PSALM 65 TALK: PRAISE THE LORD OF THE HARVEST

PSALM 65 TALK: PRAISE THE LORD OF THE HARVEST

(A Psalm that explores how God gives us all good things out of his grace – unmerited love and how we must respond to him with heartfelt praise.)

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INTRODUCTION

When I was 10 years old my parents moved to the outskirts of South – West Sydney in 1960 where they built a new home in a town called Liverpool. Liverpool in 1960 still had many farms fully operating around it but bit-by-bit these were being sold to housing developers who made new roads and land plots for both government and private housing.

I attended the historic Anglican Church in Liverpool called St Luke’s, which is the oldest, still standing and still being used church building in Australia. Every year in early spring St Luke’s ran a big Harvest Festival Church service and because of the operating farms in the area the church was filled with all sorts of farm products which added to the elaborate harvest festival decorations that always was put together on the day of this special service.

As time went along the farms disappeared and the food at the front of the church changed to canned and packet food products that were donated by St Luke’s church to a church agency that distributed food to poor people in Sydney.

When there was real farm products on display there was very visible evidence of the provision of God’s Harvest. Of course in bad years like times of drought the need for earnest prayer for God’s gift of rain was also evident by the lack of produce or the poor quality of the farm produce displayed.

In a T.V drama I recently watched a police man from the city was stationed on a farm to guard a witness for a up coming court case and another policeman decided to cook some food and use herbs grown on the farm. The city policeman refused to eat the food because some of the ingredients came straight from the ground. Children today in the city often do not know that the milk they drink comes from a cow or the food they eat originated from growing in the ground.

At the old Harvest Festivals at St Luke’s Liverpool the hymn, “All things Bright and beautiful” by Cecil Frances Alexander was usually sung. Alexander is said to have written this hymn in an attempt to teach children the meaning of the Apostles Creed and its opening phrase, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth”.

His simple words capture the truth of who is the Lord of the harvest because he both made and sustains the world we live in. The first verse goes like this,

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures’ great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

Psalm 65 seems to be a Hymn of praise to the Lord of the universe and particularly the Harvest who through his grace or undeserved love provides this great and bountiful harvest for his people to enjoy each year. The Hebrew heading attributes the Psalm to David and one commentator I looked up, named Derek Kidner said that the occasion for the writing of this Psalm could have been from a choice of three possible scenarios, which are:

“1. A autumn festival, which looks ahead to a coming year of plenty,

  1. A spring celebration such as the offering of first fruits at Passover,
  2. A national deliverance after famine”.

Interestingly this Psalm follows eight previous Psalms (except Psalm 58) that feature the themes of refuge (or protection) and deliverance from the enemies of God. In most of these Psalms it seems David is writing them in the context of his escape from his son Absalom. David was protected and ultimately delivered from the murderous intentions of his eldest son Absalom. In each of these Psalms David speaks of the right response to God’s refuge and deliverance is singing praises to the God who protected and delivered him, as we saw in the last verse of the previous Psalm,

“Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him!”

Now we come to Psalm 65, which is a hymn or song of praise to a mighty God who provides a great harvest through his grace in so many ways for his people. Maybe this Psalm was written not long after the Absalom affair for a spring festival or for an autumn festival looking forward to the coming year of plenty as Kidner suggested. We will see that this Psalm has some veiled references to the Passover escape from Egypt so this too could suggest the spring Harvest festival.

In ancient Israel like my early years in Liverpool the reality of bountiful or poor harvests was very real and the temptation of Israel right throughout its long history was to turn to the pagan God’s of fertility like Baal. These pagan God’s falsely offered bountiful harvests and blessings for the people who worshipped them using temple prostitution and idol worship which stood in direct opposition to the law of the one true God of Heaven and earth revealed to them through the ten commandments and other laws given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

So in this Psalm we will explore the mighty God of heaven and earth who because he is a God of Grace (unmerited love) provides bountifully for his people if they are in a right relationship with him.

With this in mind my breakdown for the Psalm is:

  1. PRAISE THE LORD WHO ANSWERS PRAYERS AND FORGIVES (1 – 4)
  1. PRAISE THE LORD WHO IS POWERFUL AND MIGHTY (5 – 8)

3.  PRAISE THE LORD OF THE HARVEST (9 – 13)

  1. PRAISE THE LORD WHO ANSWERS PRAYERS AND FORGIVES (1 – 4)

Even though the word’s grace or love does not appear in this Psalm it is an underlining concept behind it. David and his people did not deserve the many blessings God gave them stated clearly in this Psalm. David and his people and all people as well only deserve God’s judgment for there many sins but the God of the bible promises that those who turn to him in repentance and faith will receive the gift of his forgiveness.

This is spoken of in this first section of the Psalm but is clearly stated in many places in the New Testament, like the famous John 3: 16 verse that says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

I have broken this first section of the Psalm down into two parts:

  1. God must be praised (vs. 1)
  2. Why God must be praised? (2 – 4)
  1. God must be praised (vs.1)

The Psalm commences with a call to praise God,

“Praise awaits you, O God in Zion”

This seems to be a strange way to call the people of Israel to praise and worship but careful analysis of these words reveals how wonderful this call to praise God actually is.

The opening words of the Psalm, “Praise awaits you”, is translated a number of ways, here are a couple of examples besides the NIV,

English Standard Version:

“Praise is due to you, Oh God in Zion”.

Aramaic Bible in plain English,

“Praise is fitting for you, Oh, God in Zion”

And then there are those who interpret the Hebrew as speaking of Silence, like The New American Standard Version which reads’

“There will be silence before you and praise in Zion”.

Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Whole Bible explains this interpretation well with these words,

“The Hebrew is, “To thee is silence praise”, a kind of compound phrase, not meaning, “silent praise”, but referring to a condition where everything is ready, where the preparation has ceased, and all is in readiness as if waiting for that for which the arrangements had been carried forward”.

So the people assemble in David’s time in the Sanctuary on Mount Zion and in Solomon’s time and beyond on Mount Moriah and wait silently to join together in grateful praise to a mighty, powerful and loving God who deserves our praise continually.

The second part of the verse emphasizes the point of the first part that God must be praised because he deserves it. It reads,

“To you our vows will be fulfilled”.

David would have made many vows and prayers to God as he faced seemingly impossible situations like his flight from Jerusalem to the wilds of the wilderness of northern Judah in the days of the Absalom revolt. Times of drought or attacks from foreign enemies would also have led the people to making vows and prayers to God. However David knew that the God of Israel listened to his people and answered their prayers. Now David says praise awaits the God who answers his and his people’s prayers.

David calls the people to praise the God who answers prayers and for fills their vows. Barnes says,

“Those vows they were now ready to carry out in expressions of praise”.

Paul called the Church in Rome and now us to the same kind of worship based on the grace and mercy of God in what Christ has done fro us, Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”.

  1. Why God must be praised? (2 – 4)

The rest of this Psalm actually is an answer to this question. So the first verse of this Psalm answers the question, how we should respond to what God has done for us?

Which is to give him our praise and worship. The rest of the Psalm then answers the question:

Why we should praise God or what God has done for us to deserve our praise and worship?

As I said in the introduction in the past 8 Psalms (excluding Psalm 58) David spoke of how God delivered him and protected him from his enemies and then he said we must respond to this in worship and praise.

In this Psalm he starts with the call to worship God who he says awaits or deserves our praise and worship and then sets down a number of reasons why God deserves this praise and worship.

In verses 2 – 4 David picks up three reasons why God deserves our praise and worship and they are:

  1. God answers prayer (vs.2)
  2. God forgives sins (vs. 3)
  3. God forgives the sins of those he has chosen (vs.4)
  1. God answers prayer (vs. 2)

David, in his call to worship has already indicated that the God of the bible answers our prayers in the words,

“To you our vows will be fulfilled”

Now, in verse 2 he makes it even clearer why the God of the bible deserves our praise for he says,

“O you who hear prayer to you all men come”.

This Psalm, which we believe is in the context of a Harvest type festival time of worship probably, has in mind the prayers of the people for a good harvest. Also because this Psalm follows the eight previous deliverance and refuge Psalms (except for Psalm 58) David probably has in mind the prayers he and his faithful followers had for his deliverance and protection from his many enemies.

However this verse applies to any prayers uttered by any man to the God of the bible. We know it is the prayers of any man because the verse speaks of a God that all men come to.

However do all men come to the God of the bible?

In David’s time the answer to this question would be, no, only the people of Israel had the direct revelation of God that became the bible. However even throughout the bible’s story of the people of Israel not all Israelites prayed to the one true God of the bible. Our church is presently going through the book of Jeremiah which speaks of terrible and extensive idolatry and that the majority of the people of Israel of that time had turned away from the God of the bible to the worship of the idols of Baal. A good example of this is Jeremiah 3: 12 – 13,

‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. 

Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favours to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’” declares the Lord”.

Both the Old and New Testaments make it clear that God does not hear the prayers of those who do not believe in him. For example Isaiah 59: 2,

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear”.

And Peter quotes Psalm 34: 12 – 15 and in 1 Peter 3: 12 he writes,

“Foe the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil”.

This then sets up what David will say in the next verse about what makes it possible for God to hear our prayers.

  1. God forgives sins (vs. 3)

So I pointed out that even people in Israel had serious problems with sin that separates us from God making it impossible for God being able to hear our prayers. So now David says in verse 3,

“When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions”.

So the second reason why God deserves praise is that he makes it possible for us to pray prayers that he will always hear because he forgives our sins and transgressions.

David will tell us in the next verse why God does this but before we get to that I would like to reflect on this important truth about the God of the Bible.

The God of the bible is a just and righteous God as we will see in verse 5 of this Psalm but because of this he is a holy God. This is what Isaiah is speaking about in the previous reference I made in Isaiah 59: 2,

But your iniquities have separated you from your God”

Isaiah 43: 15 says,

“I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.”

Israel’s problem is the problem we all have and that is we have turned all away from God which is called rebellion for we have given up on doing what God wants and have gone our own way chasing after something or someone else other than God himself. This is made clear by New Testament passages like Romans 3: 10 – 18,

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one. “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. “The poison of vipers is on their lips. “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. 

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know “There is no fear of God before their eyes”.

So all through the bible this message of the sinfulness of man and what it does to him, the world he lives in and his relationship with the one true God is made clear.

I saw recently a DVD that dealt with some of the terrible wars of the middle- ages in England and France and one woman who was a nun witnessed some of the horror of those wars and said, “because of what I have seen I no longer believe in God”. The reality that women was seeing was not the absence of God but the sin of man who has rebelled against God and what she was seeing was how depraved and Godless man can become once he turns from God and goes his own way.

However the God of the bible is not just a just, righteous holy God he is also a loving God. In the Jeremiah reference I gave earlier we read this in Jeremiah 3: 12 -13

‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’”
declares the Lord”.

Note that even that terrible faithless Israel of Jeremiah’s time could turn back to the God of the bible and he will, as the text reads, “frown on you no longer” which is another way of saying he will forgive them and not punish them because of their many sins.

This is only possible because Jeremiah says, “for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord”, which is another way of saying that the God of the bible is a loving God. David has presented this aspect of God in many of the Psalms he has written so far in the first and second book of Psalms and a good example of this is Psalm 44: 26,

“Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love”.

David knew that he and in fact anyone did not deserve this love of God expressed in forgiving our sins and he often combines God’s love with God’s mercy like Psalm 25: 6,

“Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from old”.

This idea of merciful love is called “grace” in the New Testament and a classical example of this is Ephesians 1: 6 – 8,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us”.

So in Psalm 65 David gives the second reason for giving God praise and that is because he gives us the forgiveness of our sins and transgressions when we deserved them to overwhelm us.

  1. God forgives the sins of those he has chosen (vs.4)

The forgiveness of our sins and the grace of God to forgive them continue as a underlining thought in the first phase of next verse, verse 4, which reads,

“Blessed are those you choose and bring near”.

The verse commences with the Hebrew word we translate, “Blessedness” right back at the start of my Psalm Talks studies of the Psalms I sought to explain this same Hebrew word which is the first word we read in the book of Psalms in Psalm 1 verse 1. I offer my explanation of the real meaning of this word by quoting from my Psalm 1 Talk,

“Being Blessed by God or being truly happy is what all people really want but true happiness seems to be such a fickle thing. Many people buy lottery tickets to win large cash jackpots and think that if only they could win millions of dollars, then they would really be happy. The reality is that many who win big lotteries often find very little happiness at all. Relatives, friends and con men trying to get a piece of the prize hound them. They buy houses, boats and go on expensive holidays but still, in side themselves they aren’t happy.

Others go deeply religious and do all kinds of religious activities. Martin Luther before he found Christ and the great liberating truth of Justification by faith, crawled up the steps of St Peters in Rome, praying as he crawled and when he got o the top he said, he felt more of a sinner after doing the crawl than before he started it.

Yes the bible makes it clear, to be truly blessed by God you need to find his forgiveness first, Psalm 32 verses 1 and 2 says:

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit”.

But now David says,

“Blessed are those you choose and bring near”.

In my interpretation of this verse I will endeavor to stick to what the bible says and not wonder off into some kind of theological philosophy about free will etc. Albert Barnes explains it this way,

“The word chooses refers to the fact that true piety regards all such blessings as the result of the divine favor; the fruit of his electing grace and love”.

Barnes offers Ephesians 1: 3 – 4 as a collaborating passage of scripture of this kind of interpretation,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—“

Earlier when I was speaking about God’s grace I quoted the next 3 verses which complete Paul’s understanding of God’s act of grace in saving us,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us”.

This teaching in Psalm 65 is right throughout the bible and is both controversial and I think extremely important so I offer another commentators explanation of it to help explain it further, C.H Spurgeon writes,

“Since we cannot and will not come to God of ourselves, he (God) works graciously in us, and attracts us powerfully; he subdues our unwieldiness, and removes our inability by the almighty workings of his transforming grace”.

Some argue that this kind of teaching negates or detracts from presenting the Gospel to everyone but this completely fails to appreciate the bible teaching that it is through the message of the Gospel that God works out his amazing transforming act of grace. As Paul presents clearly in Romans 10: 14 – 17,

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ”.

So David is saying in verse 5 that not all of the people in Israel have had there sins forgiven because not all of them have tuned back to God in repentance and faith and those who have only did so because they were chosen by God to do so.

This teaching to me is both mind blowing and liberating it is mind blowing because it something we cannot totally fathom or understand but it is liberating because he takes the pressure off me to be the one who convinces others to believe and helps me see that all we need to do is be faithful in teaching and living the Christian Gospel and God will do his work of saving grace in the lives of others.

This teaching also means prayer is very important because without God’s Holy Spirits help opening the hearts and minds of non believers our preaching is useless.

In David’s mind in verse 4 God’s choosing of people led them to come close to God, which in his day meant,

“Living in your (or God’s) courts! “

This is Old Testament language for worshipping God together with others, who think and believe the same things as do as Barnes explains,

“The word ‘courts’ refers properly to the area around the tabernacle or the temple, and not to the tabernacle or temple itself. The worship of the people was offered in those courts, and not in the tabernacle”.

In the New Testament this idea of drawing near to God and worshipping him with others is put in another way like Hebrews 10: 22 – 25,

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

 The last phase of verse 4 speaks again in Old Testament terms,

“Filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple”

David has spoken about being in the temple or God’s house before and in Psalm 27: 4 David says,

“”One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple.”

I gave a good explanation of what David is asking for in this verse and similarly in verse 4 of this verse in my Psalm talk on Psalm 27 and I quote myself from that talk,

“What then is David asking for when he seeks dwelling in the house of the Lord, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and hiding in the shelter of God’s tabernacle?

In Luke 10 verse 39, we read of what Mary chose to do when Jesus came to visit her and her sister at their house, she, “sat at the Lord’s feet”. Martha of course chose to run around the house to madly prepare food etc. for Jesus. Martha was upset with her sister Mary who chose to stop and be with Jesus listening to him. Jesus says to Martha, Mary chose what is better.

I believe David is asking for in Old Testament terms what Mary got. He wants to be close to God, he wants to sit at the feet of his Savior and lord and fellowship with him. We saw in Psalm 23 verse 6 that David longed to, “dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. It is interesting that the Temple, which was the physical house of the Lord on earth, had not yet been built and in fact God instructed David not to build it himself but rather it was to be built by his son Solomon.

Did God therefore tell David that the answer to his prayer to be with God in his house forever, as we see in Psalm 23 and verses 4 to 6 is a big no?

Of course not because David is not asking to be in some earthly building forever but to be in what that earthly building would become to represent, “God’s dwelling place with us”. David wanted to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord”, he wanted to be in God’s presence forever”.

So here in Psalm 65 verse 4 David is speaking of how the God in heaven is blessing his people with his bountiful gifts from heaven. This makes sense if you understand that the Temple only symbolized God in heaven dwelling with his people on earth.

So lets read verse 4 of this Psalm again with this interpretation in mind,

“We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple”.

The best “good thing” God has in heaven is of course himself and through his only Son he gave himself to us when Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us as John 1: 14 says.

When we see Jesus we see God and when we know Jesus by faith in him we know God and all the good things he has for us are ours in Christ and our response to that should be praise and worship.

I close this first section with the words of Hebrews 2: 9 – 10,

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered”.

  1. PRAISE THE LORD WHO IS POWERFUL AND MIGHTY (5 – 8)

The rest of his Psalm is rich in beautiful poetic images that present five more reasons why we should praise and worship our Lord the God who made and sustains our world.

