Psalm 12 Commentary

Turn to Psalm 12.

Psalm 12 Commentary: Genre

Psalm 12 is a lament psalm. The author – David – is wrestling with an issue in his mind and he works through it for all of us to see and learn from his example.

Psalm 12 Commentary: Theme

The issue that David is struggling with is in the last line of the last verse of Psalm 12. “When the Vilest Men are Exalted.”

Psalm 12 Commentary: Application to Us

Do you feel like you’re living in a day and age when the vilest men are exalted? You don’t have to look hard to find this happening all around us.

Most of us – when we turn on the radio – we just for our own conscience sake need to stay right around the top and bottom of the FM spectrum – if you know what I mean. And if you ever stray from about 107.7 to 91.7 or so, you’ll hear “the vilest men” and the vilest material they can produce – exalted in your ears.

And of course you don’t even need to be listening to the radio to be treated to this kind of thing. Stores and restaurants have this stuff playing loud enough for everyone to hear it.

And of course, the MUSIC is bad enough. But the VIDEOS and PERFORMANCES of this stuff is even worse. And it’s thankfully been a long time since I watched one of these music award ceremonies, but I do read the news and I’m generally aware of the kinds of things that happen at these events. And you don’t need me to tell you that the performances, the clothing, the messages being communicated in all sorts of ways demonstrate for all to see a “base character,” or “morally foolish behavior.” And that’s actually the definition of VILE here in this psalm.

And when a culture gets together to award the best, most talented, most promising performers known to that culture… and this is what they come up with? You know that that culture is in trouble. It’s EXALTING – in that sense – the vilest men.

And we could review example after example of this kind of “base character” or “morally foolish behavior” at work in our society – and how our culture exalts this kind of thing and these kinds of people. We have a limitless selection of entertainers, politicians, and sports figures to choose from.

And you might assume that the examples that I would pick would all deal with modern godless entertainers or even politicians with whose policies I don’t agree.

But actually, the other example of people with “morally foolish characters” being exalted in our country is a CONSERVATIVE politician. I was in South Carolina when Mark Sanford was governor there. I don’t know if any of you remember hearing about him and his activities. But he’s the one who told people that he was going for a hike in the mountains. But when he didn’t return when he was supposed to, there started to develop a buzz about where he could be. Is he OK? Maybe he died!

Well, it turned out that Governor Sanford was out of the country in Argentina being immoral and unfaithful to his wife with another woman. And the ensuing actions and statements of Governor Sanford didn’t evidence any signs of genuine repentance. He spoke of this mistress of his as his “soulmate”. It was shameful. It was morally foolish. It was… vile. And yet this man occupied the highest position in the state government of one of the most conservative and supposedly Bible-literate states in our nation.

When I was preparing this message, I kind of remembered that he may have run for some other office a few years ago after the scandal. So, I did a search and found that the guy is now not just a Governor anymore. He’s actually a US Representative for the state of South Carolina! He’s gone national! And I have to believe that that kind of position involves some sort of “exaltation” of the people which he governs.

So, my point is that this vileness – this base character and morally foolish behavior – it’s not often punished these days. It’s not even JUST tolerated sometimes. But often, this kind of behavior and these kinds of people are actually held up as ones to emulate. They’re EXALTED.

But before we despair, let’s recall that this is nothing new to our time. David experienced it too. And he dealt with it in his mind. And his dealings with this issue are recorded in Psalm 12. So, let’s find out how HE wrestled with the vilest men being exalted.

Psalm 12 Commentary: Invocation

David starts Psalm 12 by invoking the Lord. He says, “Help, Lord”. He cries out to the Lord.

And when he asks the Lord to “help” him, he’s using the word yashang – or “Save”, Lord! Save me! Deliver me! Come to my aid!

And I’ll just remind us that this is the exact correct reaction that we need to have when we’re struggling with the fact that the vilest men are being exalted in our society.

The answer is not political action. But as the Lord leads we should be as involved in political action as is warranted. And yet, it’s not laws that will deliver you and me and make things right. It’s the Lord. HE needs to save and deliver and come to our aid.

Neither is the answer to HIDE from the issue. No, we need to SEEK the Lord for deliverance and help. Don’t just pretend like everything is fine. Don’t be content to let the society around you continue to exalt the vilest men. Say, “HELP LORD!”

Psalm 12 Commentary: Lament

Because the damage done to a society when the vilest men are exalted is not just theoretical. There are real consequences to this kind of thing going unchecked in a nation. Look at the rest of verse 1.

KJV Psalm 12:1 …for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.

Here, David begins to give his lament – the thing that is really bothering him – the thing he needs to work through in his heart with the Lord’s help.

David gives two reasons that he needs God’s deliverance and help. First, the godly man ceases.

The word for “godly” there is related to the term “Chassidic” like the Chassidic Jews of today. The Chassidim are viewed today as kind of the most religious people in Judaism – at least THEY think they are.

I remember seeing these guys when I was flying to Israel from New York. They wear special clothing that their tradition tells them to wear. They don’t cut the hair on the side of their faces because one of their rabbis thought that this was commanded in the Torah – the books of Moses. They were up at a certain time in the morning, putting on their prayer shawls and prayer boxes with great care – walking around the plane chanting their prayers – because they believe that’s what’s expected of them. One of them demanded to be moved because he was sitting next to a woman that was slightly immodestly dressed. I mean, these guys are GODLY! Except, their godliness is man-made. It’s the kind of zeal that Paul the Apostle speaks of. These people have a zeal for the law, but not according to knowledge. It’s misinformed – their godliness is.

But David is speaking of those who are TRULY godly. Truly Chassidic, if I can say that. According to knowledge. And these kind of men – the godly ones – are CEASING in David’s time. As the vilest men are exalted, these guys tend to be less and less present – or at the very least – less visible. They’re marginalized.

And that makes sense. A culture will get what it displays to everyone as its highest ideals. If righteousness is exalted in the eyes of a nation, it’ll typically encourage more righteousness from its citizens. And the same is true for a society that exalts vileness. It will encourage more of that type of behavior.

Do you see that happening in your OWN society? There was a time not too long ago where many states had blue laws. Some still might, I don’t know. But these blue laws would prohibit working on Sunday. When a society codifies its approval that EVERYONE spend one day a week worshipping God, do you think that that would have an effect on that society? I think so. Generally, a society gets what it values.

So David is distressed because the godly cease as the vilest of men are exalted. David follows that up with the statement – “the faithful fail among the children of men”. This is Hebrew parallelism and it’s saying just about the same thing as his first statement. But David is adding a little more to his original thought.

That word “faithful” is from the Hebrew word “Amen”. It means “true” or “reliable”. And this word is one of those words that made the journey from Hebrew to Greek and now to English. It’s like “Hallelujah” in that sense. It means the same thing in a number of different languages. By the way, that’s the significance of people saying “Amen” when someone is preaching. You’re saying – in effect – “that’s RIGHT.” “What you’re saying is reliable!” Amen?

Well, these reliable, true folks tend to FAIL – or, really, DISAPPEAR – when the vilest men are exalted.

And from where are these folks disappearing? The text says that they’re disappearing from among “the children of men”. You’re going to get sick of me pointing this out, but this phrase in Hebrew reads “the sons of Adam”. Again, this phrase represents a designation for MORTALS. Men in general who will die one day because of their mortality. They’re descended from Adam. And they’re mortal and prone to sin and cursed by the fall, just like their father, Adam. You could say that they’re the “general population.” And so this general population starts conspicuously lacking godly and faithful men when their society exalts the vilest men.

And this phenomenon is very concerning to David. And so he cries out to the Lord about it.

Psalm 12 Commentary: The Vilest of Men

Now, David moves in verses 2 through 4 to expose what this group of mortals is like. As they’re exalting vileness among them and the godly are being reduced in number and in power, what is this group known as the “sons of Adam” engaged in? David draws attention in particular to what their mouths are up to – or their SPEECH or VERABL acts. Let’s re-read verses 2 through 4 to find out.

KJV Psalm 12:2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. 3 The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: 4 Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?

In verse two we have a particular word mentioned twice. “They SPEAK…” at the beginning of the verse. And then the last word of verse 2 – “they SPEAK”. Well, how does a society that has marginalized godly men and has exalted the vilest men – what is their speech like? What can we expect it to be like?

Verse 2 – they speak vanity every one with his neighbour.

They speak vanity. When we hear that we probably think of something worthless. Something better left unspoken. But this word can also refer to DECEPTION. And I think that emphasis is warranted in this verse because of the parallel in the next line that says these men speak with a double heart – that is, DISHONESTLY. So, these men adopt the practice of deception and dishonesty in this kind of climate.

And they do this with their NEIGHBORS. Their comrades, fellows, companions, or friends. They lie – not to their ENEMIES in this kind of society that exalts vileness – no, they lie to even their FRIENDS.

And they do all of this with FLATTERING lips. That word for “flattering” is literally SMOOTH. Slippery. It’s intended to trip you up. So that you fall and injure yourself. And that’s the intention of these men. They WANT to injure their fellow-man with falsehood and flattery.

And as our Lord Jesus said – the mouth speaks from the abundance of what’s in one’s heart. And how are the hearts of these guys pictured in verse 2? They have a double heart. That doesn’t mean that they have a big heart in the sense that they’re kind or generous, of course. In Hebrew, it’s literally “by a heart and a heart they speak.” When you’re talking to them, they portray their HEART – their desires, their intentions, their thoughts, and feelings – one way. But really, it’s as if there’s this whole other “heart” in them that they keep hidden. And it’s full of violence and evil intentions. No one wants to look as bad as they truly are. These men are EVIL – not STUPID. They know how to hide their true self and put forward an exterior that will allow for them to deceive, as we’ve been reading about in this Psalm.

Now, verse 3 is interesting. It almost seems like an extension of David’s lament – because David keeps complaining about this society around him that’s exalting vileness. But there’s actually a petition in here.

Look at verse 3. David seems to confidently assert that “the Lord shall cut off all flattering lips.” But there’s a tense in Hebrew known as Jussive. And it serves as something like a request or prayer. But it looks just like the tense that results in our English indicative here – just a statement, not a request. I read one source that was very adamant that this was a Jussive form – or a prayer or request. And since this is a lament psalm AND one of the elements of such a psalm is a petition section AND since I see nowhere else that could count as such an element, I think it’s best to take this as a request. In other words “may the Lord cut off all flattering lips.”

Remember? Those flattering lips or smooth lips that the sons of Adam intend to use to injure their neighbors? Yes – those ones! May they be CUT off! We don’t need to wonder about David’s heart about the deceitful speech of these men. And we don’t need to wonder how God feels about it either. We know that lying is an abomination to God. We know that one of the sins listed conspicuously as one that characterizes those who will suffer eternal torment is this sin of lying.

And not only the lips of these individuals, but also their tongues. May they be cut off so as to be silenced – never to deceive again. Never to – as the end of the verse says – speak PROUD THINGS.

Well, what kind of proud things are these men who exalt vileness saying? Verse 4. Here’s what they’re saying. With their tongue they will prevail! Yeah, that tongue that will be cut off and silenced. They think that that tongue is going to lead them to victory and give them all the advantages they wish for in this life.

