Job 1 Summary

Job 1 Summary

It might seem easy to trust God when your life is going well. But when life is relatively easy and everything is pleasant and there are no difficulties – is there really any trust required in that kind of situation?

When you find it easy to agree with everything that God is doing in your life, I think there’s not much opportunity to really trust – because everything makes sense in your finite mind.

It’s when trouble comes and pain is present and real in your life and when it looks like you’re loosing and when it seems that God even hates you because of what he’s allowed you to suffer – it’s situations like those that call for faith and trust in the Lord who sends those hard realities into your life.

So, this morning in the book of Job we’re going to witness this man named Job go from unmitigated blessings to constant painful misery in his personal life.

Is he going to trust – even when he doesn’t understand? Would you trust even when you don’t understand? Are you doing so – right now – in whatever difficulties the Lord has brought into your life?

Let’s consider that as we examine the first three chapters in the book of Job.

We start in the beginning in chapter 1 where in verses 1-5 we’re given an introduction to Job, all of his blessings, and his godliness…

Job 1 Summary Verse 1

Job’s Location, Name, and Character

In verse 1 we see Job’s locations, identification, and a summary of his own personal character…

KJV Job 1:1 ¶ There was a man in the land of Uz [ngutz],

whose name was Job;

and that man was [perfect/blameless/pure] and upright, and one that feared God, and [eschewed/turned away from] evil.

He lives in this place called Uz. What we need to take away from that is that he’s not in Israel. Job is not a Jew. He is a Gentile.

And his character is extremely important to take note of. He’s perfect and upright. He fears God. He turns from evil. There’s no secret sin in his life that is calling for God’s punishment.

Job 1 Summary Verses 2-3

Job’s Possessions and Reputation

Verses 2 and 3 go on to relate Job’s possessions and reputation…

KJV Job 1:2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.

KJV Job 1:3 His [substance/possessions] also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred [she asses/female donkeys], and a very great household;

so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.

Not only was Job godly – he was also blessed with many material possessions. He had extraordinary wealth and children in abundance – which, if you’re thinking biblically is a great blessing.

The end result was that Job earned quite the reputation as being the greatest in his region of the world – in “the east”.

Job 1 Summary Verse 4-5

Job’s Family Dynamics & Care

Verses 4 and 5 go on to focus-in on his ten children just mentioned. We’ll see here Job’s family dynamics and his personal care for his children…

KJV Job 1:4 [And/Now] his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.

KJV Job 1:5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and [sanctified/consecrated] them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all:

for Job said,

It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.

Thus did Job continually.

Job’s children got along really well. There was warmth and love and harmony between all ten of them.

And Job cared for them deeply – and not just for their physical well-being. He – as a family priest before the Mosaic Law and outside of Israel – would offer sacrifices for his children.

Job was very concerned that his children would curse God – an action that both Satan and Job’s wife will later on tempt Job to do.

So, that’s the introduction to this book.

Now, the next major section describes to us two heavenly gatherings and the impact that each will have on the godly Job from chapter 1, verse 6 to chapter 2, verse 10.

The first heavenly gathering is found in Job 1:6 to the end of the chapter.

Job 1 Summary Verse 6

Heavenly Gathering 1 & Attendees

We begin by noting the attendees of this gathering in verse 6…

KJV Job 1:6 ¶ Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

The “sons of God” is likely a reference to angelic beings. Satan himself is an angel – created as the highest angel. Also, by his own choice he’s a fallen one, as well.

Job 1 Summary Verse 7a

Heavenly Gathering 1 – God to Satan 1

Notice in verse 7 that God has the first word in his discussion with Satan (he’ll also have the last word as we’ll see later)…

KJV Job 1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan,

Whence comest thou?

God knows the answer to this question. He knows where Satan has been and what he’s been doing. When God asks questions he’s usually trying to teach – either the person he’s talking to or that person’s audience.

Job 1 Summary Verse 7b

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Satan to God 1

Here’s Satan’s response to God’ question of what he’s been up to…

Then Satan answered the LORD, and said,

From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

Satan has to answer God. He’s not given the option of remaining silent. He can’t plead the fifth. God is sovereign and Satan is still under his authority.

And God’s question has reminded Satan and everyone else that this fallen angel has been relegated mostly to earth. Heaven has not been his home since he chose to rebel against this God who is worthy of our trust.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 8

Heavenly Gathering 1 – God to Satan 2

Well, since Satan has been roaming the earth like a roaring lion – as Peter says, God asks Satan if he’s taken note of this man named Job in verse 8…

KJV Job 1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan,

Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

In contrast to the wicked rebellious Satan, Job is righteous.

Note that God brings Job to Satan’s attention. God is in control of all of this. He truly is sovereign in this world.

Job 1 Summary of Verses 9-11

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Satan to God 2

Well, Satan doesn’t believe that God is worthy to be worshipped for nothing. And so, he accuses the Lord in verses 9-11 of buying Job’s worship with all the blessings that he’s given Job…

KJV Job 1:9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said,

Doth Job fear God for nought?

KJV Job 1:10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.

KJV Job 1:11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

Satan uses the Hebrew word BARAK twice in this passage. In verse 10 he says that God “hast BARAK-ed the work of” Job’s hands and that’s the only reason why Job worships the Lord.

But if God takes those things from Job, Satan says “he will BARAK thee to” God’s face. And of course, Satan is twisting the meaning of that word to mean the exact opposite of what that word really means – which is just like Satan to do that.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 12a

Heavenly Gathering 1 – God to Satan 3

Well, just like God had the first word with Satan, he also has the last word in verse 12…

KJV Job 1:12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.

God sets the parameters. Satan can take everything Job has – except his body.

So, the stage is set. The issues at stake here involve: 1) the matter of whether God is bribing Job to worship him and 2) the question of whether God is even worthy of being worshipped apart from the blessings that he gives to those who worship him.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 12b-13

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Result – Introduction

We’re then introduced to the result of this first heavenly gathering at the end of verse 12 and into verse 13…

So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

KJV Job 1:13 ¶ And there was a day when [his/Job’s] sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

And then in verses 14-19 we see in four iterations one disaster after another in Job’s life wherein every material blessing that was delineated for us back in verses 2 and 3 of this chapter are now taken away from the righteous Job.

We’ll see that Job’s things are taken away from him in approximately reverse order as they were described back in verses 2 and 3…

Job 1 Summary of Verses 14-15

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Result 1 – Oxen & Donkeys & Servants

We start with Job’s oxen, donkeys, and some of his servants in verses 14 and 15…

KJV Job 1:14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said,

The oxen were plowing, and the [asses/donkeys] feeding beside them:

KJV Job 1:15 And the [Sabeans/residents of Sheba in Arabia] fell upon them, and took them away;

yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 16

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Result 2 – Sheep & Servants

Next, Job’s sheep and some of his servants are taken from him in verse 16…

KJV Job 1:16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said,

The [fire of God/lightning] is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 17

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Result 3 – Camels & Servants

Next, in verse 17, Job’s camels and some of his servants are taken from him…

KJV Job 1:17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said,

The [Chaldeans/a group near the Persian Gulf] made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away,

yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Job 1 Summary of Verses 18-19

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Result 4 – Children

And the bitterest pill of all comes in verses 18 and 19 where Job gets word that his ten dear children have perished…

KJV Job 1:18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said,

Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

KJV Job 1:19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young [men/people], and they are dead;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

… All of Job’s material blessings are gone. His oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, and children have all been taken from him – in one day!

Can you identify with that depth of loss? Maybe none of us has suffered to that extent in that quick of a succession of events. But each of us does know what it is to loose something very precious to us.

How do you respond when God takes blessings from you that he previously graciously gave to you?

Job 1 Summary of Verses 20-21

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Job’s Response

Think about that – and then test your response to loss to Job’s response as recorded in verses 20 and 21…

KJV Job 1:20 ¶ Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and […] worshipped,

KJV Job 1:21 And said,

Naked came I out of my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I [return thither/return/depart]:

the LORD gave,
and the LORD hath taken away;

blessed be the name of the LORD.

… Job passed this test. He did “bless” the Lord – but not quite as Satan had predicted. Job recognized God’s right to give and to take. Job recognizes that he has nothing apart from God. He truly blesses the Lord’s name and character.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 22

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Conclusion

And the divine narrator tells us that Job did right in this – verse 22…

KJV Job 1:22 ¶ In all this Job sinned not, nor [charged God foolishly/did he blame God/did he charge God with moral impropriety].

Job is commended. He worships God even though God took all of his material blessings…

But God is going to take the test a step farther. Will Job worship God simply for being God without any incentives for doing so?

Book of Job Summary

Book of Job Summary

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, early in the morning, my friend – who is a believer and whom some of you know – was driving his young family to a wedding on a country road. He was momentarily distracted – which was enough to cause him to accidentally run a stop sign. It just so happened that at that very moment there was a van approaching that intersection at high speed. The van hit my friend’s minivan from the passenger side. And just like that, two of my friend’s dear young children – friends of my own children – were taken out of this world.

I know a godly woman whose husband – a pastor – left and then divorced her to pursue an immoral romantic relationship with his church secretary. He left to his wife the responsibility and burden of taking care of their two children for the rest of their childhood and teenage years with no support or input from a husband or father in their lives.

I remember several years ago when Brother Flegal over at Maranatha lost his wife so suddenly from a brain hemorrhage. Dr. Marriott was at the hospital with him when it all unfolded so quickly. I recall Dr. Marriott telling us faculty and staff over at Maranatha that Ben told him after losing his wife with so little warning – quote – “Now I know what Job felt like.”

Why We Turn to Job

And it’s that Old Testament book that we tend to turn to in times when we’re bewildered at our life circumstances that are so painful and so difficult to understand. And as we turn to that book I think that we expect to find comfort and explanation as to why things are happening to us and what God’s plan is in the whole scheme of things.

What We Initially Get from Job

But what do we get when we open our Bibles to the book of Job? (Why don’t you go ahead and do that, by the way.) We get a book of 42 chapters that begins and ends with a story – which is easy enough to read and understand. But after the second chapter and running through to the middle of the 42nd chapter of this book we have an extended section of poetry – of all things!

And we’re introduced to men with unusual names from places we’re not familiar with. They and Job go back and forth in spinning Hebrew poetry with one another for chapter after chapter. Then a young man steps forward and he gives us more Hebrew poetry. Then God shows up and points to all sorts of natural phenomena. Job repents. God restores his blessings to Job. And that’s how the book ends.

And you wouldn’t be blamed if you’re sitting there at the end of reading this book scratching your head. You came to this book because you were hoping to find some answers to your questions. You came to find out “why?” Why did this happen? Why am I – who am righteous by God’s grace – suffering? Why does a God who loves me put me through difficult things that involve real pain?

And the reality is that you don’t get those questions answered in this book. So, what good – then – is the book of Job? If it doesn’t help you understand what’s going on, why did God put it in the Bible in the first place?

Structure and Message of Job

So, for the rest of our time today we’re going to examine the structure of this book and dip in to some of the text in order to discover God’s overall message for you in this book. What does God have for you in this ancient book that we just naturally tend to turn to in our distresses?

