hope: His people are not forgotten (Psalms 9:18 )

After expressing this warning, David also issues a reminder of hope. The way things go in this life is not a determination concerning God’s favor to you. We may be classified as those who are oppressed, those who are needy, and those who are afflicted. But though we may be forgotten and ignored by the world, we are never forgotten by God. The world may put us to scorn and despise us, but we are not forgotten by God. This thought ties back into the teaching we read in Psalms 9:10. Those who are God’s are never forsaken by God. It does not matter how bad life may become. It does not matter that Satan throws his most difficult trials, temptations, or hardships, we are not forgotten by the Lord. Jesus gave a wonderful reminder of this in Matthew 6 when He reminded us that God takes care of the birds and clothes the grasses of the field, so how much more will God take care and be mindful of us! As our song says, “the Lord has been mindful of me, He blesses and blesses again.”

God’s reminder: know your position (Psalms 9:19-20)

Finally, God gives the reminder that we are to know our position before Him and in this world. Man should not triumph. Let man be struck with terror if that is what is needed to know that we are only men. Let us remember that we are only dust. We are only created beings and it is when we forget who we are that we forget where we are going and who we belong to.


(1) Praise God for all that He has done. Let us be mindful of God’s mighty works and tell others about Him.

(2) Know the name of the Lord. If we do not know the name of the Lord, then we cannot trust God. If we cannot trust God, then we cannot obey God nor can we be saved.

(3) Do not forget God. When we forget God, we have taken our place among the wicked and are traveling on the path to destruction.

PSALMS 9, 10


In all probability these two psalms were originally one, as may be inferred from the remains of an alphabetical structure beginning with Psalms 9 and ending with Psalms 10, and from coincidences of language and sentiment which cannot otherwise be easily explained. The probability is nearly as great that the interference with the original initial alphabet is due, not so much to accident, as to editorial adaptation to later circumstances. In short, the phenomena visible on the face of this compound psalm seem to be easily reconcilable by the hypothesis that it was originally composed by David after some signal overthrow of his enemies, and was afterwards adapted—very likely on two occasions—by Hezekiah, first soon after the Assyrians invaded his land, and then again, when their presence had for some time been permitted to continue. This hypothesis will account for the gradual subsidence of praise into prayer, and the increasing sense of urgency which is seen in the suppliant’s petitions. It will also account for the disappearance of so many of the successive alphabetical initials; it being natural to think that in the perturbed state of things consequent on the presence of invaders in the land, Hezekiah would lack both time and inclination to preserve so refined and elaborate a literary result of a perfect alphabetical arrangement in the adapted psalm. The great inspiration of faith derivable from his illustrious ancestor’s danger and deliverance, would be the attraction offered by the old carefully prepared composition: some abruptness and lack of finish in the new matter do but add to the verisimilitude of additions made under such disadvantageous circumstances.

The more fully we allow for changed circumstances as thus accounting for the damage visible on the surface of the psalm, the more firmly can we maintain its essential unity. The enemies of Israel are throughout foreigners: only, in David’s day they were foreigners threatening the land, whereas in Hezekiah’s time they were foreigners already encamped in the land and insolently treading down its villages. The lawless one would be the robber; the robber would be the God-defier (Rabshakeh) whose blasphemies are heard reproaching Jehovah the God of Israel (as in Isaiah 36, 37). The humbled one, the crushed one, the unfortunate one, would, all through, be Israel, or Israel’s suffering representatives.

When we have thus approximately ascertained the conditions under which this remarkable psalm was originated, our minds are set free to observe the outgoings of the Spirit of Prophecy working through the circumstances of the present into the future.

The overthrow of David’s enemies was sufficiently decisive to furnish a thread of thought along which the psalmist’s mind could easily be led to the contemplation of the overthrow of all Israel’s enemies who should at any time rise up against her: he foresees nations rebuked, the lawless one destroyed, the ruins of Israel’s foes made perpetual.

The re-establishment of David’s own throne, brings in glimpses of the perpetuity and universal extension of Jehovah’s reign out of Zion over all the earth; when He himself should minister judgment to the peoples in equity.

But even as his eye catches sight of this entrancing prospect, there seems to be borne in upon the singer the foreboding, that, as he himself had been led up to the throne of Israel along a path of sore trial and long waiting, so his people would yet have to be humiliated and crushed, and to pass through times of extremity before their destiny among the nations would be realised. This foreglimpse of such times in Psalms 9:9-10 is so remarkable as to tempt us to think that here already we detect the revising and adapting hand of Hezekiah; until a comparison of this place with Psalms 10:1 causes us to reflect on the access of power to the psalm, if we choose rather to think that there was really granted to David a foresight of “the times of trouble” through which Hezekiah had to pass; which would serve to invest the second allusion to such dark times with an experimental interest which otherwise it would not possess; as much as to say, in the second reference: “Alas! the times of extremity, of which thy servant David my father spake, are now upon me, but he desired that when such times should come thou wouldst prove a lofty retreat: wherefore, then, shouldst thou stand in the distance and suffer us to pass through such a fiery trial as this, whilst thou hidest thy faee?”

Thus declining to yield to our first inclination to see in Psalms 9:9-10 some other than David’s hand, we are triumphantly borne along (still by David) through the jubilant call to praise found in Psalms 9:11, and the anticipation of Divine remembrance and vindication preserved in Psalms 9:12, past the parenthetically quoted outcry of the humbled ones set forth in Psalms 9:13-14 up to a suitable Davidic climax in Psalms 9:15-16, whereupon, after a significant Soliloquy and Selah-call to look backwards and forwards (Cp. Intro., Chap. III., “Selah”), and mark well the path by which we are travelling—way is made for Hezekiah’s newly originating hand to put before us first his assurance, in Psalms 9:17-18, that the present Assyrian enemy shall be overthrown, and then the strong plea that Jehovah will effect that overthrow:—the which prayer, however, not at once being answered, but the Assyrian occupancy of the land still dragging along its slow length, to the fearful devastation of the villages, further additions and modifications follow, which, while wholly unsuited to David’s circumstances, depict to the life the ravages and the reproaches and the blasphemies of the robber Rabshakeh. And thus the present Tenth Psalm unfolds itself, with echoes, indeed, of the previous psalm, but modified by the sombre mutterings of present trouble: nevertheless, at length rising up to the very same climax as that which characterised Hezekiah’s first addition at the end of the Ninth Psalm: the desired Divinely taught lesson in each being a lesson to the nations, to be enforced by Jehovah’s ultimate deliverance of his people Israel.

It would not be wise to lay overmuch stress on the sevenfold occurrence of the expression the lawless one, in the singular number (Psalms 9:5; Psalms 9:16, Psalms 10:2-4; Psalms 10:13; Psalms 10:15), as against the one occurrence of the plural number (Psalms 9:17), as though that circumstance alone would warrant the inference that here already we have references to “The Lawless One” of later prophecies. It is easy to conceive that, in every combination of nations against Israel, there has ever been some one turbulent spirit actively inciting the nations to rebel against Jehovah and his Anointed One. Nevertheless the appearance of such a lawless one in combination with what looks like a final assault by the nations on Israel’s land is very suggestive, and should be borne in mind by the student of prophecy. All the more does the significance of this ebullition of evil become impressive, when it is observed how the heading-up of evil is converted into its death-knell.

On Psalms 10:15-16 Delitzsch significantly observes: “The thought that God would take the wickedness of the wicked so completely out of the way that no trace of it remained, is supplemented by the thought that he would do this by means of a punitive judgment. It is not without deliberation, that, instead of employing the form of expression that is used elsewhere (Psalms 37:36; Job 20:8), the psalmist still addresses his words to Jahve: that which can no longer be found, not merely by the eyes of man, but even by God Himself, has absolutely vanished from the sphere of that which actually exists. Such a conquest of evil is as certainly to be looked for, as that Jahve’s universal kingship, which has been an essential element in the faith of God’s people ever since the election and redemption of Israel (Exodus 15:18) cannot remain without a perfect and visible realisation. His absolute and eternal kingship must ultimately be exhibited in all the universality and endless duration predicted in Zechariah 14:9, Daniel 7:14, Revelation 11:15.”

Cry of the Righteous Concerning the Ways of the Ungodly

Psalms 10:1-18

Brent Kercheville

The Call of the Righteous (Psalms 10:1)

A familiar refrain

The nature of this psalm is one that we will see from time to time as we study the Psalms. This psalm deals with the cry of the righteous concerning the ways of the ungodly. This is not an uncommon refrain from the mouths of the righteous. It is very easy for the righteous to consider the ways of the wicked and wonder what is going on. So many times we feel like the righteous are the only ones who suffer while the wicked continue to get their way while being disobedient. This thought process will be examined in this psalm.

Initial words

The initial words of the psalmist describe the situation that he feels. Notice that the psalmist feels that the Lord is far from Him. Further, the psalmist declares that the Lord has hidden Himself from him in his time of trouble. This is the not the first time that we have seen this kind of language, nor will it be the last, where the righteous feel that they have been forsaken by God. We have spoken on a few occasions about what we are to do when we have a feeling that we have been forsaken. In this psalm, the psalmist makes a very important first step of turning to God. Many times Christians are tempted to turn their ways to the ungodly because they believe they see some benefits that the righteous do not have. The psalmist will now describe the works of the ungodly. Some of these works we would readily see as godless, yet some we may not see as such a big deal. Yet these works are condemned by God and require our careful examination to be sure that these characteristics are not in our lives.

The Character of the Ungodly

Arrogance (Psalms 10:2-4)

Pride is one of the more subtle sins that goes unrecognized by most Christians and is allowed to remain in our character. Pride can creep into our characters and it can be very hard to detect unless we are very honest and open with ourselves. We often only equate arrogance with being snobby and stuck up. These are obvious signs of arrogance. But there are more subtle ways that we are arrogant that we may not realize.

Arrogance, in its simplest form, is being concerned with self rather than with others. When we think our way is the best way, we are arrogant. When we think that people ought to be more concerned about us, then we are full of pride. When we get hurt because people are doing things unlike we expect, then we have fallen into the error of self-exaltation. We must see the subtle forms of pride. Arrogance is present anytime we are thinking about ourselves or acting upon our own behalf. This is not the example of Christ. The psalmist goes on to describe the actions of the arrogant.

First, it is the arrogant who devise schemes for others. This is arrogance because such people do not believe that they will be held accountable for their actions or that they will fall by their own hand. They think that they can continue to weave their webs of deceit and not be caught. The arrogant are those who put a premium on their own desires. That is all that matters to the person: what they need to do or want to do. That which is in one’s heart is king. This is the prevalent attitude of society, which is if it feels good, then that is what you are to do and no one can argue with you. Such an attitude is condemned by the Lord.

The psalmist also notes the thought process of the wicked. When there is arrogance in our lives, there is no room for God. Notice that the psalmist says that in all his thoughts, there is no room for God. This is another interesting definition of arrogance that we may not have considered. When our thoughts are not focused upon God, but rather are focused upon so much else that we have no room for God, we are arrogant. How common this problem is among American “Christians.” How often I hear those who claim to be followers of Christ say that they are too busy for God. If we do not have room for God, then we are arrogant, for we have exalted ourselves above Him. We must remember, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Prosperous (Psalms 10:5)

The perception of the psalmist is characteristic of what most of the righteous see concerning the wicked. The psalmist notes that “his ways are always prosperous.” But notice that this is all that matters to the ungodly. He is full of pride and God’s laws are far from him. Because he has possessions, he sees no need for God. The person has tried to fill himself up with joy from things. Jesus spoke of this condition in the parable of the soils, where He noted that the thorny soil is that where the cares of this world and the desire for riches choke out the word. How often we look at the ungodly and desire the riches that they enjoy. One reason they have what they have is because that is their life’s pursuit. There is nothing else to accomplish and nothing else to live for. Children are left in daycare and spouses work unreasonable hours all for more monetary gain. Why would we look at such a situation with any desire in our hearts? Yes, they may have things, but what a miserable existence to have nothing else to live for than possessions. What joy is there to be able to get to the end of a day and say I have such and such? Who cares, since these things have no meaning. The things that have meaning in life they have neglected. God has been cast aside in the pursuit of riches. Families have been neglected in effort to attain more. Children have become no more than tokens–children representing something to show off to the world. The precious blessings of this life become ignored, like family time and togetherness. They may be prosperous, but why would we look longingly at that, since they have sacrificed all that matters in life to be in that position?

False security (Psalms 10:6)

The arrogance in the heart leads one to have a false sense of security. The arrogant says within himself that nothing can shake him and nothing will touch him. Further, notice his arrogant words, “I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.” How foolish for the arrogant to believe and think these words. Yet how often do we have the same false belief in our minds! Too often we have a concept of life that we should always be happy. If there is a God, then He should always make my life happy and smooth. We go through life with the false expectations of never having any trouble befall us. God never promised that the righteous would not endure troubles. If fact, the opposite was promised when Paul said that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God . But God did make this promise: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.” (Nahum 1:7). God says that He will be there to help us in our times of trouble. The ungodly believe that the accumulation of possessions will insulate them from trouble. They believe if they could just have a little more, then they will be secure, at ease, and be trouble-free. But this is a false sense of security, for God is only a refuge to those who trust in Him.

Vile speech (Psalms 10:7)

The psalmist further describes the ungodly as those who are full of curses, lies, and threats. Not only these things, but trouble and evil are under his tongue. Sometimes those who claim to be Christians think that their mouths can be full of these evil things. We know that we cannot have lies, curses, and evil under tongues. But have you used your tongue to cause trouble? I do not think that we want to admit to the answer because I believe all of us have used our tongues to stir up strife and create problems. But this is the characteristic of the ungodly and not the righteous. “If anyone thinks he is religious, without controlling his tongue but deceiving his heart, his religion is useless.” (James 1:26). I am often amazed at the trouble that Christians can stir up with their tongues toward their brethren. Rumors and gossip are very simple ways that our tongues speak of trouble. We must clean up our tongues if we want to be followers of Christ.

Violence (Psalms 10:8-10)

The psalmist now speaks of the horrible acts of violence that are committed by the ungodly. Notice that the ungodly prey upon those who are helpless and weak. They lie in wait to harm the innocent. This is one reason why the righteous suffer: because the ungodly plot harm against the innocent. The ungodly plot and scheme to destroy their victims. They set traps for the helpless and the innocent to fall into. We must see the evil intentions and motives of the ungodly. When we allow our hearts to become wicked and dark with evil, then this is the road that we are traveling down. We are becoming as evil as what we read in these three verses.

False hope (Psalms 10:11 )

The final thought of the ungodly says it all, for this is the rationale for most sins committed. “God has forgotten; He covers His face and never sees.” As soon as this mentality creeps into man, then sin is at the door. When we think in our minds that God does not see what we are doing and has forgotten our actions, then we have opened the door to committing all kinds of wickedness. How often this is the rationale that goes through man. We think that no one sees, that no one is going to know, and our evil actions are not going to matter to anyone. When we believe that God does not see what we are doing, then we are going to be lost. Let us never think that no one knows and nobody sees. An acceptance of this idea is what will bring about all the ungodliness that we have read about in this psalm.

David’s Reaction (Psalms 10:12-18)

Call to action (Psalms 10:12 )

The psalmist will spend the rest of his time dealing with what we ought to do in light of this information. Remember, in verse 1 the psalmist has cried out that God seems to be far away from him. However, he looks at the wicked and cannot understand how they are allowed to continue in their arrogance, prosperity, false security, vile speech, and violence. Therefore, the psalmist turns to God in prayer. In this prayer we see a call to action requested of the Lord. “Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.” We must remember that we have the right to go before God and request action. The psalmist has considered the ways of the ungodly in light of his own feeling of being forsaken, and has turned to God and requested action. Instead of grumbling or forsaking God, we need to turn to God with all our heart and tell Him what we see and what we want. We see the psalmist being more proactive with the Lord than we often are with God. Many times we see this situation with the ungodly and we become frustrated. But we forget to tell God about it and ask Him to do something about it. We are in a helpless condition, but God can do something. We can ask for God’s intervention. I hope that we also see that no matter what we are feeling or what we are experiencing, we need to always turn to the Lord first. In times of trouble and suffering, turn to God first. In times of joy and victory, turn to the Lord first. In times of frustration and confusion, turn to the Lord first. The first step we take is so important for us and shows where our faith lies.

Remember that God sees (Psalms 10:13-15)

The second point that we must understand is that God sees all that is going on. Why would anyone say to himself that he will not be held accountable by God? It is a very foolish belief. “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:11-12). God sees the trouble and grief of every individual. He knows who is the oppressor and who is the victim. To believe that God is not going to act against our evil deeds is to be deceived. The arm of the wicked and the evil man will be broken. This is a significant statement that we may too easily pass over. The arm is used throughout the scriptures as a symbol of power. The easiest way to note this image is when God says to Moses “Is the Lord’s arm short?” (Numbers 11:23 ). God was asking Moses if He had lost His power such that He could not act. The arm represents power. Therefore, the power of the wicked will be broken by God. Their power is not greater than God. The plans of the ungodly will never overcome or thwart the purposes of God. This point leads us into the final verses.

Know judgment comes (Psalms 10:16 )

“The Lord is King forever and ever.” What a comforting thought this is to be to the righteous. The Lord is always King and He always maintains power and control. The psalmist continues, “The nations will perish from His land.” Whose land is it? All is the Lord’s and the nations that stand against the Lord will perish. How can we know this to be reality? How can we know that this will truly happen? This is the purpose of 2 Peter 3:3-7. Peter tells us that the world has forgotten that all the nations of the earth have already been judged at one time in the past. God promised that judgment would come by water, and the judgment came. God has promised again that judgment will come upon the nations of the earth by fire. The ungodly will perish. This is God’s purpose and it will not be broken. In performing His judgments, God is heeding the words of His people who have been oppressed and afflicted. The Lord hears the cries of the afflicted. The Lord will encourage those who are oppressed. The Lord defends the fatherless and those that are suffering. Through His judgment, man will no longer terrify. Let us never be afraid of man, who can only kill the body. Let us fear God who can kill body and spirit. The judgment is certain. The outcome is certain. Are we part of the ungodly or part of the righteous? We must decide who we will follow.

What Can The Righteous Do?

Psalms 11:1-7

Brent Kercheville

Concerns From the Heart (Psalms 11:1-3)

Acts of the wicked

This psalm can be broken into three movements, as most of our Bibles indicate with a line space between Psalms 11:3 and Psalms 11:4 and Psalms 11:6 and Psalms 11:7. The first movement, found in Psalms 11:1-3, describes the concerns of David. In Psalms 11:2 David takes notice of the wicked and describes what the wicked are doing. First, we see that the wicked are shooting arrows. This should not be surprising to us. Satan is said to be using fiery darts against us, and his followers are also using the same tools. But the problem is not simply that the wicked are using arrows. We are the targets! Those who are upright in their hearts are the ones the wicked are going after. Do you ever feel like you are the target of those in the world? You feel that way with good reason. The wicked in heart are targeting the upright in heart. Unfortunately, the enemy is not always that obvious for us to attack. The second point we see David make is that the wicked are shooting arrows from secret places and in the darkness. The enemy is not always clear. Instead, we are often being shot in the back because the wicked are working secretly against us. The actions of the wicked are not always visible. They work behind the scenes, in secret places, and move in the darkness to attack the upright in heart. The problem is very real. As followers of God, we know that the ungodly are not pleased with those who try to be moral, virtuous, and upright in the name of the Lord. This is a description of the societal war that we are engaged in for the hearts and minds of the people. Our enemies are very crafty. Consider how the sins of ten, twenty, and thirty years ago have become common and acceptable. Consider the things that used to be outrageous to society in times past that now are tolerated and sometimes glorified. The things that were considered “late night” viewing of previous times are now shown on Nick At Nite and The Family Channel as family viewing. We are in a war, and the wicked are crafty in this battle.

Advice: flee to the mountains

Notice the advice that is given to David since he is being attacked by the wicked: flee to the mountains. The advice David receives is that he should not take a stand and fight, but run away from it all. Instead of being light in a dark world, the light decides to move away from the darkness. However, light is needed in dark places. Without the light, all things would become dark. But those in the darkness want those who walk in the light to move away. Bemoan and wail and do not bother those who participate in wickedness. The darkness wants us wailing about the good ol’ days and doing nothing against the agenda that they have against God and righteousness. David will not accept this path.

Answer of David

Therefore, David gives his answer, “In the Lord I put my trust.” This has been a common theme of David that he brings out again in this psalm. The Lord must be a refuge to the upright. We are to put our trust in God. Again, this step is the most important first step that we can take when we are battling the darkness that fights against us. We must put our trust in the Lord. Do not go out into the war alone. If we do, we will not succeed. God has told us to put some armor on to be able to stand against wickedness (Ephesians 6). A dependence on God is the only way that we will not succumb to evil forces. A true reliance on God is the only way that we will remain walking in the light when the temptations and arrows of the evil one come.

Annihilation of the fountains

Which brings us to David’s question, and the question is the title of the lesson: What can the righteous do? What are the righteous to be doing? Especially, what are the righteous to do when the fountains of society are being destroyed? When law, order, truth, justice, and godliness are being subverted and perverted, what are the righteous to do? We must see that things have not changed in 3000 years. The problems that David identifies are the same problems that exist in our society today. The same forces are working to strip us of our foundations based upon God. We have seen this more clearly in light of recent events. The Supreme Court has to decide whether we can still say that we are “one nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance. The monument to the ten commandments was ripped out of a courthouse in Alabama . The assault upon morality, truth, justice, and godliness continues. Therefore, David’s answer is very applicable even in the twenty-first century.

Comforting Words (Psalms 11:4-6)

God’s holy temple (Psalms 11:4)

David says that the Lord is in His holy temple. Whenever we read about the temple, we often think about Solomon’s beautiful temple or the immense temple that Herod constructed in the first century. But as David writes these words, there is not a temple that has been constructed. Remember that David desired to build a temple but because David was a man of war, David’s son Solomon would be granted authority to build God’s temple. Therefore, we ought not think of a physical temple when we read these words. David is bringing to mind the concepts of God’s dwelling place. One important concept is the holiness of the Lord. In fact, David uses the very words, “holy temple.” The temple showed the people that God was set apart from them since no one could enter into the room but the priest. Further, no one could enter into the Holy of Holies except the high priest once a year. The reason to call upon God’s holiness is to remind that God does not endorse or condone the evildoer. God is separate from those who do such evil. They are not pleasing to God.

Not only was the temple a reminder of God’s holiness, but it was also a reminder of God’s presence. The physical temple and tabernacle was a constant reminder of God’s presence among His people. Up to this point, God was with the people because the cloud of His glory had filled the tabernacle. One could simply look to the temple to know that God was with His people. This is why Ezekiel’s prophecy in Ezekiel 11 of the glory of the Lord leaving the temple and leaving Jerusalem was so devastating. It meant that you could not look and find the presence of the Lord with them. They were no longer His people and therefore He was no longer with them. The hope of these words is that God is in His holy temple. God is dwelling with the people of God. God says to us, “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) God is with His people and is dwelling with them. David did not need a physical temple to know this fact, and neither do we. Though we may be shot at by the wicked, we can know that God is still with us when we are upright in heart.

God’s heavenly throne (Psalms 11:4)

Right along with these thoughts, David also points out that the Lord’s throne is in heaven. Again, this notes that we are not talking about a physical dwelling place for God, for His throne is in heaven. A throne always brings to mind rule, authority, and power to judge. Of course, having a heavenly throne implies that the rule of God is vast and all encompassing. Nothing is outside of God’s rule and authority. Therefore, everything that is done by the wicked is done on God’s watch and in His realm. Maybe a good way to see the concept is through the word “jurisdiction.” The police in West Palm Beach only have authority in this city and do not have authority in another city, state, or country. God’s jurisdiction is over all things, however. There is no limit to the area of God’s rule and therefore all people will be held accountable. We have every right to look to the throne of God in appeal for His judgments. We can be thankful for judgments that come upon the evildoers of this world. God is still ruling in this world. When we see evil and trouble, let us turn our eyes to the Lord of heaven Who sits on the throne ruling. When we look to God in the midst of such turmoil there are three things we will be able to consider.

God sees the wicked (Psalms 11:4)

God sees all that people do. God knows what people in this world are doing. Their deeds are apparent to God. God says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3) We have the tendency to forget the truth of these words, which leads to two failures.

First, by forgetting that God is watching in every place, we can have the tendency to think that God does not see what we are doing. We may come to believe that we can commit sins because we believe we are acting secretly and in the dark. Therefore, we believe that God will never know and we will never be held accountable. However, we are lying to ourselves if we believe that God does not see. God’s eyes behold the righteous and the wicked.

Second, by forgetting that God is watching in every place, we can have the tendency to think that God does not know what the rest of the wicked world is doing. As David noted, the things that the wicked are doing against the upright are in secret and in the dark. Because of this fact, we can believe that God does not see their actions and will not be held accountable. However, God gives us comfort in that we can know that God sees.

Therefore, God examines the sons of men, which in this case is a general reference to those who are wicked. God is going to test them in judgment to see whether they are His or not. God is going to judge them for the actions which they have taken. Let us never lose hope because we see the evildoers of this world seeming to succeed. In time they will fall in judgment. God will not allow them to go on without judgment.

God tests the righteous (Psalms 11:5)

By the same token, the righteous are also going to be tested in judgment. We are not excluded from being accountable to the Lord. As we noted in the proverbs, God says that He keeps watch on the evil and on the good. God tells us that the genuineness of our faith will be tested by fire that it may be found pleasing to Him (1 Peter 1:6-7). This examination gives us a measure of comfort that we know that many thing which happen to us are to test and mature our faith. Consider the example of Job, who we know was tested by Satan. Satan was the direct cause of what was happening to Job. However, was it not also a test of Job’s faith to see whether Job would remain faithful to the Lord? Was it not also a test of Job that would refine and mature his faith? Absolutely, even though the trial was brought by Satan.

In the same way, though the upright in heart are suffering at the hands of the wicked who are shooting their arrows at us, we can take heart because these are opportunities for us to develop our faith. While we demand the wicked to be judged for their evil works, and rightly so, we must also see that this is a test of our faith. We are able to learn how pure our faith is toward God. As much as no one likes tests, these things are very important toward reaching the final goal. In school, what would you think if you only had one test at the very end of the semester? While it sounds good on the surface, upon further consideration we must realize that such a situation is not beneficial. Such a situation is not useful because we have no idea if we know the material, if we are excelling, where we need to improve, and so forth. It is simply pass or fail. If we did not have trials and tests, we would not know the genuineness of our faith and whether we will pass the final test on the day of judgment. Instead, we have trials to learn now, before it is too late, where we are improving and where we are lacking. Let us take courage, and as James says, “count it all joy,” in trials because we know that this is an opportunity for faith to develop.

