Psalm 1 2 Commentary

Psalm 1 2 Commentary: So, what we saw in our Psalm 1 1 Meaning article was all very negative. We only so far know what the blessed man DOESN’T do. But positively, what is true of him?

Psalm 1 2 Commentary: Delight

Notice that Psalm 1:2 doesn’t say that the blessed man simply reads the Law of the Lord. He doesn’t JUST study it. He delights in it. Other people delight in the activities in Psalm 1:1 – godless advice, lifestyle, and associations. But the blessed man doesn’t. He finds true joy in God’s Law.

Psalm 1 2 Commentary: Law

The Law of the Lord is a reference to his word. Sometimes the term “law” can refer specifically to the books of Moses – the first five books in the Old Testament – the Pentateuch. And the psalmist here certainly has those books in mind as well. But it’s not limited to just those books. The blessed man rejoices and delights in God’s word.

Psalm 1 2 Commentary: Meditates

How else can you explain his actions in the second line of Psalm 1:2? He meditates on God’s word day and night.

When the psalmist talks about meditation, what does he mean? What does the blessed man do with God’s law? Well, he ponders it. He mulls it over. He talks with himself about it.

Psalm 1 2 Commentary: Day and Night

And how often does he do this? The text says “day and night”. This is a poetic device that communicates that this is constantly happening. Take two extremes – night and day – and it gives you this picture of constant activity. The blessed man at any moment is pondering God’s word – pondering its application to his actions and choices.

By the way, this is not your wearying duty – to constantly meditate on God’s word. This is your privilege and delight if you are a righteous person.

And also, doing these things doesn’t make you righteous – understand that. But what we’ve seen so far in the first two verses of this psalm are characteristic of a blessed man.

Back to our Psalm 1 Commentary.

Psalm 1 1 Meaning

Psalm 1 1 Meaning: Let’s consider the meaning of Psalm 1:1.

Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “The ungodly”

Let’s start with that first line. Look at that word “ungodly” in the King James Version. The word basically means “guilty”. They’re guilty of sin. They’ve done wrong and they haven’t sought the mercy of God. No, indeed, they have no interest in seeking his forgiveness and mercy.

You know people like that right? We’re surrounded in this world by people who are guilty before God. They know they’re guilt. But they’re not interested in being reconciled to the one whom they’ve offended – the Lord.

Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Counsel”

And you know, if that was all there was to these kinds of men, they might not be so difficult to deal with. But there’s more to them than simply being guilty before the Lord and not seeking his mercy.

They actually have “advice” that they want you to follow. See that in Psalm 1:1? These guilty men have “counsel” to give you. They have “plans” for you to implement in your life. It’s not enough for them to follow their own destructive plans and advice. They offer it to everyone who will take it – they even push it on those who don’t want it!

Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Walketh not”

And you know – there are plenty of people who follow their advice. That’s the meaning of this image of walking in someone’s counsel.

The blessed man doesn’t follow the advice of those who don’t want God’s forgiveness. The life of the blessed man is not characterized by paying attention to the advice of men and women on the New York Times’ Best Sellers list who are leading people astray – away from God. The life of the blessed man is not characterized by following the worldly-wise but heavenly-foolish advice offered by people on the media – TV, radio, internet, social media, or anywhere else.

The blessed man might have the unfortunate experience of hearing this advice – but he isn’t patterning his life after this stuff.

What else does the blessed man not do? He doesn’t stand in the way of sinners.

Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Way”

I’ll remind us – if we need it – that this is poetic metaphorical language. There is no road in Whitewater, Wisconsin (where our church is) or – I hope – anywhere named Sinner Street or Sinners Road. So, it’s not that the blessed man avoids a literal physical Derek Chataim or Road of Sinners. So, then, what is this picturing?

What do you do with a road? In ancient times you’d mostly walk on it. It was a means by which you’d get from one place to another – it still is. It was a place that you’d frequent and be frequently traveling on – you don’t get places very quickly on foot. And you wouldn’t be the only one on that road, likely. Others would be on that road with you – maybe not at the same exact time, but probably before or after you got on or exited that road. A road is a familiar, well-trodden path which hosts many people. But they’re all going the same way.

So, to try to apply the image to sinners – there are ways in which they all tend to go. There are courses and directions in life that they all tend to take – at least groups of them do. Their lives are headed in a certain direction.

Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Stand”

And how does the blessed man relate to this particularly evil course of life? You don’t stand there – metaphorically. What is it to stand – literally? This isn’t that deep – but it basically means that you’re there. There’s this course of life that’s pursued by sinners. And there you are – taking it in, observing it, putting yourself right in the midst of the action, expressing curiosity and interest in it. How likely is it that one of them will call you to follow him? And if that happens, how likely is it that you’ll refuse – that you’ll be able to turn away from their influence? I mean, you’re already standing right there. I mean, why would you be standing there if you weren’t slightly interested in following that way of life?

But the blessed man doesn’t stand there. He keeps his distance from the course of life that sinners are characterized as taking. He doesn’t flirt with it. He can have mercy on some, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh, as James says in the New Testament. But he’s not flirting with the lifestyle of those to whom he’s trying to minister.

Well, what else does the blessed man avoid? He doesn’t sit in the seat of the scornful.

Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Seat”

Let’s deal with the word translated as “seat” here first. This word can definitely mean “seat” as in a chair or place where one physically sits down. It can also speak of the site or location or position of something like a city. Or it could speak of the dwelling place of a person.

Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Sit”

I think it’s the last of those meanings that’s particularly in view here. We’re given an image of the place where a certain group of individuals dwell. One reason I think that is because the word “sit” can mean “dwell”.

Genesis 13 speaks of Abraham and Lot not being able fit in the land while they were “sitting” together. In that context, it simply means that Abraham and Lot were dwelling in the same area in close proximity.

Or Genesis 4:20 where a man is said to be the father of all those who “sit” in tents. Of course, that’s just saying that they dwell in tents. Tents are the place where they live.

Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Scornful”

Well – back to Psalm 1 – what’s the real issue with these places where certain people are viewed as dwelling? The problem is the actual people dwelling in those places. These men are described as scornful. What does that mean?

The NET Bible gives a helpful overview of this kind of man. It says that these are “…arrogant individuals (Prov 21:24) who love conflict (Prov 22:10) and vociferously reject wisdom and correction (Prov 1:22; 9:7–8; 13:1; 15:12).” Do you know anyone like that? I do!

Now, picture what the dwelling place of a man like that is like – or a group of these men living in close proximity. It seems that often when the psalms speak of a home atmosphere, they illicit feelings of comfort, of belonging, of protection. But in a gathering place of scorners, you wouldn’t have that. You would have strife and all the calamities that attach themselves to an utter rejection of wisdom and godly living.

A blessed man has no interest in surrounding himself with the likes of these folks. He wouldn’t want to pitch his tent in the camp of these characters, either literally or metaphorically.

Psalm 1 1 Meaning: Summary

So, to summarize Psalm 1:1 – the blessed man takes no pleasure and has no interest in the advice, or the lifestyles, or the atmospheres permeated and created by people who are guilty before the Lord because of their sin, who rather than seek God’s forgiveness, they gather themselves together to actually shamelessly celebrate their rejection of God and his wisdom.

Back to our Psalm 1 Commentary.

Psalm 1 Genre

Psalm 1 Genre: Psalm 1 is a reflective or meditative psalm. Here’s what that means.

Psalm 1 Genre: Not a Lament Psalm

This isn’t a psalm where you’re going to see the psalmist working through some crisis in his life. Neither are you going to see a catalog of praiseworthy attributes of the Lord.

Psalm 1 Genre: A Meditation

Psalm 1 is simply a meditation. It’s the psalmist thinking through something and expressing his thoughts and feelings for us to read. And since it’s inspired perfect Scripture, it gives us a model of how we ought to think about whatever topic it’s speaking of.

Psalm 1 Genre: Back to Psalm 1

Let’s go back to our Psalm 1 Commentary.

Psalm 1 Commentary

Psalm 1 Commentary: (See the type of psalm Psalm 1 is at our Psalm 1 Genre article.)

Psalm 1 Commentary: Topic & Theme

So, what is Psalm 1 talking about?

Psalm 1 is about the blessings of the righteous. And that blessing is contrasted with the unenviable end of the wicked – judgment. So a fuller statement of what Psalm 1 is about could be this: “The Righteous are Blessed and the Wicked are Judged.”

Psalm 1 Commentary: Relevant Today

Is this message needed today? How often do the righteous face discouragement – because it seems like this isn’t the case? The righteous are often put at a disadvantage. We’re slandered. We find ourselves in this nation in the midst of an apparent cultural shift where biblical values and norms are no longer valued or considered normal. We’re now the outcasts. And it’s actually the wicked – those who don’t think like God – they’re the ones who seem to be prospering.

So, a message like we have in Psalm 1 is needed for us today. We need to allow the Scripture to renew our mind about the true state of the righteous and the wicked.

And what is that true state? Blessing for the righteous. Judgment for the wicked.

Psalm 1 Commentary:  Why it was Written

We could talk about the underlying or implied situation that called for the writing of this psalm. But I think it probably isn’t much more than the psalmist considering how truly blessed he was, by God’s grace, and contrasting that with those who didn’t love the Lord.

Psalm 1 Commentary: Structure

As for the structure of this psalm, it doesn’t follow a lament or praise pattern. Its pattern is pretty unique, actually. Its structure is based on several contrasts between the godly and the wicked.

Psalm 1 Commentary: Verse 1 Contrasted with Verse 2

The first two verses serve as a contrast. Psalm 1:1 – the man is blessed who doesn’t do those things listed there. Psalm 1:2 – in contrast to those who would participate in those evil things – this man’s delight is somewhere else.

Psalm 1 Commentary: Verse 3 Contrasted with Verse 4

Next two verses are also a contrast. Psalm 1:3. The blessed righteous man is like a healthy tree. In contrast – Psalm 1:4 – the wicked are like vegetation alright – but vegetation that’s dead, dried up, and blowing away.

Psalm 1 Commentary: Verse 5 Contrasted with Verse 6

And so the last two verses contrast the final end of these two types of people. The wicked – Psalm 1:5 will be judged and found to be guilty. In contrast – Psalm 1:6 – God is personally acquainted and familiar with the way of the righteous. And so, the implied idea is that the righteous won’t meet the fate of the wicked.

So, that’s the structure. It’s three sets of two verses each contrasting the righteous and the wicked.

Psalm 1 Commentary: Verse-by-Verse Exposition

And with those considerations in our minds we can proceed to investigate the poetic texture of Psalm 1 – which mainly consists of interpreting the images painted for us.

Psalm 1 1 Meaning

Psalm 1 2 Commentary

Psalm 1 3 Meaning

Psalm 1 Commentary: Verse 4

But what about the kind of man whose activities we saw in Psalm 1:1? You know – following ungodly counsel, enamored with godless lifestyles, associating himself with godless individuals. What’s his life really like?

Psalm 1:3-4 contrasts two images – both from nature and agriculture. On the one hand – Psalm 1:3 – a firm healthy, growing tree. Bearing fruit. Not withering. Succeeding!

On the other hand – Psalm 1:4… chaff. When you think of chaff, do you think of permanence? No, chaff is just the stuff on the outside of the kernel of wheat, right? It flakes off of the wheat kernel and – as we’re told in Psalm 1:4 – the wind blows it away. So, it’s not permanent. It’s not grounded. It’s not planted like the tree was. Does chaff bear any fruit? Do you get apples from chaff? Or grapes from chaff?

Is chaff good for anything? Is it productive? No. All you can do with chaff is get rid of it from the threshing floor. And that’s the picture we have of the ungodly. Their lives bear no fruit for the Lord. They’re useless for his purposes and plans in this world.

Psalm 1 5 Commentary

Psalm 1 6 Commentary

Psalm 1 Commentary: The Choice is Yours

And until that day, we’re all confronted with choices. I think the very structure of this psalm even leads us to think this way. You have Psalm 1:1 – you could choose the way of the godless, but Psalm 1:2 – a godly man doesn’t. Psalm 1:3 – you could have a life characterized by the kind of success that really matters or Psalm 1:4 – you could be inconsequential in God’s eyes by leading a godless rebellious life. Psalm 1:5 – you know how the godless will turn out – you don’t want that, do you? On the other hand, Psalm 1:6 – the righteous are intimately known by the Lord. But the wicked will be destroyed.

It’s your choice. Blessing? Or destruction?

And every single one of us were in the latter group once. We were guilty before God. Rejecting wisdom and happy with our sin. And the Lord drew us to himself. We believed. And God changed things, didn’t he? Would you say that that’s a blessing? You might not characterize your life as blessed. But are you thinking about it the way that God does? Would you ponder the blessings that God gives to those who are righteous by his grace? Would you consider the alternative?

I trust we can give to God a portion of the praise that’s due him as we’ve reflected on the Blessing of the Righteous.

Praise Psalm Overview (Psalm 33)

Today we’ll be starting into a new type of psalm – the praise psalm. We’ve studied five lament psalms so far (Psalm 3, 4, 5, 7, and 10). And we covered only about 1/10th of all the psalms in that genre. So hopefully now when you come across the other 9/10ths of those psalms you’ll be better equipped to interpret them and understand them.

Now, we’re on to the next highest represented type of psalm in the Psalter. That is the “praise” psalm.

Here’s what happens in a praise psalm. Very basically, the psalmist exhorts others to praise the Lord. And then he goes into the reasons for why they should do just that.

That’s it.

But, what is it to “praise” the Lord?