Form a God of Love David moves to a God of power and might but I think the grace of God remains behind the rest of the Psalm just as we saw in the first section.

I have broken this second section into three parts:

  1. God’s grace and might in how he answers our prayers (vs. 5)
  2. God’s power and might in his acts of creation and salvation (6 – 7)
  3. God’s wonders and might which is seen by all (vs.8)
  1. God’s grace and might in how he answers our prayers (vs. 5)

So in the first verse David calls the people to Zion, where the sanctuary was to praise and worship God and he then answers the question why God deserves this praise and worship and in doing so gives the people content to their praise and worship.

In the first part of verse 5 David moves the readers or worshippers on from the forgiveness of sin to acknowledge again how God answers prayers for deliverance with great grace and might. He writes,

“You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior”.

These words again make me think of the past eight Psalms (excluding Psalm 58), which focused on the twin themes of Deliverance and refuge often set in the context of the danger and troubles of the Absalom revolt.

Then David saw God’s righteousness produce awesome deeds of deliverance in the face of impossible human odds.

These awesome deeds of deliverance or salvation could also equally apply to the Israelites escape from Egypt that seem to be behind a lot of the poetic images of this second section of this Psalm.

Why are God’s awesome deeds of deliverance or salvation for his people spoken of here in terms of God’s righteousness?

H.C, Leupold answers this question with these words,

“It will always be ‘in righteousness’ which leads him to deliver his own whom he has promised help, it is, therefore, right for him to do so”.

Did David deserve deliverance from his rebellious son Absalom or did Israel deserve deliverance or salvation from Egypt?

The answer is no but because their God is a God of love and grace, which is wrapped up in his quality of righteousness he saved them both.

Do we deserve the Salvation Jesus won for us on the cross?

The answer is no, but because of the love or grace of God he chooses to save us from our sins and give us eternal life. As Paul says at the beginning of his letter to the Romans in Romans 1: 16 – 17,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith”.

David goes on to say that this mighty or awesome God is,

“Our Savior”

The idea that the God of the bible is a Saving God is another great theme that runs through the whole bible. From Noah through to Israel out of Egypt to the return of the Jews from captivity in Babylon God is saving or recurring his people out of his righteous love for them.

So it is in the New Testament where God is seen through Jesus as a Savior for everyone both Jew and Gentile. That famous verse, John 3: 16 says it all,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

Or

1 Timothy 1: 15 – 16,

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.  

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life”.

Even David knew that his awesome saving God was not just for the Jews only because in the second part of verse 5 he writes,

“The hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas”.

This is a poetic picture of the universal nature of the Salvation God offers. In other words God is not just a Savoir of the Jews but of the entire world. The Israelites were never designed by God to be an exclusive people or rather keep the message of God as Savoir to themselves even though as time went along they acted this way.

In Exodus 19: 3 – 6 we read this,

“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Note two things here:

  1. Israel is going to be God’s treasured nation or most blessed nation

But

  1. Their role is to be a kingdom of priests.

What this means is best described in Isaiah 42: 6 and 7,

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness”.

Israel was called to mission a Kingdom of priest’s, a light to the Gentiles bringing the message of God’s Salvation for the world.

Of course many might argue in one sense the Jews failed to do this, as they became an exclusive race of people who looked down on everyone else as God’s only people. But as Israel failed God did not for out of Israel came his very own Son who for filled this high calling of God.

Interestingly Isaiah a few chapters on will prophesizes that God would send what he calls, “My Servant” to for fill Israel’s high calling in Isaiah 49: 6 – 7,

“He says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

This is what the LORD says– the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel– to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

 So David must have had in mind this concept of Israel being a kingdom of priests or a light to the Nations when he wrote his words in Psalm 65: 5a,

“The hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas”.

The message he knew his people had about the great and mighty God of Salvation was for the whole world represented poetically by the terms, “ends of the earth” and “the farthest seas”.

This comes to us as both a word of inspiration and warning for we too are called to be a Kingdom of priests and a light to the world. As Peter declares in 1 Peter 2: 9,

 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

And Mark 16: 15 – 16,

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”.

Sometimes we as Christians fall into the same trap of exclusiveness that the Jews fell into and fail to live up to our high calling of a Kingdom or a church of priests who take the message of hope and salvation to the world.

So David in Psalm 65 wants his people to praise and worship the Lord their God with the message of his awesome Salvation proclaimed to the world.

  1. God’s power and might in his acts of creation and salvation (6 – 7)

In the next two verses David recalls, poetically two great powerful and mighty acts of God to be part of both the reason to praise God and the content of that praise. The two great powerful and mighty acts of God are:

  1. His creation of the world (vs. 6)
  2. His salvation of his people out of Egypt (vs. 7)
  1. His creation of the world (vs. 6)

David at the end of verse 5 mentioned the seas and now in verse 6 he speaks of God’s creation of the mountains,

“Who formed the mountains by you power having armed yourself with strength”.

Barnes explains the meaning of these words with this,

“This is an exhibition of vast strength or power on the part of God, as if he fixed them (the mountains) so firm that they could not be moved- as if he handled with ease vast masses of matter, with all their rocks and forests – and caused them to repose steadily and calmly on their foundations”.

God created the world and the universe something many people simply say is a myth or legend. The alternative is that it (the universe) just came about by accident that happened over a very long period of time. Evolution seems to give length of time power of creation, the mistakes of creation the design mechanism and the accidents of creation the building blocks of the stars, planets and geology of the earth.

However as some see chaos in the universe others see order and design and the bible points to the powerful hand or word of God as the real designing force. As we read at the start of John 1: 1 – 3,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made”.

We know of course from verse 14 of this same chapter that this one called the word was non other than the pre-existed Christ in heaven because that verse says,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

So when I go out of my home in the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney and walk to the local lookout I can see and witness the power and might of the creator God I encounter in the bible. Standing up so high I can see evidence of the God who formed the mountains and of course I can praise him as David encourages me to here in Psalm 65.

  1. His salvation of his people out of Egypt (vs. 7)

Some might say that verse 7 is simply a continuation of verse 6 concept of God’s power and might in creation. This is true but I think by the way David frames this verse he has more than the power and might of God in creation in mind.

The verse reads,

“Who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations”.

Yes God created the seas just as he created the mountains by his great power and might. But I want you to note how David refers to the seas. He says,

“Who stilled the roaring of the seas”.

This I think is a poetic image of the Israelites crossing of the red sea when God stilled the roaring sea and opened it up for Israel to cross safely and then close it in on the Egyptian army that pursued them.

In Exodus 15 Moses sings a great new song that celebrates this and I like the section of the song that speaks of God’s power and might over the seas to save Israel on that day, Exodus 15: 6 – 10,

Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord,
shattered the enemy. “In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.  By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood up like a wall;
the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy boasted,  ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’  But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters”.

David gives us another clue that he not only has creation in mind here but Israel’s Salvation when God led them through the waters of the red sea with the second expression of this verse, which says,

“And the turmoil of the nations”.

Moses in verses 13 – 16 says this about God’s special nation Israel and the others nations of the world,

In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone— until your people pass by, Lord, until the people you bough pass by”.

The idea that the nations hearing the news of Israel’s great salvation by their mighty and powerful comes up in the next verse as well when David writes,

“Those living far away fear your wonders”

Something I will comment on in more detail in the next part of this second section of this Psalm.

I like the closing words of the little letter called Jude that capture the power and might of God to save us and bring us over the turmoil of the waters of death to eternal life with God in heaven, Jude 24 – 25,

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savoir be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen”. 

  1. God’s wonders and might which is seen by all (vs.8)

As I pointed out at the end of the last part of this second section of Psalm 65 David, I think, alludes to the reaction of the Nations of the time of the Exodus who when hearing about how God saved the people of Israel they were afraid.

This is the first thought of verse 8 which presents the idea that God’s wonders and might is seen and known by all or can be seen and known by all. David writes in verse 8,

“Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy”.

 In the last Psalm talk on Psalm 64 verse 9 I had this to say about the news of Israel’s salvation out of Egypt by their great God of power and might,

 “Returning to the story of Rahab and the spies in Joshua chapter 2 the verse before the one I quoted, verse 10 says this,

“We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed”.

Rahab’s words seems be representative of her fellow Canaanite chatter about the news of what Israel’s God had done for them and would be easily seen as an a example of:

“They will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done”. (Psalm 64: 9)

All of God’s great intervention of Judgment and Salvation has been recorded for us in the bible and any time someone reads that or has it read to them then the works of God are proclaimed and what he has done is pondered.”

So here again David alludes to the same idea that when non believers hear of how God has worked in history and in the lives of his people and even today when we present a real testimony to what God has done in our lives those who do not know the God of the bible we trust in can fear his wonders and maybe become interested in the message we proclaim namely the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord.

