Ecclesiastes 1 Meaning Commentary Summary

Ecclesiastes 1 Commentary: First of all, let’s discover what the message of the book of Ecclesiastes is. What is the book about in a nutshell?

Everything is Meaningless

Let’s look at what the text says. How’s this for a cheery optimistic start in Ecclesiastes 1:2? Vanity of vanities! Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.

Wait, vanity?

Yes. Breath. Meaningless. Insubstantial. Futile. Frustrating. Unending. Dull. Monotonous. Maddening.

But – wait – ALL is vanity or meaningless or futile? Well, that’s what Qoheleth says. And he would know.

So, let that sink in. Everything is futile. That’s the assertion that God breathed out through Qoheleth for you and me to receive and believe.

It’s All Meaningless… “Under the Sun”

But now that you have completely accepted this fact without reservation – that everything is futile – let’s notice one important caveat that Qoheleth himself makes.

Alright – everything is futile – where? Ecclesiastes 1:3 – What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh … under the sun?

And this is our major clue to interpreting this book correctly. Some people look at the book of Ecclesiastes and think that it’s just the work of a cynic.

In fact, one Old Testament scholar that has earned a reputation of respect in the believing community (Tremper Longman) thinks that all of this book – except the first few verses and last few verses – is the writing of a cynic who’s just utterly jaded with life and he’s basically a wisdom teacher gone rogue. And – according to Longman – the first and last few verses are a warning to not really take all of what the guy says to heart.

I don’t believe that’s how we ought to read this book.

Qoheleth is not unreasonably cynical. Yes, he says that all things ultimately are futile – but really only as those things are done under the sun.

The Meaning of “Under the Sun”

And that phrase is the major phrase to take note of in this book. If you miss this, you miss everything in the book of Ecclesiastes and it will remain an impossible enigma for you forever.

When Qoheleth talks of things under the sun he’s speaking of a life lived with merely human values in mind. He’s talking about a worldly or earthly mindset, a mindset that is limited to what one can see and hear and taste and touch and smell, a mindset that’s devoid of thoughts of heaven, that doesn’t value heavenly realities.

A person who lives only in the realm under the sun is one who is living for merely the here and now. God is not in the picture in his life.

There’s More Than “Under the Sun”

And many of the passages in the book of Ecclesiastes mention life lived merely under the sun without considering spiritual realities. But that’s not all we have in this book.

In this book we also have Qoheleth giving an alternative approach to life. It’s not that living life with no consideration of God is the only way. No, there’s a better way to view life – one that takes into full consideration God and his desires for your life.

That’s why Qoheleth can say at the end of the book that the main duty of man after all is said in this book is to fear God and keep his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). But that emphasis is not only at the end of the book. You see this God-focused view throughout the book.

We’ll see those passages throughout our study of the book of Ecclesiastes.

Author

Now, as we see in Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 the author of this book is “the Preacher”.

In Hebrew, the word is Koheleth. That word refers to gathering people together – like a preacher would do. And that concept of gathering people is translated into Greek as Ecclesiastes, from which we get the name of this book.

When we speak of Ecclesiastes or Kohelet or the Preacher, we’re speaking of the same person. So, we have a preacher, a gatherer of men, as the author of this book.

Who is the Preacher?

But that doesn’t help us much in terms of getting the true identity of this author. We know what he does. But who is this man?

So, note from Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 that the author is also a son of David, king in Jerusalem.

He’s portraying himself as the Davidic king in Jerusalem. And if you add that bit of information to the location of this book in our Bibles, you might get the idea that the author is Solomon.

What do I mean about the location of the book? Well, let me ask, what book immediately precedes this one? Proverbs. Who wrote Proverbs? Solomon did. That’s the claim in Proverbs 1:1-5.

OK, now, what book comes after the book of Eccelesiastes? Song of whom? Song of Solomon.

So, the book of Ecclesiastes is nestled in the midst of two other books written by Solomon. Maybe Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes.

Then we have the statement that this author is the Davidic king – and you can see why we might have some warrant in thinking that Solomon wrote the book.

Against Solomon as the Author

Now, some do argue against Solomonic authorship. They don’t think Solomon is the author. Here are their reasons.

They would say that the narrator speaks a little too negatively about kings. And if he’s a king, he wouldn’t speak that way about himself and others who are in his position.

There’s also a place in Ecclesiastes where Koheleth speaks of those who reigned before him in Jerusalem. And if that were Solomon, then how many people were ruling in Jerusalem before him? David, his father. Maybe it could be speaking of Saul. But, that’s it. And so, that’s used as another reason to question whether Solomon wrote this book.

My Opinion

And, here’s my take on it.

Solomon Wrote Ecclesiastes

I think there isn’t enough evidence to say that Solomon didn’t write this book. And so I would tend to think that Solomon did indeed write Ecclesiastes and that he’s the Koheleth in this book.

Solomon Doesn’t Want You To Think He Wrote Ecclesiastes

But at the same time, I’d also encourage us to not make too much of Solomon’s authorship of this book. Here’s why.

Solomon didn’t put his name on this book. He could have. He does it with the Song of Solomon. He does it with the book of Proverbs. He doesn’t do it with Ecclesiastes.

What to Think of Solomon Writing Ecclesiastes

And here’s what I think we should do with that information.

Don’t really try to fit the things written in the book of Ecclesiastes into Solomon’s life. There are some who strain to match up things said in Ecclesiastes with what we have recorded of Solomon’s life. Don’t do that.

This is what led the old Jewish commentators to postulate that Solomon wrote this book at the end of his life. But – you say – Solomon went away from the Lord at the end of his life because of all his foreign wives. That’s true. And that’s why the Jewish commentators of old made up this story where Solomon actually turned back to the Lord after his apostasy and then wrote this book.

Now, is that story romantic and encouraging and exciting? Yes.

It is biblical? No.

Should we try to conjure up some similar story to fit Ecclesiastes into the timeline of Solomon’s life? No. At least, I’m not going to.

So, while I don’t deny that Solomon was likely the author of this book, I imagine I won’t be making any attempt to bring him up in any of our lessons.

But here’s what I will do. I will assume that Solomon is writing this book but not wanting us to think of him as we read it.

So, when this Koheleth says that he was the king, I’ll believe him and teach accordingly.

When he says that he had the finances and power to build all sorts of public works and to have all sorts of wives and concubines like a king would – I’m going to believe him and teach likewise.

This narrator wants us to believe that he’s a Jewish king with unlimited resources. And therefore we’re going to take him at his word.

At the same time, he doesn’t come right out and say that he’s Solomon. So I’m not going to make any sort of effort to force that idea onto his book.

Basically we’re just going to consider this book to be written by a nameless and unidentified Jewish king. And I’m going to use his Hebrew name – Koheleth.

Now that we know the author of Ecclesiates, we’ll start where the book of Ecclesiastes starts – with a view of the meaningless cycle of life lived merely under the sun. What is life like for a man or woman who views this physical world as all there is? That’s Ecclesiastes 1:4-11.

So, when we pick up and start reading this book, we’re immediately directed to the never-ending cycles of life on this earth.

Earth

In Ecclesiastes 1:4, the earth is said to remain fixed and steady. It doesn’t change. It doesn’t pass away. But humans do. One generation of men and women pass off the scene by death. And another generation enters the scene of this life. Year after year, and decade after decade, and century after century, and millenium after millenium this happens.

The people who inhabit the city of Whitewater (where my church is located) will not be around in another 100 years or so. They will pass off the scene. And there will be a new group to take their place. It’s as if it didn’t even matter that this current generation existed. Who’s going to remember all the people that dwell in that city just one century from today? Probably no one. How futile!

And – really – how shocking! Man under the sun is so focused on himself and his life and his activities. And yet, it’s as if the earth just watches every single generation like that — that’s just so full of itself and has such an elevated sense of its own importance. And the earth just sees them come and sees them go and then sees another come and another go and on and on. It seems like there’s nothing substantial or permanent or meaningful to human life. How futile.

Sun

And it’s not just generations of men that come and go endlessly. The sun does something similar in Ecclesiastes 1:5.

Study Psalm 19 some time. It’s in that psalm that the sun is used to assist us in marveling at God’s creation and what God communicates to us through that creation. In fact, the sun – we learn in Psalm 19 – is actually intended to demonstrate to us that we can’t hide from God’s communication through nature.

And yet, here we are now in Ecclesiastes 1 and the sun is communicating something different. It rises, goes down, and rises again. It’s just like the monotonous changing of generations. In fact, the word translated “goeth down” in the King James is the same word in Ecclesiastes 1:4 as “cometh” – speaking of the entering of a new generation. There’s a cyclical pattern to the sun.

And we can all be very happy that the sun keeps coming back day after day. But the idea is – there’s no progress. It’s an endless cycle. It’s not as if the sun makes new advances every day and achieves more and more. No – the sun does the same exact thing day after day after day. It’s an endless meaningless cycle.

Wind

And, in addition to the never-ending pattern of generations of men and the sun itself, we also need to consider the wind in Ecclesiastes 1:6.

The same word used of the generation that passes away into obscurity is used of the wind. The wind, too, just kind of blows around. “Turning” is a big emphasis in this verse. The wind turns. It whirls about. It returns in its circuits. Again, the idea is that there’s no progress. There’s no advancement. Ultimately, nothing changes. It’s not as if the wind accomplishes anything new or gains new heights. It’s basically twirling in a circle and has been from before any living human can remember.

And you might say – “that doesn’t bother me. I don’t care that the various generations of humanity and the sun and the wind don’t make any real progress or ultimately achieve anything.” And to that I say – then you aren’t thinking as deeply as Qoheleth is! You’re not following him in his thinking. He wants you to be bothered by this. God himself wants you to be uncomfortable and a little frustrated by these facts that are evident all around you.

If you don’t see anything disturbing about the realities presented so far, just stay with Qoheleth’s way of thinking. Try to follow. You’ll know that you’ve come to terms with the author of this book when these realities he keeps mentioning start to bother you.

Water Cycle

So, from generations to the sun to the wind, Qoheleth turns to consider what even we refer to as our water “cycle” in Ecclesiastes 1:7.

Again, the Hebrew word used of generations passing away and the wind circling around is used now of the rivers running into the sea.

And you know what this is like. If you put your boat into – say the Rock River – eventually you can make it into the Mississippi River. And from there, you’d make it into the Gulf of Mexico. And from there, you could paddle out into the Atlantic Ocean. And yet, it’s not as if all those waters that contribute to the ocean – as if they start overflowing the ocean. No. Water is evaporated from the ocean to form clouds which are blown by the circling wind which then eventually lets down rain – sometimes at the exact locations from where those rivers start.

It’s interesting to think that a drop of water might flow from your drive way to the sewer to a river to the ocean – and then come right back in a cloud and be dropped right back into your driveway – only to have that exact same process repeat over and over and over again.

And yet, for all that activity, you really can’t tell that anything is happening by simply looking at the ocean. It’s not as if the ocean makes any progress or achieves anything. It’s not as if it can meet some preset capacity and when it reaches that point just say – “OK, I’m done. I’ve reached my goal! I’ve achieved something.” No, it’s an endless cycle. It’s repetitious. It’s monotonous. It’s vanity.

Mankind

And, just like the ocean never gets to experience true satisfaction and fulfillment – a sense of real accomplishment or fullness – so too are we humans. It’s not just nature that experiences this endless apparently irrelevant cycle. Man does, too according to Ecclesiastes 1:8.

All things are full of labour. Or – all things or words are wearisome. Even to speak of these things – the apparent emptiness and futility of life under the sun – is a wearying burden.

Do you feel that way yet? No? OK, then let’s continue on and we’ll be given more and more reasons to feel this way.

Now, we spoke of some of the wearying facts of life from the perspective of nature. The sun. The wind. The rivers. But now let’s consider mankind’s existence.

To begin with, there’s no real and ultimate satisfaction in this life under the sun lived without a consciousness of God and spiritual realities.

Let me ask – what does your eye do? Does your eye taste? Does it smell? Does it touch? Well, it can touch, but that’s not its primary function. No, the eye sees.

And yet, the only thing that the eye is made to do, doesn’t satisfy it.

Have you ever noticed that? You can look at – let’s say – a really fine-looking house. And you can look at it every day as you pass by that nice area of town. Does that satisfy you? No.

You can have your eye on a top-of-the-line luxury car. And you can eye it up every day you pass by that dealership. But does that satisfy? No.

And those two considerations have to do with coveting something, which is immoral. But let’s direct our minds to something not so suspect.

Have you ever seen something that’s just so beautiful that you want to just keep it? It’s hard to explain, but you know what it’s like to experience some beautiful moment – a sunset or a picturesque day on the lake or a walk in a park. And sometimes you can just want to take it in – in some permanent way. And maybe if you can do that, it would satisfy your eyes. But it ends. And you’re left ultimately unsatisfied.

And that’s not an issue for the eye only. There are similar dynamics with the ear. Now, do you remember earlier in this chapter where we were told how the rivers keep pouring into the ocean and yet the ocean is never full? That’s the same word we have here for the ear.

Words and music and all sorts of sounds enter the ear. The ear’s main job is to hear. Actually, that’s all it can do. And yet, even though the ear takes in all sorts of noises, yet, it’s never full. It’s never satisfied.

So, man’s senses are insatiable. Nothing under the sun ultimately satisfies them.

Vanity

Now, Qoheleth continues exposing the vanity of life’s meaningless cycles in Ecclesiastes 1:9. In other words, “What has been… is what currently is… and what has been done… is what is currently done.” What existed a long time ago is what exists now. And what people did a long time ago is what they do now.

The earth and heavens existed from the Creation Week. They still do. The rivers and trees and creatures that exist now existed back then. The stars and asteroids and comets and planets that exist now – they existed back then. It’s not as if there’s anything new under the sun. No, in fact, there is not one single thing that is new under the sun.

And it’s at this point I need to conceed that there are indeed some new gadgets that man has made. And there’s new technology. There’s new fashions. There are new modes of transportation.

Right? I mean, so-called smart phones didn’t exist in Qoheleth’s day. Neither did the internet. Cell towers didn’t exist. Space ships, microwaves, toaster ovens, refrigerators, fluorescent light bulbs, electricity for that matter, diesel engines, telephony, vaccines, pacemakers. And I could go on. None of these things existed in Qoheleth’s day. They’re all new.

So, is Qoheleth wrong?

I don’t think so. Look at some of those things we mentioned.

Cell phones are new, yes. But really, what is their essence? What do we use them for? Communication. Has communication existed since Qoheleth’s day? Of course. It’s not new. The means by which humanity communicates can be new, but the bare fact that we communicate is not.

What about pacemakers? Surely, Qoheleth’s day didn’t see those. But what are pacemakers intended to do? Extend one’s life. And so a medical device like that would fall under the category of things which physicians use to heal their patients. Did physicians exist in Qoheleth’s day? Of course. They didn’t have pacemakers, but their craft has been with us since the fall.

Even something as monstrous as modern-day abortion – do we really think this is something new? Yes, the sterile, medical environment and tools that come along with such a heinous act now are new. But could a mother get rid of an unwanted child in Qoheleth’s day? Of course. Leave him on someone’s door step. Or sacrifice him to your idols. Or whatever else.

What I’m saying is that the manifestations of certain desires and activities of mankind might be new. But those basic desires and activities are certainly not.