Personal Righteousness

[s] Turn to Job 1:1 if you’re not already there. And there we read …

Job 1:1 AV 1873

1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

This verse from the outset settles in your mind Job’s personal character and holiness. He was perfect and upright. He feared God. He eschewed or turned away from evil. That’s critical to keep in mind as we go along here. He’s a genuinely righteous man.

Material Wealth

Then verses 2-5 speak of all the material blessings with which God blessed this righteous man. Ten children – who all had good relationships with one another – and an abundance of livestock – to the point that what’s said at the end of Job 1:3 was the case for him.

Job 1:3 (AV 1873)

3 … so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.

He was the greatest out of all of the men in his region. He was so incredibly blessed. He was godly. What could go wrong?

First Heavenly Gathering

Well, in Job 1:6 we have the first of two heavenly gatherings where all the angels appear before the Lord – and even Satan (who himself is an angel) shows up. God brings the righteous Job to Satan’s attention and Satan argues with God that Job would stop worshipping God if God were to take all of his material blessings away.

So, God allows Satan to take all that Job has. Starting in Job 1:13 we see everything that Job had taken from him – his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, and children are all taken from him in one day.

Job’s exemplary response in Job 1:20-21 is humble, sorrowful worship of the Lord who gave and took away – and whose name is to be blessed. Job doesn’t understand why any of this happened. But he still trusts the Lord.

Second Heavenly Meeting

Well, there’s another heavenly meeting in Job 2:1.  The Lord again brings Job to Satan’s attention and points to how Job continues to worship the Lord even though Satan moved the Lord to take all of Job’s material possessions from him.

Satan counters though that if God takes Job’s health, Job won’t worship him anymore. So, God allows Satan to touch Job’s body without taking his life.

So, in Job 2:7 we see Job miserable with boils all over his body, sitting in what would have been the area’s garbage dump, scraping his infected and itchy skin with broken pieces of pottery. His wife has even had enough in Job 2:9 and basically encourages Job to do what Satan said, he would do – to curse God and die. But Job remains steadfast in the face of all of this. He still doesn’t understand why this is happening. But he continues to trust God.

Three Friends Arrive & Sit Silent

Well, Job’s wife wasn’t so helpful to him. But just then he has three friends show up! And they’ve come with the express purpose of comforting him! Just what Job needs!

So, we see them in Job 2:13 sitting in the ash heap with Job for 7 days – none of them saying a word. And that’s the end of the prose section – or the story section – of this book.

Job Laments

Now we enter in chapter 3 into the poetry section.

And it’s not pretty. Even though Job is still a man of integrity and has not cursed God, Job is absolutely miserable.

In Job 3, this man curses the day of his birth. In fact, he makes it a point to curse both the day and the night of his first day of life (Job 3:3-9). Job then wishes he was never born (Job 3:10-12) but that instead he would have died before birth (Job 3:13-19). He laments being given life at all (Job 3:20-23) and he ends the chapter by reflecting on the fact that all of what he’s said in chapter 3 is because of his miserable circumstances (Job 3:24-26).

Eliphaz Speaks

In response to Job’s lament in chapter 3, his first friend – Eliphaz – speaks in chapters 4 and 5.

[s] And what’s important for the sake of what we’re trying to accomplish today is found in Job 4:7. Eliphaz says…

Job 4:7 (AV 1873)

7 Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent?

Or where were the righteous cut off?

In other words, Eliphaz reminds Job of this supposed truth that is accepted by all of Job’s friends – and even Job himself to some extent – that the righteous and the innocent never perish. They’re never cut off. That is what these men are all truly believing at this point.

[s] But in contrast, verses 8 and 9 are the case for those who are not righteous and not innocent…

Job 4:8–9 (AV 1873)

8 Even as I have seen,

they that plow iniquity,

And sow wickedness,

reap the same.

9 By the blast of God they perish,

And by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.

And it’s clear through the rest of these middle chapters of this book that this is the worldview of Job’s three friends. It’s called Retribution Theology.

It’s the belief that good people are always blessed and bad people are always punished – and both of these happen pretty-much immediately in this life.

It’s kind of like the mistaken notion of karma – do good, get good. Do bad, get bad. What goes around comes around.

Another modern day equivalent of how Job and his friends think that God works in this world is what we call the Prosperity Gospel – which is, as you know, no gospel at all.

But the “problem” with trying to explain Job’s situation using the Retribution principle is that we just saw in the first two chapters of this book that Job’s situation doesn’t fit with his friends’ theology. Job actually is righteous. We know that – without a doubt. And yet, he’s suffering.

So, from outward appearance – all that the human eye can see – it looks to Job’s friends through their lens of Retribution-thinking that Job is receiving the penalty of being personally wicked.

And it’s this way of thinking about how God works in this world that drives the rest of the middle chapters of this book.

Now, Eliphaz goes on to accuse Job of secretly being wicked. What other explanation could he have for someone suffering? They’ve got to be wicked! This is how God works in the world, isn’t it??

Eliphaz’s Solution

[s] But Eliphaz has an out for Job. Here’s what he advises Job to do in Job 5:8

Job 5:8 (AV 1873)

8 I would seek unto God,

And unto God would I commit my cause:

The remedy that Job’s three friends give over and over again to Job is twofold.

First, Job needs to stop his secret sinning, which is supposedly bringing down God’s judgement on him.

And second, Job needs to pray to God – which apparently the friends think he stopped doing.

But the problem with that approach is that Job wasn’t secretly sinning and he was praying to God. And because of that, the three friends are not able to fit Job and his situation into their theology. But they’re certainly not about to change their theology in order to match the reality of how God really works in this world.

Job Responds to Eliphaz

And so the cycle of talking continues with Job’s response to Eliphaz in chapters 6 and 7.

In those chapters, Job appeals to his friends to be kind to him. He says he wants reproof – but that what Eliphaz has said is no help to him because it was merely an attack against a suffering man who admits that he’s saying things that aren’t quite right. Job appeals his own righteousness to the friends and to God. He expresses deep distress over the fact that God is seeming to punish him for no cause and won’t leave him alone in that regard.

Bildad Speaks

But if Job is looking for compassion from his friends, then he’s sorely disappointed by what his second friend Bildad has to say in chapter 8 where he begins his salvo with this “compassionate” note in Job 8:2

Job 8:2 (AV 1873)

2 How long wilt thou speak these things?

And how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?

Bildad starts by insulting Job because he thinks that Job is impugning God’s character. Bildad goes on to speculate that Job’s children sinned and that’s why God killed them. Bildad’s simplistic solution for Job to get out of the suffering he’s in includes – of course – seeking God, praying to him, and becoming pure and upright – all of which Job had been doing. Bildad guarantees that if Job does these things, that God will turn to him again and bless him. He even pulls out the wisdom of the ancients to prove his point. Then he goes on to insinuate that Job is a godless hypocrite who has forgotten God. But if Job simply follows Bildad’s fool-proof plan to get out of this suffering by confessing sins – which he hasn’t committed – and by praying – which he already does, then his end will be gloriously bright!

Job Responds to Bildad

Job then responds to Bildad in Job 9:2 by basically conceding that what Bildad says is right. Job himself bought into the idea that good is always rewarded and evil is always punished usually immediately in this life. But then Job wonders how to be back in God’s good graces.

Here’s Job’s thought process: If God punishes evil and rewards good … and yet Job is seeming to be punished … therefore Job is wicked … but he’s not wicked … therefore Job ought to be blessed … but God isn’t blessing him anymore … then why is God not holding to his end of the bargain? Is something wrong with God? Is God ignorant? Is God … unrighteous?

That’s the dangerous territory that Job starts entering in chapter 9. This leads Job to wonder how he could get a hearing before God to plead his case that he’s not wicked and should thus stop being punished by God as though he were. It’s as if in Job’s mind God needs to be more perfectly informed of Job’s situation. Job acknowledges God’s awesome power but then despairs of ever getting a hearing from this all-powerful God – who seems to have hidden himself from Job. And not only hidden himself – but God in Job’s mind has become violently oppressive toward him.

At some point, Job starts to recognize the error of Retribution Theology – or at least the part that states that God always blesses the righteous – when in Job 9:22 he says …

Job 9:22 (AV 1873)

22 This is one thing, therefore I said it,

He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.

God destroys both the perfect and the wicked. But that contradicts what his three friends and even Job himself have been believing. Job continues to muse on the fact that God seems to keep punishing him though he has done nothing to deserve the punishment. So, Job actually starts entertaining the idea of meeting God in court and settling their dispute with a mediator between them to negotiate.

In chapter 10 Job even starts demanding that God answer him and tell him why he’s punishing Job. Job goes on to suggest something that even Job knows is ridiculous – namely, that God is somehow limited in his knowledge of Job’s situation like a mere mortal would be. But then Job verbally and emotionally walks back from the brink of cursing God and he recalls how God has been good in creating him and blessing him in his earlier days. But those sweet thoughts give way once more as Job laments God’s current treatment of him. Job actually ends chapter 10 with a desperate plea for God to just leave him alone.

Zophar Speaks

And of course, these provocative statements of the suffering Job further raise the ire of his friends. And so the last of these men – Zophar – speaks in chapter 11 where he begins with this accusation in Job 11:2

Job 11:2 (AV 1873)

2 Should not the multitude of words be answered?

And should a man full of talk be justified?

So, the contradictions to Retribution Theology that Job has uncovered are just dismissed as a “multitude of words” and mere “talk.” Zophar goes on to accuse Job of engaging in lying and mocking with his words to his friends and to God. Zophar rebukes Job and says that he wishes that God would speak – just like Job was wishing – but Zophar wants God to speak and to condemn Job for his supposed secret sins that are moving God to punish him. Zophar says that God is transcendent and immense and not to be called to account by anyone. And Zophar – like the other two so-called friends – offers Job a pat remedy to his predicament. Start praying and stop sinning. Then everything will be great. But Zophar ends with a final dire reminder that if Job doesn’t get with the Retribution Theology plan then he can expect only bad things.

So, at this point at the end of chapter 11, we’ve seen Job speak and lament his being alive. Eliphaz then spoke and Job responded. Then Bildad spoke and Job responded. Finally, Zophar spoke…

Job Responds to Zophar

And Job will respond in Job 12:1-2 with this sarcastic but understandable outburst after the worthless advice of all three friends …

Job 12:1-2 (AV 1873)

1 And Job answered and said,

2 No doubt but ye are the people,

And wisdom shall die with you.

And we’re not going to review any more of the conversation with Job and his friends today except to point out that this cycle of each friend speaking and Job then responding happens another two times for a total of three of these cycles in this book. Cycle 1 we saw in chapters 4-14. Cycle 2 we’ll see in chapters 15-21. And Cycle 3 occurs in chapters 22-31.

A total of 658 verses are taken up with this round-and-round dialogue. Which is a picture of the futility and frustration that accompanies trying to figure out the deep issues of life without having a word from God on the matter – but instead just relying on your own thoughts and the wisdom of the world around you.

Elihu Speaks

Well, at the end of Job 31 and into Job 32, we read the following …

Job 31:40–32:5 (AV 1873)

40 … The words of Job are ended.