I refer to my Psalm Talk on Psalm 34 entitled, “The power of a God centred Testimony” which is an excellent exposition of this Psalm and the idea of how we can use what God is doing in our lives to help interest others in the message of the Gospel.

Peter advises us to do this sort of testimony in 1 Peter 3: 15 – 16,

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

The final phrase of verse 8 reads like this,

“Where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy”.

Barnes explains this phrase this way,

“The allusion is to the east and the west. The sun in his rising and his setting seems to rejoice, that is, he appears, bright, cheerful. The margin is to sing – a poetic expression indicating exultation and joy”.

This is the same idea David presented in Psalm 19: 1 – 4,

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 

It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.  It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;  nothing is deprived of its warmth”.

In my Psalm talk on Psalm 19 I had this to say about the sun and how David is using it in Psalm 19 and also Psalm 65: 8b,

David like any ancient person saw the sun moving across the sky from east to west. Of course we know the earth moves and the sun is fixed but this does not take away from what David is saying. He describes the sun as a young, strong and lusty bridegroom going out to meet his bride or a young finely tuned athlete warming up for a gig race.

David uses the Sun and these images of them to say that as wonderful and glorious as the sun might be it is only it is just a mere creature of God to tell us how wonderful and glorious God is. I like the words at the end of verse 6, “nothing is hidden from its heat”.

The sun has an influence over everything and of course without, I read this about the sun on the Internet, “The sun provides nearly all the heat and light and other forms of energy necessary for life on our planet In fact, the sun provider virtually all the energy of the solar system. Its gravitational attraction governs the motions (or kinetic energy) of the planets and other bodies”. The idea of the suns heat not been hidden, I think is used to say that, the God who made the sun to produce that heat is not hidden and speaks to us through it.

Again this does not seem to add up to all people’s beliefs and ideas. Like Paul John tells us that this is because of sin. We read this in John 3: 19 – 21,

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God”.

The light of God and the light that comes into the world are speaking spiritually and is of course the coming of Jesus Christ.

 So David has now used God’s answers to our prayers, forgiveness of our sins, his awesome deeds of salvation, the power and might of his creating abilities, the might and wonder of his saving Israel out of Egypt and the fact that all the world fears the news of his wonders and deeds as both the reason for praising God and the substance of that praise as well.

  1. PRAISE THE LORD OF THE HARVEST (9 – 13)

We come then to the final section that deals directly with the praise for the Lord of the harvest. Not that the previous sections do mot relate to this. The previous two sections lay the foundations for Gods bountiful harvest to come. As I hinted at in my introduction in the rural setting of ancient Israel the importance of a good harvest was crucial for the well-being and blessing of the nation.

The temptation for Israel to turn to fertility God’s or religions was great and Israel gave in to this temptation many times throughout its history. As I also pointed out in my introduction by the time of Jeremiah foreign fertility worship had almost taken over and for this God’s judgment fell heavily on the nations of Israel and Judah.

What the first two sections presents is not a God of fertility but a mighty God of Righteousness and love and mercy. It is God alone who chooses who he will bless and it is God alone whose awesome deeds of salvation should have been the people’s inspiration for praise and devotion.

So now David specifically speaks of the Lord of the harvest who more than deserves the peoples praise and worship. I have broken this section into two parts:

  1. The Lord of the Harvest (9 – 10)
  2. The Lord’s bountiful harvest blessings (11 – 13)
  1. The Lord of the Harvest (9 – 10)

 David now speaks of both who the Lord of the harvest is and how he is involved in the entire growing process. Verse 9 reads like this,

“You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it”.

 This verse seems to present a God of the harvest who is totally in charge of crop growing and not only that he is personally involved in it. It is as though he is a gardener with his sleeves rolled up watering every plant with one aim to produce a harvest for his people. Spurgeon puts it this way,

“He is represented here as going round the earth, as a gardener surveys his garden, and as giving water to every plant that requires it, and that not in small quantities, but until the earth is drenched and soaked with a rich supply of refreshment”.

The poetic image of the streams of God would have been a very striking one for people living in the very dry climate of the Middle East where rainfall can be very sparse. Calvin sites here Deuteronomy 11: 10 – 11 which speaks of how Israel will water their crops differently in the Promised Land than they did in Egypt,

“The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven”.

In Israel some rivers and streams never ran with water unless there was rainfall and this is the same in my own country Australia as well. This image of the streams of God is probably then an image of God’s life giving rain he sends from the heavens.

This all happens because God as the verse reads,

“Ordained it”.

Many people today say they believe in God but they do not believe God is intimately still involved in his creation. It is as though he made a clock and wound it up and it is ticking but he has left the clock ticking and is now quite removed from it.

However the God of the bible is not like this as this verse reveals he is intimately still very much involved in this world and the lives of men even down to the produce of the harvest of crops that feed us.

Many people reject this idea and ask if it is true then why is the world in such a mess?

Jesus is God’s ultimate personal involvement in this world and he went as far as dying for our sins on the cross to both show he is willing to deal with the mess our sin has produced in this world and not only that his death gives us a way out of the mess our many sins have created. Jesus said this about the provision of our daily needs like food in Matthew 6: 25 – 27,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life”.

Jesus completes this word about not worrying about our daily needs like food with a challenge and a promise in Matthew 6: 33 – 34,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

David continues his description of this Lord of the harvest in the next verse, verse 10,

“You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops”.

Leopold continues the intimate involvement of God in the growing process interpretation with these words,

“The poet obviously attempts to ascribe each successive step in the process to direct divine action”.

God is seen as drenching the plowed furrowed ground, softening the ground with his rain and blessing the crops with a rich and plentiful harvest, as we will see in the final verse of this Psalm.

The harvest of the New Testament is the harvest of God’s church which Jesus referred to in Matthew 9: 37 – 38,

 “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus is speaking of the harvest of lost souls because in the previous verse we read,

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”.

Note that even for the harvest of souls won for heaven God is the Lord of the harvest and we are powerless without his help in building his church today.

  1. The Lord’s bountiful harvest blessings (11 – 13)

 David continues to poetically speak of God’s great harvest now giving his readers a description of its bountiful supply. Verse 11 and 12 speak of the bountiful overflow of God’s Harvest blessings.

In verse 11 we have the poetic image of the overflowing crop transport cart,

“You crown the year with your bounty. And your carts overflow with abundance”.

 The crown of the year is probably its time of supreme fullness when the harvest is at its peak. Some commentators think the expression of “you crown the year with your bounty” is referring to a special year of bountiful harvest like Ellicot translates and comments,

“All “the circle of the golden year” had been attended by Divine goodness. The meaning seems to be that God had made a year, which was naturally prosperous, still more abundant”.

Whatever it is the harvest here is spoken of as being plentiful because,

“Your carts overflow with abundance”.

God when he decides to bless us with a year of a great harvest makes it a year of overflowing blessing. I like the old Sunday school chorus that says,

Count your blessings name them one by one

Count your blessings see what God has done

Count your blessings name them one by one

Count you’re many blessings see what God has done.

I wonder if you know the verses that Johnson Oatman wrote in 1897,

 

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings; name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,

And you will be singing as the days go by.

 

When you look at others with their lands and gold,

Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;

Count your many blessings, money cannot buy

Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

 

So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,

Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,

Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

 I suppose it is easier for a farmer to count his many blessings in a year when there is a bountiful harvest but what about the years effected by drought?

The Christian is called to trust God and give thanks to God in all circumstances like Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Note how Oatman’s “Count Your Blessings” hymn verses are set in times of difficulty and trail. In the first verse he speaks of the tempest and the times of discouragement. In the second verse it is burdens and carrying your cross, while the third verse speaks of seeing the seeming blessings of God on others. The final verse speaks of times of conflict and discouragement but every verse has only one word of advice to give in all this, “Count your many blessings” and I really like the conclusion of the first verse that says, “and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done”.

As I said in my introduction when the produce of the harvest festival at St Luke’s Liverpool was poor then this led to prayer for our land and farmers but even then we still celebrated with praise and worship the Lord of the harvest.

The final verse completes this harvest praise for the Lord of the harvest,

“The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing”.

Again the blessings of a bountiful harvest from God are being spoken of poetically.

I like Leopolds final comments on these words and cannot improve on them so I quote them here,

“We venture the claim that this is the most eloquent and beautiful description of the blessings that God bestows on field and meadow to be found anywhere in such brief compass”.

The picture is of fields covered with flocks and grain and they are singing praises of joy obviously to the Lord of the harvest and God and King. This description reminds me of a trip I had through some of the North Island of New Zealand where I saw magnificent green hills filled with thousands of sheep and other times when I saw fields of golden wheat waiting to be harvested. God certainly had blessed this countryside and I wondered if the local people here recognised this or not.

Sadly most people today take the blessings of God for granted and he is not even acknowledged but when drought or some other forms of problem strikes their land they are quick to criticize God and say where is this God you say is active in this world?