God judges the wicked (Psalms 11:5-6)

What is the outcome of the judgment of the wicked? David tells us in Psalms 11:5-6. Consider these strong words: God hates the wicked and those who do violence. We enjoy considering the depth of God’s love toward us. God’s love is immeasurable–so much that it passes understanding. Now, reverse the coin and consider the depth of God’s hate toward the wicked. As much as the depth of God’s love is available to the upright, there is just as much depth of God’s wrath toward the wicked. David goes further to describe raining coals upon the wicked, including fire, brimstone, and a burning wind. These images and events have all been used by God to show His wrath against the wicked. Fire and brimstone always reminds us of the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18, for fire and brimstone was used to destroy those cities. A fiery wind is also the judgment of God. God says, “A hot wind from the bare heights in the desert toward the daughter of My people, not to winnow or cleanse, a wind too full for this comes for Me” (Jeremiah 4:11). Jeremiah used the hot wind of God to describe a total and complete judgment against Jerusalem .

When God brings His final judgment upon the wicked, the judgment will not be for cleansing or for separating. The judgment will be for destruction. It will be too late to turn back to God. This is the language of God at the end of the scriptures when God says, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). Also, God says, “And the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10 ). When judgment comes upon the wicked, they will receive the cup of God’s wrath and be made to drink it full strength. They will be repaid for their deeds.

Concluding Hope (Psalms 11:7)

God is righteous

Psalms 11:7 offers some final words of hope and comfort to the upright when attacked by the wicked. The first point David makes is that the Lord is righteous. This is the character of God. Since this is the character of God, righteousness demands judgments. The scriptures tie these two concepts closely together. Paul said, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8) Also we read, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” (Revelation 16:7) These two concepts of righteousness and judgment cannot be separated. God is righteous; therefore, judgment must follow to those who are not righteous.

God loves the righteous and their deeds

How do we know that God loves us? We know God loves us when we become like the character of God. God is righteous and He loves those who are righteous and whose deeds are just. We are not told that God is righteous as a point of information. We are commanded to be like God. Therefore since God is righteous, we must also be righteous if we want to be in God’s favor. This statement also brings a message of hope and comfort. We can endure many things in this life that are difficult. When difficulties come because of the hand of the wicked, it is easy to believe that God has turned His back on us and no longer cares. But this is a promised fact: God loves those who are like Him. Though we may suffer and be struck by the arrows of the wicked, God loves us. Wrath will come upon those who do evil. God shows His love to us when we obey His will.

God’s face will be seen by the upright

This has a two-fold encouragement that we can take to heart in the midst of suffering. First, a point that is more obvious and very similar to the point we just made, God’s face is turned to the upright. This means that God has not, nor never will turn His back upon the upright. God is facing forward to the upright. This also means that God will bestow His blessings and mercy upon the upright. This can be seen in Psalms 67:1, “God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us.” God blesses and shows mercy to the upright.

But there is a greater depth to these words. Implied in these words is our ability to see God’s face. Remember that God said to Moses, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20) Our mortal bodies cannot behold the Lord. In fact, as we see with the prophets, our mortal bodies can hardly stand to see the likeness of the glory of the presence of the Lord. No human can be in God’s presence and see God for who He is. But there is a great promise that is made. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2) For us to see Him as He is requires us to be like Him. We must be transformed into His image, becoming children of God, for us to have the blessing of being like God. This is the promise of life that exceeds anything we have ever known on this earth. To be like God and see Him face to face is to experience everything that is missing in our lives now. It will fulfill every void and every need we have. Though we suffer now, all our wounds will be healed and every tear will be wiped away by the Lord. Let us endure to the end and receive the crown of life that awaits us.



It will be seen from the analysis that the structure of this psalm is of the simplest—a stanza, an antistanza, and a refrain. The first point of advantage, is to notice, that the timid advice beginning, Flee to a mountain, runs on to the end of the stanza: to see this, is to perceive what an evil case the psalmist’s advisers consider he is in. He is as helpless as a little bird watched by archers in ambush—instant flight is his only hope of personal safety: and, as for public reasons for remaining at his post, they are gone: further resistance is useless, seeing that the buttresses of public justice and social order are one by one being torn down; and, with no redress available, what has a righteous man ever done under such circumstances or can he now hope to do? Such are the counsels of despair offered by the psalmist’s timid friends,—counsels which the psalmist’s faith in Jehovah emboldens him to reject, with surprise that they should have been offered him.

Of the two sets of circumstances in which such advice might have been tendered to David—while he was at the court of Saul, and when the revolt of Absalom was coming to a head—the former seems the more probable, while his faith was yet undimmed and he was a stranger to distrust and vacillation.

It is well that, thus early, the heavenly temple should be near to the psalmist’s faith. Jehovah is in his holy temple above, with his mighty hosts waiting to do his will. With stronger emphasis and greater explicitness, the psalmist repeats, As for Jehovah, in the heavens is his throne. The distance does not obstruct his vision, His eyes behold the earth. He is intently watching the conduct of the lawless men. His eyelids—fixed for steadfast gaze and narrow scrutiny—test the quality, course and tendency of the actions of the sons of men. He may delay the deliverance of the righteous man, but he is only putting him to the test; whereas the lawless man he hates with all the intensity of his holy affections. He has judgment in store for all such: like as when he overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah! The language may be figurative, but the faith is sublime; and it keeps the persecuted hero at his post. Note also the course of instruction through which the psalm conducts us. The sight of Jehovah’s throne in the heavens brings Jehovah himself all’ the nearer to the persecuted believer’s extremity. Heaven is equally near to every scene of trial on earth. For the present, indeed we have need to localise Jehovah’s presence; and in any case we must not lose hold of his personality. He is a God who hates, who loves; and the more we are assured that it is he who makes us righteous, the more shall we long for the beatific vision of his face.

Knowing The Words of the Wicked

Psalms 12:1-8

Brent Kercheville


This is another psalm by David that has a similar tone to the Psalms 11. The first line of the psalm sets the tone for what David is feeling at the moment he pens this psalm. “Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men.” Have you ever felt you were the last righteous one in the midst of the people you know and among your sphere of influence? I dare say that from time to time we have all had such feelings come to mind. Elijah felt similarly after Jezebel sent him a letter informing him that he was going to be killed for having the prophets of Baal. Elijah says to the Lord, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:10 ) God had to not only show His power to Elijah, but also explain the many other followers that God had available to Him in Israel .

In Psalms 12:1-8, the answer to David’s concern comes from knowing who the wicked are by their words. Identifying who is truly among the righteous is a step we must take when surrounded by evil. Who is truly on the Lord’s side? In the final half of the psalm we will compare the words of evil with the words of the Lord and note God’s promises to the righteous and the wicked. David now explains what the righteous need to know when it seems the faithful have vanished from among men.

The Words of the Wicked

Idle words (Psalms 12:2)

The first characteristic that David notes concerning the words of the wicked is that they speak idly with their neighbors. What are idle words? In the New Testament, the NIV calls this “godless chatter” and other modern versions say “vain babblings.” The idea is to speak words that are valueless. These are words that do not edify and lift up other people, but merely just the prattling on of words. The implication behind idle words is that one is speaking about another’s business. When prattling on about other people’s lives and actions we fall into the trap of speaking idle words. Here are God’s warnings: “Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and vain babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20 ). Jesus said, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36 ). We have far too many who dabble themselves into other people’s business, speculating about their circumstances, questioning their motives, and are sure to tell others about what everyone else is doing. These words belong to the ungodly and are not words that come from followers of Jesus.

Flattering words (Psalms 12:2)

The wicked also speak flattering words. This is an important characteristic for the righteous to notice in the wicked. All of us like to hear complimentary, positive words. Such words let down our defenses and cause us to feel good about ourselves. But we must realize that it is for these very reasons that the wicked speak false, flattering words. The evil will use flattering words to get something out of them, to deceive them, or to cheat them. Jude pointed out this characteristic in the New Testament when he said, “These are murmurers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.” (Judges 1:16) The flattering words are merely used to try to take advantage of the innocent and the righteous. The righteous must be aware that flattering words may simply indicate the wicked are trying to lower our defenses to take advantage of a situation.

Deceitful words (Psalms 12:2)

Used in the same breath as flattering words, David also describes the words of the wicked as deceitful. The NIV says they “speak with deception” while the NKJV literally translates this “with a double heart they speak.” An idiomatic Hebrew phrase is used here to describe words of the wicked as “double talk” or “talking out of both sides of one’s mouth.” This concept is a very practical problem today. It refers to people who say one thing to your face, yet will say something different to someone else. This duality of mind and heart is condemned by the Lord. How many times we see people being friendly to your face, yet will turn around another moment and speak evil of you. This is the double talk and is the deception that David speaks of. They seem like someone who is on your side and close to you, yet they are deceiving you because they will speak against you to others. They speak flattering words to your face but malicious words when you are away. James warns us about those who are double minded, reminding us that such a person is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). The wicked use the double tongue.

Boastful words (Psalms 12:3-4)

Those who participate in these things also seem to have boastful, proud words. Notice the words that David attributes to the wicked. “They say, ‘We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips–who is our master?’” Their pride is in their words. They do not believe that they will ever be caught by their words. They do not believe that others will ever know the words that they are saying. Somehow they think their idle, flattering, and deceitful words will never be caught by others. It is the only way we say such words. If you knew that the person you were speaking against would find out, would you say those words? In other words, if the person was standing right behind you that you were speaking these idle, deceitful words about, would you go ahead and speak them anyway? The answer, I believe we would all answer, is no. None of us would say the words if we thought they would get back to the person we are talking about. We have such proud words. We think that we are untouchable by the words that we say. We think that no one will ever find out our deceitfulness and our idleness. But, by implication, the proud do not stand. We know that the Lord cuts down the proud. But how foolish for us to be so arrogant as to think that our words will not come back to haunt us. Allow me to make you a guarantee: at some point our evil words will be found out by the person we are speaking against. We are so arrogant to wonder why people treat us differently, why relationships change, and why things are not the way they used to be. A good place to look is at our words. We improve relationships with kind and gracious words. We destroy relationships with idle double-speak. You and I think that others do not know what people are saying. They do.

We need to cut off our grapevines, get out of the gossip loops and realize that those words are coming around to get us. We need to repent from these things and stop participating in them. There is no reason to speak or listen to these kinds of things. The boastful think they can trust in their words. But they are setting every bridge on fire and will plunge into their own abyss.

Malicious words (Psalms 12:5)

Another characteristic of the words of the ungodly is that they speak malicious words. The Lord is speaking in verse 5 and notice who the Lord is going up against: those who malign. The Hebrew is difficult here and not all the versions use this word. But this is the overall idea of what we have been looking at concerning the words of the wicked. We think there is nothing wrong speaking these words. So what if we participate in godless chatter and vain babblings. It does not hurt anyone, right? What does it matter if we use flattering words to get what we want and take advantage of situations. Does it really matter? So we tell people what they want to hear and use some double talk and deception. We need to see that these are malicious words. We are committing acts of malice against our brethren when we use such words. Our souls are in jeopardy if we continue to participate in these things.

The Words of the Lord

Flawless (Psalms 12:6)

“The words of the Lord are flawless.” What an idea to think about for a moment. There is no flaw with the words that the Lord has said. Notice how God’s words are flawless. The words are like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. The words of the Lord have gone through a refining process so that they are pure. This is an important description for us to model in our lives. To avoid malicious words, we need to speak as the oracles of God. For our words to be like God’s, we need to put our words through the refining process before we speak them. This was the idea that God was trying to get us to understand when He told us to bridle the tongue in James 3. We need to think before we speak. Too many times we say words that should not be said because we are reacting from emotion and not from rational thought. Too many times we say things that should not be said because we are not thinking as we ought. Not everything we think needs to be said. In fact, most of the things that we think should not be said. We must exercise self-control on the tongue.

If we still continue to speak these words, then we need to refine our hearts. It is from the heart that our words come (Matthew 15:18 ). Therefore, when corrupt words come from our mouths, it is a symptom that there is a corrupt heart at the source. We must roll up our sleeves and get to our work on cleaning out our hearts so that we can be in the likeness of God. His words are flawless and so should our words be as well.

Valuable (Psalms 12:6)

David also suggests that the words of the Lord are valuable, for they are like silver. When God speaks, there is something good and important coming from His words. His words carry value for our souls. God does not engage in idle chatter. You will never come across pointless words being spoken by God. His words are like silver and have great value. How much value do our words carry? When we speak, do people listen? Or do our words resemble worthless chatter that usually goes in one ear and out the other of most people? Our words are to be valuable. God was not kidding when He said that we need to speak as the oracles, or very words, of God. God says that nothing corrupt is to come out of our mouths. Instead, the only thing we should be speaking are things that give favor to the hearer (Ephesians 4:29 ). Edifying and encouraging words are words of value. If our words are not valuable to the person we are speaking to and building up the person we are speaking about, then those words must not be said. Let our words have value.

God’s Promises

I will protect (Psalms 12:5; Psalms 12:7)

I would also like us to consider the words God uses to make promises to those who follow after Him. First, God tells us that He will protect us from such people who use these words. As children, we used to say sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us. We only said that because the words did hurt and we know that words can be very damaging. Psalms 12:5 tells us that God hears our groaning and knows of our oppression. God knows what we must endure through the words of the wicked. God knows that even those who claim to be righteous and followers of God will use their words to malign us and attempt to harm us. God says that He will do something about it. Not only will God be proactive against those who are wicked, which we will notice at the end, but He will protect the righteous.

Does this mean that we will never suffer harm by people’s words? No, for David was at that moment suffering from the words of the wicked. Jesus himself suffered the mocking words of the wicked. So how are we protected? We are protected because what they say does not matter. What they say will not affect our salvation or relationship with God. What they say does not change who we are and where we are going. They can say all they want about us, but we are going to a better place and what they say does not matter. They are merely words, and we have a God who is watching over us.

I will keep you safe (Psalms 12:7)

David declares this with great faith, “O Lord, you will keep us safe.” David returns to a common theme that we have seen in these beginning psalms, which is the idea of refuge. God will keep us in His care. He will keep us safe. It is the words of comfort from the loving father to the injured child. As the child comes home with tears because of what people said, the best comfort the father can give is to lift the child up, draw him close, and show him that he cares. How much more is our heavenly Father willing to take us into His arms, wipe away our tears, and tell us that He cares for us? God says, “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) We are His children and He will keep us in His arms. Let us take that hope with us as we endure the trials of the world.


One would expect that this would be the end of the psalm, for it seems to be a fitting and appropriate end to the psalm. Yet David has one more thing to say, which we find in Psalms 12:8. The wicked are on every side and they are exalting everything that is vile. Why would David end with these words? I believe the idea is as follows: If the wicked exalt only vile and evil things, then it is a good thing that they do not exalt us. If they exalted us, then there would be something wrong, for we would be too much like them. However, because we are trying to serve the Lord, they are going to use their words against us. The wicked will continue to strut around honoring that which is vile. We do not want their honor. We want the honor and glory of God. Let us seek out His honor by serving Him and obeying Him today.

Let us put aside the evil talk that we often think is harmless. Let us stop the idle chatter and gossip wheels that we have among us. May we all realize that people will find out what we are saying about them and God knows every word we utter. As Jesus said, and as we noted at the beginning of the lesson, by our words we will be justified and by our words we will be condemned.



It is difficult to reduce to writing the successive impressions made by the study of this psalm. Who wrote it? Again that becomes an absorbing question; simply because, a candid and sympathetic investigation of the psalm itself insists upon a reconsideration of the prima-facie conclusion. It is inscribed to David; and we cannot lightly dismiss the presumption thence arising that he wrote it. Nevertheless the situation as a whole suggests another set of circumstances than any in which we know David to have been placed; and, inasmuch as we are learning to perceive an element of adaptation in psalms which are still reverently attributed to David as original author, we may feel perfectly free to look those circumstances full in the face.

Now there is no denying that David at the court of Saul had ample occasion to lament the mischief made by tongues that were at once flattering and false; and so it is easy to conceive that the original draft and for a time the permanent form of this psalm as it came from David’s pen began nearly as does the present recension of it.

All the same, the outlook, as it now stands in the very opening couplet, appears too broad to have come within David’s early survey of the sons of men. It is not in the least likely that, in those early expectant days, such a pessimistic conclusion would have forced itself on David’s mind.

Moreover, the desire that Jehovah would cut off all flattering lips seems premature while as yet the son of Jesse had not come to the throne; and when he could scarcely yet have felt such a sense of responsibility for the moral condition of the nation as would suggest such a prayer. Even when he had come to the throne the royal resolve to banish evil tongues from his court, and so discredit them to the nation, which we find in Psalms 101, much more commends itself than a sweeping prayer like this.

Still more conclusively in favour of a wholly different time is the underlying assumption which is seen in Psalms 12:5, which presupposes a whole class of humbled and needy ones for whose vindication Jehovah’s interposition has been long delayed.

If these considerations were not forcible enough to carry our point,—who can imagine David, at any time of his reign, admitting not only that lawless men were strutting about in the land, but that worthlessness itself was exalted, not only amongst a rapidly growing faction, as in Absalom’s days, but generally amongst the sons of men?

It is remarkable how thoroughly the hypothesis of a revision of the original psalm by King Hezekiah, more particularly in the early days of his reign, meets the difficulties above suggested, and provides a situation which responds to all the leading features of the psalm.

From the known infidelities and weaknesses of Hezekiah’s father Ahaz, we might safely have inferred the consequent corruption of the morals of the people; which, in any case, is independently attested by the early chapters of Isaiah’s prophecies. As if to make surety sure, the opening lament of this psalm is almost verbally repeated by the two parallel passages referred to under the text above; namely Isaiah 57:1 and Micah 7:2. That Micah was an early enough witness, will be universally conceded; and if the so-called Isaiah II. was no other than the familiar friend of our youth, Isaiah of Jerusalem, then we have a combination of evidence which no gainsaying can overthrow, that in or about the time of Hezekiah’s early reign there was quite sufficient ground for the sweeping opening lament of this psalm.

Nor is it from these parallels alone that confirmation of a Hezekian adaptation comes. For the words Now will I arise, saith Jehovah, of Psalms 12:5, are a literal quotation from Isaiah 33:10; and, once we are in that remarkable chapter, another coincidence meets us. The singular descent from the humbled and needy ones in general to one particular suppliant in peril of Psalms 12:5 of our psalm—I will place him in safety—is alone suggestive of Hezekiah; how much more so when, after Isaiah’s beautiful description of the ideal King—so strikingly realised in Hezekiah,—he proceeds to say, “He the heights shall inhabit, a stronghold of crags shall be his refuge (his lofty retreat)” (Isaiah 33:16)—that is indeed being placed in safety!

Even the variations in the reading and rendering of Psalms 12:6 of our psalm, rather embarrass with a wealth of allusions than cause us any perplexity. We may confess to a strong liking to the longer form of that verse presented by the Massoretic text, for several reasons: as, first, for the occurrence of the poetic word imrah, which we render “promise” in Psalms 119, and of which Delitzsch here says: “The poetical ‘imrah serves especially as the designation of the divine words of promise which are so full of power,” and, second, for the intrinsic beauty of the comparison of Jehovah’s promises with smelted silver. And yet, after all, there is even a surpassing aptness of reference to Hezekiah himself in the shorter form preferred by Dr. Briggs, When thrust down to the earth he shall be purified seven times. Delitzsch rejoices in the longer form, and lovingly speaks of the “hexastich” as the gem of the psalm, whose brightness relieves the gloom of the psalm’s Massoretic ending, which he cannot deny. Briggs delights himself with the shorter form, as bringing the whole psalm within four stanzas of four lines each!

Even yet our easily borne embarrassments are not at an end. The gloomy finish to the psalm is mildly defended by Delitzsch, as above intimated; Perowne regretfully admits it, remarking, “this return to gloom and doubt is, I believe, without parallel at the conclusion of a psalm”; the which frank admission may prepare us for the drastic treatment of Briggs, who, by a new decipherment of the consonants, and in part leaning on the Septuagint and on Psalms 12:5, sets forth as the concluding couplet

Though round about the wicked walk,

When thou risest up, thou dost lightly esteem the sons of mankind.

“This,” says he, “gives an appropriate climax to the psalm.”

“How Long? How Long?”: Feeling Abandoned

Psalms 13:1-6

Brent Kercheville


Psalms 13 is another psalm composed by David. There has been a movement of greater intensity from Psalms 10 through Psalms 12. This psalm continues to strengthen the intensity of David’s crying out to the Lord for help and relief. In Psalms 12 we saw David feeling that he is alone, such that all the faithful and godly had disappeared. But if it was not bad enough that David felt that all the godly had abandoned him, now we read that David also feels that God has abandoned him. We must notice and accept that David does feel abandoned by God. Sometimes we may leave people with the impression that they will never feel this way once they become a disciple of Jesus. But this is clearly not the case. As we noted in a previous psalm, there are times when God feels distant, and David felt those times. So what can we do when we feel abandoned by God? Let us consider what David says in Psalms 13:1-6.

How Long? (Psalms 13:1-2)

Prolonged struggle and feelings of abandonment

The first thing we must notice as we read this psalm is the repetition of the statement, “How long?” David asks how long God will forget, how long God will hide His face, how long he must wrestle with his thoughts and sorrows, and how long his enemies will triumph. Four times David cries out to the Lord, “How long?” We are left with the understanding that whatever David is crying out about has been going on for quite a long time. The length of David’s suffering has been so long that David asks if God is going to forget him forever. We have all been in such times of despair when it is difficult to even remember when better times existed in our lives. The feelings of loss and abandonment are so great that one is unable to see when the end will come. It is important that we recognize that this is the nature of trials. Very rarely are we able to see when the trial will end. Even worse, we are unable to see what the final outcome will be from the trial. This is the type of emotion upon which David expresses these words. When we consider the life of David, being a man after God’s own heart, it is easy for us to only recall the positive things that happened in David’s life. Yet we cannot forget the suffering, trials, and traumas that David endured. He lost a son because of his sins. He was chased for his life by Saul and by his own son Absalom. Things were not all “good times” in the life of David. David became a man after God’s own heart, in part, because of how he handled the suffering and trials he encountered. Therefore, though one of our spiritual heroes of the Old Testament, let us see the agony David is in when he cries out, “Will you forget me forever?”

Appears God’s blessings have vanished

David goes further and says, “How long will you hide your face from me?” This is more of an idiomatic expression used in the scriptures to speak about the blessings of God. God seems so far removed that it seems that God is no longer blessing David. The protection, refuge, and safety of the Lord seems to have been taken away. This expression also communicates being in “good graces.” To be facing someone shows love and favor, while hiding the face indicates a turned back, implying rejection. This is a common feeling that most experience. When things go wrong or trouble comes, many times we say the very words, “Where is God?” What happened to the Lord watching over us? This is the type of language David uses. Why is God hiding His face from me?

Dark thoughts and lost in sorrow

Not only is David dealing with the feeling of abandonment toward God, but he is also wrestling with his own flood of emotions. David says that he wrestles with his thoughts and has sorrow in his heart every day. David simply describes the depths of his despair. David declares to the Lord that his emotions are eating him up inside. David is fighting the negative thoughts that are in his mind. How many times we must wrestle with our emotions when we are suffering or in the midst of trial! Our minds may tell us to give up, to give in, and tell us things that are not truthful. This battle has already been expressed by David. David knows in reality that God has not left him, as we will notice later in the psalm. So there is a battle being waged with what David knows to be accurate and what he feels. David feels abandoned by God and out of His favor. Therefore, David is wrestling with what he knows versus these feelings because of the suffering he is in the midst of. David describes the depths of his despair even further when he points out that he feels sorrow in his heart every day. The suffering is so significant that every day that goes by he feels the weight and burden of sorrows in his heart. David is standing in the valley of despair, looking for a way up and out. Let us not downplay the great sorrow he feels.

Triumphal enemies

David also asks the Lord how long his enemies will triumph over him. It seems that when things are going bad, there are plenty of others to pile on the pain. It always seems that there are people ready to kick someone while he is down. David expresses that feeling as the enemies continue to rule and triumph over David. I believe we can relate to this feeling also. We can feel like that just as when we think we are about to get up off the ground, another enemy comes along and puts us back down. Our sphere of enemies mainly comes from the spiritual warfare we are engaged in. The enemies are the forces of evil that we must fight against. We must be prepared, understanding that if we want to be godly, we will have a fight on our hands and we will have many enemies.

David’s Prayer (Psalms 13:3-4)

Look on me

The first thing David does is turn to God in prayer. This psalm is really a petition to the Lord about what he is enduring. We have made mention of this before, yet it is so important that we see it brought out again in this psalm: The first thing to do is pray. No matter what situation may come upon us, the first thing every person must do is pray. In Psalms 13:3 David says “look on me.” Literally, David is asking God to turn His face, see what is happening, and give David regard and consideration. It is strange to me that this is often the last thing we may do when we feel abandoned by God. Many times, when in such a sorrowful situation, we bemoan that we feel that God has turned His back on us. Yet, that is not what we are to do. Notice that David tells God he feels this way and asks God to look at him again. Instead of throwing in the towel and giving up on God, we need to turn to God and tell Him to give us consideration and regard. Why would we feel that we could not tell God to look at us and pay attention to us? Yet we will throw our hands in the air and say that God does not care. Do not do that. Instead, call out to God. Tell Him to look upon us.


David not only asks God to look upon him and give him consideration, but also asks God to give an answer to what he is asking. Sometimes we wonder why we have not received an answer to our prayers. We have many things to consider that the scriptures tell us concerning unanswered prayer, such as asking selfishly or not according to God’s will. But there is another thing that we must ask ourselves. Have we asked God to answer? We may respond that we would not have asked if we did not want an answer. But that is not necessarily true. Sometimes prayer is used to appease the conscience or to tell others that we prayed, therefore justifying in our minds that we can take matters into our own hands. But prayer is not simply about asking God for something, but also asking God to answer our request according to His will. This means that we have a heart that is truly ready to accept any answer the Lord gives. How often we only accept God’s answers to prayer if the answers match what we want! But to truly want an answer from God means that we are ready to accept the “no” answers from the Lord.

Give light to my eyes

Many times in the scriptures this phrase refers to spiritual knowledge and enlightenment. However, that does not seem to be the idea in this passage. I believe there are two concepts that are being pictured. First, this seems to refer to making David whole again. Instead of being lost in death, David desires light to be given to his eyes, thus being made alive again. David no longer wants to be in the misery he is in, feeling that he is at the point of death. Second, and I believe more important, is the idea that David can see things the way God sees them. When we look at what we are suffering through our own eyes, things simply do not make sense. We do not understand why we endure the things that we go through. We need to ask the Lord to open our eyes so that we can see God working in the situation. We need our eyes to be enlightened so that we see life the way God sees life. Instead of having a carnal, fleshly, physical view of life, let our eyes look at life with the spiritual eyes of the Lord.

Give no room for the enemies

David does not want the enemies to be able to think that they can overcome a servant of the Lord. David makes his appeal based upon the name of the Lord, as many in the scriptures have done in the past. The name of the Lord is given reason for scorn if the wicked are able to triumph over the righteous. Therefore, David asks that he overcome the enemies for the Lord’s sake. Moses made a similar argument to the Lord. When the Lord was about to wipe out the nation of Israel and create a new people through Moses, Moses argued that the name of the Lord would be ridiculed if all the people died in the wilderness. I do not believe this is an argument we tend to use with the Lord, but it was a point that many of God’s people made before. Let the righteous be victorious over the wicked. We are trying to be righteous, so do not let my enemies triumph and rejoice over my fall.