1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.

2 Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. 3 Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. 4 Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he. 5 When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, then his wrath was kindled.

Job stops talking. The friends stop talking. Job is righteous in his own eyes. And indeed Job was righteous – even in God’s eyes. But the friends just have nothing more to say – finally!

But that’s unfortunate because the friends could have had something to say that would have encouraged Job – not to confess sin he wasn’t committing or to start praying when he already was – but to instead trust God.

Since the friends couldn’t help Job trust God, this young man Elihu is going to give it a try. Out of deference to their age he waited to speak. But now that they’re silent he can move in.

And so, Elihu speaks uninterrupted from Job 32-37.

He says that he waited for the older men to speak first but is now realizing that age isn’t the real factor in how wise a person is. Rather the spirit of God is the one who gives real wisdom. And the rest of Job 32 is Elihu basically preparing Job, his three friends, and us for what he’s about to say.

Then in Job 33, Elihu says that Job should listen to him. He then proceeds to summarize what Job has said thus far – demonstrating that unlike the friends he was actually listening to Job. Elihu correctly points out that Job has maintained his innocence but in the process has impugned God’s character by claiming that God is making up false pretenses by which he’s then punishing Job. Elihu’s answer is threefold in chapter 33. First, he rightly states that we can’t fully understand God’s ways. Second, one of God’s prerogatives is to warn people of their ways which are contrary to him. And third, God sends suffering into people’s lives in the hope that sinners will repent. Elihu finishes that chapter by challenging Job to answer or – if he can’t answer – to keep listening to him.

In Job 34, Elihu again states what he heard Job say – namely, that God has denied the righteous Job the justice due him. In response to this flawed idea, Elihu defends God’s righteousness and the rightness of his ways.

In Job 35, Elihu takes Job to task for starting to think that it doesn’t matter what kind of life a person lives since whether a person is good or bad they are subject to God sending suffering into their life. Elihu replies that God is personally unaffected by a person’s righteousness or sin. Mankind is affected by those things, but God isn’t. Therefore, Elihu implies that God’s dealing with Job is not based on Job’s own personal sin or righteousness. Further, Elihu encourages Job to wait for God and not be impatient for what appears to be a delay in God hearing and answering him. And he ends the chapter by questioning and challenging the idea that what God is doing to Job is correctly interpreted as punishment.

Elihu in chapter 36 urges Job to stop comparing what he’s receiving to what he thinks the wicked ought to receive. He strongly advises Job not to question God’s execution of justice in the world. Elihu then finishes the 36th and 37th chapters of this book leading Job and us to consider that when we’re suffering and tempted to question God’s character and wisdom – we need to consider his work. We need to think about what God does. And when we do that, we can see that his work is ultimately beyond our understanding. And what we need to learn from that is that if his work – which we can see – is beyond our understanding… then what else of what he’s doing – in your life – might be beyond your understanding?

God Finally Speaks

Then starting in Job 38, God rather seamlessly takes over from Elihu and probes Job on something like 84 areas of his creation – including an extended treatment of two creatures that God created and manages – one a rather large and care-free land creature he calls Behemoth and the other a very fierce and dangerous sea creature he calls Leviathan.

Job Responds to God

Job responds in humility and repentance, realizing he really doesn’t understand how God works in this world. Job doesn’t understand how God started this creation. He doesn’t understand how God keeps this creation going. And more directly for Job, he doesn’t understand how or why God works in certain ways in his life – especially the ways that are unpleasant.

Job Restored

At the end of this book in Job 42 God rebukes Job’s three friends and restores all the blessings that Job originally had. Actually, he gives Job double what he formerly had.

Now understand – God doesn’t bless Job here because Job confessed sins he didn’t commit or because he started praying when he had been doing so all along – as the three friends kept urging Job to do. Rather, God was able to bless Job because Job had come to the point where though he still couldn’t understand, he came to trust.

The Message of the Book of Job

And that is the message of this book for us. When you can’t understand, trust. Job couldn’t understand why he was suffering. The three friends couldn’t understand either. But all four of these folks pretended to understand – but they were all quite wrong. God didn’t want them to understand. In fact, God never explains to Job why he was suffering.

What did God want from Job and his three friends? He wanted them to trust him – that he knew what he was doing; that he was good; that he was wise and in control of everything.

Applying the Book of Job

So, what in your life can you not understand? What has God done – and God has indeed done it – that you just can’t figure out? What are you struggling with? What causes you to question God’s goodness and love and power and wisdom in your life?

You are going to encounter situations in this life where you simply will not be able to understand. You might even go to your grave not understanding whywhy did God do this to you? Why did God allow that person to do that to you? Why did God put you in that painful situation? Why? Why? Why?

You won’t understand. And that’s OK. Because God’s not calling you to understand in this life. He’s calling you to trust. Trust him. Trust his character – that he’s good and loving. Trust his wisdom – that he knows the best path for you. That he has your best and eternal interests at heart.

When you can’t understand, trust. That’s the message of this book to you that we’ll take another 11 12 lessons really exploring in as much detail as time will allow.

Lamentations 1 Summary Verse 2

May the Lord bless you with this Lamentations 1 Summary of verse 2.

In the second verse of Lamentations 1 our attention is drawn to the emotional state of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Weeping

KJV Lamentations 1:2 She {weepeth sore/weeps bitterly} {in the/at} night,
{and her tears are on/tears stream down/tears are upon} her cheeks:

So, Jerusalem is weeping. Now, of course, Jerusalem is not a person and thus cannot literally cry or weep. The words here are metaphorical.

Jerusalem is pictured as a person who is crying tears of sorrow.

Why the sorrow?

Well, of course we saw in the first verse of Lamentations 1 that Jerusalem had experienced a total reversal of fortunes – all in the negative direction.

False Gods

And when that happened one of the bitterest realities that this city and its people came to know when the Babylonians came and invaded and destroyed it is that those on whom she relied turned on her – both her false deities and her false friends.

among all her lovers
{she hath/she has/there is} none to comfort her:

The Lord often pictures his relationship with his people as a marriage. So, when God’s covenant people turn from him to something besides him to worship that thing, the Lord identifies that as spiritual adultery.

The people of Israel in the Old Testament – especially the few hundred years immediately preceding the Babylonian invasion – were given to spiritual immorality. They were adulterous – often times physically, but more foundationally they were committing spiritual adultery against their only God, the Lord.

And it turns out that that was a very bad decision. Because these so-called lovers – the objects of Israel’s worship which were not the Lord himself – they cannot comfort in times of sorrow. Only the God who made you can provide you with real comfort when you are in need.

So, Israel’s false gods provided no comfort for her when she was most desperately in need.

False Friends

But also, her human friends were of no help either.

{all/all that were} her friends have {dealt treacherously with/betrayed/dealt deceitfully with} her,
they {are/have} become her enemies.

These friends here are a reference to Israel’s allies that they had placed their trust in – rather than the Lord alone. Numerous times, Israel chose to place its trust in nations and alliances rather than in God. They would prefer to scheme and connive to secure their safety.

But when it came down to it, these friends were of the fair-weather variety. In Jerusalem’s moment of greatest need, human help – apart from the Lord’s arrangement – failed it.

Conclusion

And these things will fail you every time.

Leaving the Lord to serve and worship some other so-called god will leave you empty with no comfort in life.

Relying on friends or family or any other human being will ultimately result only in deceit and betrayal. In the end, you just may end up with these so-called friends being your worst enemies.

Trust the Lord. Worship and serve only him. Rely on him above and apart from any and everything else.

In your times of sorrow, he will be there for you to comfort you. He will never leave nor forsake you.

Lamentations 1 Summary Verse 1

May the Lord bless you with this Lamentations 1 Summary of verse 1.

The book of Lamentations is a Hebrew poem of five chapters and 154 verses (seven units of twenty-two verses each corresponding to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet) in which the author – Jeremiah the Prophet – pours out his sorrow to the Lord over the destruction of his nation’s capital city, Jerusalem.

In the first verse of Lamentations 1, Jeremiah describes Jerusalem’s humiliating descent from:

  1. Fullness to emptiness
  2. Prominence to widowhood
  3. Ruling to being ruled

Let’s see how this plays out in the first verse of Lamentations 1.

KJV Lamentations 1:1 ¶ How doth the city sit solitary,
that was full of people!

how is she become as a widow!
she that was great among the nations,

and princess among the provinces,
how is she become tributary!

From Fulness to Emptiness

1:1 ¶ How {doth the city sit solitary/lonely sits the city/deserted lies the city},
{that was/once so} full of people! {i.e., Alas! The city once full of people now sits all alone!}

Jeremiah begins by marveling. He says, “How…!”

He’s not asking a question. He is lamenting. He is marveling with great grief. He is pouring out his heart to the Lord in his great amazed sorrow.

And what he first wants to focus on is the fact that Jerusalem went from the status of being full of people to being solitary or lonely or deserted or empty.

Think about all that Jerusalem has experienced in its long history. Think of the Temple that it once housed. Think of the celebrations that were held several times each year. It was a hub of activity. And that activity was religiously-significant. It was all centered on the worship of the true God who created everything.

But now, Jeremiah looks and none of that is happening anymore. Jerusalem has gone from the bustling hub of true religion to an empty shell of its former self. It’s gone from fulness to emptiness.

From Prominence to Widowhood

Furthermore, Jeremiah laments that Jerusalem has gone from prominence to widowhood.

{how is she become/she has become} {as/like} a widow!
{she that was great/the prominent lady/who was once great} among the nations,

Jerusalem had seen the reigns of king David and king Solomon. The kingdom stretched from Egypt in the west out east to include numerous territories that were submissive and subservient to the nation of Israel.

But all of that had changed. Now, instead of being great and prominent among the nations of the world, Israel and its capital city of Jerusalem had become like a widow – unimportant in the sight of everyone. The city was now disregarded and forgotten and insignificant in the eyes of the world.

From Ruling to Being Ruled

And lastly in the first verse of Lamentations 1, Jeremiah grieves over the fact that Jerusalem had gone from a refined ruling over others to being ruled over herself.

{and princess among/She who was a princess among/The princess who once ruled/She who was queen among} the provinces,
{how is she become tributary/Has become a forced laborer/has not become a slave}!

Jerusalem is pictured as a princess or queen – one who rules and does so in a refined and dignified manner. The emphasis is maybe not so much that she was feared as she was treasured and honored.

But now she had become a slave.

She ruled over others in an honorable respectable fashion. But the honor and respect had been stripped away. And now she was a slave – being ruled over by others.

Conclusion

So, that’s how Jeremiah describes Jerusalem’s humiliating descent in the first verse of Lamentations 1. The city had gone from fullness to emptiness, from prominence to widowhood, and from ruling to being ruled.

If the Lord has brought any of these realities into your life, do what Jeremiah did – lament these facts. Talk about them. And talk about them to the Lord. He hears and he cares. He – the one who brings affliction into your life – is the same one who wants to hear from you about the effect that these afflictions have on you. He sometimes needs to bring difficulties – even chastening – into the life of his children. And he does it to draw out our response to himself.

