BOOK 2: PSALM 65 OF 72 – Creation and the image of God

Psalm 65 is a marked departure from the other psalms.  Where David normally describes the type of adversities he faces, here he spends little time on such iniquities.  Only one verse is dedicated to this (v3), after which the remainder of the chapter describes how the awesome creation responds to His love.

He is described as “the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea” (v5); the One who is able to “establish the mountains by His strength” (v6); He who could “still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples” (v7); the Lord who makes “the dawn and the sunset shout for joy“(v8); He who “visit[s] the earth, and cause[s] it to overflow“, preparing their grain, for thus He prepares the earth (v9); He waters its furrows abundantly, settles its ridges, softens it with showers, blesses its growth, crowning the year with His bounty, his paths dripping with fatness.  It goes on a crescendo pace, from the opening verses of man’s qualms to the climax of God’s creation, His meadows and valleys, shouting for joy (v13).

This chapter is almost a reflection of how we react to our circumstances.  How often we magnify the iniquities, the sins, that are committed against us; how often we are sucked into the pace of disobedient, of the unrighteous, and that we – too – learn to use our tongue manipulatively, politically, cunningly.  However, God’s creation knows of no such schemes – it was created for one purpose alone, and that is to be the object of God’s love and to respond in kind.

In face of God’s awesome creation which surrounds us, the creation which sings to the heavenly Father, our disobedience and lack of worship is all the more pronounced.  How often do we break out in song?  How often do God’s revelations completely break us in, that we are instantly humbled and strongly desire to dwell in His house and holy temple?  Yet, we are the ones made in God’s image, not the meadows or valleys.  It must pain the Lord to see His own image so slow to react to His love.

Fear not, though, brothers and sisters.  David’s remedy to his qualms is not to continue dwelling in one’s miry issues; David invites the reader, the worshipper, to look at the other worshippers whose focus is on the Lord alone.  Let us learn from creation – let us, too, shout for joy, for we are clothed far better than the flowers of the field and arrayed more beautiful than Solomon at his financial peak.

That is why David, shortly after describing the iniquities against him, describes “how blessed is the one whom thou dost choose, and bring near to thee, to dwell in thy courts” (v4).  Whilst we are blessed, it is in the Blessed Man whom we find refuge.  It is because Jesus is the One blessed, that we become blessed.  It is in Immanuel, God-with-us, that the earth overflows with the option to be completely righteous in the Father’s eyes.  As Spurgeon comments:

Christ, whom God chose, and of whom he said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, ” is, indeed, “over all, God blessed for ever; “but in him his elect are blessed too. For his sake, not for our own, are we chosen; in him, not in ourselves, are we received by God, being accepted in the Beloved; and, therefore, in him are we blessed: he is our blessing. With that High Priest who has ascended into the holy place and entered within the vail, we enter into the house of God; we learn to dwell therein; we are filled with its spiritual joys; we partake of its holy mysteries and sacraments of grace and love. From “A Plain Commentary on the Book of Psalms.” 1859.

That is why the original sin is so grievous; no created being can hurt the Lord like we have. No action of a created being could have pierced Jesus for our transgressions.  The enemy attacked God’s image, not just any creation; we are distinctly different, and distinctly like Christ from birth.  And it is in Adam’s fall that Christ falls; but where Adam remained in the dust, Christ rose again and ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father.  Much time is spent in Genesis to describe the wonders of creation; yet, it is in the pinnacle of the creation of man, the creation of God’s own image, that the Lord opted to be vulnerable, to be pierced, for our sins.

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BOOK 2: PSALM 65 OF 72 – Creation and the image of God

BOOK 2: PSALM 64 OF 72 – God’s Word against ours

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.  This phrase ironically contains ‘words’ supported by no truth.  On the contrary, one heals from broken bones; but hurtful words are embedded deep within our spirit, our psyche, our personality, and one may never heal from them.

The psalm starts with “hear my voice, O God, in my complaint“.  David lifts his words, his voice, up to the Lord.  He is petitioning, for protection.  He is the son after God’s own heart who is requesting refuge.  God, the Father, like any father, would be heart-broken to see his own child being attacked by His own creation.  The persecution amongst brothers has begun since the days of Cain and Abel, and every generation repeats itself.  The wicked, instead of speaking words of love, grace and compassion, “whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows… they talk of laying snares secretly“.  These words spring out of a fountain of injustice, of evil, “for the inward mind and heart of a man are deep“.