And then their pride is on full display in the next line of verse 4. They claim that their lips belong to them. And then they say this – “Who is lord over us?” That word “lord” is the Hebrew Adon. And you’ve heard of the term Adonai. It’s a word that means “my master” or “my lord”. And it’s applied to God. These men are asserting their ownership over their bodies – in particular, they’re obstinately claiming that no one has the right to curtail their lying harmful speech. “Who’s lord over us?” they say. What answer do they expect? They would answer their own question with “well, no one is, of course!”

But God doesn’t see it that way. Which is going to be a problem for this society that exalts vile men. This kind of development provokes God to act.

Psalm 12 Commentary: God Speaks

And we haven’t seen this kind of thing before in a lament psalm – where God personally speaks. I don’t know what part of the lament psalm we’d call this – maybe the confidence that David has in God? It’s in verse 5.

KJV Psalm 12:5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.

By the way, how did God’s speech make it into this psalm? Was David imagining that God would say this kind of thing? Or did David receive direct revelation from God at that moment that this was what God planned to do? Either way, it’s God’s Spirit that breathed this out through David. And so we know its God’s heart about the matter at hand.

So, God begins by giving the reason for his being provoked. Did you know that these kind of things provoke God to action? The oppressions of the poor? The sighing of the needy? And in the context I don’t think he’s speaking only of poor people – just folks here and there that happen to be poor. I think these are godly individuals who have been marginalized by their society that exalts vileness and thus oppresses the godly. Remember? This happens to the point that these kind of men “fail” and “cease”. They disappear. They’re marginalized and poor and needy.

And here in verse 5, they’re “oppressed”. This is a word describing destruction or devastation or violence. And they’re “sighing” or groaning as a result of this treatment. This is what happens to the godly and faithful in a society when vileness is exalted.

And it’s the kind of thing that rouses God to act. Notice God’s two “I will” statements. God will arise. And when he does, he’s going to set the poor and needy in a position of safety.

That word” safety” is from the same word that we see in verse 1. Where the psalmist says, “HELP, Lord.” So, David asked for help. And now God is pictured as promising to do that very thing for David and for his group of poor and needy men.

Now, the King James says that God will set these men in a place of safety from “those who puff at them”. But notice that the words “from him that” are in italics. That means, the KJV translators provided them to make sense in English. But I think it should be translated a little differently. The word “puffeth” is something like blow or breathe or speak. It has something to do with the mouth and something coming out of it. Another version translates this word as “pant”. Like, the needy are PANTING for safety – they want it so badly. And God is going to mobilize and grant them that safety that they so desperately want.

Psalm 12 Commentary: Praising God’s Word

Now, we’ve been hearing a lot about words and speech in this psalm so far. The sons of Adam who are exalting vileness have been speaking. And now, we’ve just heard from God. And there could hardly be more difference between the two sets of words. The sons of Adam speak boastfully and sinfully and rebelliously. God – on the other hand — speaks truthfully and authoritatively. That’s what leads David to marvel at and praise God’s words in verse 6.

KJV Psalm 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

What a contrast to the evil, boastful, false words of the sons of Adam. God’s words are pure. All of them are – of course. But in the context of this psalm – God’s statement in verse 5 that he will arise and put the needy in a place of safety – these are the words that the psalmist declares to be particularly pure in this verse. God’s words are like metal that’s put through exceedingly hot fire and it comes out without a defect.

Psalm 12 Commentary: God Protects His Own

And because God’s words are pure, the needy who are marginalized and oppressed when a society exalts vileness – they can be sure of God’s protection. Let’s read verse 7.

KJV Psalm 12:7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Well, what or whom is God keeping or watching or guarding in this verse? Is the psalmist declaring that God will keep his words OR that God will keep the poor and needy? Well, there’s no doubt that God keeps his words – that was stated in verse 6. But the pronoun “THEM” in this verse is actually referring to the poor and needy back in verse 5.

Grammatically, this is because the grammatical gender and number of the word translated “them” here matches the grammatical gender and number of the words translated “poor” and “needy” back in verse 5. But, the word “WORDS” in verse 6 has a different grammatical gender.

So, David is expressing his confidence that God will keep or watch or guard or observe his poor, needy, oppressed people even in the midst of a society that marginalizes them and exalts vileness. God will protect his people literally “FROM THIS GENERATION TO FOREVER.”

The psalm ends on a rather dreary note – you might think. But that’s only if you ignore the rest of this entire message! The wicked walk around all over the place with no fear when their society exalts what they love the most – vileness and the vilest men. Yes, that’s true. And may the Lord rid our society and every society of this kind of infatuation with vileness. May he remove it from us!

Psalm 12 Commentary: Summary

And yet, we don’t need to fear. God is provoked by our being oppressed and marginalized. He’s not at all on the side of wickedness. He will set us in the safety that we so desperately want. His words are completely trustworthy. When he says that he’s going to do this for his oppressed people, that’s exactly what he will do. He will guard his people throughout our lifetime and forever.

Do you see vileness exalted in your society today? Deal with it in your heart like David did. Call out to God about it. Express your dismay at the exalting of vileness in our society. Make your requests that it end. Express and reflect upon your confidence that God will put an end to it. Remember God’s desire to stop the exalting of vileness in a society. And remember that his word is always right and pure — and because of that we can be sure that he’ll protect his people even in the midst of a society that exalts vileness. This is what we should do when “The Vilest Men Are Exalted.”

Psalm 11 3 Commentary

You might think that the report in Psalm 11 1-3 couldn’t get much worse. But it does. It ends on this cheerful note – “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Hopelessness. That’s what this report to David is aiming to achieve in the hearts of the upright. Foundations are the part of a building that support its weight. They’re what hold the building up.

Nowadays if you own a home and you discover a cracked foundation or a foundation that’s in some other way faulty, you need to fix it – NOW. You’ll spend thousands of dollars fixing it, but it’s worth it if you end up not loosing your hundred-thousand dollar home.

But this report isn’t talking about cracked foundations or shifting foundations. It’s claiming that the foundation of Israeli society is – what’s the word? Destroyed! Torn down! They’re no more.

And any of us who own a home – can you imagine this? Your foundation just completely crumbles up and disintegrates. What do you do then? Well, you get on the phone with your home-owners insurance agent!

But the outlook is not as positive in this psalm. This report that David’s hearing is giving no hope to the righteous when the society around them is crumbling – indeed, HAS crumbled. The bland statement – “what can the righteous do?” is anticipating a broken-spirited… “nothing” from the righteous.

My wife and I were discussing this psalm one night. And I just reflected on how this kind of report sounds a lot like the news today. I mean, can you imagine a newscast like this – “In other news, Christians are fleeing like birds back into their religious communities. Atheists are plotting their demise. There’s really nothing the Christians can do to stop this. Back to you, Frank!”

My point with that fake news segment is that it’s not just David that was receiving discouraging reports back in his day. We do too.

In our culture, broadly, we have in this country a mass defection from any sort of Scriptural norms. Homosexuality is pushed as the new norm. And if you’re not willing to comply with this new norm, more and more, you face the threat of being punished. There are certainly other issues out there, but this is the one that the world is taking to the righteous. How should we react? And not just how should we react to homosexuality – but how should we react to anything you and I are called out on in the public square – or at work – or even among your extended family? Any area in which we’re challenged to defend our biblical convictions?

We could do exactly what this report to David urged on him. We could flee. We could do so out of fear – those arrows are about to fly! Or we could do so out of hopelessness – the foundation are destroyed – what are you going to be able to do about it?

Psalm 11 Commentary

Psalm 11 Commentary: Introduction

I’ve been a little random in my teaching through the Psalms. I started with lament psalms. Then I covered in one lesson praise psalms. And then I basically started back from Psalm 1 and since then we’ve just been marching along, psalm by psalm until now we’re in the 11th Psalm today. My plan for now is to keep dealing with each psalm sequentially until… who knows when?

Psalm 11 Commentary: Hard Jobs

Now, let me ask us all a question. In today’s society – the society you live in and that is all around you – the one you hear and read reported to you on the news – are there some jobs you’d like to avoid right now?

I mean, do you think there’s a lot of encouragement that you’d get from our mainstream culture to be a Christian politician these days? Answering slanted questions about the age of the earth while that isn’t at all what you’ve been hired to discuss?

How about being a Christian caterer – maybe in Indiana? Do you think you might run into some difficulties in that kind of position in the environment in which we live?

Or what about going into the line of duty as a police officer? Imagine the scrutiny and constant danger. Imagine – if you make one mistake – you might be dead OR you might end up on the evening news for making the wrong move. And you’re not going to get much sympathy, either way.

I think that FEAR might serve as a mighty strong deterrent for many who would want to enter any of these vocations these days. The FEAR of persecution. The FEAR of what people might think. The FEAR of being misunderstood. The FEAR of being forced to do something your conscience simply will not allow you to do. The FEAR of even imprisonment if you make the wrong move.

And I’m not at all trying to absolve the wrongdoings of anyone in any of these groups that I’ve mentioned. I’m simply saying that there are many reasons for even a Christian who wants to do right to FEAR entering these vocations.

Can I add to that list of careers PASTORING? As a pastor you open yourself up to all sorts of attacks. Attacks from outside – from a culture that is increasingly hostile to the message of the Gospel and to what for centuries would be considered normal Christian living. Attacks from inside – from people you’ve served, with whom you’ve wept, for whom you’ve prayed. And they can turn and attack you. What’s the use? Why bother? Why try to serve the Lord and others? It’s so much work – so much risk – so little thanks.

David experienced these kinds of thoughts in Psalm 11. In fact, these thoughts were apparently being put into his head by someone else – not himself. Look at verse 1. He states that he puts his trust in the Lord and then turns around to this unnamed man and asks him “how say ye to my soul…”? David is having someone plant seeds of doubt into his heart regarding the worthiness of continuing to serve the Lord with boldness. He’s being faced with a choice. FLEE from trouble or FACE it with the Lord’s help.

Do you think that being a Christian baker or police officer would be fraught with difficulties these days? What about being the king of Israel? David faced hardship in his task. And he had to let his faith in the Lord overcome his fear of the wicked.

So, we’ll explore Psalm 11 now and I think we’ll be encouraged with David’s resolve, which we could summarize in this statement. “Let Your Trust in the Lord Remove Your Fear of Evil.” So, let’s read Psalm 11.

Psalm 11 Commentary: Genre

Psalm 11 is a reflective or meditative psalm. And the psalmist begins his meditation in verse 1. “In the LORD put I my trust.” Numerous passages of Scripture portray the Lord and what he provides to his people as something like shade that a large tree would provide from the blazing Middle Eastern sun. Or the Lord’s pictured as a large rock that juts out here and there and provides shelter from rain and inclement weather. Further still, throughout the Bible, God is imagined as a fortress. A place to which one may go to flee from enemies.

And this is what the psalmist states he does with the Lord. David makes the Lord his shady tree or his covering rock or his strong fortress. He flees to him for protection. He flees to him for comfort. And he finds the Lord to be as strong and immovable and safe as any tree or boulder or fortress ever could be.

How many times have you fled to the Lord? How many times have you sought refuge and protection from him? And you’ve found it – haven’t you? You’ve experienced his comfort. You’ve experienced his protection – spiritually and even physically. You know what David’s talking about here.

