Already delivered, Psalm 54

cotton ball cloudsIn today’s culture of death, when evil men persecute Christians and sin remains deeply woven into society’s fabric, consider David’s pleas and praise in Psalm 54.

As he so often does, David begins the psalm by begging God to hear his prayer:

O God, save me by your name,
    and vindicate me by your might.
O God, hear my prayer;
    give ear to the words of my mouth (Psalm 54:1-2, ESV)

He then states the reason he cries to God.

For strangers have risen against me;
    ruthless men seek my life;
    they do not set God before themselves (verse 3, ESV).

Christians today all over the world and in our own country are beset by ruthless men and strangers who rise up against them. These enemies have no regard for the God who made them and created all things. They do not look to God or follow his commands.

But believers acknowledge their dependence on the Lord and his sustaining power.

Behold, God is my helper;
    the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will return the evil to my enemies;
    in your faithfulness put an end to them (verses 4-5, ESV).

Christians realize they can do nothing without God equipping them. He upholds us physically through each breath and heartbeat, emotionally through each trauma and grief, and spiritually through each perplexity and doubt.

And he does not allow evil to triumph ultimately. He will put an end to the enemies of Christians, who are also his enemies.

When we see this happen, we can praise God. We may praise him as individuals, but we encourage other believers when we share accounts of God’s deliverance. And our appropriate response is a thankful spirit in corporate worship.

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
    I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For he has delivered me from every trouble,
    and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies (verses 6-7, ESV).

David frequently reviewed the many ways God had delivered him in the past. He wrote these words long before his final cold and weak days, while he still fought and sang with youthful vigor. In fact, he wrote this while fleeing for his life from Saul. Despite the present danger, David considered that God had already delivered him from every trouble.

The Psalms often convey God’s deliverance as if it’s already accomplished. How would it change your outlook if you ended each prayer by confessing God’s resolution of your problem?

We may not always see the resolution to every problem or persecution in this life, but from God’s infinite perspective it’s already a done deal. Praise his name!

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Complaint, Psalm 64

spotted leafIn the Literary Study Bible’s introduction to Psalm 64, editors Leland Ryken and Philip Graham Ryken call it the “prototypical” lament psalm, the “specimen in which the conventional elements stand out highlighted” with “vivid poetic texture and memorable imagery” (p. 815). An awareness of this psalm’s lament construction and literary techniques helps us derive more meaning from David’s “complaint” (verse 1). We should never examine the psalms as a purely literary exercise. All scripture is the very word of God and is profitable for our instruction and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). But while the psalms teach our minds, they also touch our hearts.

Like most laments, this psalm begins with a cry to God: Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint (Psalm 64:1a, ESV). We know that God hears and answers prayer, yet he wants us to call to him. This complaint doesn’t equate with our modern understanding of complaining. It doesn’t mean whining about everything, never being joyful or content. It’s expressing your problem to God and your recognition that you need his divine help.

David strongly expresses his need for deliverance: preserve my life from dread of the enemy. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers (verses 1b-2, ESV).

The problems in David’s life are real and immediate. He expresses urgency as he begs God for help with imperative verbs: preserve, hide. His enemies fill him with dread, they plot secretly, and they are many (a throng!).

Like most laments, this psalm begins with a cry to God:

who whet their tongues like swords,
    who aim bitter words like arrows,
shooting from ambush at the blameless,
    shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
They hold fast to their evil purpose;
    they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, “Who can see them?”
   They search out injustice,
saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.”
    For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep (verses 3-6, ESV).

These enemies are not obvious foes on a battlefield. They excel at manipulation and behind-the-scenes schemes. They stealthily attack innocent people without cause. Rather than simply slipping into sin or falling in with a bad crowd, these guys commit themselves to evil and conspire to trap others. They doubt anyone would catch on to their plans because they’re careful to cover their tracks. They pour their time and intelligence into searching out injustice, looking for ways to beat the system. They focus on criticizing and bringing down other people. They are verbally, emotionally–perhaps even physically and spiritually–abusive. The mind and heart of a person is very deep. No one knows the depth of depravity in some minds or the extent of evil in some hearts. Some people devote God’s good gift of mental acuity to scheme against others.