Speak to the Lord about the afflictions he’s put into your life. Note the descent from pleasant to painful in all areas. He will hear you.

Psalm 58 Commentary

The concept of justice is one that everyone subscribes to – at least, when it turns out for their benefit.

  • You want to be able to go to the store and weigh-out a pound of produce and be charged accordingly – no more and no less.
  • When you go to the gas station you want to be charged for the exact number of gallons you put in your tank.
  • You don’t want people to mistreat you.
  • You don’t want people to lie to you or steal from you or falsely accuse you or harm you without cause.

And I think just about everyone in this world feels this way. No one wants to experience injustice directed against himself.

And yet, how many people in this world are fine with carrying-out injustice against others? They themselves demand to be treated justly – but as far as their treatment of others is concerned, they kind of forget the concept of justice altogether.

People lie to others – or maybe speak half-truths – when it suits their purposes. People lie about others. When there’s a conflict with someone else, we have a tendency of retelling the story in such a way that we look like the good guy who can do no wrong, while we cast the other person in a rather unflattering – and quite frankly unrealistic – light.

We tend to show partiality and favoritism. We might despise the lowly worker and would speak condescendingly to and about him – but we would never dream of treating the boss that same way.

Well, these things are unjust – they aren’t right. This is not how God works. It’s not the way it would be if sin had never entered the equation.

But as we know all-too-well, sin has entered the equation by entering the world through Adam’s transgression. And with sin comes injustice.

And if we’re really thinking right, we yearn for justice to be done on this earth. We want right to be established and enforced and we want wrong to be punished – and we want all of this done without corruption and bribery and favoritism. We want justice on this earth!

And we’re not alone in this desire. In fact, the psalmist and King of Israel, David, expressed a great desire for Justice on Earth in Psalm 58. So, let’s turn there.

In this Psalm, we’re going to see David wrestle with this theme of Justice on Earth. And through his example, we’re going to learn how to pray concerning justice on earth. We can’t simply make justice happen on earth – we need God to bring it – despite numerous entities that are set on being totally unjust.

And so, we’re going to see in Psalm 58 David leading us in… How to think about and deal with the unjust as you wait for the just One to bring justice to earth.

So, let’s read Psalm 58 to see this theme unfold.

{Read Psa 58…}

Psalm 58 Commentary Superscription

Now, the superscription of this psalm is not quite as informative and directional as those of the last two psalms we’ve studied.

<{To/For} the {chief Musician/choir director/music director},
{Altaschith/Al-tashheth/according to the al-tashcheth style/To the tune of “Do Not Destroy”},
{Michtam/A michtam/A prayer} of David.>

We see another mention of this style that the psalm is apparently written in that means something like “Do Not Destroy.” So, we can assume from this and other things stated throughout this psalm that David is again moved to write this psalm as a result of his being pursued by king Saul and that his life was in danger.

So, David is working through in this psalm How to think and pray about and deal with the unjust – those who were trying to kill him – as he was waiting for the just One – the Lord – to bring justice to earth – in the form of delivering him from these dangerous persecutors of his.

Psalm 58 Commentary vv1-2 Address the Unjust in the Arena of Your Prayers

And so, the first way in which David deals with injustice as he waits for God to bring justice is that he actually addresses the unjust people who are making his life difficult. But he doesn’t go to them and speak to their face. Instead, David addresses them in the arena of his prayers in verses 1 and 2.

KJV Psalm 58:1 Do {ye/you} {indeed/really} {speak righteousness/pronounce just decisions/speak justly}, {O congregation/O gods/rulers} {i.e., mere men who are in a position in which they can do harm to David…}?
do {ye/you} judge {uprightly, O ye sons of men/people fairly/uprightly among men}?

2 {Yea,/No!} {in heart ye work/you plan how to do what is} {wickedness/unjust};
{ye weigh the violence of your hands/you deal out violence/your hands mete out violence} {in the/on/on the} earth.

So, David directly addresses the ones who are causing the trouble in his life. He identifies their unrighteous speech and their unjust judgements. He exposes their inner wicked plans and their desire to spread violence on the earth – not justice, but rather violence.

And if I were to take a guess, I would think that this is probably not a tactic that most of us have ever taken when praying about people who are a grave concern to us. Have any of us ever in our times of prayer with the Lord addressed the people who are bothering us so much as if they were there?

You might even be embarrassed to consider doing something like this. Maybe you would tend to think that speaking to someone as if he were there – when he really isn’t – indicates some sort of mental issue. But it doesn’t. This is a legitimate form of prayer that’s modeled here for us by David.

Picture the person in your life who is being unjust – and as you pray to the Lord, speak to this person as if he were actually there. Call attention to his injustice, his wickedness, and his violent tendencies.

And I think this is what you need to be aware of – as David was – be sure that as you are calling attention to these realities in the realm of prayer where the Lord hears… you can trust that God will overhear and take action.

Are there decisions that certain authorities in this land have made or are promising to carry-out – and the sheer wickedness of those decisions frustrates you to no end? Talk to that person about it – in the arena of prayer – not that you are praying to that man or woman – but that you are addressing him or her and are fully expecting God to hear.

Are you having difficulties with a co-worker who is engaged in injustice towards you? Speak to that one in your prayer and expect God to overhear and take the action that you need him to take.

And I think that we can be confident that this approach doesn’t violate anything in the New Testament. Jesus does tell us to love our enemies and to pray for those who despitefully use us. And as we address in our prayers those who perpetuate injustice in this world, we are praying for them. And in the sense that we are not just enacting our own vigilante justice against them we are loving them. And of course, the rest of this psalm will bear out exactly how David is loving these unjust men in his life based on what he is asking God to do to them.

Now, one last thing to mention from these first two verses is that the injustice of these people is “on the earth.” And that’s a lot like what David says later on about God’s justice – that it is “on the earth.” Men are unjust. God is just – he’s righteous – he does right always. And he does it “on the earth.”

So, as we’re waiting for God to bring justice to this earth, we can make use of this tactic in prayer – to address the ones who perpetuate injustice in this life, expecting God to hear and respond.

Psalm 58 Commentary vv3-5 Remind Yourself and the Lord of the Nature of the Unjust

And you can build your case before the Lord as to why he needs to come and exact justice swiftly by presenting him with some facts in relation to what these people are doing. You can remind both yourself and the Lord of the nature of these unjust people, like David does in verses 3-5.

3 The wicked {are estranged/turn aside/go astray} {from the womb/from birth/even from birth}:
they {go astray/are wayward} {as soon as they be born/from birth}, {speaking lies/those who speak lies/liars}.

4 {Their/They have} {poison/venom} {is like/like} {the poison/the venom/that} of a {serpent/snake}:
{they are like/like} {the/a} deaf {adder/cobra/serpent} that {stoppeth her ear/stops up its ear/does not hear};

5 {Which will/So that it does/that does/that will} not {hearken to/hear/respond to/heed} {the voice of charmers/the magicians/the tune of the charmer},
{charming never so wisely./Or a skillful caster of spells./or to a skilled snake-charmer./however skillful the enchanter may be.}

So, as you consider those who perpetuate injustice in this life – wouldn’t you agree that they are naturally wicked? That’s what David is convinced of. These people who love injustice are wicked, naturally. This is their nature.

They are wayward – they wander from the Lord. And they do so from the day they are born.

These people are also serpentine – they’re like snakes in the sense that they are deaf and heedless and unable to be entreated or negotiated with or reasoned with.

You think of some of the wickedness and injustice in the hearts and on the lips of some of the top leaders in this country and it’s just shocking. You have leaders stating their support for the murder of babies up to the very moment that they emerge from the womb. In their warped way of thinking, it is just and right to take the life of an infant just a few seconds before he’s born. Who can reason with this kind of twisted mindset? You can’t. That’s what David came to realize.

So, what are you supposed to do if you can’t reason with them? We’ve already stated that we can and need to address them in our prayers. But also, we just saw as well that as you are praying, you need to remind yourself and the Lord of their nature. Remind yourself and God of how they really are. Lay these realities out to the Lord – and maybe he will take up your cause and bring justice to this earth in whatever ways he deems best.

In the book of Acts, we have an account of Herod murdering the apostle James in order to do the unbelieving Jews a favor. And then he intended to do the same to Peter. But the Bible says that the church prayed fervently. And as a result, God decided to deliver Peter. Do you suppose that the early church – as they were praying for Peter – perhaps they brought to God’s attention Herod’s own unjust character and behavior and attributes, like David does in Psalm 58?

Well, what was the result? God struck Herod and killed him and delivered Peter.

Do you suppose that we might be justified in taking this approach with leaders of oppressive nations wherein God’s people are afflicted and persecuted and murdered regularly? You know of some Communist nations in which this happens. You know of numerous Islamic countries in which this occurs. I think that it would be appropriate for us to – in prayer – remind both ourselves and the Lord of the unjust nature of these nations and their rulers. And perhaps the Lord will hear our prayer and answer for the protection and deliverance of our persecuted brethren in those nations.

Psalm 58 Commentary vv6-8 Beg God to Render the Unjust Harmless & Ineffective & Insignificant

So, when you’re dealing with the injustice of people in this world – especially as it relates to you and those you love…

  • Address these people in prayer, anticipating that God will overhear.
  • Remind yourself and the Lord of the nature of these unjust people.

And then you need to beg the Lord to render these unjust people harmless and ineffective and insignificant – like David does in verses 6-8.

6 {Break/Shatter} {their/the} teeth, O God, in their {mouth/mouths}:
{break out/smash/tear out} the {great teeth/fangs/jawbones} of the {young lions/lions}, O LORD.

7 Let them {melt away/flow away/disappear/vanish} {as/like} {waters/water} {which run continually/that runs off/that flows away}:
{when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows/when he aims his arrows/when they draw the bow}, let {them be as cut in pieces/them be as headless shafts/their arrows be blunted}. {NET: Let them wither like grass!}

8 {As/Let them be as/Let them be like/Like} a {snail/slug} {which melteth/which melts away/that melts away/melting away}, {let every one of them pass away:/as it goes along/as it moves along}
{like/Let them be like} {the untimely birth of a woman,/the miscarriages of a woman/stillborn babies/a stillborn child} {that they may not/which never/that never/may they not} see the sun.

David wants these unjust enemies of his to be like lions or like water or like snails or like a stillborn child.

And the common theme with all of these things is harmlessness, ineffectiveness, and insignificance.

The lion is one of the most dangerous beasts on the earth. And yet, what is a lion without its teeth? It’s relatively harmless. Yes, it still has claws – but lions don’t kill with their claws. They use their claws to direct their prey toward their teeth. And so, no one is afraid of a toothless lion. And that’s what we need to have happen to unjust men and women in this world – especially when they are powerful and dangerous to God’s people – we need to pray that God would render them harmless like a toothless lion.

Our liberties in this nation are paper-thin if we get the wrong people in power. And our response to this reality – when we become aware of these kinds of people being in authority – must not be hatred or violence or anything else that would be unworthy of Christ. Our response needs to be bringing these concerns directly to the Lord and specifically requesting that God would render these unjust people in this world harmless.

David also asks that God would make the unjust to be like water that just flows away.