Well then, if that’s the case, if you’ve fled to the Lord and are continually doing so – then, you’ve likely also experienced what David experiences in verses 1 through 3. Let’s read those again.

KJV Psalm 11:1 … how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? 2 For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. 3 If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?

Psalm 11 Commentary: Discouraging Report

David addresses an unseen and unknown person. At least the person is unseen and unknown to us. David would have been able to identify him. Was it one of David’s enemies? Was it one of his advisers who was becoming faithless? Was it the general talk around the nation in David’s day? I don’t know. And it’s not important. The identity of this person is not important. It’s what he says to David that is important.

This report first of all advises David to flee like a bird to his mountain. This is a picture of pathetic retreat. When you think of courage, do you think of a fleeing bird? A bird that’s running away from some danger – is that the picture we get in our mind when we think of courage? No, of course not. But that’s just what this report advises David – to flee like a bird.

And where is David to flee to, according to this report? To his mountain. I imagine that this is a reference to Jerusalem or especially the Temple Mount next to which was Zion. Run away to your cloistered religious area – in other words. Run away to your mountain.

Well, why should he flee? What would cause David to flee? Verse 2 – the wicked. Those pesky wicked men. They’re up to something again.

By the way, I see the statements of this report running from the second line of verse 1 to the end of verse 3.

So, this report is still being addressed to David when he brings to his attention that “the wicked bend their bow” and that “they make ready their arrow upon the string.” They’re “bending” their bow in the sense that they’re treading it or putting their foot on it in order to bend it so that they can attach their string from one end of it to the other. And when they do that, what inevitably follows is that they put the arrow on that string. So you’ve got a strung bow with an arrow on that string. What happens next?

Well, why are the wicked getting their bow and arrow ready? “That they may privly shoot at the upright in heart.” They “privly” shoot. Literally, they shoot “in darkness”.

And what is more frightening than the darkness? I tell you, when we travel from Watertown to Whitewater and its light outside, there’s hardly a more beautiful trip. The landscape is beautiful. The drive is pleasant. The road is nice and paved. We can see wildlife – big birds. We see crops growing in their seasons and being reaped during harvest time. Big farm equipment. Just lovely.

Then there’s night time. And I tell you, it can get pretty harrowing. Every little thing that flies across the road becomes a deer in my mind! My eyes are constantly darting back and forth to make sure nothing is lurking on the sides of the road, ready to spring out and hit our car. How did my fun pleasant drive turn into sheer terror? It’s the darkness.

The darkness hides things that otherwise could be spotted beforehand and avoided. But menacing things can hide in the dark. Frightening things. Dangerous things.

And in David’s case, this report is telling him that the wicked are looking to kill people. And they’re doing it under the cover of “darkness”. Isn’t this report proving to be an encouragement to David? “David – you better run away from these murderous and hiding men!” This message was certainly intended to discourage David.

And these wicked individuals aren’t indiscriminately attacking just any one. They’re trying to destroy the “upright in heart”. The “straight” in heart. Those whose morals and affections are correct. These are the people being targeted – according to this report to David. And David would have been in this group – the upright in heart.

As if this report could get any worse, it ends in Psalm 11:3 on this cheerful note – “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” See our Psalm 11 3 Commentary for more discussion on this particular verse.

Psalm 11 Commentary: David’s Response

So, we could flee from difficulties. Or you and I could learn a lesson from David in Psalm 11. How does he respond to the report of the threat of wicked people around him?

Look at verse 4.

KJV Psalm 11:4 The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven:…

Psalm 11 Commentary: God’s Position

David reminds himself of the Lord’s position. Do you remind yourself of that? When you read the news or hear of troubling realities in this world, do you remind yourself of God’s lofty position of sovereignty?

Look at verse 4 again. The Lord is in his holy temple. The word TEMPLE can be translated as PALACE. And based on the mention in the next line about his THRONE, I think that’s probably a better translation. So, the Lord is in his holy palace. He’s reigning as a king. And he’s no ordinary king. His palace is HOLY or completely unique – different and special and set apart from any kingdom on earth. But, what makes his palace so special, so unique, so holy?

Next line of verse 4 – his throne – the place from where he’s pictured as laying down the law and adjudicating – it’s not on earth. It’s not earthly. It’s above all. Its unapproachable and unassailable. You can’t attack a palace and throne that are somewhere you can’t even get to. The wicked have their target on the earth – the righteous. But no matter what happens to his subjects, the Lord our King will never be defeated. People can rebel against him – and they do all the time. But they’ll never truly defeat him. He’s in charge. He’s sovereign. No one can touch him.

So, that’s the Lord’s position. And David reminds himself of that truth in order to think and respond correctly to this discouraging report of rampant, life-threatening wickedness.

Psalm 11 Commentary: God’s Actions

And now that David has established in his mind God’s lofty exalted sovereign POSITION, he’s going to also remind himself of the Lord’s PRESENT ACTIONS in verses 4 through 6.

KJV Psalm 11:4 …his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. 5 The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. 6 Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.

The Lord is watching. Wouldn’t that reality strike fear into your heart if you were actively opposed to the Lord? And he’s not just watching – like someone who just blankly stares out into space. No, the Lord is also doing some mental work as he looks – as it were – at the children of men or the sons of Adam. He’s trying all these mortals – all these men who will ultimately die – he’s trying us. To TRY speaks of testing or assaying. He’s examining each weak mortal as if he were testing metal. Zec 13:9 uses this term to refer to refining silver or purifying gold. And even if you haven’t done it yourself, you know that refining metals involves intense heat. And that heat melts away the impurities in that metal and leaves the metal more pure and strong and valuable.

Now, the Lord is pictured as doing this kind of thing to two groups of people.

Psalm 11 Commentary: The Righteous

Verse 5 – the Lord specifies that he does does this kind of thing to the RIGHTEOUS. He purifies the righteous. He tests or tries them in that way. Do you know how he does this? Well, in any number of ways. But in the context of this psalm, one way that the Lord tries the righteous to check our genuineness and to increase our purity is by allowing us to hear and experience discouraging dynamics as were reported to David earlier in this psalm. When faith in the God of the Bible and in his Son is seen as en vogue and popular and widely acceptable – then what does it cost anyone to enter a church building like this? To identify in the workplace and in the public square as someone who wholly embraces the faith once for all delivered to the saints? How hard is that? Not hard at all. There’s no shame to it. But now, when you have discouraging reports to the effect that your life or livelihood could very well be in danger if you continue to follow the Lord. If you’re seeing all around you indications that the very foundations of society are crumbling around you – and you’re all of a sudden finding yourself in a different world than a few decades ago – and all of a sudden you’re not in the in-group, well, that’ll refine you, won’t it? If it might cost you your life to be a Christian, that can have two effects on the church.

First, less people just seeking health and wealth and a good time and social prestige will all of a sudden stop showing up. The stuff that wasn’t silver or gold to begin with will just stop coming. They will be tested in that way and found to be not genuine.

The second affect will be to cause you and me to cling to Christ. To draw nearer to him than ever before. To abandon sin and any weight that so easily besets us. This happens when the Lord tries the righteous.

Psalm 11 Commentary: The Wicked

But the Lord doesn’t try ONLY the righteous. Remember – he was already viewed as testing both the righteous and the wicked – the sons of Adam – fleshly beings – Adam’s race. The Lord purges and purifies his own. But what about those who rebel against him? End of verse 5. The wicked – the ones who just love violence – especially the kind of which the righteous is the target – those kinds of people God hates.

Does that shock you? Does it make you draw back? Do you wonder if HATE means something different than what it really means? Well, it doesn’t. It means exactly what it says. God hates those who are violent against his people. Please don’t be offended by that. It’s the truth and it’s meant to COMFORT you. Remember? That’s what David is doing right now. He’s reminding himself of some truths that will help him cope with this discouraging report he’s heard. Don’t let the fact that God hates those who hate you be troubling. Let it encourage you.

And how does this hatred manifest itself on your enemies – YOUR enemies – the ones who hate you and your God? The Lord will rain some pretty awful things down upon these men. Now take note – THE LORD will rain down these things. You and I won’t. We’re not authorized to do so – especially not in the Church age – but we’re in the Old Testament here. And David isn’t even thinking of taking this kind of retribution into his own hands. He’s confident that GOD will avenge him and his group of righteous men.

OK, so the Lord will rain down some things upon the wicked. Rain them down as if they were actual drops of water from heaven. This is the picture. They won’t be able to escape these things. Well, what are they?

Snares or traps. The wicked are viewed in the Psalms as constantly setting traps for the righteous to catch them and kill them. And that was part of the discouraging report in this psalm. The wicked are going to shoot from the dark at the righteous. It’s a trap. Well, the Lord will return that kind of activity on themselves. See how THEY like it.

The Lord will also rain down fire and brimstone. That’s right – we’re preaching fire and brimstone here! And we needn’t apologize for that. Brimstone is sulfur. And it’s fire and brimstone that the Lord literally physically rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their many horrendous sins to serve as an example for those who would live ungodly lives thereafter. And I think it’s noteworthy – the righteous and the wicked both are pictured as experiencing fire. The fire applied to us proves our genuineness and increases our purity, strength, and value. On the other hand, the fire applied to the wicked will destroy them.

Last, the wicked are viewed as being swept away in strong winds – raging winds or this horrible tempest. If the wicked are like chaff which the wind drives away like Psalm 1 says, then this is a similar picture. They’ll be blown away, never to be seen again.

Psalm 11 Commentary: God’s Punishment

And someone might say – “But isn’t that a little harsh on the wicked?!” What’s God’s answer? End of verse 6. This punishment is the portion of their cup. It’s their portion. It’s what they deserve. It’s the thing divvied out to them, like an inheritance. They deserve to drink – to take from the imagery of the cup – God’s punishment.

And they will. They will experience this from the Lord’s hand. And so these are the thoughts that David turns to in order to think rightly about the discouraging report that he’s hearing. How could he flee from the battle? So what if the wicked are devising schemes? The Lord is in control and he’ll purge and purify the righteous through this and he will ultimately punish the wicked. You say that the foundations are crumbling? Not if its God’s building!

Psalm 11 Commentary: Ending

Then David ends his meditation in verse 7.

KJV Psalm 11:7 For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.

We can let our trust in the Lord remove our fear of evil because we know that the Lord is righteous. He is just. He always does right. And he’ll make things right. Evil won’t prevail ultimately. And therefore, we should not fear it.

And if you are righteous – by his grace – then you know you’re on the right side. Because the Lord is righteous and he loves righteousness. It’s not like we need to worry whether the Lord will side with evil. He never will! He’ll be on your side because you’re on his.

And then we’re assured of the last line. His countenance beholds the upright. He doesn’t turn away from the upright – from those who were said to be under assault from the wicked earlier in this psalm. He will – to borrow one of our idioms – he will “keep an eye on you”.

And the inverse is true. You and I will behold HIS face. In fact, that’s another way to translate this statement. The upright will behold his face. And you and I will see him as he is some day. That’s what’s waiting for us.

And so why fear the wicked? Why be shaken by reports that they’re out to get you? Are you fearing evil men? Are you afraid that some day they’ll rise up and even take your life? Are you feeling like the very foundations around us are crumbling? Don’t fear. Be like King David and Let Your Trust in the Lord Remove Your Fear of Evil.