As I said before the real person of faith gives thanks to God in all circumstances, as Paul put it in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18. Note also what Paul adds to this great command,

“For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

 The tests of our faith will come as Peter predicts in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

 I refer again to Johnson Oatman hymn just quoting the first verse and chorus,

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings; name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings name them one by one

Count your blessings see what God has done

Count your blessings name them one by one

Count you’re many blessings see what God has done.

May we give the God of the bible and particularly his Son Jesus Christ the praise and worship he deserves for the many blessings of his great harvest gifts he so freely and lovingly gives to us.

I close as usual with my own poem inspired by this Psalm and a prayer.

 THE HARVEST OF SAVING GRACE

(Based on Psalm 65)

 Chorus:

 

Praise the Lord who gives us so much

Praise the Lord whose blessings flow.

Those who trust he brings a harvest

Of saving grace and peace to know.

 

God wants us to praise Him

For he answers prayers for us

He forgave our sins

When he bore them on the cross.

 

Blessed are the chosen

For they have heard God’s call

God is now with them

To help them when they fall.

 

Chorus:

 

God’s saving love is awesome

It is seen in his Son who died

It’s the hope of the world

For it stills sins roaring tide.

 

The entire world has seen

God’s great creating power

But many fail to see

He upholds us every hour.

 

Chorus

 

God gives to the world its rain

That nourishes the ground

Helps the crops to rise

So a harvest can be found.

 

So praise the Lord of the harvest

Food for body and soul

For this world is so beautiful

And it’s God who makes it so.

 

Chorus:

 

Praise the Lord who gives us so much

Praise the Lord whose blessings flow

Those who trust he brings a harvest

Of saving grace and peace to know.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

A HARVEST FESTIVAL PRAYER:

Father in heaven we thank you for your many blessings you so freely give to us. We do not deserve a harvest but we know out of your grace for us you give us many abundant harvests. Help us to use what you give us to help others and in doing so reveal the love you have for them and particularly the love you showed in sending Jesus to die for our sins on the cross. In Jesus Name we pray Amen.

PSALM 64 TALK: DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL FORCES

PSALM 64 TALK: DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL FORCES

(A Psalm that explores the evil and powerful forces the people of God face and what God’s response is to them.)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

Recently I helped lead the singing of hymns for a service in my church, which took place the day after ANZAC day. ANZAC day is a special day of remembrance for Australian and New Zealanders to remember those who gave their lives in wars since 25th April 1915 the day of the disastrous landing at Gallipoli located on the Dardanelles strait. During the Gallipoli campaign 8,000 Australians were killed and over 2,000 New Zealanders where killed and many more were injured. Even though both Australia and New Zealand lost far more men on the western front in France the failed campaign of Gallipoli became the first time both countries were involved in a major war and therefore this is used to remember the great loss of life for Australians and New Zealanders in war ever since.

The service was a service where we reflected on the contributions of Australians who lost their lives in war. All of the hymns on this day had the theme of the Christian battle with evil and I asked the organist why she didn’t include the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” she said she thought we could miss understand why our soldiers went to war thinking that our soldiers went to war to fight for Christ or God so she decided not to use it.

Onward Christian Soldiers has been wrongfully used as an anthem for Christian militarism but why it is not that is answered by two facts. The first is why the author Rev. Sabine Baring – Gould wrote the hymn (1865) and the second is what the hymn actually says. Gould famously said this about the hymns composition,

“It was written in a very simple fashion. Whit-Monday is a great day for school festivals in Yorkshire, and one Whit-Monday it was arranged that our school should join its forces with that of a neighboring village. I wanted the children to sing when marching from one village to the other, but couldn’t think of anything quite suitable, so I sat up at night resolved to write something myself. “Onward, Christian Soldiers” was the result. It was written in great haste, and I am afraid some of the rhymes are faulty. Certainly nothing has surprised me more than its great popularity”.

The first verse and chorus of the hymn goes like this,

Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war

With the cross of Jesus going on before:

Christ the royal Master leads against the foe;

Forward into battle, see, his banner go.

 

Chorus:

 

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war.

With the cross of Jesus going on before!

 

The idea that Christians are soldiers going into a great spiritual war comes from two well-known passages of scripture and the first is, 2 Timothy 2: 3,

“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus”.

And the second is,

Ephesians 6: 10 -12,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

Six years after the hymn was written the famous composer, Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan fame wrote the tune he called, “St. Gertrude” that we all know now so well and the popularity of the hymn was assured for generations to come.

Onward Christian Soldiers serves for me as a good introduction and backdrop to my understanding of the message of Psalm 64. This Psalm not only followers Psalm 63 but also acts as a great complementary Psalm to it. This is explained well by Derek Kidner when he writes,

“Psalm 63 was focused on God, with the enemy on the edges of the picture, here (Psalm 64) the composition is reversed, although the outcome is the same”.

We saw that Psalm 63 was written in the context of the Absalom rebellion but we cannot be sure if this Psalm was written at that same time. It was either written around this time or was written by David later when he reflected on events in his life like the Absalom rebellion.

I have said a number of times that the theme of the conflict between God’s enemies and the rule of David as king of Israel lies behind many of the Psalms of David in both book 1 and 2 of the Psalms. Psalm 2: 2 sets up the continual conflict David would face throughout his whole life once he was anointed King by the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 16 when Saul was still king of Israel.

Psalm 2: 2 says,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed one”.

This opposition from the rival forces of evil extended to opposition from within Israel and also from his own family in the form of the rebellion of Absalom.

In Psalm 64 David focuses on these evil forces. He calls on God for help when facing his enemies and goes on to explain what these evil people are like, how God responds to them and how the world and believers should respond to that response of God. With is mind I have broken down the structure of the Psalm as:

1. THE CALL FOR DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL FORCES (vs. )

2. THE DESCRIPTION OF THESE EVIL FORCES (2 – 6)

3. THE RESPONSE OF GOD TO THESE EVIL FORCES (7 – 8)

4. THE RESPONSE OF THE WORLD AND BELIEVERS TO GOD’S RESPONSE TO THESE     EVIL FORCES (9 – 10)

I will be relating the issues David raises in this Psalm to the spiritual battle we as Christians face as Paul put it in both Ephesians 6: 10 – 12 and in 2 Timothy 2:3, where he says along with 1 Timothy 6: 12, “like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” we must fight the good fight of faith in God’s strength.

Two other Psalm talks you can refer to where these same issues are raised are Psalm 20 and Psalm 35.

  1. THE CALL FOR DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL FORCES (vs. 1)

I have broken this call into two parts:

  1. The call (1a)
  2. The calls request (1b)
  1. The Call (1a)

First of all the call itself, which says,

“Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint”.

This does sound like a real and desperate prayer prayed by David as he faced great danger and difficulty, which again fits well into the context of his flight from Jerusalem during the rebellion of Absalom.

David is not making a silent prayer as he speaks of God hearing his voice. This is not to say that silent prayers are not as effective as audible ones. I’m sure David prayed many silent prayers but he seems more like a man who did not hold back his emotions and thoughts during his long life.

I like the story Michal a daughter of Saul’s reaction to David’s outward showing of emotion during the procession of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem early in David’s reign as king. We read in 2 Samuel 6: 16,

“As the Ark of the Lord was entering the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart”.

After copping a criticism from Michal for what she saw as a disgraceful piece of exhibitionism, David says this to her in 2 Samuel 6: 21 – 22,

“It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes”.

So in Psalm 64 verse 1a David calls out to the Lord for help and he shows us again what we need to do when we face difficulty in our lives particularly the difficulty caused by the attack of evil forces, we must call out to God in prayer.

At the end of Paul’s famous passage on putting on the armour of God in Ephesians 6, Paul says this in verse 18,

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”.

I’m sure Paul includes both silent and audible prayer hear and what he is saying is that you cannot fight the great battle of faith against the Devil and his powerful forces in your own strength but you need God’s help and power provided for you through prayer inspired in you by God’s Holy Spirit.

David adds to his call for help the word, “complaint”, which Derek Kidner has an interesting insight into what David really means when he uses this word complaint. He writes,

“Basically it is a man’s musing on his situation whether good (Psalm 104: 34) or bad (Job 10:1)”

David here then is focusing his prayer on his desperate situation and asking God to give him an answer. Jesus always seemed to look for evidence of real faith in those who came to him for help and Paul again in Ephesians 6: 16, says this about faith and fighting the evil forces we will face in this world,

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one”.

  1. The calls request (1b)

Now lets look at the actual request of this earnest and desperate prayer of David,

“Protect my life from the threat of the enemy”.

Again the actual request sounds like the sort of thing David would have prayed while on the run from Saul or his very own son Absalom. It is a prayer for deliverance from the evil forces David faced at this time. But remember David faced some kind of attacks from evil forces all his life and so do we. David always needed God’s protection and deliverance.