Well, that English word “praise” is related to the word “appraise.” When you appraise something, you assess its value. And when someone appraises something extremely valuable and that person knows what to look for, that appraiser won’t be able to help extolling or speaking highly of that thing.

And that’s just what we have going on in the praise psalms. The psalmist estimates God’s true worth and not only speaks highly of the Lord himself, but also exhorts others to do so.

How to Study Praise Psalms

Now, we still do a lot of the same things with praise psalms that we did with lament psalms. So we still look for what genre it is. We still try to discover the underlying or implied situation that brought about the writing of the psalm. We look for the topic and theme of praise psalms. We study and try to unpack their poetic texture – the images that they paint in our minds.

The Structure of Praise Psalms

But there’s one significant difference between how we treat praise psalms as distinguished from lament psalms. The structure is different between the two types of psalms. So, the lament psalms had how many elements in their structure? Five, typically. Well, praise psalms only have three elements to their structure. So, let’s focus on those three elements for a while.

What we’re going to be doing is looking at a few different praise psalms and seeing each of the three elements of the structure in each one.

The Call to Praise in Praise Psalms

Psalm 66:1-3

Let’s look at Psalm 66:1-3.

So, what do we see here? This is actually the first element of a praise psalm that we’ll cover. It’s the Call to Praise. And in the call to praise, the psalmist really commands that God be praised.

In Psalm 66, who’s called to praise the Lord? “All ye lands”. Everywhere. Every land is to praise God – to speak highly of him – to estimate his worth accurately.

What’s the mode of this praise? How is this praise to be carried out? By “making a joyful noise”. By singing. By making his praise glorious. Even by speaking unto God.

And that’s basically what we see in this initial call to praise in the praise psalms:

  1. The command to praise the Lord.
  2. The people to whom the command is given.
  3. The mode of their praise.

Alright? Not too hard.

Psalm 96:1-3

So, we’ll continue on and look at the call to praise in another praise psalm – Psalm 96:1-3.

So, who’s being commanded to praise the Lord here? All the earth.

And what’s their mode of praise? How are they to speak highly of his worth? By singing a new song. Blessing his name. Shewing forth his salvation. Declaring his glory and his wonders.

Psalm 103:1-2

Let’s go to Psalm 103 and look at the call to praise there inPsalm 103:1-2.

Who’s commanded to praise? In this case the psalmist is commanding himself to praise the Lord. His soul and all that’s in him is being called on to speak highly of God’s value.

The mode of praise? Blessing the Lord and his holy name. And not forgetting all the good he’s done for the psalmist.

Psalm 146:1-2

And lastly, let’s consider Psalm 146:1-2.

The psalmist is again exhorting his own soul to praise the Lord. But he also commands others to do this – probably whomever is reading this psalm.

And how is the Lord to be praised? In particular, by singing.

Summary of the Call to Praise

So, when you come across a praise psalm, you first look for the call to praise. And what you’re going to find in the call to praise is:

  1. The command to praise the Lord.
  2. The people who are commanded to praise the Lord.
  3. The mode by which the Lord is to be praised.

The Actual Praise in Praise Psalms

OK, now on to the second part of a praise psalm. And there’s a name for this part. Ready?

It’s “The Actual Praise”.

We had the Call to Praise. Now secondly we have the Actual Praise. And often this section is simply a catalog of reasons why the Lord is worthy of praise.

Call to Praise in Psalm 33:1-3

Look at Psalm 33. So, we start out with Psalm 33:1-3 being the Call to Praise. This is where the righteous are commanded to rejoice and praise and sing and play in praising the Lord. They’re to use the harp and psaltery and instrument of ten strings.

Actual Praise in Psalm 33:4-9

Then we get in to the Actual Praise in Psalm 33:4-19. Again, this is where we’re given reasons to praise the Lord. So, why praise the Lord?

Righteous Words and Works (Psalm 33:4-5)

Psalm 33:4-5 – very broadly, all his words and works are righteous. They’re right. They’re true. And these two verses serve as an umbrella for the rest of God’s praiseworthy works and his word.

God’s Work of Creation (Psalm 33:6-9)

In Psalm 33:6-9 we’re to praise the Lord because of his act/work of creation.

Now, Psalm 33:6-7 make it sound so easy. The Lord’s awesome act of creating the entire universe is pictured as really no big deal to him. He simply spoke and everything happened. Can you do that? I know I can’t. That’s awesome. That’s praiseworthy. And when he put all the waters of the sea together, it was as difficult to him and it is for you and me to pile a bunch of stuff into a heap. The tremendous depth of the ocean waters are to God like a storehouse. He can just toss the water right into those storehouses. No big deal for God. Again, that’s awesome. That’s praiseworthy.

God, His People, and the Nations (Psalm 33:10-12)

Need some more reason to praise the Lord? How about Psalm 33:10-12 where God’s relation to all the nations of the world in Old Testament times is contrasted with his relationship with Israel.

The counsel of the heathen nations – their best advice that they can give to and receive from themselves – God frustrates it. Their plans he brings to nothing – because so much of it is against him. That’s Psalm 33:10. In contrast – Psalm 33:11 – the counsel that God gives – his advice – it will stand forever. It’s perfect. It will lead you right. And that’s why – Psalm 33:12 – the nation whom God chose for himself – the one which can get counsel directly from God – which God himself is guiding with his infallible counsel – Israel, not America in this context – that nation is supremely blessed. That people over any other has the obligation to praise the Lord.

God Knows Everything (Psalm 33:13-15)

But the psalmist doesn’t stop there. He gives us yet more reason to praise the Lord.

God created everything with great ease.

He chose Israel to be his people and to give them his perfect counsel.

And next in Psalm 33:13-15 he is omniscient. He knows everything.

Notice the references to God looking and beholding and considering. The Lord alone sees and knows everything – even men’s hearts. I can’t do that! Can you? The Lord is worthy of praise.

The Lord Alone Can Deliver (Psalm 33:16-19)

So, God’s all-powerful. He created everything. And yet he chose one nation to be his people. He’s all-knowing. And now, we’re reminded that he’s the only one who can deliver from danger in Psalm 33:16-19.

So, not even a king will be saved by his army, ultimately. A strong guy’s strength won’t be enough to deliver him. You can’t trust horses to save you. That’s according to Psalm 33:16-17. Well, then what can save a man? Psalm 33:18-19. If God has you in his sights to do good to you and deliver you, you’re invincible. Not even famine will get that kind of person.

And then the rest of the psalm is the last part of a praise psalm – the conclusion. We’ll get to that in a little bit.

Call to Praise in Psalm 47:1

Let’s turn to Psalm 47. This is another praise psalm. Psalm 47:1 is the call to praise. All peoples are commanded to praise the Lord by clapping their hands and shouting with joy.

Actual Praise in Psalm 47:2-7

Then Psalm 47:2 – “For” – there’s that transition where now the psalmist is going to justify his command to praise the Lord in Psalm 47:2-7.

God’s Sovereignty and Choosing Israel (Psalm 47:2-5)

And the reasons this psalm gives to justify our praising the Lord are – God’s sovereign rule over the whole earth AND God’s choosing Israel out of all the nations to be his people in Psalm 47:2-5.

A Second Call to Praise in Psalm 47:6

Then we see something interesting. There’s something of an interlude where the psalmist again commands that the Lord be praised in Psalm 47:6.

Actual Praise in Psalm 47:7

Then look at the first word of Psalm 47:7. Again, “for” – and the psalmist gives more reason to praise the Lord. God is king over all the earth. We should sing praises to him with a skillful psalm.

Psalm 47 continues but we’ll leave it at that for now.

Psalm 65:1-4 is Not a Call to Praise!

Then we have Psalm 65. Now, Psalm 65 is identified by the literary scholar Leland Ryken as a praise psalm. And at first I was confused. Because if you read Psalm 65:1-4 you don’t see the typical call to praise.

As you read Psalm 65:1-4 you might say to yourself, Wait! Where’s the call to praise?… You know what? It’s not here like we’ve seen it in other psalms. The psalm starts off by confessing that God will be praised. But no one is being commanded to praise God. So, what’s the deal? Why would we call this a praise psalm?

This is the conclusion I came to.

First, I realize a little better how the psalms were made. A psalmist would want to communicate some truth about God in a beautiful form and style. And he would be familiar with various poetic conventions or ways of expressing his feelings poetically. So, he wants to complain about something and struggle through it to reach a conclusion? Then he knows the ingredients of the lament genre of poetry. Does he want to express exalted praise to the Lord? Then he’s familiar with the ingredients that make up a praise psalm and he’d use those ingredients as he wished. Perhaps he didn’t feel the need to command anyone to praise the Lord in this particular psalm. And so, he could leave that out.

It’s like if you’re making cookies. You can leave the chocolate chips out. I mean, why eat a cookie if it doesn’t have chocolate chips – so maybe that’s not the best illustration. But hey – a cookie is a cookie whether it has chocolate chips or not. It’s still a cookie. And likewise, a praise psalm without a call to praise is still a praise psalm. Because as we look at the rest of Psalm 65 we’ll see praise happening. The praise itself – to return to our cookie illustration – would be like the flour. Without flour, a cookie is… well, not really a cookie. Maybe you can make it look like a cookie. But it’s just a wad of butter and sugar and baking soda or powder or whatever. Likewise, without the actual praise, a praise psalm is still a psalm, but not a praise psalm. So, then, a praise psalm might lack the call to praise. But it will certainly include the actual praise.

Actual Praise in Psalm 65:5-8

And that’s what we see in Psalm 65:5-8. God is praised in those verses for:

  1. Creating the earth.
  2. Subduing nature.
  3. Subduing mankind.

And then through to the end of Psalm 65 we’re given more reason to praise the Lord.

I can’t find a conclusion in this psalm, but again, this psalm doesn’t follow the three-part pattern that’s typical – or at least possible – with praise psalms.

Actual Praise in Psalm 65:9-13

So, in Psalm 65:9-13 God is praised for blessing his human creation with abundance from the earth he created for us.

Maybe Psalm 65:13 explains why there isn’t a call to praise. It’s because God in this psalm is pictured as being so profuse and abundant in his material blessings that perhaps creatures don’t even need to be reminded to praise him. They’re already pictured as praising their abundant and loving provider.

The Concluding Resolution in Praise Psalms

Well, at this point we should probably get to the last ingredient of a praise psalm.

I like that term better than element. Ingredient!

So, the last ingredient that we tend to find in praise psalms is basically just a conclusion or a concluding resolution. Based on all we’ve been told in whatever praise psalm we read, the last bit of the psalm typically ends with a concluding resolution that puts finality or closure on the psalm. It’s often a brief prayer or wish. So, let’s see it in its natural habitat.

Call to Praise in Psalm 30:1

Psalm 30 starts with a very brief call to praise. Only – the psalmist isn’t commanding anyone to praise God in Psalm 30:1.

Actual Praise in Psalm 30:1-3

Then notice the transition to the reasons why the psalmist will praise God. Continuing in Psalm 30:1-3. Here the psalmist is praising God because of some personal deliverance that he received from the Lord.

Second Call to Praise in Psalm 30:4

Then we have another call to praise in Psalm 30:4.

Actual Praise in Psalm 30:5-12

And then for the rest of the psalm, we’re given reasons to praise God – namely, he delivers his people from the darkest most dangerous situations in their lives.

So then, this whole psalm deals not so much with God’s attributes – like some praise psalms do – but rather it deals with God’s acts. And in this case, they’re acts in the personal life of the psalmist in the area of delivering him from danger.

Concluding Resolution in Psalm 30:12

But remember, we’re looking for the conclusion to the psalm. Ready for it? Here it is. Last line of Psalm 30:12. That’s it. Simple. “I’ll give you thanks forever.”

Concluding Resolution in Psalm 30:20-22

Let’s return to Psalm 33. We stopped previously at Psalm 30:19. And remember that we saw several praiseworthy things about God. He is the creator. He chose Israel. He knows everything. And he alone is able to deliver anyone from death.

And so in light of all these truths, the psalmist gives his reaction in Psalm 30:20-22.

What then is the psalmist’s conclusion? Based on all that we saw of the Lord’s acts and attributes in Psalm 33, we can put our trust in him – Psalm 30:21 – we rejoice in him because we trust in him.

We could find the conclusion in all sorts of different psalms, but I think we’ll leave it there for now.

And this is how to interpret a praise psalm.

Psalm 10 Commentary

In this Psalm 10 commentary I’d like to give you a demonstration of how I go about preparing a message in the psalms using Psalm 10 as an example. It’s a lesson on how to interpret Hebrew poetry. And the idea is that hopefully you’ll pick up on some of the advice I give and be able to apply it to your own time in the Bible. So, may the Lord grant that this be the result of today’s lesson.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Genre

To begin, what type of psalm are we looking at here? It’s a lament psalm. And in fact this is the last lament psalm I plan to cover for a while. So, as we move on to some other type of psalm next time – I want to gauge how well you can identify this kind of psalm. How do you know if a psalm is a lament psalm?

Well, what’s another name for a lament psalm? We can call them “complain psalms”. Why is that? It’s because the author of the psalm – the poet – is complaining about something in the psalm.

Not all psalms have complaints in them. I know it’s hard to believe that – since about 1/3 of the Psalter is lament psalms. But really, there are other kinds. Like praise psalms, nature psalms, worship psalms, etc.

So, really, the first question you need to ask yourself when you come across a psalm – if you really want to try to understand it better – is this: “is the psalmist complaining about something or someone?”