Hope For Tomorrow (Psalms 13:5-6)

Trust in God’s unfailing love

David now changes gears in the last two verses and describes the hope that he has in the Lord. Despite all that we have noticed in this psalm concerning David’s despair, David still has hope. Why does David still have hope? How does David still have hope? Let us notice what David says to these things. David points out that these things are a matter of faith in God. David has put his trust in the Lord. How can David trust in the Lord? Is David exhibiting blind faith? Not at all. David says that he trusts in the Lord’s unfailing love. God says that He loves the righteous (Psalms 146:8). Combine this knowledge with the fact that God’s love is unfailing. God’s love does not quit toward us. There is no point at which God does not love us. There is no boundary or line that can be crossed at which point God will stop loving us. Further, since God’s love is unfailing, He never lets us down. He is always there and meets every need perfectly. Even in our sins, God continues to love us. How do we know this? We know this because God has already proven His love for us by sending His Son to die while we were in our sins (Romans 5:8). If God would show this much love when we were completely helpless, hopeless, and lost, why would we doubt the love of God now that we are trying to serve Him? We have reason to trust in the Lord and have hope for tomorrow because of the Lord’s unfailing love. God will not let you down when you put your full trust in Him.

Rejoice in God’s salvation

The next reason that David has hope in the Lord taking care of the situation, knowing the Lord has not abandoned him, is because of the Lord’s salvation. There is reason to rejoice today and in the future because no matter what we are experiencing, our salvation is secure. Though we may be going through the pits of despair and abyss of sorrow, we know that our salvation is secure and we can rejoice. God says, “Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Shall affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “Because of you we are being put to death all day long; we are counted like sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created things will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:35-39). I believe Paul was making the same point. Consider what Paul says they were enduring! He sums up their suffering by saying they were being put to death all day long and were like sheep counted for the slaughter. In all our suffering we cannot say we are suffering to this extent. Yet, even if we were, we could rejoice in our salvation because it cannot be taken away from us. Nothing will separate us from the love of God that offers us salvation.

Sing in God’s goodness

Finally, David says that he will sing to the Lord for He has been good to him. The NKJV says that David will sing to the Lord “because He has dealt bountifully with me.” The bountiful goodness of God has overflowed toward us. Though David had expressed earlier in the psalm that the Lord’s face had been hidden from him, meaning that the blessings of God had been removed, David now recognizes that this is not the case. How can we know that God has not turned His face from us? How can we know that God will bless us? I believe the answer is simple and it is the same reason David could know that God would remain with him: because God has done so in the past. Notice that David speaks in the past tense. God has been good to him. God has dealt bountifully with me. God has done far more for us than we usually can remember. If God has done these things in the past, why would He not continue? He loves His children and His love is unfailing. Why would we doubt that God would not continue to take care of us? We need to sing about the goodness of God. God has given us more than we can imagine and treated us far better than we deserve. When we feel abandoned, let us turn to God in prayer. Then let us know that God’s love is unfailing toward us. He will not turn away from us. Let us rejoice in the salvation we have in the Lord because no matter what happens to us, our salvation cannot be taken away. Finally, let us sing to the Lord for He has been good to you and me.



The keynote of Stanza I. of this psalm is, How long?—from which, indeed, we cannot safely infer that the present trial had lasted for many years; but only that, to the tried one, it seemed as if it would never end. Time, to our consciousness, is relative: under stress and strain, minutes seem hours; hours, days; days, as though they would drag on their slow length for ever. Such has been the feeling of the psalmist; but his half-formed thought is corrected ere he utters it—hence the broken construction of the first line. The very attempt to utter his complaint soothes his spirit, and he becomes measured and musical in the expression of his appeal to Jehovah his God, to whom his words reveal unmistakable nearness. We readily forgive his anthropomorphisms, for the sake of the vivid sense we thereby obtain of his accustomed personal fellowship with his God. We note the orderly progression of the singer’s thought, as he passes from the Divine mind to the Divine face as its manifestation; then from Jehovah to himself; then from himself to his enemy. On our way through the stanza we note the fine phrase lay up sorrow in my soul: “the soul,” or sensitive nature, which feels the sorrow caused by the trial; and includes the memory which stores it up, and renders the soul a treasure-house of experience. We also note the apt and characteristic restraint which in all probability points to King Saul as the enemy.

He who can thus remonstrate with Jehovah, can do more: he can ask his interposition. And so Stanza II. is prayer. It is more—it is argued prayer. It dares to tell Jehovah what will be the deplorable results of leaving the prayer unanswered. Two decisive petitions, Oh look well (or Look around) as if to take in the whole situation and answer me—in what way he does not indicate, for he is speaking to one who knows the actual facts, and knows, as well his own gracious purposes; and then we feel how the petitioner lays hold of Deity by the name of promise and its appropriating synonym, Jehovah my God. Light thou up mine eyes, he adds, seeking for the invigoration which will cause his eyes to gleam with new health and hope: lest—and this is the keynote of Stanza II., twice expressed and once implied. His apprehensions move outwards in enlarging circles; beginning with himself, he fears that answer deferred will mean death; then, thinking of his enemy, that answer deferred will mean his openly expressed boast; and, still further out from himself, that thereupon a whole chorus of adversaries will exult. The weight of these deprecations he leaves his divine Friend to estimate.

And now we come, in Stanza III., to the psychological problem of the psalm. Is it possible that the same singer can now thus early and thus suddenly mount from the depths of despair to so near an approach to exultation? We say “approach” advisedly; for, strictly construed, the language is still that of prayer. But it is easy to see that prayer is by this time lit up with joyful anticipation. In the very act of saying Let my heart exult, he is letting his heart ascend to the altitude of joy. Here, again, we are delighted with the orderly evolution of thought: on the objective side, kindness brings salvation, salvation is crowned with bountiful dealing; and on the subjective side, trust produces exultation, exultation leads to song, song calls for the harp. We are thus well-pleased with the completeness, in spirit and in form, secured by accepting the additional line preserved by the Septuagint and Vulgate. Moreover, we are thus led to a critical preference of Briggs over Delitzsch, which, for once in a way, is not distasteful. The latter, severely following the Massoretic Text, resolves the psalm into three decreasing stanzas—five lines, four, three; and then temptingly says, “The five lines of lamentation and the four of supplication are now followed by three of joyous anticipation.” The leading characteristics—of “lamentation,” “supplication” and “joyous anticipation”—are a manifestly correct description of the psalm; but why “anticipation” should be less exuberant in language than “lamentation” and “supplication,” we do not clearly see, and, inasmuch as the shortening of the first stanza relieves the third question of the psalm of abnormal distinctions between “soul” and “heart,” as Briggs forcibly points out, and inasmuch as this emendation, together with the restoration of the last line from the old versions, levels the whole psalm into three equal stanzas, we—feeling that symmetry does count for something when sustained by other evidence—are constrained to say, Briggs has it.

The Way of the Fool

Psalms 14:1-7

Brent Kercheville

The Words of the Fool (Psalms 14:1 There is no God

Psalms 14 is a psalm composed by David. The very first word to come out of David’s mouth as he pens this psalm is “fool.” To call someone a fool is to use very strong and harsh language to someone. I do not think anyone appreciates being called a fool. Furthermore, I think being called a fool is one of the more insulting things that can be said about someone. So grave are these words that Jesus said if we were to slanderously call our brother a fool, we are in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:22).

David begins by describing what many people say within their hearts, There is no God.” The idea of atheism is not a new invention that we face in our battle for the Lord. There have always been and will continue to be people who will not believe that there is a God. David says that those who say in their hearts that there is no God are fools.

But this is not really just a matter of theoretical atheism. The fool is not only the person who has a belief that there is no God. Some of the translations use italics in the statement “there is no God” on the words “there is” to show that these words are added by the translators. Literally, the fool says “no God, no God.” Essentially, the person says that there is no room for God for me. No God for me, please, no God for me.

Therefore, we are not merely dealing with the scholarly of the world who believe they can prove that there is no God. We are also looking at those people who by their actions show that there is no God in their lives. People who live with no room for God in their lives are called fools. Why would David say these people who make no room for God in their lives are fools?

Why are these fools?

God has revealed Himself (Romans 1:20 ). Paul, in the first chapter of Romans, gives many good arguments as to why people are fools for not accepting that there is a God and not making room in their lives for God. Paul said, For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:20 ). We are fools if we cannot look at the things of the world and realize that there is someone greater than ourselves. We are fools if we cannot see the power of this universe and that something divine created us. These attributes of God can be seen by anyone, not just the really smart, scholarly people. Because of these things, God says we are without excuse for not knowing there is a God.

People suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19). If God’s invisible attributes can be clearly seen through the creation, why do people still claim there is no God and make no room for God in their lives? Paul addresses this question two verses earlier. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them (Romans 1:18-19). Paul tells us that people are suppressing the truth that has been shown to them by God because of their ungodliness and unrighteousness. People do not believe in God because they do not want to believe in God, and it is as simple as that. God has revealed Himself to all people. To then say that there is no God, or that there is no room for God, they simply suppress the truth which they know. This is why they are fools: they are ignoring the clearly revealed truths of God’s existence.

Result: corruption

The result of believing that there is no God and refusing to make room for God in our lives is that we become corrupt. David makes this point clearly in the rest of the first verse of Psalms 14. They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. (Psalms 14:1)

When we choose to either be theoretical atheists by saying there is no God or be practical atheists by making no room for God in our lives, we will become corrupt. We will begin to do abominable things. We are fools when God is not in our lives.

God Speaks About the Fool (Psalms 14:2-3)

The Lord looks down from heaven

Having spoken about the words of the fool, David now offers the Lord’s perspective. David shows us our position in reference to God. David says that the Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man. God maintains His position of power, authority, and glory. God looks down from heaven on the children of men.

God’s purpose of looking down upon the children of men is to see if there are any who understand and if there are any who seek after God. This is an interesting parallel that David draws. To be a person who understands is to be a person who seeks after God. If we are not seeking after God, we do not understand and, therefore, are fools.

This is an interesting perspective that we are reading about. God is about to look down and see if there are any on the earth who are not fools. God is going to see if there are any people who do have understanding. What will the Lord find on the earth?

All are corrupt

In Psalms 14:3 David tells us the end result of the Lord’s findings. Here are the results: All have turned aside,” “together they have become corrupt,” and “there is none who does good, not even one. God offers judgment upon the world and the judgment is not good.

We may want to raise our hands and say, “Wait a minute! We believe in God!” We may want to argue that we have made room for God in our lives. We want to say to the Lord that His findings are wrong. We believe that there is a God. God responds to us that there is no one who has not turned aside. There is no one who has not become corrupt. There is no one who does good. This is the reality of the situation and identifies our true condition.

Paul quoted this very psalm and also applied it to the whole world in Romans 3:9-20. Paul says in Romans 3:9, For we have already charged that all…are under sin.” Again, Paul says, There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:18 ). God has decreed that based upon our actions we are all fools. We have shown that we do not understand. We have not shown that we do not believe in God because we do not keep room in our lives for God. We have turned aside from God’s law even though God’s eternal power and divine nature can be clearly seen. We are all without excuse.

The Way of the Fool (Psalms 14:4-6)

The fool never learns

The Lord goes further to describe for us the way of the fool. The first point we see is in Psalms 14:4 that the fool never learns. A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools (Proverbs 26:3). Just as these animals need a continual reminder to go the proper path, so also the fool never learns, requiring a rod for repeated discipline. Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly (Proverbs 26:11). These proverbs simply prove the point that the Lord makes in Psalms 14 : the fool never learns.

This is a true point that also condemns us all. We never seem to learn, either. We are materialists, we take advantage of one another, and in general do not have the Lord as the ruler in our lives. We have not given our lives over to God. We still go down our own paths while we claim to be believers in God.

We go through life never changing our ways. We continue to remain in our corrupt ways never forming ourselves into the image that God has left for us. Why do we continue in our abominable deeds and not call upon the Lord? We have shown that we are worthy of judgment for our actions. None of us can say that we have learned our lesson. All of us continue to play the fool when it comes to our service and worship to the Lord. How often we accept the blessings of God and yet do not put Him first! How often we will take all that we can receive from the Lord but never offer ourselves in return! We must put God first always and do what He asks.

The fool should live in terror

Further, the fool ought to live in terror. God is with the righteous, but is against those who have not turned their lives over to God. It must be a terrifying thought to our minds to be standing against the Lord. When we noticed Paul’s words concerning the fools who suppress the truth of the knowledge of God, Paul said, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Romans 1:18 ).

We can see the wrath of God revealed many times in the scriptures. In the days of Noah, the wrath of God was revealed against ungodliness through the destruction of the world with a flood of water. In the days of the Lot , the wrath of God was revealed against evil when it rained fire and brimstone from heaven. The wrath of God was revealed against Nadab and Abihu, who were struck dead for not worshipping God as He had authorized. The wrath of God was revealed against Korah who led a rebellion against Moses. God’s wrath has been revealed repeatedly and we must be in fear and trembling that the wrath of God will be against us if we continue to walk the path of fools.

To the righteous, the Lord is a refuge. If you have been following this series on the psalms you will recognize that this theme has been repeated in most of the psalms up to this point. God is the place that we are to run to. This is one way we renounce our foolish ways: by turning to God for relief and rest. We show that we have gained understanding when we stop turning to the world for relief and start turning to God for all our needs.

Hope of Deliverance (Psalms 14:7)

Call for salvation

In the last verse, the tone of the psalm changes as David cries out to the Lord for the hope of deliverance that he has. David first asks for salvation for Israel to come out of Zion . David recognizes that Israel is in need of salvation. There is no one who has been righteous as God has looked down from heaven and seen the folly of mankind. All of us have been corrupted by our own evil practices and desires.

This call for salvation is a call for the Messiah to come. Zion , another name for Jerusalem , has spiritual overtones as the redeemed home of God’s children because of the work of the Messiah. Thus Peter said, Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame (1 Peter 2:6).

Paul also spoke of this deliverance that the Messiah had brought to Israel . Romans 11:25-27 says, Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel , until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion , He will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins.’ Israel could only be saved when the Messiah, Jesus, would come and take away their sins. This is the only way all Israel could be saved. This is how salvation is offered to everyone since none of us are godly. All of us have been the fools. David looked forward to the salvation the Messiah would bring. David looked forward to the salvation that can be experienced today in Jesus.

Call for restoration

David also makes a call for a restoration of the people. When the Messiah would come, the Lord was going to restore the fortunes of His people. Each of us needs a spiritual restoration. We have all been corrupted by our sins. God can create within us a new heart and a restored spirit when we will turn to Him in faith and obedience.

Acts 3:19-26 tells us that all the prophets spoke of the coming times of restoration that the Messiah would bring. God’s people would not only be restored to their rightful state to receive the blessings of God, as described in Ephesians 1, but also that His people would have a restoration of their relationship with God. By renewing our spirits and cleansing us, we can enjoy a relationship with the Father because we are no longer in darkness and no longer live in the corruption of our minds and hearts. The fortunes of God’s people would be restored as God could now act favorable toward us. The wrath of God no longer awaits those who have obeyed the conditions of our Lord to receive salvation.

Call for rejoicing

This knowledge should lead us to great rejoicing. David calls for rejoicing as he ends this psalm. All of Israel must be glad because of the salvation and restoration that has been made available. There is nothing that can come against us that can ever rob us of the joy we ought to have in Christ. This is why Paul could command us, rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16 ).

We cannot rejoice because things in life are always good. But we are to rejoice always because of what the Lord has done for each of us. God has been very good to us. Our actions led to our corruption, which should have led to our condemnation as the Lord looked down and saw our wicked ways. Instead, God has granted mercy by sending His Son to bring salvation to Israel , thereby showing His favor to all.


The promise of salvation and restoration was promised from the beginning when God said to Abraham, “All the nations will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:9). The promise stated that Abraham’s children would be blessed. Abraham and his children were set apart by God and called by God ” Israel .” We are Israel if we are the seed of Abraham. Galatians 3:29 tells us that we are Abraham’s children if we belong to Christ. When we belong to Christ, we become heirs of the promise of salvation and restoration. Galatians 3:27 tells us that we become Christ’s through baptism. If we have not been baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, we are not children of Christ, we are not children of Abraham, and we are not God’s Israel . We have no salvation or restoration, only God’s wrath awaiting us. Be baptized today and become a child of promise.



This psalm is highly dramatic, and as such must be interpreted: a position of so much importance in this instance, that the reader should satisfy himself of its soundness at the outset of his study. Observe well the course of observation which the psalmist takes. He tells us that a vile person,—coming to a spot resembling Sodom and Gomorrah with no Lot in its midst, or the world before the flood without a Noah,—felicitates himself that there is no God there. Since he must have had some grounds for this conclusion, and no firmer ground can be imagined than his own observation of the conduct of the people; since, moreover, bad men are ready to believe evil against their fellows,—it seems natural, having no quotation marks to guide us, to carry on the thought of this vile person to the end of the sentence, and attribute to him the further mental observation: Their conduct is corrupttheir practice abominablethere is no well-doer. It is certainly a little surprising to find a vile person making to himself so frank and correctly expressed an admission. But even such an observer may not have forgotten the radical distinction between good and evil; and, in any case, as only his thoughts are reported, we are not bound to conclude that the vulgar slang in which he would half mask his conclusion, is here expressed with painful exactness. It is sufficient to conclude that here we have, correctly reported for us, the substance of his thought. And, clearly, the damaging and sweeping fact of wicked conduct to which his observations and enquiries have led him, abundantly justifies his first-expressed conclusion—No God here! The circumstance that he himself is a vile person, will excuse us if we surmise that it is with some satisfaction that he notes the absence of any thing to serve as a check on the indulgence of his own vile propensities. Here he can do as he likes. There are worse people than himself here. So he may think, little realising how vile he himself is. Thus interpreting, we get a bad man—in a bad neighbourhood—coming to a natural conclusion—and giving to himself a sufficient reason for it. In the dramatic spirit, we may picture a heavenly messenger during a visit to the place as overhearing the vile person’s whisper, and as being so incensed to see how corruption breeds corruption, that he forthwith wings his way to the High Court in heaven to report what he has seen and heard. Whereupon—for so the poetic link of connection between the first and second stanza seems to forge itself—whereupon Jehovah looks down from heaven to see whether the evil has grown to these alarming dimensions.

Pausing here a moment to strengthen our exegesis of the first stanza, it is fair to say that if this account of the words Their conduct is corrupt, etc., be declined in favour of attributing them directly to the psalmist, then you arrive at the unacceptable conclusion, that he first says a thing imperfectly, and then says it effectively by means of a formal introduction and a more carefully graduated set of expressions. Is this likely in the case of a poet of such power as the writer of this psalm? Assuming then that in the charge of immoral conduct contained in the first stanza we have the sufficiently explicit and highly suggestive thought of the vile person, we can advance to the second and third stanzas with an eye open to see their moral elevation and crushing logical force.

The moral elevation of the second stanza consists in this: That JEHOVAH does not look down merely to see how bad the sons of men are, in the place reported upon,—but to discover whether there is no redeeming feature in the case, whether there is not at least one person, who with whatever failings, is at least seeking after God!

The sad fact that there is not—no! not even one Lot in this Sodom—is there necessarily included in the verdict contained in the third stanza: the tremendous force of which is due partly to this implied inclusion—partly to the carefully graduated terms employed, turned aside, drawn back, tainted, together tainted—and partly to the endorsement of the villain’s own word with a formal addition, There is no well-doer, there is not so much as one!

We are assuming that Jehovah’s verdict relates to the same sphere of observation as the vile person’s; and this we do in full view of the general phrase the sons of men whom Jehovah beholds: say, the sons of men—in the place referred to; the sons of men in general, as far as represented by these particular sons of men in this particular place. This is a correct dramatic limitation. To set this aside is to get into contextual difficulties of a most serious kind, and to have to face an incredible result. The chief contextual difficulties are, overlooking the circumstance that the context has an eye to the devourers of Jehovah’s people, and the admission that Jehovah HAS a people to be devoured. If “the sons of men” here are simply and absolutely all the sons of men on the fact of all the earth at all times, then all minor distinctions are abolished, and all mankind without exception are swept into the all-devouring net of this hasty piece of cruel dogmatism! Besides, the appalling result is best described by saying simply—that IT IS NOT TRUE. It was not true of Sodom, as long as Lot was in it: it was not true of the antediluvian world, so long as Noah was in it. To apply the exclusive phrase not so much as one to spheres in which, under Divine guidance, the one can be found and named, is wantonly to trample underfoot the commonest laws of human speech, and needlessly and mischievously represent the Bible as contradicting itself. There may have been a spot where there was literally not so much as one exception; and, if that was at all symptomatic of the general moral corruption of a given age, it was quite enough for the psalmist to refer to it. That, therefore, is what we are entitled to assume is here done.

Stanza IV. now follows as an appropriate advance on what has gone before. The psalmist wishes to stay the marauding invasion begun by devourers of his people. What! he exclaims, have they learned nothing from the records of the past? Do they not know that high Heaven, too long provoked, may at length hurl down vengeance upon them? Incidentally hitting off their character as a combination of cruel greed and light-hearted irreverence, he describes them with keen irony. They do not say grace at a common meal: much less will they devour Jehovah’s people with any reverence towards him!

Then, in Stanza V., he recurs to the historical precedent which—as to its sin—he has already described: let us not forget what we have learned about that character. In it were practical atheism, corrupt conduct, abominable practices—the very place for a debauche to visit: like Sodom, but worse; like the old world, but worse. THERE dreaded they a dread—as they had much occasion; when, just as they were combining for a devouring expedition, God scattered them; just as they had perfected their scheme, Their plan was put to shame, for Jehovah rejected them Have these present would-be devourers of Jehovah’s people never heard of this? Let them beware!

It is no objection to this exegesis that the precise historical reference eludes us, Many a place besides Sodom may have been signally overthrown; and no wonder that it was overthrown, when there was found in it, by verdict of both earth and heaven,—not so much as one well-doer.

It must not be thought that the above interpretation gained an unfair advantage at the outset, by starting with a villain instead of a fool. Dr. Briggs well says: “The Nabhal is not a ‘fool’ in any of the meanings of this word, but a more aggressive personality: not aphron, stultus, fool, but impudent, contumelious, shameless, as impudens with the double sense of immodest and impudent.” In truth, then, he is a villian; and under the name vile person is well described in Isaiah 32:5-7; from which it will be seen: That he is ignoble, over-bearing, injurious; he gives his mind to plans of mischief; calls things by wrong names; injures the helpless by cruel falsehoods, and misrepresents God. Hence, we were doing him no wrong by taking a hint from his character how to interpret his words: he is glad to find no God here, in the recognition of the people, to hamper him in indulging in his propensities; and he has the impudence to admit with satisfaction how depraved the people of the place are; and, as if he had made enquiries for the purpose of discovering that there was no good man to reprove him, he shamelessly congratulates himself on that fact—There is no well-doer.

Nor, again, have we taken an undue liberty in rendering the villain’s opening exclamation relatively rather than abstractly or absolutely; as rather No God here than No God at all; seeing that the negative particle ‘ayin, though confessedly strong, not only “denies existence absolutely,” but “more commonly in a limited sense, there is none here or at hand” (O.G. p. 34).

It will be observed that the fifth stanza above (Psalms 14:5-6) has been given in a shorter form than that appearing in the M.T., as seen in A.V., R.V. That is due to Dr. Briggs’ endeavour to harmonize the two psalms (14, 53); and the result, for its terseness and aptness, pleases well. But before we dismiss the longer form, it may be remarked how strongly it supports the protest offered above, against giving an absolutely universal application to the united verdicts of earth and heaven to human corruption; for, assuredly, it cannot be said both that “God is in the circle of the righteous” and that he is not; nor can such a circle, inclusive of the humbled who hath made Jehovah his refuge be wholly tainted. And thus both the context and the general consent of Scripture unite in opposing the ruthless endeavours of misguided men to harden drama into dogma, by representing all men, everywhere, as always and wholly depraved, beyond further advance in sin. The Bible does not teach that: least of all does the Apostle Paul, in the Third of Romans; for whom it was quite enough to take these damaging testimonies of the Hebrew Scriptures to human sinfulness as he found them, without reading into them a dogmatic universality they were never meant to bear; since his only object was to convince his Scripture-boasting Hebrew brethren that they as well as sinners from among the Gentiles had absolute need of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.

With this fifth stanza (Psalms 14:5-6), Dr. Briggs thinks the original psalm came to an end; and it may have done so; yet it is difficult to agree with him. Not only the standing needs of congregational worship, but even poetic justice seems to demand a more hopeful conclusion to so strong a psalm. And in view of the would-be devourers of Jehovah’s people, whom the fourth stanza brought into view, it is not easy to see how a more fitting conclusion than the present could have carried the psalm to a climax. Oh that out of Zion were granted the salvation of Israel: that would presuppose a Saviour in Zion whose saving power would go forth to the utmost bounds of the land, beating back every foe, and raising a defence against the further encroachments of practical atheism and moral degeneracy. When that is witnessed—when Jehovah restoreth the prosperity of his people—then, let Jacob exult, let Israel be glad. The prophets of God must have good tidings to tell. There must be salt to stay corruption, light to scatter darkness. Now, in the present time, Jehovah has not only looked down from heaven, but has COME DOWN—“to seek and to save the lost.”

Without casting doubt on the primary Davidic authorship of this psalm, which at the first may have begun nearly as it does now, it is nevertheless fair to admit that most aptly may the allusion to a vile person at the outset be taken as an indignant reference to Rabshakeh (2 Kings 18, 19; Isaiah 36, 37): and who knows but that, among the cities of Judah which he took, he may have discovered “a sink of iniquity” in which could be found not so much as one to protest against his villanies. The Assyrians, at any rate, were devourers of Jehovah’s people, who little knew into whose hands they were about to fall. “The special circumstances of the city afforded ground for the additional verse”—Thirtle’s O.T.P., p. 112.

The Person The Lord Approves

Psalms 15:1-5

Brent Kercheville


Before we can begin this psalm, we need to know something about Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry is very different from English poetry. When we read a poem, we expect to find a particular meter to the poem and perhaps a rhyme or some other sort of literary device. But this is not how poetry was written thousands of years ago.

The chief characteristic that one finds in Hebrew poetry is the use of parallel lines, typically found as couplets. There are many different forms that were used concerning these poetic couplets. Sometimes a second line would involve a restatement of the first line. For example, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Both lines of the couplet speak to the same matter. Sometimes the second line of the couplet would be an amplification, or expansion of the idea found in the first line. For example, The highway of the upright avoids evil; he who guards his way guards his life (Proverbs 16:17). Here we see that the second line is not merely a restatement of the first line of the couplet, but amplifies the first line showing why it is important to be on the highway of the upright. Other times, the second line of a couplet will be in contrast to the first line of the couplet. For example, The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases Him (Proverbs 15:8). In this couplet we see that the second line states a contrast to the first line. This is the nature of Hebrew poetry. I believe we will see this type of Hebrew parallelism used in the fifteenth psalm.