God retaliates with his own arrows – how?  “They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them“.  Their own lies, their own schemes, snares, swords, arrows, fall back on them.  Those unreasonably accused; the righteous labelled incorrectly as the unrighteous; the liars – even sometimes Christians – carrying on the will of the enemy and not of the Father — are all going to be brought from darkness to light in God’s vengeance.

How often are we, too, accused not only by the enemies outside the church, but particularly those within?  That we are the object of ridicule, of false accusations, of lies and deception, of grand-scheming manipulation, all of which had appeared under the pretence of holiness and edification at the outset?  Yet, God pulls up the weeds; He destroys the leaven; He sees the seed that is sown amongst thorns; He unveils the sheep’s clothing; He sees all.  We can only petition to Him for that protection, for that wisdom and discernment, to avoid the attack from the ambush.  It is not our job to play the role of manipulator, of schemer, to ‘get back at them’.  God is the only one able to do so – and to do it beautifully that enacts true justice that would allow all mankind to fear, that they would tell what God has brought about, and ponder what He has done.

The gospel is therefore as much truth as it is a revealer of liars; in the face of light, darkness must flee.

BOOK 2: PSALM 64 OF 72 – God’s Word against ours

BOOK 2: PSALM 63 OF 72 – My soul will be satisfied

There is something profound and powerful when one empties oneself in seeking God’s face.  In prayer and fasting, we are deprived of our legitimate pleasures, to seek the exceeding pleasure of God’s presence.  Yet, David here is deprived of his legitimate pleasures but not of his own volition.  The latter stanza of this chapter describes how there are those who seek to destroy his life, and that liars are spouting deceptions against him.

There is little, however, regarding David’s predicament or dire circumstances.  Instead, David spends much of this psalm singing about how his soul thirsts for Him; how his flesh faints for Him; how His steadfast love is better than life; how his soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and [his] mouth will praise [Him] with joyful lips.  This is a desperation, a meditation, a longing, that lasts through day and night.

There are times when we are in a proverbial wilderness, be that caused by a spiritual, financial and/or material drought.  Yet, in our temporary fast, whether that be of our own accord, or of God’s design, will we be able to find contentment, and satisfaction in Him as with fat and rich food?  The very things we long for, we toil for, we sweat for, we climb over others for, we compete for, we lie for, we kill for — to say the least — we can find freely in our loving Father?

If that is the case, then that is gospel truth indeed.  We do not need to continue to toil and suffer in labour, as if our work goes unappreciated and fruitless.  In God’s economy and design, His steadfast love is better than life.  In our spirit, we connect with His Spirit, and it is our soul who clings to Him.  In this clinging, our flesh follows suit.

Be blessed, brothers and sisters!  For God’s love is accessible to all; we need only make ourselves humble for Him, desperate enough for Him, so that more of his love can fill us; so that more of His Spirit will dwell in us; so that more of His will takes place through us.  Let us all swear by the one King, who shall rejoice in God, and let all who swear by the name of that King exult over the mouths of liars and deception.

BOOK 2: PSALM 63 OF 72 – My soul will be satisfied

BOOK 2: PSALM 62 OF 72 – I shall not be greatly shaken

What shakes us to the core?  Our financial woes?  Death of loved ones?  An attack to one’s ego, reputation, credibility?  When we’ve been wronged, defamed, unjustly and baselessly accused?  When a man is attacked like a leaning wall, a tottering fence, when he is thrusted from his high position, when he is mired in others’ falsehood, when he is covered in apparent blessings but underlined by actual curses?

In those circumstances, our first reaction is to defend oneself.  The self-protection mechanisms we have built over the years naturally flare up.  Even when we declare to ourselves, that “I shall not be greatly shaken“, even we know deep within that is but a false gospel.

David here sings with the same desperation as with the previous psalms.  He knows that his spirit waits in silence for God alone, since from Him comes my [David’s] salvation.  He alone is my [David’s] rock and my [David’s] salvation, my [David’s] fortress; I [he] shall not be greatly shaken.