And that’s what Qoheleth is thinking. He’s already told us that one generation goes and another – what? Comes. Well, that would be a new generation. Is that something that’s new? Well, yes. But it’s still a generation of people. And having yet another generation of people is nothing new in this world.

And actually, Qoheleth goes on in later verses to tell us that he constructed new building projects and planted gardens and all sorts of things. Those things would have all been new in a sense – but not in the sense in which Qoheleth is speaking in Ecclesiastes 1:9. People before him had planted gardens and built buildings. There’s nothing new under the sun.

Exuberant Optimism

Let’s move on to Ecclesiastes 1:10.

The Preacher addresses in his mind the exuberant optimist.

I can imagine such a one saying “Come on, Qoheleth! Look! Here’s something new!

What’s Qoheleth’s response?

Nah, I’m afraid not, son.

And someone listening to this might have ideas in his mind about this or that that he thinks is new. And regarding that, you need to know that Qoheleth’s not going to agree – for the reasons we already reviewed in Ecclesiastes 1:9. Every basic desire and interest of mankind has been acted out throughout the millenia of human existence. And they’re still with us today.

No Memory of Old Things

Then we get to Ecclesiastes 1:11 with the crowning vanity of this whole meaningless cycle of life under the sun. There’s no remembrance of former things.

Do you know the name of your great-great-great grandfather?

I do. His name was Henry. And that’s one of the only things I know about him. He was a farmer. He came from Ireland in the early 1800s. He was a Roman Catholic man. His family for a few years lived in Erin, WI near Holy Hill in the Hartford area. He moved to Minnesota in the mid- to late-1800s. He passed away in Minnesota in the late 1800s. He owned some land. He had a number of children… And that’s all I know about him. This man, Henry Weir Sr. lived a long time. Maybe 7 decades or a bit more. He woke up every day and did a number of things and at the end of the day he went to sleep. He woke up the next day and did more stuff and then slept. And on and on. He must have done a lot of things in his life. And yet, I know only a handful of the things he did.

And who was his father? I have no idea. And I know what I know about Henry Sr. because I’ve spent multiple hours researching him using the only documents I can find on him.

The point is – I’ve actually tried to know this man and I can’t do much beyond what I’ve already done. The former things aren’t remembered.

And you know what? You and I are going to be like that, too. Do you think that your great-great-great grandchild will know anything about you? Will he even know your name? Will he know what you did?

There’s a good likelihood that no one will know anything about us in 200 years. And that’s not because each of us is just particularly uninteresting. It’s just the fact of the matter. You and I will be forgotten. That’s what it says here – people who come after us won’t remember – not just us – but even our children and grandchildren.

And it’s not just people that are not and will not be remembered. It’s everything.

Its animals. Do you know what animals existed before the flood? Maybe some – especially those laid down in the fossil record – but certainly not all.

Do you know how war was waged in ancient times? We have some clues – again with things written in stone or whatever that’s lasted. But ultimately, so much of ancient history is shrouded in mystery to us.

And it’ll be just like that for people centuries from now who are trying to understand what the United States of America was like.

Or maybe in the future there will be schools in which ancient languages are taught and one of those languages will be English. And they’ll be pretty much guessing at the pronunciation of the vowels and diphthongs because by that point no one will speak it. The language that you all know – maybe the only language most of us know – it will likely be forgotten in a few hundred years or so. No one will remember it. No one will remember you.

That sounds bleak and pessimistic. It is bleak. But it’s not pessimistic. It’s realistic. It’s part of this endless and meaningless cycle of life.

Where’s the significance? Where’s the significance for someone who lives under the sun – for someone who lives without any knowledge of God and spiritual realities?

There is no significance. There is no meaning. There’s nothing but vanity, futility, and emptiness for those men on earth who don’t know God.

And I’d like to end by speaking more about God and the realities that lift a man up from life lived merely under the sun. But I’m not going to in this post. I want to leave us like Qoheleth leaves us – feeling – not just knowing and/or acknowledging – but feeling the emptiness of life without God. Qoheleth will get to giving us a correct perspective and worldview. And even in these rather bleak and pessimistic sections, he’s getting us ready to receive that instruction which we’ll see in the next few chapters, Lord-willing.

And Now… Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:23!

But I’m afraid to say that in this section we’re in for more vanity. In fact, what we’ll see now is Dead Ends in the Journey for Satisfaction in Life.

(By the way, this is another title borrowed from Leland Ryken. Everything he has written and which I’ve read has been of great value to my understanding of the Scripture. If I perhaps don’t agree with everything I’ve read from him, I at least have been challenged in my understanding. I was even privileged to carry on a short e-mail conversation with him a few times. Anyway, just know that I’m indebted to him and that much of what I write on this site is influenced by his writings and perhaps even direct quotes, which I will endeavor to cite.)

The King Speaks

So you see Qoheleth letting you know in Ecclesiastes 1:12 that he’s putting on the hat of a king. He’s going to give you a king’s perspective on the matter under discussion.

1:12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.

Seeking Meaning from Wisdom

And he starts by seeking meaning from wisdom in Ecclesiastes 1:13. What did he find? How did his wisdom work out for him?

13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven: it is a sore travail that God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith.

All Vanity

Well, his wisdom led him to see the vanity of life according to Ecclesiastes 1:14. All works done under heaven – or with a merely earthly mindset – it’s all vanity and vexation of spirit.

14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

Now, let me break in here and explain something. Let’s look at this phrase “vexation of spirit” if you’re looking at the King James Version. “Vexation” has the idea of exercising or struggling or striving. The word “spirit” can also mean wind. And this is why some have translated this phrase as “striving after wind”.

Can you picture that? Striving after wind? Like striving and struggling and working so hard… just to find that your reward is … wind.

How disappointing. How unfulfilling. Why would anyone strive and struggle in order to obtain wind? That’s exactly Qoheleth’s point! No one wants to. It’s useless and worthless and frustrating.

And that’s what Qoheleth’s wisdom led him to see — that all work done for merely earthly reasons and with a mindset that leaves God out of the picture — it’s futile.

Irreversible Nature of Things

Qoheleth’s wisdom also led him to acknowledge the irreversible nature of things.

15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight; and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

He says in Ecclesiastes 1:15 that what’s made crooked can’t be straightened. I think that Qoheleth has in mind the natural world.

The massive crooked branch of a mighty oak cannot be straightened. It can be chopped down, but no one is going to straighten it out.

The crooked turns of a river will never be straightened.

Crooked jagged rocks in the wilderness of Israel will never be straightened.

And on it goes. Crookedness in many cases in nature cannot be reversed. It cannot be straightened.

Qoheleth also noticed one other irreversible trend in this life. He says in Ecclesiastes 1:15 that that which is wanting cannot be counted. This is obvious. But think about it.

If something doesn’t exist, you can’t count it. For many things in life, once it’s gone, it’s gone. This might speak to the reality of scarcity in this world. We do have renewable resources. But there are a number of non-renewable resources.

Could you imagine if that wasn’t the case? If we never ran out of anything?

But that’s not what happens in this world. And Qoheleth’s wisdom brought this to his mind – another irreversible trend in this world.

Taking Inventory

Now, in Ecclesiastes 1:16, Qoheleth kind of takes a step back and evaluates where he is with this wisdom. He communes in his own heart – and by the way, he says that a lot in this section at least. He communes in his own heart – he takes inventory inwardly. And this is what he realizes.

16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I have gotten me great wisdom above all that were before me in Jerusalem; yea, my heart hath had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.

His wisdom was astounding! He had more wisdom than any who were before him in Jerusalem. At least, that’s what the King James Version reads. But that word “in” is more often translated as “over”. This would indicate that Qoheleth is stating that he – as king, like he told us earlier – he’s wiser than any who were before him OVER Jerusalem. Ruling over Jerusalem. He was wiser than any king in Jerusalem before him. He was the wisest of the wise.

Again, what that means is that either he’s wanting us to think of him as Solomon and he’s speaking of basically one person when he mentions ANY who were before him as king. Or it’s what I suspect – the author does not necessarily want to be identified with Solomon, and so he’s putting on this character of Qoheleth to make himself out to be some sort of Super-Solomon. A great-than-Solomon.

And as this Super-Solomonic figure, Qoheleth says that he has superior wisdom. We need to believe him with this one. He’s the wisest ever. No one ever anywhere excelled him in wisdom.

Understanding Wisdom

And armed with this wisdom he sought out to understand wisdom in Ecclesiastes 1:17 along with madness and folly. He wisely discerned what these things were like. And what did he discover?

17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also was a striving after wind.

Wisdom Leaves Us Disappointed

He found that even wisdom left him disappointed. I mean – he’s the wisest man in history. And even then, he can’t find meaning in wisdom. Here’s all he ultimately arrives at with the help of worldly wisdom. Grief and sorrow – Ecclesiastes 1:18. A man who doesn’t know God can spend his whole life pursuing being as wise and knowledgeable as possible – and what will it ultimately produce in him? Grief and sorrow.

18 For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

And you can imagine why. Look at what’s happening in this world. Current events aren’t just bad for Christians and those who fear the Lord. The policies and values being adopted by this nation right now are bad for everyone.

And turning our eyes beyond our shores, the current radical Muslim resurgence is not bad for just Christians. It’s bad for everyone – even Muslims!

I experience regular grief and sorrow over these things – and I’m not all that involved with these issues. I just read about them. Imagine having to study them in-depth for a living.

And what’s the world’s solution to all these problems? More education! Throw more money at our educational system! That’ll fix the problem. But has it? With over a century basically of people taking refuge in education – we’ve had two World Wars. We’ve seen atrocities. We’ve seen oppression. And with all this education – we still can’t seem to solve our problems.

And so in fact, the more educated you are, the more sorrow and grief you generally have. Now, this isn’t to say we shouldn’t be educated people. Get all the education you can. In fact, you know that I work for a Christian university. I believe in the benefits of education – especially from the right worldview. But I’m not deceived into thinking that more education will fix our problems. No, and especially for someone who doesn’t know God, more knowledge basically equates to more sorrow and grief.

And you can extend this principle of sorrow increasing with added knowledge to any other area of learning that one could pursue. The more you learn of any area of life under the sun, the more you’re acquainted with the grief and sorrow that attend life in this sin-cursed world.

Are any of us under the delusion that if only I was smarter – if only I knew more – then I’d be satisfied? Then life would be meaningful? Let the wisest man who ever lived counsel you that that just ain’t the case!

Well, so much for finding meaning by attaining great wisdom and knowledge. So, what else can a natural man find meaning in…?

Psalm 18 Commentary

Turn to Psalm 18.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Genre

Throughout our series in the Psalms, we’ve often been reminded of the fact that a majority of the psalms are in the lament genre. And we all know now that lament psalms are known for their depiction of the psalmist’s enemies – how truly evil they are, what a serious threat they pose to David and/or God, and why God needs to both deliver the psalmist from them and to do this by judging those enemies.

And so I think in Psalm 18 today that we see David’s response to God answering that prayer of his – for deliverance from his enemies. David in so many of the psalms is asking for deliverance. In Psalm 18, he gets it and as a result he praises the Lord for that deliverance.

And that’s the kind of psalm this is. This psalm is a praise psalm – as opposed to a lament psalm or a meditative psalm. And I’d also point out before we get into the text that this psalm is the longest we’ve dealt with thus far at a whopping 50 verses!

Psalm 18 Commentary: Big Idea

So,let me give you the big idea of Psalm 18 and then we’ll look at the text. If I were to summarize this psalm, I’d say that what you see in this psalm is something like this: Praise to the God who Delivers from All Enemies. That’s what David is engaged in and I hope it’s what we really feel and wholeheartedly engage in as we’re studying Psalm 18.

So, let’s start reading Psalm 18. And we’re going to read section by section and make some observations after each section. So, let’s read.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Superscription

Here’s the superscription of this psalm. And it helpfully tells us the circumstances under which this psalm was penned by David.

<To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said,>

I’ll just add that what’s interesting about this superscription and really the whole psalm is that you find almost the exact same wording of all 50 verses somewhere else in the Bible. Do you have a note to that effect in your Bible? You find the text of this psalm almost completely reproduced in 2 Samuel 22. There are a few differences in wording, but they’re very minor. Now 2 Samuel 22 is one of the last chapters in the books of Samuel in our Old Testament. It’s one of those chapters that the author of those books just put at the end it seems, out of chronological order from the rest of the book’s narrative. And if I had to guess, I’d say that 2 Samuel 22 was written before this psalm and then later placed in the psalter with a few minor edits when the book of Psalms was being written and compiled.

OK, let’s move on then.

Psalm 18 1 3 Commentary: Call to Praise

Now, in verses 1-3 we see David issuing: a Call to Praise because of God’s powerful deliverance from all David’s enemies.

I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock,
and my fortress,
and my deliverer;
my God,
my strength, in whom I will trust;
my buckler,
and the horn of my salvation,
and my high tower.
3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised:
so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

You know, we could go through each statement of David’s regarding what the Lord is to him in this first section. And usually we would do just that – explain and discuss what each word and phrase and section means to get a fuller understanding of what David is saying. But when you’re trying to cover 50 verses in 45 minutes that’s just not possible. And really in this case I don’t think you need to do that. The very way that David wrote this call to praise in the first 3 verses does a very good job of explaining how David is feeling about the Lord. He loves him. Why? Well, one reason – he’s strong to deliver. Right? My strength. My rock. My fortress. My deliverer. My God. My strength. My shield. The power or horn of my salvation – the powerful deliverer. My high protecting tower to which I may flee. David is overwhelmed by God’s strength and power to deliver him from his enemies – all of them!

And that’s what he says in verse 3 – he calls on this strong God and is confident that God will save him from his enemies. And because of that, God is worthy to be praised as we have it there.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Need for Deliverance

Next in verses 4-6 David describes the situation that necessitated the kind of deliverance that only this powerful God could provide.

4 The sorrows of death compassed me,
and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about:
the snares of death prevented me.
6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God:
he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

I’ll point out that the word “sorrows” in verses 4 and 5 speak of “territory” or a “boundary”. So, David is painting a picture of being subsumed within the boundaries of death and hell – or the grave. As if death were a country that was extending its territory to include David. That’s the idea. David felt as if he would die.

And why did it feel like death was going to swallow David up? It’s because of the “ungodly men” in verse 4 and the “snares of death” or the deadly traps of these ungodly men in verse 5. These are the deadly enemies that David needed God to deliver him from.

But David doesn’t leave it there. He took action in verse 6. He called upon the Lord. And wonderfully God heard him. And God’s response is pretty amazing.

Psalm 18 Commentary: A Storm

We see that response is verses 7-15 where God’s deliverance is pictured as a storm that’s forcefully moving in. And this is no ordinary storm. When is the last time you saw a storm start attacking your enemies? But that’s exactly how David pictures the storm that is God’s response to David’s enemies. Let’s read.