The Question: Who may dwell in your sanctuary?

David begins this psalm by asking a question: “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?” Literally, the question asks who may dwell in the Lord’s tent or His tabernacle. The sanctuary or the tabernacle was considered to be the dwelling place of the Lord. Of course, the Lord did not literally dwell in the structure, for “the Most High does not live in houses made by men” (Acts 7:48).

The tabernacle was a symbol of the presence of God. God’s presence was in the Holy of Holies where no one was allowed to enter except the high priest once a year. The presence of God was covered by a large, thick veil. The altar of incense stood before the veil and would fill the Holy of Holies with its smoke, as this would resemble the glory and the presence of God. David is asking who can come into the presence of the Lord. Of course, according to the old law, no one could come into the presence of the Lord. So it is clear that David is not referring to the literal tent or tabernacle of God that was in the wilderness or at Shiloh. The question is more of a spiritual matter. Who is the person found acceptable by God? Who is the person that the Lord approves that can be found in God’s presence in His heavenly sanctuary? We are speaking about being a guest in God’s royal house.

Who may live on your holy hill?

The second question is part of the Hebrew parallelism that we have mentioned. The second line uses different words to restate the idea found in the first line. David asks, “Who may live on your holy hill? David tells us in Psalms 2:6, I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill. So when we read about a “holy hill” we need to think of Zion.

Zion has a very deep and rich meaning in the scriptures, which I do not have time in this lesson to address. But at the very least we can understand Zion as God’s holy mountain, a place where God dwells and is ever present. We see the beginning of such references back in the song of Moses, You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritancethe place, O Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established. The Lord will reign forever and ever (Exodus 15:17-18). Who will the Lord find worthy to be with Him on His holy hill? The rest of the psalm answers this question.

The Person the Lord Approves

Holy character

The first couplet of Psalms 15:2 identifies the type of character the Lord requires to be found acceptable. David first says, he whose walk is blameless. This description is the same word used throughout the old law to describe the animal that was to be prepared for sacrifices to God. Most of the time it is translated, without blemish. The animal to be offered had to be whole and complete. The animal could not be broken, maimed, or sickly in any fashion. This is the type of character that God is looking for in His people.

From an objective sense of this term, none of us are without blemish. All of us have been broken by the power of sin, and our spirits have been corrupted by our own decisions to violate the will of God. As 1 John 1:7 tells us, only when we have confessed our sins to God can the blood of Jesus Christ forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But there is a subjective sense to which David is most likely referring when he speaks of one’s character being blameless. From this subjective sense, we would consider the person to be morally well-rounded and sound in the teaching of God. The person is not strong in one area and weak in all others, but exhibits strength in all areas of his or her life. This person does not vacillate in his or her commitment to God. The person is the same on Monday through Saturday as he or she is on Sunday morning.

Not only is the character well-rounded and whole toward God, but the person is also active in righteousness. The second line of the couplet reads, and who does what is righteous. If we are to be found acceptable in the sight of God and dwell with Him, we cannot merely have a passive character of godliness and morality. God also seeks a character that is active in righteousness.

We must always remember that what we do toward one another is also what we are doing toward Jesus Christ. If we are acting cruelly, immorally, or with malice toward others, we are also doing such toward Jesus. By the same token, when we are active in works of righteousness, we are also doing these things toward God. Jesus taught us that principle in Matthew 25:34-40. If we want the approval of God, then we must change our character so that we show ourselves blameless in that we are being made complete in Jesus. Our character is being molded into the image of God. When that transformation is taking place, we will dwell with the Lord in Zion.

Holy speech

The next couplet of David addresses the need for holy speech if we are to dwell with the Lord. In this couplet we find a contrast described showing the character of one who is found acceptable to God. The first line tells us what the acceptable one does and the second line tells us what he or she does not do.

First, David says, who speaks the truth from his heart. Truth is of the utmost importance to God. God is truth and His word is truth and therefore He abhors all things that are false. We cannot tell people what we think they want to hear. Instead, our lips must always be truthful. Now, for some reason we associate the truth with harshness. We think to be truthful means that we need to hurt others feelings. But God tells us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:25; Ephesians 4:29). Honesty and gentleness can go hand in hand if we want them to and if we will be thoughtful enough with our words.

Speaking the truth is not only important because it is the character of God, but also because this is the only way that we are found trustworthy with one another. There can be no trust among us if we are not speaking truthfully to each other. Without a foundation of truth, we cannot build up together. Notice that this speaking of truth comes from the heart. The truth is not contrived. Speaking the truth is not a once in a while event. This is the nature of the person’s heart. The person approved by God has a heart that desires to be truthful in all situations and speaks the truth no matter the consequences.

Second, a person who is approved by God “has no slander on his tongue. The positive side is addressed that one must speak the truth. Now we see what is also missing from his mouth–that is, slander. This also goes against backbiting and gossip. All forms of language that we use to potentially harm another is condemned. I believe that this is one of the greatest sins that exists in churches today, most frequently committed, more notably allowed and excused, and the most destructive among us. I found it interesting to notice that this word for “slander” is used throughout the Old Testament to refer to people who were sent into a land to “spy it out.” That is the idea conveyed in this word. We are enemies when we slander one another. We are acting like spies, finding out information, and then telling others what we have learned. Brethren, we must rein in our tongues if we are to live with the Lord.

Holy conduct

If the last couplet was about what we should say and should not say to our neighbor, then this couplet addresses what we should do and should not do toward our neighbor. To be approved by God, David says a person does his neighbor no wrong. When we come to a statement like this, I believe it is easy for us to have the same question in our mind that the expert of the law had to Jesus when he asked, “who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). When we speak of doing good to our neighbor, we want to limit exactly who our neighbor is. We want our neighbor to be only our friends. We want our neighbor to be those who are kind to us. We want our neighbor to be only those who are disciples of Jesus.

But Jesus threw that idea out when He taught the parable of the good Samaritan. In that parable Jesus taught that every person was our neighbor, even those who we would consider despicable, awful, and terrible people. Everyone is our neighbor. So let us reexamine the text with this lens before us. Are we people who do our neighbor no wrong? That is exactly what God is looking for in us if we are to be found acceptable to Him so that we can dwell with Him.

The second part of the couplet says that the one who is approved by God does not take up a reproach upon his fellow man. This is something that can involve words and deeds. To take up a reproach against another can refer to scorning the person and speaking evil of a person. We have no right to speak in such a way about other people. We see this point taught in Judges 1:9, But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ Now, I think we would all agree that the devil is certainly deserving of any slanderous accusation and any reproach that could be thought of, yet not even Michael the archangel would dare bring such an accusation against him. What does this tell us about how we ought to use our words about other people if even the devil ought not be slandered! Too often we bring a reproach and scorn upon others. Such an action is not acceptable to God.

Further, we can bring a reproach upon others by the way we treat them. We may not offer the slanderous words, but we treat them as the plague. Do we treat every person with respect and dignity, or do we think that we are important people who ought to be served by others? We can treat people with scorn and think we are doing well because we did not say anything bad. Well, how did we treat them, though? Many times we are not treating people the way they ought to be treated. Again, the good Samaritan showed us what it means to be a neighbor by going the extra mile for another person, though they may not deserve such help. It could be very well argued that the Samaritan was foolish for walking down that path for it was a dangerous road to travel. By passing by, the Samaritan would have shown the same scorn and contempt that the priest and the Levite showed. God is looking for people who will show compassion upon their fellow man and treat them honorably and respectably.

Holy values

The next couplet seems to deal with the values that we believe in and follow. David says that one who is approved by God is one who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord. To honor those who are godly and despise those who are evil is a matter of the value system that we have. We can see in society today that these ideals and values are rapidly deteriorating. Our heroes today are those who get paid millions of dollars a year. Our heroes today are those who commit evil and get away with it. Sports athletes are the poster children for bad role models, yet these are the very people that our children want to be like. Those who are good, moral, and honest people get zero press coverage. Only those who have “street value” are those who are honored and modeled.

We cannot fall into such a trap. How easy it is for us to idolize some actor or actress that we think seems to be so good and wholesome, but in reality is just acting a part. How easy it is for us to glorify what the world glorifies. Yet we must realize that this is a distortion of the values that God has placed within us. Let me use a phrase that I believe shows how bad things have gotten in our society: the stay-at-home mother, or homemaker. A person who claims this role in our society today is considered to be foolish, wasting her life, and at the very least, outright lazy. This is a false value that we have adopted from society and not from God. God glorifies mothers who would stay home to take care of their children. God does not condemn such a woman as lazy or insignificant. Let us make sure we are not despising what God has honored, and are not honoring what God has despised.

Holy integrity

David next addresses the integrity of a person who is approved by God. This person is one who keeps his oath even when it hurts. The thought is a couplet even though the writing is incomplete. God approves of those who keep their oath at all times. Here is a person who says something and means it. This goes to the integrity of a person. Jesus said that our integrity ought to be great enough that when we say “yes,” it will be yes and people will know that it is a yes. When we say “no,” people will know that it will be a “no” (Matthew 5:37). Our words ought to be important to us. Too often we are so flippant with the things that we say we will do and not do, without any regard or thought for whether we truly plan to do them or not.

But it is not merely keeping our word when it is convenient for us. Notice the rest of the couplet states that the person is faithful even when it hurts. That is the kind of integrity that God is looking for. God is not impressed when we keep our word when it is easy for us to keep our word. Integrity is shown when we keep our word despite the cost or toll that comes against us. How easy it is to excuse ourselves from our commitments because we did not count the cost before we said our words. God’s words are unfailing, immovable, and a firm foundation for each of us as we journey through the perils of life. Our words need to be like God’s words. When we say something, let us mean it, or not say it at all.

Holy use of money

Would you be surprised to know that God cares how we use our money? I am not sure why we are surprised at that and many take offense to the idea that God will judge us based upon how we have used our money. But I believe the logic is simple to follow. Do we not look to see how our children spend the money we give them? If they are responsible, we will continue to give them more; but if they are wasteful and irresponsible, then we may choose to withhold our help. God has applied these same principles upon His children.

David says that God approves of the man “who lends his money without usury. God commanded the people of Israel not to collect interest on one another when money was lent (Exodus 22:25-27). God gave rules on the use of money because He cares how we use His money. God did not want us to try to hurt others in efforts to gain more money. This is clearly seen in the rest of the couplet, “and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.” When we use money to try to hurt other people or to try to get ahead of others in our selfish pursuits, we are not acting in the image of God and God does not approve of us.

The concept of being judged based upon how we use our money was also taught to us in the New Testament by Jesus in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). As you may know, a talent was a denomination of money that was used in the Roman days. Each of the servants in that parable was judged based upon what each did with the money that was given to him by the master. As we may know, each servant was given a different amount of money. But judgment was based upon whether the servant used the money in the service of the master, or if it was used selfishly. God did not give us what we have so that we would hoard it, be selfish with it, or be consumed by it. We are to serve God with it, yet how often serving God is the last thing we use our money for. We get stingy when it comes to using money to serve God. We need to be very careful, for God watches even what we do with our money and we will give an account of how the things that God has given us have been used.


David concludes the psalm by saying, he who does these things will never be shaken. Our ears ought to really perk up when we hear such a statement like we will never be shaken. If we want to have the security of God’s approval, and knowledge that we will dwell with Him, then we must have a holy character, holy speech, holy conduct, holy values, holy integrity, and a holy use of money.

Peter said the same thing in 2 Peter 1:5-11. Peter tells us all the attributes we need to add to our faith. Peter concludes by saying, if you do these things, you will never fall. This must be our goal so that we can have such confidence before God. Who can dwell in the Lord’s sanctuary and holy hill? All of us–if we will become like God in these areas of our lives. (NIV)



This is an interesting psalm of instruction, valuable in its bearing on character. It is brightly dramatic. It places the inhabitants of Jerusalem in a beautiful light, as guests in Jehovah’s house at the same time that they are dwellers in his holy city: their residence in the one giving them easy and constant access to the other. The same character that would make them honoured citizens, would make them welcome worshippers. In placing Jehovah in the light of a Host, the psalm sheds a soft radiance on the Divine character. It was beseeming that such a Host should have noble guests; and it will be observed how prominent nobility of character is here made, by the very nature of the virtues which are signalised. Such a man as is here portrayed could not be mean. The close observer will discover that the ten characteristics named are arranged in couplets and triplets:—a couplet of general principles in work and word (Psalms 15:2); a triplet of social virtues, coming nearer and nearer to the man himself—neighbour, friend, intimate (Psalms 15:3): a couplet of bold contrast, touching religious character (Psalms 15:4 a, b); then a triplet of sterner excellences, safeguarding social intercourse (Psalms 15:4 c, Psalms 15:5 a, b). Summing up all that has gone before as the condition, the psalmist assures the would-be Citizen-Guest of a permanent welcome. Several other psalms fall into line with this in emphasising character: as Psalms 1, 24, 121; and Isaiah 33:14-16 may be aptly compared. The Christian justly enamoured of justification for the ungodly and salvation for the lost, will act wisely by reminding himself that the initial justification without works is in order to works; and the universal and imperative requirement of repentance demands the production of godly character as the great object of the Gospel.

Preserved By God

Psalms 16:1-11

Brent Kercheville


The sixteenth psalm is one that poses much trouble in trying to understand. It does not take but one or two readings of this psalm to begin to wonder who this psalm is speaking about. There are quite a few different views that have been advanced concerning this psalm and its subject.

Some scholars believe that the psalm is referring strictly to David and no one else. Some liberal commentators have a problem with David being a prophet of God (Acts 2:30 ) and cannot accept that David could be speaking of the Messiah to come. Others contend that this psalm is speaking completely of the Messiah and has no personal references to David at all. Still others believe that this psalm speaks of both David and the Messiah to come.

As we read this psalm, I would like for you to determine which seems most accurate to you. I am going to present my understanding of this psalm, but I in no way want to hinder you from drawing your own conclusions concerning this psalm.

Relationship to God (Psalms 16:1-4)

Preservation and refuge

The psalm begins, “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.” This first word in the psalm is the overall message of the psalmist. God has the power to preserve those who are His. Therefore, David begins by expressing his desire for God to keep him safe.

This concept of preservation and refuge has also been a common theme that we have seen expressed by the psalmist so far in our studies. God is the one to turn to in all situations, whether good or bad, joyful or turbulent. To the righteous the Lord is a refuge, a solace to those who are hurting and suffering.

My Lord

David then writes, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord.’” Our English language blurs what is actually being said by using the same word “Lord” twice in the passage. Some versions have tried to show that these are different words by capitalizing the first “Lord” and not capitalizing the second “Lord.”

The first “Lord” in Psalms 16:2 is the name Jehovah or YHWH in the Hebrew. This is the proper name, if you will, for the Lord. However, David writes that he says to God, “You are my adonai.” This Hebrew word means “master.” Therefore, we ought to understand David writing something like this: I say to the Lord, You are my master. David confesses that God is the ruler of his life. Even more, consider that in verse 1 David called out to “God” or El in the Hebrew. This is the abbreviated form of elohim which expresses God as the all-powerful one in strength and might.

Goodness from God

The writer also says to the Lord, “I have no good apart from you.” There are a couple of different ways these ideas can be expressed depending upon the manuscript source one uses. The Septuagint expresses the phrase this way, “You do not need my goodness.”

This must be the realization of every person: apart from God we have no goodness. We like to think that we can be these “good moral people” and such is acceptable to God. We hear people ask whether good moral people will go to heaven even though they have not been obedient to the Lord. What we must realize is that we have no goodness apart from obedience to God. There is no such thing as being a good person if we are not serving the Lord. Anyone who is a violator of God’s law is not good. Instead, the person is ungodly, evil, and stands condemned, not good.

Further, the Septuagint tweaks the perspective that we ought to have even further. God does not need our goodness that we do work. Shall we think that God will be compelled to let us into heaven because we have performed some good moral works? Do we think that there is anything we can do that would cause God to say, “Because you have done such and such, I must let you in?” God does not need our goodness. God does not need us. God did not need to create us. God was whole without us before time as we know it began. Lord, you are my master; you do not need my goodness.

This verse eliminates in my mind the possibility that these first seven verses are referring to Christ. Most commentators understand this whole psalm to be referring to the Christ because of the information found in Psalms 16:8-11. But I simply cannot see how Psalms 16:2 can be applied to the Christ. I cannot see the Christ saying to the Father, “I have no goodness apart from you.” Such words would suggest that the Christ is not God. To understand this referring to the coming Messiah causes great complexities and difficulties, which are quickly resolved if we simply understand David to be speaking these words. Because of these two verses, I will continue our study assuming that David is speaking these words and not the Christ.

The Effects of a Relationship With God

First, we see that those who are the holy ones of God are the excellent ones in the earth. David recognizes that there are others who are trying to serve the Lord, and in them he is able to find delight. We must remember that we are not the only ones who are trying to serve the Lord. It can be very easy for us to adopt an attitude like Elijah who believed that he was the only one left who was faithfully serving God. What a delight it is to worship and serve with others who have the same goal and intentions in life. We cannot see eye to eye with others who do not have a zeal for the Lord. While we may be friends and close companions, there is always something that is missing. What joy there is in fellowshipping with those who have a common goal and common love for God.

Second, David also expresses a sorrow for those who run after other gods. He knows that those who seek after other gods will only find more sorrows and he refuses to run with them. How important it is for us to realize that the chasing after other gods will only cause greater sorrow in our lives. Too often we believe that seeking after the money god, the possession god, the comfort god, the television god, the work god, or any other thing that is important to us will bring us happiness. These pursuits only perpetuate our sorrows.

Blessings Due to a Relationship With God (Psalms 16:5-8)

Assigned me my portion and my cup

David will now describe in these next few verses the blessings that he has because of his relationship with God. The first point made is that God has assigned his portion and this cup. One’s portion can either refer to one’s land or to one’s food. Since this sentence is tied to the cup, it is likely referring to the portion of food that is given by God.

Essentially, David writes that God has taken care of him when it comes to food and drink. God has provided for him daily. We simply do not understand that type of appreciation and thanksgiving because we never have had concern for where our next meal would come from. Our greatest concern is usually what we will eat, not if we will eat. We must remember that God has given us such blessings today and give thanks.

My lot is secure

David further says that God has made his lot secure. This statement alludes to the fact that God has taken care of him through every circumstance. Regardless of what may happen in life, he is made secure by God.

All followers of God have this same hope and promise. God will provide for us and keep us secure when we are with Him. This is not to say that nothing bad will ever happen, for bad things happened to David and happened to Jesus. But this does remind us that God will never forsake us or let us go.

I have a beautiful inheritance

David further describes the beautiful inheritance he has been given by God. David is content with what God has given to him. There is no statement of needing to have more than what he has. David does not say that this is not enough…give me more. David is content with what God has given and gratefully accepts these things.

Dare I say that such an application is necessary for us today. How easy it is for us to always be looking for how to attain more and never be content and grateful for what we do have. We need to be thrilled with what has been given to us. While things may not be as we perfectly envisioned in our minds, we have been given so much and must always receive what God has given us with thanksgiving.

The Lord gives counsel

Furthermore, the Lord is his counselor. David needed counsel that he could trust and follow. David allowed the Lord to lead him and instruct him. David listened to the direction of the Lord and followed Him with all his heart.

Do we not also need counsel that we can trust? We make decisions that will affect the outcome of our lives and determine if we will receive reward or grave consequences. Should we not consult God? We must make decisions that affect those who we love most and those who are very close to us. Will we look for God’s advice and direction or will we follow our own wisdom? We are fools when we do not pray for God’s wisdom (James 1:5). We are stubborn when we do not ask for God’s direction. We are mindless when we do not let the scriptures instruct the way for our feet.

I shall not be shaken

What a beautiful thought that David concludes with in verse 8. David has made a decision to always set the Lord in front of his eyes. Because he has made God first in his life, he shall not be shaken.

This ties back into Psalms 15 which we studied last time. Notice how David ended the psalm, “He who does these things shall never be moved” (Psalms 15:5). David makes the same point here. When we are in a relationship with God, we cannot be shaken. Though we may endure the great turbulences of life, we will be like a tree firmly planted by the waters (Psalms 1). We will be steady and firm through whatever life throws at us or whatever Satan may use to try to destroy us.

The Future Hope (Psalms 16:8-11)

Resurrection–David speaks of another

The passage now takes a dramatic turn as we read this psalm. Still writing in the first person, the psalmist writes of things that could not apply to himself. In fact, Acts 2:25; Acts 2:30 tells us that David was speaking of someone other than himself. David was not referring to himself when he penned the final words of this psalm. Peter tells us that David was a prophet (Acts 2:30 ), therefore David uses this as an opportunity to prophesy concerning the coming Messiah. This passage becomes a central part of the apostles’ teaching.

First, consider the argument Paul used when preaching from this psalm in Acts 13:35-39. Paul is in the synagogue on the Sabbath day in the city of Antioch in Pisidia. Paul gives a synopsis of the history of Israel , beginning with the exodus and concluding with the death of Jesus. Paul then goes on to show that Jesus raised from the dead, fulfilling the prophecy found in Psalms 2 and then quotes a fragment of Psalms 16, “You will not let your Holy One see corruption” (Acts 13:35). Paul continues with his argument, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.” Paul asks the Jews in the synagogue if they think these words were fulfilled by David. Of course they could not be, for David died and saw corruption. This is the first argument presented to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, for He did not see corruption, God raising Him from the dead. Now, forgiveness of sins is offered to everyone who believes.

Peter also used a similar argument, but a fuller argument, from Psalms 16 as well. In Acts 2:24 Peter argues that God raised up Jesus from the dead. His proof that this was God’s doing is the quotation of this psalm. Here, Peter quotes Psalms 16:8-11 and says that David was speaking of the Christ. Jesus would not be shaken because the Lord was ever before Him. May I make a side point that this again proves that Jesus was not forsaken by the Lord on the cross, just as we have pointed out from Psalms 22. I encourage you to look at that study again which can be found on the website. In Psalms 16, David is speaking of the Christ and says that the Lord would ever be before Him.

Therefore, the Christ would rest in hope of this because the Christ would not remain in Hades. In Psalms 16 we read “you will not abandon my soul in Sheol.” Sheol is the Hebrew word used to describe the grave, the pit, or the abyss. So also, Hades is simply the Greek word of that same concept, the final resting place when we die. David says that the Christ would not remain there. Furthermore, the Christ would not experience decay or corruption.

In Acts 2:29 Peter goes further to say that David is dead and buried, and his tomb was still with them to that day. In Acts 2:31, Peter quotes Psalms 16:10 again further illustrating that David was speaking of his descendant who would sit on his throne. Not only does the prophecy prove that Jesus is the chosen one of God, but Peter offers two other proofs. In Acts 2:32 Peter goes further to say that they are eyewitnesses of Jesus being resurrected. They saw Him arrested and they saw Him die. Then all the disciples saw the resurrected Jesus. The final proof Peter offers is in Acts 2:33 that Jesus has now ascended to the right hand of God, received the promised Holy Spirit and has poured it out upon the apostles, of which the multitudes were witnesses. All people were to know that Jesus is the Lord and Messiah.

Jesus raising from the dead is the central importance of our faith. This event is something that the apostles declared to be fundamental to every follower. If Jesus raised from the dead, then He is the Lord. We should not be surprised that Jesus raised from the dead, since the event was predicted by David over 1000 years earlier. Further, the apostles were witnesses of the resurrected Jesus, and miracles that the apostles performed were evidence of the risen Jesus.

Resurrection–hope for us

But there is hope for us in the prophecy of David that we have studied from Psalms 16. First, the reason we shall not be shaken is through the resurrection of Jesus. He is the proof that we will be preserved by God. Just as God preserved and protected Jesus as He promised, so that His body did not see decay or corruption and His soul was not left in Hades, so we also will be preserved by God.

The writer of Hebrews argues this very point in Hebrews 10:35-39. The writer encourages us not to throw away our confidence and to exercise endurance so we may receive what is promised. What has been promised? First, the coming one will not delay. Therefore the righteous will live by faith. Notice how the writer concludes in Hebrews 10:39, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

While our bodies will decay, our souls will be preserved by God if we will live righteously by faith. God’s fulfilled promises give us confidence. Since God raised Jesus from the dead according to His promise, then God will preserve our souls according to this promise. Though Jesus stared death in the face, suffered a horrible death, and knew He would die by lawless hand, He could still say “therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices” (Psalms 16:9). Our hearts can be glad and we can greatly rejoice because we see through the resurrection of Christ that we will not be shaken and God will not forsake us.


We are in the presence of God and because of this fact, there is great joy. The psalm concludes with the words, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” We have great delight because the path of righteousness has been revealed to us and we are able to obtain immeasurable joy in God’s presence. In fact, at God’s right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Let us not waiver or let go of our confidence. The path we are on is worth the work. The sacrifices we may have to make are well worth the reward we will receive. Let us always remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us and how His actions prove the hope we have within us. This hope belongs to those who live by faith, obeying the Lord with all our hearts. (ESV)



This is the language of an Ideal Israelite, as a glance at Stanza II. will show. Of the spirit of the Ideal Israelite, it is needless to say, both David and Hezekiah largely partook. For that very reason, they must have been predisposed to accept and utilise any worthy psalmody-contributions from Levite-Seers. If the writer of the present psalm was literally a Levite—a priest—then his protest against idolatry at the close of Stanza I. would assume an aspect of personal repugnance of much the more intense; and suggests the possibility that in the days of declension into idolatry, from the days of Ahaz and onwards, the same men may have sometimes been expected to act both as priests to Jehovah and as priests to idols.

Stanza I. as here critically emended by Ginsburg and Briggs, has in it several features of great interest. The very opening word, in view of the ending of the psalm, challenges a deeper significance than usual: Preserve me, save me from death, hold me in being. I said to Jehovah: “the Becoming One,” who has yet more and more of the riches of his own immortal being to communicate: My Sovereign Lord art thou: I am at thy disposal. My welfare, my blessedness, is not without thee: has no independent existence. Make of me what thou wilt: I have no blessedness but in thee. A Christian’s mind is irresistibly carried along to think what these words must have meant to the youthful Jesus of Nazareth; and once our thoughts reach that point of departure, we are naturally led on to conceive of the joy with which the Messiah would note how the holy men and women in the days of his manifestation on earth would perceive that Jehovah was making wonderful his delight in them, and in their kinsfolk and neighbours, as they were taught and healed. We pretend not to give to the words of the psalm any such exclusive application; for they apply to every visitation of Israel and every deliverance wrought in their midst, from the day they were written. Jehovah ever delighted in his holy ones, and on many occasions made his delight appear wonderful. The reference to idolatry in Psalms 16:4, no doubt received its exactest fulfilment in the latter days of the monarchy, before idolatry had received its great check by the punishment of the Exile. Yet, still, we cannot think of that young Nazarene, save as entering into a fellowship of spirit with the faithful priests who in the times long before his coming had stedfastly refused to lend themselves to idolatrous rites; to which we may add the reflection that the occasional contact of Galileans in later times with caravans of idol worshippers, would be sufficient to keep alive in Northern Israel a whole detestation of the cruel customs of heathenism. We frankly admit that it is in foresight of what follows in this psalm that we thus early begin to breathe the Messianic spirit.