This is one thing that demonstrates that at one point in our nation there was a great deal of wisdom being exercised – that our president is limited to two terms of four years. Sometimes, the water just needs to flow on by – if you know what I mean! Even if the majority of people generally want a president to stick around forever – it’s not possible in this nation. And I think that’s a good thing.

But imagine living in North Korea, for example, where the ruler is totally unjust and he stays put for decades – maybe even a half century. No – we need unjust people in positions of authority to just keep moving along and to go away! Pray this way concerning the rulers who are over our brethren who are suffering persecution. That the unjust people in authority over them would be remarkably temporary.

Also, David prayed that the unjust would be ineffective with the picture of the unjust drawing back his bow and all of a sudden he becomes aware that his arrows are just shafts! There’s no heads to them! What kind of damage can an arrow cause without a sharp point to it? None! Exactly – pray that unjust people would be – once more – rendered harmless by the Lord.

And then David prays that these people would be like snails or slugs and like stillborns. The point here is that both of these things lack significance.

I’m of course not – and neither is David – mocking the very real pain that numerous of us in this room may have experienced in terms of the death of a preborn infant. There’s nothing funny about this. It’s really a great tragedy.

And here’s what makes this tragedy worse in the mind of David. These stillborn babies – babies who are born dead – they are more worthy of life than these people who have been born living and yet go on to perpetuate great injustice in this world. Right? The babies deserve life, but some of them have died before even getting a chance to live. And yet, these unjust people deserve death – and yet God gives them life and opportunity to repent and they don’t do it.

And so, David asks that these unjust people would be rendered ineffective like a stillborn child. Or like a snail. And with the snail or the slug, it’s a funny picture. The more the snail crawls around, the more of himself he loses! That’s at least what it seems like. In a way, the more he moves, the less of himself that remains! And so, David prays that unjust people would be exactly like that – the more they do, the less they are and are able to do. Again, the picture is one of ineffectiveness.

So, as you experience unjust people who are in power in some way in your life, or as you consider those who are unjust and in charge of your persecuted brothers in Christ, pray that God would render them harmless and ineffective and insignificant.

Psalm 58 Commentary v9 Be Confident that God will Take Care of the Unjust

And sometimes we pray for the Lord to deal with people and we might tend to let that cause us to get angry or anxious. But we must not do that. When we pray to the Lord about disturbing realities like unjust people who are in a position to harm us or others we love, we need to be confident that God will take care of these unjust folks – like David does in verse 9.

9 Before your pots {can feel the thorns/can feel the fire of the thorns/the kindling is even placed under…},
{he shall take them away/he will sweep it away/the wicked will be swept away} as with a whirlwind,
{both living, and in his wrath./the green and the burning alike./along with both the raw and cooked meat./whether they be green or dry–}

The issue here is the immediacy with which David is confident that God will deal with the unjust.

And you can be confident of that same thing. God will deal with the unjust in his time. And maybe it won’t be immediately. For example, the Lord allowed the Pharisee named Saul to kill numerous Christians before God dealt with him. As we’ve recalled before, the Lord allowed Herod to murder James before God dealt with him and delivered Peter from his grasp.

Sometimes the Lord’s dealing with the unjust might seem to take a while. But the reality is that the Lord will deal with them in his timing. And sometimes, the timing can be very swift. It can be like coming to a place where a meal is being prepared and there’s some cooked meat and some raw meat – and before the raw meat can be cooked, it’s all just swept away. God can do this in response to his people’s prayers about unjust people who are threatening their lives and the lives of those they love.

So, be confident that God will take care of the unjust in his timing – which might be even quicker than you would tend to think.

Psalm 58 Commentary vv10-11 Rejoice in and Be Assured of God’s Ultimate Justice

And lastly, as we’re yearning for justice on the earth and we’re dealing with unjust people who can harm us and those we love,

  • Address them directly in the realm of prayer and expect the Lord to overhear
  • Remind ourselves and the Lord in prayer of the nature of these people
  • Beg God to render them harmless and ineffective and insignificant
  • Be confident that God will ultimately deal with them

And then we need to rejoice in – and be assured of – God’s ultimate justice on this earth – like David does and others do in verses 10 and 11 to end this psalm.

10 The {righteous/godly} {shall/will} {rejoice/be glad} when {he/they} {seeth the vengeance/sees vengeance carried out/are avenged}:
{he/they/when they} {shall/will} {wash/bathe} {his/their} feet in the blood of the wicked.

11 {So that/And/Then} {a man/men/observers} {shall/will} say,

{“}{Verily/Surely/Yes indeed} {there is a reward for the righteous/the godly are rewarded/the righteous still are rewarded}:
{verily/Surely/Yes indeed} {he/there} is a God {that/who} {judgeth/judges} {in the/on/the} earth.{”}

So, here’s the proper response to God taking vengeance on the unjust from two groups – the one who prays to God concerning unjust and dangerous people and the other group is the group that observes God’s response to the prayers of that first group.

The one who prays for justice and who sees the unjust being dealt with by God must rejoice. Don’t feel bad when God deals with the unjust after patiently enduring their wickedness for a long time. You can rejoice – not that someone made in God’s image comes to ruin – but rather that God has established justice in this earth and protected others who are made in his image from those who would harm those innocent people. So, as you pray concerning the unjust and God sees fit to stop them, rejoice!

And as you observe this kid of thing taking place, remind yourself that – even though this life is not heaven and there is not always immediate reward for doing good and immediate punishment for doing evil – yet, there is a God who ultimately rules over the affairs of men in this world – and he is totally just. There is indeed a God who executes justice in this world – unlike the unjust human creatures who are in rebellion to him.

And ultimately, beyond this passage, we know that the Judge who will judge this world in righteousness is none other than Jesus Christ. He was put to death by unjust and dangerous and powerful men. He knows what it’s like to be persecuted by these kinds of people.

But the Scripture reminds us that the Father has raised him from the dead and given all judgement to him so that all will honor the Son as they honor the Father. Jesus said that it’s his word that will judge people and their wicked ways and will execute justice in the last day. So, if you are apart from Christ, you will see Jesus again as judge and he will bring justice to bear on you.

But the other side of this glorious reality is that Jesus did not come the first time for the purpose of judging or condemning or brining perfect justice to this earth. He came to save unjust and wicked sinners like you and me. He came to be judged on your behalf for your sin. So, turn from your sin and receive his free gift of salvation by faith alone in him.

You can have Jesus as your Savior. Or you can have him as your judge. It’s your choice. But there’s no third option.

And for those of us for whom Jesus is our Savior – rejoice in the reality that he will soon return and bring perfect justice on this earth. And you will see it with your own eyes.

So, may the Lord use this Psalm to help us to pray concerning injustice on the earth as we wait for that Just Judge – Jesus Christ – to return once more and execute perfect justice on earth.

Psalm 57 Sermon

We’re told in the New Testament that we are supposed to “count it all joy” when we fall into various trials. We’re commanded to not think it a strange thing when we encounter trials in our life.

Indeed, even our Lord Jesus Christ was tried and tested and tempted during his time on this earth. And because the servant is not greater than his master, we can expect the same kind of circumstances in our lives.

And so, the believer shouldn’t be surprised when he experiences trials and hard things in this life.

And yet, no one likes trials. In fact, it is our tendency to want to get out of the trials in our lives. When God brings chastening into our lives in the form of trials and suffering, we don’t consider that to be a joyful thing, naturally – no one would!

But we know that these sufferings and hardships are for our good. God intends to use them to make us more like his perfect Son who – according to Hebrews – was perfected by the suffering that he endured.

So, you can count on it – you will face trials in this life. It’s not a matter of “if” – it’s only a matter of “when.”

And yet, we can probably all testify that while some of our trials might be permanent and never-ending in this life, yet there are a good many of our trials that are temporary and limited in duration. They will pass eventually, and you will go on to live after they’re done.

But that time of waiting is the hardest part sometimes. Bearing-up under the pressure that attends your trial can seem unbearable. You want to get out of it! And maybe there’s an option to get out of it – and yet, you know that that’s not the way that God wants you to go. It wouldn’t glorify God. It wouldn’t solve your real problem. And so, you continue to endure.

But it’s as you are enduring that you need help. You need strength to continue to endure. You need a word from the Lord to sustain you in the midst of the trial. You – quite frankly – need help knowing how to pray to the Lord in these times. You need help to know how to pray as you wait for your trial to end.

And this is what we see David doing in Psalm 57. So, let’s turn our attention to that psalm now. Because you and I need to know How to Pray as You Wait for Your Trial to End. And that is the wonderful example that God ordained David to set for us in Psalm 57.

So, let’s read this psalm and discover How to Pray as You Wait for Your Trial to End.

{Read Psa 57…}

Superscription

Now, once again – just like the last few psalms that we’ve studied – we have in Psalm 57 a very helpful superscription that clues us in to the life circumstances of David as he’s writing this psalm. So, let’s look at that one more time.

<{To/For} the {chief Musician/choir director/music director},
{Altaschith/Al-tashheth/according to the al-tashcheth style/To the tune of “Do Not Destroy”}, {Michtam/a prayer} of David,
when he fled from Saul {in/into} the cave.>

So, two pieces of information from this superscription prove particularly helpful.

First, the tune or style of this psalm has an interesting meaning once it’s translated. And the meaning as the NIV has it is “Do Not Destroy.” That’s the meaning of the phrase that most other translations transliterate as al-tashcheth.

So, it’s as if David is pleading with someone to not destroy him. And there were numerous times in his life during which David would have felt this way. So, what time is he talking about here in this psalm?

That’s where the second piece of information in this superscription becomes very helpful. We see that this psalm was written in conjunction with David’s hiding from Saul in a cave.

And this is probably referring to the events found in 1 Samuel 24. And we won’t read that for the sake of time, but that’s where King Saul comes to kill David. And while he’s on his way to get David, Saul stops in a cave – it says (in Hebrew) – to “cover his feet,” which is a euphemism to describe what we would call “using the restroom.” And it just so happens that that’s the very cave that David and his men are hiding in!

Well, of course, David’s men want David to do Saul in so that they can be done with hiding from their king. But David won’t do it.

David is in the position to end his trial himself by his own planning and effort. But he would not do it. How much patience and self-control would this have taken? To not kill Saul was to ask for at least months – if not years – of additional life-threatening danger. And yet, he refused to take matters into his own hands and kill Saul in self-defense.

David would simply wait… for his trial to end – or, should I say? – for God to end his trial.

And so, this is why what we will hear in this psalm is touching on How to Pray as You Wait for Your Trial to End. David has been there. And we need to learn from this man who was so near to death and yet would not take a short cut in terms of ending his own trial. Instead, he prayed with an eye of faith firmly fixed on God. And we need to do that, too.

So, let’s see how to Pray as You Wait for Your Trial to End.

v1 Plead for Mercy/Grace Knowing that God is All You Have

First of all, as you’re waiting for God to end your trial you need to plead with the Lord for mercy and grace, knowing that God himself is all that you have in this life. That’s the example David gives us in verse 1.