Psalm 9 Commentary

Psalm 9 Commentary: Structure

Psalm 9 is a classic example of a lament psalm. As you recall, a lament psalm has five ingredients to its structure, the most prominent of which is the lament itself. The lament is where the psalmist exposes the enemies of God – who are also usually his enemies as well. The psalmist kind of zooms in on these folks and paints a pretty vivid picture for us of exactly how evil they are and how deserving of God’s punishment they are. And in addition, the heightened picture that we get of these enemies also acts as justification for the psalmist asking God for deliverance from them.

Psalm 9 Commentary: Lament

In Psalm 9, the lament appears in verses 15 through 18. Let’s read it.

KJV Psalm 9:15 The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. 16 The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah. 17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. 18 For the needy shall not alway be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.

Here, we’re told that the enemies made a pit and prepared a net to capture the righteous. But in fact, they’re the ones who will be trapped by these tactics. They set the trap for someone else – someone who isn’t worthy of being snared. And yet – in the end – these enemies will be the ones to be trapped. And not only that, but they’ll be turned into hell. And this is going to happen – according to verse 17 – to all nations that forget God. So, that’s the lament of Psalm 9 – verses 15 through 18.

Now that we’ve recognized the lament of this psalm, let’s start from the beginning and find the other four ingredients of the structure.

Psalm 9 Commentary: Invocation

The first two verses serve as the invocation. This is where God is called upon by the psalmist. And sometimes we learn something about who God is in this section. So, let’s read that.

KJV Psalm 9:1 I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. 2 I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.

We learn here that God is worthy of wholehearted praise. Why? Because of his “marvelous works”. And I think in this case that is mostly referring to his judging evil men. He’s a God in whom its completely appropriate to be glad and rejoice. His name or character is worthy of our songs. He is the Most High – there’s none higher – none more mighty. This is the God to whom the psalmist is crying out – the mightiest, most marvelous, most joy-inspiring, and most praise-worthy being. So, that’s the invocation – verses 1 and 2.

Psalm 9 Commentary: Confidence

Next, the psalmist expresses confidence in this Most High God, the Lord – in verses 3 through 10.

KJV Psalm 9:3 When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence. 4 For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right. 5 Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever. 6 O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them. 7 But the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment. 8 And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. 9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10 And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

The psalmist is confident that God will judge the world – the world that is so opposed to him. And when he does this, the absolutely correct verdict will be rendered. And when this judgment does come, look who’s going to be rescued – verse 9 – God will be a refuge to whom? The oppressed. The miserable who are made so by the wickedness surrounding him. And verse 10 – people who know God’s name – who know his true character – though the whole world will be judged righteously and be turned into hell, these guys will experience a much different side of the judge. These people are going to find him to be a refuge – a place high off the ground – out of the way of approaching danger.

And isn’t that the nature of even earthly judges? If you’ve ever been in a courtroom setting or watched some courtroom proceedings, you know this dynamic. You know that in a murder case, for example, the defendant – the one who’s being accused and having evidence presented of his guilt – he’s the one who’s quaking. He may be liable to the death penalty perhaps. And he’s looking to that judge as one who has the power to take his life. And in the same exact trial, the sentiments from the plaintiff – those who are bringing the accusation of guilt against the defendant – and those associated with the plaintiff are much different. They don’t fear the judge. They’re looking to him for justice. They’re expecting him to make things right. So, consider those really interesting dynamics – that the same man basically is viewed as almost two different people. On the one hand, he’s viewed with fear as the executioner. On the other, he’s viewed as the deliverer – as one who will ensure that justice is served. And that’s just like what it’s going to be with the Lord when he judges the world. The wicked – those who have forgotten God – will view him with terror. The righteous, the humble, the needy, the oppressed, will view him as the savior who will right all wrongs and we’ll be greatly comforted and encouraged by his protection and condemnation of the group that’s wronging us.

So, that’s the psalmist’s statement of confidence in the Lord – verses 3 through 10.

Psalm 9 Commentary: Praise

Verses 11 and 12 form the praise section of this psalm.

KJV Psalm 9:11 Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. 12 When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.

The psalmist calls on his audience to praise the Lord. Why? Because of his doings. Namely – verse 12 – he takes vengeance on the wicked and at the same time he doesn’t forget the humble. He rescues them.

Psalm 9 Commentary: Petition

Verses 13 and 14 and then 19 and 20 then form the part of the psalm where the psalmist gives his petition.

KJV Psalm 9:13 Have mercy upon me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death: 14 That I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation.

And we’ve already gone through the lament of the psalm in verses 15 through 18, so we’ll skip to the last two verses of Psalm 9.

KJV Psalm 9:19 Arise, O LORD; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight. 20 Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.

Even though the psalmist is confident in God’s judging the wicked, he still waists no opportunity to ask the Lord for deliverance from these people and even the hastening of their ultimate judgement.

So, that’s the structure of Psalm 9.

Psalm 9 Commentary: The Message

Let’s talk about the message of Psalm 9. And we’re going to find it by skimming through the Psalm looking for what this psalm is really about. I feel like with lament psalms in particular I spend a lot of the message just circling over again and again the psalm. So, I hope that doesn’t make you dizzy – all that circling. So, let’s do it again – circle back over the psalm trying to get the essence of what the psalm is about.

And what we’ll be looking for in particular is three entities – 3 groups of people or individual persons.

Psalm 9 Commentary: Enemies

First of all, there’s the people who are making the psalmist lament. Let’s consider them for a moment. In verse 3, these folks are said to be “enemies”. They’re opposed to the psalmist. But they’re going to be destroyed by God. In fact, it’s viewed as already having happened in verse 5. Somehow these men have been destroyed and judged by God already. I mean, that’s the sense you get from verse 5 – “thou hast destroyed the wicked” – as if it’s already happened in some way.

And that’s the case in verse 6 as well. Destructions HAVE come to an end. The enemies have done their best – they’ve destroyed cities even, but ultimately, that’s all they’re going to do. David pictures them as being done with the worst that they can do. In contrast, now the Lord in verse 7 is the one who lives forever – as opposed to the enemy who’s pictured as sustaining a temporal defeat in this world. And that may indicate that David just won a battle against a particular group of these enemies. So, there’s some temporal defeat that they’ve sustained. But they’re not done yet – and we’ll see that in the rest of the psalm.

OK, what else is revealed about these enemies of David? Verse 12 implies that they’ll be the recipients of God’s “making inquisition for blood”. They WILL BE – and from the viewpoint of this psalm – they already HAVE BEEN – the object of God’s taking revenge on evil-doers.

And yet, currently in this psalm, these men are still causing trouble. In verse 13, David indicates that he needs deliverance from the trouble or “misery” that these people are causing him. In fact, this misery is so severe that it brings him near to the gates of death. He perceives that he will die if God doesn’t deliver him. So, that’s interesting – God has apparently already judged some of these enemies with destruction and yet many of them still remain to trouble David.

Verses 15 through 18 reveal more about these enemies. They are heathen – or Gentiles. They’re non-Jews. And they are “wicked.” And they’re viewed as laying traps for people and setting up nets to catch people as if they were mere animals. And yet, God will see to it that those devices they set for the destruction of others will ultimately destroy them.

These wicked Gentiles – furthermore – will be turned back into hell – these men who have forgotten God. They will be sent into Sheol – the abode of the dead – they will die. And ultimately we know from further revelation that the end of these kinds of people – those who forget God – will be a literal burning lake of fire forever.

And lastly, the wicked non-Jewish men of the earth NEED to be humbled. Verse 20 has David asking the Lord to strike fear into the hearts of these evil-doers. And the purpose of that is to bring this reality home to them – they’re simply men. They’re not invincible. They’re mortal. And they’re nothing compared to God. And the fact that they need to be reminded of this tells us that these men have a self-perception that is way out of line with reality. They’re proud. And they need to be humbled.

So, we have the first of three entities in this psalm. Wicked Gentilic men – probably viewed as constituting the nations around Israel. They’re powerful – to the point of being able to threaten David’s very existence. They’ve experienced some recent temporal defeat – at least a portion of them have – maybe one or two of the nations. But they’re still a dangerous force that God will need to put a stop to ultimately in the future.

Psalm 9 Commentary: Victims

Now, let’s look at the second entity in this psalm – the ones whom these men are threatening.

And it’s obvious, but I’ll state it anyway – David would consider himself in this group of individuals on the receiving end of the enemies’ threats. And what do we see David engaged in in the first two verses of Psalm 9? You know, we might well be more sympathetic with those who were threatening David’s life if he himself were doing evil. But what do we see him engaged in? Praising the Lord. Telling of God’s marvelous works. Singing praise to God’s name. Being glad and rejoicing in the Lord. These aren’t actions worthy of having one’s life threatened. And yet these are the very acts that this group is engaged in.

And verse 4 makes us even more sympathetic to David and his group when it gives us the idea that David is waiting for justice from God against these people. He’s putting himself in his mind’s eye into a courtroom setting where he’s waiting for God’s justice and God’s deliverance against these enemies. He’s not viewing himself as sufficiently powerful to handle these enemies all alone. He resorts to God, the almighty, the just judge.

Now, verse 9 – when God will in the future judge the world with the totally correct verdicts that only he can render – these people of which David is a part will find God to be a refuge. Again, this word refuge is a word for something that’s high up out of the way of things. When God judges, these people will be lifted out of the situation up to a position of safety and protection.

And how are these people – David’s group – spoken of? What’s the label given to them in verse 9? They’re the oppressed. They’re the miserable. Why would they be miserable? Who’s oppressing them? Yes, the group we just talked about – the wicked Gentile enemies. They’re oppressing this group and thereby making their existence miserable.

Listen, and I don’t want to get needlessly political here and comment on things too great for me and things I don’t understand. But I have to think there’s really a pretty close parallel between what ancient Israel headed by David experienced and what modern-day Israel is experiencing. David and his oppressed group were surrounded by hostile Gentile nations. The same is true of Israel today.

When I went to Israel in 2011, I was just reflecting on the ever-present danger that this small nation faces.

I remember being in a hotel room watching the news when President Obama came out with his idea that Israel needs to return to it’s pre-1967 borders. That caused a stir. What if someone suggested that America return to it’s pre-1776 borders? Give all the land back to the Spanish and English and Native Americans. That would cause some stir in our midst I believe. And what if it was the most powerful nation on earth stating that this should happen?

I remember hearing about Palestinians who were rushing the borders of Israel, trying to get in.

One tour guide told us when we were in a particular area of Israel that if you hear air raid sirens, that’s a GOOD thing because that means the missile is traveling PAST you and is going to hit somewhere else. Of course, that left us wondering what happens if we DON’T  hear a siren.

Israel is now surrounded by Arab nations that are intent on its destruction. Israel is really in a bad neighborhood. The Middle East is a mess and is sliding into mass lawlessness with the consequences of the Arab Spring and now with the radical Islamic groups that have moved to fill the power vacuum left by that movement. And meanwhile it seems like our country is doing everything we possibly can to add to that destabilization and chaos.