It is, however, when we rise to the spiritual elevation of Stanza II. that we become more positively conscious of the Messianic atmosphere. And, indeed, it is just as an atmosphere that its penetrating and elevating energy is felt. It is here that the ideal Israelite submits himself to our admiring gaze. Jehovah is his portion and in his portion he delights; nor his portion only, but the maintainer and defender of it. Then he thinks of the measuring lines which have marked out his portion for him, as if with mental reference to the broad acres which such lines have mapped out for others: leaving him still perfectly contented with his own lot. Thus he reflects on his inheritance until it becomes mighty over him, throws over him a mighty spell. Again we say: How can a Christian help thinking of words which fall in line as fulfillment? How can he restrain his thoughts from One of whom he has read in a primitive Christian document: “Who, in consideration of the joy lying before him, endured a cross, shame despising; and on the right hand of the throne of God hath taken his seat?” That, surely, was an inheritance worthy to become mighty over even the Messiah. This Ideal Israelite still further lays bare his inmost being as he allows us to see that he discovers the counsels of Jehovah in, or by means of, the impulses of the dark night, when silent reflection causes the activities of the day to stir the inmost springs of being. In this case, however, the impulses are so chastened and purified as to call forth blessings on Jehovah who uses them to unveil his will. We can never in this world know how mighty and timely was the nightly training of Him, who after being thronged through the day with the multitudes coming and going, spent whole nights in prayer. As dangers thickened and enemies became more bitter and determined, he set Jehovah before him continually, Because he was on his right hand, he was not shaken from his purpose to go up to Jerusalem, and there become obedient as far as death.

In advancing now to the third stanza of this psalm we can scarcely fail to bring with us the one outstanding observation: That it is the moral elevation of the second stanza which prepares the way for the victory of the third. Therefore: because Jehovah himself is my portion; because I am fully content with mine inheritance, and it has a mighty influence over me; because night and day I follow Divine counsel and unreservedly place myself under Divine guidance for the future; therefore my heart is glad,—and in the strength of my joy I am led on to victory over death.

If the moral elevation of the second stanza is unique—as we think it is—if, in its own way, there is nothing quite equal to it elsewhere in the Psalms; then we need not be surprised to be led on to a more complete analysis of the human constitution than is to be found anywhere else in the Old Testament. Such an analysis does, indeed, appear to await us. The triumph to be realised is sufficiently complete that the WHOLE MAN, in the most exhaustive analysis of him, should be summoned to rejoice in it: therefore, my heartmy glorymy flesh are marshalled to advance to its realisation,—my heart, that is, my intelligent nature; my glory, that is, my spirit, God-given, God-related, the recipient of Divine impressions, the spring of emotional force; my flesh, that is, my body, with its well-known uses, wants, weaknesses and susceptibilities. Each of these is coupled with a suitable verb: my heart rejoices with intelligent joy; my glory exulteth with joy intensified into ecstasy; my flesh shall rest,—fatigued with stress and strain, shall rest; weakened by work and weariness, shall rest and be still; shall rest and be refreshed and renewed. For some cause, the “flesh” lags behind the “heart” and the “glory;” “my heart already rejoiceth” (verb in the complete tense); “my glory already exulteth” (verb again practically in the complete tense—imperfect with waw conversive); but “my flesh shall rest” (verb in the incomplete or incipient tense). Further, an element of surprise is introduced along with the flesh: ‘aph “even,” “implying, something surprising or unexpected” (O.G. p. 65)—“Yea,” “moreover,” “even” (= “surprising to say”) my flesh shall rest securely. Then, too, the noun, “flesh,” in being set before its verb, is by a well-known rule emphasised. There was good cause for the surprise—good cause for the emphasis. For “the flesh” was in danger: in danger of corruption! in danger, because the contingency supposed was the event of death. It must have been death; otherwise there would have been no entrance into hades, and consequently the promise of not being abandoned to hades would have been superfluous. When Dr. Burney wrote in The Interpreter for July 1907, p. 375, that “my flesh is only employed of the living body,” he must have forgotten Job 19:26 and Psalms 79:2. “Flesh,” clearly, may mean the dead body; and that it does so mean here, naturally follows from the surprise and the emphasis already noted; and, we may add,—forms the allusion to danger made by the adverb “securely;” for why should the “flesh” alone be represented as in danger, but for the assumed fact of its exposure to early decay by death?

The point to which the danger extends is the point at which victory commences. This godly man dies, yet even his flesh rests securely. Why?

For thou wilt not abandon my soul to hades. My soul may here be taken to include the whole personality, according to the most common usage of the word throughout the Old Testament; and this brings it into parallelism with the term hasith in the next line:—

Thou wilt not abandon my soul (that is, ME) to hades,

Neither wilt thou suffer thy hasith (=thy man of kindness = thine Ideal Israelite=thy Levite=ME, bearing as I do that character) to see the pit.

It is, of course, implied that he, the man, would enter hades; although he, the man, would not be abandoned to it. He would not, with the wicked, see the pit in hades: that is expressed. He would not, in his flesh, suffer harm; seeing that his flesh would dwell securely. The dominion of hades over him would be harmless, and therefore presumably brief. He would not remain long in hades. He would not suffer harm in hades. His whole personality would come safely through hades. As much as this, the words naturally convey: we need not press them to signify more. It is obvious how completely they were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth by his early resurrection.

Less than resurrection cannot be intended; for resurrection is the true and complete antithesis to death. If Jesus had not been raised bodily, to that extent he would have been abandoned to hades—which includes the grave.

Besides, the path to life naturally starts from the lowest point to which Jehovah’s loved and loving One was permitted to descend. If he was suffered to lay aside his body, then he was permitted to take it again. Not only does the path of life lead up out of the underworld inclusive of the grave, but it leads up into heaven. It matters not, in this connection, where heaven is; but it matters much that it is where Jehovah most gloriously manifests his presence and unveils his face. Fullness of joy, for redeemed man, is “in communion with the divine face or presence.” Delightfulness—more than “pleasure” (rather an abused word), more than “beauty” or “loveliness” to the eye, more than “sweetness” to the taste: all combined, and unspeakably more. The general thought is that man’s utmost capacity for happiness will be satisfied in the Divine Presence, or with (the unveiling of) the Divine face, to behold which he is invited, and to which under the guidance of Redeeming Love he tends.

“The original situation is provided in 1 Samuel 26. For ‘hasten after another’ (4) see 1 Samuel 26:19; for ‘maintainest my lot’ (5), see 1 Samuel 26:25; for ‘heritage’ (6), see 1 Samuel 26:19; 1 Samuel 26:25; for ‘the Lord before him (8) see 1 Samuel 26:16; 1 Samuel 26:19-20; 1 Samuel 26:24; for ‘deliverance’ (1, 10, 11), see 1 Samuel 26:24, On Psalms 16:11, cp. 1 Samuel 26:10. The whole was also remarkably appropriate for the reign of Hezekiah, and doubtless the psalm was adopted on that account. The delineation is found in Isaiah 57 (which is attributed to Isaiah of Jersualem), wherein whoredom (Psalms 16:3-4; Psalms 16:8) expresses the ‘hastening after another.’ In the words of this psalm, in Psalms 16:4-5, the pious of Judah were enabled to dissociate themselves from abominations specifically described by the prophet. The ‘drink offerings’ of the depraved people are repudiated; and over against their ‘portion’ and ‘lot,’ another is made the subject of boasting (cp. Isaiah 57:6). As for Psalms 16:8-11 of the psalm, they are remarkably appropriate for the man who was brought to the gates of death and then raised to newness of life (Isaiah 38:18-20; cp. Psalms 17:15; Psalms 140:13)”—Thirtle, “Old Testament Problems,” pp. 313, 314.

It will be seen, from the giving of the above liberal extract, how far these “Studies” are from ignoring the existence of typical prophecy in the Psalms. Whenever, and to whatever extent, foreshadowing types can be found, their employment in exposition is helpful. Nevertheless, as protested in dealing with Psalms 2, it is conceived that we should dutifully expect now and then examples of the bounding away of the Spirit of Foresight into things to come. These adjustments being borne in mind, the present writer has no need to excuse himself for having in the above Exposition felt himself at once carried away to think of Jesus of Nazareth as the Great Fulfiller.

The Prayer of David

Psalms 17:1-15

Brent Kercheville


The model prayer of Jesus is one that is very well known and most of us have committed to our memories. But we may neglect to realize that there are many other prayers that are contained in the scriptures worthy of modeling in our own prayer lives.

Psalms 17 is one of those passages where we read a prayer that is worthy for us to model. Psalms 17 is a prayer of David. As we go through this prayer, let us notice how David approaches the Lord, what David is requesting, and how he goes about presenting his appeal to God. In this prayer, David is going to make arguments for his case. This is important, not that God must be persuaded, but to cause us to think through our requests and to sharpen them.

Hear My Plea (Psalms 17:1-5)

David’s calling

David emphatically begins this prayer by requesting God’s attention. Three times in verse 1 David petitions God to give His attention to him. “Hear, O Lord,” “listen,” and “give ear.” We have seen David use this approach before with the Lord in the fifth psalm. In that psalm, David said “Give ear,” “consider,” and “give attention.” David bases his request to be heard by the Lord upon two things: his innocence and his life which is beyond reproach.

His innocence. David makes forceful arguments in these first five verses. David’s innocence is strongly argued in verse 2, “may my vindication come from you.” This is a clear statement of David’s innocence. David’s plea is a righteous plea (vs. 1) and David expects to find vindication from the Lord. This suggests to us that there are enemies who have laid charges against David. David wants to be cleared of these charges by God Himself. We ought to consider that even the man after God’s own heart had people laying charges against him, of which he was innocent. To be blameless is not to have no one ever charge or slander us, but that our character will vindicate us from such charges.

His life, which is beyond reproach. We need to see how strongly David argues that his life has been beyond reproach. In verse 1 David declares that his plea does not arise from deceitful lips. In verse 3 David says that the Lord can probe his heart and test him and he will find nothing concerning these charges. Further, David says that he has resolved that his mouth will not sin. In verse 5 David also declares that his feet have held to the way of God’s paths and his feet have not slipped. This is powerful language in this prayer.

I think we would be right to ask the question: How can David say these words? How can any human being claim such innocence? I think we can answer this question in two ways. First, the innocence that David claims is probably concerning the charges that have been made against him. I believe David is telling the Lord to search his heart and he will find that he has not committed what his enemies charge.


But I believe there is another aspect involved in David’s ability to go before God with such forceful words of innocence. David has done self-examination before making his petition. David has searched within himself, made confession, and stands before God innocent.

Though we are timid to say such words, we need to be able to go before God, above reproach and pray. If we cannot, then we must correct the fault that is in our lives. Otherwise, we are wasting our breath in our prayers. We need to ask ourselves some questions before we pray to examine ourselves.

Are we being disobedient? Isaiah 59:1-2 tells us, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. We should not be surprised if our prayers seem powerless and fruitless if we are practicing sin. If we are defying God’s commands, then our sins have separated us from God, and therefore He will not hear us. In our self-examination, let us ask if we have been disobedient and then make confession and repentance to God before we pray.

Are we being selfish? Do we pray for others’ needs or only our needs? Do we think about spiritual needs or do we only pray for our physical needs? James 4 tells us that we ask and do not receive because we are praying to fulfill our selfish lusts and desires. We cannot pray selfishly and expect to receive anything.

Is there a wrong that we need to make right? We cannot offer a righteous plea if we have wronged others. We have the obligation to make right any wrongs that we have committed. Remember the words of Jesus, If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24).

Do we have our priorities in order? We need to see the commitments that David had made to the Lord, as stated in this psalm. David had determined to keep himself from the steps of the violent (Psalms 17:4). David made a commitment to keep his feet following the pathway of God (Psalms 17:5). Notice his diligence in Psalms 17:3, I have resolved that my mouth will not sin. Have we made that kind of resolve? This shows our priorities when we make these determinations, commitments, and goals in our lives. When we have made proper self-examination and made correction, we can then go before God with our righteous plea and declare our innocence in God’s sight.

Plea Based Upon the Love of God (Psalms 17:6-9)

God keeps His covenant and promises

David also requests God to hear and answer his prayer based upon God’s character. Specifically, David relies upon the love of God. David says, “show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand” (Psalms 17:7). This love is stronger in the Hebrew than what our English language has the ability to communicate. This is not speaking of God’s general love. David is appealing to God’s love that causes Him to enter into a covenant with His people and fulfill His promises to them. It is the love that causes God to keep His end of the promises and covenants, even though His people break those covenants.

It is that covenant love that maintained the people of Israel so that a Messiah would come, even though the people deserved utter destruction. It is that covenant love that God would send His Son knowing the people would abuse Him, torture Him, disregard Him, and kill Him. It is that covenant love that God forgives us of our sins though we each transgress the covenant. What a great hope we each have to rely upon the promises and covenant love of God.

God’s faithfulness as a refuge

So many times we have seen David describe the Lord as a refuge to the righteous. We see this description given again in Psalms 17:7, those who take refuge in you from their foes. David uses the knowledge that God is a refuge as a basis for his plea for God to answer him.

This is another important way that we can approach God. God has promised to be a refuge to the righteous. We can go to God and declare what the enemies are doing and ask for God’s protection. We see this in Psalms 17:8-9 where David asks to be hidden in the shadow of God’s wings because of the wicked who assail me and because of “my deadly enemies who surround me.” We turn to God in prayer when we need protection, strength, help, and safety.

Call to God Because We Are In Danger (Psalms 17:10-12)

The enemies’ hearts are callous

David also appeals to God to hear his prayer because he is in danger from his enemies. David will describe the character of these enemies to show that he is the righteous one and they are the evil ones.

David first points out that his enemies’ hearts are callous. They have hearts that do not want to listen. Their hearts are stubborn such that they will not change. They have hearts that disregard the Lord and His commands.

The enemies’ mouths are arrogant

Furthermore, out of his enemies’ mouths come arrogant words. Arrogance and slander are certain characteristics that God hates. Therefore, God should judge them and deliver David because David has resolved that his mouth will not sin.

As we read these traits we must realize that if we possess these characteristics, then we also are enemies of God. If we have callous hearts and arrogant mouths, then we, too, are part of the enemies that David was calling to be struck down by God.

The enemies surround David

David also says that the enemies surround him. They are ready to attack like a lion hungry for prey, like a great lion crouching in cover. The first image suggests to us the enemies are on the brink of pouncing. They are hungry and looking for prey to be able to feast on.

The second image suggests the idea of an ambush. If you have watched any of the animal channels, you will have seen that lions crouch in hiding awaiting their prey. The prey believes that everything is fine, peaceful, and calm and suddenly the lion pounces and catches the prey. David alludes to this animal action as happening to him. He knows that he is being set up for a fall and requests the Lord to do something about what is happening.

We also must learn to call upon God when we see that calamity may strike us. We have the right to seek God out and call on Him for help. If we do not, then we are not using Him as a refuge that He has promised to be for us. David is placing all of his chips on God to help in this time of need.

David’s Call to God For Action (Psalms 17:13-15)


Notice all of the action words David uses in Psalms 17:13 to call upon God. “Rise up,” “confront them,” “cast them down,” and “rescue” or “deliver.” Here David asks God to really do something. Notice also the strength of the request, such as, “rescue me from the wicked by your sword.” This is a powerful call to action. It is a request to destroy his enemies.

I find this request fascinating because this is the method by which David solved his problems. Consider for the moment David’s troubles with King Saul. David repeatedly refused to take matters into his own hands. Many opportunities were given to David to kill Saul to preserve his own life. But David would not kill the Lord’s anointed.

In this psalm, David does not say that he will take matters into his own hands, that he will draw the sword and kill his enemies. He is leaving that vengeance to God. He wants God to pick up the sword and show David’s innocence. When we come to God in prayer we must be ready to place our dependence upon Him.

The character of the worldly

David further rests his hope upon the Lord because of the character of the ungodly and worldly. David wants to be saved from these kinds of people. David goes on to describe what kind of people his enemies are.

First, we notice that his enemies are those whose reward is found in this life. In Matthew 6, Jesus told us that those who were seeking after worldly gain and pursuing the glory of man had already received their reward in this life. People who try to make themselves glorified by others have already received their reward. You and I can have our reward in this life. If glory is so important to you, you can have that reward. If money is so important to you, then you can also have that reward. If you must have the respect and esteem of others, you can seek that reward. But that is all you have. You have lost any eternal rewards, exchanging them for temporary physical rewards that are but a vapor. What a foolish trade we often make.

This is further illustrated in verse 14, “their sons have plenty and they store up wealth.” How much this reminds me of the rich fool that Jesus spoke of in Luke 12:20 who continued to store up for himself treasures on earth. When he died, he had nothing to show for himself, losing his physical riches by death and having no eternal riches stored up for himself in heaven.

Notice a little more that David says. “Storing up wealth for their children” is a characteristic of the worldly. We commit a great disservice to our children by trying to give them everything they want so that they will simply have it all. We become strong through adversity and needs. Being given all that we want simply ruins our character and does not help us transform ourselves into the image of God. God does not give us all that we want or else we would be spoiled rotten brats. Yet, we think we are wiser than God and ought to give our children everything. We err greatly when we think these things. We do not fully appreciate what is given to us and greatly value what we must earn and work for. We were not given everything and it was good for us. Let us realize that we ought to raise our children to learn valuable lessons that we learned growing up through lack.

Final hope

The final verse describes David’s great hope. One of the great final hopes we have is to see the face of God. Here David says that he will see David’s face. What a great statement of confidence and it is a statement that we all ought to be able to say.

How sad it is when Christians do not know where their eternal destination will be. How sad it is when those who are trying to serve the Lord do not know if they are going to heaven. We ought to be able with great certainty to utter these words. If we cannot, then we need to repent and confess of whatever is hanging over our heads so that we can know we will see His face. If we have confessed our sins, then there is no reason for doubt and no room for fear in wondering what will happen to us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

There is one more hope that David expresses. Many of the versions miss the wording that is being conveyed, I believe. The NKJV says, “I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. What satisfies you? Jesus spoke of His satisfaction doing the will of the Father (John 4). We cannot be satisfied until we have molded ourselves in the image of God. What an attitude we must carry when we come to God in prayer! This attitude must reign supreme in our minds and hearts. I suggest to you that if a person comes to God in prayer with a heart of wanting to be found in His likeness, that prayer will not be turned away. This must be our whole effort and life’s goal.

David’s prayer is beautiful. It is a prayer that shows us how to boldly approach the throne of God so that we may find grace and help in our time of need. Let us also model the prayer of David.



The first method of these “Studies” as to the question of authorship was to analyse a psalm with exclusive regard to internal evidence; and to interrogate that evidence by saying, “Now what sort of man appears to have written that psalm, under what circumstances, with a view of what dangers (if any), and with what feelings?” Only after pursuing this method with the present psalm, did any name occur as probable; and then it was the name of King Hezekiah, in view and in presence of the Assyrian invasion. If we take this suggestion as a working hypothesis, it is at once seen what a large amount of verisimilitude gathers about it. It is at once noticed how naturally, in such case, the writer appears both as an individual and as a personified nation; and the danger comes into view as an actual and most formidable invasion, by a cruel, greedy, insensate enemy. It is easily realised how naturally a good man like Hezekiah would assure himself of his rectitude, as a man and a monarch, in pressing his suit at Jehovah’s footstool; and, considering the multitude of persons and the variety of interests at stake, how inevitable were the passion and the persistence in petition which are here displayed—piercingly loud (Psalms 17:1), courageously bold (Psalms 17:13-14), thoughtfully tender (Psalms 17:8); how suitable to the gravity of the occasion is the largeness of the blessings sought—that the answer should plainly have come forth from the Divine Presence (Psalms 17:2), that it should amount to nothing less than Jehovah’s making his deeds of kindness wonderful (Psalms 17:7)—and that its result on the enemy should be his inevitable slaughter (Psalms 17:13-14).

In view of such a situation, how little of personal vengeance appears in the most sweeping petitions for the punishment of the foe; for only by such an overthrow could the deliverance sought be so much as imagined. Even the desire that the stroke might be felt to the third generation (Psalms 17:14) would seem to be necessarily involved in the making of Israel’s deliverance effective. Perhaps, even beyond all these features of adaptation discoverable in this psalm, is its conclusion; and, quite unexpectedly, to the writer of this exposition, its conclusion rather in the shorter form inserted in the text than in the longer form relegated to the margin. For, assuredly, it was not without searchings of heart that the familiar and favourite ending of the Massoretic Text was, at the bidding of a very refined criticism—unwilling to admit any unsymmetrical distension of metre or stanza,—assigned to a lower place; especially considering that such assignment would in a measure put out of confident use the significant word “awake,” which had always been felt to be evidence that actual resurrection from the dead formed, for the psalmist, “the path to life” by which he hoped to ascend to the beatific vision of Jehovah’s face.

But, with the apprehension that HEZEKIAH might have written this psalm, the whole realm of probability was changed. The natural thing for HEZEKIAH to say, under the circumstances, would be the very thing that the textual critic prefers should be regarded as the original text: But, as for me, let me have vision of thy face!—the very thing Hezekiah had hoped for, without need to “awake,” because without having previously fallen asleep! This we can confidently gather from the very bitterness of his lament when the prospect of death came upon him: “I shall not see Yah even Yah in the land of the living!” (Isaiah 38:11). That, then,—namely to “see Yah in the land of the living,”—had been Hezekiah’s cherished hope; and that is the hope expressed in the short but powerful conclusion of this psalm preferred in the text above. In decipherment of the final word—be satisfied with thy form—a backward and a forward glance will repay us: backward to Numbers 12:8, to discover the same word employed as here; and forward to John 1:18; John 14:9, 1 Peter 1:7-8, 1 John 3:2, to be reminded of the form, and the vision of that form, which we are joyfully assured will give unbounded satisfaction.

This psalm is a tephillah prayer; and admirably that word describes it. It is attributed To David; and doubtless its groundwork came from him. So strongly, however, is the image of Hezekiah impressed upon it, that already, in the above exposition, had such authorship been confidently inferred, before the perusal of Dr. Thirtle’s second book: which offers the following reenforcement:—“Hezekiah was familiar with persecution. Psalms 17:5 reads like Psalms 73:2; Psalms 17:14 like Psalms 73:3-9, a psalm from the time of Hezekiah. The concluding verse looks forward to recovery from sickness.”—Thirtle, O.T.P., p. 314.

God Is Our Rock

Psalms 18:1-50

Brent Kercheville


Psalms 18 gives us the first explanation concerning what the writer was going through as he penned the psalm. It is my personal wish that this kind of heading was given to all the psalms so we could know the circumstances the writer was going through. At least we have such information in Psalms 18. David is the author of the psalm, who wrote this at the time that God had rescued him from Saul and his other enemies.

This information sets the historical setting for us. In fact, we know exactly when this psalm was penned. Turn to 2 Samuel 22 and notice that this is the same song recorded here in its historical setting. We can notice by surveying these chapters that David is near the end of his life and seems to be reflecting upon what God has done for him throughout his life.

It is curious to notice that Psalms 17 was David’s prayer for deliverance as he described his enemies being like lions that surrounded him. Psalms 18 will now describe the deliverance he has received from the Lord.

Praise to God (Psalms 18:1-3)

“I love you, Lord”

David begins this psalm by stating his love for the Lord. It is a very simplistic statement that we seemingly should pass by. However, the language that David uses to describe his love is unique. In Psalms 17 we saw David describe God’s covenant love. This is God’s love that is so strong that He keeps His promises even though we violate His laws and covenants.

But the word for love that David uses in this passage means to yearn for. In fact, in a very literal sense, this Hebrew word means “to fondle.” Therefore, David is describing a very deep spiritual emotion and connection with God. David is saying that he has his arms around God. David describes for us the close love that he has for God. This is certainly the type of love that we must develop in our lives, a love so strong that we can confidently say that we have our arms around Him.


As we read the first three verses of this psalm(Psalms 18:1-3), we immediately notice the repetition of the word “my.” This is David’s nine-fold description of what the Lord is to him. David says the Lord is “my strength,” “my rock,” “my fortress,” “my deliverer,” “my God,” “my mountain,” “my shield,” “my salvation,” and “my stronghold.”

In these nine images David describes God as his helper. Notice the strength and security that is found in these images. God is David’s rock, fortress, mountain, and stronghold, all of which are symbols of power and strength. God is also David’s deliverer, shield, and salvation, which denotes the defense and aid that God gives. We see that power communicated more fully in the statement that the Lord is David’s “horn of salvation.” Horn always represents power, as it is the power of an animal. God is David’s power of salvation and deliverance. Therefore, David is going to praise God for who God is.

This is further amplified by David’s speaking of God as a place where I seek refuge. If you have been keeping up with us in this study of the psalms, you will recognize that nearly every psalm of David up to this point has made a reference to God as being a refuge. God is the place we must turn to for strength and protection in every trial and decision of our lives.

I will call upon the Lord

God is worthy of praise. He is worthy of praise for all He has done. David specifically points out here that he has been saved from his enemies, and God is worthy of praise. Praising and serving God because He is worthy is the essence of worship. Worship is to honor something or someone because they are worthy of such treatment.

When the spiritual beings of heaven worship God, we see they say the very same words. “Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created (Revelation 4:11 ). You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals (Revelation 5:9). Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:12). We must always remember that we are to be praising God because He is worthy of our praise. God deserves our service. There is no other person that we can say that about. We often will talk about why a person deserves something or special treatment. But God is truly the one deserving of our focus, praise, and service because of all He has done. Our song books have the song “I Will Call Upon the Lord” whose lyrics are taken from these first three verses. Let us sing that song at this time.

God Delivers (Psalms 18:4-19)

Confrontation with death

David now describes how dire his circumstances were. David says, “The ropes of death were wrapped around me; the torrents of destruction terrified me. The ropes of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.” We are able to see how dark a time it was for David in his life. We have no doubt about the validity of his feelings. We read in the scriptures about Saul chasing David like a wild animal throughout the land of Palestine . We read of David’s own son, Absalom, seizing the throne of David and attempting to kill David. David had enemies during his reign that would attempt to seize the throne and destroy him and his nation.

David tells us in Psalms 18:6 that in the midst of all this distress and feelings of death he called out to the Lord. David cried out for help and God heard David’s voice and reached down to help him.

God’s marvelous deliverance

In Psalms 18:7-19, David describes the magnificent deliverance of the Lord. With reference to David, we cannot say that these are literal actions the Lord took to deliver David from Saul or his other enemies. Instead, these are figures of speech that are commonly used in the scriptures to describe the majestic actions of the Lord.