We’ve seen the psalmist complain about his adversaries increasing. He’s complained about a drought and the faithless reaction that some Israelites were having to that test of faith from the Lord. He’s complained of evil men slandering him. He’s even subtly – or not so subtly – complained that God seems to be aloof or asleep and in need of being roused!

So, what’s the first thing to note about a psalm when you start reading it? “Is there a complaint?” If there isn’t, then you simply have to wait until our next lesson when we start studying the next sub-genre of psalm. Or you can just read it and ask the Lord to illumine the message to you. That’s a better idea, actually.

And let’s just ask ourselves whether there’s a complaint in the psalm we’re looking at today – Psalm 10. Is David complaining about something?

Yes. I mean, from the very first line we have the psalmist complaining that God seems so aloof in times of trouble. And as we keep reading we see his lengthy complaint about wicked men and such. So, yes, in Psalm 10 we see a complaint. Therefore it’s a lament psalm. The psalmist is lamenting something here.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Structure

And so – if there is a complaint – then we start to look at the structure of the psalm. Because we know that there are how many basic parts of the structure of a lament psalm? 5!

Now, praise, nature, and worship psalms each have their own structure. Their structure is different from the structure of a lament psalm.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Lament

So, we try to find the elements that make up the structure of Psalm 10. And I’d recommend starting off by looking for the lament itself. The lament is usually a detailed focused running commentary on the problem that the psalmist is complaining about.

So, let’s try to find the lament. Is it in Psalm 10:1? Well, no. Certainly the feeling that God is hiding in your time of trouble is something to lament. But it’s not the main focus of this psalm. There’s something else happening that makes the psalmist feel as though God were hiding.

So, let’s look at Psalm 10:2. Ah, this is more promising. The psalmist directs his focus toward “evil men”. We find the psalmists often complaining about these men. Their actions and words are the things that seem to make God seem so distant from the psalmist. They act wickedly with impunity – they get away with it. And so, yes, Psalm 10:2 is in fact the beginning of the lament of Psalm 10. And this particular lament doesn’t end until Psalm 10:11. So, from Psalm 10:2-11 we have the main complaint of the psalm. So, you can mark that off your list of structural elements to look for. 1 of 5.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Petition

The next structural element that I’d suggest looking for is the petition.

Remember – these elements can come in any order. And they can actually appear a few times in one psalm.

The petition in Psalm 10 demonstrates that an element can appear more than once. Look at Psalm 10:12. That’s clearly a petition. The psalmist is asking God to arise.

But then he doesn’t ask for anything in Psalm 10:13-14.

And then he comes right back to petitioning in Psalm 10:15. He asks that the Lord break the arm of the wicked. And then we don’t hear another request from the psalmist again in this psalm.

So, then, what verses represent the petition of this psalm? I’d Psalm 10:12 and Psalm 10:15. It doesn’t necessarily include the verses between – since the psalmist isn’t asking for anything in them.

OK, so that’s the second of five elements of the structure of this psalm.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Confidence

Now – the author of a lament psalm doesn’t simply complain and make requests. He also is almost always sure to express confidence in the Lord. So, let’s look for the author’s statement of confidence.

Psalm 10:1 certainly can’t be classified as confidence. Then Psalm 10:2-12 and Psalm 10:15 are already subsumed under another element of the structure. So, that leaves us Psalm 10:13-14 and Psalm 10:16-18.

I’m going to contend that Psalm 10:13-14 and Psalm 10:16 are all the psalmist’s statement of confidence in the Lord. And that makes for an interesting pattern. Psalm 10:12 is petition. Psalm 10:13-14 – confidence – the wicked think they’re getting away with murder, but we know better. God will defend the defenseless. Then Psalm 10:15 – petition again. Psalm 10:16 – confidence – the Lord is king! So, the psalmist alternates between requests and confidence in the God to whom he’s making those requests.

Alright, so that’s the third of five structural elements in this psalm. The last two aren’t too difficult – because they’re the bookends of this psalm – Psalm 10:1 and Psalm 10:17-18.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Invocation

I would consider Psalm 10:1 to be the invocation, where the psalmist calls out to the Lord.

And in this case it sounds almost like the psalmist is accusing God. He’s getting into Job territory here. And again that leads me to think of how patient and merciful the Lord is to his small, puny, needy creatures. He mercifully bears with his people as the perplexities of life lead us to wonder if God is even listening.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Praise

But what a change we experience in this psalm. We start with the psalmist wondering why God seems to be hiding himself in Psalm 10:1. And we end with the praise section in Psalm 10:17-18.

And that makes a lot of sense. Because lament psalms are ultimately the psalmist working toward mastering some crisis in his life.

Then it should come as no surprise that Psalm 10 goes from perplexity at God’s felt-absence … to praise for God helping the author through his crisis.

So, those are the last two elements of the structure of a lament psalm – invocation and praise.

And now we’ve just worked through the structure of this psalm. Do you think you can do something similar in your personal time in the Scripture? You don’t need to. But it would probably help you understand what the psalm is saying.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Underlying Situation

OK, so, with the structure of the psalm determined we move on to the underlying situation of the psalm.

Keep in mind that there’s a reason for each psalm. The author was moved to write his psalm by some situation or thought in his life.

So, how do you figure out the underlying situation of a psalm?

First, you look to see if there’s a superscription. And in this psalm there is none. So, we need to inspect the rest of the psalm and look for clues.

And if you take the time to read through the psalm, I think what emerges is a picture of oppression. Wicked, powerful men are oppressing and persecuting the poor, needy, humble, innocent people in the psalmist’s culture. These wicked men have absolutely no fear of God. They oppress the poor and get away with it. And because they keep getting away with their injustices, they come to have a great amount of confidence in their belief that God isn’t aware of what they’re doing. They’ve actually convinced themselves that God won’t punish them for their evil.

And meanwhile, the psalmist – whomever he may be: it might be David or someone else – he looks on in bewilderment. He knows that God is just. And yet God is allowing this injustice to continue. Why isn’t he responding? Why isn’t he judging the wicked and delivering the innocent?

So, these are the concerns on the psalmist’s heart that led him to write Psalm 10. Wicked men oppressing the innocent. And God’s seeming inaction in light of this reality.

See? You could probably come up with something like that.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Topic

So, after we get the underlying situation of the psalm, we try to summarize it. Is there a single word that summarizes the realities expressed by the psalmist? We call this the psalm’s “topic”.

So, what is the psalmist musing on in this psalm? I would say it’s “oppression.” And you can test this by relating the topic to each of the five elements of the structure of this psalm.

So, in the 1) lament, the psalmist mulls over the oppression that he’s seeing all around him. His 2) petition is for the Lord to end the oppression of the wicked. His 3) confidence is that God will end this oppression. The 4) invocation at the beginning expresses the psalmist’s grave concern at what he perceived to be God’s initial reticence to end the oppression. And 5) the praise at the end of the psalm actually ends with these words – “that the man of the earth may no more [what?…] oppress.” Do you see how this topic of oppression relates to each of the five structural elements? So, that’s the topic of Psalm 10.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Theme

Next, we consider the theme of the psalm. The theme is what the psalmist says about the topic of the psalm.

And the topic of Psalm 10 is “oppression.” So, what does the psalmist say about oppression? Well, a few things.

The wicked practice oppression without fear. The innocent are the unhappy recipients of it. And ultimately God will end it.

So, to boil that down, we could say that the theme is: God will end the oppression of the wicked against the innocent. Or – to be more terse – God Will End Oppression.

So, by now we’ve discovered the genre of this psalm. We’ve delineated its structure. We’ve dug into the reason why it was written – the psalm’s underlying situation. And we’ve found the psalm’s topic and theme.

Psalm 10 Commentary

The only thing left to do is to take note of the poetic devices in the psalm. And actually, that might be the most time-consuming task there is. So, let’s get into the details of this psalm.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 1

Let’s look at the invocation again in Psalm 10:1.

We’re looking for poetic devices. Things like metaphor, simile would be most likely to find in the psalms. Anthropomorphism is also pretty common. That’s where the psalmist attributes to God human qualities.

So, notice Psalm 10:1 – the psalmist asks God why he stands at a distance. First of all, does God physically stand? God the Father – the being who has no physical form: he’s a spirit – does he physically stand? No, he doesn’t. That’s an anthropomorphism.

And later in the verse – does God really hide himself? Physically literally does he hide himself? Is there a rock that’s big enough for him to hide behind, for example? No. God doesn’t literally physically hide.

If you try to read Psalm 10:1 here as if you were reading a narrative in the Bible you’re left with a very strange picture. And that’s the clue that it’s not meant to be taken literally. But – and pay attention to this – that doesn’t mean that what’s being said isn’t true. The statements being made may not be literal. But they are communicating real meaning. So, what are these pictures communicating?

Imagine that there’s some sort of trouble. You need help and so do those around you. And now imagine someone standing afar off from you – someone who has the power to help you. And this person ought to draw near and help. But instead, in your imagination, this man is actually hiding himself from you.

What kind of emotions does that elicit from you? Fear? Helplessness? Frustration? Anger? I think those are the emotions the psalmist is trying to communicate. He’s afraid. He feels helpless, forsaken. “Why is God not answering?” Where is he? Why won’t he come to our aid?

OK? Do you follow? When we come across something in poetry that doesn’t make literal sense, we need to recognize what it’s actually communicating. And this doesn’t just throw the door open to all sorts of strange interpretations. I mean, I’m not going to be able to say that these pictures the psalmist uses in Psalm 10:1 mean that God is a purple dragon. I wouldn’t be able to say that this anthropomorphism communicates that God likes pizza. The images themselves carry specific meanings. And it’s our job to interpret those meanings and then apply them to God. And that’s what we just did.

Now, one more thing in Psalm 10:1. One unmistakable feature of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. There are two lines in Psalm 10:1. And in this case they both basically communicate the same point. So, we’d call that synonymous parallelism. Standing afar off and hiding oneself are two ways of saying the same thing. Why did the Hebrew poet use parallelism? Well, one benefit of the practice is that it forces you to stop and meditate on what he’s communicating. Since the Scripture places some level of importance on meditation, it makes sense that the authors use repetition like this to kind of slow you down and make you stop and really think about what he’s saying.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verses 2-11

Alright, let’s move on to Psalm 10:2-11 and try to find some other poetic devices and try to unwrap and understand them.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 2

In Psalm 10:2 we have another form of parallelism. Only this time it’s not synonymous. The two lines aren’t communicating the same idea. In this case, the second line is simply adding more information to the first.

But other than that, Psalm 10:2 seems to be pretty literal. The wicked really do persecute the poor. Not too much interpretation to do there.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 3

Psalm 10:3 – the wicked boast of the things his heart desires. He blesses covetous people – the very people whom the Lord hates. Again, nothing that stands out as metaphorical.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 4

Psalm 10:4 – God’s not in his thoughts. He is too proud to seek after God.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verses 5-6

Then Psalm 10:5. His ways are always grievous. Do you suppose the wicked ever did a good thing? Or I can ask it like this. Do evil people always do everything they do as wickedly as possible? Whenever we talk about the depravity of man, we always find ourselves needing to explain that even though man is totally depraved, that doesn’t mean he can’t do any good. Wicked men go to work. They provide for their family. They pay taxes. At the very least, every time they pass by a baby in a stroller, they don’t sneer at him. When they’re walking down the road and a dog passes by, they don’t always in every instance take the time to kick the dog.

What’s my point? My point is that literally it may well be the case that every single way of the wicked is not necessarily grievous. And yet, that doesn’t nullify the truth communicated in Psalm 10:5. The lament section of lament psalms is often exaggerated. Why? Because it’s not necessarily conveying literal physical facts. The psalmist is communicating emotional truth to us. He wants us to feel how evil the wicked truly are. He’s not lying to us. He wants you and me to feel the very grave evil that these men embody. And so he sometimes will use hyperbole – emotional truth – that if it were taken as literal facts would not be true.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 7

Now, look at Psalm 10:7. Is mischief and vanity really literally physically under his tongue? I’m sounding like a broken record. But I’m just trying to demonstrate the very thoughts I need to work through as I prepare a message from these psalms for my church every week.

So, no, these abstract things – mischief, vanity – they’re not literally under the tongue of the wicked. But what Psalm 10:7 communicates to us is the extreme degree to which these men use their words to do harm. It’s as if they have mouths that are so full with fraud and cursing that it’s just spilling out of them.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 8

Then Psalm 10:8. The wicked is pictured as a dangerous wild beast that lurks for its prey.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 9

Psalm 10:9 – he’s like a lion who drags his prey away. End of Psalm 10:9 – the wicked now is likened to a human hunter who catches his prey in his net.

What does this communicate? It communicates the strength and subtlety and cunning of the wicked. It communicates the helplessness and weakness and vulnerability of the innocent victims whom he’s oppressing.

Let me point out one other feature in this lament.

Notice what the wicked is pictured as saying in Psalm 10:6. And this is a picture – because the psalmist tells us that this is something said only in the heart of the wicked – he says “I won’t be moved. I’ll never see adversity.”