KJV Psalm 57:1 {Be merciful unto/Be gracious to/Have mercy on} me, O God,
{be merciful unto/be gracious to/have mercy on} me:

for {my soul/I} {trusteth/takes refuge/have taken shelter} in {thee/you}:
{yea, in/and in/in} the shadow of thy wings {will I/I will} {make my refuge/take refuge/take shelter},
until {these calamities/destruction/trouble/the disaster} {be overpast/passes by/passes/has passed}.

And I think that in the last few psalms we’ve seen David delay expressing his trust in the Lord until the end of the psalm. But here we have him doing it right up front.

And this is a helpful practice in prayer. You don’t need to wait until you’ve expressed all of your difficulties and struggles to the Lord before you very purposefully verbally confirm your trust in him.

God is all that David had in this life. And he’s all that you have. And thankfully, he’s all that any of us really need.

Think of God the way that David did. Picture him as a mother bird and you are the little helpless baby bird – and you’re just going to take refuge under his protecting wing until the storm passes by.

And it will pass by, won’t it? It will. Your storm will pass. But God will not pass out of your life ever. God will be with you forever – if you’re trusting Jesus Christ.

And now, David is literally in a protecting cave. And yet, he’s still in danger. And maybe you’re in a position like this as you wait for your trial to end. You’re protected – in a dangerous place. In some ways, David was cornered. He was more in danger in that cave than he would have been elsewhere, possibly. And yet, sometimes it’s when you are cornered with no way out that God has ordained for you to stay there and experience his protection.

So, as you’re waiting for your trial to end, plead with God for mercy, knowing that he is all you have and that he is all you need.

v2 Call to God Knowing that He is Still in Sovereign Control

And then call out to God, convinced that he is still in sovereign control, like David does in verse 2.

2 I {will cry/cry out for help} unto {God most high/the sovereign God};
unto God {that performeth all things for/who accomplishes all things for/who vindicates/who fulfills his purpose for} me.

Even this trial of yours is part of God’s purpose for you. It’s one of the “all things” that he performs for you. Trials are not outside of God’s control. They are tools in God’s hands to make you more like his Son.

And yet, don’t let the knowledge that the trial comes from him prevent you from crying out to him for help. You need to do both – recognize that God sends the trials and also be just as sure that God cares about you in those trials.

God is “most high” or “sovereign.” He’s in control. So, as you cry out to him, also trust that he is able and willing to do what is right in your trial.

As you are waiting for your trial to end, cry out to God, knowing that he is in sovereign control.

v3 Be Assured that God Will Faithfully Help You

And then be assured that God will faithfully help you, like David is in verse 3.

3 {He shall send/He will send/May he send help/He sends} from heaven,
and {save/deliver} me
{from the reproach of him/He reproaches him/from my enemies/rebuking those} {that would swallow me up/who tramples upon me/who hurl insults/who hotly pursue me}.

Selah.

{God/May God} {shall send forth/will send forth/sends} his {mercy/lovingkindness/loyal love/love} and {his truth/faithfulness}.

And so, David is confident that God will deliver him from his trial and the worst possible consequences of it. And you can be, too. The worst of trials for a believer is temporary. It will pass. God is faithful and he will help you. This is not going to be your permanent existence. You and I are ultimately going to a place where there will be no more trials.

And eventually, God will – as it were – send from heaven and take you out of your trial.

And he removes you from your trial – oftentimes in this life, and sometimes by just taking you home to be with him – and he does this because of his loyal covenant love for you and his truth or faithfulness. He demonstrated to you his loyal covenant love when he sent Jesus to die for your sins. He continues to display that loyal covenant love to you as he sustains you through all of your trials and eventually takes you to be with himself where you will never, ever again experience any trials.

So, as you wait for your trial to end – whatever kind of trial it may be – be assured that God will faithfully help you.

v4 Recognize the Real Danger You Are In

And yet, even as you consider those comforting realities, you are also well-advised to recognize the real danger that you are in – just like David does in verse 4.

4 {My soul is among/I am surrounded by/I am in the midst of} lions:
{and I lie/I must lie/I lie down/I lie} {even among/among} {them that are set on fire/those who breathe forth fire/those who want to devour me/ravenous beasts},

{even the sons of men,/men} whose teeth are spears and arrows,
and their tongue a sharp sword.

So, David in this time of his life is recognizing throughout this psalm so far

  • that God is all that he really has in this life,
  • that God is sovereign,
  • that God is a faithful helper

… And yet, that doesn’t prevent him from fully realizing that he is in a perilous situation.

It doesn’t dishonor the Lord or detract from his glory when you recognize how dangerous a situation you’re in when you’re experiencing a trial. With each trial you face, you have spiritual realities that are working behind the scenes in a way you could never know. Your failure to follow the Lord in this trial could and probably will have devastating consequences on you, on your family, on the body of believers – probably more than you would know.

As we experience trials and wait on the Lord to end the trial – yes, we’re in dangerous territory.

v5 Ask That God Would Be Glorified in Your Trial

And yet, the greatest danger in a very real sense is that God would be blasphemed or dishonored in some other way through your behavior in – and response to – the trial. And so, you’ll want to do what David does in verse 5 – ask that God would be glorified in your trial.

5 {Be thou exalted/Rise up}, O God, above the {heavens/sky};
{let/May} thy {glory/splendor} {be above/cover/be over} {all the/the whole} earth.

How can God be glorified in your trial? What brings him glory as you suffer?

How about a good attitude? We tell our sons often in the context of competing in a sport – it’s not so much the outcome of the game that matters (though you should want to win) – it’s the attitude you have as you play. It’s the attitude that you have when you win. It’s the attitude you have when you lose.

Attitude is so crucial in your trial. What does your attitude communicate to others about your God as you suffer? Do they get the sense from you that he can be trusted? Do others see in you encouragement that God is good to his people?

What are others learning about you from your response to having to wait for a trial to end?

Are you wasting your trial? Is God giving you an open door to glorify him – but you refuse to do it? He’s in no hurry. He’ll wait for that attitude to change.

And he’s so merciful that even if you’ve just utterly failed in your response to waiting for this trial to end that he is still waiting for you. He’s still waiting for you to come into a frame of mind from which you can then glorify God as you’re waiting for your trial to end.

And David is so ardent about this desire of God being glorified in his trial that he actually repeats this exact same request in verse 11 that we’ll see later on to end the psalm. May the Lord help each of us to have that same fervency in our desire to see God glorified in our trial.

v6 Realize that Some Day Your Trial Will Be Reversed

Well, the next matter to consider is similar to some thoughts that we’ve already rehearsed. And that is that in your trial as you’re waiting for it to end, you need to realize that some day that trial of yours will be reversed. David does this in verse 6.

6 They {have prepared/spread} a net {for my steps/to trap me/for my feet};
{my soul is bowed down/I am discouraged/I was bowed down in distress}:

they {have digged/dug/have dug} a pit {before me/for me/in my path},
{into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves./They themselves have fallen into the midst of it./They will fall into it!/but they have fallen into it themselves.}

Selah.

So, David has literal physical human enemies. And they are – as it were – trying to trap him. I mean – he’s in a cave! He’s pretty much trapped. And he is expressing confidence that God will take the plans of his enemies to trap and destroy him – and that God will turn those things right around on those enemies.

Now, for us Christians, we do sometimes have human enemies – humans that have for whatever reason decided to make life hard for us. But as the New Testament reveals, humans are not our ultimate problem. Our fellow-man is not ultimately responsible for our struggles. In fact, we are in some way wrestling with unseen realities and beings. And of course, our only defense is the armor of God – prayer and God’s word.

But we can be assured that whether in this life or ultimately in eternity, God will take the plans of these evil forces and beings and turn them right around on themselves. Even Satan – our most formidable enemy will be cast into the Lake of Fire forever.

And I’ll tell you – I think some people struggle with being excited about hell. Right? You think of lost loved ones who have died and who are surely there and that does not bring any joy to you. But I’ll tell you what makes me really excited about hell, as strange as that might sound! It’s that the Accuser of the Brethren will be there – the one who started this whole mess of turning God’s creation into a hell-on-earth. He himself will be cast into hell forever – and that gives me great joy!

So, some day, your trials and the evil one who has such a large and malevolent part to play in them – all of that will be reversed and done away with and you will be vindicated and everything will be right.

vv7-9 Determine to Praise God in Your Trial

So, in light of all of these exciting realities, determine to praise God in your trial – like David does in verses 7-9.

7 {My heart is fixed/My heart is steadfast/I am determined}, O God,
{my heart is fixed/My heart is steadfast/I am determined}:

{OK, to do what? About what?…}

I will sing
{and/yes} {give praise/I will sing praises/praise you/make music}.

8 {Awake up/Awake}, my {glory/soul};
awake, {psaltery and harp/harp and lyre/O stringed instrument and harp}:

I {myself will/will} {awake/awaken/wake up} {early/the dawn/at dawn}.

9 I will {praise thee/give you thanks}, O {Lord/Master}, {among/before} the {people/nations}:
I will {sing/sing praises} unto thee {among/before} {the nations/foreigners}.

So, determine to praise God in your trial. Why?

Does it not show that you and I are – in some way – other-worldly when we praise God in our sufferings? For natural unsaved people, what is their response to things going wrong? It’s not singing! It’s complaint. It’s dissatisfaction. It’s turning to unworthy things for comfort and consolation.

But when you do what David does here and you sing as you’re waiting for your trial to end? That is out of this world! What kind of a person can sing in his trial?

I’ll tell you who can sing in his trial. The man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief and on the night in which he was betrayed he sang a hymn with his disciples. And how could this one sing a hymn? Hebrews tells us that he was looking forward to the joy set before him.

And you show yourself to be his brother when do you likewise. And when you can look past your trial and suffering and you – with the eyes of faith – see glory to come. Yes, you look at the present troubles – but you realize that they are unworthy to be compared to the glory that’s to be revealed in you.

So, would you like to draw attention to your Lord and Savior? Then do like he did in his trials and sing praises to God as you are waiting for your trial to end.

v10 Remind Yourself of God’s Revealed Character

And something that surely fueled David and will surely fuel your singing praises to God is to remind yourself of God’s revealed character. This is what David does in verse 10.

10 For {thy mercy is great/your lovingkindness is great/your loyal love extends/great is your love} {unto the heavens/to the heavens/beyond the sky/reaching to the heavens},
and thy {truth/faithfulness} {unto/reaches} the {clouds/skies}.

Now, I just want to mention that in verse 3, a good deal of what we hear about in verse 10 was already stated but in a little different way. In verse 3 David was asking God to send help from heaven and send his loyal love and truth. And now it’s stated a little differently in verse 10 where David asserts that God’s loyal love and truth reach to those heavens from which he sends help.

So, this is part of God’s revealed character – he is loyal in his love for his chosen covenant people. And he is truth itself. God doesn’t abandon those who are truly his. And he is incapable of lying – the New Testament explicitly says as much. He cannot lie. He is truth – Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. And God is loyal and faithful and unchanging in his love – not for everyone – but for you, in particular.

God will not lie to you. God will not abandon you. You might feel lied to or abandoned. But get your feelings in line with God’s revealed character! Your feelings are fallible. God’s character is unchanging. Anchor yourself to what he says about himself in the Bible.