7 Then the earth shook and trembled;
the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils,
and fire out of his mouth devoured:
coals were kindled by it.
9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down:
and darkness was under his feet.
10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly:
yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his secret place;
his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed,
hail stones and coals of fire.
13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
and the Highest gave his voice;
hail stones and coals of fire.
14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them;
and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
15 Then the channels of waters were seen,
and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD,
at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

Now, we all know that there are some pretty amazing events recorded in the Old Testament. The creation of everything by God in 6 days – the flood – Joshua’s battle when the sun stood still. But I don’t recall an event recorded that matches what we read in verses 7 through 15. And in particular, I know that smoke has never literally gone up out of God’s nostrils as we have it in verse 8. Fire has never literally gone out of God’s mouth. God the Father is without a body. He’s a spirit. He doesn’t have a mouth or nostrils.

So, what am I getting at? I’m asserting that this event never literally physically happened. Well, then, why is it in our psalm? Because David the poet wanted to express God’s awesome power in delivering him. Now, in reality, this deliverance from all his enemies was providential. It just happened – with God’s leading, of course. That’s basically what providence is – God’s silent invisible leading. And yet, David rightly thinks this deliverance was a big deal! And so, he uses poetic language to describe how God delivered him from all his enemies. It was powerful. It was forceful. It was definite.

So, let’s just meditate on a few details of this description of God’s deliverance. Notice that God was angry. The fact that enemies attack and oppress his people doesn’t leave God unaffected. No. He’s angry about it. That’s the meaning of the earth shaking and the fire and smoke coming out of different places on God’s metaphorical face and lighting coals. So, yes, God is affected by our misery and suffering – especially at the hands of oppressors. And that’s one thing that David wants to portray by this poetic depiction of God – that God gets angry when their enemies attack.

Another thing David wants to get across to us is God’s awesome majesty in this whole process of delivering David from his enemies. God is pictured as bowing the heavens – of taking the sky and bending it under his immensity. He has darkness under his feet. He’s pictured as riding a cherub – an angel – not one of those pudgy little kids with wings – a powerful angel. He’s riding on the wind – swift – powerful – awesome. He’s surrounded by darkness and yet he has light before him. All of this should remind us of the awesome power of a storm – wind, darkness, and yet light.

Wait – darkness… and yet light? In a storm? How does that happen? Verses 13 and 14. Thunder and lightning – that’s the source of light in a storm. And the thunder is pictured as being God’s awesome fearful voice. The lightning – the thing lighting up the sky – is pictured as God’s weapons. He shoots out his lightning and scatters the enemies of his people. He utters his voice and terrifies those enemies. He rebukes and simply breathes out of his nostrils and it’s as if both water and earth are just peeled back and the foundations of these things are exposed.

This is the awesome majestic power of our God. He’s mighty. He’s provoked to anger when his people are oppressed. And he can do something about it. And even when he works in merely providential ways – like he absolutely did in David’s case – right? – David was not delivered from Saul miraculously. It was providential. And yet even when God works in providential, behind-the-scenes sorts of ways – it’s awesome. He truly is mighty – just as mighty and fearful as a loud, dark, bright, windy storm – even if he doesn’t literally physically manifest it that waybefore our eyes.

Now, this picture of a storm is meant to describe how God appears to deal with David’s enemies. And the effect should be terror on their part. But there’s a side to God that only David will see in this process. Throughout the Bible – God’s judging the enemies of his people is never in isolation. That is, God doesn’t just judge his people’s enemies. The other side of that coin is that he delivers his people by judging their enemies.

Psalm 18 Commentary: God’s Deliverance

And that’s what we see David speak of next in verses 16-19 – God’s deliverance for David. Let’s read.

16 He sent from above, he took me,
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He delivered me from my strong enemy,
and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity:
but the LORD was my stay.
19 He brought me forth also into a large place;
he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

God is pictured as rescuing David from many mighty waters. Now, I don’t know if those waters are the metaphorical result of the storm and resulting flooding that happened from our previous section where God is pictured as coming in a storm or not. But I do know that verse 16 pictures God as involved in a rescue operation. It’s as if God is the coast guard, flying a helicopter over David who’s stranded in a flood – indeed, who’s actually drowning in that flood. But God doesn’t need a helicopter like a mere mortal rescue worker would need one. God just swoops down and plucks David out of those mighty waters.

And a God who is so strong can deliver his people from the strongest of their oppressors. That’s verse 17. Those strong enemies in verse 18 “prevented” or “confronted” David in the day of his disaster – when David was experiencing hardships and sorrows. But the Lord was his “stay” or his “support”. The Lord propped him up and protected him.

And then David pictures himself in verse 19 as being brought out of a very narrow and restricted place out into a large, broad area where he has freedom to live and move. Freedom!

Psalm 18 Commentary: God’s Delight

And why did God deliver David? End of verse 19 – God delighted in David. And that blessed thought – that God delights in his people and delivers them for that reason – occupies David in verses 20-27. So, let’s read about the reason that God delivered David. 

20 The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his judgments were before me,
and I did not put away his statutes from me.
23 I was also upright before him,
and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
24 Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful;
with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure;
and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people;
but wilt bring down high looks.

Verses 20 through 24 start and end with David declaring his own righteousness. Now, as always, I need to point out that David isn’t being a hypocrite here. He’s not claiming perfection. Neither is he claiming a self-righteousness based upon his keeping the Law. The Old and New Testament make clear that David had experienced the blessedness of having his sin forgiven by God by faith.

So, David isn’t boasting of self-righteousness. But he is boasting of the effects of the righteousness that God had imputed to him. Because that righteousness has consequences. It affects the one who has received it. In David’s case, he can confidently proclaim that he kept God’s ways and paid attention to his judgements. Yes, David expresses that he had iniquity in verse 23 – but he kept himself from it. And because of David’s righteousness – which was both imputed by God and then acted out by David – God delivered him because he delighted in David.

And that consideration leads David to ponder and declare God’s reaction to certain types of people in verses 25 and 26. The merciful, upright, and pure are shown those same exact qualities from God. But then there’s the froward or perverse or deceptive man. And God mirrors that man’s actions right back at him. For the crooked man – the enemies of God’s people – God will use crookedness to bring that man to his end. Let’s consider some examples.

In Saul’s case – God sent an evil spirit to torment him because Saul had been exalted over God’s people – and yet Saul had no interest in the Lord or in serving his people the way God wanted him to do it. Saul was crooked and God used crookedness – that evil spirit – to torment him.

Moving forward a few hundred years in Old Testament history – evil king Ahab was going out to fight what would be his last battle. And the prophet Micaiah warned him that God got together with all the host of heaven and contemplated how to destroy that wicked king. And he’s saying this to Ahab’s face, mind you. Micaiah relates that different ones had different ideas. But finally one came forward and volunteered to deceive Ahab through Ahab’s false prophets. The Lord said to that deceiving spirit – “Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.”

My point is that God will show himself crooked with those who are crooked. God is not himself morally crooked. He’s not deceitful. But our text here and other passages of Scripture tell us that God will sometimes use even deceit to undo the enemies of his people.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Strength to Defeat Enemies

Now, in verses 28-42 David is still highlighting God’s deliverance. He’s already done that through picturing God as a forceful frightening storm. But now David pictures it as God effecting that deliverance through the one delivered. So, God delivers his people, yes. But in this case now, we hear about God delivering his people by strengthening his people to defeat their enemies. Let’s read.

28 For thou wilt light my candle:
the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
29 For by thee I have run through a troop;
and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
30 As for God, his way is perfect:
the word of the LORD is tried:
he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
31 For who is God save the LORD?
or who is a rock save our God?
32 It is God that girdeth me with strength,
and maketh my way perfect.
33 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet,
and setteth me upon my high places.
34 He teacheth my hands to war,
so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
35 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation:
and thy right hand hath holden me up,
and thy gentleness hath made me great.
36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me,
that my feet did not slip.
37 I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them:
neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
38 I have wounded them that they were not able to rise:
they are fallen under my feet.
39 For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle:
thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies;
that I might destroy them that hate me.
41 They cried, but there was none to save them:
even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.
42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind:
I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.

Notice all the military allusions here. Running through a troop with God’s help. Leaping over a wall. God being a buckler or shield to those who trust him. Being girded with strength. God teaching David’s hands to war. David bending a metal bow – which is an obvious metaphor. And it goes on and on. David is stating in poetic terms and images that God strengthened and continued to strengthen him against his enemies.

And here, too, David is not reporting literal physical truth. This is rather emotional truth – also known as hyperbole. Because – how was David delivered from Saul? Well, the Philistines killed Saul. Did David? No. Did David ever even battle Saul? No. David never even fought his own people. And we are talking about David’s people here. Verse 41 – to whom did David’s enemies cry? To the Lord. This sounds like fellow-Israelites. And so, I think that David again is being poetic and using images to portray God’s deliverance of him from all his enemies.

Psalm 18 Commentary: David Rules the Nations

And now, because God delivered David from all his enemies, David would rule over not only them – the nation of Israel – but also the nations surrounding them – whom God had given into the hands of Israel. That’s verses 43-45. The deliverance that God granted David extended beyond mere deliverance to him now actually ruling and wielding authority over surrounding enemy nations. Let’s read.

43 Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people;
and thou hast made me the head of the heathen:
a people whom I have not known shall serve me.
44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me:
the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
45 The strangers shall fade away,
and be afraid out of their close places.

So, David has been given authority over the nations. Now, I think in the immediate context, this is talking about Israel’s power over surrounding enemy nations. And now, since Saul is gone and God had made David king – now, David has power over those nations as the king of Israel.

And those nations were afraid of David. They recognized that he had power over them. That’s why they’re pictured as cowering and coming trembling out of their fortresses.

Now, I think it’s also significant to remember that this will be true of Chist when he returns to rule from Jerusalem. Christ – the son of David and eternal Davidic king and king of heaven – he’ll rule over his enemies for 1,000 years.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Summary

OK, so in summary God delivered David from his enemies. David pictures that deliverance as if it were a powerful frightening storm rolling through. And that storm would perhaps even swallow up David in its mighty waters – but God rescued David. David also pictures God as strengthening him for battle against the enemies. So, that’s my summary of the psalm thus far. But David himself gives a summary in verses 46-48. This is a summary from David of God’s deliverance from all his enemies.

46 The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock;
and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
47 It is God that avengeth me,
and subdueth the people under me.
48 He delivereth me from mine enemies:
yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me:
thou hast delivered me from the violent man.

Psalm 18 Commentary: Praise

And as with most praise psalms, David ends this one with a concluding resolution in verses 49 and 50. David gives a concluding resolution pledging praise for God’s deliverance from all his enemies.

49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen,
and sing praises unto thy name.
50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king;
and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.

Those nations that David is ruling over now – among those folks will David praise God for his deliverance – his great deliverance that God gives to his king – King David – the new king, now that Saul has been taken out of the way.

And not only does God grant deliverance to David – he shows mercy to him and to his seed after him – forever. Which should direct our minds to the returning and eternal King of the Jews – Jesus Christ – whom we worship and today as we eagerly anticipate his imminent return.

Psalm 17 8 Meaning

Now, David follows up his statement of confidence in his own innocence with some requests to God in verses 6 through 8. Particularly, David asks for protection – based on God’s loyal covenant love. Let’s read verses 6 through 8.

6 I have called upon thee,
for thou wilt hear me, O God:
incline thine ear unto me,
and hear my speech.
7 Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness,
O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.
8 Keep me as the apple of the eye,
hide me under the shadow of thy wings,

So, David asks God to do several things for him. He submissively demands that God would incline his ear to David. The picture there is of someone bending down and stretching out his ear to hear the request of another. David wants God to do that for him. And David wants God to “hear” his speech. That word “hear” is in italics in our King James Version. And that usually indicates that the word isn’t there in the Hebrew. But it actually is in the Hebrew, so bonus points to anyone who can figure out why the KJV translators made it italic.

But beyond the very general request for God to hear him, David gets a little more specific in verse 7. He asks God to “shew” his “marvellous lovingkindness”. David wants God to “set apart” and “display” his hesed, which is marvelous in David’s eyes. David wants to see a token of God’s loyal covenant love to him.

Well, how would God do this? How would he put his loyal covenant love on display for David? That’s where David’s next statement comes in. David recognizes God as one who saves with his right hand those who put their trust in God from those who rise up against that person. David wants that to be the case with him – that God would save him from his deadly enemies. And in that way – by protecting David from his enemies, God would put on display his loyal covenant love.

And not only this, but David lastly asks God to keep him as the apple of God’s eye. Keep him like the pupil of God’s eye. How do you protect your eye’s pupil? Do you let anything touch it? Do you let anything get near it? No, it’s natural to protect your eyes. And that’s how God is with his people. It’s only natural for him to protect us. David wants God’s protection.

And continuing with the picture of protection that comes naturally, David pleads with God to hide him under the shadow of God’s wings. Like a mother bird protects her little ones under her wing – that’s how David pictures God as protecting his people – and in particular, David, this innocent man.

Psalm 17 Commentary

Turn to Psalm 17.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Superscription

As you can see from the superscription of this psalm, it’s a “prayer” of David. And this is a rare designation for a psalm. It’s more common for the superscription to tell us that what’s to follow is a “psalm”. We’ve seen other terms being used as well. But there are only a few times when a psalm is declared to be a prayer. Psalm 86 is another psalm that’s designated as “a prayer of David” in its superscription. Psalm 90 is “a prayer of Moses the man of God”. Psalm 102 is “a prayer of the afflicted”. And the last time we see a psalm being designated as a prayer is in Psalm 142 – which is said to be “a prayer when [David] was in a cave”. So then, this is one of only 5 psalms in the psalter designated as a “prayer”.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Theme

And in this prayer, David is expressing this emotion — Confidence that God Will Protect the Innocent Man from His Deadly Enemies. And we’ll attempt to discover that message now.

Psalm 17 Commentary: David’s Innocence

Now, before we go into detail explaining this psalm, I would point to something that sets this psalm apart from others. Throughout Psalm 17 we notice David’s emphasis on his own personal innocence.

And some people take this to mean that this was written before his adultery with Bathsheba and his commissioning the murder of her husband Uriah. And I guess their thinking is that David couldn’t have been so bold in asserting his own innocence after he committed such horrible sin. But I don’t think it’s necessary to place this psalm chronologically before David’s great sin.

David isn’t saying in Psalm 17 that he never sinned. That’s not what he’s getting at when he speaks of his own personal innocence. But what he is saying throughout this psalm is that he doesn’t deserve to be hounded by these enemies of his. They are out to destroy him. But there’s no justification on their part to be doing this to David. And David is confident that if God were to set up court and put David in the defendant’s chair and his enemies in the plaintiff’s chair – David would be found innocent. The enemies would have no justification for their harsh treatment of him.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Invocation

And this innocence of his is something that he emphasizes even in the invocation in the first two verses of Psalm 17. He says…

Hear the right, O LORD,
attend unto my cry,
give ear unto my prayer,
that goeth not out of feigned lips.
2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence;
let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.

So, David poetically brings this situation into a law court. And in this court, David wants God the Judge to, “hear the right”. He wants God to hear what is just – David’s just cause. And that’s what David’s referring to when he speaks of his “cry” and his prayer” that he wants God to “attend unto” and “give ear unto”. David has a just cause that he needs God to hear and be sympathetic with.

And notice how David ends verse 1. This cry – this prayer – David’s just cause isn’t coming from “feigned lips” – or “lips of deceit”. Again, David is maintaining his personal innocence. This request of his is just and righteous. It doesn’t come out of deceitful lips. He’s not lying. He’s telling the truth. He’s innocent.