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verses 10-11

And then look down to Psalm 10:11. Someone again is saying something in his heart. Who is it this time? Some think the wicked. But I think it could be a reference back to the poor in Psalm 10:10. The poor are now saying “God’s not paying attention to this evil. He’s hiding. He won’t see.” When wicked men are allowed to have their way this is what happens – the wicked themselves feel like they’re literally getting away with murder. And the oppressed ones feel like God doesn’t care. In both cases, both parties are feeling less and less like God is how he declares himself to be – the one who has eyes that go to and fro throughout the earth beholding the evil and the good.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verses 12-16

Let’s move on past the lament of this psalm and on to the repeated petition and confidence in Psalm 10:12-16.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 12

Again, in Psalm 10:12, we see anthropomorphism. God is requested to arise and if he’s sitting down and inactive. And he’s asked to lift his hand as if he has a physical body like you and me. In both cases, the psalmist is simply asking the Lord to act. Stand up. Raise your hand to strike the wicked. Then he’s asked to not forget the humble – as if God can ever forget anything.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 13

Psalm 10:13 is an example of where the poetic device of parallelism can help understand a text. Do you know what “contemn” means? I can safely say that I’ve never used that word. So, what does it mean?

Look at the second line in Psalm 10:13. This is what it looks like for the wicked to do this thing to God. He speaks to God in a condescending tone and says basically “you’re not going to punish me.” So then – and you could have looked this up in a dictionary I guess – but contemn means something like “think little of” or “to not be concerned about”. Basically, “Eh, God? Big deal. He’s going to punish me? Psh – I haven’t experienced that yet from him.”

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 14

But he doesn’t know the truth of Psalm 10:14. The Lord has seen it. He’s going to pay back the wicked and take vengeance for the most vulnerable in society who are being mistreated. It’s not only the poor and fatherless that receive God’s help. It’s just that they’re representative of the most vulnerable and helpless in society. And it’s those kind of folks that the Lord helps.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 15

Psalm 10:15 – the psalmist asks the Lord to break people’s arm. Wow! Again, is that what he’s literally asking the Lord to do – to physically break one of the arms of every wicked person who oppresses the innocent? And if not, then what is he communicating? The arm is a symbol of strength. So then, the psalmist is asking the Lord to undo the strength that the wicked have which they’re using to oppress the innocent.

The end of Psalm 10:15 is interesting. I don’t know if you’d call it a play on words or just a recurring theme. But here the psalmist asks the Lord to SEEK OUT the wickedness of the wicked. Back in Psalm 10:13, the wicked literally says “you (Lord) will not SEEK”. And back in Psalm 10:4, the wicked will not SEEK God.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 16

Then there’s a metaphor in Psalm 10:16. The Lord is king. He has power. He has authority. He will banish evil men from his domain – just like a real physical king could.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Verse 17

Psalm 10:17 says that God’s ear will hear. Does God have an ear? It doesn’t matter in poetry. God hears even without a literal physical ear.

And the result of God’s actions? End of the psalm – that the man of the earth – the earthly puny weak little man – which is what the wicked ultimately are anyway – that they may no more oppress.

Psalm 10 Commentary
Summary

So, there’s a lesson in interpreting a lament psalm. And along the way I hope we were all encouraged that God Will End Oppression. So take these tools home. Practice with them. And let me know how they work for you.

Psalm 7 Commentary

Psalm 7: The tongue is a fire. It’s the very world of iniquity. With the tongue, men simultaneously bless God and curse those made in his image. The tongue is out of control. Even powerful things like ships and horses can be tamed and directed. But no one can tame the tongue. This is what the book of James in the New Testament teaches us.

And so it’s no surprise that the psalmist is experiencing what’s he’s experiencing in Psalm 7 here. David is being slandered by a particular man. And he needs the Lord to vindicate him – because he’s innocent of the charges.

So, let’s study Psalm 7.

Psalm 7 Commentary Genre

Psalm 7 is a lament psalm.

Psalm 7 Commentary Structure

This psalm displays the classic structure of a lament psalm. So, let’s find the elements of that structure.

Psalm 7 Commentary Invocation

I must say that the invocation – which is what we usually see first in lament psalms – it’s not very distinct. The psalmist calls out to God multiple times in Psalm 7. But we don’t really see a separate unit of invocation in this psalm. So, the invocation is there – all throughout the psalm. We just don’t see an extended version of it anywhere in particular.

So, we’ll move on to the next section – which is more noticeable.

Psalm 7 Commentary Petition

The petition takes up Psalm 7:1-6.

1 <Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the LORD, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite.> O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me: 2 Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver. 3 O LORD my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; 4 If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:) 5 Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah. 6 Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded.

Psalm 7:1-6

Notice how David is asking God for help. He’s petitioning the Lord in Psalm 7:1-6.

Psalm 7 Commentary Confidence

Next, David expresses his confidence in the Lord in Psalm 7:7-13.

7 So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return thou on high. 8 The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me. 9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. 10 My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart. 11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. 12 If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. 13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.

David’s confidence in the Lord stems from the fact that God is the righteous judge. And that means both that God will judge and vindicate David AND that he will judge and condemn those who oppose him.

Psalm 7 Commentary Lament

Next, in Psalm 7:14-16, we have the lament – that part of a lament psalm that gives special attention to the problem at hand. In this case, as we’ve seen before, it’s David’s enemies.

14 Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. 15 He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. 16 His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.

Psalm 7 Commentary Praise

And finally in Psalm 7:17 we have the section where the psalmist praises the Lord.

17 I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.

So, those are the five elements of a lament psalm – all found to one extent or another in Psalm 7.

And so now that we’ve been through the structure of the psalm, maybe we can figure out the underlying situation.

Psalm 7 Commentary Underlying Situation

We’re told that the situation that brought about the writing of this psalm is when a man named Cush from Benjamin said something.

Do you remember that?

If you don’t remember that, it’s OK. It’s because this man is never mentioned in the Bible. So, that knowledge isn’t a great help to us in recreating the underlying situation of this psalm.

But fortunately we have other data from the psalm itself that can help us. Psalm 7:1 has David pleading for help from the Lord to deliver him from persecutors. Psalm 7:2 tells us that this persecutor – or maybe there are more than one – they threaten to tear David apart like a lion would his prey. Psalm 7:3-5 have David swearing that he didn’t commit several acts of injustice. That makes me wonder whether this Cush fellow was slandering David. And the slander was unjustified, according to David. But the enemies weren’t just calmly slandering David. They were raging. Psalm 7:14-16 give us the idea that these men – including Cush, I suppose – were hatching sin and mischief in their hearts and the result was falsehood against David. And it was falsehood that was akin to a pit dug in the ground and hidden that would cause people to fall into it.

So, that’s the data. I think if we put it all together we have a picture like this. Cush was a man from Benjamin – a tribe from which David’s predecessor and main persecutor Saul hailed. And they showed some animosity toward David. Well, Cush and perhaps some others were slandering David. Now, remember, slander is not just unflattering speech. Slander is speech that is not true. It’s false – lies. So, David in Psalm 7 is experiencing slander. Slander that threatens to destroy David.

Psalm 7 Commentary Topic

So, let’s talk about the topic of this psalm. When you’re being slandered, what do you need? You need someone to prove those ugly rumors false. You need someone to step in and set the record straight. You need – here’s what I’d call it in one word – vindication. That’s the topic of this psalm. Vindication.

Psalm 7 Commentary Theme

And David knows that the only one who can truly vindicate him is the Lord. And he’s sure that the Lord will vindicate him because he is truly innocent of the charges leveled against him. So, here’s the theme – what the writer says about the topic of vindication – God Will Vindicate the Innocent.

Psalm 7 Commentary Details

Now, with genre, structure, underlying situation, topic, and theme laid out, we’ll deal with Psalm 7 in detail.

Psalm 7 Commentary 1-6

Let’s start back from the beginning. We’ll deal with the petition in Psalm 7:1-6.

1 <Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the LORD, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite.> O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me: 2 Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver. 3 O LORD my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; 4 If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:) 5 Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah. 6 Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded.

Psalm 7 Commentary 1

Let’s look at the superscription to the psalm first. You see that word “Shiggaion”? It occurs only one other place in the Bible – in Habbakuk. And the reference there doesn’t help us understand what this means. It’s some sort of literary or musical term. You probably have a guess at what it is if you’re carrying a study Bible with notes. But it doesn’t affect the way we interpret this psalm, so we’ll say no more.

Again, in the superscription we have the mention of this mysterious Benjamite by the name of Cush. We don’t know who he is, like I said, but I think it’s helpful to note that this psalm was written as a reaction to “the words of” this man. Again, we’re dealing with slander in this poem and the vindication which the innocent need from such slander – such words like Cush’s.

Moving from the superscription to the main part of the psalm, we see David calling out to the Lord. He trusts in the Lord to deliver him from persecution. Yes, slander can be a form of persecution. And David rehearses for the Lord why he needs his deliverance.

Psalm 7 Commentary 2

Here’s how David pictures the results of this kind of slander. David’s going to be like someone who experiences an attack by a lion.

For some reason, our two boys love watching footage of animals fighting each other – like you’d see on National Geographic. There are no lack of videos on the internet with titles like “Cobra vs. Honey Badger!” “Spider vs. Insect!” You know. And on and on. I try not to allow them to dwell on death, but at the same time I think it’s informative for them to see the effects of the fall and discuss why it is that some animals kill now after Adam sinned. At any rate, we’ve seen video of lions attacking other animals – even other lions. These beasts are incredibly strong. They will clamp their jaws down on whatever part of their pray they can and they’ll – as our psalm says – tear and rend their helpless victim. No mercy. And no one is going to come to the rescue of that poor lifeless creature that is about to become the lion’s food. [e.g., Siegfried Fischbacher]

That’s graphic. And it’s exactly the way the psalmist is picturing the effects of this man’s slander. David will be torn apart – his reputation will be rent – his livelihood and very life could be destroyed by this man’s slander. That is, unless the Lord delivers him. When a lion attacks its prey, there usually isn’t anyone to deliver. But in David’s case, he’s putting his trust in the Lord to deliver him.

Psalm 7 Commentary 3-5

Well, why could David be confident that God was going to deliver him from this man and his slander? That’s where Psalm 7:3-5 come in.

These verses serve as something like an oath. David here is testifying to his own blamelessness by cataloging ways in which he could sin that would call for God to hand him over to his enemies.

He says in Psalm 7:3 “O Lord my God, if I have done this…” Done what? Well, the things he lists out in the next several sentences. And these things actually could be what Cush is accusing David of. Having iniquity in his hand. Rewarding evil to someone who is at peace with David. If David has done those kind of things, then he’s openly confessing that he’d be worthy of the kind of fate from which he was just asking God for deliverance.

If David is guilty of the sin that his enemies are claiming, then he’s saying they have every right to stomp him down into the dust – to take his life.

But, see, that’s not the case. David hasn’t sinned as his enemies are saying. And both he and the Lord know the truth. And so David is able to admit that if he’s guilty of the sin that he’s being charged with, he’d be worthy of death. But he’s innocent. And he needs the Lord to vindicate him.

Psalm 7 Commentary 6

And because of the falsehood that the enemy is spreading about David, he asks the Lord in Psalm 7:6 to arise – to lift himself up – to awake.

Even though we know that God doesn’t sleep or slumber, when you’re being slandered and it seems like God isn’t doing anything to defend you, it can seem like he’s asleep. I think it’s so kindly condescending of God to allow for a mere man to beg him to “wake up” as it were. God could have struck that line from Psalm 7. But he doesn’t. He allows the psalmist to express his feelings – and David feels as if God’s inactivity makes him seem like he’s asleep.

Psalm 7 Commentary 7-13

Well, ultimately, of course, the psalmist understands that God really isn’t asleep. Because in Psalm 7:7-13 we have David’s statement of confidence in the Lord.

7 So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return thou on high. 8 The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me. 9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. 10 My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart. 11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. 12 If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. 13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.

Remember – in Psalm 7:6 David asked God to awake and go to judgment. That may have been a mysterious saying. But now in Psalm 7:7-13 David fills out what he meant by that statement.

Psalm 7 Commentary 7

Here’s what Psalm 7:7 is saying. David is picturing a gathering of all peoples. And they’re surrounding God’s judgment throne. God’s pictured as a king – a high lofty exalted king. His subjects – both those who are loyal and those who are traitors – are waiting for him to return and judge them.

Psalm 7 Commentary 8

And the Lord will return to judge. Psalm 7:8. The Lord “shall” judge the people. There’s no question about it. It’s going to happen. And you know what? To the innocent – to the righteous man – God’s judgment isn’t a fearful thing. Because when God judges and sets everything straight – it’s going to come out that the innocent was in the right. The innocent will be vindicated.

David asks the Lord to judge him. And the statements of confidence that David makes seem almost arrogant. They sound almost self-righteous. He wants to be judged according to his righteousness? According to his integrity? What is David saying? Is he claiming sinlessness? Is he unaware that we’re all sinners? Is he unaware of what his son Solomon will go on to say in Ecclesiastes – that there’s not a just man on the earth that never sins? David wouldn’t be denying his own statement in one of the psalms of this book that he was conceived in sin!

No, David’s not being unrealistic. In the context, he’s saying – “I’m fine with you judging me, Lord. Because I know that the slander being spread about me is not right. In relation to the things of which I’m being accused, I’m innocent. I’m righteous. I’m a man of integrity.

Psalm 7 Commentary 9

But – see – God’s judgment doesn’t end so well for the wicked. Psalm 7:9 – when God judges them, their wickedness – the thing they love so much – comes to an end. But again, Psalm 7:9 – at the same time the just – the righteous – the innocent will be established.

Psalm 7 Commentary 10

Wonder how that happens? The righteous God tries the hearts and reins. God alone knows people’s internal thoughts and even our motives. And if you are righteous and your thoughts and motives are right, he’s not going to let that go unnoticed. And you’ll find God to be just like David experienced in Psalm 7:10 – he’s your defense, your savior who delivers you from evil.