And if you do, as you’re waiting for God to end your trial, you will find yourself with a great deal of material with which to fuel your singing praise to him in the most unlikely circumstances in life.

v11 Once More… Ask God to be Glorified In Your Trial

Well, last of all, with all the previous considerations here:

  • Pleading for mercy, knowing that God is all that you have in your trial
  • Calling to God, knowing that he is still in sovereign control even of your trial
  • Being assured that God will faithfully help you through your trial
  • Not ignoring the danger that you are in in your trial
  • Asking that God be glorified in your trial
  • Realizing that some day your trial will be reversed
  • Determining to praise God in your trial
  • Reminding yourself of God’s revealed character in your trial

…now, once more for emphasis, ask God to be glorified in your trial, like David does in verse 11 to end the psalm.

11 {Be thou exalted/Rise up}, O God, above the {heavens/sky}:
{let/May} thy {glory/splendor} {be above/cover/be over} {all the/the whole} earth.

And it makes sense that David repeats this request from verse 5. Isn’t this the whole purpose of the existence of everything? God’s glory! Man’s salvation is not what this created world is about. God’s glory is! God made all of this – and all of you! – to glorify himself. God made your trial … to glorify himself.

And so, may the Lord help you to keep these realities in mind as you wait for him to end your trial.

Psalm 56 Commentary

I think that any of us who is a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has also known times of being outside of God’s will. Not just in one decision or choice that we’ve made – but in an intentional move that we’ve made that would impact us for a while.

There are people who enter into relationships that are outside of God’s will. Sometimes the nature of that kind of relationship is “til death do us part.”

There are people who move or take a job somewhere when that decision turns out to be clearly outside of God’s will for that person’s life.

There are choices that we make in this life that are done without a view to what God wants for us – and those choices can eventuate in us finding ourselves in a pattern of living that God would not want for us.

So, believers – and certainly those who do not trust Christ – are all capable of finding ourselves in a place that is outside of God’s will – it’s not what God wants for us.

I remember deciding to go to Seminary – which I believe was very clearly God’s will for me. But after a few months of being there I started to kind of drift away from pursuing my degree.

I started looking for housing arrangements that were far away from campus. In fact, I chose one that was a good distance from the Seminary – and I followed that up by moving even further away! And quite honestly, both housing situations left me miserable and troubled.

At the same time, I got interested in marrying a certain lady – who’s with me today! And I started making rationalizations for why I needed to stop Seminary and work at a place in town instead. Now again, God had clearly led me to Seminary. But once more, I was trying to get out of it.

And so, I ended up interviewing for a position in town there in Greenville, SC. And it was miserable! I remember that the interview was very uncomfortable. And at the end of the interview I was in a room with three of their people. And one of the guys I remember clearly – his question to me that he seemed to repeat to me a few times – “Why are you here?” … “Why are you here?” … “Why are you here?

And as he asked me the first and second time, I gave some sort of weak response – but the last time I just shook my head and gave a weak chuckle and with exasperation evident in my voice said, “I don’t know.” I was so embarrassed and frustrated after that interview that I just prayed to the Lord and determined that if he wanted me to finish Seminary – no matter how long it might take and how uncomfortable it might be – I would do it.

And so, I had to learn the hard way in that situation. But for any of us who might now be struggling with temptations to leave the known will of God for our lives and to deviate from the path that he has for us – we need God’s help to navigate these treacherous waters. And certainly, if we’re actually outside of God’s will for us, we need to know how to respond to that and get right with the Lord and back on the path that he has for us.

And it just so happens that we have a divinely-inspired prayer from a man who suffered shame and even danger from leaving God’s will. And that man is David and we have his prayer recorded for us in Psalm 56 in which he wrestles with the reality that he had departed from God’s clear path for him.

So, let’s turn our attention to Psalm 56 where we will see The Prayer of a Believer Outside of God’s Will. David had found himself to be outside of God’s will. How did he handle that situation and what can we learn as we pray through these situations in our lives as we become aware of them?

Let’s read the entirety of this psalm to get an overview of this prayer and then we’ll deal with the details.

{Read Psalm 56…}

Superscription

Now, the superscription to this psalm contains some helpful information for us. Because it’s here where we first get the idea that David is a believer who is outside of God’s will for him.

<{To/For} the {chief Musician/choir director/music director}
{upon/according to/to the tune of} {Jonathelemrechokim/Jonatha elem rehokim/the yonath-elem-rechovim style/“A Dove on Distant Oaks”},
{Michtam/A Mikhtam/a prayer} of David,
{when/written when} the Philistines {took/seized/captured/had seized} him in Gath.>

Now, there are four episodes in David’s life that have him interacting with this city mentioned in the superscription – Gath.

  • In 1 Samuel 17 David meets and beats Goliath who was from this city – Gath.
  • Then in 1 Samuel 21 David flees from Saul to King Achish in Gath but then needs to act crazy and leave.
  • Third, in 1 Samuel 27 David flees to King Achish in Gath (again!) and stays for 1 year and 4 months, killing the inhabitants of the land while pretending to kill Israelites.
  • And then fourth and last, in 1 Chronicles 18 David captures Gath after becoming king and receiving the Davidic Covenant.

So, which of these situations describes David’s being taken at Gath? It’s the second episode – the one in 1 Samuel 21. Let’s look at that for a moment. And let’s read verses 10-15 in 1 Samuel 21.

KJV 1 Samuel 21:10 ¶ And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.

11 And the servants of Achish said unto him,

Is not this David the king of the land?
did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying,

Saul hath slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands?

12 And David laid up these words in his heart,
and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath.

13 And he changed his behaviour before them,
and feigned himself mad in their hands,
and scrabbled on the doors of the gate,
and let his spittle fall down upon his beard.

14 Then said Achish unto his servants,

Lo, ye see the man is mad:
wherefore then have ye brought him to me?

15 Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence?
shall this fellow come into my house?

And then David escapes and goes back to Israel.

Now, listen, how had God made clear that he wanted Israel – of which David was a part – to treat the inhabitants of the land surrounding Israel back when they first entered it? Did God want his people living among these idolaters? No. God had decreed at that point in history that Israel destroy the inhabitants of the land.

But is that what David was doing? No. David had left the place God wanted him to be and traveled to live among the Gentile Philistines. It was ill-advised and not fueled by prayer. He was running away from his problems and ultimately he made a fool of himself.

He certainly could have justified leaving God’s will for him. After all, his leader was not leading him. In fact, he was making great effort to kill David. Who wouldn’t flee?

And yet, just because we can justify disobedience doesn’t make it right. And the consequences of disobedience can leave us humiliated like they did for David. I don’t think that David was proud of how he had to behave to save his life because of his leaving God’s known will for him.

Now, one last thing from this superscription. Psalm 55:6 had David wishing for wings of a dove so that he could fly away from the effects of his former friend turning on him. And did you notice how the NIV translates what most other translations transliterate?

What the KJV brings over from Hebrew as “Jonathelemrechokim”, the NIV translates as “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” That’s the literal meaning of that Hebrew phrase. So, in David’s mind, he had been given the wings of a dove – just like he had asked for in the last psalm and now he had flown away.

But was it worth it? I think David would say, “No.” And I think that all of us believers who have found ourselves outside of the will of God would answer likewise.

So, let’s consider in detail this prayer of a believer who is outside of the will of God.

v1-2 Ask for Deliverance from the Effects of Your Own Poor Decisions

How should we pray when we realize that we are outside of God’s will? First of all, you need to ask for deliverance from the effects of your own poor decisions – like David does in verses 1-2.

KJV Psalm 56:1 {Be merciful/Be gracious/Have mercy} {unto/on/to} me, O God:
for {man/men} {would swallow me up/has trampled upon me/are attacking me/hotly pursue me};
{he fighting daily oppresseth me./Fighting all day long he oppresses me./All day long hostile enemies are tormenting me./all day long they press their attack.}

2 {Mine enemies/My foes/Those who anticipate my defeat/My slanderers} {would daily swallow me up/have trampled upon me all day long/attack me all day long/pursue me all day long}:
{for/Indeed} {they be many/many} {that fight/fight/are fighting/are attacking} {against me/me}, {O thou most High/proudly/O Exalted One/in their pride}.

Now, it seems to me that some of this complaint that David expresses to God has to do with the Philistines who are threatening David. But I imagine also that David has Saul and his associates in mind here in these two verses when he thinks of those who are against him.

So, David is considering the source that negatively influenced him to leave God’s will and also the elements that now immediately threaten him as he finds himself outside of God’s will for his life.

And all David can do is to cry out to God for mercy. Now, this Hebrew word can be translated into English as either “mercy” or “grace.” But I’m glad the KJV translators chose “mercy” because in the context I do believe that David is asking for God to spare him from what he really deserves – that’s a good definition of mercy. David is requesting mercy then because he had done wrong.

And that’s a good place for us to start as we find ourselves outside of God’s will for our lives. Ask God to withhold the bad that our actions have earned us.

And you can bring to God’s attention the things that influenced you to leave his path for your life like David does just as much as you bring to his attention the current realities that trouble you, now that you are off the path.

Recognize that when you leave God’s will for your life you will very likely – if you belong to the Lord – experience multiple obstacles and hardships. And those are all part of God’s merciful orchestrated plan to bring you back to the right way for your life.

So, when you realize that you are outside of God’s will in this life, ask him for deliverance from the effects of your own poor choices, even as you mention to him the factors that contributed to you making those poor choices in the first place.

vv3-4 Resolve to Trust God & Not Fear Man

And then as we might find ourselves outside of God’s will – but wanting to get back on the path – we need to resolve in our hearts and express with our mouths to the Lord that we trust him and that we refuse to fear men anymore, like David does in verses 3 and 4.

3 {What time/When} I am afraid,
I {will trust/will put my trust/trust} in {thee/you}.

4 In God {I will praise his word/whose word I praise/-I boast in his promise-},
in God I {have put my trust/trust};
I {will/shall/am} not {fear/be afraid/afraid}
what {flesh can/can mere man/can mortal man} do {unto/to} me{./?}

Now, fear is an emotion that we are sure to deal with especially as we are outside of God’s will for our lives. Even if we are obeying the Lord and walking with him and doing his will, we can expect to meet with various realities that would cause us to fear. And yet, especially when we as believers might leave the path that God has for us, fear is sure to follow.

In David’s case, the catalyst of his fear is men – men who can do things to him – bad things. And yet, David’s resolve – as ours needs to be – is to put our trust in the Lord.

And verse 3 is so amazing. It can comfort and calm a little child who is afraid that there might be “monsters” in his closet. But it is an expression of resolve that the bravest man can fly to in his times of fear.

Are you afraid that you might not be able to pay your bills this month? When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

Are you fearing the results of some medical test? When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

Are you troubled about domestic and/or world events? When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

This verse is – or should be – the anthem of those who are perpetually tempted to worry and fret and fear! When you fear – when that trigger is tripped in your heart – what do you need to do? Trust in the Lord!

That’s what David did when he was faced with fear-inducing situations that came even as a result of leaving God’s path for him.