David continues with the law court theme in verse 2. He wants his “sentence” or his “justice” to come from God’s presence. David wants God to behold “the things that are equal” or “even things” – “upright things.” As God examines David, David is convinced that God will see that David has been involved in upright things – certainly not the kinds of activities that would warrant the threats that he’s experiencing from his deadly enemies. And therefore, God will pass judgment in David’s favor – giving David the justice that he needs against those deadly enemies of his.

So, that’s David’s invocation to God. He addresses God as the only one who can protect him – an innocent man – from his deadly enemies.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Confidence

Next, in verses 3 through 5, David expresses his confidence. And listen carefully to this part. It’s a little different than we’ve seen in any other lament psalm thus far. So, let’s read verses 3 through 5.

3 Thou hast proved mine heart;
thou hast visited me in the night;
thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing;
I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
4 Concerning the works of men,
by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.
5 Hold up my goings in thy paths,
that my footsteps slip not.

The emphasis of David’s confidence – as I said – is a little unusual I think. Usually David expresses confidence primarily in God and in God’s character. The confidence in Psalm 17 – in contrast – is in the fact that David is innocent. He’s not saying a whole lot about God and his character.

David says in verse 3 that God has proved his heart. He’s tested David’s heart like one would test metal with fire. And the implication is that God has found David’s heart – the center of his emotions and morals – to be genuine and blameless.

David continues this emphasis on being tested by God and being found genuine through verse 3. David says that God has “visited” him in the night. God “called him to account” or “examined” him in the night. Next, David says that God has “tried” him. That word is used of refining or smelting metals. Again, the emphasis is on God examining the genuineness and sincereity and innocence of David. And the result? David says that God “shalt find nothing”. God won’t find impurities. David is confident that he is innocent.

And so, David has been speaking of his innocence in vague, general terms thus far. But starting at the end of verse 3 and on into verse 4, David gives specific areas where he’s innocent.

David says that he’s purposed that his “mouth shall not transgress”. His mouth won’t overstep the boundaries which God has placed upon it. David has made it his mission to not speak out of line with what God expects and requires of him.

So, David’s SPEECH is innocent. Next, he says that his WORKS are also innocent. That’s verse 4. Because of what God has commanded – “by the words of thy lips” – David has kept himself from the “paths of the destroyer” or “the ways of the violent ones or viscious ones”. David has taken heed to God’s commands and as a result he’s not one to emulate violent and viscious men.

No, in contrast to following the paths of the violent destroyer, David’s steps have held fast to God’s paths. And because that’s been the case, David’s feet have not slipped. God’s paths are firm and safe. And this has been where David has kept to – God’s paths.

So, David is generally innocent. He’s also innocent in regard to his speech. And he’s innocent in regard to his actions. And therefore, David is confident in his innocence.

And yet, David isn’t being self-righteous or self-sufficient. But he is stating that he’s innocent and certainly not worthy of the persecution that he’s facing from his deadly enemies. And because this is the case, David feels confident that God will protect him from those enemies.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Petition

Now, David follows up his statement of confidence in his own innocence with some requests to God in verses 6 through 8. Particularly, David asks for protection – based on God’s loyal covenant love. Read Psalm 17 8 Meaning for the details.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Lament

So, we’ve just heard the innocent man’s pleas to God for protection from his deadly enemies. And next in verses 9 through 12 we have the innocent man’s perspective on these deadly enemies of his – in what we know of as the psalm’s “lament” or “complaint” section. Verses 9 through 12.

9 [Protect me from…] From the wicked that oppress me,
from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.
10 They are inclosed in their own fat:
with their mouth they speak proudly.
11 They have now compassed us in our steps:
they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth;
12 Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey,
and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.

So, in verse 9 we have the relationship between these deadly enemies and the innocent man. The enemies oppress the innocent. They attack him, is another way to say that. These deadly enemies compass the innocent about. They surround him. They’re deadly. They attack. They surround. This doesn’t sound good.

In verse 10 the innocent man focuses in on what these enemies are like. They’re “inclosed in their own fat”. This makes it sound like these enemies are all really fat. But what it’s saying is that they close off their fat. This can mean that they’ve closed up their hearts. They are unfeeling in that sense. They’re attacking the innocent without any sort of remorse. It’s one thing to do wrong and feel bad about it. But these guys aren’t like that. They’re sinning and have no care in the world about it.

And next line of verse 10 – these enemies speak proudly with their mouths. Their mouth speaks arrogance. These enemies are unfeeling, cold, and proud.

Verse 11 returns to the enemies’ relation to the innocent. And this time David has not only himself in view as an innocent man. But now he has other innocent people in view. The enemies have “now compassed US in our steps”. The enemies are surrounding David and his fellow innocents.

The next phrase is a little difficult as we have it here. The enemies “have set their eyes bowing down to the earth”. What that’s saying is that the enemies have their eyes set with this purpose – IN ORDER TO bow the INNOCENT to the ground. To throw the innocent down to the ground. That’s what the deadly enemies have purposed with their eyes. Their eyes are focused on that one goal.

And verse 12 – the enemies do this – they set their eyes on throwing the innocent to the ground – in the same way that a lion would to his prey. These men are lurking and waiting for the right time to destroy David and his fellow innocents.

Psalm 17 Commentary: More Petitions

And so in light of these really troubling realities, David has a second round of requests for the Lord in verses 13 and 14. Let’s read that.

13 Arise, O LORD,
disappoint him,
cast him down:
deliver my soul from the wicked, which is [with] thy sword:
14 From men which are [with] thy hand, O LORD,
from men of the world, which have their portion in this life,
and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure:
they are full of children,
and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.

And so, David has two requests for the Lord. And they prove to be two sides of the same coin. First, David wants God to take action against the enemies. He says “arise, Lord!” And when he arises, David wants God to “disappoint” his enemies. He wants God to “confront” his enemies. And the result of that confrontation will be that the Lord casts the enemies down. The Lord will confront the enemy and bring him to his knees.

And second, David wants God to deliver him from these enemies. So, negatively – destroy them, God. Positively, deliver me, God. Deliver me from the wicked – end of verse 13 and from these men – start of verse 14. By the Lord’s sword and by the Lord’s hand is David’s deliverance pictured as coming.

And then into verse 14 David almost seems to take up another lament against these enemies. And what he reveals about them makes them all the guiltier. Look at how God treats these enemies – these men of the world – worldly, earthly men, who don’t have a future in heaven. These guys have their portion in this life because they have none in the life to come. And you know what – their portion is very generous. Yes, it’s all they have. But it’s really good. Look – God fills the bellies of these people with hid treasure. God feeds the wicked, these deadly enemies.

And no only that – God fills them with children. They have an abundance of children. This would have been viewed as one of the richest blessings an agricultural people could want – more children – more laborers in the fields – more hands to help at home – more influence in your city gate – more power.

God gives these deadly enemies all the children they want. He gives them all the food they want. And you know – sometimes having a lot of children and a lot of food – one wins out over the other. You know? All those children eat all the food. So, sometimes you either have a lot of food or goods without kids to eat it up. Or you have a lot of kids and the food and other goods kind of get used up rather quickly. But God is so good to these wicked men that they have lots of goods and lots of kids, but they have enough left to leave some to their babes. They have such an abundance that they can leave some to their kids. God is good even to the wicked.

And isn’t this like God? He causes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust. He’s good and kind and generous indiscriminately. And yet, this goodness and kindness leaves these wicked men all the more culpable. They take what God so generously and kindly gives them and they squander it. They take the resources that they didn’t pay for and they spend it on oppressing the innocent people of the God who gives all these gifts to them.

And this might remind you of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man had all sorts of material blessings and Lazarus had nothing but pain and misery. They both died. Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man went to hell. And when the rich man wanted mercy – this is Abraham’s response to him. “Child, you had your good things during your lifetime and Lazarus had his bad things. But now Lazarus is being comforted and YOU are in agony.” Folks, receiving good things in this life is no sign that God approves of you. For men like these wicked and deadly enemies in this psalm – it actually makes them even guiltier in God’s eyes.

Psalm 17 Commentary: Praise

So, these deadly enemies are just showered with blessings from God in this life. And that’s what they focus on. But what’s David’s focus? Let’s look at the last verse of Psalm 17 where we see David praising God for the antitipation of seeing and being satisfied with God. Verse 15.

15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness:
I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.

“As for me” he says. In opposition to those who set their minds on things of this earth – whose only portion will be what they have in this life – David is more interested in beholding God’s face. Are you? Are you honestly more interested in seeing God and being with him forever than you are in what you can gain in this life? David was.

And what made David confident that he was going to see God? It’s the very thing that he’s been emphasizing throughout this entire psalm – his innocence, his righteousness. Because of David’s rghteousness, he would behold God’s face.

Now, we know from what David says elsewhere and even from what the New Testament says of David that this is not self-righteousness or a righteousness based on the Law. But it’s the righteousness of one to whom sin is not imputed, whose transgressions the Lord forgives. That righteousness based on faith in God’s promises will allow David to see God’s face.

So, the enemies are satisfied with food and children. But David will be satisfied with the Lord’s presence when he wakes – as it were – from this short fleeting life.

So, that’s Psalm 17 – Confidence that God Will Protect the Innocent Man from His Deadly Enemies.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary

We trust that this Psalm 16 2 commentary will help you understand this verse… In Psalm 16 2 David reminds himself of what he has said to the Lord.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
David’s Master

He at some point has told the Lord that he’s his lord. He’s told Yahweh that he’s David’s Adonai. His master or ruler.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
Goodness Doesn’t Extend…

And David has told the Lord additionally that David’s goodness doesn’t extend to the Lord.

And that makes very little sense, honestly. And this is the beginning of where things start getting really gnarly with trying to translate and interpret this psalm.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
Verses 2 and 3 Together?

You can see the King James translators interpreting this verse and the next one as David saying that his own goodness doesn’t extend to the Lord, but that it does extend to the saints in verse 3. So they grammatically connect verses 2 and 3 as if they’re one connected thought.

But, I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. So, let’s explore what I think David is saying here.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
Whose Goodness?

To begin, “goodness” CAN refer to the goodness that proceeds from someone to someone else. That’s how it’s taken in the KJV.

But it can ALSO refer to someone’s welfare – the goodness – NOT that PROCEEDS from someone – but that someone RECEIVES.

And I think in Psalm 16 2, David is speaking not of his own GOODNESS that others can receive but of his WELFARE which he needs to receive from some source outside of himself.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
Extend to God?

And so next, we’re told that this welfare of his doesn’t extend to God.

“Extend” as you see there is in italics – the slanty words – and so it’s not in the Hebrew text.

So, then we have David saying that his “welfare not to God” whatever that means. So, David’s welfare is not TO God.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
Meaning of “To”

That word “to” surprisingly has a vast array of meanings. And that’s common in both Hebrew and Greek – that a certain preposition can have any number of meanings. And I’m sure if you thought of our English prepositions and the full range of meanings of each one, you’d probably notice the same flexibility in our language as well.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
“Beyond”

So, that being sad, one possible meaning of this Hebrew preposition “to” that makes sense in context is “beyond”.

David’s welfare – then – is not BEYOND God.

Psalm 16 2 Commentary
Summary

And here’s putting it all together. This is the idea that David is communicating in Psalm 16 2:

It’s not beyond God’s ability to produce and maintain David’s welfare.

So, you get the sense that David is expressing confidence that God is able to provide the welfare – the well-being – that he needs.

This is the meaning of Psalm 16 2.

So, let’s return to our Psalm 16 Commentary.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning

Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Context

And the end of his meditation in Psalm 16, David expresses that he is satisfied with God because he believed that he would enjoy God forever. Verses 9 through 11.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth:
my flesh also shall rest in hope.
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;
neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life:
in thy presence is fulness of joy;
at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

What Does Psalm 16 Verse 11 Mean?

So, here Psalm 16 ends with another very difficult section to interpret. And it’s not difficult primarily because of what IT says. It’s difficult because of what the NEW TESTAMENT says ABOUT it. The difficulty comes from trying to reconcile the way that an Old Testament Hebrew would have read this psalm with how the New Testament Jews – Peter and Paul – interpreted it.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Is it Speaking of David?

If I were a Hebrew reading this psalm in the Old Testament period, I would think this is David speaking of his belief that he would be with God forever.

Verse 9 starts with David kind of summarizing all the things he’s said about his satisfaction with God. He says “therefore” – because of all these reasons that give me satisfaction with God – I’m rejoicing and glad. And I personally hope that’s your reaction to the things we’ve considered so far – joy and gladness.

David goes on to say that his flesh will “rest in hope” or “dwell securely”. He’s not afraid of the future. Why?

Because God in the future will not abandon his soul in “hell” – or in “Sheol”. This is where dead bodies go – the “grave”. God won’t leave David’s body in the grave.

Neither will God in the future allow David – his holy or godly one – his hasid – to “see corruption” or to see the “Pit” – another reference to where dead bodies go and where they then undergo decay as the body breaks down.

David would seem to be affirming that he isn’t going to be left in the grave or the pit. Well, how would that happen? Because all that we can see and experience suggests that all bodies do die eventually and that they are abandoned to the grave in which they’re placed. Well, God, verse 11 will show David “the path of life”. God is going to make known to David this path. And do you know where that path leads? Next statement – right into God’s presence – where there is an abundance of joy and pleasure. And that will be the case FOREVER.

Do you believe that? Isn’t that one humongous reason to be satisfied with God – even when life is hard here on earth? You are going to be with him forever – where pleasures will be in abundance. Eye has not seen and ear has not heard what God has prepared for his people.

And so, if I were a Hebrew reading this psalm originally, I would think that David is just generally speaking of his confidence that God would raise him from the dead some day to be with the Lord forever. And this would be the crowning reason why David is satisfied with God.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning According to Peter

But then Peter preaches on Pentecost starting in Acts 2:24. He says that the Jews crucified David’s SON – Jesus. But death could not hold its power over him. Why? Well,because of what David says in Psalm 16:9-11 right here! And then Peter says – “listen folks, David’s body is still in the grave. He HAS experienced corruption in the pit. And his body is still there to this day.” So, how do you reconcile the fact that David appears to be saying that his body won’t see decay… and yet, that his body saw decay? Well, Peter says that David was a prophet and he knew that God had promised to seat one of his descendants on his throne forever. And so, according to Peter, David was actually looking ahead to and speaking of Christ’s resurrection.

And that IS what David’s speaking of anyway – resurrection. And eventually David WILL be raised. But even before David’s resurrection – Christ, his descendant would be raised. And Christ’s body would not be like David’s. Christ’s body would not undergo any decay. Why? Because God raised him from the dead before that could happen.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning According to Paul

And now, it’s not only Peter that interprets this psalm as referring to Christ. Paul does it too in Acts 13:34. There Paul is arguing that Jesus was raised from the dead and that the Scripture had predicted that that would happen. He FIRST takes a passage from Isaiah 55 that Paul interprets as God promising to give to Christ the promises that were made to David. So, Christ inherits all the promises that were originally David’s. THEN Paul says that one of those promises is found in Psalm 16 – the second line of verse 10 – that God wouldn’t allow his holy one to undergo decay. Paul says pretty bluntly that indeed David DID undergo decay after he died. But – he says – the one whom God raised up – Jesus – he did not undergo decay.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Ultimately Christ, not David

So, PETER says that David spoke of Christ’s resurrection in Psalm 16. PAUL says that Psalm 16 contains a promise to David that Christ rightfully inherited. BOTH are in agreement that the last three verses of Psalm 16 apply directly to Christ and that they couldn’t possibly apply to David in any immediate sense because his body DID experience decay, but Christ’s did NOT.

Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Be Satisfied with Jesus

And so we’re given yet another reason to be satisfied with God. Here it is. He sent Jesus to die for our sins. But he didn’t leave Jesus in the grave. His body didn’t experience decay. He’s alive and because he lives you will live. He’s alive and now he always intercedes for you – praying to the Father for you.

What a satisfying God! I trust we’ll be fully satisfied with him today – and all the more so today on the first day of the week when we remember that God raised his son from the grave, never to experience decay.

Psalm 16 Commentary

Psalm 16 Commentary: Introduction

Let’s turn to Psalm 16 for this Psalm 16 commentary.

So often, the psalms are a means of communicating an emotion of the author. In Psalm 16, I believe the emotion that David is expressing is this: Satisfaction with God. That’s what David is feeling and what he wants to express in poetry.

Psalm 16 Summary

And in a nutshell, here is what David has to say about his satisfaction with God.

  • David is satisfied with God because he trusts that God is able to maintain his welfare, generally.
  • He’s satisfied with God because he knows the awful results of falling away from God.
  • He’s satisfied with God as someone would be with a really generous and enviable portion of land as one’s inheritance.
  • He’s satisfied with God because of the stabilizing influence that God has on David.
  • And he’s satisfied with God because ultimately, David believed that he would be with God forever – where there will be abundant pleasures.

So, are you satisfied with God? Or do you feel like you’re missing out on something because you’re following the Lord? I hope that Psalm 16 today will help you and me to realize that we’re not missing out on anything by following God. We as believers have all sorts of reasons to be satisfied with God.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Miktam

So, we’re notified right away that this psalm is a “Michtam” of David. So, first of all, that would seem to indicate that David is the author of the psalm. But what is this word “michtam?” And the rather unsatisfying answer is that ultimately it seems that no one knows for sure. This is often the case with these terms that are found in the superscription of these psalms. But here’s what we do know. “Michtam” is found only here and then in the beginning of every psalm from Psalms 56 – 60. In most of those later psalms, the context given is distressing. One of the psalms has David fleeing from Saul into a cave. Another has David being taken by Philistines at Gath. And yet another has David fighting Edomites. But distressing situations are fairly common in the psalms and most of them are not Michtams.

One translation suggests that “Miktam” means an “epigrammatic poem”. That is, a poem filled with short, terse, pithy statements. And that option might be the best one. Because in the Hebrew, this seems to describe this psalm pretty well. Psalm 16 is actually fairly difficult to translate – let alone interpret! And I think that part of that may be because the statements seem shorter. But again, I think this happens with other psalms and they’re not called Michtams.

So, anyway, as I said – we don’t really know what this term “Michtam” ultimately means. And that’s OK, because we know what most of the rest of the psalm means. And so let’s continue on.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Satisfied with God

So, the rest of verse 1 and all of verse 2 have David describing his satisfaction with the Lord because he trusts that God is able to maintain his welfare. Let’s read those verses.

Preserve me, O God:
for in thee do I put my trust.
2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord:
my goodness extendeth not to thee;

David makes one request to the Lord in all of Psalm 16. And we see it in the first line of the psalm. He says “preserve me”. That’s an imperative. He’s submissively demanding that God watch or guard or protect him. And so we can assume that there’s a need for this protection, though we don’t yet know that reason.

Then David follows up his request for protection with a justification for that request. God should protect David because David puts his trust in God. David has sought and taken refuge in God. David is saying – “Please protect me. That’s why I’ve come to you in the first place.”

For help on understanding verse 2, see our Psalm 16 2 Commentary.

So these first two verses are really David’s 1) request to the Lord for protection, 2) his reasoning for why God ought to protect him, and then 3) his confidence that God will provide for his protection or well-being. And all of that is reason for David to be satisfied with God.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Falling Away from God

Next, in verses 3 and 4, David says that he’s satisfied with God because he knows the awful results of falling away from God. Let’s read that.

3 But to the saints that are in the earth,
and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.
4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god:
their drink offerings of blood will I not offer,
nor take up their names into my lips.

So, I’ve already mentioned that there are a few parts of this psalm that are difficult to interpret. And this might be the hardest part. The King James makes it sound like verses 3 and 4 are disconnected. So, in the translators’ minds, verse 3 is tied to verse 2 where David is saying that his own goodness doesn’t extend to God but rather it extends to these saints in the earth – these excellent ones in whom David delights. Then the translators continued and made verse 4 seem to completely change the focus to those who hasten after other gods.

Now, we’ve already seen that verse 2 isn’t grammatically connected to verse 3. Right? In verse 2, David simply expresses that God can provide for his welfare. Period. End of thought.

So, then, what’s going on with verses 3 and 4? Well, strange as it may seem, it appears that verse 4 is actually speaking of the people in verse 3. The first line of verse 4 says in the Hebrew without all the italicized words of the King James “They multiply their sorrows. They acquire another.” And it appears that these negative realities apply to these “saints” in verse 3.

Let’s talk about these “saints”. These people are “holy ones” – which might indicate that they’re priests. That’s one way that priests are described in the Old Testament. And these priests are “in the earth (or land – same word)” – the land of Israel.

The second line of verse 3 describes these ones as “majectic” or “mighty”. That word can also be translated as “nobles” – people who are powerful and wealthy in that society. So, we have in mind these mighty, powerful priests that David is calling attention to.

And David says that all of his delight in them. But another way to translate that – based on how Ecclesiastes uses that word that’s translated here as “delight” – is to say that David has all his “activity” or “business” with them. Ecclesiates says that there’s a time for every “activity” – that’s the word – under the Sun. So, David is saying in verse 3 that he works with these powerful priests all the time. And you can imagine that the king WOULD work constantly with priests in the times of Old Testament Israel.

But even though David works with them, apparently they’re turning from the Lord – at least some of them are. They are – verse 4 multiplying their sorrows. How? Again – verse 4 – they’re hastening after another God.

This word “hasten” appears only one other time in the Old Testament. And THERE it means “to pay a dowry for a wife”. So, these powerful priests are multiplying their sorrows BECAUSE they’re going after another god as if they were pursuing a wife – with all the intensity and interest that that involves. As well as all the infidelity and immorality that pursuing another wife when one already has a wife would involve. These poweful priests then are forsaking their true spouse as it were – the Lord, with whom David is completely satisfied.

And so David continues in verse 4 to vow that he will never offer the drink offerings of these other gods. In the Old Testament, the sanctioned, approved drink offerings were made with wine. One time with water. But what are they made with here? Blood. Yuck. That sounds unclean. And that’s just what false gods are – unclean, abominable, detestable. And so, David, as if he himself were a priest, won’t offer the drink offerings of these disgusting idols.

And neither will David take the names of these gods on his lips. That doesn’t mean he won’t pronounce their names when speaking of them. That phrasing about “taking their names” reminds us of the commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain. Don’t swear an oath with God’s name when you have no intention of fulfilling that oath. That’s the command. And so here David is saying that he’s not going to swear by the names of these false deities like his associates among the powerful priests are starting to do.

And I mentioned earlier that David starts the psalm with a request for protection. Protection from whom? Well, this group of powerful individuals and their faithless activities are really the only thing I can think of from this psalm from which David might need to be spared and rescued.

So, David is satisfied with God and knows that only sorrows will come from turning from the Lord. And so we’ve seen that that’s the second reason David gives as to why he’s satisfied with God.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Inheritance

But positively, David pictures his satisfaction with God as if he had received a very generous inheritance of land. Let’s read verses 5 and 6.

5 The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup:
thou maintainest my lot.
6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places;
yea, I have a goodly heritage.

Now, land inheritance might not thrill us so much. I mean, if your great uncle dies and leaves you a strip of land somewhere, I imagine that most of us might be ambivalent about it – unless, of course it’s worth a lot of money and you can sell it or something like that.

But that’s not what David has in mind here. And I can tell you that Old Testament Israelites were excited about inheriting land. Think about how often we hear about land being granted or bought or promised in the Old Testament. Much of God’s promise to Abraham included land. That promise extended to Isaac and Jacob. God then moved Israel into the land of Canaan to inherit that land. They divvied up the land and we read about that in chapter after chapter in Joshua. Land was a big deal to Old Testament Israelites. Most of them were farmers. This was their living and livelihood. They could hardly do anything without land. And that’s how David pictures his relationship with God. As if God were HIS land inheritance. And he’s declaring that he could be satisfied with such a portion or allotment of land.

David goes on to say in verse 5 that God maintains or supports his lot. The “lot” was how land was divided in the Old Testament – especially in the book of Joshua where all the land was initially divided. God is pictured then as upholding David’s allotted territory – which of course poetically is the Lord, anyway.

The “lines” then in verse 6 are speaking of the same basic concept. Apparently, the picture is of lines being laid down or drawn on the ground to demark where one region or territory stopped and the other started.

And David says that this poetic dividing of his portion of land from others has happened to him “pleasantly”. He likes the way his inheritance has fallen out to him. That’s what that second line means. David has a “goodly heritage” – or in other words “my inheritance in pleasant to me” he says. God is satisfying to David.

So, this whole two-verse section is speaking of inheriting land. And David is using this poetically to describe his satisfaction with God.

Now, there WAS a group in Old Testament Israel who didn’t receive ANY land. Do you remember what group that was? The priests. The very ones that David was just reporting on – that some of their most powerful and wealthy were abandoning their inheritance – that is, the Lord. In CONTRAST then – and this explains why David starts speaking of land inheritance after he revealed the faithlessness of some of these priests – David DOES have literal physical land granted to him. But even if he WAS a priest with NO land inheritance — because the Lord was to be their inheritance – David says that he’d be satisfied with that arrangement. With God as his only inheritance – his only earthly possession.

And you and I know what that’s like. We have stuff. We have gadgets. We have clothing and food and homes. But when it comes down to it – we’d rather have Jesus than those houses or lands. And really, what good are those houses or lands or whatever other material possession – if we don’t have God? Even if we were incredibly wealthy, without God we’d be truly impoverished.

And so, David is satisfied with God as if God were David’s pleasant abundant inheritance of land.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Stability

And not only that, but David is satisfied with God because of the stabilizing influence that God has on David. Verses 7 and 8.

7 I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel:
my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
8 I have set the LORD always before me:
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Have you experienced what David refers to in verse 7? The Lord giving you counsel? His word counsels us. His Holy Spirit counsels us. The conscience which he’s put into us counsels us. He’s constantly giving the believer counsel. And, so often, our biggest problem is not FINDING counsel for a particular situation – the problem is ACCEPTING the counsel that God has already given us.

And the second line of verse 7 says that in addition to the Lord counseling him, David also has his “reins” instructing or disciplining or correcting him where he needs it. That word “reins” is literally “kidneys”. And that’s just a Hebrew way of referring to what WE think of as the “mind” or our “inmost being”. David is saying that part of the Lord’s counsel and advice and guiding of him is his own inner man correcting him.

And this all causes David to “bless the Lord”. He is thankful for this ministry of the Lord to him. This counsel and correction – these things that lead to stability in David’s inner man.

Then in verse 8, David says it’s as if he has physically set the Lord in front of his eyes. He’s constantly mindful of the Lord. It’s as if he’s physically at David’s right hand – right there with him. And because David senses that the Lord is near him and with him, David is confident that he won’t be moved. He won’t slip. Why? Because of the stabilizng influence that God has on him and on all those who believe in him.

And again, I think the contrast with the faithless powerful priests is in view even here. Those priests apparently were not setting the Lord before them. They refused his counsel and even their own consciences. And so – as opposed to David – they were being moved. They were slipping. And David doesn’t want that for his life. He’s thankful for God’s stabilizing influence on him.

Psalm 16 Commentary: Enjoy God Forever

And lastly, David is satisfied with God because he believed that he would enjoy God forever. Verses 9 through 11. For more information on David’s enjoying God forever, see our Psalm 16 11 Meaning post.

Well, what a satisfying God! I trust we’ll be fully satisfied with him today – and all the more so today on the first day of the week when we remember that God raised his son from the grave, never to experience decay.

Psalm 15 Commentary

Let’s turn to Psalm 15.

Psalm 15 Commentary: Genre & Theme

Psalm 15 is a reflective or meditative psalm. David has this one thought in mind that he’s going to mull over and ponder throughout the 5 verses of Psalm 15. And that thought is this: The blameless character of one who knows God.

So much of the psalms consist of David lamenting the evil all around him. But in THIS psalm, David has all but forgotten his enemies. He wants to focus on the truly different character of one who knows God.

Psalm 15 Commentary: Applications

And this should give us some instruction of how to direct OUR thoughts. Because OUR world – like David’s – is evil. If you’re living right, you’ll experience opposition. David did. And as you stand for the Lord and his word you WILL experience greater measures of this kind of opposition. And so a temptation for you and me can be to totally focus on the EVILS around us. And a good bit of that is appropriate.

But don’t forget to focus on GOOD things, too. Don’t forget to take the admonition in the book of Philippians to “think on these things” – things that are pure and lovely and have a good report. David found the need to focus on something good, even in the midst of constantly fighting off evil.

So, let’s read Psalm 15 and we’ll focus on and rejoice along with David about The Blameless Character of One Who Knows God. And at the same time – ask yourself – “Is this representative of me?” Do these things characterize me? I’m claiming to know God. Do I have this blameless character? So, let’s read Psalm 15.

Psalm 15 Commentary: Question

So, David begins his meditation in verse 1:

LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?
who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

What we have here is a picture of close fellowship of man with God. He’s talking about abiding in a tabernacle and dwelling in a hill. Of being close with the Lord.

The Lord’s tabernacle physically was a literal tent. It housed the ark of the covenant, an altar, a table, a candlestick, and a number of other things. But it was a place where the Lord would meet with his people. It was a place of COMMUNION of man with God. And of course, since this psalm is written by David, we’re not talking about the TEMPLE. THAT hadn’t been built yet. The TABERNACLE was the place to go if you wanted to experience God’s presence. And eventually that tent and then later the temple would be built on God’s HOLY HILL – Mount Zion.

And so David is thinking of people who are not strangers to those places – to God’s tent and to his holy hill. He says that these people he’s meditating on – they ABIDE in God’s tent. The word “abide” usually emphasizes temporary residence. Sojourning. And that makes sense – because a tent is a temporary abode.

And yet, David goes on to think of those who DWELL in God’s holy hill. That word “dwell” has more permanence about it. It’s also translated as SETTLE or INHABIT other places.

So, we’re focusing on those who are pictured as LIVING with the Lord, basically. Those who SOJOURN with him in this life in his tent. Those who SETTLE DOWN and TAKE UP RESIDENCE with him on his holy hill. In other words, those who KNOW the Lord on a personal basis – who feel AT HOME with him, so to speak.