Psalm 7 Commentary 11

Psalm 7:11 – David again affirms that God will judge the righteous. He’ll render his verdict of innocent and vindicate them. But on the other hand, God is angry every day with wicked men. The idea is that he doesn’t forget the wickedness of those who persecute his people. He’s not a judge just one day a week. He’s constantly watchful over the wicked to make sure judgment is meted out to them.

Psalm 7 Commentary 12

And the poetic description of God that we have in Psalm 7:12-13 is frightening. You come away from it wondering how the wicked can still disobey the Lord and ignore his threats. Unless the wicked repent and turn from their wickedness to God, the Lord will whet his sword. He’ll sharpen it. Why would an executor of vengeance sharpen a sword? It’s not to display it over his fireplace. It’s so he can use it to kill. God is pictured as having a sharpened sword and being ready to execute the criminal.

Not only does he have a ready sword. But he has a bow, too. He bends it. This can be speaking of taking the unstrung bow and bending it so that the bow could be strung. Or it could be talking about the Lord taking an already-strung bow, putting an arrow on the string, and getting ready to fire.

So, here we have the Lord. He’s judged everyone and declared his verdict. The innocent are vindicated. The wicked are sentenced to death – unless they repent. The unrepentant are faced with a God who has a sharpened sword and a strung bow with arrow ready to shoot. This is pretty serious.

Psalm 7 Commentary 13

Then Psalm 7:13 broadens the Lord’s arsenal with this mention of these “instruments of death”. That certainly includes the two weapons we’ve already discussed, plus any number of additional deadly weapons. All are at his disposal. And his arrows are ordained for the persecutor. Again, the idea of David being slandered is never far from the flow of this psalm. The persecutor in particular is in view here.

Psalm 7 Commentary 14-16

And with all that’s been said already about this enemy, you may have thought we’ve addressed the actual lament of this psalm already. But we haven’t yet. But we will now. Psalm 7:14-16.

14 Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. 15 He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. 16 His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.

Psalm 7 Commentary 14

Psalm 7:14 uses a really striking metaphor. The psalmist pictures the slanderer in terms of being pregnant and delivering a child. The word “travaileth” can refer to the travail of a woman being in labor. So, the wicked ones are pictured as being pregnant – or filled with – mischief. Laboring with sin. And giving birth to falsehood – or the slander that they were heaping on David. That’s one picture of the sins of these people.

Psalm 7 Commentary 15-16

The other picture we have of these men who are making David lament is in Psalm 7:15-16. They might dig a pit for people like David to fall into. But ultimately, they’re the ones who will fall into it.

And they might conceive mischief and violence against innocent men like David – but that mischief and violence will return to themselves. God will cause whatever device they contrive to backfire on them.

So, the wicked are slandering innocent David. But God will judge the wicked and vindicate David and deliver him from all their evil schemes.

Psalm 7 Commentary 17

And that realization causes David to praise the Lord. Psalm 7:17.

17 I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.

And we can praise the Lord for his righteousness today as we meditate on that fact that God Will Vindicate the Innocent.

Psalm 5 Commentary

We’ll approach Psalm 5 like we have all the psalms. We’ll explore its genre, underlying situation, structure, topic, and theme. And finally we’ll study each verse of this psalm.

Psalm 5 Genre

As has been our custom, we start these lessons considering the genre of the psalm that we’re studying. And Psalm 5 is another lament psalm. You probably didn’t believe me when I said in our first lesson that lament psalms account for about 1/3 of the entire book of Psalms. But this is the 3rd lament psalm we’ve seen in the first 5 psalms.

So Psalm 5 is a lament psalm. But how do you know it’s a lament psalm? Let’s just remind ourselves about the essence of a lament psalm. Otherwise known as complaint psalms, these psalms always feature some sort of complaint. In Psalm 5, the complaint is primarily found in Psalm 5:9. Typically the complaint is about wicked people. For example, back in Psalm 3 where the complaint involved David’s enemies who were seeking to destroy him. Or in Psalm 4 where the complaint was directed toward faithless Israelites who were turning to idols. And these people very much affect the poet writing the Psalm. These evil people are creating a crisis in the life of the psalmist. And it’s this crisis that lament psalms aim to deal with. In fact, in lament psalms we see the psalmist actually mastering this crisis in his life.

Well, what is the crisis of Psalm 5? That’s where we get into the second general phenomenon that we look for in a psalm – the underlying situation.

Psalm 5 Underlying Situation

The underlying situation is the thing in the life of the psalmist that caused him to write his poem.

You remember that in Psalm 3 the underlying situation was easy to get. It was stated at the very beginning of the psalm. David was being chased by his son Absalom.

Psalm 4 was a little more difficult to get. It was harder to get, but finally we discovered that the underlying situation of Psalm 4 was a drought that was threatening agricultural Israel’s harvest.

But what’s the underlying situation for Psalm 5? It’s pretty vague again – probably even more so than in Psalm 4. This time, I think what’s spurring David on to write this poem is wicked people. Again, that’s nothing new or special to this psalm only.

But in this case, a certain part of the body of the wicked is repeatedly mentioned. Psalm 5:9 – “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.”

And because this is the case, David asks for the Lord to – Psalm 5:8 – “Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.”

So, David needs the Lord’s guidance and protection because of his enemies. And in particular, these enemies are using their mouths to attack David. Remember – In Psalm 3, the enemies were using “sticks and stones” – so to speak – and were trying to “break [David’s] bones” or worse. But in Psalm 5 they’re using “words” to “hurt” David.

So, the underlying situation in this psalm is – “wicked men using their words to destroy the righteous”.

Now, I want to point out one thing here. When we talk about a psalm being a “Psalm of David”, we shouldn’t immediately assume that the psalm was written by David when he was king. David was a king for a good part of his life. So, any psalm he writes very well may be from that period in his life. But he wasn’t always a king. Any one of his psalms could have been written when he was a shepherd watching his father’s sheep. Or some of his psalms could be written during the tumultuous years when Saul was pursuing him. Sometimes, we just don’t know. And you can imagine that depending on when he wrote his psalms, he was probably facing some really different kinds of challenges. A shepherd faces different issues than does a fugitive than does a king.

So, Psalm 5’s underlying situation – the wicked using their words to destroy the righteous – could have happened at various times in David’s life – either times when he himself personally faced this kind of ordeal or when he witnessed others experiencing it.

This psalm could have been produced after Doeg the Edomite told Saul that the priests had helped David, his enemy. And Saul slaughtered the priests because of the words of the wicked Doeg.

There were at least two times when David was hiding in a city from Saul. And then the citizens of that city went and told Saul and were planning to hand David over to him. Maybe David wrote this psalm after one of those times.

The psalm may have come from the time that his son Absalom was winning the hearts of his people and then led them in rebellion against David.

We don’t know for sure. But all of these are possibilities. And here’s what’s more important than locating a certain recorded episode in David’s life that brought about this psalm: Do you know what this is like? Can you identify with David? Do you know what it’s like to have wicked men use their words to try to destroy you? Does your church know what it’s like to have wicked men try to shut the doors through their gossip and slander? Well, then this psalm applies to you. It’s a psalm to emulate and pray personally to the Lord when you’re facing these kinds of problems.

So, Psalm 5 is a lament psalm written because David wants to complain to God about wicked men who are using their words to try to destroy the righteous.

Psalm 5 Structure

Now, let’s talk about the structure of this psalm. Surely by now we all know how many components make up the structure of a lament psalm. Five. So, let’s find them.

Invocation

We see the invocation in Psalm 5:1-3. The psalmist is calling on God. And he says

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation. 2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. 3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

Confidence

Next, the psalmist expresses his confidence in the Lord in Psalm 5:4-7.

For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. 5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. 6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man. 7 But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.

And it’s interesting, because the psalmist approaches expressing his confidence in God in two different ways.

First, he states that he is confident in God’s purity. And that purity will not allow unrighteous violent men to get away with their wickedness.

But the psalmist isn’t simply confident that God will punish evil, though. He’s confident that God has been and will continue to be merciful to him.

So, that’s the two-pronged approach that the psalmist gives concerning his confidence in the Lord.

Petition

Next, we have the psalmist’s petition in Psalm 5:8 and Psalm 5:10. It’s kind of split up. He says

Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.

And we’ll get to Psalm 5:9 in just a bit, but skip to Psalm 5:10.

Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.

The psalmist’s petition is similar to his statement of confidence in God. It also has two aspects.

First, the psalmist asks for guidance and help in the journey of life. But he needs that guidance because of his enemies.

And so second, he also petitions the Lord to destroy those enemies – these wicked men who are using their words to destroy the righteous.

Lament

And that brings us to the 4th part of the structure of Psalm 5. The lament. It’s found in the verse that we just skipped over – Psalm 5:9.

For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.

Praise

Then lastly, the psalm’s structure ends with praise in Psalm 5:11-12.

11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. 12 For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.

So, Psalm 5 is a psalm in which David laments the fact that there are wicked men using their words to destroy the righteous. And we just saw the layout and structure of the psalm.

Psalm 5 Topic/Theme

Now, we’ll try to grasp Psalm 5’s topic and theme. What is the psalm about?

Well, you could say – isn’t it just about the wicked – and how they try to destroy the righteous?

The answer – not exactly. That’s the underlying situation. But the underlying situation isn’t necessarily the same thing as what the psalm is about.

The topic of a psalm needs to somehow be related to everything that’s stated in that psalm. So, the invocation in Psalm 5:1-3 – they have nothing to do with wicked people destroying righteous people – for example.

Topic: Deliverance

So, what is the topic of Psalm 5? I think it’s about deliveranceThat’s a common theme in the psalms – especially in the lament psalms.

So then, the invocation is where the psalmist is preparing to seek deliverance from the Lord.

The statement of confidence serves as the psalmist’s way of expressing trust in God to deliver.

The petition is where the psalmist requests God to deliver.

The lament is the reason the psalmist gives for needing deliverance.

And the concluding praise section gives the psalmist’s praise to the Lord for deliverance.

So, what’s Psalm 5 about? What’s its topic? Deliverance.

Theme: The Righteous Delivered from the Wicked

But what’s the theme of Psalm 5? How would we summarize what the psalmist says about the topic of deliverance?

I think we could sum up the theme of Psalm 5 this way. The Lord will deliver the righteous from the wicked. That might sound a little generic. It might seem like most lament psalms could be summarized this way. But that doesn’t make it any less the theme of this psalm. I think Psalm 5 is communicating that the Lord will deliver the righteous from the wicked.

Psalm 5:1-12 Commentary

So, to summarize, Psalm 5 is David’s lament to the Lord that there are evil people using their words to destroy the righteous. It’s also David’s request for God to deliver the righteous from those wicked individuals. And ultimately, it’s David’s expression of confidence that God will indeed deliver the righteous from those wicked people.

So, let’s take the remaining space here going through the psalm one last time, noticing the details of this poem. We’ll start back with the invocation in Psalm 5:1-3.

Psalm 5:1-3

David says,

Give ear to my words, O LORD,
consider my meditation.
2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God:
for unto thee will I pray.
3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD;
in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

Psalm 5:1

Let’s look at those first two statements. The psalmist wants the Lord to give ear to his words. He’s going to speak and he wants the Lord to listen and respond to those words.

But there are more than words being expressed here. Because the next line has David requesting that the Lord would “consider” his “meditation”. A meditation is not something verbal – at least not in a coherent form. Other translations translate this word as “groanings” or “sighings”. In fact, the only other place this word is used, the KJV translates it as “musing”. So, this meditation is an utterance that cannot be clearly understood by the human ear. It’s communicating something, to be sure. But sometimes that’s how our prayers are. Sometimes you can articulate your concerns to the Lord or to others. But sometimes your problem overwhelms you in your own mind and heart to the point where you’re communicating something. But no one could possibly understand. But the Lord can.

The Lord gave ear to David’s words. He listened to them. But for David’s meditations or groanings or sighings – the Lord does something different. The Lord doesn’t hear these things. He rather “considers” them. The KJV translates that word in other places as “understand” or “perceive” or “discern”.

So, the Lord listens to audible words. And he can even perceive our deepest thoughts.

Psalm 5:2

Next, David in Psalm 5:2 brings in this image of God being a king. And this fits so well. Who better to deliver the righteous who are being afflicted by the wicked?

Israel’s executive branch was her king. The king was to keep law and order. And even David – whether he was king or not at this point in his life – recognized that he needed the Lord to act as king and make matters right.

Innocent people were being destroyed. The Lord our king must act! The Lord must deliver!

Psalm 5:3

And since the Lord is king, David is going to approach him with his case according to Psalm 5:3.

It makes you think of a court room setting. Early in the morning, David is going to come to the king’s palace and plead his case before the only one who can ultimately do anything about his problem.

And when David comes to the Lord’s palace to plead his case, he really does have a case. When the KJV says that David is going to “direct” his prayer, he’s saying that he’s going to lay out his case in order. He’s going to bring the evidence of the wicked men’s wrongdoing. He’s going to bring the evidence of the innocence of the righteous. He’s going to lay it all out before the Lord.

And then he’s going to watch to see the Lord’s verdict.

Psalm 5:4-7

And there’s no doubt in David’s mind that the verdict will be favorable to the righteous. Because what we have next in Psalm 5:4-7 is his statement of confidence in the Lord.

David says,

4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness:
neither shall evil dwell with thee.
5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight:
thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing:
the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
7 But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy:
and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.

Psalm 5:4

David knows God’s character. God won’t let the guilty get away with their assault against the righteous.