In addition to what’s happening now in and around Israel, they have centuries of being oppressed and murdered simply for being who they are.

When I asked one of our tour guides whether he felt safe in Israel or not, he said “it’s a daily struggle to simply exist.”

So, in some ways, things really haven’t changed all that much in Israel from the time that David is writing Psalm 9 here to our modern time.

Let’s get back to Psalm 9. These oppressed ones – though they’re miserable – yet, they’re still going to put their trust in God because the Lord has never forsaken them – these people who seek the Lord.

Verse 12 speaks again of these oppressed ones. They’re said to be humble. What a contrast to this other group who in the last verse of this psalm needs to be reminded that they’re just men! But these oppressed men who seek the Lord – they’re humble. And they’re said to cry to the Lord. They know they’re not sufficient in themselves to defend themselves against the enemy. They cry to God. They trust in him. They seek him. And they find him to be a refuge to which they can flee for help.

In verse 18 this group is also described as “needy” and “poor”. They’re oppressed and miserable. They’re needy and poor. But they trust in the Lord and seek him. And so, it’s really for their sake that God will judge those who oppress them – according to this verse. Obviously, God judges wickedness simply to vindicate his own holiness. But there’s a real sense also in which God is moved to punish evil-doers because he can’t stand anymore to see the suffering of those who trust him and are utterly helpless.

Now, you might wonder how it is that King David could consider himself to be helpless. I mean, after all, the man was a king! He had soldiers and guards. He had a palace and weapons. Surely, if anyone would have felt secure and safe it would have been him! But you probably know what it’s like to be physically secure at the moment, but also aware of external threats that could destroy you quickly if they got out of hand. I think that’s how David viewed things. He had an army – but he knew the truth that princes aren’t ultimately delivered by their horses and weapons. God alone delivers from peril and death.

OK, so here’s two groups in this psalm. On the one hand — the poor, needy, oppressed believers in the Lord. On the other hand, those doing the oppressing.

Psalm 9 Commentary: The Lord

But I said there are 3 entities in this psalm. Who’s the third? It’s the Lord. Let’s remind ourselves of what God has revealed about himself in this psalm.

Basically, God will deliver the oppressed from their oppressors. He’s going to deliver David from his enemies. God is viewed as a judge. He’s said to have set up his throne for judgement. And as we’ve already rehearsed, his judgement is going to be completely right. There will be no mistrials with this judge. No evidence unseen. No lies believed. He knows and sees everything. And he will render a just verdict.

The Lord is one who can be approached by the humble. You don’t need to be someone great to approach the Lord. In fact, he really is viewed in Psalm 9 as preferring the humble and poor and needy and oppressed. He’s going to protect and deliver them even as he’s punishing their enemies.

Now, you and I can be assured that the judge of the whole earth will do right.

I think sometimes we can be discouraged that this is the case. I mean, read the news. Pay attention to what’s happening around you. You’ll notice things like this.

A mother writing a blog in which she details the struggle she’s having caring for her sickly child. She’s viewed as a hero, enduring great suffering faithfully. The boy finally dies. And it’s later revealed that he died from his mother intentionally overdosing him with salt. She knowingly murdered her son. Slowly. Painfully, for him. All to get attention to herself on her blog. Where was God?

Or you have this blood-thirsty Islamic State group invading this refugee camp in Syria – Yarmouk. It’s a place to which Palestinians fled after the Arab Israeli war in 1948 I believe. This camp has been fighting the Syrian president Bashar al-Asaad for years now. So they’ve been bombed and attacked for a long time by Syria itself. And now the jihadists have entered the camp. And the jihadists are against Asaad but they’re also not too friendly with the Palestinians. What a mess! And here’s the worst part. There are children in that camp. And they’re dying of malnutrition. They’re dying of starvation. They’re dying from bullets and bombs. They didn’t choose to be there. They didn’t choose to be born into that living hell. Where’s God?

I’m sure you have an assortment of things in your life that make you repeat that question – “where’s God?” He’s all powerful. He’s totally good. And yet… Why isn’t he stopping the evil?

And this is where our perception of the Lord and who he is and what he should be expected to do – this where this needs to change. We don’t know why God allows suffering. But he does. He allowed in the life of Jesus. In fact, Jesus was perfected by his sufferings according to Hebrews. And he uses sufferings to perfect us as well. All things work together for good to those who love God. But you and I need to adjust what we think of as “good”. Because that verse in Romans states that what is good for us is to be made more and more like Christ. And that’s exactly what suffering does for us. Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials – how? Because you know that the testing of your faith produces good things. GOOD things.

And a psalm like Psalm 9 reminds us that sometimes God will give temporal deliverance from evil. But the ultimate defeat of it is yet to come. But it WILL come. God will judge the world in righteousness. And when he does, the evil-doers will be destroyed, but YOU will be delivered.

So, that’s the message of Psalm 9 – God’s Judgment Brings Deliverance for the Righteous.

Psalm 8 Commentary

Psalm 8 Commentary: Psalm 8 is a reflective or meditative psalm. That just means, the author wrote it to reflect and meditate on something. In this case, the author is David, and he’s reflecting on nature. And in particular he’s meditating on man’s place in relation to nature.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Structure

Body of Psalm 8

The structure of this psalm includes three parts. The body of the psalm is probably the easiest to see. It basically consists of a meditation in Psalm 8:3-8. The psalmist is considering God’s creation. And in light of that, he’s struck with the smallness of man. And yet at the same time, he’s equally effected by the thought of man’s special place in God’s creation. So, that’s the body of Psalm 8.

Closing Meditation of Psalm 8

The closing meditation is found in the last verse — Psalm 8:9.

Introductory Meditation of Psalm 8

And so that leaves one last part: Psalm 8:1-2. This is where the psalmist introduces his meditation on the excellence of God’s name — or his reputation. And even here in the introduction you see a microcosm of the rest of the psalm.

Psalm 8:1 starts out speaking of God’s establishing his glory above the heavens. So, he’s thinking about creation – the heavens. And then he zooms in on two groups – very young children and God’s enemies. We’ll get into who these two groups are why the psalmist is focusing on them at this point, but briefly now we can at least recognize that the psalmist’s mind is – for lack of a better term – wandering from God’s general universal creation to his specific creation and sustaining of humans.

Do you see how that’s a microcosm of the rest of the psalm? Remember the main section of the psalm? The psalmist’s meditation in Psalm 8:3-8 – where he’s looking at the sky – at God’s vast creation – and then he focuses in on man within that creation. The same general thing is happening in both the introduction and the body of this psalm.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Implied Situation

So, now let’s focus on the implied situation of Psalm 8.

I think it’s nothing more than the psalmist looking up into a cloudless starry sky. Because it’s really the psalmist’s meditation of the heavens that get him pondering man’s place in God’s creation. He speaks of God’s glory ABOVE the heavens. Then he says “When I consider YOUR HEAVENS…” So, he’s considering or looking at the heavens. That’s what he was doing that resulted in him writing this psalm.

And wouldn’t David have had plenty of opportunities to look up at the night sky while he was shepherding his father’s flocks out in the pasture lands surrounding Bethlehem? And of course this was a day when there surely wasn’t much light pollution – you know, the kind you see from your home in the direction of a brighter city – where the light from that other city lights up the sky over your own head. There was – I’m fairly confident in guessing – no such thing back then.

So, anyway, that’s what motivated the psalmist to write Psalm 8 – looking up into a cloudless night sky.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Topic and Theme

Now, on to the topic and theme.

Topic of Psalm 8

While God’s creation is definitely in view all over Psalm 8 – I think the main issue is man’s place in that creation. So, I suppose that would be the topic of the psalm – Man’s Place in Creation.

Theme of Psalm 8

But then David expands on that a bit. He introduces some paradoxical facts about man’s place in creation. Like, somehow what comes out of the mouths of babies – weak as they are – is able to silence grown men. That seems absurd or self-contradictory. But it’s true. Or like the fact that God created vast galaxies and yet – to the psalmist’s amazement – God is concerned with such small creatures as ourselves. And these seemingly contradictory facts cause amazement in the Psalmist – “How majestic is your name!

So the theme of Psalm 8 could be Amazement at Man’s Place in God’s Creation.

Psalm 8 Commentary: In the New Testament

Now, last thing before we get into the details of Psalm 8 – parts of this psalm are referenced several times in the New Testament. And at the end of the message we’ll review those.

But before we do that, we’ll attempt to explain the details of this psalm.

So, let’s start by reading Psalm 8:1-2 – the introduction of Psalm 8.

8:1 For the music director, according to the gittith style; a psalm of David. O LORD, our Lord, how magnificent is your reputation throughout the earth! You reveal your majesty in the heavens above! 2 From the mouths of children and nursing babies you have ordained praise on account of your adversaries, so that you might put an end to the vindictive enemy. (NET)

Psalm 8 Commentary: Superscription

So, we have a superscription that we’ll just deal with quickly. This psalm was used as a song. It’s written to the chief musician. He apparently was the director or supervisor of the music – probably at the Temple. And this psalm or song is to be played upon the Gittith, which is likely some sort of musical instrument. It’s lastly a psalm of David. Literally, it’s “to David”. But this most likely means that it was a psalm that David wrote.

Alright, so that’s the superscription to this psalm.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Introduction

Now for the introduction.

Now, the way that the intro starts sounds a little redundant in English – “Oh Lord, Our Lord.” But it isn’t redundant in Hebrew. Look at that first “Lord”. It’s in all caps. That’s the translation’s editors’ way of translating the Hebrew word that consists of four Hebrew letters. In English it would be: Y, H, W, and H. We’d pronounce it like YAH-WEH. Sometimes it’s translated into English as “Jehovah”. This is the name that God used to reveal himself to Moses at the burning bush. It’s also been said to be his covenant name. The name means something like “I AM” and it testifies to God’s eternal and never-ending existence.

And it’s that God that’s being addressed in this psalm. David is speaking directly to this eternal covenant-keeping God.

Next, David recognizes his relationship with YAHWEH. That’s the second “Lord” we see in this psalm. It’s the word “Adon”. You may have heard the word Adonai. It means “my master”. So, David is recognizing that this YAHWEH who keeps covenant and always has been and always will be – he holds authority over David. He’s David’s “Lord” or “Master”. And not only DAVID’S Master – but do you see the pronoun? “Our” master. But he’s the master of ALL Israel. And really, by extension he’s master of the entire universe and all that’s in it – as we’ll hear through the rest of this psalm.

And so, it’s to this God that David expresses amazement. He says “How excellent is thy name!” in the King James Version. The “how” there isn’t indicating a question – right? The “how” is a note of exclamation and wonderment. It’s amazing to David that God’s name is so excellent.

Let’s think about that statement. What is God’s name? Well, if we’re talking about what God is called, then it would be YAHWEH like we just saw. But that’s not what David’s talking about here. In this context, God’s name is his “reputation” or “renown”. He’s known universally for certain acts and characteristics – or at least he should be to anyone who has eyes to see.

And this reputation – this name of his – is “excellent”. That word is used elsewhere in the Old Testament of the waters that consumed Pharaoh and his army as they chased Israel through the Red Sea after the Exodus. Those waters were mighty, strong, powerful.

This word is used of kings – who are typically known for their strength and power.