Instead of David simply recording that God saved him, David uses the glory of creation to speak of the actions of God. In Psalms 18:7-11 David uses language similar to the time when God descended upon Mount Sinai before the people of Israel . David describes the mountains shaking, smoke rising, and God parting the heavens and coming down. What a beautiful scene that we wish we could visibly see when we are in our distress! David points out that this is the victory God is bringing to aid us in our distress, though it is not visibly seen. We have faith that God is moving in this world to help us in our times of need.

Psalms 18:12-15 describe in figurative language the warfare of God against the enemies of David. The images we read are very similar to prophecies found in the minor prophets, including the first two chapters of Joel. These are images of God going to battle for the righteous and being victorious.

Psalms 18:16-19 describe God’s actual deliverance of David as David is rescued from the pits of despair and the enemies. David describes his deliverance as God reaching down, taking hold of David, pulling him out of the waters, and setting him in a wide open place.

Do you feel like you are drowning in a sea of sorrows? Do you feel that your enemies are too strong for you to overcome? Do you feel that you are submerged in a world of problems? God can help. If we will submit to the Lord, God has promised to be our support and not allow us to endure more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13 ). This will be the very point that David makes in the next section.

Reasons For God’s Deliverance (Psalms 18:19-24)

Because He delighted in me

David says that God took delight in him. God takes delight in His children. It is a beautiful statement. Just as we take delight in the actions of our children when they do well, so God also takes delight in us when we are obedient to His words.

We must adopt an attitude that sees God as our Father who wants the best for us. When we are suffering and in difficulties, God is there and is not unmoved. But we must be obedient to be His delight. David says that he was God’s delight, and that was one reason for his deliverance.

Because God rewards righteousness

David also points out that God is a rewarder of the righteous. God repays us according to our actions. We often only think about God repaying according to our actions in the final day of judgment. But that is only the final repaying that we will receive.

David reminds us that God is constantly repaying us according to our actions. This principle may not be executed as swiftly as we believe it ought to be. But we must recognize that, generally speaking, we will be rewarded in this life for our righteousness. God will take care of us, give us peace, maintain our hope, and deliver us through trials and from Satan–when we are living righteously.

By the same token, if we are living wickedly and rebelliously toward God, we are going to be repaid in this life. We will go through some suffering. We will endure difficulties and consequences based upon our poor choices. We stand accountable to God daily.

Because David kept the ways of the Lord

This is the point that we have been making, and now David clearly states the principle. We have hope and confidence that God will rescue us when we have not turned from God into wickedness. We have reasons to look for God’s deliverance when we have been keeping the ways of the Lord.

This is the thrust of the rest of these verses in this section. David says, I have kept all His ordinances in mind. God’s laws are always before his face. David does not let the word of God leave his mind. This reminds us of our need to be diligent in our Bible reading so that we can also keep God’s commands in front of our eyes and always on our minds.

Furthermore, David says that he has been blameless toward God. We mentioned this trait in Psalms 17, since David used the expression there also. David is not saying that he has lived a sinless or perfect life. But David has a heart that is right with God, always wanting to do right, even though the weakness of the flesh may cause him to stumble. To emphasize this need for a righteous life before God, David repeats Psalms 18:20 in Psalms 18:24. Deliverance will come to the righteous. Violators of God’s law have no reason or hope for God’s help.

Reverse Parallel

Reasons for God’s deliverance (Psalms 18:25-29)

David now is going to reargue these points in reverse order that he presented them in the first half of this psalm. David states that God delivered because He is faithful to the faithful, blameless to the blameless and pure to the pure.

The last line of Psalms 18:27 is very interesting because God even acts shrewdly with those who are crooked. God does not repay evil for evil, but God will deal with them according to their own folly.

God delivers (Psalms 18:30-45)

David returns to the theme of using the majestic imagery of God’s actions toward his enemies. David uses this language to show God conquering over the enemies of God and the enemies of David. God’s victory is complete, subduing the enemies, crushing the enemies, wiping them out, and trampling them like mud in the streets.

God will conquer the enemies. We must remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord and not to us. We are not to exact retribution upon our enemies. But God will deal with our enemies so that we will be made to stand.

Praise to God (Psalms 18:46-50)

In the final section, David returns to praising God in the same fashion that he did in Psalms 18:1-3. God again is described as a rock and David’s salvation. Because of the mighty works of God, David says that he will praise God. Not only will David praise God, but he will praise God among all the nations. David will declare the glories of the Lord to all he knows.

This is a powerful reminder that we are called to share the wonders and majesty of God with others. We are to praise God, not only in our hearts, but also among all the peoples. This is our great showing of honor and worship when we proclaim His name before all the peoples.

Prophecy of the Work of the Messiah

Romans 15:9

After going through this psalm and seeing the beauty of God’s deliverance to the righteous, we must take a step back and notice that there is much more that this psalm is addressing. Many psalms have a duality to them in which David is not only speaking of his own condition, but is also prophesying about the coming Messiah. That is the case in this psalm.

We know this is also a Messianic psalm because Paul applied this psalm to Christ in Romans 15:9. Turn to Romans 15 and look at the context by reading Romans 15:7-13. Paul is describing the new relationships and new way of life that Christ brought. The Gentiles may glorify God because of the work of reconciliation accomplished in Christ. Paul quotes four passages which show that through Christ, the nations (Gentiles) would glorify God. Jesus brought salvation and deliverance to the Gentiles.

Looking again at the psalm

Since Paul tells us that this was a Messianic psalm, we now must go back to Psalms 18 and look at it not only through the eyes of David as what happened to him, but through the eyes of Christ as what happened to Him. We see many new truths in light of this information.

First, we understand that love which is being described in verse 1 more fully. Now we see the intimate relationship that exists between Christ and the Father. We see the great dependency that Christ had upon the Father.

Second, we see the suffering of Christ. The ropes of death were around Jesus as death did confront Him. We see Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane calling to the Lord in His distress and learn that God heard His voice and answered Him.

Third, we see the deliverance that Christ received. Now these figurative images in Psalms 18:7-19 come to life as we see the reaction of the Father to the suffering and death of Christ. We see the earth quake and the mountains shake at the moment Jesus breathed His last. We see the darkness over the earth from noon to three in the afternoon while Jesus was hanging on the cross. In Psalms 18:16-19 we see Jesus triumphing over death, crushing the head of Satan, and becoming victorious over all.

Fourth, we see the reasons why God delivered. Jesus was the perfect lamb of God. In Him there was no sin, no spot, and no blemish. He proved Himself to be blameless and pure, keeping the ways of the Lord. Therefore, Jesus was repaid according to His righteousness, being raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God. This is the great message of this psalm: the victory that is found in Christ.

Therefore, the words of Psalms 18:50 are most fitting as a conclusion to this psalm. He gives great victories to His king; He shows loyalty to His anointed, to David and his descendants forever. God would give the greatest victories to Jesus, the Lord’s anointed king. These promises of deliverance and victory were not only promised to us, to His anointed, but to God’s descendants forever. Let us see the victory and deliverance that we have received in Jesus that we may worship the Lord, for He is worthy of praise. Let us fully put our trust in God, knowing that He will hear our cries and will take action on our behalf. The Lord lives and blest be the rock and let the God of my salvation be exalted. (HSCB)



It is important to remember that David inherited the unfinished task of Joshua, whose divine commission was—to extirpate the Canaanite nations whose abominable iniquities had justly called down on them this awful doom. Unless this is borne in mind, the Royal Singer of Israel must appear to the Christian mind, especially in this his triumphal ode, as resting under a cloud of suspicion that he did not hate war as he should: seeing that when his wars were ended, he could, with such manifest satisfaction, celebrate the completeness of his victories. It is doubtless well that we should recoil from the terrible necessity for extermination, and realise the extent to which another spirit has fallen on us from our suffering and rejected Messiah; but it is not altogether well when we, for want of reflection, fail to mark the footsteps of God in history; and thus are led to blame an ancient hero whom we ought rather to praise.

Whatever of courageous and skillful warrior David was, that had he become under divine training; and we have to beware lest we blame that training rather than the Canaanitish abominations which called for such avengers as the men who received it. The dispensation under which we live is one of forbearing and suffering Love; and, if we cast a longing eye on territories to possess ourselves of which we have received no such mandate as was given to Moses and his people,—let us beware lest we go before we are sent, and are sternly called to account by our Divine Judge for our lust of dominion. No opinion is here expressed as to whether a commission to exterminate tribes guilty of enormous wickedness may or may not be constructively inferred, in the absence of express Divine revelation; but let statesmen remember the position in which they stand in such matters, and make very sure of their Divine call to invade other lands before they draw the sword for such ends. Extremes beget extremes. Let us avoid them in this matter, by remembering that we are not Israel; but, of the Israel of ancient times, let us judge fairly; and of her hero king, as he appears in this truly magnificent song.

It will have been observed by every reader how very figurative is this psalm. Many of the metaphors employed, it is true, are so obvious in their significance and of such easy application to well-known or readily imaginable incidents in David’s history as to need little explanatory comment. But there is one figurative representation in the psalm which is so bold, and prolonged as almost to amount to an allegory; and is at the same time so lofty in its sublimity as to render it possible for us to let its historical application escape us. The historical event to which it refers is David’s danger of perishing by the hand of the violent King Saul; and the daring figure by which his escape from that danger is set forth is that of escape from drowning; but until we connect the danger as described in Psalms 18:4-5 with the deliverance as briefly asserted in Psalms 18:16; and observe that the intervening verses portray first a divine preparatory movement from the highest heaven down to the skies of this lower world, and then the gathering of the Storm which it to effect the rescue; and then, finally, the outburst of the Storm, culminating in the deliverance of the Drowning Man from sinking down into the abysses of destruction;—the possibility is that the point of the allegory may be lost in what may unjustly appear to be a cloud of words. But when once the largeness of the poetical scheme of representation is apprehended, then it may be found that the need arises for a fresh grasp of the historical situation, to enable us to discover some proportion between the facts as they occurred and the figures in which they are here clothed.

Let us then sufficiently recall the incidents of the history to enable us to realise that the danger to David from Saul was greater, more prolonged, and more distressing, than any other which befell Israel’s favourite hero prior to his firm settlement in his kingdom. Of the troubles which befell him afterwards and of their grievous occasion, there is no need here to take account; since we are only concerned now to get behind this Triumphal Ode and the events Which led up to it. We have, then, to remember that Saul was David’s first hero and lord; that, as Jehovah’s anointed, he commanded the young Bethlehemite’s profoundest homage; that he drew the young harpist and warrior into peculiarly close and difficult relations to himself; that he became unreasonably jealous of him, lent a willing ear to every malicious story told of him, persecuted him with relentless hatred: and, all the while, he—David—could not, would not, durst not lift up a hand against his master.

David had to suffer and wait for Divine interposition; and many a time must it have appeared that such interposition was never coming. Is it any wonder, then, that, being a poet born, he should oft have compared himself to a DROWNING MAN, in his last exhausted struggles against the surging flood of the Kishon, the Jordan, or even of the great western sea, of sinking in the depths of which he may, in the course of this eventful life have been in danger? And, considering how in this contest he could not strike a blow in self-defence but had to leave his succour exclusively in Jehovah’s hands, is it so very surprising that, being a poet born and conscious of a Divine afflatus carrying him out and beyond himself, and his deliverance when it came being so unexpected and ultimately so complete,—he should have conceived the idea and clothed it in words of such a theophanic interposition as he here describes? Other enemies could be alluded to in quite an ordinary manner; and his own share in running, leaping, climbing, bending the bow—using his feet, his arms, his hands, could all be allowed to shine through by means of familiar poetic allusions; but the enemy—the violent man—the perverse,—HE had to be reverently left to the judgment of God; and none can say that that judgment has not been most effectively—even if most poetically—described. From his chief foe, the poet had been rescued by an interposition absolutely Divine.

It has been objected to Stanza IV. (Psalms 18:20-27), that, in various degrees it is unlike the original psalm, and must be regarded as made up of later glosses. Of Psalms 18:21-24, in particular, it is alleged (by Br.) that “it has nothing in keeping with the previous thought of the psalm. The original is hot with passion: this is calm and placid.” Now the fact of a passing change of feeling may be frankly conceded. But is the inference drawn therefrom legitimate? Why may not David have rested his muse for a little, and imparted a moral backbone to his ode by drawing from the stores of his memory sentiments learned in the school of Samuel in his brief sojourn in Naioth? In particular, those singular epigrammatic sayings forming Psalms 18:25-26 (To the man of kindness, etc.), may well be a sample of the wisdom learned by the sons of the prophets under the presidency of the great seer: who, as we know from 1 Samuel 15:22-23, knew how to moralise. Moreover, there are several points of contact between the stanza brought under suspicion and those going before and after. The close of the previous stanza, at Psalms 18:19 (because he delighteth in me), forms an excellent point of departure for what immediately follows; and then again Psalms 18:27 reads much like an application of the foregoing principles, by David, to his own actual circumstances.

It seems peculiarly apt that David should think of his own little band of followers as a humbled people, saved; and of the downfall of Saul’s house as the laying low of looks that were lofty almost beyond endurance. Again, it may be observed that in any case the hot passion of the opening stanzas has cooled towards the end of the psalm. For there is something, not merely placid, but almost playful in the way in which, through Stanzas V. and VI., the now staid monarch recounts the exploits of his early and more warlike young manhood. Finally, it may be said, in the interest of the poetic art, that the retention of the stanza which Dr. Briggs sets aside, brings the stanzas up to the perfect number, seven, and admirably places the Wisdom stanza in the centre of the psalm, just between the passivity and the activity of the psalmist; at the same time leaving the closing stanza with those nice touches of royalty upon it which impart to it a special fitness to form the crown of the song.

It is reassuring, after the contrary denials of Wellhausen, to find so strenuous a critic as Dr. Briggs admitting that; “If we remove the glosses, which have adapted an ode of victory of David to later religious uses, the ode stands out in simple grandeur as fitting appropriately to the historical experience of David, whether he wrote it or another wrote it for him by historic imagination, entering into the experience of the heroic king. After removing the glosses there is nothing that bars the way to his authorship.” Even a critical reader may doubt whether it is necessary to remove the alleged glosses, beyond the point which leaves us with seven symmetrical stanzas. It may be further said that, in view of the admitted beauties of this song, we need never decline the Davidic authorship of a psalm merely on the score of its poetic excellence.

The great value of the following extract will excuse its length. “David began, as in Psalms 18:2, ‘The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer’; and went on to rehearse the wonderful acts of God in his daily deliverance. Hezekiah had as much to say, if not more; but he must begin differently. His deliverance from death and a host of enemies, induced in him a tenderness of expression which suggested a new beginning for the psalm, even though confined to a single line. So he prefixed the words, ‘I love thee, O Lord, my Strength.’ The terms are striking—’Fervently do I love thee’: ‘warmly do I cherish thee’ (r-h-m). After such a pledge of affection, the king could proceed, and appropriate to his own lips lines which, in the language of poetry, are suitable for the description of any notable intervention on the part of Jehovah . . . The grateful soul must entertain a warm affection for Jehovah by whom it had been loved (h-sh-k). Hence, he says in one place: ‘I love (‘h-b) the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplication’ (Psalms 116:1); and the Lord spoke in response ‘Because he hath set his love (h-sh-k) upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high because he hath known my name’ (Psalms 91:14) . . . Upon whom is the king’s affection lavished? Upon ‘Jehovah, MY STRENGTH.’ Who could say this like Hezekiah? The man whose name was hzkyhu speaks of his Deliverer as yhwh hzky. All the promise and assurance of the king’s name have been realised; and now love is returned, in warmest emotion, to a faithful God. In other words, in the terms used we have the elements of the name Hezekiah . . . Everything favours the conclusion that substantial changes (in the psalms) so far as they may be detected, belong to the reign of Hezekiah”—Thirtle, O.T.P., 122–124.

God’s Revelation

Psalms 19:1-14

Brent Kercheville


Psalms 19 is one of the well known psalms of David. We are not given any background information concerning the setting or circumstances upon which David penned this psalm. In this psalm David describes the two ways that God has revealed Himself to mankind. As we read this psalm, let us soak in the beautiful imagery that David brings to our attention concerning how God has spoken to us.

Revelation of God in Creation (Psalms 19:1-6)

God’s creation speaks to us continuously

David begins by telling that God has been revealed to us through the creation. The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky proclaims the work of His hands. David tells us that we need to simply cast our gaze upward to see the glory of God. All that is in the sky proclaims the glory of God since these things are the work of His hands.

In the day we see a blue sky, moving clouds of different shapes, styles, and sizes, and the sun which burns so bright we cannot look at its majesty. By night we see the stars, the moon, and from time to time planets within our solar system. We have come to find out that the universe is vast, wondering if it is endless itself. We have not found an end to space and our exploration of its grandeur.

Notice that God’s speech through creation is continuous. Day after day and night after night God communicates to us His glory and His knowledge. The creation shows God infinite knowledge. Who could come up with such ecological systems that God has created? For example, the plants and trees produce oxygen for us to breathe. When we breathe, we produce carbon dioxide which is what the plants and trees breathe in. There are so many relationships that God has created in this world that work together for the universe to co-exist. God has made this world to be self-sufficient, which shows God’s great glory, knowledge, and power.

God’s creation speaks to us abundantly

Notice that the creation “pours out speech.” The creation is speaking volumes to us about God. This imagery is described to us like a fountain. When we stop to consider the great things of this world, we are constantly hearing the power of God and glory of God being communicated to us. It is amazing how our bodies were made to heal the way that they do. God did not make bodies that simply broke like a car breaks. The body has the power to repair itself, which testifies continually about the might of God.

I believe the more we learn about our world and about the creation, the more we are able to see the might and glory of God. It is important for us to notice that David does not say that the creation reveals God’s will for our lives. David points out that God’s revelation is general, that is, it only reveals to us that there is a God. We are able to look at all that is made and realize the glory and splendor of a higher power than ourselves.

This was the very point that Paul was trying to make in Romans 1:20. Paul presents the argument the Gentiles should know of God because of the creation. “From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). This is a powerful argument that Paul makes that is still useful for us today. Many people want to know what will happen to people who do not know God. Perhaps they do not have Bibles, perhaps they are isolated, or in some other hypothetical circumstance. But God says that all people should know God and be seeking to know God’s will because of the creation. God’s creation abundantly speaks about God.

God’s creation speaks universally

God’s creation speaks to all mankind. Psalms 19:3 says, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” God’s voice of creation has gone throughout all the world as Psalms 19:4 says, “Their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the inhabited world.”

This is why no one has an excuse before God. The glory of creation has gone throughout the whole earth. No one does not have access to the heavens and skies which declare the glory of God.

David uses the glory of the sun to prove these three points concerning God’s revelation. The sun is described as a groom coming from his chambers. The sun rises from one end of the heavens and circles to the other end. Nothing is hidden from the heat of the sun. It is curious to consider that so many cultures worshipped the sun because of its immense heat and strength and also because they were so dependent upon the sun plant and work. Yet God created the sun, showing us how much more powerful God truly is. That which is created is too strong for us to understand or behold. How much more is the God of heaven! David now transitions in Psalms 19:7 to describing God’s second form of revelation.

God’s Revelation in Scripture (Psalms 19:7-11)

Descriptions of God’s law

The second way God has revealed Himself to people is through His written word. God, through the scriptures, is showing us who He is so that we may understand His personality and His character. God’s law is described with six different characteristics. With these six characteristics, David also describes six actions that the word of God accomplishes. In this section we will see the power of the Lord described through the word of God. I believe we will see that we underestimate what the word of God can do in our lives.

The instruction of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The word of God is not deficient in any way. Rather, the word of God is perfect and complete. The word “reviving” means “bringing back.” The word of the Lord has the ability to bring back the soul, bringing back to life from the death we subjected it to. No matter what our circumstances or sins, the word of God can bring us back if we will let the word of God do that work within us. The word of God brings spiritual life to our souls. Thus, Jesus reminded Satan “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

The testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the simple wise. We are able to believe what we read in the word of God. We can trust the things God has told us. When we follow the directions given by word of God, we will find salvation, contentment, joy, and eternal life. The person who will open his or her heart to accept the teachings of God and obey them will become wise. Common sense may avoid this person, but obedience to God will show their wisdom. However, the person who thinks he is wise and does not need to listen or obey God’s word is a fool and will show himself to be a fool. Paul made a similar point in 1 Corinthians 1:19-21 where God used the foolishness of the gospel to destroy the supposed wisdom of the wise.

The precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad. I believe that David is speaking about the straightness of God’s laws, that they are not crooked. The statements of God are straight to keep one who obeys them on the straight path. To walk on the straight path will make the heart joyful. There is great reason for joy for following God’s straight precepts. Not only do we know that we are being obedient to God, but obeying God will maximize the joy in our lives. Satan lies to us making us think that God is keeping us from joy. But the truth is following God’s ways will bring gladness to our hearts.

The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. So pure is the word of God, David describes it as if it is giving off light. Some translations say, “The commandment of the Lord is radiant,” trying to show the purity of the word of God. The purity of God’s law is enlightening to us. The word of God purges the darkness and shows us the direction we must take. Too often we allow ourselves to walk in darkness as we live our lives not seeking a lamp to find the proper direction.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. Corrupt things decay and pass away. Purity endures forever. Since the word of God is pure, without any blemish, error, or defect, it is in line with God’s character and endures forever. The word of God can have a cleansing effect in our lives. It can clean up our character, our lives, our mouths, our personality, and our actions. The word of God has the ability to make us clean by changing us into the enduring character of God.

The ordinances of the Lord are reliable and altogether righteous. We can rely upon the word of God for direction because the word of God is righteous through and through. Everything God says and does is in our best interest. Everything word God speaks is righteous and every act God takes is righteous. This gives us dependability with God.

The value of God’s law

The ability of God’s law to make these kind of changes in our lives is immeasurable. The word of God can revive our souls, make the simple wise, gladden the heart, and enlighten the eyes. David now expresses how wonderful these things are to him.

First, David says that this is more desirable than gold (Psalms 19:10). How impressive is this understanding of God’s law! Do we look at God’s law to be even better than an abundance of fine gold? Do we see that God’s law has more value to our lives than all the money and possessions that can be obtained in this world? If we treated the word of God as more valuable than gold, perhaps we would use the word of God more diligently and frequently.

Second, David says the word of God is sweeter than honey. In fact, the word of God is sweeter than honey dripping from the very honeycomb. Not only does the word of God have great value for us, but the word of God has the ability to fulfill us and enrich us like nothing else in this world. The word of God can fill the void in our lives that many try to fill with physical things. Yet, our spirits can only be filled by God and His words for us. David understood this and therefore described God’s words as being the sweetest thing in life.

Third, David points out that there is great reward from God in keeping His words. Not only is there the great reward of God’s inheritance on the day of judgment, but there is great reward in our lives today. When we obey God’s laws and let Him rule our lives, then we are going to make righteous decisions that will not reap consequences. We will make decisions in our lives that will help us have hope, contentment, peace, tranquility, and joy that others do not have because that are strapped down and burdened by the guilt of sin and evil. They are slaves to their own desires and lusts and are unable to break free because they have not obeyed God’s commands. Our joy in this can be maximized when we obey God’s commands for we now and in the future receive great reward.

Fourth, the word of God is a great warning to our lives. God does not leave us ignorant concerning the consequences of disobedience. God warns us about what will happen when we ignore God. God tells us that we will suffer when our decisions are not based upon God’s righteous laws.

Response to God’s Revelation (Psalms 19:12-14)

Prayer for forgiveness

David has told us that there are two ways that God has revealed Himself to mankind. God has generally revealed Himself through His creation. The glory and wonders of God are clearly seen in the things that are made. God has also specifically revealed Himself through His word, which is able to cleanse us and revive our lost souls. So what should be our reaction and response to the revelation of God? David tells us in these final verses.

David begins by asking God for forgiveness from His sins. David realizes that he has many errors in his life. David accepts that he is not perfect, that he has committed many faults and is in need of the Lord’s forgiveness. Further, David is not only interested in the sins that he is aware of but asks for cleansing from his hidden faults and sins. There are so many things that we do on a daily basis that we likely do not realize is sin.

Consider this point from this view: Did we show that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength today? Did we love our neighbor as ourselves today? Did we have the love of Christ fill our hearts with compassion to the lost and helpless today? It is easy for us to not pay attention to how we treat others. It is very easy for us to offend another without knowing we have done anything wrong. David is keenly aware that he is constantly falling short and perhaps not aware of it. For those times, David asks for forgiveness. We must consider these areas of our attitude and disposition before God also. We may be able to say that he did not lie, steal, curse, or lust. But did we fully love God? Did we fully love our neighbor? Did we have the attitude of Christ dwelling in us? We have hidden faults and are always in need of God’s forgiveness.

Prayer for deliverance

David also pray for deliverance from future sins. David asks God to keep him from willfully sinning and rebellion. We need to pray to God for this strength to overcome the desires of the flesh that we know we ought not to obey. We need the help of God to not succumb to our weaknesses. David’s words are very appropriate, “do not let them rule over me.” Paul said, “For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Sin is not to be our master. We cannot be led by sin and our sinful desires.

This is what David is praying for his own life and I am sure we can agree that we also need this in our lives. We cannot let sin win. We cannot let sin rule over us and be the master of our lives. God has delivered us yet too often we turn back to the slavery of sin. Who is going to be in charge of our lives: God or sin? God or Satan? We must make that choice. David says he is a servant of God and asks God to keep him from turning aside.

Prayer for mouth and heart to be found acceptable

Perhaps the most important part of David’s prayer is his request to be found acceptable in God’s eyes. This prayer identifies two areas that God judges: actions and motives. God looks at our hearts to see if our motives and attitudes are in line with the righteousness of God. God demands that are hearts be clean in His sight. Actions without the heart is found to be worthless. Samuel told Saul this spiritual truth when Saul refused to kill all the Amalekites because he was going to offer sacrifices to God with the animals. Samuel told Saul that sacrifice is not greater than our heart’s obedience. Our motives and intentions of the heart must always be analyzed and judged for God is judging our hearts.

But just as important are our actions. A good heart is not all that God has required of us. God demands that a good heart bring forth fruit. We see this principle with Uzzah who had the right motive for reaching out at touching the ark of the covenant in 2 Samuel 6. However, God struck Uzzah dead for his violation of God’s law. Our actions are also held accountable to God and we must examine our deeds to be sure that we are acting righteously and appropriately in the sight of God.

Let these three things also be our prayer: we need forgiveness for past sins, deliverance from future sins, and cleaning today of our hearts and mouths to be found acceptable to God. God has revealed His glory and His power. God has revealed His will and laws to show us the way we ought to go. It is now time for each of us to obey.