Psalm 5:4 reminds me of the statement in James 1:13 to the effect that God can’t be tempted with evil. Evil has no influence on him because he has nothing in him that answers to evil’s temptations.

And not only does God have no pleasure in evil. But evil won’t even be granted temporary residence with God. The psalmist uses a pictorial word in Psalm 5:4. The word “dwell” is actually “sojourn” – like a brief stay. Evil can’t even visit God. He’s that holy.

Psalm 5:5

And back to the courtroom setting. In Psalm 5:5 we’re presented with this group known as the “foolish” in the KJV. The word is actually halal – as in Halelujah – Praise the Lord. It has to do with praising something. And in this case, these foolish folks are praising themselves. We could refer to them as the boastful.

So, these boastful fools might present themselves before God to defend themselves. But they won’t stand. They’ll be found guilty and condemned. Why? Because God hates those who practice evil – and in the context he is hating those who use their words to destroy the righteous. God hates those kinds of people.

Psalm 5:6

And David continues in Psalm 5:6 describing his confidence in the Lord to render the right verdict against these wicked men.

It’s interesting that he uses two more terms that have to do with the wicked using their mouth wrongly.

They speak leasing – they lie, is what that means. And they’re deceitful.

And all of this wrong speech that the wicked practice – it isn’t just for amusing themselves. They’re bloody, the text says. They use their words to kill people.

Think of Jezebel’s command to certain worthless men to lie about Naboth. “Naboth did blaspheme God and the king!” they said in 1 Kings 21:13. That one lie resulted in the stoning to death of an innocent man.

Those kind of people God abhors. He detests them. He is repulsed by them.

Boy, you might think, I’m not used to God thinking this way of people. I’m used to him “so loving the world” (John 3:16) and turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29) and praying for the forgiveness of those who crucified him (Luke 23:34) and such.

And he does all those things. We’ll even see that kind of character from him in the next verse (Psalm 5:7).

But I think if we don’t see the true repulsion that God has towards sin, we can take even the incarnation of Christ lightly.

What’s the big deal about God the Son living among sinful men if God loves man’s sin?

But he doesn’t. And he’s repulsed by it.

And at the same time, God is merciful to many. To all who trust in him and turn from their evil deeds.

Psalm 5:7

So, in Psalm 5:7, David is expressing confidence that God will deliver him from those deceptive bloodthirsty men.

In contrast to them, David will enter God’s house. Why? Because David never sinned? No. Because of the multitude of God’s mercy – his chesed – his loyal covenant love. That makes all the difference.

It’s because of God’s loyal love that any of us are any different from the wicked world around us. It’s God’s loyal love that pulled some of us from a way of life that resembled these wicked men in Psalm 5. And that same loyal love is what gave David confidence to enter God’s house. Just like he’s one of God’s family. He can come right in – experience the protection of a home, the warmth, the comfort of a home – but only because of God’s great loyal love.

And even though David is a welcomed guest in God’s home, he’s not taking that privilege lightly. He’s not going to be putting his feet up on the table any time soon. He enters in reverence and in fear of displeasing this great, loving, holy God.

Now, the last word of Psalm 5:7 is “temple”. And that’s a legitimate translation. But in 10 out of the 80 times that word appears in the Old Testament, it’s translated in the KJV as “palace”.

Remember what David said God was in the invocation? A king. Where do kings live? Not usually in temples, but in palace. Though this king is also God and so his palace is a temple.

Psalm 5:8

Now, in light of David’s confidence that God will deliver him from the wicked, we have his specific petition to the Lord starting in Psalm 5:8.

David says,

8 Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies;
make thy way straight before my face.

Let me draw our attention to the last word before the semicolon – “enemies”. The word is typically translated as “enemy”. But it has the idea of someone watching. So, you’ve got David on the narrow dark path that life sometimes is for us. And what makes matters worse is that he’s got wicked people who are watching him and waiting to destroy him. It’s no wonder that he cries out to God for leading along that path.

And that path – the path of life – might have dangerous twists and turns along the way. And so David asks God to make that path straight. Remove the obstacles. Take away the things that would cause him to stumble on this path.

Psalm 5:9

Well, what would cause David to stumble? Answer – the very ones who were watching for his life. The wicked.

And so, in Psalm 5:9, David actually interrupts his petition to God in order to break into the lament of this psalm.

David more graphically illustrates the effect that these wicked men are having on the righteous:

9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;
their inward part is very wickedness;
their throat is an open sepulchre;
they flatter with their tongue.

This is why David needed to be guided by the Lord on the path of life and to have his path straightened out. Because these very guys are on that path. And when you get the picture of what David is saying, it’s pretty terrifying.

David again points to their mouth. And let me try to reveal what the psalmist is really communicating.

Let’s start from the end of Psalm 5:9. They flatter with their tongue. Literally, they make their tongue smooth. Their tongue is pictured as being smooth, then. Not literally, but metaphorically. This is a poem after all. So we’re picturing their smooth tongue.

And tongues are kind of connected to and proceed from the throat. Well, David next pictures the throats of these wicked men – the throats that give voice to the words that they use to destroy the righteous – as open graves.

And finally, the inward parts – their belly – is not necessarily “wickedness” as the KJV has it. This word refers to destruction or calamity or ruin.

So, it’s a strange picture and one that only poetry can get away with. But here’s what’s being pictured. The righteous are walking along the path of life. They’re unsuspecting and suddenly they slip on the smooth tongue of the wicked and into the open grave. And like dead men, the righteous fall into those graves and meet their destruction. And all of this is picturing the effect that the words of these wicked men have on the righteous.

Psalm 5:10

So in light of this happening, David returns to his petition for deliverance – with more of a focus on God stopping the evil deeds of these wicked men.

10 Destroy thou them, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions;
for they have rebelled against thee.

As opposed to David entering God’s house in the multitude of God’s loyal love, David asks that these men be cast out in the multitude of their transgressions.

And if we’re continuing with this royal motif, the king can do this – right? A king can banish his subjects for their rebellion.

And that’s what it comes down to in David’s mind. The sin of these men are not against men only. These wicked men – by slandering and lying and doing all sorts of other evil with their tongue – they’re rebelling against God ultimately.

Psalm 5:11-12

Well, the psalm ends on a happy note.

11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice:
let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them:
let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
12 For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous;
with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.

As opposed to the wicked, who will be cast out, those of us who are righteous like David – we just need to rejoice. Do you see the three different words expressing this emotion? “Rejoice”, “shout for joy”, and “be joyful”. Why should the righteous rejoice? Because we trust the Lord and love his name and because he ultimately defends us from our enemies and from all evil.

Again, God is a shield for the righteous – for those who love his name and trust him. And this shield is all around us. He’s not going to let anything touch us.

The Lord shows this kind of favor to these kinds of people. And we praise him for this – the blessing and protection that only he can provide.

So, Psalm 5 – the Lord will deliver the righteous from the wicked.

Psalm 4 Commentary

This is our lesson studying the Psalms. We started last time studying a sub-set of psalms known as lament or complaint psalms. Last week we dealt with Psalm 3. Now we’ll move one psalm further onto Psalm 4.

Psalm 4’s Genre

We’re again talking about a lament Psalm. So we can expect a certain type of structure in this psalm. We can also expect to be able to sit and listen in while the Psalmist develops a strategy for mastering a crisis in his life.

Psalm 4’s Underlying Situation

Now, let’s talk about the situation underlying this Psalm. And it’s not nearly as easy to figure out the underlying situation in this psalm as it was in Psalm 3. In Psalm 3 we had the context given to us right in the superscription. David was fleeing from his son. And that story is well-documented in the Old Testament books of Samuel. So, that was easy.

But it’s really hard to figure out Psalm 4’s context. It’s not plainly stated. So we need to try to piece together details from this psalm to give us an idea of why exactly the Psalmist wrote this psalm. I’m aware of two good possible interpretations. I’ll tell show you both and give you the one that I prefer and why.

Here’s the first possibility of why this psalm was written. Look at Palm 4:1. What does David call God? “Oh God of my – what?” Righteousness. OK, then God is the one who can attest to David’s righteousness. But despite David’s righteousness and God’s willingness to back up the fact that David is righteous – look at what David needs to tell certain Israelites in Palm 4:2. How long will you guys make my honor a reproach? In other words, David is righteous and that’s his honor. But these guys are making it seem like David isn’t righteous. They’re reproaching him. They’re calling into question his integrity and righteousness. But it’s obviously all nonsense what these guys are saying. Why? Because, again, God will vouch for David’s righteousness. And so David tells these enemies in the 2nd line of Palm 4:2 that they’re loving what’s worthless and aiming at deception. Their accusations against David are worthless in reality. And the only way the enemies can make their accusations seem legitimate is to use deception – to aim at deception. Contrast what the enemies are saying of David to the reality presented in Palm 4:3. The Lord has set apart the godly man, no matter what these enemies are saying. And God hears David. So, to sum up, David is righteous. But some people are lying about him and making it sound like he isn’t. And that’s the underlying situation here in this psalm.

So, this interpretation of the underlying situation is plausible so far. And this is actually the way I was leaning at the beginning when I first started studying the psalm. But then you start into Palm 4:4 and really in my mind this interpretation just falls apart. Nothing else after Palm 4:4 makes much sense if the psalm’s context is David’s being slandered by enemies. Why would David tell the slanderers to tremble and not sin? Why tell them to meditate on their beds? He tells them to offer righteous sacrifices and trust the Lord. What does that have to do with slandering David? Then some of them are asking who will show us any good. How does that fit in with the rest of the psalm if it’s all about David being slandered? And on, and on. As I say – the rest of the psalm is still kind of a closed book if we’re trying to understand it as stemming from David being slandered by some bad guys.

So, that’s the first possibility for the underlying situation in this psalm – that David’s being slandered. One of the commentaries I purchased that comes highly recommended by conservative Christians is Peter Craigie’s book in the Word Biblical Commentary series on the Psalms. And in that book he endorses this kind of way to look at Psalm 4.

But I don’t think this is the best explanation for why Psalm 4 was written. I think there’s a scenario that better explains why certain things are said in this psalm. So, let’s try to discover the real underlying situation of Psalm 4.

And we need to start with Palm 4:7. Look at the mention of “corn and wine” abounding. That happens during a harvest time. And harvest time in ancient Israel would have been a joyous time. The food finally comes! Who wouldn’t be excited? And yet, look at Palm 4:6. These words don’t sound very joyful. Some were asking “who’s going to show us any good?” Well – what do you mean? I mean, it’s harvest time. There’s grain and new wine. Right? Well, there should be. And yet, those of us who live out in the country or who need to drive through the countryside on the way to work or church – we know what it’s like to drive past fields and fields of corn or beans. And if it’s been a particularly rainy summer and now it’s time for harvest, you might see a lot of produce that’s unusable because the fields have actually been too wet. Or if maybe we’ve had an unusually dry summer, the harvest in the fall isn’t going to be real satisfying. In fact, it’ll probably be pretty disappointing – especially to the farmers who depend on the crop to come in. And that’s what most of ancient Israel was – farmers. That wasn’t just their job, either. It was their life. If they didn’t have food they’d starve eventually. And this was one of the main attractions that ancient Canaanite fertility gods held out for disobedient and faithless Israelites. Sometimes it may have seemed like God didn’t care if the Israelites lived or died. Sometimes he’d withhold rain because of Israel’s sins. And instead of repenting of their sins, they tried to find a way to still indulge in their sins while also getting the rain they needed. Well, enter Baal – the Canaanite rain god. You pray to him and he answers you and you’re going to get your rain. Because that’s what he does, according to those nice pagan neighbors down the road – yeah, the ones Israel should have driven out of the land, but didn’t. They have a way for us Israelites to have success with our crops while also enjoying our sin.

Well now, where is there any mention of Baal or false gods in this psalm? Look at Palm 4:2. David is addressing these faithless Israelites in his mind and he asks them rhetorically how long they’d turn his glory into shame. Who was David’s glory in Psalm 3? It was God himself. So somehow these guys are shaming David’s God. How are they doing that? Next line. These folks are loving emptiness – in the Hebrew – and seeking a lie or a delusion. These men are turning from the Lord and are turning to empty delusions. One possibility is that these men are actually turning to these idols in order to make life work for them. They need rain. Yahweh ain’t giving it. Let’s see if Baal will do it for us.

So, what’s the underlying context of this lament psalm? A drought, probably around the time of harvest. And it’s providing a temptation for faithless Israelites to abandon the Lord and seek false gods whom they hope will help them overcome this drought and make sure they have food to put on the table.

This is the position held by Gerald Wilson’s book on the Psalms which is a part of the NIV Application Commentary series. Goldingay in the Baker commentary series also approaches Psalm 4 this way. And I happen to think it presents a more credible context for this psalm. I think it better explains the presence of the statements that we read in Psalm 4.

Psalm 4’s Structure

Now, with that understanding of the context of this psalm, let’s look at Psalm 4’s structure. Remember – lament psalms have five parts to their structure. Let’s find them.

Invocation

Psalm 4:1 serves as the invocation.

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.”

Now, you might wonder if this verse also serves as the petition. But I don’t think it does. That part is yet to come. It’s true that the Psalmist is asking for something. But it’s simply that God would answer his prayer. Well, what is his prayer? We see that later in Psalm 4:6. So, I think this verse serves only as the invocation.

Lament

Then Psalm 4:2-5 serve as the lament. And it’s a strange kind of lament. David isn’t describing the faithless idolatrous Israelites to the Lord. Instead, David actually addresses them as if they were standing right there in front of him. He says,

“O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. 3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him. 4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.”