What a depressing description! Maybe David’s vivid picture of his enemies reminds you of someone you know. A verbal bully who rudely criticizes you in front of others, a manipulator who secretly persuades others that you’re not trustworthy or competent, a hypocritical person who acts friendly to many while refusing to smile or speak to you, or an intelligent and articulate person who manufactures narratives against you and God’s truth. These situations are enough to make a person feel hopeless. Within the context of the church community, they can make you want to leave, shaking the dust from your feet (Matthew 10:14).

Before you get too depressed, please read the next section of the psalm, which begins with these crucial words: “But God”!

But God shoots his arrow at them;
    they are wounded suddenly.
They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them;
    all who see them will wag their heads (verses 7-8, ESV).

These people won’t get by with their schemes forever. Their tongues cut like swords? Their words wound like arrows? (See verse 3.) God shoots his arrows at them! He wounds them suddenly and brings them to ruin, using their own back-stabbing tongues to cut them down to size. People will see it and shake their heads.

But the purpose isn’t your personal vengeance, attractive as that might seem. God brings them down to show his divine power and generate our human praise (verses 9-10, ESV):

Then all mankind fears;
    they tell what God has brought about
    and ponder what he has done.

Let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord
    and take refuge in him!
Let all the upright in heart exult!

People who see God destroy the enemies of believers will revere the Lord and witness to his deliverance. They’ll meditate on his amazing works. Believers can rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him.

Ponder what God has done and rejoice! If you haven’t seem him bring down your enemies yet, trust that no enemy of God will ultimately succeed. Let your heart, brought low by the schemes and insults of others, exult in the Lord!

Defeated foes, Psalm 60

David wrote Psalm 60 after his army commander, Joab, had won a great military victory over the Edomites, but that triumph had not overshadowed recent struggles in Israel. When David became king, the nation suffered from internal divisions and external enemies. But David recognizes all Israel’s problems have ultimately come from God.

O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;
    you have been angry; oh, restore us.
You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open;
    repair its breaches, for it totters.
You have made your people see hard things;
    you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger (Psalm 60:1-3, ESV).

David implies God’s anger is righteous and over the people’s sins. He acknowledges God as the One who is sovereign over Israel’s calamity and strife, and as the only One who can restore and stabilize the broken and tottering kingdom. David compares the people, reeling from recent trauma, to those who stagger from potent wine. And he views even this as coming from God’s sovereign hand.

In verses 4-8, the tone changes from that initial dirge to a celebration of deliverance:

You have set up a banner for those who fear you,
    that they may flee to it from the bow. Selah
That your beloved ones may be delivered,
    give salvation by your right hand and answer us!

God has spoken in his holiness:
    “With exultation I will divide up Shechem
    and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
    Ephraim is my helmet;
    Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin;
    upon Edom I cast my shoe;
    over Philistia I shout in triumph.”

God sets his banner of love over those who believe in him. He protects his people from physical and spiritual enemies, delivering them from many earthly struggles and from eternal condemnation.

David envisions God speaking directly to him, promising to restore all the holdouts within the kingdom, to rule forever through the tribe of Judah, and to thoroughly subdue all Israel’s enemies.

The final four verses turn into a prayer as David addresses God (9-12, ESV).

Who will bring me to the fortified city?
    Who will lead me to Edom?
Have you not rejected us, O God?
    You do not go forth, O God, with our armies.
Oh, grant us help against the foe,
    for vain is the salvation of man!
With God we shall do valiantly;
    it is he who will tread down our foes.

Again, David acknowledges God as the only source of security and victory. If God does not go with us, we can do nothing. Even if it seems that God has rejected us, even if he seems to allow our enemies to triumph, he will not allow his chosen ones to perish. Our salvation is secure in Jesus Christ. When we seek to do God’s will, we shall do valiantly–no matter how it appears to us or in the eyes of the world.

For it is God who treads down our foes. If we love God and serve him wholeheartedly, our enemies are his.

Who are your foes? Are they people who don’t see things exactly the same way you do? Are they people who have a different agenda from yours? Or are your enemies the forces that fight against Christ?

With God, you will do valiantly, because he is the One who does it all. He will conquer every foe opposed to him and his Word.