I must remind you again what Paul said about the Spiritual battle we are in and the kind of evil forces we all face in this life in Ephesians 6: 10 -12,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

I often here of how this battle plays out in the lives of Christians today particularly in countries where Christians face constant persecution for their faith. We face these forces in a different way then they do but let me tell you the Devil has many tactics he can employ to attack the faith we hold. We must be on our guard because the tactics Satan might use for us could involve using people who seem to be doing good or preaching God’s word when their real intention is to pull us away from doing good and following God’s word as Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians 11: 14 – 15,

“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve”.

 The best advice I can give is to test all things by the word of God which is what I think Paul is saying in 1 Thessalonians 5: 19 – 22,

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil”.

So when we realise that false teaching is being taught we must do what David did when he faced the evil forces of his time commit it to God in prayer seeking God’s protection and deliverance from this attack of the Devil and his evil forces.

  1. THE DESCRIPTION OF THESE EVIL FORCES (2 – 6)

This is such an important section so I have broken it down with headings for almost every verse:

  1. The evil forces described in general (vs. 2)
  2. The evil forces weapons (vs. 3)
  3. The evil forces methods (vs. 4)
  4. The evil forces false assumptions (vs’s 5 – 6a)
  5. The evil forces inspiration (6b)
  1. The evil forces described in general (vs. 2)

 David now turns to more specific prayer request concerning his enemies and in the process describes what they were like and sought to do to him. He starts this with a general description of them in verse 2,

“Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from that noisy crowd of evildoers”.

 In Barnes famous notes on the bible he writes,

The idea is, protect me; guard me; make me safe – as one is who is hidden or concealed so that his enemies cannot find him”.

 This kind of interpretation would fit beautifully in the time David was on the run from Absalom because Absalom conducted a ruthless conspiracy against his Father David and his good name and then sought to kill him once he had gained the allegiance of most of the people of Israel. When David was on the run initially he needed to hide from his Son and his large force of men to be able to survive those tenuous first few days of fleeing from them.

We too need the Lord’s help to be hidden or sheltered from the possible attacks of evil forces. I did a study on the verses in the bible of the nature and tactics of Satan and his evil forces before I started this Psalm talk and one of the verses I came across was the famous John 10: 10 in which Jesus compares what his purposes are compared to that of the Devil and of course the evil forces that follow him,

“The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have to the full”.

 In Jesus day one form of the “thief” was the respected religious leaders of his day and this must make us wary of even those who call themselves religious leaders today as even some of these can be wolves in sheep clothing.

Interestingly towards the end of John 10 Jesus promises to hide or protect us from the evil forces of this world in John 10: 27 – 30,

 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

 In the final description of the evil forces David faced he says this about them,

“That noisy crowd of evildoers”

 Barnes says this about David’s description of the evil forces he faced,

“The allusion is to such a crowd, such a disorderly and violent rabble, as constituted a mob. He was in danger not only from the secret purposes of the more calm and thoughtful of his enemies who were plotting against him, but from the excited passions of the multitude, and thus his life was in double danger”.

When Jesus stood before the Roman Governor Pilot the Jewish religious leaders inspired by Satan himself excited the noisy mob to cry crucify him. Jesus now seemed in the hands of evil forces but Jesus made it clear back in John 10: 17 and 18, that

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.” No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

  1. The evil forces weapons (vs. 3)

 From this general description of the evil forces David faced he moves in verse 3 to a description of the weapons they were using against him,

“They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows”.

 In two previous Psalm Talks I sought to open up David’s teaching on the power and miss use of the tongue or of speech that he faced from his enemies in my Psalm Talk on Psalm 12 and the problem even David had with his own miss use of his tongue that led to sin his life in my Psalm talk on Psalm 39.

Here he merely states that the major weapon his enemies used against him was their evil tongue. David faced the evil tongue of Saul and his followers, of the kings of the neighbouring nations, of Absalom his rebellious son and from many other evil forces within Israel. He could fight off those who came at him with swords or even doge arrows and spears aimed at him but he was often defenceless against the sharp tongues and words that were fired at him throughout his life.

Spurgeon eloquently says this about this verse,

“Slander has ever been the master weapon of the good man’s enemies, and great is the care of the malicious to use it effectively.

As warriors grind their swords, to give them an edge which will cut deep and wound desperately, so do the unscrupulous invent falsehoods which shall be calculated to inflict pain, to stab the reputation, to kill the honour of the righteous”.

 Christians often face unscrupulous verbal attacks from evil forces in the world today and the Christian church seems to many, particularly the media, an easy target to attack and slander with often little evidence of wrongdoing.

Paul had lots of these attacks even from within the church and one of his letters, 2 Corinthians is written mainly to counter some of these verbal attacks he suffered from men who opposed him in the church in Corinth. In chapters 10 and 11 of 2 Corinthians Paul seeks to counter the verbal attacks from the people he calls “false apostles” in 2 Corinthians 11: 13. These false apostles were speaking badly about Paul when he was absent from the church in Corinth on further missionary work and Paul makes it clear in his letter what these men are actually doing and who they are really are like and what God will eventually do with them in 2 Corinthians 11: 13 – 14,

“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve”.

We must not be surprised when we face verbal attacks from evil forces today but simply follow theexcellent advice of Peter in 1 Peter 3: 13 – 17,

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil”.

  1. The evil forces methods (vs. 4)

 From the weapons of the evil forces David faced David moves on to their methods in verse 4,

“They shoot from ambush at the innocent man; they shoot at him suddenly, without fear”.

 David who is a brave and honest soldier or warrior king would have found this back stabbing war of words frustrating and difficult to handle. David would have preferred to fight out in the open with his sword then to try and fight an enemy who used deceitful words to harm him. Barnes makes the point that,

“It was not an open and manly fight, where he could see his enemy, but it was a warfare with a concealed foe”.

 Absalom in 2 Samuel 15 undermines his father’s rule with deceitful words and innuendoes that eventually lead to the overthrow of his father as king and he did it without shooting an arrow or wielding a sword. David was ambushed by his son’s deceitful words.

More damage has been done to the church by words then bombs or any other kind of force to try and destroy it. Paul spoke for the last time to the elders of the church of Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem where he was arrested and sent to Rome and in Acts 20: 28 – 31 a warning against the attack of words from within the church that would come in the days ahead, he writes,

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears”.

I have sadly attended an occasional church in the past where the preacher or minister has not presented a message based on the word of God and I have felt both anger and sadness. Anger that the word of God was not being preached and some other false message was being presented and sadness for the people of that church who were being cheated out of God’s life giving word.

In one church I attended a coupe of years ago the preachers topic was why is the church dying today and what can we do about it. I felt like yelling out “Preach the word of God” but as I listened I knew even that plain simple message would fall on closed ears and dead hearts.

We must heed the words of advice of Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4: 2 – 5,

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

 Those who attack the word of God within the church today do it often without fear of reprisal because the theological colleges they were taught in encourage this and their church hierarchy over them thinks the same as they do. Fortunately the church I belong to does not tolerate anything other than the preaching of the word of God and for that I give praise to God constantly. However for Christian friends of mine in other areas of my country suffer from the watering down of the word of God. Interestingly the few churches that do preach the word of God in towns and cities of my country are the churches where life and vitality exists in their congregations.

  1. The evil forces miss false assumptions (vs’s 5 – 6a)

 From the evil forces methods David moves to the evil forces he faced often miss conceptions, which we find in verse 5 and the first part of verse 6,

“They encourage each other in evil plans, they talk about hiding their snares; they say, “Who will see them? They plot injustice and say, ‘we have devised a perfect plan”.

 There are three miss conceptions stated here:

  1. Working together for evil will not guarantee success for the evil forces we face.
  2. Deception will not guarantee success for the evil forces we face.
  3. The best of plans will not guarantee success for the evil forces we face.
  1. Working together for evil will not guarantee success for the evil forces we face.

If this Psalm was written during the time of the Absalom rebellion or after it, thinking back to it then this false assumption that a great number of evil men working together to defeat David and in doing so God fits well to this context. I mentioned how Absalom fought a successful war of words to oust his father from the throne and he must have thought that with his large number of followers he would be successful in destroying David and the faith in God he promoted.

This is what I think David is referring to in the words in verse 5 that says,

“They encourage each other in evil plans”.

They falsely believed that if they stuck together and continued to work together against David, the Lords anointed king then they would be successful in destroying him.

As Christians, I believe we will never be in the majority in the world we live in and this is spoken of and explained why by Jesus in Matthew 7: 13 – 14,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

Using Jesus image of the road we can visualise the big and wide road the non believers are walking down and Jesus is saying the road we walk on is narrow compared to the wide road and few are those who find it or walk on it.