David sings, knowing his reader and listener as one who is easily shaken.  How can we not, if we do not find our refuge in God alone?  When we do not see Him alone as our rock, salvation, fortress?  Without Him as our firm foundation, we have every reason to be shaken like a house built on lies and sand.  Yet, David speaks also to those who think they shall not be greatly shaken.  In the balances, those of high estate are a delusion, they are together lighter than a breath, lesser than those of low estate.  One is not to set vain hopes on robbery or increased riches.

That’s why David can confidently end this psalm by singing that power belongs to God, and that to the Lord belongs steadfast love.  He will render to a man according to his work.

Thus, when a man builds up treasures on earth; when he sets his heart on his extortion, robbery, increased riches; then the Lord will visit that man according to his work.  Yet, when a man seeks His kingdom and righteousness first (Matthew 6:33), when God alone and none other is Whom our spirit awaits in meditation and silence, that our soul is quietened and at peace in His presence — then we are recompensed by His lovely presence, by dwelling in His tents and tabernacle.

Brothers and sisters – why then are we surprised when we are troubled?  When we are anxious?  That itself is a diagnosis that we are weak creatures who have begun to set out hearts on God as well as the riches of this world.  If we want peace – let us turn to Him alone.  If we want heavenly reward – let us rely on Him alone.  If we want to live a long fruitful life – let us look at Him alone.  Only then can we truly declare, that we will not be shaken; because Christ’s work is sealed, and His foundation is one that will remain firm forever.  In the face of all things that will fade away, it is thoroughly refreshing to our very heart, mind, soul, sinews, bones and flesh to hear that the gift of salvation is unshakeable.  Let us break down our walls of pride, ego, reputation, self-entitlement, worldly identity and put on Christ’s righteousness!

BOOK 2: PSALM 62 OF 72 – I shall not be greatly shaken

BOOK 2: PSALM 61 OF 72 – The King who honours His Father

We learn from Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, and Ephesians 6:1-3 about honouring one’s father and mother, so that one may live long in the earth.

Here, David sings about the prolonging of the life of the king: “may his years endure to all generations!  May he be enthroned forever before God“.  David is not, however, merely singing about himself.  He is singing about the rock who is higher than him; he is pleading to the Father, who has been his refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.  The Father who heard David’s vows, the vows which enabled David to be given the heritage of those who fear His name.  Are we not also honoured to be co-heirs with Christ?  That we are given the heritage of Abraham our spiritual forefather, that we too will enjoy communion with the multitude of his descendants in new creation?

Yet, it is in David’s keeping of his vows as king of Israel, and in the performance of such commitment (which should never be broken: see Numbers 30), that David relies not on his own strength; he turns to the King whose throne is to endure to all generations.  David did not endure – like every man after Adam, he died.  Yet, his throne is eternal, only because David was but a shadow of the True David, of Jesus the man after the Father’s own heart.

So Spurgeon observes as regards the central object of affection in this personal psalm:

Though this is true of David in a modified sense, we prefer to view the Lord Jesus as here intended as the lineal descendant of David, and the representative of his royal race. Jesus is enthroned before God to eternity; here is our safety, dignity, and delight. We reign in him; in him we are made to sit together in the heavens. David’s personal claim to sit enthroned for ever is but a foreshadowing of the revealed privilege of all true believers. O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him. As men cry, “Long live the king, “so we hail with acclamation our enthroned Immanuel, and cry, “Let mercy and truth preserve him.” Eternal love and immutable faithfulness are the bodyguards of Jesus’ throne, and they are both the providers and the preservers of all those who in him are made kings and priests unto God. We cannot keep ourselves, and nothing short of divine mercy and truth can do it; but these both can and will, nor shall the least of the people of God be suffered to perish.

Yet, how is this King to endure to all generations?  In Christ’s obedience, in His honouring of the Father that He inherited the ends of the earth and shall dwell in the land forever.  Had Christ succumbed to the temptations of the enemy in the desert; had he left the cross to pursue his own desires; had he let the cup of wrath be passed to another, then there is no hope for anyone.  There will be no enduring.  There will be no everlasting life.  All kingdoms will crumble, because the only Anointed King would have fallen.  Yet, we praise Christ for his obedience to a life crucified.  And for us, by hiding in the Rock, we too inherit Christ’s obedience.  We, too, shall experience eternity in new creation because he is the firstborn of those who experience such renewed eternity.