So, that’s the lament.

Petition

Psalm 4:6 – as I said – is a petition.

There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.”

Confidence

I think Psalm 4:7 then is David’s statement of confidence in the Lord.

“Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.”

These idolaters are willing to abandon the Lord for some food. But David says – they can have their food, but I want the Lord.

Praise

And lastly, I think we can take Psalm 4:8 as the statement of praise.

“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.”

Just like in Psalm 3, we see the Psalmist praising the Lord for something that only he can do. In this case, it’s that the Lord alone can make David dwell securely.

So, that’s the 5-part structure of this lament psalm. Its context is a drought that’s tempting Israelites to turn to idols.

Psalm 4’s Topic and Theme

So then, since we know all this now, finding the topic and theme of this psalm shouldn’t take too much more work beyond what we’ve already done. Remember – the topic is what the psalm is about. It’s brief – probably one or two words usually. The theme is then what the poet says about his topic.

Topic

So, what’s the topic? I think it’s about increase. Material provisions, something like that. Let me try to demonstrate that.

In Psalm 4:1 where David is invoking the Lord he says that the Lord enlarged him when he was in distress. I appreciate that the KJV used this word “enlarge”. Some translations say “relieved” or something else that’s fairly abstract and doesn’t give you a very good picture of what’s going on. But this verb translated as “enlarged” here means to make wide or to extend or to provide wide room for something.

And the Lord did this for David in the most impossible circumstances. Because the word translated “distress” can also be translated as “narrow place”.

So, in a very narrow-feeling spot in David’s life, the Lord extended David. He increased David in some way that we don’t know about yet. But that’s how David starts off this psalm – with a reference to increase.

And when David addresses the idolatrous Israelites in Psalm 4:2-5, he’s really taking them to task for going about seeking increase in the wrong way. They’re shaming the Lord – Psalm 4:2. They’re not seeking the Lord to provide the increase that they need. They’re seeking after leasing or deception or falsehood – false gods to help them attain the increase they’re looking for – to help them get some rain so that their grain and new wine can abound, as we hear about later in the psalm. And so David gives these faithless ones some counsel. And that’s what occupies him through Psalm 4:5. So, again, the focus is on increase – in this section, about how not to go about looking for increase.

Next in Psalm 4:6 David goes about seeking increase the right way. You want a harvest, as a farmer? Don’t seek Baal to give your rain so that your crops can increase. Seek the Lord and pray to him, like David does here. Ask the Lord to bless your efforts – to lift up the light of his countenance upon you.

And Psalm 4:7 gives us David’s heart about the matter. Just because David was godly doesn’t necessarily mean that God exempted David from the effects of this drought. His fields would have been suffering, too. And yet, here’s where David nuances what increase truly is. Is physical, material increase the only kind that a person ought to be interested in? Not in David’s mind. David derived more joy from the Lord himself than when idolaters got their crops in. And let me tell you, idolaters are really happy when their crops come in. That’s what they’re living for. It’s what they work for. It’s their main goal and primary end in life. And when it happens, they’re happy. But the Lord makes David happier than that – even when he’s being deprived of these things that make these other folks so happy.

So, where’s true increase to be found? Not in temporal things in and of themselves. But from the Lord.

And then lastly in Psalm 4:8, David praises the Lord for the security he knows. He won’t fear if the crop doesn’t yield. He knows the Lord who will provide for all his needs. No need to lose sleep. The Lord will give his people all the increase of every kind that they truly need.

Theme

So, again, the topic under discussion is “increase”. And we’ve basically seen the theme – what David says about increase. True Increase Comes from the Lord. Right? It doesn’t come from idols. The Lord might withhold the kind of increase we think we need. But don’t go turning to idols. They won’t help you. Keep serving and trusting in the Lord. And he’ll give you what you need when you need it. Not a moment too late. And not a moment too soon.

Commentary on Psalm 4

And speaking of things not happening too soon, we need to get to explaining the details of this psalm. We’ve dealt with overarching matters in Psalm 4. Now let’s go through the psalm one more time pointing out details that might help us understand the psalm better.

Psalm 4:1

Let’s read Psalm 4:1.

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.”

Let’s think a little more about the imagery in this verse. David pictures himself as one who was in a tight spot. Literally. He was in distress – which again can be translated as “narrowness”. He felt himself to be squeezed in some way. Isn’t that interesting? He’s experiencing a drought along with the rest of Israel. He’s suffering need and lack of material provisions. When money is hard to come by for us, don’t we say something like we feel pinched? Or what about this phrase – “money is a little tight right now”. That’s exactly what David is saying here. He’s in a tight spot with material provisions. And yet the Lord is going to enlarge him. The Lord is going to cause him to expand or increase or abound in the midst of his tight trial.

Psalm 4:2-5

And this consideration of God’s enlarging the righteous David leads David to a heartfelt admonition to his compatriots who apparently weren’t acting very righteously and were turning to idols for their increase.

“O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. 3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him. 4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.”

What should be the response to the questions posed in Psalm 4:2? Would we expect the idolaters to respond with something like “well, just a little longer” or “well, I intend to keep doing these things.” No, I think if the idolaters would have heard the questions posed this way they would have seen the obvious errors in their thinking. I mean, who thinks it’s a good idea to turn something glorious – like the Lord – into something shameful – like a piece of wood that one bows down to? Who thinks it’s a good idea to love worthless things? Who really thinks it’s a good use of one’s time to pursue “leasing” or deception? No one does. It’s like – come on guys! Can’t you see the utter foolishness of turning from God to idols in order to achieve what only the Lord can give you?

So, now that David has the idolaters seeing the folly of their way, he counsels them to change their course. By the way, do you ever find yourself confronting your enemies in your mind and heart? Do you ever feel a little embarrassed about doing that? Do you wonder if it’s ungodly? It can turn into ungodliness, for sure. But David here is doing it and it’s being modeled for us as a way to master a crisis that is pretty universal – not having enough material provision. So, anyway, feel free to address those who are troubling to you in your heart as you’re brushing your teeth or whatever else! It might help you master whatever crisis they’re causing in your life.

So, anyway, here’s what David reminds these idolaters of. The Lord has set apart the godly man for himself. The Lord has a special place in his heart for the man who is godly. That word translated “godly man” is related to CHESED – loyal covenant love. The godly – the righteous – have experienced God’s kind loyal love and they turn around and express it to others. God hears that kind of a person when he calls. David was such a person. And God heard him. And that’s the problem with these idolaters. They’re not being heard by the Lord. Why? Because they won’t embrace God’s loyal covenant love. Their lives are void of such love in their own hearts. And so they’re chasing after idols who can’t do a thing for them.

So, these guys are just hopeless, I guess. No, not really. David leads them to know how to remedy this situation. How should these idolaters react to this news that what they’re doing is completely useless? They should stand in awe and not sin. The phrase “stand in awe” is literally “tremble”. This trembling can indicate that the one who’s trembling is angry in some contexts. But in this case I think David is not counseling the idolaters to be angry. He’s telling them to tremble with fear. Why? Because they’re just now recognizing that they’ve offended the only true and living God. They’ve been completely wrong about how to approach attaining material provisions. Idols have no power. And so, they need to fear and stop their sinning – stop their idolatry.

Sometimes in the Old Testament, wicked people are pictured as plotting evil schemes in their beds. But David commands these men – if they find themselves in bed, they better not be hatching evil schemes. They better talk things over with themselves and reconsider their choices. Don’t sin. Be still, David tells them.

And ultimately, they ought not be sacrificing to false gods – to demons. They ought to be offering sacrifices to the Lord. And it’s not the mere form of offering a sacrifice that pleases the Lord. The Lord wants righteous sacrifices. Ones that are done right – with clean hands and a pure heart. Not with hands that shed innocent blood. And ultimately – even in the Old Testament – the Lord demanded that men trust in him. Sacrifice without trust was an affront to the Lord. He wanted both.

Psalm 4:6

And yet, at the present time in this Psalm, there were many that sought idols for help with this drought. David testifies — “There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?”

It’s as if the idolaters are trying to justify their faithless acts. They’re going around saying – well, we tried the Lord. But he ain’t workin’ for us anymore. He won’t send rain. We need rain. And so if we’re not allowed to seek Baal for help – who’s going to help us? The Lord won’t. We’ll starve! We’ll die! What’s the solution?

Here’s what David suggests. He prays to the Lord. This is his petition to the Lord. And at the same time it’s an example to the idolaters of what they need to be pursuing. He says, “LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” This phrasing should remind us of Numbers 6:22-27. David is using what we call an allusion – an indirect reference to something. In this case, David is calling to mind the priestly blessing in Numbers 6. Let me read that for you.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 23 Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, 24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee [there’s the familiar part], and give thee peace. 27 ¶ And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.”

That’s it! That’s what these idolaters needed. That’s what David needed. These folks all needed God’s blessing. Not the supposed blessing of idols. They needed the Lord to bless – and the Lord to keep – and the Lord to shine – and the Lord to be gracious – and the Lord to lift up – and the Lord to give peace – and the Lord to bless. Idols won’t do it. Israel needed the Lord. And so David prays that the Lord would indeed do these things for his people.

Psalm 4:7

And at the same time, David is filled with peace that God will provide him all the increase he needs. He testifies, “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.” The source of gladness for those who don’t know the Lord – it’s stuff. Corn/food, wine/drink, money, clothes, houses, land, vehicles, whatever else. And that’s the extent of it. When those things pass – or in this case – they never come – then the gladness leaves, too. But the Lord never leaves us and the joy he gives is unending. And it’s better than the joy that anyone can derive from stuff.

Psalm 4:8

And so what more can the psalmist do than to praise the Lord? He says, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” In Psalm 3 David said he could lay down and sleep as well. But circumstances are different here. In Psalm 4, David isn’t fleeing for his life and afraid that someone will kill him. But his life is still in danger. If that rain doesn’t come and he doesn’t eat, he will die. But he’s just not worried about it. The Lord – not the idols – the Lord alone makes David to dwell securely. He won’t fear famine and drought. Because the Lord is with him. And so, he can praise the Lord for doing what only he can do – provide increase to sustain David’s life.

Conclusion

So, that’s Psalm 4. True Increase Comes from the Lord.

Is that your conviction? In the midst of lean times – tight times, are you going to seek the Lord and his blessing and his provision? Or are you going to go along with the crowd and seek expedients to provide the increase you think you need? The Lord sets apart the godly for himself – didn’t you know that? And if you are one of the godly – one who has experienced God’s loyal covenant love and as a result shows that kind of love back to God and to others – if that’s the case, then you know that the Lord will hear when you call to him and provide for you whatever you need when you need it. And he’ll give you gladness that surpasses anything this temporal life has to offer. So, don’t lose sleep in lean times. Let the Lord cause you to dwell securely.

Psalm 3 Commentary

Let’s study Psalm 3!

Psalm 3 Commentary Genre

First, we’ll talk about the genre of Psalm 3. What kind of poem is it?

Well, it’s what we call a lament Psalm. You could also call it a complaint Psalm. And this kind of Psalm accounts for about 1/3 of the entire book of Psalms. So just about one out of every three Psalms that you encounter is similar to the Psalm that we’re studying today.

Now, I said this is a complaint Psalm. But let’s not get the wrong idea. This Psalm doesn’t simply record the Psalmist griping about something. These Psalms actually present the Psalmist’s strategy for mastering a crisis. So, he’s not whining. He’s actually working toward a solution for his crisis. And we get to listen in while he works through his problem. And so the lament Psalms give us an inspired way to deal with problems and situation that are common to all men.

So – what type of poem are we studying today? Lament/complaint.

Psalm 3 Commentary Underlying Situation

Now, most Psalms are a reaction of the poet to some stimulus. In Psalm 3, what is the stimulus? What is driving David to write this lament poem? What’s happening in his life?

Well, look at the first line of the psalm. What does it say? This is “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.”

When you think of David, you might think of him in pastoral settings out in the countryside. Or you picture him in his royal palace kind of taking it easy. But this man’s life was filled with conflict.

Even when he was a relative-nobody he was wrestling bears and lions away from his father’s sheep. He defeated Goliath and won some acclaim among the people and even in King Saul’s sight. But then Saul turns on him and David basically becomes a fugitive for years until Saul dies.

Finally, David becomes king. But he’s still constantly going to war – that’s what kings did in those days. But one time he doesn’t go out to war. He stays behind. And he ends up catching a glimpse of a young woman from his palace. As we all know, he ends up committing adultery with her and then ordering the murder of her husband. God rebukes David for those horrendous crimes. And God promises David that the sword will never depart from his house the rest of his life. He will have war and conflict until he dies.

And that’s where Absalom enters the picture. Absalom has a sister who is violated by one of David’s sons from one of his other wives. Absalom kills that brother and flees. Finally he’s persuaded to come back and live close to David. But David won’t talk to him – for years. So, Absalom eventually gathers a number of people together, wins their hearts, and leads a rebellion against his father David. Absalom and his entourage actually run David out of Jerusalem and are trying to literally kill him. And that’s the situation that called for the writing of this Psalm.

So, this Psalm captures some of the emotion that David felt as he fled for his life from Jerusalem. Can you imagine the embarrassment of being pursued by your own child who’s looking to take your life? Can you imagine the regret and self-hatred that David would have experienced – knowing that his own sin with Bathsheba so many years ago had caused this turn of events? Can you imagine the pain of being betrayed by so many trusted advisers and friends in addition to the people you served as king for so many years? All these emotions and many more I’m sure are in David’s heart as he flees Jerusalem.