Or like a mountain in Psalm 76 – mighty, powerful, unmoveable.

Or like a massive tree – again, unmovable, strong, powerful.

That’s God’s reputation and renown in all the earth. He has a reputation of strength and power and might. That’s what he’s known for.

Well, let’s ask ourselves – is he worthy of such a reputation? The answer to that question starts in the second line of verse 1. He has set his glory above the heavens.

So, in other words, God has put something somewhere. What then has he put or established? It says his glory. There’s a word for God’s glory that’s typically used — KABOD. This word though is different — HOD. This word is what Moses transferred to Joshua when Moses was passing off the scene. It was his authority. It’s also what the Lord gave to King Solomon. Again, authority is in view there. So, God has established his authority.

And he’s done so “above the heavens”. There are a few things that the word “heavens” can represent. We see it used at least two different ways in this very psalm. It’s used later in this psalm as the area in which birds fly – or the atmosphere of the earth. It’s also used of the place where the moon and stars reside. And those are two different realms – wouldn’t you agree? But Psalm 8:1 is speaking of a place BEYOND those two areas. God has established his authority ABOVE those regions. In a place that the human eye cannot even see.

Let me ask you – does God live in outer space? Does he live in the earth’s atmosphere? This statement here in Psalm 8:1 and others throughout the Scripture indicate that there’s a place beyond even the vast and measureless expanse of what we know as the universe. And it’s in this place that’s unseen to the human eye – that’s above the heavens – where God’s authority is established. And you know that if it’s established there, no power anywhere is going to be able to throw it off.

I’d say that earns him a reputation of strength and power and might!

Psalm 8 Commentary: God’s Authority on Earth

And it’s clear that God’s authority and power and might reach down even to this lowly earth from Psalm 8:2.

Now, I’ll say at the outset that this verse is really hard to interpret. Several resources I consulted mentioned Psalm 8:2 and had a note along the lines of “this verse is very difficult to understand”. I read several commentaries. And they had things to say about this verse. So, I read them. But I came away with no greater understanding of what this verse meant. The commentaries tend to discuss the verse but don’t really do a great job of explaining what it means. I just want to let you know what we’re up against.

But, here we go!

God is pictured as doing something in this verse. He’s “ordaining strength” in the King James Version. “Ordaining” is like “establishing”. You could picture it like laying a foundation – firm and established solidly in the ground. It’s not going to move from its present location. That’s the way this word is used elsewhere.

And so, God is “laying” something or “firmly establishing” something unmovable.

What is it? It’s “strength”. Like a strong solid tower to which people go and flee for safety. That’s what God is doing – firmly laying down strength.

How is he doing this? He’s using the most insignificant of human creatures. Babes and sucklings. The youngest and most helpless – the most feeble of human creatures.

And he’s viewed as using a particular part of the bodies of these young children – their mouths. Now, the mouths of babies don’t usually produce anything noteworthy. Maybe some spit-up. Usually things are actually going INTO their mouths – like milk. And at best, what’s coming out of their mouths is babbling or crying.

And yet in some way, that babbling or crying is pictured as something that God uses against his enemies. In particular he uses what comes out of babies’ mouths to cause the enemy and the avenger to “be stilled” or to “cease”. That’s a word related to the Hebrew word “Sabbath” – which speaks of rest and ceasing from labors.

So, this firmly-established strength causes these guys to cease or stop or rest from their opposition to God. Somehow.

So what does this mean? What’s in view here?

I think it’s something like this. God has a reputation for strength and power. He’s sovereign over everything. That authority of his is untouchable – higher than the heavens. And that authority that he wields over his creation from outside of his creation allows for even the smallest most insignificant things – babblings and cryings of babies – to confound and cause to cease the fiercest of his enemies. In other words, God is so powerful, that if he wants to stop his opponents, he could use the unimpressive mouths of the weakest of his human creatures to do so. That’s how strong God is. That’s the extent of his authority. It’s sort of hyperbolic, but I think that’s what it’s saying.

And in case you’re wondering, I’ll remind us that I’ll talk at the end about this verse and how it’s used in the New Testament.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Main Meditation

Now, with the introduction dealt with, let’s go on to the main meditation of this psalm in Psalm 8:3-8.

8:3 When I look up at the heavens, which your fingers made,
and see the moon and the stars, which you set in place,
4 Of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them?
Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them,
5 and make them a little less than the heavenly beings?
You grant mankind honor and majesty;
6 you appoint them to rule over your creation;
you have placed everything under their authority,
7 including all the sheep and cattle,
as well as the wild animals,
8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea
and everything that moves through the currents of the seas.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 3

Now, the psalmist relates what he was doing that led to the writing of this psalm. He was “considering the heavens”. He was simply “looking” up into the heavens. That’s the simple meaning of the word “consider” in the KJV. He was merely looking at the heavens from his low vantage point on the earth.

Now, these heavens are not simply THE heavens. They’re said to be GOD’S heavens. They’re uniquely YAHWEH’s. They belong to him.

Well, why’s that? It’s because they’re pictured as the “works of God’s fingers”. Obviously, God created the heavens. And so it’s as if he fashioned them with his very fingers. God doesn’t have physical fingers of course, but we’re given this very picturesque image of God’s relation to the heavens. He crafted them like an artist would a painting. And isn’t that what it looks like when you peer into space? These pictures that the Hubble Telescope give us – for example – they’re beautiful. Now, I doubt David could see these far-off galaxies and other features out far into space, like we can. But what he could see caused him to marvel at God’s craftsmanship in relation to the heavens.

And then he thinks particularly of the things that God put in those heavens. The moon and the stars. God “ordained” them. This is a different word than we had of what God did through the crying and babbling mouths of babies. This action that God took with the moon and stars isn’t like “laying a foundation”. It’s like “establishing a regular order of things”. From our perspective the moon and the stars appear in regular orderly patterns in our night sky. They’ve been “ordained” in that manner.

Now, I mean, really think about this. Let’s not be unaffected by this psalm. Think about how awesome the moon is. The fact that it’s out there. That it’s just the right distance from earth to affect tides and other things – but not too much. The fact that much of the time it provides light to the earth at night. It was used by ancient cultures to mark months and seasons. Now, for a human, how much work would it take to create the moon? How many dollars would you need to raise to create a moon? What kind of technology or equipment would you need to construct it? Yeah, we can’t make a moon.

Not to mention the stars! Most of them are so far away that you could never even hope to reach one in several lifetimes, even in our modern spacecraft. Stars appear in various areas of the universe, they come in different colors, different chemical makeups. I think they all give off their light by burning. How did that happen? What natural secular explanation can there be for a countless multitude of balls of burning gas all over the universe? Each so unique. Each so far away – and yet we can see many of them. How would you make a star? That’s an absurd question. It can’t be answered. Only God could do it.

This is all very awesome. God surely is very powerful. Truly, his reputation of power and might are well-founded. There’s nothing outside of his strength to accomplish. His creation is truly awesome.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 4

And then the psalmist turns his focus downward. And that’s the direction this psalm takes, after all. We start by thinking of what’s ABOVE the heavens. Then we look AT the heavens. And now the psalmist ponders what’s on the earth – BELOW the heavens. Man, in particular.

In light of the expansive mighty heavens, what is man? Of what significance is this puny creature that we are? The creature that – at its best – is pictured as being brought to nothing by the weak unimpressive mouth of weak unimpressive babies. What is man?

Why is God mindful of us? He remembers us – like he remembered Noah in the ark. He doesn’t forsake us and leave us all to our own in the midst of this overwhelmingly vast creation of his. And he could, couldn’t he? He could leave us all alone. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t forsake us.

So, he remembers man – Enosh, is the word. And he visits “the son of man” – or the Ben Adam – the son of Adam. That’s you and me, the children of Adam – his descendants. God visits us – like he visited Sarah and fulfilled his promise of a child to her. He doesn’t leave us alone. He comes and helps us in our need. He’s constantly reaching out to redeem his fallen creation. And those whom he has redeemed, he’s constantly checking up on and helping and leading and meeting our needs.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 5

But it’s not because we’re so great. No. We’re nothing. We’re helpless in this vast creation.

He’s made man a little lower than the angels. Literally, than “Elohim”. That’s a word for God, but it’s also used of heavenly beings – angels, in particular. So, YAHWEH has created man to be just a little lower than God himself – or at least than his angels.

And you might think – boy, we’re missing out on something. We’re a little LOWER than God. Well, remember – it’s just a LITTLE lower. Which is actually quite a privilege, given how high and exalted YAHWEH truly is.

And it’s even more clear that this statement is meant to express the true privilege that is ours as humans made in God’s image with the next statements that David makes of man. He’s crowned us with glory and honor – or weightiness and fruitfulness. He makes us fruitful and productive in all areas of life – generally-speaking for mankind.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 6

Further, God’s caused us to rule over the works of his hands.

Isn’t that quite a deal? He made it. He did all the hard work – the work we couldn’t possibly do. And now, we rule over it. And this word “works” is the same as in Psalm 8:3. There it was talking about the heavens and all the things in them. But now here, included with those works are what David will talk about in the next several verses.

And it’s very interesting that we’ve gone from hands to feet. The works of God’s HANDS – which we’ll see in the following verses – he’s appointed to be under our FEET. That’s quite a privilege!

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 7

Well, what has he put under our feet or under our authority? What has he given mankind the right to manage and control and dispose of in the way he sees fit to do?

Sheep and oxen, to begin with. These are domesticated animals in the first line of Psalm 8:7. And not only the DOMESTICATED ones, but also the WILD ones – the bests of the field. The ones in the open field. The wild untamed beasts. They’re ours as well.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 8

Then Psalm 8:8 – the highest AND lowest of creatures, speaking in regard to altitude. Birds in the high heavens and fish in the low deep sea.

By the way, this guides us in thinking about environmental issues, doesn’t it? And this guidance is from YAHWEH, so it’s completely balanced and correct. Ruling over the works of God’s hands requires us as mankind to not abuse his creation. At the same time, it also flies in the face of the more extreme views of certain people calling themselves environmentalists. We are given divine authority for elevating mankind over other creatures. We’re not to abuse the creation. But at the same time we’re not to elevate the place and importance of anything else in the creation above mankind – those made in God’s image and given dominion over what he himself created.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 9

And the last verse – Psalm 8:9 – is simply the second half of an envelope that encompasses all of Psalm 8:1-9. It’s the conclusion to the matter. YAHWEH, our Master, what a reputation of strength, power, and might you have – and with good reason!

Psalm 8 Commentary: In the New Testament

Now, let me briefly cite the places where this psalm is used in the New Testament.

Matthew 21:16

Jesus references Psalm 8:2 when he comes into Jerusalem and the children are singing to him. The Pharisees tell Jesus that it’s not right for the children to be calling him the Son of David – the coming king. And then Jesus references this verse as justification for what they’re doing. Only, Jesus references the way the Septuagint translates this verse. In the Septuagint, it says that God has “perfected praise” – rather than “ordaining strength” – through the mouth of babies.