And – just to give us some background on the realities that could have been influencing David’s writing of this psalm – remember that David actually brougt the Ark of the Covenant along with the tabernacle of God to Jerusalem at some point during his reign. Remember that? He did it with great joy and celebrations. And we can imagine that that event may have been fresh in his mind as he writes about this. Because now for the first time, God’s TABERNACLE was situated on his HOLY HILL. Before that, it had been in different parts of Israel. But now it’s all in one place. The tabernacle AND the holy hill.

So, David asks this question as to who will dwell with the Lord – or who KNOWS the Lord. And he asks the question to the Lord himself. And for the rest of Psalm 15 we have the response to this one question. And the response indicates that David wasn’t asking for names of INDIVIDUALS. He was looking for WHAT KIND of people know the Lord. What are they like? What do they do? What do they think?

And so, David asks the Lord what these people are LIKE. What characterizes a person who knows God? And then either he answers his own question OR the Lord himself responds for the rest of the psalm. I think it’s more likely that David is answering his own question – kind of in question/answer type format – like a catechism.

Psalm 15 Commentary: Organization

So, David’s response comes – I think – in 6 groups of 2 lines each – or 6 couplets. He makes 2 statements that are related somehow and then makes another two statements and he does that 6 times in this psalm. And the verse divisions don’t indicate that. But I do think that’s what’s happening here.

So, let me show you what I’m talking about.

Verse 2 – this man walks uprightly and works rightouesness. That’s the first couplet. And those two thoughts are related. And we’ll explore how they’re related in a few minutes.

End of verse 2 and beginning of verse 3 – he speaks truth and he doesn’t slander with his tongue. That’s the second couplet.

The rest of verse 3 – he doesn’t DO evil to his neighbor and he doesn’t SPEAK evil about his neighbor. That’s the third couplet.

Verse 4 – he thinks LITTLE of ungodly men and he highly esteems those who love the Lord. That’s the fourth couplet.

End of verse 4 – he makes promises that could eventuate in his harm. And he doesn’t change his promise, even under those circumstances. That’s the fifth couplet.

And finally verse 5 – he doesn’t charge interest when he lends to his own people – especially to the poor among them. And he won’t be bribed to pervert the justice that’s due the innocent.

So, do you see that? 6 double-statements or couplets that describe a man who knows God. So, let’s delve into each of these couplets and figure out what they’re saying.

Psalm 15 Commentary: General Character

The first couplet again is in verse 2 and it focuses on the GENERAL CHARACTER of those who know the Lord.

2 He that walketh uprightly,
and worketh righteousness,

So, we’re poetically told how this man WALKS and what he WORKS.

He WALKS uprightly. This uprightness is what Noah possessed in his time. In Genesis 6:9 we’re told that Noah was a righteous man. He was blameless – no FAULT could be found in him. And we’re told that he WALKED with God.

And the fact that the man who knows God in THIS psalm walks in this manner, indicates that this is a repeated habitual kind of thing. He is habitually upright. His PRACTICE is to be sincere, honest, blameless. Not perfect! But BLAMELESS, like Noah.

So, that’s how a man who knows God WALKS. But what does he WORK? He works RIGHTEOUSNESS. He practices what is right. Just like someone goes to work day after day, the man who knows God does what’s right day after day.

And you might think that this concept of working righteousness is somewhat vague. What does that look like? Well, I think you get a pretty good feel for what David has in mind in the next five couplets of statements that describe the blameless character of one who knows God.

Psalm 15 Commentary: Speech

The next two statements – or the second couplet – involve this person’s SPEECH. Look at the last statement of verse 2 and the first statement of verse 3.

and speaketh the truth in his heart.
3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue,

And so we see here the positive and negative of the speech of a person who truly knows God. POSITIVELY, he speaks truth. Is that YOUR inclination? The man who truly knows God will speak truth as a practice. And this isn’t MERELY a matter of what comes out of our mouths. It certainly eventuates in what comes out of our mouth. But it’s deeper than that. Look at that phrase again. He “speaketh the truth” – where? In his heart.

Now, this doesn’t mean that he just mutters truth to himself so that no one else can hear him. It also doesn’t mean that he’s truthful merely in his heart or in his inner man – but then he can speak falsehood with his lips. No, but THIS is what it means. Yes, the man speaks truth. But that truth was already in his heart before he spoke it with his tongue. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. And this man who knows the Lord will have truth in his heart. And because of that, truth will be the thing that comes out of his mouth.

And those of us who truly know the Lord – before you were saved, this may not have been your practice. You likely did NOT speek truth in your heart – because you didn’t have any truth IN your heart to speak. And this is why David can marvel at the blameless character of one who knows God. All of a sudden you have truth in your heart when you come to truly know God. And then that’s just what you speak – truth! Amazing! This is worthy of our meditation and admiration. Praise God for truth-filled hearts and lips.

So, negatively though, the man who knows the Lord doesn’t – first statement of verse 3 – BACKBITE with his tongue. We’re still talking about his speech here. He doesn’t SLANDER people. He doesn’t speak falsehood about others. I mean – how can he? He’s got truth in his heart and that’s what comes out of his mouth.

And those of us who truly know the Lord can attest to this reality in our lives. Isn’t it amazing that God will help you just cringe at the thought of slandering another person? We understand our own wrestchedness and God’s mercy to us and patience with us. And in light of those realities – I mean, nobody’s worse than I am and nobody has received more patience and mercy from God than I have. Why am I going to speak evil of someone else who’s probably not even as bad as I am? I need to show them the mercy which God has shown to me.

Isn’t that amazing? Slander is so common in our world. And yet those who truly know God – it’s like there’s just soemthing DIFFERENT about them. They don’t slander with their tongue. No, they speak TRUTH with it!

And yet, I’ve worked in Christian ministries for years now, amazingly. I’ve been a Christian for over a decade. And it grieves me to hear gossip and slander in a Christian context. But – brethren – these things ought not to be so! Let us be so careful to speak only the truth – in general. And specifically, let’s really love our neighbor by not speaking falsely of him. And – for that matter – love your ENEMY by speaking of him or her or them only what’s absolutely true. You and I score no points with the Lord for lying about our enemies. Represent even THEM fairly and accurately.

Psalm 15 Commentary: Neighbor

So, this is how a man who knows God will speak. And the mention of SLANDER – I think – brings David to the next couplet of statements. NOW, David is meditating on how a person who knows God treats his NEIGHBOR. Next two statements of verse 3.

nor doeth evil to his neighbour,
nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

The first statement deals with ACTIONS and the second statement is about SPEECH again.

So, first, a man who knows God won’t do evil things to his neighbor.

As a boy in grade school, I once had a friend whose next door neighbor would video tape us playing in my friend’s yard. And it’s hard to remember details, but I think the neighbor was worried that one of our balls would land in his yard. And he was waiting for that to happen so that he could turn us in to the condominium association. Now, we surely should have been more careful – but this guy was spending a lot of his time tracking little kids just to make sure that one of our toys didn’t fall into his yard. And if it did, he would do us EVIL.

My grandmother had a neighbor off her back yard who was a drunk. And he would yell at and try to pick fights with me and my cousins when we were children visiting our grandparents’ house. It just so happened that I actually got to go back and witness to that man’s wife after I got saved. But that guy wanted to do evil to us.

I’m sure YOU have stories of your own regarding un-neighborly neighbors. But here’s the point – I would have no reason to think that the guys in my examples truly knew the Lord. Because people who know the Lord have a blameless character. Not perfect, but blameless. And that includes not doing evil to one’s neighbor.

And not only are the ACTIONS of one who knows the Lord to his neighbor blameless, but so are his WORDS. A person who truly knows God will not take up a reproach against his neighbor. He won’t “lift up an insult to one who is near to him”. Sticks and stones break bones, and WORDS hurt too. And insulting words have no place on the lips of one who knows God. Whether those words be directly TO the person OR behind his back.

Psalm 15 Commentary: Esteeming Others

Now, the thought of how to deal with one’s neighbor leads David to consider how the man who knows God ESTEEMS other people. First two statements of verse 4.

4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned;
but he honoureth them that fear the LORD.

So, negatively, a person know knows God CONTEMNS – or despises – a certain type of person.

First, let me point out that to “despise” someone or something is not akin to hatred. I think some people use the word DESPISE as if it’s a synonym to LOATHE. It’s not. Actually, the old English word there “contemn” can help us. Think of CONTEMPT. That sounds like “contemn”. And when you’re charged with contempt of court – and hopefully none of us ever will be – but when you’re charged with contempt of court, it simply means that you’re DESPISING the authority of that court. You aren’t giving it the respect it deserves. You’re looking down on it. You are thinking lightly of it. That’s what a man who knows God does. But he doesn’t do this to a COURT. He does this to a certain type of INDIVIDUAL. Who’s that?

A vile person. Literally, ONE WHO IS REJECTED. Does it startle you to know that God considers some people to be rejected? In Isaiah and Jeremiah, God is said to reject his nation for their evils deeds. Is it too far of a stretch to say that God can reject individuals for their evil deeds? I think not. That’s what we see here.

And what’s interesting is that in the WORLD’S eyes, this group of people who are rejected by God is often HIGHLY esteemed. They get the glory. They’re the in-crowd.

But God doesn’t see them that way. And neither does the person who truly knows God. That man will not highly esteem that kind of person. Love him? Yes. Refrain from slandering and insulting him? Yes. Thinking really highly of him? … No.

No, the man who knows God, reserves his highest esteem for THIS kind of person – for “them that fear the Lord.” Other God-fearers – that’s whom those who know God honor. That’s the group that he gives weight to in his estimation. The group that respects God’s sovereignty and obeys his commandments, according to one definition of that word “fear”. That’s the characteristic of the people that the person who knows God highly esteems.

So, the man who knows God puts these two groups on a scale – as it were. The ones who are rejected by God he gives very little weight to. While the people who fear the Lord just tip the scale.

Psalm 15 Commentary: Promise Keeping

So, we’ve seen the general character, speech, treatment of neighbors, and estimation of certain groups of people that characterizes one who knows God. Now, at the end of verse 4 we see another part of this man’s character. One who knows God will make PROMISES and keep them.

He that sweareth to his own hurt,
and changeth not.

So, a man who knows God will first of all sometimes swear. Now, obviously we’re not talking about foul language. That’s the way we sometimes use that word “swear”. But really, it’s something like a PROMISE that’s considered binding. We also need to note that in the New Testament we’re strongly encouraged to NOT swear or make oaths. But if we do, we really do need to keep that promise or oath. Our word is no small matter. If we promise to do something we must do it.

Even if it results in our own “hurt” like this verse states. Even if you promise to do something and it eventuates in your harm or injury or damage in whatever way, the man who knows God will carry out his promise. It might be inconvenient. It might be a burden to you. But you will keep that promise. And you as a person who knows the Lord will not change. You won’t change your mind or break your promise.

And when you live amongst a general population that loves to lie and can’t stop it – this is truly a marvel. That there’s a man or group of people who make promises and keep them.

Psalm 15 Commentary: Treatment of the Disadvantaged

And the last part of the blameless character that a man who knows the Lord possesses is the way he treats those who are the DISADVANTAGED. First two statements of verse 5.

5 He that putteth not out his money to usury,
nor taketh reward against the innocent.

Under the Mosaic Covenant, Israelites were not allowed to charge interest to their fellow-Israelites. That’s what USURY is – it’s interest. And Israelites were especially admonished not to charge interest to their fellow Israelites who were IMPOVERISHED. They were supposed to lend money to that type of person and expect only the principle in return – no interest. And a man who knows God would do that under the Old Testament Law.

For our day though – what does this look like? Is a Christian banker being unrighteous when he charges you interest on your mortgage or on your car loan? Now, the ridiculous level of interest on credit cards – I’d say – BORDERS on unrighteous. But I don’t have Bible that tells me as a New Testament Christian – that I can’t charge interest when loaning money to someone else – even to another Christian.

So, I think what this would look like in US then – is GENEROSITY. A willingness to help those in need. To donate time, energy – yes, even MONEY – to help others. And to help those who are in the most need.

And verse 5 mentions another group who is needy. The INNOCENT. And we’re told that a man who knows God will not take a bribe again this group of people.

Justice is such a fragile thing – especially when it’s sinful men who are trying to uphold it. All it takes is for a witness or two to be influenced against the innocent party in a lawsuit and things can get ugly.

We see this happening in the story of Ahab and Naboth. Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard. Naboth wouldn’t give it away because God wanted the land to stay with the family to which it had been granted all the way back in the days of Joshua. Ahab cried to his wife Jezebel. Jezebel got a few people to tell a lie about Naboth. There we have it – a bribe against the innocent. The result? Naboth was stoned to death and Ahab moved in to take his new vineyard. How easy it is to pervert justice! How quickly it can happen – especially with men who don’t know God.

But the man who DOES know God – you can’t pay him enough to pervert justice. To him, a right verdict is more important than lining his pockets with money.

How wonderful this kind of character truly is! In general conduct, speech, neighborliness, promise-keeping, esteeming of groups of people, kindness to the disadvantaged. I love that kind of blameless character. And so does God.

And we need to remember that this character isn’t what gains people access to God’s tent and holy hill. Being good and doing good doesn’t earn us a place with the Lord. Only turning from your sins and trusting in Christ to forgiven your sins will do that. But you can be assured that those whose sins the Lord has forgiven will share this kind of blameless character as we’ve seen in this psalm.

Psalm 15 Commentary: Final Meditation

And so, David ends his meditation with the last statement of verse 5.

He that doeth these things shall never be moved.

You can be assured that if you’re one who dwells with the Lord – who KNOWS him and abides with him and in him – if you through that knowledge and with God’s help PRACTICE these characteristics and actions that we’ve just gone through – then you will not be moved. You won’t be caused to totter or wobble. You’ll be steadfast and unmoveable – abiding in the Lord’s tent and dwelling in his holy hill. No one and nothing will move you.

There’s a LOT of evil everywhere – there is TODAY. There was in DAVID’S day. But you and I can be unmoveable and steady if we know the Lord and work out that knowledge in our lives daily. So, praise the Lord for the blameless character of those who know God.

Psalm 14 Commentary

Psalm 14 Commentary: Introduction

Turn to Psalm 14.

In Psalm 14, David is meditating on this theme: Atheism. The lack of belief in and obedience to God. Atheism in its INTELLECTUAL, theoretical form. And atheism in its PRACTICAL form – in the way that it’s worked out in the lives of practically every single human being.

David notes the EVIL of both kinds of atheism and God’s final DEALING with atheism.

So, let’s meditate with David on Atheism.

Psalm 14 Commentary: Intellectual Atheism

In verses 1 through 3, David starts to ponder atheism. And he zeroes in on two different forms of this professed philosophy which most of mankind embraces.

First of all, we have verse 1. Let’s read that again.

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

They are corrupt,
they have done abominable works,
there is none that doeth good.

So, here’s the intellectual, theoretical, philosophical approach to atheism. To flat out DENY that God exists. To claim that there is a total ABSENCE of God. And this term for “God” is “Elohim”. And that can certainly refer to the Lord, who is the true God. He’s the only real deity in reality. But it can also refer simply to the CONCEPT of “deity”. And so, verse 1 is fully acknowledging that there are some who take the position that no deity exists. Nothing created THE EVERYTHING that’s all around us. There is no such being. And because that’s the case, there’s no accountability to him or her or it or whatever it is.