So, we’ve discovered and rehearsed the underlying situation that called for the writing of this Psalm. And we’ve looked at what kind of Psalm this is. It’s a lament Psalm.

Psalm 3 Commentary Structure

And these lament Psalms have a discernible structure to them. There are actually 5 components to any lament Psalm. So, let’s discover the structure of Psalm 3.

Invocation

The first component of a lament Psalm is the invocation of God. And we see that in this Psalm 3:1. What’s the first word out of David’s mouth in this Psalm? He says, “Lord”. He immediately invokes the Lord.

So, that’s the first component of the structure of this Psalm.

Lament

The next component of a lament Psalm is the lament or the complaint itself. And we find that in Psalm 3:1-2 verses.

“LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. 2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God.”

This is where the poet defines the crisis that he’s experiencing – and that he’s going to try to master with God’s help.

Confidence

Another component of the structure of a lament Psalm is an expression of confidence in God. We see this in Psalm 3:3-6 where we have these reassuring statements from David regarding his confidence in God.

“But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. 4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. 5 I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.”

David is confident that God will deliver him from his multiplied adversaries.

So, that’s the 3rd component of a lament Psalm – the poet’s expression of confidence in God.

Petition

Then, comes the petition – where the poet actually asks the Lord for something. We see that in Psalm 3:7. And in this Psalm it consists of a petition to God for him to remedy David’s crisis.

“Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.”

By the way, it took 6 verses for David to actually ask God for something.

So that’s the 4th part of the structure of this Psalm.

Praise

Finally, Psalm 3:8 ends the Psalm with the last component – which is the praising of God.

“Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people.”

I think the praise here occurs when David proclaims that it is in the Lord’s power alone to provide deliverance. That’s a glory that belongs to the Lord alone. And so he’s to be praised for it.

So, that’s the structure of this Psalm. 5 parts – invocation, lament, confidence, petition, and praise.

Topic/Theme

Now, with the genre, underlying situation, and structure established, we’re going to discover the topic and theme of the Psalm.

The topic is what a Psalm is about. The theme is what the author says about that topic.

So, we’re going to try to summarize the content of Psalm 3 in one word (topic). And then we’ll summarize what David says about that topic (theme).

So, let’s read Psalm 3:1-2 again. Because usually the topic of the Psalm appears near its beginning.

“LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. 2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God.”

So, from Psalm 3:1-2 verses we get the idea that David is facing enemies. And their number isn’t dwindling or remaining steady, even. David is facing multiplied and multiplying enemies.

And what are these enemies claiming? They’re saying that God won’t help David. The word “help” has to do with salvation. Or in this context – deliverance. So, here David’s enemies are saying that God will not deliver David from their plans to kill him. And that happens to be the topic of this Psalm – deliverance. You want to know what Psalm 3 is about in a nutshell? It’s about deliverance. And we’ll see evidence of that throughout the Psalm.

Now, David has something to say regarding God’s delivering him from his multiplied enemies. Psalm 3:7 – he says “Save – or deliver – me, oh my God.” And in Psalm 3:8 he reminds himself that “salvation – the kind that David so desperately needs – belongs to the Lord.” There’s the topic again – salvation or deliverance. And it’s the Lord’s to grant deliverance like what David is looking for. And so, despite multiplied enemies claiming that God will not deliver David from their schemes to kill him – look at what David says in Psalm 3:6. “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.” Ten thousands – that sounds like multiplied adversaries. And yet, David is not afraid of them. Why? Because he’s confident that the Lord will deliver him.

So, here’s what David says about the topic of Psalm 3. He’s talking about Confidence in God’s deliverance from multiplied adversaries. He’s confident that God will deliver him.

Psalm 3 Commentary

OK, we’ve looked at the genre, underlying situation, topic, theme, and structure of Psalm 3. But now we’re going to dive into the details of this Psalm.

Psalm 3 Commentary Verses 1-2

We’ll go back to Psalm 3:1-2.

“LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. 2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God.”

You can sense David’s dismay from the very first verse. “Lord! How many…” he exclaims. He expresses amazement at how many enemies he’s acquired. He was their king, their leader, God’s chosen ruler for them. And now so many of them had turned on him. So, David is shocked.

Now, note once more the concept of increasing opposition. They’re – Psalm 3:1 – “increased”. There are – Psalm 3:1 again – “many” that rise up. And he goes ahead and states it one more time in case we missed it – Psalm 3:2 – “Many” speak discouragingly to him. So, let’s really sympathize with David’s utter dismay. His whole country has turned on him.

And these folks aren’t just sitting around. They’re actively opposing David. They’re troubling David. They’re rising up against him.

Let’s think about that image of rising up. And it is an image. Let me ask you – Were the enemies all previously sitting down, but now they’re standing on their feet – and so that’s what David is truly concerned about? No, David’s not concerned about their physical position. So when he tells us that these people are “rising up” he’s putting a picture in our mind. It’s like he’s imagining this large group of angry enemies physically rising up as one to confront and physically destroy him. It’s a terrifying picture. And it accurately portrays how David feels.

But these enemies aren’t just physically imposing in David’s mind. Their very speech is terrifying to David. They’re claiming that God will not deliver David. Can you think of why they might say this? How many people do you think knew about David’s sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah her husband? Nathan did. In addition, God through Nathan told David “by this deed [David’s sin] thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” in 2 Samuel 12:14. So then, many people apparently knew of David’s sin. It was public knowledge. And what David was now experiencing was actually chastisement from the Lord for that sin. So, think about it. The very fact that these enemies were attacking and reproaching David was by God’s allowance. Can you see why these folks might think that God won’t deliver David from their plans to kill him? David’s own sin got him in to this mess. Maybe God was going to let David’s enemies finish him off.

And that’s where Psalm 3:2 ends.

I’ll briefly mention “Selah”. As far as I know and anyone can say, this probably calls for a musical interlude. But the fact is that no one definitively knows what it signifies. So I won’t be paying much attention to it in coming lessons.

Psalm 3 Commentary Verses 3-6

Now, in complete contrast to what these increasing enemies are saying about David, we have Psalm 3:3. God is David’s “shield”, his “glory”, and “the one who lifts up” his head. These sayings are obviously poetic devices. They’re images that put pictures in our minds. God does not physically manifest himself as a shield. His hand didn’t physically and visibly reach down from heaven and lift up David’s head. So let’s talk about what these images mean.

Shield

First, a shield protects from advancing attacks. The KJV has David saying that God is a shield “for me”. The word actually means “round about”. So, picture it – if an enemy attacks David from any direction, he’s not going to get David. Why? Because David’s “shield” is in the way. That’s the Lord – protecting him.

Glory

Next, the word “glory” can also mean “honor”. David is being supremely dishonored by men – his own son in particular. But in contrast, God gives him honor.

Lifter

Lastly, God lifts up David’s head. You surely know what it feels like to have increasing opposition to you – at home, at work, even among God’s people, unfortunately. And does it ever make you just want to hang your head? That’s where David was. But God lifts his head from despair.

And David may or may not know it at this point, but God was going to restore David to his throne in Jerusalem. And by doing that, God would lift David’s head – so to speak – and get rid of his reproach.

Intimate

Now, note one more thing in Psalm 3:3. Notice how intimate David is with the Lord. He personally addresses the Lord. He looks at the increasing enemies and distress in his life. And then he turns to the Lord alone and reminds himself and the Lord of what God really is to him.

Past

Now, Psalm 3:4 brings us back in time a little. David explains how he came to be so confident in the Lord’s protection of him. He cried to the Lord. He didn’t whisper under his breath. This word is actually translated a few times as “scream”. It’s translated many more times as “call” or “cry” as we have it here. David was earnest in communicating with the Lord. He needed to be heard.

And what happened when David directed his prayer to God? God “heard him”. God answered David when he called.

And he did so from his holy hill. That’s probably a reference to Mount Zion or the Temple Mount – even though the Temple hadn’t been built yet.

And do you wonder what God told David? How exactly did God answer David’s cries? Well, we don’t have the response recorded. But whatever it was, it gave David the confidence that we saw in verse 3. It also results in what he testifies about in Psalm 3:5.

Sleep

David says “I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.” Now, if you were being chased like a fugitive, could you imagine trying this? Laying down and sleeping? I think sleeping would have been very hard for David. And the reason it would be so hard is because he would be uncertain as to whether he would indeed awake in the morning. Or would his life have been taken overnight? But when God answered David’s pitiful cries, David gained confidence to sleep. And because God was protecting him, David actually woke up. The enemies didn’t hurt him. And they wouldn’t. Ever. Because God was with him. The Lord “sustained” him, it says. That word “sustained” is something like “propped up” or “supported”. How exactly do you sleep in the midst of gut-wrenching anxiety about your very life? David could because he knew that the Lord was the one who was propping him up and supporting him. David was confident in God’s deliverance.

10,000

And so because of all these considerations, David boldly proclaims in Psalm 3:6 – “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.” David won’t fear. Even in the face of overwhelming odds – ten thousands of people against just him. He’s confident in God’s deliverance. And that’s how he pictures it. It’s ten thousands of his enemies versus… how many? Just him. Even if those are the odds and that’s what happens, he’s going to remain confident in God’s deliverance.

Psalm 3 Commentary Verse 7

And so now David – Psalm 3:7 – finally makes petition to the Lord. “Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.” So, in contrast to the enemies in Psalm 3:1 who rise up against David – now we have David calling on the Lord to himself rise up – and to save or deliver David from his enemies.

And we have some imagery here again. Did God literally smite David’s enemies on the cheek? Did he break the teeth of the wicked who persecuted David? Do we have that recorded anywhere? We don’t. So, what is David poetically expressing here?

Cheek

First, a slap to the cheek was a sign of contempt. In other words, God thinks little of these enemies. He will not honor them. He honors David as we saw before.

Teeth

And what about the shattering of teeth? Well, in a day and age before dentures – you lose your teeth and you’re rendered fairly incapacitated in certain ways. And that’s just what God was going to do to David’s enemies. They may be many, but their efforts against David would be brought to nothing and they themselves would be despised by the Lord – whom they claimed would not deliver David.

And so David can call upon God to rise up and deliver him – knowing that this is what God does. God has done these kind of things for David before. And he’ll do them in this very distressing situation.

Psalm 3 Commentary Verse 8

Finally, we come to the end of the Psalm. Psalm 3:8. “Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people.” Now, I believe this is where the Psalmist praises God for his deliverance from increasing opposition. Literally – “salvation” – deliverance – “unto the Lord!” This is his domain. No man could give David the deliverance he needed. The Lord alone is able to deliver. It’s in his hands. And so he deserves our praise. And those who are truly his – God’s people – we get “the blessing.” What blessing is he talking about? Well, we get many countless blessings as God’s people. But in particular – we have what this Psalm is talking about – deliverance through our God.

Psalm 3 Commentary Conclusion

So, that’s Psalm 3. It’s David expressing his confidence in God’s deliverance from increasing opposition.

Now, if David could be confident that God was going to save him from multiplied and multiplying enemies who were intent on his literal physical death – can you and I be confident in that same God to deliver us from our troubles? We can argue from greater to lesser. If God can deliver his people from death, can he deliver from other lesser types of distresses?

We’ve just entered a new year. This message was delivered on the first Sunday of 2015. Look back over the past year. What has God delivered you from? What enemies has he delivered you from? What perils? What dangers? What temptations? Thank him for the deliverance he’s given you in the last year.

And then I would just encourage us to add this kind of prayer to our prayer arsenal. We’ve just been through an entire lesson breaking apart this man’s prayer. We’ve seen him call to the Lord and tell the Lord his bitter complaint. We heard him express his confidence in the Lord. Then we saw him ask the Lord for help. And finally we saw him praise the Lord.

I can tell you from just a little experience that this kind of approach to God helps. When you’re faced with a situation that just won’t quit and is just completely perplexing and disturbing, mimic what David did in Psalm 3. Let me lay out how you could do this, one last time:

Call out to the Lord. He’s the only one who can do anything anyway.

Then lay out your complaint before him. Give him details. Tell him what is so troubling to you. Approach him like a father who cares… because he is a father who cares! I know in our holier moments we wouldn’t dream of complaining to the Lord. But if it’s good enough for David, it’s good enough for us! God actually wants us to bring our complaints to him. So, do it.

Don’t stop there, though. Next, you can express your unwavering confidence in the Lord.

Then offer your request to him. Isn’t the order of this Psalm interesting? You don’t just blurt out your request if you’re following the pattern of this Psalm. It actually takes you a while to get to asking anything if you’re following the pattern of Psalm 3. But do make your request! God actually wants to hear it and wants to answer it according to his will.

And lastly praise the Lord for who he is and what he does.

I’ll just get real personal now and tell you how I’ve prayed recently after the pattern we see in Psalm 3. If there’s one thing that is most troublesome to me, it’s my wife’s health issues. Un-diagnosed weakness is something she struggles with constantly. And I have a few choices. I can sit and stew and get angry at God for letting this happen. That’s immature and just plain wrong. Or I could pretend like it doesn’t bother me, but it does. So, I prayed to the Lord about Lori’s health after the pattern of Psalm 3. And I’m not going to say that it solved all my problems or anything. But it was strangely calming. And I know the Lord heard it and will respond the best way possible.

What’s your single greatest burden? What is the thing that concerns you the most? The thing that makes you want to cry out? The thing you can’t do anything about? Would you consider taking it to the Lord? Invoke him. Complain to him. Express your confidence in him. Make your request to him. And praise him.