I would like to take this analogy a bit further and say that the way of the non believer and therefore the way of evil forces is going away from God but those who have repented and put their faith in Christ are waling the other way towards God. This means we will look like we are going the wrong way because the majority of people are going the opposite way to us.

It has been quite common for people to believe today that because the majority believe something then it must be right, We take the concept of a democracy of the majority rules to far as just because most people deny or simply don’t believe in God does not mean he doesn’t exist.

So atheists or anyone who opposes God and his Gospel message might have the false assumption that because they gang up together and encourage each other in their evil plans they will be successful.

The Jews of Jesus day ganged together and encouraged each other to come up with the evil plan to do away with Jesus but as Revelation 1: 7 declares,

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him even those who pieced him; and all the Peoples of the earth will mourn because of him”.

  1. Deception will not guarantee success for the evil forces we face

The next false assumption the evil forces that oppose God have is found in the next two phrases of verse 5,

“They talk about hiding their snares; they say, ‘who will see them”.

The snares are the animal traps people set in David’s time to catch out their prey by hiding the trap. I like again Barnes comment on these two phrases,

“They sought to make the plan so secret that no one could discover it, or even suspect it; to keep it so concealed that he for whom it was intended could not be put on his guard”.

The false assumption of the wicked here is that they thought they could be successful in destroying David and the faith in God he promoted by their clever deception. After all Absalom deception so far had turned most of Israel against his father David so why would it fail to finish off David out there in the wilderness of northern Judah?

As we have seen in most of the Psalms of David in books one and two that those who opposed David, the Lords anointed opposed God as Psalm 2: 2 says,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed one”.

We can see from Jesus words to Saul who became Paul when he was knocked to the ground when riding to Damascus in Acts 9: 5, that Saul was not persecuting just people who called themselves Christians but he was opposing and persecuting Jesus himself,

“I am Jesus whom you are persecuting”.

So when we are opposed and attacked by evil forces not only are they opposing and attacking us but they are opposing and attacking Jesus as well.

The false assumption then is even the most cunning and well thought out deceptive plans of evil forces will not defeat Christ and his church.

Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16: 18,

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it”.

  1. The best of plans will not guarantee success for the evil forces we face

The final false assumption of the wicked or evil men who opposed David is found in the first part of verse 6,

“They plot injustice and say, ‘we have devised a perfect plan!”

Barnes comments on this is helpful,

“They accomplish – This would be better translated by rendering it, “We have perfected it!” That is, we have found it out; it is complete; meaning that they had found a plan to their liking. It is the language of self-congratulation”.

 If this is in the context of the Absalom rebellion then 2 Samuel 16 and 17 is well worth reading as it reveals how Absalom sought lots of advice to make his unjust plan to destroy his father and his faithful followers. He ends up ignoring the advice of the wise old Ahithophel and this becomes the eventual flaw in his so-called perfect plan that leads to his destruction.

So the false assumption is that even the best of plans of evil men will fail and cannot be relied upon. David was caught up in many unjust plans from kings and people outside of Israel and of course from enemies within Israel as well. All of the evil plans of these people failed but David still had to often suffer the consequences of his evil enemies plots and plans.

As followers of Christ we too can be caught up in the consequences of evil unjust plans from enemies of God and his Gospel. Paul knew this and wrote to his churches on many occasions for prayer for success in spreading the message of the Gospel and dealing with those who opposed it and him because he was the one who preached this message. We see this for instance in his prayer request in 2 Thessalonians 3: 1 – 3,

“Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

Note how Paul attributes this opposition to the spreading of the Gospel message as coming from the “evil one” as the last thing the Devil wants is for people to hear the saving message of the Gospel so he will make many unjust plans to stop the presentation of the Gospel.

  1. The evil forces inspiration (6b)

 The final statement in this second section of the Psalm seems simple and straightforward but a closer look and reflection on it reveals a sad but important point. The phrase reads,

“Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning”

 This phrase picks up a great truth about the sinful state of the human mind and heart. Jeremiah 17: 9 says this about the heart of man,

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, who can understand it”.

 Paul catalogues the human condition graphically in the book of Romans and says this about the human condition because of sin in Romans 3: 10 – 18,

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.  “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

 So why did Absalom and many others oppose David and act in such an evil and unjust way?

The answer David gives is,

“Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning”

They were in rebellion to God and their minds and hearts were set against him as they looked to themselves and became cunning without God in their sites. They served themselves but in doing so became slaves to sin and then they can be used by the evil one do defy God and attack his faithful followers.

This is also hinted at in verse 4 where they attacked David and those who followed him and his way of relating to God “without fear”. They did not fear God so they did not fear those who seek to follow him. The bible says that, Proverbs 9: 10,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One understanding”.

David presented idea in some detail in Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 that these men are fools and you can see a more detail exposition of this idea in my Psalm talks on these Psalms.

So David completes his description of the evil men who opposed him and in the face of such numerous and powerful evil opposition David looks weak and defenceless. However David will give us the response of God to these evil men in the next section of the Psalm.

  1. THE RESPONSE OF GOD TO THESE EVIL FORCES (7 – 8)

God’s response to the evil forces that attack his faithful followers is both swift and decisive as verse 7 and 8 clearly present. We will look at these 2 verses with the ideas of:

  1. The swiftness of God’s response (vs. 7)
  2. The decisiveness of God’s response (vs. 8)
  3. The swiftness of God’s response (vs.7)

Verse 7 strikes you with the swiftness of God’s response,

“But God will shoot them with arrows; suddenly they will be stuck down”.

Leopold quotes a commentator named Leslie who coins the phrase,

“The boomerang of malicious speech”.

As an Australian I have come across in years past boomerangs and boomerang throwing and the swift or sudden return of one of those amazing aboriginal weapons which does really surprise you. It takes a bit of skill to develop the technique of throwing them so that without moving a good thrower can have those flying sticks come back so well they can catch them.

It is interesting to note that this swift response of God, which is not swift in timing but in its execution involves using the weapons his enemy uses. We know that in the case of Absalom he was defeated in battle and many of his army would have died from arrow wounds. Of course in 2 Samuel 18 Absalom dies hanging from a tree by his long hair and Joab, David’s general of his armies thrust a spear in Absalom heart to kill him.

Spurgeon sums up the teaching of this verse and writes,

“The Lord turns the tables on his adversaries, and defeats them at their own weapons. Suddenly shall they be wounded.”

They were looking to surprise the saint, but lo! They are taken at unawares themselves; they desired to inflict deadly wounds, and are smitten themselves with wounds which none can heal. While they were bending their bows, the great Lord had prepared his bow already, and he let slip the shaft when least they looked for such an unsparing messenger of justice”.

The sudden swiftness of the final judgment is mentioned number times in the New Testament in various ways. My favorite is 2 Peter 3: 10,

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare”.

Satan will be cast forever into hell as we read in verses like Revelation 20: 10,

“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever”.

This swift and sudden judgment will include all the evil forces that have opposed God as we see from verses 14 and 15 of that same chapter of Revelation,

“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

  1. The decisiveness of God’s response (vs. 8)

The next verse adds to the swiftness and suddenness of God’s judgment its decisiveness as we read in verse 8,

“He will turn their own tongues against them and bring them to ruin; all who see them will shake their heads in scorn”.

Note that even though the judgment spoken of here was often brought about by the hands of human beings the judgment is God’s doing and even David who often prays for God’s judgment to come on his enemies does not seek to perform or carry out this judgment unless God specifically tells him to.

David had ample opportunities to kill King Saul when he was on the run from him but always refrained from doing so for he respected two facts which were that Saul was king originally appointed by God and that judgment belonged to God alone.

The first part of the verse continues the previous verses idea of God using the evil forces weapons on them to bring them to ruin and judgment. So often throughout history ruthless wicked tyrants and their followers suffered the same fate they sought to inflict on others.

The second part of the verse picks up more specifically the decisiveness of God’s judgment through the eyes of others who witness it, Barnes makes it clear what David is trying to convey here with these comments,

“They shall see that God is just, and that He will punish the wicked; and they will desire to escape from a ruin so dreadful as that which comes upon the ungodly. The idea is, that when God punishes sinners, the effect on others is, and should be, to lead them to wish not to be associated with such people, but to escape from a doom so fearful”.

Many in the past did react this way to the fall in this life of those who sought to oppose God and his faithful followers. We have seen this in recent times in places like Russia where for over 70 years the atheistic communist Governments sought to destroy the church of God and once communism fell so decisively there was an even stronger and vital church that emerged from that terrible dark time.

After Peter spoke of the swift and decisive judgment of God to come in 2 Peter 3: 10, which I referred to earlier, he goes on to tell his readers how the certainty of Judgment should impact on their lives in verses 11 – 13,

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells”.

So the message of God’s judgment is both a warning and for those who put there trust in God through Christ a message of hope to come.

So David concludes God’s response to the evil forces he faced and now seeks to complete thus Psalm 64 with a word about both the people who oppose God response to God’s response and believers response to that as well.