This is a psalm of exquisite beauty, which winningly invites us along the path of exposition; but which, nevertheless confronts us with a difficulty which we shall do well to settle at once if possible, so as to study the psalm without distraction and to the utmost profit. The difficulty, when first stated, appears sufficiently formidable; seeing that it involves the serious question whether or not Psalms 19:3 should be regarded as an excrescence. Whoever will look at this verse as it appears in the A.V., will readily understand the nature of the problem. Strip off the three italic words which, in that version, are incorporated with it, and which young readers will remember are to be taken as having no express warrant in the original,—and the statement remaining is found to be a thrice repeated negative: “no speech, nor language, their voice is not heard”—in express contradiction of both the spirit and letter of Psalms 19:1-2; Psalms 19:4; and the remarkable thing is that the Hebrew text handed down to us, simply contains these three unqualified negatives. Next observe, that the supplied words have the startling effect of converting the negative into a positive; and asserting that, wherever any language is spoken, there the heavens utter a voice—of course, in harmony with the context; thereby getting over the difficulty, and not wholly without authority, seeing that both Septuagint and Vulgate (Greek and Latin) versions contain the very words (or their equivalent) which thus turn the statement completely round. Noting these things, the first impulse of many readers will undoubtedly be to acquiesce is this solution, by saying: “Evidently some little word or words have dropped out of the Hebrew, the substance of which has been fortunately preserved by the ancient Greek and Latin versions.” Well: for those so content, the verse will be found at the foot of the text; and further, inasmuch as some think that even the direct negatives of the Hebrew can be harmonised with the context, as either a sort of “aside” spoken by an objector (which was suggested in “the Emphasised Bible”) or with a sort of mental gloss. “No LITERAL voice—though, ‘in reason’s ear,’ there is a voice,” for this cause, the literal Hebrew, as reflected in the R.V., is also given at the foot. Now will these contented readers exercise a little forbearance towards a few more critical minds, who are not so easily satisfied, but who prefer the opinion that this verse is an excrescence. Their reasons are: first, that it just makes this stanza so much too long, which alone would not count for much, but is of sufficient force to sustain the additional reason now to be submitted: namely, secondly, that as soon as the negative is turned into a positive, then it is needless, seeing that Psalms 19:1-2 positively assert that “the heavens,” etc., tell, declare, pour forth and breathe out their witness to God’s glory; and further, that Psalms 19:4 makes this positive assurance universal in extent. So that, in a word, by dropping the two lines which make the stanza too long, nothing substantial is lost, while brevity and point, as well as symmetry, are gained. The reader who is not yet quite persuaded to join the more critical, will at least understand, without a disturbing thought, why the following exposition takes the shorter and more direct route leading to the same end.

The general witness of the heavens is brought to bear upon a point twice expressed: it is the glory of God—their brightness and beauty being expressive of his own; and being, as they are, the work of his hand, the inference is that he is greater than they. The fact that the heavens bear this witness is four times expressed: they tell it out or recount it, as if spoken of a story composed of numberless details, they declare it, as with authority, making God’s glory conspicuous; they pour it forth in a stream of eloquence as from an exhaustless fountain of evidence; and they gently breathe out the intelligence, with such soft accents as leave the truth larger, loftier, louder than their low utterance can attain. The second couple of these verbs is apportioned, the one to the day, and the other to the night. It is the day that pours forth speech, as through the channels of a thousand voices: it is the night that breathes out her almost inaudible whispers. Moreover, one day speaks the the next, the day-studies being handed on for further days to prosecute; and the night, ceasing her story when the day appears, takes up the broken thread when the next night comes—which is poetically true to fact: since day-studies can only be pursued by day, and night-studies by night. To suggest all this without actually saying so is a triumph of the poetic art. An effective synonymous couplet sets the seal of universality upon this testimony to the glory of God. Wherever men can dwell, God is there, in his works, to speak to them of himself. So much, says Stanza 1., of the heavens in general.

But now the sun takes a stanza all to himself; and, as seems meet, the figures wax more bold. The emphasis now to be laid on “the sun” is shown by his position at the very head of the stanza. An excellent point of connection with the first stanza is gained by attributing the act of setting up the tent for the sun to God himself (the ‘El of the opening line of the psalm) and for once we spell the pronoun He with a capital initial. The word tent is the simple and usual rendering of the Hebrew ‘ohel, and no “Sunday garment” is needed for it. The word therein naturally refers back to the heavens of Psalms 19:1, and so forms another link of connection with the first stanza. Moreover, as every eye can see where the sun enters his tent in the evening and where he reappears in the morning, the perhaps rather fanciful question arises whether the ancient Hebrews were quite so backward in their nature-views as is commonly supposed. The emphasis on the pronoun he in the second line of the stanza naturally carries the mind right back to the “sun” at the head of the previous line: and he is like.

By a most beautiful figure of speech, comparing the sun to a bridegroom coming forth with a smile on his face from his nuptial chamber, the freshness of the sun every morning is expressed. With joy behind him, he has at the same time gladness before him, as he comes forth like a hero rejoicing in the consciousness of his staying powers, and that whoever may have need to retire for sleep at mid-day, he, unwearied, will be able to hold on his way till his race is run. The poet’s eye measures the racer’s course from one end of the heavens to the other; and, impressed with its magnificent sweep, his mind is struck with the universality of the sun’s searching warming rays. The word for sun at the beginning of the stanza was shemesh, the customary word: it is now, at the end of the stanza, hammah, a poetical and less customary word to denote the orb of day; and though derived from a root meaning to be hot, yet in O.T. usage it is always used of the sun himself, and not merely of his heat, as all the other instances of its occurrence in the O.T. will show: Job 30:25, S. Song of Solomon 6:10, Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 30:26. It is hence permissible to conclude that here also is the sun himself that is meant; and, if so, the pronoun His (“His sun”),—again spelling it with a capital, like the He of the first line,—will once more carry us up to “God,” whose representative the sun so strikingly is: implying, without expressing, that, as the sun searches all, so in a higher sense does God. Thus the end of the second stanza returns to the beginning of the first, and the two are locked into a unit.

With Stanza III. we enter upon the second half of the psalm: the transition to which is certainly very abrupt, however we may account for that circumstance; some conceiving that here we have two distinct psalms on two distinct subjects, whose juxtaposition, as an afterthought, naturally causes the sense of abruptness; others thinking that the same mind that originated the first half, pausing to face a new but counterpart theme, instinctively adopted a new vocabulary and a new style. The exact genesis of the change we may never know, but the fact of the change remains undeniable, and the magnitude and tenor of it we may briefly trace.

Note, then, that the Divine name El, “the Mighty One,” used once, and once only, in the former half of the psalm, now gives place to the Divine name Jehovah, which occurs six times in this stanza and once in the next, making seven times in all, in the second half of the psalm. This fact is significant; for, though this second half of the psalm is not strictly speaking about Jehovah himself but about his Law, etc., yet the repeated use of this different and more gracious Divine Name clearly ought to be regarded as shedding a soft lustre over the whole of this division of the psalm. If it only be true that “Jehovah” is pre-eminently a name of grace, as it undoubtedly is, then everything which it touches is graciously affected thereby. Whether “law,” “testimony,” “precept,” or whatever else of “Jehovah,” every form of his instruction for my guidance is lit up by its relation to himself, as the “Becoming One,” “the helper of his people.”

With this agree the breadth and variety of both nouns and adjectives which are related to Jehovah: his law in his “instruction” to guide as well as his “law” to bind; his testimony witnesses to his own grace as well as to the saint’s duty; and so on to the end. The same with the adjectives: perfect, lacking nothing that the soul needs; trustworthy, warranting the fullest confidence; right, satisfying man’s better judgment; clear, saying what it means, making duty plain; clean, no foul spot in it, to corrupt and abolish it; truth, giving right decisions between man and man, claim and claim, and therefore regulations worthy to regulate.

But if nouns and adjectives have the grace of “Jehovah” resting on them, how much more those beautiful little pendants hanging upon them, each like a jewel in the ear of beauty; which, in four cases, describe the beneficent action of Jehovah’s instruction, and in the two remaining instances attest its self-preserving power. The actions are all gracious: they refresh, they make wise, they gladden, they enlighten. Such Divine guidance must abide: enduring evermore, their Divine perfections are vindicated from all attacks, and they mutually explain and defend each other.

But is all this praise of the Law, not just a little exaggerated? No! why should it? Granted that the Law was a tutor guiding to Christ: are we to think that the child-guide had no affection for his ward? Besides, the terms employed are too broad and various to be limited to the mere binding force of the edicts from Sinai’s summit: though even the Ten Words of Thunder had their gracious undertones. Let the Christian bethink him whether he cannot translate the whole of these six synonyms into the terms of Jesus and his Apostles, and then sing, “How gentle God’s command”! Do the New Testament instructions not “refresh,” “make wise,” “gladden,” “enlighten”—and “endure,” triumphantly “vindicated”?

That “overflow,” the 10th verse,—what means it? It looks as though, to the incipient apprehension of the psalmist, it had occurred, as a first thought, to have EIGHT full-fledged synonyms of the Law, as in Psalms 119; which half-formed design was subsequently abandoned; and then the unused colours were dashed on the canvas in magnificent profusion that nothing might be lost. Instead of saying seventhly,—“The word of Jehovah is costly—more desirable than gold!” and, eighthly, “The statutes of Jehovah are satisfying—sweeter than honey,” his enthusiasm breaks bounds, and he takes the saint’s experimental response alone and intensifies two phases of it into a climax, and exclaims without more ado: More desirable than goldyea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey—or the droppings of the comb.

The transition at Psalms 19:11 to the last stanza is very striking. Hitherto, neither “El” nor “Jehovah” has been directly addressed; but now a sense of nearness leads the psalmist reverently to look in the face of Jehovah, and say, ThyThouThee. He is in his heavenly Master’s presence, and dutifully terms himself Jehovah’s servant, yet without losing his sense of nearness or favoured acceptance; for he lays stress on this as a further commendation of the regulations of the Divine Law: Even thine own servant—who has long delighted himself in thy precepts and made them known to others—even HE findeth warning in them; lest, through inattention or over-confidence, he should insensibly or presumptuously fall into the error of the wicked. Thus admonished and restrained, he can bear witness that in keeping them the reward is great.

As if now moved to a searching of heart, the psalmist abruptly exclaims: Mistakes who perceiveth? By the emphasis he throws on the word “mistakes” through boldly preplacing it, he calls pointed attention to the precise nature of the failures of which he is thinking. Of course he is keeping within the general limits of practical “mistakes,” errors of conduct in doing or leaving undone, as alone worthy of notice here; but in thus calling attention to their exact character, he throws his mind back on this as the essence of them, that, being genuine “mistakes,” they are of course unperceived, or they would not be “mistakes”; and then the disturbing question arises: “How often may I not have unwittingly done wrong? For ‘wrong,’ after all, was the doing of the thing graciously forbidden, or the leaving undone of the thing graciously commanded. It was ‘wrong’ all the same—though I noted it not: the ‘law’ was transgressed, and my ‘soul’ lost its ‘refreshing.’” And so on, along the interminable line of sins of ignorance, which yet are sins. And therefore the psalmist is moved to pray the first prayer of the psalm: from concealed things (understand, “SUCH concealed things, concealed from myself by error or inadvertence,” otherwise they might still have been presumptuous though “concealed” from others) acquit me. What a searching lesson for us all!

Carelessness, in not noticing or remembering Divine Law, may lead to indifference as to heeding it when known and remembered; and thus sins of ignorance suggest sins of knowledge and daring; and behind even these the impulse to commit them may be strong, the temptation great; and then Divine restraint will be needed and is here earnestly sought—how earnestly, is seen by observing how aptly the petitioner reminds himself that he is Jehovah’s servant—and therefore bound by every tie thrown about him by his Master’s favour,—and by observing how seasonably he calls to mind that presumptuous sins, if not sternly checked, will assume dominion over him. No wonder that, with an evident sense of relief, a mind thus happily sensitive should exclaim: Then—acquitted from unwitting sins and restrained from presumptuous sins—shall I be perfect—not indeed in degree, but in whole-heartedness, and be cleared of great transgression.

Most appropriately is this last stanza of the psalm concluded by the unique prayer—in which surely even the holy men of today may join, at a long distance behind those holy men of old—accepted be the sayings of my mouth—which are here set forth as “pruned” to suit the strings of my lyre, and the soft utterance—the tenative soliloquising—of my heart—on mine own ear while constructing this my poem: Before thee, continually (surely the recording angel made a memorandum of them all!) O Jehovah—thou God of covenant grace—my Rock of strength and confidence, and my Redeemer—from sin, sorrow and death.

There is little need to say, that reasonable latitude should be given to the inscription To David. So long as the Royal Librarian felt justified in thus marking a psalm, the ends of literary justice and working convenience were met. A psalm may have been written by one of David’s prophetic scribes or singers; yet, if offered to his royal master, and examined and approved by him, it would naturally be regarded strictly Davidic, and be fittingly deposited in the department of the library set apart to David’s psalms. Notwithstanding all this, there would seem to be a peculiar poetic justice in attributing the first part of this psalm to David himself. The shepherd of Bethlehem was as familiar with the sun as with moon and stars; and having, in the leisure hours of his pastoral duties, oft marked the freshness of the sun in his rising, the triumphant valour of his unwearied way, the vast sweep of his daily circuit, the searching energy of his penetrating heat, and the calm majesty of his nightly retirement to his tent,—who so likely among psalmists as he, to have penned this snatch of song in his praise? The poetic justice lies in cherishing the conception that he who harped to the moon and the stars in Psalms 8 was the likeliest man to be allowed to sweep his strings to the sun in Psalms 19. It has been remarked, in the above Exposition, that even this snatch of song to the sun possesses a closely welded unity. Nevertheless, its ending is abrupt, and if it stood alone, must, as a psalm, have been pronounced unfinished. This apprehension is at once appeased by the theory of co-authorship.

What the original ending of the sun-stanzas may have been, we know not; but the hypothesis is an easy one, that it had in it some local or temporal element which could be spared for the worthy purpose of making way for a second part. And then, as to the authorship of that second part, who so likely as Hezekiah to have composed it? With the passionate love for the law and for the temple and for the functions of priests and Levites which history attributes to him; with the leisure and the culture which as a prince naturally fell to his lot; and with the high poetic genius which, from Isaiah 38, we know he possessed;—who so likely in all history as he, to have wedded this Law-Bride to that Sun-Bridegroom? Besides, the segments of truth are formed for cohesion; and the poet who penned the second part of this psalm, is the likeliest man whose shadow has ever been seen, to have possessed in himself and been able to command in gifted associates, the constellation of sanctified genius adequate, under Divine guidance, to the production of that literary marvel, Psalms 119,—after which it is but little to say, that, of course, he also wrote our present Psalms 1. Thus, another chain of unity at an early date, is forged for binding together The Song Book of all coming ages. “The king whose delight it was to speak of ‘the Maker of heaven and earth’ (Isaiah 37:16; Psalms 121:2); and who encouraged the priests and Levites in their devotion to the Law of the Lord (2 Chronicles 31:4), would readily adopt (and expand) this poem of David’s”—Thirtle, O.T.P., 314.

People and Government For God

Psalm 20 – Psalm 21

Brent Kercheville


Psalms 20 and Psalms 21 are different than other psalms we have studied thus far, in that they were designed to be sung by the Jewish people on behalf of their king and nation. Therefore, as we read this psalm we must place ourselves in the mind and culture of Jews who were led by a king like David or Solomon. This psalm is written under the assumption that the ruling king is a good, righteous king, one that would follow the example of David being a man after God’s own heart.

One reason that we know that this psalm was written for the Jewish people to sing is the change of the subject from “my” to “we.” In Psalms 19 we see David saying “may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalms 19:14). Notice how David uses the word “my” repeatedly throughout the psalm. However, in Psalms 20 we see the psalm written in the tone of “us” and “we” (Psalms 20:5; Psalms 20:7-9).

Psalms 20 is the people’s prayer and Psalms 21 acknowledges God’s answered prayer. In light of this, we will consider both psalms in this study since these two seem to be so closely connected.

Concerning The King, Pray For (Psalms 20:1-5)

The people’s prayer

As we begin this psalm we must notice the key word “may.” Six times in the first five verses a sentence or thought begins with the word “may.” These are the requests of the people before God. However, you will notice that these are more than the requests of the people to God. In fact, these are words which are directed more to the king than to God. It is as if the people are informing the king about what they are requesting and desiring of God to do for the king.

Here are the six requests of the people concerning the king:

(1) May God answer the king in his distress,

(2) may God protect the king,

(3) may God send the king help and grant support,

(4) may God remember the king’s sacrifices and accept the offerings,

(5) may God give the king what his heart desires and all his plans succeed, and

(6) may God grant all your requests.

There are some other striking images to consider before we simply move on from these six requests. As we noted in the beginning, we must assume the king is a godly man, a man of prayer, and a devout man. We see images of the king offering sacrifices and making righteous petitions for the people.


How important it is to have a godly leader over a nation! In this psalm we see the benefits of having a godly man who, in this context, is making sacrifices and offerings to God on behalf of his nation. The man is seeking the best interests of the people whom he rules over.

It is amazing to consider that there was a time when our country’s leaders were motivated by spiritual and religious considerations. Many of the founding fathers not only believed in God but practiced their belief in their political decisions. Is it so much for us to ask today from our leaders!

I am not one who likes to combine politics and the word of God. But here we see two psalms where such are combined. As we people we need to demand leaders who are godly. We should desire to see men who are seeking after God. While we may not find men who doctrinally accurate concerning many areas of the scriptures, we should at the very least long for people who will make decisions based upon the morality and spiritually of the word of God.

What is even more frustrating is the number of Christians who do not care about the moral character of our leaders and will vote based upon other ideologies. We live in a republic in which we can choose the people who represent us in government. Is it not our duty to seek out a man whose moral and virtues closely mirror the character of God? Should we not be voting for people based upon their moral integrity and not based upon tax cuts, health care options, or social security? In Psalms 20 we see a people who are praying for a leader who is seeking after God.

While for us that may mean “the lesser of two evils,” let us certainly choose the one who is the lesser. Do we not see such a choice will lead to the longevity of our nation? Consider the difference between Israel and Judah: Israel was destroyed after a short 200 year existence because they had no good kings. Judah lasted longer because leaders would rise up and reform the people to God.

Why would we support men who take a stand that murder is legal to unborn children? Why would we support men who would use their power to continue to strip God out of this country? Very few men come along who are dedicated to the Lord, but when they do come, we ought to support them regardless of party or ideological position. We want to support godly men.

Truths From Godly Leaders (Psalms 20:6-9)

The Lord saves His anointed

We can know that God protect His anointed. Those who would truly follow after God and be our leaders will be supported by God. God has appointed the governments of the world and will raise up the godly and destroy the wicked. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For these is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).

We know the scriptures teach that the prayer of the righteous avails much. What good is it to have an immoral man as our leader in the time of distress and trouble? The prayer of the immoral leader will not be heard by God. But those who are godly and truly seeking after God, we see the people say with confidence, “now I know that the Lord saved His anointed.”

Trust in God, not the power of the nation

How foolish it is to wholly trust in our nation. The nation stands or falls by the power of God. We must put our trust in God and in God alone. I am afraid in the midst of our patriotism and love for this country that we can forget where our true citizenship lies. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).

Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses. In our language today, we would say that some trust in our armies, our weapons, and our military might. But we need to trust in the Lord. The reason we exist as a power in this world is by God’s great mercy and good pleasure, not by our power or might. If we continue to trust in ourselves, we will be brought to our knees and fall (vs. 8). However, if we as a nation will turn from our wicked ways, we will rise up and stand firm. As Christians we need to lead the spiritual revolution in this country. The revolution will not take place by joining political parties or special interest groups. Change will only take place when we are doing the work of saving souls.

Transition: Psalms 21 is the answer and proof of the hope the people had in their leader who was trusting in God.

Answered Prayer

Rejoicing because of answered prayer

Not only do we see in these two psalms that we have the right to pray for our leaders and our nation in a corporate setting as we are gathered together, but we also see that God will answer our prayers concerning these matters. The first verse of Psalms 21 is the expression of joy to God who has answered their requests concerning the king and nation.

God has granted the desire of the king’s heart and God has placed the crown on the king and given him length of days. God has given the nation great victories and granted beautiful blessings.

Psalms 21:7 is the key to this psalm, I believe. “For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.” Can any of us reading these passages dare suggest that godly leadership in our nation and within our government is not important? All of these prayers came to pass and blessings came upon the nation because the king trusted in the Lord. What does that say to us about who we choose to be our leaders? Again, I ask that we consider godly character and not consider insurance plans or war extraction methods! Therefore, we do not vote based upon party lines or endorsements. We must select our laws and our leaders based upon God’s standards and none other.

Need for national thanksgiving

We also learn from this psalm the need for our nation to be thankful for all that God has already provided. From the very beginning, God granted us a nation that would be free to worship God, not according to the dictation of one denomination or religious group, but that all would be free to seek after God.

Too often, just like people, nations forget to thank God. It is interesting to me that a government which continues to strive against the will of God, the morality of God, and commands of God would stand of the steps of the Capitol Building singing “God Bless America” after the September 11th tragedy. Should we not return to those steps and thank God for preventing other attacks and disasters upon our people? Should we not return to the steps and thank God for blessing America with the prosperity we continue to enjoy? Again, this reform will only come when we are saving souls and not by any other type of campaign.

Reminder of God’s power

As we come into Psalms 21:8, there is debate as to who is the subject, whether the psalmist is speaking of the king or the Lord. I will allow you to make your own decision as you read this section. I will proceed as if this is speaking of the works of the Lord, since such a view seems more appropriate.

If this is referring to the Lord, then we are reminded as to why we need to be thankful and prayerful to God concerning our leaders and our nation. God will lay hold of the enemies, seizing them by His right hand, and consume them like a fiery furnace. The wrath of the Lord will swallow them up. This is the case that we see in history. As nations turn away from God, God raises up other nations for their destruction. The Canaanite people were destroyed for their sins by the Israelites. The northern nation of Israel was destroyed by Assyria because of their sins. The southern nation of Judah was destroyed by Babylon for their sins. Assyria was destroyed by Babylon for their sins according to Nahum. Babylon was destroyed by Persia for their iniquities, according to Daniel. In like manner Persia fell to Greece and Greece fell to Rome because of sins. Revelation tells us that Rome would fall because of their iniquities. This is the working justice of God in this world and among the governments.


Lest we believe we have taken any of this material out of context or believe that these principles only apply to the days of the old covenant, turn to 1 Timothy 2:1-4. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Paul urged us to make these kinds of requests and pleas before God. Paul urged us to offer our thanksgivings to God because of our leaders and our government. In fact, Paul said these things are pleasing in the sight of God.

Let us do our part in two regards. First, let us truly keep our leaders in our prayers. Let us pray for the spiritual restoration of this nation. Let us be thankful the continued blessings which God has bestowed upon this country through which we enjoy. Second, let us do our part to maintain these blessings by supporting godly men who truly trust in God and do not simply say the words. Do their actions reflect godliness? Will they make decisions based upon godliness? These are important areas we must determine so that our nation will continue to be under God.



This psalm and the next, pair well together. The occasion of them (in the present form), was, in all probability, the peril and deliverance of King Jehoshaphat as recorded in 2 Oh. 20. “The victory of Jehoshaphat in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, cf. 2 Chronicles 20, gives us a most appropriate historical situation; and the promise of victory, given by the prophet, gives an appropriate explanation of the change from petition to certitude in the two parts of the psalm”—Briggs. It is observable that whereas the prayer had been that Jehovah would send help out of the sanctuary, the assurance, later on, traces the victory to the holy heavens as its source. There is in reality no contradiction between the two. representations: king and people were already assembled “in the house of Jehovah, before the new court,” when Jahaziel a Levite, and therefore a servant of the sanctuary, stood forth in the midst of the convocation; and, with the spirit of prophecy upon him, gave the people a Divine assurance of victory. It was rightly felt that this assurance came direct from heaven, as also the signal deliverance which on the next day became an accomplished fact. “For if God then condescended to dwell in visible glory among men, yet He would teach his people that he is not limited by the bounds of time and space”—Perowne. “This turning toward heaven is not inconsistent with the previous turning toward the sanctuary as the source of help, for the conception of theophanic residence in sacred places on earth, did not from the earliest times of the Hebrew religion, lead them away from the thought that the real residence of Yahweh was in heaven”—Briggs.

Notwithstanding the opinion expressed above that Psalms 20, 21, “in their present form,” commemorate primarily the peril and deliverance of King Jehoshaphat, both psalms in their original form may have come from David, and may have had special reference to Solomon. From these assumptions, it becomes all the more striking to note how well their main characteristics suit Hezekiah also. “The words were a timely prayer for Hezekiah, in whose reign Psalms 20:7-9 were added (note the plural number predominating in the pronouns here)”—Thirtle, O.T.P., 314.

Psalms 20, 21 are a pair: both are Battle Songs; the twentieth precedes the encounter, the twenty-first follows it; the one is prayer and the other is praise; the one anticipates, and the other reflects. Each of them is in two parts, and taken together present an inverted parallelism. In 20, in the main, the People speak first (Psalms 20:1-5), then the King (Psalms 20:6-8); and in 21, the King speaks first (Psalms 20:1-7), and then the People (Psalms 20:8-9). Read the two Psalms now, with this in mind, and remember, the battle takes place between them.

Both Psalms fit the time of David, and both in their deepest sense are Messianic, and point to Him Who cannot but be victorious at last over all that opposes His Throne. Psalms 20:1-5 are the address of the people to their king, and it is worthy of notice that their confidence is not in the king’s strength, skill, or past successes, but in Jehovah, the “God of Jacob.” The psalmist does not speak of “the God of Abram”; that would have been less encouraging, for Abram was so great in faith that we feel far removed from him, but we all are more on Jacob’s level. Warfare and worship should go together (Psalms 20:3); he who does not sacrifice is not likely to succeed. The LORD will fulfil our petitions when they are on this note and in this vein (Psalms 20:5).

To this desire of the people the king replies (Psalms 20:6-8, or in Psalms 20:6 only, if Psalms 20:7-9 be attributed to the people). They had asked for help from Zion (Psalms 20:2), but the king looks higher up, to heaven (Psalms 20:6). God acts when His people pray. “A whisper may start an avalanche.” Impotence can set Omnipotence in motion. The “Name of the LORD our God” is opposed to the enemies, chariots and horses. “What’s in a name?” It depends upon whose name it is. Nothing can successfully oppose the NAME OF THE LORD.

The address to the earthly king in Psalms 20:1-5 rises to an appeal to the heavenly King in Psalms 20:9. Now for the battle which is not recorded, his, yours, mine!

Thought: Always kneel before you, fight.