And OUR society is filled with this kind of people. I grieve to say that many in my extended family have adopted this mindset – that there is no God – no deity. And in our society – maybe I can say in WESTERN CIVILIZATION – how do these men and women with an ATHEISTIC worldview – how are they ESTEEMED in our culture? Are they despised? Or are they exalted?

I think you’ll recognize that you find them in all sorts of prestigious positions in western civilization. They’re in ACADEMIA. They’re more and more in the halls of LEGISLATURES. In fact, I recently read an article that was kind of celebrating the fact that more congressmen are feeling comfortable with coming out – so to speak – as atheists. Like this is something to be proud of. It’s not as much of a stigma anymore. Further, people who hold to the profession that there is no God are the ones who are starring in everyone’s favorites movies and TV shows. They are the movers and shakers. They are the rich and famous. They’re the beautiful people of our society.

But what does God think of atheists? What does he call them? Verse 1. They are – FOOLS. The FOOL says in his heart “no God”. Now, that’s NOT very flattering. But it IS the truth. Only a fool will believe for a moment that there is no deity.

And when we speak of “fools” we’re not talking about STUPID people. These people are not necessarily intellectually incapable. People who make this claim can solve math problems. They can speak eloquently. They can engineer buildings and industrial equipment. They can balance their check books. INTELLECTUALLY, they can be all there.

But that’s not where their foolishness lies. Their foolishness isn’t necessarily reflected in their INTELLECT. It resides in their MORALS. They are natural men that don’t receive the things of the Spirit of God (1 Co). They look at the creation all around them, and they just CAN’T or simply WON’T put it together – that there must have been an awesome and powerful being who made all of this. That just doesn’t satisfy them.

So, only fools utterly deny the existence of deity. And – you know – what we believe affects our actions and behavior. And for some reason, that’s an assertion that even the highest in our nation attempt to deny these days – that what we THINK affects what we DO. I just don’t understand how people can deny that what one BELIEVES is going to affect his ACTIONS and BEHAVIOR. But it certainly does. And David goes on in Psalm 14 to expose the character of intellectual atheists. This group that outright denies the existence of God.

He says they’re CORRUPT. They’re SPOILED – not in the sense of being spoiled like a little child who always gets his desires. But SPOILED in the sense of what happens when you leave food out overnight or for a period of several days. I won’t give any illustrations. You and I both know that food left out spoils. It CORRUPTS. It’s what happened when the frogs and flies descended on everything in the land of Egypt right before the Exodus. They SPOILED everything they touched. And that’s a picture of the intellectual atheist. If you were to picture them as a piece of food – they would be something you would have no interest in approaching. Think of your reaction to coming across a container filled with what you thought was good and tasty food – only to discover that it’s spoiled and rotten. That’s God’s reaction to these people. He’s sickened by them. He finds them repulsive.

So, the CHARACTER of intellectual atheists is spoiled. Their DEEDS are also bad. They’re “abominable”. That word “abominable” is used by the Lord in 2 Kings to explain to us why he had to deport Israel and Judah. He did it because of their ABOMINABLE, offensive, sickening deeds. And in particular, these two nations of his were eventually practicing the sins of the Amorites, whom the Lord drove out from before his people because he couldn’t stand THEIR sin anymore. The Amorites’ deeds were deeply offensive to God. They’re the kind of deeds that provoke God to severely punish an entire nation. And these are the kinds of deeds that intellectual atheism produces.

And finally, with intellectual atheists, just as they say that there is an ABSENCE of deity – so too God says that there is an ABSENCE among them of anyone who does good. Any “good-doer” – just can’t find them among this group.

And that’s something to take note of and ponder for a moment. How can David say that there is none who does good among this group? I mean – today, intellectual atheists I suppose participate in some actions that we could consider “good”. And even in David’s day, I assume that many of the people worked and supported their families. I mean, that seems good. So then, how can we say that among them there is not ONE who does good?

I think it has to do with what God sees as good. Good deeds apart from a good heart — throughout the entire Scripture — are never encouraged by God. God in Isaiah – for example – takes to task those who celebrated new moons and Sabbaths. And there was NOTHING wrong with those activities. In fact, that kind of celebration was REQUIRED by God himself. What WAS wrong was the people’s hearts. They drew near to God with their lips ONLY. But their HEARTS were far from him. And so I think that’s why God can say that among the group of intellectual atheists, there is ultimately not a single one who does good. Their hearts are all so full of sin and selfishness.

Now, the reality is that most people AREN’T intellectual atheists. They weren’t in the time of David, either. You think of all the mentions in the Old Testament of national deities outside of Israel. You have Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and Chemosh the god of Moab and Milcom the god of the Ammonites. These false deities were all associated with individual nations. It’s hard to think of a nation in the Old Testament that didn’t have at least one national deity. The Babylonians and Assyrians even had them. So did the Egyptians. So in the Bible, there’s no lack of gods and the worship of those gods.

And the same is generally true even today. I mean, you do have countries like China which is officially atheistic. But in the course of history, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. That’s why when missionaries come through and talk about the makeup of a particular country that they’re going to – religiously-speaking – you see the percentages of each individual RELIGION in that country. Most countries are not predominately atheistic.

Even in this nation in which we live, if you check something like the CIA World Factbook, you’ll find that over 51% of our nation identifies as PROTESTANT – not just Christian. And only about 12% consider themselves to be in the “unaffiliated” or “none” categories.

Psalm 14 Commentary: Practical Atheism

My point is that it’s not the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of people who claim to be the type of intellectual atheists that we just saw in the first verse of this psalm. And I think that’s why David moves in verses 2 and 3 to meditate NOT on those who are atheists INTELLECTUALLY, but to those who are atheists PRACTICALLY. Let’s re-read verses 2 and 3.

2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men,
to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

3 They are all gone aside,
they are all together become filthy:
there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Now, in verse 2 we have the Lord looking down. And this word often carries somewhat of a foreboding undertone.

The angels who came to Abraham right before the destruction of Sodom LOOKED DOWN upon that city. And we know what happened after that.

God in the Red Sea – when his people were fleeing from Egypt and God’s pillar of cloud separated Israel from Egypt – right before God was going to overthrow Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea – he LOOKED DOWN from the pillar at the Egyptian army. And you know what happened after that.

Balaam who was hired to curse Israel, LOOKED DOWN at them. And thankfully what happened next was God’s protection for his people – at least from the curse that Balaam wanted to pronounce against Israel. But we know that Balaam advised Balak to tempt Israel into sinning. So, again, another foreboding scene.

So, when God is looking down at these people, you might suspect that something similar might happen here. But there’s no fire and brimstone. No letting loose of the waters of the sea. God’s judgement in this scene is not catastrophic or miraculous. But God’s judgement is present.

He looks down at the sons of Adam – at mankind in general. And he’s wondering if there are any that understand and seek God.

This understanding here is something that we’re told that Israel gained when they returned to the land after their exile and started reading the Law of the Lord. So, understanding can come from God’s word. This understanding is further something that God LAMENTED all the way back in Deuteronomy that his people lacked. This kind of understanding can also be called spiritual insight. Does anyone have this among the mortals of the earth? That’s what God wants to find out.

And do they SEEK God? Are they interested in him? Do they inquire about him? Does any one of these mortals on earth take an interest in the true God? Because they have all sorts of gods. And they seem pretty devoted to him or them. They sometimes CUT themselves to appease these gods. They sometimes offer their CHILDREN in sacrifice to these gods. They will KILL in the name of their gods.

There are many who seek what they think of as “God”. The FOOL takes the intellectual atheist route and boldly claims that there is NO God. But MANY aren’t like that. MOST aren’t like that. Among the sons of Adam, then, surely there must be some that understand and seek God! The true and living God!

Among these people, are there any that truly SEEK God and have spiritual UNDERSTANDING? Here’s David’s conclusion in verse 3. “NO”

They’ve turned aside. They’re morally corrupt. No one does good. Notice the UNIVERSALITY of these statements. “All”. “All”. “None”. “No, not one”. But surely there’s ONE among the sons of Adam that seeks God. Nope. Surely there’s ONE that does good. God doesn’t think so.

Well then, why are they making all those idols and engaging in all those religious activities? Romans 1 tells us that they pursue idols exactly BECAUSE they don’t want to seek God. They are RUNNING from God. And so they exchange God’s glory for idols of animals or birds or whatever else. The abundance of idols doesn’t indicate sincere seeking after God. It portrays just the opposite.

This group then is not made up of those who in their mind and heart try to convince themselves that there is no God. And nevertheless, this group consists of atheists – PRACTICAL atheists. They’re atheists – not in their MIND and HEART so much as in their PRACTICES. They claim to believe a god. But their lives don’t testify to a genuine seeking after and understanding of God – the true God – the Lord.

I mean, just look at the similarities of these two groups in the text. Among those in verse 1 who take the official position that God does not exist – there is not one who does good.

Among the broader sons of Adam – most of whom would profess some belief in and allegiance to a god or many gods the same in true. There is none who does good – not even one. So, this conclusion applies to both groups. None of them do good.

And so we see that whether we’re talking about intellectual atheists or practical atheists, God isn’t finding anything good among them. He’s not finding ANY who seek him. ANY who have spiritual understanding and insight.

Psalm 14 Commentary: Senselessness of Atheism

And based on these realities, David marvels at the SENSELESSNESS of these people in verses 4-6. He says…

4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge?
who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.
5 There were they in great fear:
for God is in the generation of the righteous.
6 Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor,
because the LORD is his refuge.

So, these atheists, intellectual and practical, are referred to as WORKERS OF INIQUITY. That’s what they do. They practice SIN. Remember? There’s none that do good? If you’re not doing good, what are you doing? Yeah, you’re sinning.

And David accuses them of EATING God’s people. This is – I hope – figurative. The atheists aren’t necessarily cannibals. But they metaphorically EAT God’s people. They destroy them and they’re no more – just like what happens to food when one eats it. Just like when someone scarfs down some bread. It’s there one moment and gone the next.

And these atheists don’t think much of this unjust activity of theirs. How guilty does a person who eats bread feel? Well, if you’re on a low-carb diet or whatever then maybe you might feel a twinge of guilt if you eat bread. But by and large people don’t feel like eating bread is morally wrong or even something that’s not the best, morally speaking. And that’s just how these atheistic workers of iniquity feel as they’re abusing God’s people and destroying them.

And so it’s no surprise that this group doesn’t CALL UPON THE LORD. No – they prefer their idols — if they’re practical atheists — or they take comfort in their mantra “NO GOD” — if they’re intellectual atheists. But it NEVER occurs to them to CALL UPON THE LORD. The true God.

And David asks rhetorically whether these people HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge of what? Again, they might be wise in a WORLDLY way. But this knowledge is speaking of SPIRITUAL knowledge. And atheists don’t have it. And in particular, they don’t know or believe the realities described in verse 5.

Where it says — THERE (spatial) – or THEN (temporal) – this word can refer to either concept. I’d like to take it as temporal. At some future point THEN these atheists will be in great fear. They don’t understand this yet. But they will SOMEDAY. They will “dread (verb) dread (noun)” in the Hebrew. Well, WHY will they dread? WHAT are they going to dread?

This. That the Lord is in the generation of the righteous. The ones that they destroy as if they were just eating bread. God is among those people. God doesn’t ignore their affliction at the hands of the atheistic workers of iniquity. And if God isn’t going to ignore the mistreatment, then you know he’s going to put a stop to it and judge these atheists who oppress God’s people.

So then, considering the future judgement of intellectual and practical atheists, in verse 6 David in his mind turns to the atheists and no longer uses the third person to speak OF them. He uses the second person to speak TO them. He tells them that the Lord is the REFUGE of the righteous – of God’s people – these POOR ones. Again, this word “poor” doesn’t refer ONLY or even NECESSARILY to their ECONOMIC status. These ARE men who are afflicted and needy. But WHY are they afflicted and needy? Because they’re being metaphorically eaten like bread! Atheists are attacking them and destroying them. But these attacking workers of iniquity don’t know that God is in the generation of the righteous. AND he’s the refuge of these people. These poor, righteous, people of God WILL find protection and safety in the Lord. The atheists will find DREAD. The righteous will find PROTECTION. BOTH coming from the Lord.

Psalm 14 Commentary: Ultimate Judgement of Atheism

Well, when will these realities finally take place? When will the wicked be put in great dread and the righteous ultimately be lifted to safety? Verse 7.

7 Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!
when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people,
Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

This is what David yearns for. The salvation of Israel. The Yeshua of Israel. And he wants it to come out of Zion. Why? What was in Zion? I believe that he’s thinking about the king of Israel. And David’s the king of Israel at this point. But it makes me think that he’s looking forward to one who would come after him and be the salvation of Israel. Then, I think we have here is the anticipation in David’s heart of a coming Messiah. I mean, who else could do what the next line describes?

Bring back the captivity of the Lord’s people. And that makes it sound like the exile had already happened. And of course it hadn’t in David’s time. And so, another way to translate this is that the Lord will “restore the fortunes” of his people. That’s what David was counting on happening when Messiah came. That the Lord – through the Messiah – would restore the fortunes of Israel.

And of course at that point, with atheists dealt-with by Messiah and his oppressed people’s fortunes restored – Jacob and Israel would rejoice. And our translation translates that verb SHALL as a future tense. But the verb in Hebrew is something more forceful. MAY JACOB REJOICE! MAY ISRAEL BE GLAD! Come on folks! Get excited about this possibility! Messiah’s coming and he’ll restore your fortunes, Israel! Be glad!

And we know from the book of Romans in those first three chapters – that all have sinned. Romans 3 even quotes THIS psalm and declares that there is not a single one who does good. No – not one! Everyone is under sin. Everyone — left to his own devices – is a practical or intellectual atheist.

But now Messiah HAS come. And Israel for the most part DIDN’T rejoice or be glad. They crucified him. And so atheists still run rampant and oppress God’s people.

But one day the Lord Jesus the Messiah will return for good. He’ll restore the fortunes of his people. Atheists will no longer oppress – I’m pretty sure they won’t even exist anymore, with Jesus literally physically ruling from Jerusalem over the entire world. You can’t have atheism existing in that kind of an environment. I mean, when God is ruling physically from a city on earth, sitting on a literal throne, who’s going to be able to claim that he doesn’t exist?

Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion. That’ll be the end of Atheism as we know it. Praise God.

Psalm 13 Commentary

Psalm 13 Commentary: Introduction

How does it feel to lose? Do you like that feeling? Of losing a game or a match or a contest?

If you’re a husband – how does it feel to lose to your wife? Well, you’re probably more mature than I am and so you probably don’t struggle with the reality of crushing defeat delivered to you from the hands of your dear sweet wife. Lori and I used to play ping pong. USED TO, I say! She is an excellent ping pong player. And at least when we were dating I kind of got sick of playing her because she ALWAYS won! It was humiliating to this young man who wanted to impress his date – and she just keeps BEATING me! I’d like to say that I got over it.

And, that was intended to be sort of a humorous illustration of the feelings that we can tend to have when we’re loosing. But what about when you’re losing – not to a friend or someone you love and care for – but when you’re losing to an enemy. Someone who hates you. Someone who you know will actually rejoice when you fail – when he finally beats you.