Hebrews 2:6-8

Then we have Hebrews 2:6-8. Here, the author of Hebrews is just coming from chapter one where he’s made a big deal of Jesus’s not being an angel – of being better than the angels. Of being “the son”. He then makes an application and exhorts his readers to pay attention to what they’ve heard. And then in Hebrew 2:5 it seems like the author is getting back to his drawing a distinction between Jesus and angels. He says that God hasn’t subjected the world to come to ANGELS. But instead – and then he references Psalm 8:4-6, speaking of the dominion which God gave to man. Only, in Hebrews, it seems like the author is speaking of not this world like Psalm 8 has been pretty obviously discussing. He’s talking about I think the new heavens and the new earth. And it’s not just man in general that’s viewed as having dominion over this new creation. Rather, it is the son of Adam – the second Adam – who will with his human believing brothers and sisters – so to speak – rule over this new creation of God.

Psalm 2 Commentary

Psalm 2 Commentary: As we study Psalm 2 we’ll be seeing the psalmist’s wonder and amazement at the fact that this world is constantly and actively rebelling against God’s plan and at the same time they show heated antagonism to God’s national representative – the nation of Israel and – in particular in Psalm 2 – to Israel’s Davidic king.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Illustration

So, last Tuesday (March 17, 2015) marked the election for the Israeli Prime Minister. You did know it was an election for ISRAEL’S Prime Minister, didn’t you? If you didn’t, I can understand. Our national media doesn’t give that much coverage to most elections for our own congressmen or governors!

And I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that most of the media – and even our own president and other world leaders – weren’t happy about who won. And why are they not happy? The thing that bothers them the most is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent rejection of the idea of dividing the land of Israel up in order to make a separate Palestinian state within Israel’s borders.

Wow – remember the question that Pastor Fuller sought to answer in his sermon last Sunday? “Whose is the Land?” What’s God’s answer? If you were listening, I think you’d have to conclude that the land belongs to the nation of Israel. Why? Because God promised them that land. And yet, everyone is up-in-arms about them solely living in that land. Interesting.

Well, world-wide anger towards God and his national representative, Israel, is not something new. In fact, this kind of universal upheaval against God’s plans regarding Israel is something that’s contemplated in Psalm 2.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Genre

Psalm 2 is considered to be a royal psalm. In other words, it’s a psalm about the king of Israel – the ruler who either was David himself or one who descended from David. The psalm itself doesn’t explicitly tell us whether it’s speaking of David or one of his descendants. But actually, Peter in Acts chapter 4 and verse 25 reveals that it was in fact David who wrote this psalm. At any rate, it’s a royal psalm.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Divisions

The structure of Psalm 2 is made of three parts. Verses 1 through 3 tell us about this near-universal rejection of the Lord and the king whom he’s anointed to rule his nation Israel – the Davidic ruler. That’s the first section.

The second section runs from verse 4 trough verse 9. This is where we’re given the reaction of the Lord to this international uprising against his reign. So, that’s part two of three.

And finally we have the last section in verses 10 through 12. Based on God’s reaction to this international uprising against his authority, the psalmist gives some advice to those doing the uprising. And so that’s the last section of this psalm.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Topic and Theme

Well, what is Psalm 2 about? I think the issue of God’s sovereign rule is unavoidable throughout the psalm. It permeates all of the psalm. God rules. And he does so through his anointed Davidic king. There’s widespread rebellion against this king. But it’s vain to try to get away from the God who holds your very life in his hands. That very God has determined to set his king on his holy hill of Zion and to destroy all opposition. And therefore – submit to that rule. So, that’s what I’ll entitle this message. Here it is: Submit to God’s Rule.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Implied Situation

Last thing we’ll consider before we work at explaining this psalm is the implied situation. I think what called for the writing of this psalm in its original setting was something like this. David and his son Solomon ruled over much of the land that God originally promised to Abraham. Not all of it, I think. But most of it. And Israel certainly occupied a portion of that land. But most of that area was inhabited by other nations. When David and Solomon ruled Israel they reigned over those other nations and their kings. And sometimes those kings and the nations they were leading opposed their being ruled over by an Israelite king. And so they’d make attempts to rebel against the Davidic king and throw off his rule from over them. So, I believe that this kind of a situation is what provoked the psalmist to write this psalm. The people over whom the king of Israel ruled were trying to break away from him.

Psalm 2 Commentary: New Testament References

Now, I’ll also add that this psalm is referenced several times in the New Testament. And when it’s quoted in the New Testament it’s not talking about David or Solomon. It’s talking about one of their descendants, according to the flesh. Christ! And later on we’ll briefly explore those passages that speak of Christ from Psalm 2.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Universal Rejection of God and His King

But for now, let’s get into the details of Psalm 2. Because we can’t even hope to understand how the New Testament is using this psalm unless we actually know what it meant to its original author as delivered to its original audience. So, we’ll read the first section again – verses 1 through 3

KJV Psalm 2:1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

Why Do the Heathen Rage?

Let’s look at verse 1. Who are these raging people? They’re given the label “the heathen”. You could also say Gentiles. You may have heard the Hebrew word goy or goyim. That’s this word. And it simply means non-Jewish people. That’s who’s raging. Non-Jewish people.

Well, what does “raging” look like anyway? How does one rage? Well, it’s hard to easily tell because this word is used only here as a verb. In its noun form it simply has to do with gathering as a group. Which seems rather neutral of a term. But the context of Psalm 2 is anything but neutral.

So, these non-Jews are gathering together as a group. And we can only assume that their purpose is evil.

And the People Imagine a Vain Thing

Alright – let’s move on to the second line of verse 1. Now we’re not speaking of the “heathen” anymore. We’re speaking of the “people”. Now, this term can describe people in general – like Proverbs 11:26 where THE PEOPLE curse the one who withholds bread from them. But this word can also refer to an ethnic group or groups. Like in Genesis 25:23 where the Lord tells Rebekah that two PEOPLES would be separated from her body – the Edomites and the Israelites. Two “ethnic groups.”

So, which one is it here? I believe it’s speaking of ethnic groups or nations. The word “people” is in parallel with the word “heathen”. Again, “heathen” are simply non-Jews. And therefore, “people” or “ethnic groups” would be closely related to that concept.

So in other words, all sorts of non-Jews and the ethnic groups which they comprise are in view here. Now, what are these ethnic groups doing anyway?

They’re imagining a vain thing. The word “imagine” is one that you’ve seen before in the psalms. But you might not know it. It’s actually the same word that’s translated as “meditate” and is what the blessed man of Psalm 1 was pictured as doing. These ethnic groups are also meditating. They’re setting their mind to something. They’re plotting and scheming and hatching something in their minds. They’re speaking of it and ruminating on it. Well, what is the object of their meditation? Unfortunately, not God’s word. Rather, they’re meditating on a vain thing. In others words, they’re plotting and scheming and yet all of that activity is just useless. It’s futile. It will come to nothing. And God will see to it that that’s the case.

And the psalmist could give us the content of their meditations at this very point in the psalm. But he doesn’t, yet. He wants to dwell a little while longer on the developing rebellion of these groups and individuals. He’s heightening our concern for their activities and attitudes.

The Kings of the Earth

And now in verse 2, we’ve gone from speaking of larger groups of people like “heathen” and “people” to more specific individuals, smaller groups, subsets of those larger groups. To begin, we’re directed to think about the “kings of the earth.” Their identity is pretty obvious. They’re simply world rulers. In David’s case in Psalm 2, they were the nations who opposed Israel and his own God-sanctioned rule over them.

And what are these kings pictured as doing? They’re standing. That’s the word behind “set” in verse 2. But obviously their standing is charged with rebellion. The word translated as “set” here appears in Joshua 1:5. That’s where God promised Joshua that no one would be able to STAND before him – there’s that word. That is, no one would be able to RESIST Joshua. And that’s just what we saw in that book when we studied through it. But that’s just what the kings of the earth are attempting to do here. They’re “resisting”!

The Rulers

Now, there appears to be another group of individuals in view in verse 2. There are these “rulers”. Now, this word translated as “rulers” (RZN) appears 6 times in the Old Testament. Every single time, it appears parallel to the word “kings”. So, it’s safe to say that these two titles of “kings” and “rulers” are likely speaking of the same group. That’s parallelism. Kings rule. That’s what they do.

Well, what are these rulers up to? The kings are resisting. And the rulers – this same group – are taking counsel together. They’re conspiring. Now, this word is used in Psalm 31. There, David is saying that his enemies are doing this very thing – conspiring – and their intent is actually to take his life. But what are they conspiring to do here in Psalm 2? Who are they against?

These people are resisting and conspiring against none other than the Lord God of Hosts! Can you imagine the futility of this kind of behavior? It reminds me of the book of Revelation where Christ comes back on a white horse. And he’s coming to rescue Israel from their assailants. And he’s not alone. He’s coming with the armies of heaven. You can’t beat that kind of army. And yet, the ponderous part of it is that the assailants of Israel actually face Christ and are ready to fight him! It’s madness to fight the immortal God. But that’s just what the enemies will do in the end times. And it’s exactly what we see happening in this psalm.

Against the Lord and His Anointed

And – you know – the animosity of evil people so often is not directed at God alone. It’s often directed at his human representatives. In Psalm 2, the kings and rulers of these non-Jewish nations are conspiring against both the Lord and his anointed one.

Who is this anointed one? Well, the concept of anointing is basically having oil poured on you. A number of positions in ancient Israel involved being anointed physically – kings being one such group. So, I believe this is speaking of the Davidic king – David, in particular. The surrounding nations are opposing his rule over them.

Let us Break Their Bands

So, the non-Jewish nations and the kings who rule over them are gathering together. They’re meditating and scheming. They’re resisting and conspiring against God and his earthly representative. But, what’s their plan? What are they meditating on? What do they want to do? Verse 3.

They want to break the bands of David and his God. They want no more of the restrictions that the rule of God and his king place over them. These bands or restrictions are viewed by these nations as oppressive. They’re unwelcomed. They need to be broken asunder like Samson did with some of those ropes that Delilah put on him. And – seeing as they have no need of such restrictions – they’d be happy to cast them aside.

Isn’t that the way that lost people tend to view God’s rules? Isn’t that the way your own flesh feels about them? Oh, the chafing. Oh, the complaints. The accusations of oppression. This is nothing new to our day and age. This is the way it’s been since the fall.

Psalm 2 Commentary: God’s Reaction

Well, how would you feel if you knew that people were reacting this way toward your attempted leadership of them? We’re actually told how God reacts. Let’s read verses 4 through 9.

KJV Psalm 2:4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

We’re first of all told of God’s physical position. He’s sitting somewhere. Here in Psalm 2, he’s viewed as sitting high above everyone and everything – certainly above these puny riotous nations.

And from his vantage point where he sees and knows everything perfectly, he takes an action that can seem a little odd to us. He laughs. Does he find their rebellion humorous? No, not at all. Look at the next line. The Lord, the Master, Adonai – he will have them in derision. And that phrase “have in derision” simply means that he’s going to mock them. Does that fit with our conception of who God is? We know that God is love. But can we also let him be as tough as he reveals himself to be? He’s not playing around. The rebellion of individuals and nations against his plans and people don’t sit well with him. He is supremely patient and loving. And every single one of us deserves his mocking and scorn. But he’s also gracious and not willing for any to perish. These nations are hardened against him. And so, he laughs at and mocks them.