Let us, like David, therefore seek God’s face by crying, by tears, by prayer, by petition, from the end of the earth.  This God is not some local deity, not a cultural phenomenon, but a global truth.  Let us call to him not when we are filled in our belly; not when we are wealthy with the materials of this world; not when we have other securities to place our confidence in.  No — let us call to him when our hearts are faint, when we realise that other than His tabernacle, we do not desire to dwell in any other; other than His wings, we do not desire to find other refuge.

BOOK 2: PSALM 61 OF 72 – The King who honours His Father

BOOK 2: PSALM 60 OF 72 – Your Beloved may be delivered

In this psalm we see David singing about God as the master strategist, according to ‘Shushan Eduth’, the lily of testimony.  Spurgeon explains,

Shushaneduth. The lilies of the testimony—means, that this Psalm has for its chief subject something very lovely and cheering in the law; namely, the words of promise quoted in the beginning of verse six, according to which the land of Canaan belonged to the Israelites, upon which is thus established the confidence expressed in Ps 60:6-8, with respect to their right of property over the land, and their possession of it. This promise, not to cite many other passages, which occur in the Five Books of Moses, and even so early as the patriarchs, is contained in Genesis 49, and Deuteronomy 33. It is evident of what value and importance this promise was, and particularly the remembrance of it at this time

The psalm is broken into three portions:

  1. The opening verses exclaiming God’s rejection of the Israelites; that they are made to “see hard things” and “given … wine to drink that made [the Israelites] stagger“.  David has no doubt that the breach in the land, though it may immediately be caused by the military might of foreign nations, is in reality caused by God alone.
  2. Immediately before the Selah, David writes, “You have set up a banner for those who fear you, that they may flee to it from the bow“; following Selah, “That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer us!“.  This bears similar vein to Romans 8:28, that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose.  God then speaks, explaining how he intends to divide up the lands, all within his sovereign will.  Most importantly, Shechem is the center of geographical attention – for it is in his piece of Canaanite land that Abram built an altar to the LORD who appeared to him (Genesis 12:6-7).  It is here that the Lord proclaims Israel’s rightful ownership of the land, in face of Moab His washbasin, Edom for casting His shoe, Philistia the object over which God is triumphant.
  3. The chapter then ends on a question, in relation to David facing the fortified city, Edom – “Have you not rejected us, O God?”  It is no longer as certain as when the chapter opened.  David ends the chapter with some hope – “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“.

History tells us that God is indeed with he who flees to God’s banner.  David was, indeed, eventually victorious: 2 Samuel 8; 1 Chronicles 18.  Vanity is in man’s strength; even the strength of Joab and the smiting of 12,000 of Edom in the Valley of Salt could not give David the confidence of victory.

Do we trust in our previous victories?  In our armies?  In our confidants?  In our experiences?  In our history?  Or do we view every opportunity of life and death as a fresh moment of turning to the eternal security of the gospel truth?

Spurgeon states,

The truth of God was involved in the triumph of David’s armies, he had promised them victory; and so in the proclamation of the gospel we need feel no hesitancy, for as surely as God is true he will give success to his own word. For the truth’s sake, and because the true God is on our side, let us in these modern days of warfare emulate the warriors of Israel, and unfurl our banners to the breeze with confident joy. Dark signs of present or coming ill must not dishearten us; if the Lord had meant to destroy us he would not have given us the gospel; the very fact that he has revealed himself in Christ Jesus involves the certainty of victory.