And so, we need to trust in the Lord when we fear. And in particular, notice David’s thought about God’s word. He will praise God’s word. God’s word is crucial for us as we’re fearing and afraid and seeking to return to God’s path. Let God’s word be your guide – of course, when you’ve strayed from the way – but certainly even before that point! In fact, if you and I actually spend some time and consider God’s word regularly, we’re a lot less likely to get into the position where we’ve left God’s will for our lives.

And yet, sometimes God uses the hair-raising realities that accompany us going our own way in order to draw our attention to his precious word. He did in David’s life where we see a resolve on his part to praise and boast in God’s word and to trust the Lord in the midst of the trial that God has brought to him in order to lead him back to the right path in his life.

So, as you find yourself to have strayed from God’s ways and are experiencing the difficulties that God intends for you to experience when you’re in such a situation, resolve then-and-there to trust God and not fear men – not even fear the results of your wandering from God’s path – but fear and trust God alone.

vv5-6 Call God’s Attention to the Ramifications of Your Wandering

And as you’re in the midst of the difficulty, call God’s attention to the ramifications of your decision to leave his paths – even as they relate to how people might be treating you – like David does in verses 5 and 6.

5 {Every day/All day long} they {wrest my words/distort my words/cause me trouble/twist my words}:
{all their thoughts are against me for evil./they make a habit of plotting my demise./they are always plotting to harm me.}

6 They {gather themselves together/attack/stalk/conspire}, they {hide themselves/lurk},
they {mark/watch} my {steps/every step}, {when they wait/as they have waited/as they prepare/eager} {for my soul/to take my life}.

So, in David’s life, he had these folks who were plotting to harm him – even to kill him.

But this was simply a result of his ill-advised decision to leave God’s place for him. And you might think that if God is bringing this trouble to bear on your life because you have disobeyed him, then maybe you should just keep quiet about it. But that’s not the example we have from David.

David is wrestling with what these men are trying to do to him – which has been orchestrated by the Lord to bring David back to the right path – and David – knowing full-well that God has caused this – is still also unashamed to bring to God’s attention what is going on in his life.

God knows it, but he wants you to relate to him the results of what he’s done in response to your leaving his will for your life.

v7 Call on God to Put an End to Your Troubles

And not only relate to him these troubling realities – but God actually wants you to beg him to put an end to these troubles – that he himself brought into your life! That’s what David does in verse 7.

7 {Shall they escape by iniquity?/Because of wickedness, cast them forth/Because they are bent on violence, do not let them escape!/On no account let them escape}
in thine anger {cast/put/bring} down the {people/peoples/nations}, O God.

Now, we see elsewhere in Scripture God using things to chasten his people – while at the same time he doesn’t fully endorse all of their actions. For example, God sent the Babylonians to judge Judah. And yet, God was angry for the way the Babylonians went too far in exacting punishment on his people.

And where you experience the painful results that God has brought into your life as a result of poor faithless decisions, God is ready and willing to hear you cry out to him for relief from the results of these things.

v8 Urge God to Notice Your Pain – Realize He Does Know It

And in tandem with your realizing that God is willing and able to respond to these requests for deliverance from the difficulties he’s sent to you, knowing fully that he is aware of these things – don’t let that prevent you from urging God to do what he is very inclined to do – which is to notice your pain and to simultaneously realize that he does indeed know all about it. David does this in verse 8.

8 {Thou tellest/You have taken account of/You keep track of/Record} my {wanderings/misery/lament}:
{put thou/put/list} my tears {into/in/on} {thy/your} {bottle/leather container/scroll}:
are they not {in/recorded in} {thy/your} {book/scroll/record}?

So, when a true believer wanders from the Lord’s path for his life – and certainly for all of us who are as best we can tell on God’s path for our life – we can take comfort in the knowledge that God knows. God knows our tears. In fact, it’s as if he has them recorded on a scroll somewhere.

God knows your tears. He knows the troubling effects of the things that he’s sent in to your life to get your attention. And while he’s the one who troubles you, he is also the one who is not unmoved by your troubles.

This is part of what can be very mysterious to us about God. As one of his children, he can do things in your life that are very painful. And so, we might tend to think that he hates us. No! He doesn’t hate you. He loves you and at the same time he sends chastening and sufferings into your life to make you more like his Son.

So, because of that, when you’re experiencing some of these effects of the loving chastening of the Lord, remind yourself that he is the one who both brings those tears and who also is well-aware and sympathetic with those same tears.

v9 Be Confident that God can Change Your Circumstances

And what do you suppose that God is ultimately trying to get you to do by sending painful things into your life as a result of your wandering from his will? He ultimately wants you to come to the place where you cry out to him for deliverance. And when you do, you can be assured that he will answer in his perfect way and timing. We see this in David’s experience in verse 9.

9 When I {cry unto thee/cry out to you for help}, then {shall/will} mine enemies turn back:
{this I know; for/I know that/By this I will know that} God is {for me/on my side}.

And that’s another important thing to remember. Even as we may from time to time find ourselves facing difficulties in this life that are sent to us from the Lord as a direct result of our leaving his will, we can be confident that God is “for” us.

David says this in the midst of Gath! An Israelite should not have been in Gath. The only reason an Israelite should have found himself in Gath is if he were leading an army in victory against it. And yet, there David was in Gath having to act like a crazy person in order to avoid death. All because David went ahead of God’s will and timing in the matter of escaping from what seemed to be certain death from the hands of Saul.

And even in that situation, David could still confidently assert that God was “for” him.

God is for you. If you trust Jesus Christ and have become his disciple, God is for you. He is on your side! Even when he is chastening you, he is still for you!

And because he’s for you, when you cry out to him in faith, he is more than able to change your circumstances. The circumstances are tools in his hand. Once the tool has done its job, he doesn’t need to wield it on you anymore.

So, cry out to him in faith for help. And recognize and believe that he is more than able to deliver you in his perfect timing as he accomplishes what he wants to accomplish in your life.

vv10-13 Resolve to Praise & Trust & Serve God & Not Fear Man

And last, as God leads you through a time in which you are clearly outside of his will –

  • you’ve asked for deliverance from the effects of your own poor decisions,
  • you’ve resolved to trust God and not fear men,
  • you’ve God’s called attention to the ramifications of your wandering,
  • you’ve called on God to put an end to your troubles,
  • you’ve urged God to notice your pain and have realized that he does know it,
  • and you are confident in God’s being with you and being able to change your circumstances

– last, resolve to praise and trust and serve God and to not fear men, like David does in verses 10-13 to end this psalm.

10 In God {will I praise his word/whose word I praise/I boast in his promise}:
in the LORD {will I praise his word/whose word I praise/I boast in his promise}.

11 In God {have I put my trust/I trust}:
I {will not be/shall not be/am not} {afraid/afraid.}
{what/What} {man can/can man/can mere men} do {unto/to} me{./?}

12 {Thy vows are upon me,/Your vows are binding upon me/I am obligated to fulfill the vows I made to you/I am under vows to you} O God:
I will {render praises unto thee./render thank offerings to You./give you the thank-offerings you deserve,/present my thank offerings to you.}

13 {For/when} {thou/you} {hast delivered/have delivered/deliver} {my soul/my life/me} from death:
{wilt not thou deliver/Indeed/You keep/and} my feet from {falling/stumbling},

{that/So that} I {may/might} {walk before/serve} God
{in the light of the living?/as I enjoy life./in the light of life.}

So, be optimistic! The Lord will get you through this. And when he does you will praise and serve him and make him known to others.

And by God’s grace – if and when any of us find ourselves outside of God’s will – we can pray this way to him and find him to be “for” us and as one in whom we may trust when we’re afraid.

Psalm 55 22 Sermon / 23 Meaning

But eventually we need to come to the point that David does in verses 22 and 23 where he encourages both himself and others to trust the Lord.

22 {Cast/Throw} {thy burden/your cares} upon the LORD,
and he shall sustain thee:
he {shall never suffer/will never allow/will never let} the {righteous/godly} {to be moved/to be shaken/to be upended/fall}.

23 But {thou/you}, O God, shalt bring {them/the wicked} down {into/to} the {pit of destruction/deep Pit/pit of corruption}:
{bloody and deceitful men/Men of bloodshed and deceit/Violent and deceitful people/bloodthirsty and deceitful men} {shall/will} not live {out/even} half {their days/a normal lifespan};
{but/But as for me} I {will trust/trust} in {thee/you}.

So, as you and I struggle with the reality of being betrayed by people that we trust in this life, let’s remember the resources that we have in Psalm 55 and emulate the steps that David takes in dealing with the betrayal in his life. In this way, I trust that the Lord will be pleased to help us deal with the awful reality of betrayal.

Psalm 55 20-21 Meaning / Commentary

And you might think that expressing confidence and faith in the Lord will just kind of settle you permanently. But sometimes it will actually throw you back into convulsions as you recall your problem and want to elaborate on it to the Lord, as David does in the rest of verse 19 and verses 20 and 21.

{Because they have no changes,/With whom there is no change,/They refuse to change,/men who never change their ways}
{therefore they fear not God./And who do not fear God./and do not fear God./and have no fear of God.}

20 {He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him:/My companion attacks his friends;}
he {hath broken/has violated/breaks} his {covenant/solemn promises to them}.

21 {The words of his mouth/His speech/His words} {were/was/are} {smoother than/as smooth as} butter,
{but/yet} {war was/he harbors animosity} in his heart:

his words {were softer/seem softer/are more soothing} than oil,
{yet/but} {were they drawn/they are really like sharp} swords.

And so, we can tend to go back into the details of our problems even after expressing confidence in the Lord’s willingness and desire to help us. And that’s OK – David did it and you don’t have to be discouraged when you do this.

Psalm 55 16-17 Meaning

Now, David next contrasts the kind of treatment he deserves versus what this betrayer and his buddies deserve in verses 15-17.

15 {Let/May} death {seize upon/come deceitfully upon/destroy/take by surprise} {them/my enemy},
{and let them/may they} go down {quick/alive} {into/to} {hell/Sheol/the grave}:

for {wickedness/evil} is in their {dwellings/dwelling},
{and among them/in their midst}.

16 {As for me, I/But I} {will call/shall call/call} {upon/out to} God;
and the LORD {shall/will} {save/deliver} me.

17 {i.e., During the…} Evening, and morning, and {at noon/noontime/noon}, {will I/I will/I} {pray, and cry aloud/complain and murmur/lament and moan/cry out in distress}:
and he {shall/will} hear {my voice/me}.

So, look at these two groups.

On the one hand we have David. What’s he doing? He’s praying calling out to God frequently. And on the other hand, we have the enemies. They have wickedness dwelling among them.

And how should they be treated? David is confident that God will deliver him from these men. And on the other hand, he prays to God that he would cause these enemies to not be able to kill him – but that rather the Lord would turn it right around on them and that they would be the ones to die instead of him.

And we can appeal to God like this. We can contrast our behavior with the behavior of those who deal treacherously with us and if we’re blameless in this regard we can ask that the Lord would turn the metaphorical weapons of the enemies back on themselves.