But that’s not the end of his reaction to this rebellion. Verse 5. He speaks. But his speech is not gentle and peaceful – not to these hardened enemies of his. He will speak to them in his wrath. We’ve seen this before, but the word “wrath” really can mean “nostril”. The idea is that as someone gets angry, sometimes his nostrils will flare and perhaps even get a little red. That’s the way to picture God’s stance towards these enemies. He’s certainly not out of control or sinning in any way. But he is angry at them.

And that angry reaction will cause them some terror. That’s what that word “vex” means. God will frighten them. And he’s pictured as frightening them in his sore displeasure. This word “sore displeasure” speaks of God’s burning glowing anger at these people for their rebellion against him and his king.

And so, God reacts to this international rebellion. He’s angry. He laughs and mocks. And finally he speaks. Verse 6. He points out that HE is the one who appointed this king against whom they’re rebelling. And that king reigns from Zion – or Jerusalem. It doesn’t matter what the angry nations say – God’s determined to have his king rule in Jerusalem.

So, that’s how God is pictured as directly communicating with the Gentile nations that oppose him and his Davidic king – verses 4 through 6. But that’s just one aspect of his response. The other way in which God is portrayed as responding is actually not to the nations, but to his Davidic king. That’s verses 7 through 9.

David is going to recount for us what God had told him. The decree he gave – or his statute or rule. The Lord said to him that David is his son. Now, this may sound a little strange to us. What does this mean? Well, keep in mind that when God made the Davidic Covenant with David he told him that David’s sons would be like sons to the Lord. And the Lord would be like his father.

Now, the NET Bible has a helpful note on this matter as well. It says, “The idiom reflects ancient Near Eastern adoption language associated with covenants of grant, by which a lord would reward a faithful subject by elevating him to special status, referred to as “sonship.” Like a son, the faithful subject received an “inheritance,” viewed as an unconditional, eternal gift. Such gifts usually took the form of land and/or an enduring dynasty.”

So, God is declaring that David is a faithful subject of his. And his inheritance as such a subject includes being given these raging heathen and even the ends of the earth as his possession, if he but asks for them. That’s the closeness of God’s relationship with David.

And God tells him what to do with these heathen. You know – you may have wondered if inheriting these heathen was actually a blessing or maybe more of punishment for the Davidic king. Well, that’s where verse 9 informs us of what God means. David and his successors were to break the rebellion of these Gentile nations. Iron was viewed as the strongest element to the Jews of the Old Testament. And the nations are pictured as being clay vessels. What happens when an iron rod meets a clay vessel? Yeah, the clay vessel loses. And it’s smashed into pieces.

So, that’s God response to international rebellion against him. He responds to the nations in anger and assures them that he is in control. And then he speaks to the one who’s representing him on this earth and assures him that God has given him the right to rule.

Psalm 2 Commentary: How the Nations Should React

Now, based on that pretty forceful response from the Lord, what are these rebellious nations to do? That’s verses 10 through 12. It’s God’s counsel to the rebellious nations. Let’s read.

KJV Psalm 2:10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

The kings of these nations are addressed directly again. They’re counseled to “be wise” or to gain insight, to pay close attention, to be sensible about the matter – in light of the threatenings! The judges – or the ones who are supposed to administer justice in a society – are also addressed. Again, these may be the same people as the ones identified as “kings”. Kings should administer justice. And God counsels them to “be instructed” or to “be warned” or “take advice” or “listen to reason”. By the way, isn’t this wonderful? God could have left it at heated angry rebuke with these rebels. But he stoops and condescends to advise them on the wise choice to make, despite their opposition to him.

God also commands them to serve him with fear or reverence. He’s even in the Old Testament looking for worshippers who would worship in spirit and truth. If they do, they will find joy. Their rebellion won’t do that. Serving the Lord will! And there’s a way to rejoice while worshipping and serving the Lord in fear – that also includes trembling. This is the right reaction of sinners in the presence of a holy and sovereign God.

These kings are – furthermore – to kiss (NSHQ) the son. To draw near to the Davidic king and to submit themselves to him – just like all of Egypt did to Joseph, except for Pharaoh of course.

And if they don’t take this counsel, they’ll perish from their present course of life – their “way” as we have it here. And it really won’t take too much. The threat is real. If the king’s anger is kindled just a little – it doesn’t require much provocation in light of their past and even present rebellion.

And remember the title of the message? Submit to God’s Rule. Isn’t this last line a perfect expression of that? What is it like to submit to God’s rule? It’s blessed – Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. All those who run to him for refuge as you would run to a large rock that could provide protection from a raging storm. That’s the picture. So, don’t rebel against God’s king. It will lead inevitably to destruction. Rather, flee to him and find protection and safety and blessing.

Psalm 2 Commentary: New Testament References

Now, let me quickly address where Psalm 2 appears in the New Testament.

Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5 make it clear that God made the statement in Psalm 2:7 – “thou art my son, today have I begotten thee” – to Christ, the ultimate Davidic king.

In fact, Paul says in Acts 13:33 that the statement that God makes to David about begetting him actually also applies to Christ being raised from the dead.

And then in Acts 4:25-28 applies the first section of Psalm 2 (verses 1 through 3) to Christ’s crucifixion. And in that case, it’s not just the Gentile nations that rose up and rebelled against God’s plans and his anointed one – or his Christ. Even the peoples of Israel were involved in it.

Revelation 2:27 has Christ telling the overcomers at Thyatira that they will rule – though not BREAK, the nations with a rod of iron – JUST LIKE CHRIST RECEIVED THAT KIND OF AUTHORITY FROM HIS FATHER. Where is it recorded that he received that authority? I think Psalm 2:9 is in view.

Revelation 12:5 relates the vision of the woman Israel bearing the child Christ who would rule the nations with a rod of iron.

And Revelation 19:15 again speaks of Christ ruling the nations with a rod of iron.

I wish I had the time to explore how the New Testament uses the Old. But for now, I’ll leave us with those verses to remind us that Jesus the Christ is the last and greatest of the Davidic kings. And he hasn’t even begun to reign in Jerusalem. But when he does, what a day that will be! And it will be truly said then as it is now and has been forever – “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

A Poem on Psalm 2

Amazing thing!
The Gentiles gather,
The nations meditate.
Their kings and rulers
Resist and scheme
‘Gainst God’s choice potentate. (Psalm 2:1-3)

The Lord in heav’n
Will laugh and mock
And fill them all with dread.
He will remind them
To their shock
His king shall be their head. (Psalm 2:4-6)

Then to this king
The Lord will speak,
Restate his rightful place.
The king himself
Is God’s own son,
Inherits every race. (Psalm 2:7-9)

So, kings and judges,
Now be wise,
Gladly worship and fear.
Obey God’s king,
Yes, flee to him,
Or you will perish here. (Psalm 2:10-12)

Psalm 1 6 Commentary

Psalm 1 6 Commentary: But what happens to the righteous? What happens to the blessed man? What’s his end? Psalm 1:6.

Psalm 1 6 Commentary: The Road

We’re back to talking about a road or path or way again – a lifestyle, as I said in the first verse of this psalm. And God knows the path or lifestyle of certain individuals – the righteous.

Psalm 1 6 Commentary: God Knows Your Path

Isn’t that picturesque? You can imagine God speaking of your life. Looking at your trials, your temptations, your struggles, your victories. And he could say, “I know what that’s like. I understand the way he’s going. I’m sympathetic with the lifestyle that that one is leading. I know it’s not perfect, but he’s headed in the right direction.

Psalm 1 6 Commentary: God Opposes the Wicked

But again we’re confronted with another contrast. The guilty also have a road or path or lifestyle. And in their case, God isn’t familiar with it. He doesn’t approve of it. It’s against him. And therefore it will be destroyed. It will perish. It’ll be no more some day.

Return to our Psalm 1 Commentary.

Psalm 1 5 Commentary

Psalm 1 5 Commentary: And it’s because of the fact that “the wicked are like chaff which the winds drives away” that the end of the ungodly is the way that we have it portrayed in Psalm 1:5.

Psalm 1 5 Commentary: The Ungodly

The word translated “ungodly” in Psalm 1:4-5 is the same one in Psalm 1:1. And again, the idea is that these people are guilty ones. And so it’s no surprise that when they’re judged they won’t stand. Guilty people can’t escape judgment – especially when God the all-knowing one is the judge.

Psalm 1 5 Commentary: Eternal Judgement

And that gives away what I think this verse is talking about. You could read this verse and consider it to be speaking of a time on earth where the guilty will be judged. But I think it’s best to see it as speaking of the final judgment.

Psalm 1 5 Commentary: Standing in the Judgement

And so, because of the life characterized by fruitlessness – really, deadness – the wicked won’t stand in the judgment. They won’t prevail. They won’t be acquitted when they’re judged. They’ll be found guilty and condemned.

Psalm 1 5 Commentary: Standing in the Congregation of the Righteous

That just makes sense. What also makes sense is that sinners won’t stand in the congregation of the righteous. Why? Because they’re sinners and that’s the path they choose. They could be the blessed man in this psalm. But they refuse. And so when all the righteous are assembled – both in this life and in the one to come – these people won’t be found there.

Back to our Psalm 1 Commentary.

Psalm 1 3 Meaning

Psalm 1 3 Meaning: Well, we’ve seen the activities engaged in by the blessed man and the one who is opposed to God. We’re now going to get a look at the life of these two representative individuals. And we’re given imagery from the domain of agriculture. Psalm 1:3. What’s the life of a blessed man to be compared to?

Psalm 1 3 Meaning: Tree

The blessed man’s life is like a tree. Picture a tree. A firm, unmovable tree. A tree planted right next to a stream. Somebody planted it there. That tree’s getting nourishment both from the soil and from the water. It’s constantly growing – though you wouldn’t be able to tell if you were standing there and watching the tree. The growth is slow, but it is steady – and it’s a healthy growth.

Psalm 1 3 Meaning: Fruit

It’s a fruit tree, furthermore, and so it puts out its fruit at the appropriate times. Fruit trees don’t have fruit all the time. But the fruit comes out at the proper times. And it happens regularly – every year for most trees.

Psalm 1 3 Meaning: Leaves

And what’s more: even the tree’s leaves don’t wilt or droop or wither. This is a healthy tree.

Now, transfer this all over to the blessed man. He’s steadily growing spiritually and in every way. The growth he experiences might not even be evident to him day by day. But he and others can look back over his life and see progress, see growth.

Part of the growth in a blessed person’s life is the fruit that he bears. Good things, godly things, are happening in his life, in his family, in his own soul. He’s productive. He’s not fruitless or barren when it comes especially to spiritual realities.

Psalm 1 3 Meaning: Prosperity

And then leaving the simile about the tree, the last statement of Psalm 1:3 is that whatever the blessed man does he causes to prosper.

Now, this is no promise that the blessed man won’t ever fail. Failure is often part of the growth we’ve just been talking about. So, I think this is hyperbole. Based on the fact that the blessed man is like a growing healthy tree – things are good in his life: fruit’s being produced, growth is occurring – boy, it seems like everything he does he causes to prosper!

So, what a wonderful picture we get of the blessed man. His spiritual life and even other aspects of his life are healthy and growing. This is a bright picture.

Back to our Psalm 1 Commentary.