I mentioned this a while ago, but there was a man at a company that I worked for, who for some reason wanted not only me, but also my whole department fired. Our department had come in and by management’s orders we got involved in part of his processes. And he didn’t like it one bit. He became our enemy. And for a while it looked like he might win. Every little mistake we made he blew up to make them look like fatal blunders. And eventually he had the attention of the management on this matter. He was set against us and he wasn’t budging in his opposition. It was us or him. And he seemed to be winning.

You might experience opposition at work or from your neighbors. Christianity in general has many enemies. And they’d all be happy to see the light put out.

How do you feel about these enemies – especially when they seem to be winning? Are you wondering if you have the right attitude about them and about your situation?

The Lord Jesus tells us to love our enemies. We ought to do good to them. We must pray for them. And yet, how do you deal with the emotions involved in appearing to lose to an enemy? How should you deal with your inner man regarding the troubling thoughts that come when your enemy is winning?

Psalm 13 Commentary: Summary

This is where Psalm 13 can be instructive and helpful for us.

In Psalm 13, David is wrestling with this very issue of his enemy winning. Look at the last line of Psalm 13:2. He says, “How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” He begs God to help him so that – Psalm 13:4 – these things don’t happen to him – that his “enemy [might] say, I have prevailed against him” or this other concerning possibility that “those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.”

So, David here in Psalm 13 is giving us an inspired example of how to deal with the situation When Your Enemy is Winning.

Psalm 13 vs. Psalm 12

This psalm is different from and yet similar to Psalm 12. The message of that psalm all had to do with how to deal with a situation where the vilest men are exalted in a society. So, these two psalms are similar in the sense that both are lament psalms.

But their differences are more pronounced. Last time in Psalm 12, throughout that psalm we kept seeing a broad and national emphasis. The whole nation or culture or society of David was in view there in Psalm 12. But the tone is different here in Psalm 13. It gets more personal. We’re not talking about how bad men effect a whole society. No, in Psalm 13, we’re pondering the effects of evil men on an individual – David, to be exact.

So, before we get started explaining Psalm 13, I just wanted us to get that concept in our minds. Psalm 12 was something of a NATIONAL lament psalm. Whereas, Psalm 13 could be described as a PERSONAL lament psalm. So, let’s keep that fact in mind as we go through this psalm.

Psalm 13 Commentary: Invocation & Lament

Now, Psalm 13 starts with two verses that basically display for us David invoking the Lord and giving his lament. So, let’s re-read verses 1 and 2.

How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever?
how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?
how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

Notice the recurring phrase, “how long?” As in, “when will this be over?” or “when will you relieve me of my grief and agony?” When you’re having a great time, you never ask when it can be done. Right?

When my kids are playing in the basement, or riding their big wheels in our driveway, or pushing their trucks all throughout our house – they’re not typically asking me when they can be done with whatever it is that they’re doing. No, in fact, they get sad when the time is up.

It’s when they’re doing something unpleasant for them or something not so fun or something that for whatever other reason they DON’T want to do – that’s when they start keeping track of time and when they start asking me how long whatever the activity is needs to continue.

And here in Psalm 13, we see the king of Israel expressing similar thoughts. What’s happening to him is unpleasant. It’s hard. He wants to be done with it. And so he asks, “how long?” He addresses this to the Lord. It’s a desperate miserable plea for the Lord to intervene for him.

Can we take this as an example for us to follow? For New Testament believers, can we cry out to the Lord in a similar fashion? I think so. Are your situations troubling? Are they un-enjoyable? Are they causing you grief and pain and anguish? Then you have nothing to lose by calling out to the Lord and asking him – “how long?” It’s not a sin for you to express your deep grief about situations in your life that are frightening or grievous or unpleasant.

Well, let’s ask, why is David so miserable? What realities in his life does he want the Lord to put an end to? Let’s look again at the first line of verse 1.

David says “How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever?”

This word, “forget” can conjure up in our mind the situation with Joseph, the son of Jacob in the Old Testament. When he was put in jail simply for resisting the immoral advances of Potiphar’s wife. There he is in jail. And the Lord is with him, so he’s placed in a position of authority – even in the jail in which he’s a common lowly prisoner. Two of Pharaoh’s officials made Pharaoh angry and so he threw them into the same jail where Joseph was being kept. These two officials had similar dreams one night and so they came to Joseph, and Joseph interpreted them both. Joseph predicted that one of them would be restored to his position. And then Joseph told him, “When you’re restored, plead with Pharaoh to let me go. I’m here wrongfully. I’m innocent.” Well, the man went free and was restored to his former position. But he FORGOT – the same word as we have in verse 1 – he forgot Joseph. He abandoned him.

And that’s how David feels here – abandoned. Obviously, the Lord never forgets anything – in the sense that he knows everything. Everything – from eternity past to eternity future and everything in between. Nothing escapes his notice or somehow slips out of his memory – like it can with us. But the fact that David’s enemy is winning at his expense, makes David feel as if God has just abandoned him.

Surely, we can feel like this, can’t we? Like God has abandoned us. We have his promise to never leave not forsake us. And we need to cling to that promise by faith – because sometimes it’s the only thing we have. But even then, it can still FEEL like God has abandoned us. And this is what David is experiencing – this kind of emotion of being abandoned.

And it seems to David like this will go on indefinitely. Look at the first line again. David kind of weakly ventures a guess as to how long the Lord might act in such a way as to make David feel like he’s abandoned him. He rather pitifully answers his own question with another. He says “forever?” How long will you abandon me? Are you going to do it forever? Like a wound that just won’t heal and that is hurting more and more and becoming more and more of a concern – that’s how David feels about God’s apparent abandoning of him.

And that’s how it can feel when we’re experiencing situations where your enemy is winning at your expense. God seems silent. He seems like he’s abandoned you. How long will be do this? Forever?

And it’s not just that David feels like God has abandoned him. He states that he feels like God is hiding from him. Second line of verse 1. “How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?”

That concept of God hiding his face is not uncommon in the Old Testament.

Cain claimed that God would do this. After he murdered his brother Abel and then God banished him from the rest of his family, he told God that he was hiding his face from Cain. And you can understand how Cain would deserve this. The first murderer in the history of our race. Surely he deserves to have God hide his face from him. But David? No, not David. You wouldn’t think that God would hide his face from David.

This action of turning his face is something that God threatened his new nation of Israel with in Deuternomy 31 when they turn from him and engage in evil and – in particular – idolatry. They will sense that God is not among them when he does this to them. And we can understand how God might do this to a nation given over to idolatry. But to David? His loyal servant? One that hated idols? Would God hide his face from David?

And Job also felt like God was hiding his face from him. And by his doing this, Job sensed that God had become his enemy. But you know what? Job didn’t deserve this either. Job was righteous. And actually, this tells us that people can sense that God is hiding from them – abandoning them – avoiding them – when in reality, that’s not the case. God’s presence might seem to be ellusive. He might appear to be hiding from us. But the reality – as only God knows it – is that he doesn’t leave or forsake his own. He’s always present. Always near. Even if you don’t feel like that’s the case. It is.

And yet, what we see David doing here is wrestling through the physical reality of things. He’s on his way to being comforted by the Lord and expressing confidence in him. But he – just like we so often do – he needed to start where he was. He was being real with the Lord and expressing how he sensed things were.

Now, in verse 2 David asks how long he will need to take counsel in his own soul. It seems like David is expressing worry here. He’s fearing and worrying about something. He’s taking counsel in his own soul. He’s mulling things over and counseling himself in that manner constantly.

And if any of you in here have experienced interpersonal conflict with an enemy that seems to be winning at your expense, I mean, you can identify with the worrying. What is your enemy going to say? How will he try to use your own words against you? How is he going to try to manipulate the situation and even other men to gang up on you and make you look like a fool? These kinds of realities do tend to produce self-counsel and worry.

And we all understand that we need to be anxious for nothing. We know that worrying won’t get us anywhere. We know that we have to cast our cares upon the Lord. And yet, you need to get there. And it can be a journey marked with uncertainties and failures and struggle. You and I need to get to the place where we have confidence in the Lord. And yet, I’m sure you and I can all say from experience that it can take a little time or effort or whatever else to get there. And that’s what we see David experiencing here.

And it’s not just worry that’s affecting David. He also is experiencing sorrow in his heart daily. He’s sad during the day time or “by day”. It seems like for some at least sorrow and worry come stronger in the night than during the day. And so you know you’re in trouble when the sorrow and worry – that are so pronounced during the night when your heart and mind are focused on nothing else – when those emotions are an unavoidable force that you need to battle during the day time – when other things could easily preoccupy your mind and heart.

So, it’s bad for David. His emotions are a wreck. He’s struggling hard. And we’re finally told why in the second line of verse 2.

David asks in desperation – “how long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” Finally, we see what makes David feel so abandoned and worried and sorrowful. His enemy is somehow being exalted over him. And it seems like God doesn’t care.

Now, who might David be speaking of? Can we even guess at the identity of this enemy in David’s life? It could be Saul. It could be David’s son Absalom. It could be any number of foreign kings who might have attacked David throughout his decades of reigning over Israel. We just don’t know who this enemy is. But he’s a source of great concern for David.

Psalm 13 Commentary: Petition (2-3)

Well, we’ve heard David’s lament and invocation to the Lord in verses 1 and 2. And now in verses 3 and 4 we hear his petition. Let’s read that again.

3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God:
lighten mine eyes, lest 1) I sleep the sleep of death;
4 Lest 2) mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him;
and 3) those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

David here gives a request and then reasons as to why the Lord should answer his request.

David starts by giving the Lord two imperatives. And these two words ARE imperatives. He says “consider” and “hear me”. Or you could say “look and answer me”. He wants God to – as it were – look at and be mindful of him. But he won’t settle for just a look. He wants God to answer his request.

And let me just say – I think it’s significant that God allows David to make what almost seems to be demands of him. Now, let me be clear. We as creatures have no right at all to demand that the Creator do our bidding. He’s not our Genie. He has no obligation to serve us. We should serve him. Even David follows up his bold requests with “O LORD my God.” David recognizes that he’s addressing the Lord, the God of all. So, he’s not pretending to be God himself. He’s recognizing his place of subservience to the Lord.

But with those considerations established, don’t overlook the fact that God allows his people to pray to him like this. Do you think something is God’s will? Then you can go even to the level of demanding that God do it and he’s not going to be offended. Come BOLDLY before his throne of grace, we’re told. Don’t be timid. You won’t threaten God with this kind of prayer.

And so David does humbly demand that God answer him. But has it occurred to you that David hasn’t asked for anything yet? I mean, besides that the Lord look at and answer him? So what is David wanting to have answered? Well, look at the second line of verse 3.

He finally asks God to brighten his eyes. When the Bible speaks of brightening the eyes, it can refer to a few things. First, it can refer to God giving literal physical sight. It can secondly refer to God’s word enlightening man’s moral faculties. And I’ll stop and mention that neither of those options is what David’s speaking of here. He’s not asking God to give him his eyesight back. And he’s probably not asking for God to enlighten him morally. And that’s where the third possibility comes in. In Ezra 9:8, Ezra speaks of God enlightening the eyes of those who returned to Israel from the captivity. Ezra speaks of it as giving the remnant “a little reviving”. A little encouragement. A little stirring and lifting of their souls.

Have you ever thought to ask the Lord to encourage you? How often we just sulk and stew in our misery and despair and anger. Why not ask God to “lighten your eyes”? To encourage you?

And this matter or encouragement – especially when your enemy is winning at your expense – it’s no small matter. And that’s why David gives three reasons to God why he should answer this request for encouragment.

First, David says that if God doesn’t encourage him in his misery, he will sleep the death. This is likely figurative – expressing that David feels as if he could die. And yet, depending on whom this enemy is that David’s referring to – David may also be in danger of literal physical death.

Second, if God doesn’t encourage David, his enemy will say “I have prevailed against him.” The enemy will boast of his superiority over David. The enemy will proudly proclaim that he has won against David.

Is that a problem? Shouldn’t David just get over it? What’s the big deal if David’s enemy defeats him? See, I don’t think this is a matter of David being proud and unable to deal with personal defeat. I think David is expressing – without explicitly stating it – that if David loses, God in a sense loses. David thought of the enemies of Israel as enemies not just of men, but of God as well. Remember Goliath? David didn’t see Goliath as speaking against the armies of Israel only. He perceived Goliath to be attacking God himself through attacking God’s people. And really, Israel was to be a nation of priests – representing the true God to all the nations. And so opposing God’s representatives – his ambassadors – is really tantamount to opposing God himself.

And a similar situation happens even in the New Testament. Haven’t you read this? The church of God is holy. If anyone destroys God’s church, God will destroy him. God takes it personally when the enemies of his people attack and try to destroy them. And so, David uses this as another reason why God must encourage him – so that his enemy doesn’t boast of defeating him and – by extension – the God he worships and represents.

And thirdly, David reasons that God must encourage him because if he doesn’t then those who trouble him will rejoice when he is moved. And this has a lot in common with the previous reason given by David. But now not only is a singular enemy in view, but now there is this groups of troublers. And they’re ready to rejoice. And rejoicing is a good thing – but not when it’s done for the wrong reason. And their reason for rejoicing would be David’s being moved. Or his tottering like an idol made of wood. They’d rejoice in him being shaken and disturbed and moved.

Psalm 13 Commentary: Confidence (5)

But in contrast we have David’s statement of confidence in verse 5.

5 But I have trusted in thy mercy;
my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.

In contrast to those who plan to rejoice when David is moved, David himself trusts in God’s mercy. This kind of trust in Isaish 12:2 is the kind that removes all fear. David is tempted to worry by this winning enemy of his. But he refuses. Why? Because he trusts in the Lord’s MERCY. You know that word. Chesed. It refers to loyalty, faithfulness, or obligation. God obliges himself to weak, frail, and trusting human beings. That’s why David can pray with such boldness. He’s comforted that God will be faithful and loyal to him – because that’s just God’s character!

And in contrast to the enemies who would rejoice at David’s tottering, David rejoices in something alright – but not in the destruction of others. No, he rejoices – second line of verse 5 – in God’s salvation. In God’s Yeshua.

And actually, the form of “rejoice” is Jussive – which means it’s a request of sorts. David’s giving another petition. “May my heart rejoice in your salvation, Lord!”

Psalm 13 Commentary: Promised Praise

And then David promises to praise God in the last verse of Psalm 13.

6 I will sing unto the LORD,
because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

When David says that he will sing, he’s not simply stating a fact. This is cohortative. It’s as if he’s marshaling all that’s in him and saying – “OK now, self. Let’s sing to the Lord! We’re going to do this!”

And the “because” can mean “when”. David will marshall all that he is to sing to the Lord with enthusiasm when God deals bountifully with him – or when he repays David, in a positive way. In the way that he’s asked for in this psalm – in particular when God encourages him.

To finish the story I left off with in the introduction to this message – the man who wanted me and my department to lose our jobs – the Lord actually allowed me to discover that he was lying to our clients about advertising numbers. I revealed it to my boss – it got run up the ladder to HR, and the guy resigned before being fired. And just like David in this psalm, I really needed God’s encouragement throughout that whole trying and distressing process. And he did provide it.

So, do you have an enemy who’s winning at your expense? Take this sermon on Psalm 13 with you and pray it to the Lord. Ask for his encouragement. Express your confidence in him. Give him reasons to answer you. And I believe he’ll do it. May the Lord help all of us to deal with any situation we might face When Your Enemy is Winning.