The temptation to declare this psalm to be simply a Coronation Psalm, to which some expositors have yielded, is obvious. On closer examination, however, it will probably be found that a more satisfactory view of the setting and scope of the whole psalm can be obtained by regarding the reference to coronation as incidental to the more general conception of reign. A recent victory restores the lustre of a reign which had become beclouded by the invasion of foes: this very naturally brings up a reminiscence of the high hopes with which the reign was begun. The king then became Jehovah’s vicegerent; for Jehovah crowned him. Aspiring to rule well, as every dutiful Son of David must,—he naturally desired to rule long; in which desire his people loyally united, apprehensive of the evils of succession and change. Hence sprang the coronation greeting, May the King live! How long? Who could think of assigning a limit? Nay, may the king live for ever! as long as ever Jehovah please: loyalty declines to assign a limit. Besides, who knows when King Messiah shall come? Who can ever tell whether this Heir to the Throne may not be He? and who knows whether the Heir Himself, breathing such an atmosphere, may not have conceived the incipient wish that it might be himself? Dim, visionary, yet withal dazzling,—the wish may have been father to the prayer: Life he ask of thee, to which he felt no need to assign an end—life, only life! The spirit of the Messiah, working in the psalmist, carries him out of himself. It has not been revealed to the psalmist who will be the Messiah. But, in language vaguely and benevolently suited to any Son of David, yet strictly applicable only to the Son of David, he adds:—thou gavest it him, Length of days, ‘olam wa-edh, age-abidingly and beyond. From this point onward the radiance of a Messianic light rests on the psalm. It is King David or King Jehoshaphat who sits yonder, but on him rests a light from afar, not his own. Through the type, we catch glimpses of the Antitype.

While abiding by the dominant view of authorship appended to the preceding psalm, hearty consent may be accorded to the following judgment:—“When, in after times, the prosperity of Hezekiah was celebrated in the Temple worship, this psalm was singularly appropriate. Whether by adaptation or not, Psalms 21:4 had a special meaning when spoken of him; and Psalms 21:11-12 tell of the Assyrian army and its destruction”—Thirtle, O.T.P., 314–15.

The Prophecy of the Suffering Christ

Psalms 22:1-31

Brent Kercheville


Psalms 22 is perhaps one of the more fascinating psalms composed in this song collection. There is quite a bit of debate whether this psalm refers to the Christ or not. It is amazing to me that there is even such a discussion.

The scriptures should vanquish any question we have as to whether this is referring to the Christ. The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalms 22:22 in Hebrews 2:12 and applies to the sufferings of Christ. This should be enough for us to know that this psalm was speaking about the Christ. If this were not enough, as we read the psalm notice how many points are indirectly quoted or referred to in the New Testament when Jesus is in the midst of His suffering in arrest, trial, and crucifixion. These also should be weighty evidences that cause us to believe that Psalms 22 is referring to Christ. The only question that I believe is worthy of debate is this: does Psalms 22 refer at all to David himself or strictly to the coming Messiah? Many psalms have a double image where David is not only referring to the things he is going through, but is also predicting and prophesying about what would happen to the Christ. In other psalms, David is merely talking about his own experiences. But we must also realize that David is called a prophet by Peter (Acts 2:30) and may not be speaking about himself at all, but only prophesying of the Messiah to come. I believe this is what David is doing in this psalm. None of the information we read in this psalm can be found historically as events in David’s life. But these events can be found in the suffering of the Christ.

As we read this psalm it is important that we see the repeated contrasts the psalmist utters between what he feels versus what he knows to be the truth. If we miss these contrasts then we will easily misapply these words to Jesus and attribute a false doctrine that the psalmist did not intend.

Suffering Yet Calling For Deliverance

Jesus’ quoted (Psalms 22:1-2)

As we read the first verse we immediately recognize that Jesus uttered these words while on the cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). This statement has allowed many expositors to take some liberties with the statement to suggest that God the Father turned His back on the Son of God. It is usually stated like this: Jesus was bearing the sins of the people while on the cross. Since the Father can have no fellowship with sin, God had to turn His back on the Son, severing fellowship with Him. This is the reason why Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” The sun turned to darkness to show the separation between the Father and the Son as the Father His favor and glory away from the earth during this horrible act.

Besides the scriptures teaching us that Jesus bore our sins, the scriptures make no references concerning the rest of this fanciful theory. Simply because the first point is true concerning Jesus carrying away our sins, the rest of the points made are not logical conclusions and, in fact, violate other plain passages. Jesus said the Father would never forsake Him. “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29). “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32). Jesus clearly stated He would not be left alone or forsaken by the Father, even though the disciples forsook Jesus and fled. If you open your song books to the Hymn ‘Tis Midnight, And On Olive’s Brow, please notice the third verse: ’tis midnight, and for others’ guilt the Man of Sorrows weeps in blood; yet He that hath in anguish knelt is not forsaken by His God. We even have a song that teaches that Jesus was not forsaken. While this song is certainly not inspired, we must realize that this statement contradicts the common understanding in the religious that Jesus was forsaken by God.

If Jesus was not forsaken by the Father, since He told His disciples He would not, why did Jesus say the words “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It seems that the clear answer is that Jesus is quoting this psalm. By quoting the very first line, the Jewish listeners who watched Jesus die would have immediately thought of this psalm and the message it contained. As we already mentioned, this is a messianic psalm and Jesus is drawing his listeners to apply this psalm to Him. Therefore, whatever message is contained is this psalm is the point Jesus wanted His listeners and onlookers to remember and learn. It is our duty to explore this psalm carefully for its clear message so we can fully and correctly understand that Jesus was teaching from the cross and wanted His audience to learn.

Contrast #1: Feeling forsaken, yet still trusting (Psalms 22:1-5)

The first two verses of this psalm exclaiming the feeling of being forsaken. Day and night he is crying out to God and God does not seem to answer. It is a time when God feels distant from hearing the words of his groaning and from saving him.

But Psalms 22:3-5 is offering the contrast to this feeling of being forsaken. Though he feels forsaken at the time, he still has put his trust in the Lord. Here we see a total dependence on God to deliver. There are two reasons for this hope. First, God is holy. God is separate from others and is worthy of trust due to His holiness. God is not one who acts like common man and breaks promises. God is holy and righteous and worthy of our trust.

The second reason to trust in God is because God has delivered in the past. The fathers put their trust in God and God delivered them. They cried out to God and God saved them. When they trusted in God they were not disappointed. The proof of this point can easily been seen in the book of Judges. When the people in the days of the judges cried out to God for help and deliverance, God would respond by sending a leader to the people who would deliver them from their oppressors. While feeling distant from the Father, the Son of God knew that deliverance would come to Him, just as the Father had delivered in the past.

Contrast #2: Enduring suffering, yet you are always my God (Psalms 22:6-11)

Now the suffering and mockery is described. The treatment of Jesus was like that of a despicable worm. There was no human decency afforded to Him. Psalms 22:7-8 are clearly fulfilled in Matthew 27:39-44. In fact the very words “He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue Him; let Him deliver Him since He delights in Him” are uttered by the chief priests, scribes, and elders.

Despite this mockery and suffering, He has trusted in the Lord from the very beginning. The imagery used is beautiful as a newborn baby trusts in his or her mother for milk, so also the Son of God has complete confidence in God to deliver and provide for Him.

Therefore, His cry goes out again that since trouble is near and there is no one to help that the Lord be not far from Him. As we know and mentioned earlier, the disciples forsook Jesus and fled. There was no one to stand beside Jesus as He endured the false trials of the Jews and Pilate, the scourging, and the crucifixion. No one would come to Jesus’ side and protect Him from what was happening. Therefore, the cry is made for the Lord to remain near Him because no one else is near.

Contrast #3: Crucified, yet still looking for deliverance (Psalms 22:12-21)

Things go from bad to worse in our third movement in this psalm. The end is near for Jesus. The enemies have surrounded him and the lions have their mouths open ready to devour their prey.

But the agony continues as death approaches. He is poured out like water and his heart has melted away from within him. His strength is dried up and his tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth. Notice the last line of Psalms 22:15, “You lay me in the dust of death.” This verse shows the imminent reality of death. Psalms 22:16 describes our Lord’s crucifixion “they have pierced my hands and my feet.”

Lest we think that we have stretched this psalm too far in applying it to Jesus, we are here clearly reminded that this must be prophesying of Jesus. David did not experience these things but Jesus did. Yet another proof is found in Psalms 22:18 which is fulfilled in John 19:23-24 as the soldiers cast lots for the garments of Jesus.

But in spite of staring at the sure face of death, again Jesus is trusting in God’s deliverance in Psalms 22:19-21. Here we read him calling to the Lord for help and deliverance from the sword and the enemies. Then we come across four amazing words in the midst of this plea to God. Psalms 22:21 says, “You have answered Me.” This becomes the turning point of the psalm. After contrasting the way he felt which was distant, alone, and forsaken, we now see his trust in the Lord was not unfounded. God now comes through and deliverance. This deliverance is found in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. He has been delivered from his enemies and from the sword. The resurrection was the conquering of Satan, conquering of evil, conquering of sin, and conquering of all who would stand against him.

Praising God For Deliverance

Praise for remaining with him (Psalms 22:21-24)

As we mentioned at the beginning of the lesson, Psalms 22:22 is quoted in Hebrews 2:12. The argument that the writer of Hebrews presents is really the beauty of this passage. The obvious understanding is that He would declare the praises of God among the congregation and the brethren. But there is a subtle point that the writer of Hebrews keys upon.

“I will declare Your name to My brethren.” We are called brothers and sisters with Jesus. Jesus has taken possession of us to say that we are His brothers and sisters. This is describing a beautiful family relationship just as we would speak of our brothers and sisters in the flesh. We are His brothers and sisters in the spirit through the death of Jesus, which reconciled us to God. Our Lord Jesus Christ does not describe us as slaves or servants, which we are, but as brethren. Jesus is saying to each of us that when we are with Him, we are in an intimate close relationship with Him.

Therefore, everyone needs to fear the Lord and give Him the praise He deserves. Consider the reason that all should rejoice, glory, and fear: “Because He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard.” There is so much that is stated in this verse that we must consider.

God does not despise or refuse to listen when we are afflicted. God does not look upon us with scorn when we carry our afflictions to Him and ask for help and deliverance. Our God is the Father who wants to help in our times of need. God is the loving Father who waits for us to ask Him for help and then offers assistance to us.

Even further, He has not hidden His face from Him. This sentence clearly tells us that God did not turn His back on Jesus while He was suffering on the cross. Though Jesus was in the midst of a time when He may have felt forsaken and it appeared He was forsaken and cursed by hanging on a tree, God never turned His face from His Son. When He cried to Him, He heard. God would never turn His back on His children, especially the only beloved and begotten Son. To suggest that God turned His back on the Son is to deny Psalms 22:24 of this psalm and the words of Jesus in the gospel of John. God was with His Son the whole time, though others had forsaken Him.

This is the central message of this psalm. We may feel forsaken by the Lord. We may be to the brink of death and in need of deliverance. We may be crying out for God to answer our prayers and feel the Lord is far from our groaning. But God is with us all along. God does not despise the afflicted and does not turn His back or hide His face from those who cry out to Him.

I believe this is the reason why Jesus said the first verse of Psalms 22 on the cross, crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me.” Jesus was applying this psalm to Himself. He is the promised Messiah and is calling on the Jewish people to remember that it had been prophesied that the Messiah would suffer. So great would the suffering be that it would seem that God had forsaken Him. But His deliverance was about to come when He would be delivered from the sword through His resurrection.

Submit to the rule of God (Psalms 22:25-31)

In light of this knowledge that God has delivered His Messiah from death, all need to worship and bow down to Him. He rules over the nations and has established His kingdom over all peoples of the earth. Every knee must bow, including the prosperous and those who have already died. No one is exempt from standing before the Christ in judgment and bowing down before Him. Further, those in the future will continue to serve Jesus. The mighty acts of God will continue to be remembered and recounted through the generations.

The psalm ends with the statement, “That He has done this.” The word “this” is actually not in the original manuscripts but supplied by the translators to try to give clarity to the passage. Therefore the wording is “He is done” or “it is done.” The last words of this psalm were the last words of Jesus on the cross “it is done” or “it is finished.” Psalms 22 was being fulfilled before the very eyes of the Jewish nation while Jesus was on the cross. Through the death of Christ, the kingdom of God would be establish, Satan would be conquered, sins would be forgiven, and reconciliation would be offered to all the world.

Final Lessons- Reasons for Confidence:

1. God has delivered in the past.

2. God answers prayer.

3. God will not forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).



The Mysterious Forsaken Sufferer of this psalm appears to be AN INDIVIDUAL: seeing that, in the course of his loud lamentation, he distinctly alludes to his mouth, palate, tongue, gums, heart, bones, and clothing; looks back to his childhood and forward to his death.

HIS SITUATION is indicated with circumstantial minuteness, He is exposed to public view; for he refers to all who see him. He is fixed to one spot; for his enemies gather round him. He has been deprived of his clothing; for he can count his own bones, shrinks from the vulgar gaze as men look for and behold him, and sees his garments distributed to others. He has, moreover, been subjected to at least one form of bodily violence; for his enemies have bored through his hands and his feet. And finally, inasmuch as such as would see him, both look for and gaze upon him, it may not unnaturally be surmised that either he has companions in suffering from whom visitors to the spot would desire to distinguish him, or else darkness has gathered, making it difficult to descry him.

He is either absolutely FRIENDLESS, or his friends are so few and feeble that they do not count, being powerless to help him: hence his repeated cries for Divine pity and succor. Nevertheless, strange to say, he has brethren somewhere in the background, numbering a large assembly; but these come not into view until his sufferings are ended.

His ENEMIES are many. MANKIND in general reproach him: his own people despise him: beholders deride him with scornful gestures and taunting words. The gathered throng of his foes appears large and threatening, formidable and fierce: he compares them to bulls, wild and gigantic—each as a lion rending and roaring; and either the same or others he likens to dogs, fierce, foul and mean, united into a pack large enough to close in about him. Moreover, the sword of authority appears in their midst. His life is threatened on every hand.

Meanwhile his SUFFERINGS are intense and prolonged. His body is so distended that his bones are dislocated; his mouth is parched with thirst, his strength flows away like water, his physical courage fails like melting wax. His mind, sensitive to the shame of his exposure and to the cruel taunts of his enemies, struggles bravely to maintain its confidence in God: the deepest distress of all being that HE seems to be far away, and to be slow to rescue,—incessant crying to Him day and night bringing no answer.

The PRIMARY CAUSE of suffering is implied rather than expressed. Reverently keeping to what is actually before us, in our search for what is implied,—the answer appears to be at once simple and sufficient. The mental anguish so strongly indicated is due to the Divine permission that he, the Sufferer, should thus fall into the hands of his enemies; and that his God should be so long in coming to his rescue. The Sufferer feels himself to be forsaken, or, rather, that his God has failed him—THAT is in evidence. His enemies have got him into their power—THAT too is in evidence. Psalms 22:11 suggests a connection between the two; and Psalms 22:19-21 confirm it. The Divine forsaking consists in leaving him thus to fall into his enemies’ hands. The converse, prayed for, shows this. These verses (Psalms 22:11; Psalms 22:19-21) say, in effect: “Return, come near; and rescue me from the sword, from the dog, from the lion, from the wild-ox”; thereby implying that it was God’s withdrawing land holding aloof, that delivered him into the power of these his enemies. The Divine withdrawing, the Divine holding aloof,—THIS was the Divine failure. So much is in evidence. And this is sufficient. We have no need, no right, to seek for more. It is sufficient. Are we to say, it is not sufficiently mysterious? As surely as we do say this, we show how completely we fail to enter into the position of the Sufferer. It is painfully mysterious to him, to be at all allowed to fall into his enemies’ hands. The fathers had trusted, and always been delivered: HE has trusted, and NOT been delivered: herein lies the mystery—herein the chief pain—the agony—continued—oh! so long!

The SUDDEN CLOSE of the suffering is very remarkable. It is that in any case: whether, strictly adhering to the M.T., we get the break in the form and by the force of a single word, in a new strain, at the end of line 6 in stanza V (lit., thou hast answered me); or whether, by a slight modification of the M.T., helped out by the Sep., we become aware of the change, not by a single word, but by the dramatic force of a sudden breaking off of the one stanza and the commencement of another in a new key. In either case, the fact remains, that all at once the strain of sorrow ceases; and, when it ceases, it ceases altogether: there is absolutely no recurrence of pain, no trace further of a single sob. It cannot be doubted that it is the same voice which thus suddenly breaks out in praise; for the metre is the same, the direct address to Jehovah is the same, and—allowing for the change of tone—the theme is the same: the lament has been, “He hath not heard”; the joy now is, “He hath heard.” Moreover, as if to make this point clear, the very terms of the announcement which the late Sufferer now makes to his brethren, bear upon them vivid reminiscences of the shame and pain through which he has passed: by man he had been detested, and deeply humbled. God had hid his face, and he the Sufferer had cried for help. Now all is changed; and by every sign of continuity of speech we are warranted to rest in the conclusion, that it is the same voice that tells us the joyful news.

A mystery at present hangs over the assembly in or from which the triumph shall be sounded forth; but no ambiguity rests on the language then and there to be employed. According to a classification with which we have become familiar in our study of Hebrew Poetry, we can detect Gentile worshippers in the phrase—Ye that revere Jehovah, and the parallel phrases seed of Jacob, seed of Israel are too plain in their application to the Hebrew nation to leave room for a moment’s doubt. So that we are here met with the rousing prospect that the Delivered Sufferer will announce his deliverance as a fact of deep interest to the world at large as thus represented. It looks, indeed, as though, to his own nation, the announcement would be more profoundly moving than even to the Gentile world; seeing that, while Gentile worshippers are simply called upon to praise Jehovah for this his interposition in behalf of the Sufferer, the seed of Jacob are called upon not only to glorify him, but to stand in awe of his holy majesty, for this story of his doings.

As the sixth stanza completes the first part of the psalm, and to all appearance other voices now carry on the psalm to its conclusion, the present seems a convenient point at which to raise the broad question of FULFILMENT: Who is this Mysterious Sufferer?

We took care to remark, at the beginning of our exposition, that the Sufferer appears to be an INDIVIDUAL; and no doubt this impression ought to be left undisturbed until something more likely can be suggested; until it can be shown that, though he so appears, yet this is but the allegorical dress in which the prediction is adorned; and that the seeming individual is, after all, a larger or a smaller group of individuals—a nation or a remnant of a nation. Now it may be frankly allowed, that there is no prima-facie impossibility in this. Nevertheless, every psalm, every representation in the psalms, must be considered on its own merits. This sufferer cannot be the nation, because he is distinguished from the nation—despised of a people. But may he not be a Suffering Remnant of the nation? At first sight, this appears possible; but then what sort of remnant would this be? If not a sinless remnant, at all events it is one that here makes no confession of sin. Besides, if it is a remnant that suffers, it must also be a remnant that is delivered, and declare Jehovah’s name in an assembly: all of which goes to show how unnatural it is to see in this individual a number of individuals. A remnant may indeed be delivered from further suffering; but to represent a remnant as declaring Jehovah’s name in an assembly is so incongruous as to suggest how much more simple and natural it is to adhere to literal individuality throughout this part of the psalm.

It is notorious that Christians see in this psalm a wonderfully vivid and realistic picture of the Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. In order to account for this, it is not necessary to hazard the opinion that anyone could have said before the event: “This sufferer in the psalm is evidently undergoing the horrors of crucifixion.” All that is necessary is to take the psalm as it is written, and the story of the crucifixion of Jesus as it is told in the four Gospels, to lay them side by side, and then to look first on the one picture and then on the other. Detail by detail, the striking similarity comes into view. There are—the outcry on the cross from the opening of the psalm, the mocking of the by-standers in the very. words that follow later on in the psalm, and the source of which those mockers must surely have forgotten; the parching thirst; the outstretched body; the cruel gaze of the assembled throng; the wounded hands and feet; the parted garments. As Dr. Briggs well says: “It seems to the Christian that the psalmist indeed gives a more vivid description of the sufferings of Christ on the cross than the authors of the Gospels.” Myriads of readers can attest that this is no exaggeration. It may be added, that there are less obvious harmonies, which, when perceived, deepen the impression of fulfillment. That suddenly interrupted stanza (like a broken column in a cemetery) eloquently suggests the hushing of the voice of Jesus in death. The sudden resumption of speech in tones of triumph: it may not even yet have been fulfilled in its full and ultimate intent for the assembly—that large assembly may not yet have been gathered; and yet, for all that, the Resurrection of Jesus, together with his renewed intercourse with his disciples; his promise, on parting, to return; the gradual formation of his assembly, his ecclesia; his own undying love for the seed of Israel:—all these serve to give a sense of spaciousness for complete and more than complete fulfillment, which leaves nothing to be desired.

It is little to confess, that we can only with the greatest difficulty begin to imagine, how an alphabet of thought for conceiving such a psalm as this, could have been communicated to any psalmist’s mind. That the suffering prophets of old were types of the coming suffering Messiah, we can well believe; that every phase of suffering here portrayed may have been already experienced in rudimentary forms, a little by one sufferer and a little by another, and then passed into a common stock of conceptions made ready for the actual writer of this part of the psalm, is also not impossible. Those conceptions may even have been vivified and intensified by an actual experience which converted the writer into a not unworthy type of the Suffering One; and yet after all have amounted to nothing more than a dim outline of the Reality. From this point of view, we can well believe that David wrote the earlier part of this psalm; if, at least, we admit with Delitzsch that “David descends with his complaints to a depth that lies beyond the depth of his suffering, and rises with his hopes to a height which lies beyond the height of the reward of his suffering,” so that “the hyperbolical element is thereby changed into the prophetical.” The ultimate product remains, in this Divinely illumined fore-sketch, offering a Spectacle of Jesus of Nazareth, suffering on the Cross, as a proof of Divine Foresight and Divine Skill,—which nothing that we can conceive can ever surpass for satisfying the judgment and moving the soul.

In advancing to Part II. of this psalm, attention is called to the circumstance that careful regard to expert critical judgment on a few nice points, some obvious difficulties have been removed and the whole presented with a striking measure of symmetry and brightness. Of difficulties, may be mentioned this: That however suitable it may appear that the humble should now eat and be satisfied (Psalms 22:26), it is by no means so acceptable to be told (Psalms 22:29) that the already “fat” shall eat as well as worship. This incongruity is at once removed, simply by a different grouping of letters, as advised by Ginsburg. Then if we render vigorous instead of “fat” as suggested by O.G. we get a fine strong line, forming a good contrast with that which follows it:—

Yea to him will bow down all the vigorous of the earth,

Before him will kneel all who were descending to dust.

Not who “go down,” with A.V. and R.V.; but, as the participle may just as well be rendered, who were going down or descending; which makes all the difference, since their progress downwards to the dust is suddenly arrested. These emendations prepare the way for another. For how is any helpful sense discovered by the next clause thrown in by the A.V.; “And none can keep alive his own soul”? Whether left just so, or even slightly altered by the R.V.: “Even he that cannot keep his soul alive,” it sounds quite as much like a burlesque as any advance of thought in the main line of the psalm: inasmuch as it seems to say, “They may worship, but still they have to die all the same.” Whereas, by accepting a hint from the Septuagint; and another from Psalms 22:26, which is crowned by a quotation; and yet another which Dr. Ginsburg had already given us, My seed;—we obtain a splendid refrain to this little stanza also.

Yea, my own soul to him doth live—my seed shall serve him. Why! it is both literally and metaphorically, “life from the dead”! Thus, in getting rid of difficulties, a second quotation, serving as a refrain, appears, and puts us on scent for a third (Psalms 22:28) and a fourth (Psalms 22:31). For we have only to bear in mind that the Hebrew has no quotation marks, and is reluctant even to employ the word “saying”; and then to reflect that when men bow down they are apt to have words of worship on their lips, to become satisfied that Psalms 22:28 is composed of quoted words; and a magnificent refrain it makes for the families of the nations unto the ends of the earth to utter. In like manner, when generation after generation tells and declares something to posterity of which it is glad, it can generally find words, however simple, in which to express it; and so, once more, we hear herald voices exclaiming in honour of earth’s King:—

He hath done it! He hath done it!

Those who, with a view to the thorough understanding of Part II. of this psalm, have thus minutely observed its peculiar structure—in contrast with all that had gone before,—will be prepared for our acquiescing in the judgment of Thirtle (O.T.P.), that the chief pant of the present conclusion of the psalm was penned by Hezekiah. Recalling the almost certain fact, that the bitterest ingredient in Hezekiah’s cup was the reflection that by his death his race would be extinguished, and the Royal Line of David would be buried with him, we feel that a new and thrilling interest invests the joyful exclamation which now crowns the last stanza but one of the psalm,—

Yea my own soul to him doth live—my seed shall serve him. This from the man who just before was rapidly descending to dust; whose own soul, instead of living, was on the point of dying; and who had no seed to succeed him!

The Shepherd Lord

Psalms 23:1-6

Brent Kercheville

What is your view of God? What is your concept of him? I think that most people have multiple concepts about God. Some in the world think of God as a genie in a bottle, convenient for me to give me what I want. Some see God like a busy dad — you can be yourself through the week, but you have to shape up on Sunday when he is home and paying attention to you. Even godly people can sometimes only focus on a single dimension on God. Some will focus only on his love. Some will focus on his wrath. Some will focus on his grace. Some will focus on his holiness. Psalms 23 gives us another dimension about God that is easily forgotten. David begins by saying, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Before we read this psalm, I want to consider why David would write this psalm. I believe the point is that it would build our trust in God and remind us of who he is. Further, as you read this psalm, I want you to listen to everything that the shepherd does for the sheep. You will notice that the sheep do not do anything but the shepherd is acting on behalf of the sheep. This whole psalm is about the Lord.

Our Shepherd Lord (Psalms 23:1)

Shepherd is a royal metaphor. Kings were often portrayed as shepherds (cf. 1 Kings 22:17; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Ezekiel 34:1-10; Song of Songs). But this is not only true in the scriptures, but also in ancient Near Eastern literature and writings. Tanner asserts that shepherd is a title that is synonymous for king (Tanner, 272). The Lord is our leader, teacher, and king. The Lord is my shepherd is a confession of faith. The Lord and no one else is my shepherd. No one else leads me. As Psalms 95:7 puts it, we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. If the Lord is our shepherd and we confess this truth, then we are also confessing that we are sheep and not the shepherd. We are not in charge and we are not taking the lead.

But this also speaks to the intimacy of the relationship we have with the Lord. It is so amazing that the God who created the heavens and earth, sea and dry land, who led Israel out of slavery in Egypt, this great and awesome God also cares for and shepherds the individual human. David is speaking of himself. The Lord, for all his glory, power, and wonder, is my shepherd.

I Lack Nothing (Psalms 23:1)

Notice the connection. When we submit our will to the Lord, putting our lives in his hands such that we are now simply the sheep and he is our shepherd, we lack nothing. There is a sufficiency that comes from our relationship with the shepherd. There is no deficiency in the Lord’s provision. David is not saying that he has no desires. Nor can David be saying that there are never difficulties, for we read many in his life. Rather, all his needs are supplied. He has satisfaction in the Lord. The secret to contentment is the Lord himself as your shepherd. What I have in the Lord is greater than what I do not have in life. What you have in your shepherd is greater than what you do not have in life. God is all you need. He provides for his people because he is your shepherd and you need nothing else.

The Quality of the Lord’s Provisions (Psalms 23:2-3)

David explores this concept further in verse 2 declaring that the quality of the Lord’s provisions are the best. In the scriptures, churning turbulent waters represent distress (Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 2