The chapter is but a model of how God intends to redeem His beloved ones.  However, we are His beloved ones only because He is His eternal beloved one.  The circumstance of us seeing hard things, of us given wine to drink, is but a shadow of the Christ who had suffered first.  He was the first to be rejected; to be broken; to experience hardship; to drink the cup of wrath (see Matthew 26:36-46) that would make Him stagger — all to pave the way for our own salvation.  That we can proclaim a baptism through His suffering into His glory.  David is not capable.  Joab is not capable.  However it is through Christ the beloved, that the Father’s love transforms Israel as a kingdom.  Spurgeon furthermore recognises the centrality of Christ’s salvation, given it is imputed to us:

Here is one suppliant for many, even as in the case of our Lord’s intercession for his saints. He, the Lord’s David, pleads for the rest of the beloved, beloved and accepted in him the Chief Beloved; he seeks salvation as though it were for himself, but his eye is ever upon all those who are one with him in the Father’s love. When divine interposition is necessary for the rescue of the elect it must occur, for the first and greatest necessity of providence is the honour of God, and the salvation of his chosen.

 

 

BOOK 2: PSALM 60 OF 72 – Your Beloved may be delivered

BOOK 2: PSALM 59 OF 72 – Wronged but Righteous

We live in a world where the good Samaritans have been uprooted by the sniggering Pharisees.  How often does one hear that they’ve been wronged; that they are innocent, and their persecutors did not receive their just deserts; that they have worked hard, accumulated tears, sweat, and blood, but receive an imbalance of appreciation or reward.

Whilst 1 Samuel 19-20 shows us the narrative of Saul’s persecution of David, Psalm 59 helps us peer into David’s heart.  For there, we find the turmoil of the king-in-the-making, of the man after God’s own heart.  What we expect is a man who exudes continual confidence; whose gravitas precedes before him; who destroyed Goliath with his wit and not his brawn.  Instead, we find a man incredibly insecure; a man who pines for justice as he has been unjustly dealt with; a man who is not confident to take matters into his own hand, but rather to leave it in His.

Saul has left himself open to a harmful spirit from the Lord.  If not for Jonathan’s reminders, he would have pursued his passions to destroy David.  David describes him, and his men, as dogs howling and prowling about the city, bellowing with their mouths, lying in wait for David’s life, to stir up strife against him.  The enemies whom David faced are born of the same deceiver whom Jesus destroyed; and the enemies we face today are constantly deceived by the spirits of this world, than by the Holy Spirit Who breathes life through us.

That is why David can proclaim that the Lord is his Strength; that God is his fortress; that He will let David look in triumph on his enemies.  How can a howling, growling dog, a prowling lion, a hungry beast who wanders about for food, even scar the high towers of God’s temple?  We triumph because He is much larger than we perceive Him to be; and yet our sights are often on the dogs and lions than the unshakeable and unbreakable Rock we stand on.

David prays that his enemies are consumed by their own wrath; and indeed, that is what God allows, for those who do not stand under the cross; they are, as John said, already condemned: John 3:16-18.

 

Do we not need to restore our perspectives to this, daily?  Are not our eyes and our sight so easily manipulated by the circumstances that surround us?  This psalm is a firm reminder that, even a faithful shepherd like David is easily discouraged, describing to Jonathan that he is but one step away from death: 1 Samuel 20:3.  Yet, turning around, David realises that he need not fear death at all, because Jesus has conquered death.  David can now find strength – even strength in the face of death – that he can sing in the day of his distress.

These are not easy words for David to preach.  He was not a man who merely philosophised the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, and that he should somehow force himself to appreciate that God is his refuge.  No – he is a man who, like Jacob, wrestled with Jesus to be blessed.  David, too, is struggling here with the LORD; and by the end of this psalm, he is blessed and remembers that this Strength and towering fortress is built on the foundation of God’s steadfast love.

That is why Jesus’ work on the cross is so important; not just a generic concept of the emotion and passion that we call ‘love’ today.  Jesus’ work on the cross is a combination of His painful sacrifice, in the face of howling, growling, hungry dogs and lions; and His overcoming of these enemies is what allowed men like David; and men like us, to even have a basis to proclaim victory in the face of death; victory in the face of being wronged.

It is in the cross that we find comfort from the Lord who experienced the same discomfort; it is in the cross that we find true justice, from the Lord who had been unjustly treated; it is in the cross that we find true value, from the Lord who gives us our value.  When we set our sights on the cross, and not on the prowling lions, that we begin to realise that the balance of this world is corrupt.  That the scales are uneven.  But the cross evens the scales; the cross restores the corrupt balance.

 

 

BOOK 2: PSALM 59 OF 72 – Wronged but Righteous