  1. THE RESPONSE OF THE WORLD AND BELIEVERS TO GOD’S

RESPONSE TO THESE EVIL FORCES (9 – 10)

David’s words on God’s judgment like many in the bible have a dual application. It can be applied to judgments of God during the time of human history before the final judgment and of course it has application for that final judgment as well.

In the case of this Psalm David’s original words applied, I think to the situation of the rebellion of Absalom or he is thinking back to it or other times David faced evil enemies in his life. However David’s words have the wider application to the final judgment to come, as does most of the description of judgment in the Old Testament.

With this basis for exposition in mind I would now like to open these final two verses of the Psalm.

I have broken these verses into two sections:

  1. The world’s response to God’s response to evil forces (vs.9)
  2. Believers response to God’s response to evil forces (vs. 10)
  3. The world’s response to God’s response to evil forces (vs.9)

Thinking of the response of God to Absalom rebellion and how God dealt with Absalom in judgment in his demise in battle we can easily realise that even those who supported him would have been impressed and fearful of the God behind them.

David was in what seemed a hopeless situation yet he was able to defeat Absalom and his far greater army and only the hand of God intervening for him made the difference. With this in mind we can now read verse 9,

“All mankind will fear; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done”.

So the general people of David’s time and anyone who read of the story of Absalom demise would have had two responses according to David in verse 9 of this Psalm.

  1. Fear God
  2. Proclaim God’s works
  1. Fear God

The demise of Absalom would have put in the minds of even the followers who survived the rout of his army great alarm or fear. There over confidence in their own ability to oppose God and his anointed King David spoken of in verse 4, 5 and 6.

James speaks of this kind of fear or reverence that even the Devil has in James 2:19

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder”.

James is speaking about the nature of true faith or what we could call saving faith and is saying that even the Devil knows there is a God and that he is powerful. However the Devils acknowledgement of God does not stop him opposing him. So those who continue to oppose God and his true followers can sometimes fear God but still not turn to him in repentance and faith.

Another good example of this is in Joshua chapter 2 when the Canaanite women who helped the spies said this about how her people reacted to the news of God helping the Israelites out of Egypt and in the wilderness. She says in verse 11,

“When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below”.

 Note how all her fellow Canaanites reacted but it seems only Rahab the lowly prostitute turned that fear of the God of the Israelite’s into saving faith.

Even when Jesus performed great and wonderful miracles, which did impress many people of his day, the reaction of the religious leaders of his day was to seek to kill him. So we should not be surprised when people today see or hear of God at work in our world and find that after being initially impressed they turn their back on putting their faith and trust in him.

  1. Proclaim God’s works

The next part of verse 9 simply says,

“They will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done”.

Again great acts of God would have caused much discussion among the people of David time even those who opposed him. Those who survived the Absalom rebellion and who supported him would have discussed what happened to Absalom and the failed revolt he led. This talking over the great acts of God in Judgment would have been a form of proclamation of the works of God.

Returning to the story of Rahab and the spies in Joshua chapter 2 the verse before the one I quoted, verse 10 says this,

“We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed”.

Rahab’s words seems be representative of her fellow Canaanite chatter about the news of what Israel’s God had done for them and would be easily seen as an an example of:

“They will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done”.

All of God’s great intervention of Judgment and Salvation has been recorded for us in the bible and any time someone reads that or has it read to them then the works of God are proclaimed and what he has done is pondered.

However as I said at the start of this section this verse has application for the judgment to come. The first passage of scripture I officially preached on in a church many years ago was Philippians 2: 5 – 11. A passage I called the great ladder or stairway of God.

In this passage Jesus descends from heaven like climbing down a great ladder or walking down a great stairway all the way to becoming a man and dying on a cross to pay for our sins.

However once he had paid for our sin he rose from the dead and went back to heaven like he climbed back up the ladder or walked up the stairway to heaven. But his climb did not climax in heaven. Let me show verses 9 – 11 of that passage,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

Note what the return of Christ and the great final judgment that will come does to, “All mankind”,

“Every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

David’s two great reactions to God’s response to evil forces of fear of God and the proclamation of the works of God will be fulfilled totally when Jesus returns.

  1. Believers response to God’s response to evil forces (vs. 10)

David completes the Psalm with a positive word on the reaction of the people of true faith in God who he calls “the righteous” and the “upright in heart” to what God did to his enemies is both:

  1. Rejoice or Praise
  2. Take refuge
  1. Rejoice or Praise

The verse first says:

“Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord” and finishes with, “let all the upright in heart praise him”.

Towards the end of the last Psalm talk on Psalm 63 I said this:

“I have mentioned in other Psalm talks the first question and answer to the Westminster Catechism, which comes from the wonderful biblical statement of faith called the Westminster Confession is,

What is the chief end of man?


A Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”.

This is a statement that represents teaching that runs right throughout the bible. Let illustrate with an Old Testament reference and a New Testament reference.

First and Old Testament example, 1 Chronicles 16: 23 – 31,

Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.
 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all people’s.

 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendour and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place. Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness. Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”

And a New Testament example, Ephesians 1: 11 – 13,

“ In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit”.

So back in David’s time David is telling his people who like him put their trust or faith in God and sought to live the way he wanted them to live to rejoice in God or praise God for how he responded to his enemies who at that time were people like Absalom and his followers. David wants to use the overthrow of Absalom and other evil forces an object lesson in how God is great and worthy of praise from his people.

We too must live our lives in an attitude of praise to our God because of what Jesus has done for us. As Paul says for us to do in Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

  1. Take refuge

We finish this Psalm talk with the second response true believers should make when they see or understand God’s response to the evil forces that oppose him. For at least eight Psalms now the word or at least the concept of God being our refuge has come up and I am starting to call these Psalms “The Refuge Psalms”. It is in this 10th and final verse that this phrase appears in this Psalm,

“And take refuge in him (The Lord)”.

To take refuge in God is to find shelter in God from the powerful evil forces that attack God and those who seek to obey and follow him. We have seen that other expressions of God’s promise of protection have been used in recent Psalms which all build up to a beautiful picture of God’s promise of protection from the forces of evil in this world that want to destroy us. Here are some of the other refuge type terms we have seen:

  • “I sing in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 63: 7
  • “He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62: 6
  • “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61: 2
  • “Who will bring me to the fortified city?” Psalm 60: 9
  • “Protect me from those who rise up against me.” Psalm 59: 1
  • “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 57: 1
  • “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?”

Psalm 56: 4

So in these past seven Psalms (excluding Psalm 58) many similar expressions have been used to describe the wonderful protection God offers his people. We have also seen that these same Psalms have presented the concept of God’s deliverance and so they could be called, “The Deliverance Psalms” as well.

Here in Psalm 64 David is telling us that because God will deal with the evil forces we battle with and he will deliver us from these evil forces and we should therefore seek to take refuge in him.

Some might say I am advocating we should live sheltered lives but of course God does not say that because we trust in him we will live a sheltered life. In fact I believe God actually leads us into difficult times to help us develop a stronger faith in him as Peter teaches us in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 9,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

Paul says something similar in Romans 5: 3 – 5,

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

So God will not shelter us from not facing problems difficulties in our life particularly those caused by evil forces.

However as David has been presenting through this Psalm and many of the previous Psalms that when we face problems, difficulties and the evil forces in this life led by Satan himself we can go to him for deliverance and protection of shelter and he will give it to us.

Jesus also did not promise us a sheltered existence but he does promise to be with us in the storms and trials of life helping us and protecting us as evil forces wage a spiritual war against him and us, like Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

And John 10: 27 – 29,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand”.

Finally Paul says this about the spiritual battle we are involved in and how Jesus is with us in it, in 2 Corinthians 8 – 12,

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

David believed in a God who to him was both a deliver and a refuge or protector from all evil forces who attacked him throughout his life. He saw how God protected him for eight long years when he was on the run from King Saul. He saw how God delivered him from the hands of Saul and eventually Saul was no more a threat to him because under God’s judgment he lost his life and his throne.

David also witnessed the end of his son’s rebellion after God had delivered David from his murderous intentions and protected him while he was on the run in the Northern desert area of Judah. David gave praise to his Lord and master who he came to realize was his deliverer and refuge.

I began by pointing out that Paul pictured followers of Christ as soldiers involved in a great spiritual battle with the forces of evil. Paul offers us help from the same God who helped David. In Ephesians 6: 10 – 19 Paul using the image of a first century Roman Soldier and advises us on how we can both know God’s deliverance and protection in the great battle we must fight against evil forces.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”.

I also spoke in my introduction about the great old hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers and before I close I have picked out one more verse and chorus to quote:

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee

On, then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!

Hells foundations quiver at the sound of praise

Brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

Chorus:

 

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus going on before!

I close as usual with a new poem, which takes up the refuge images of the past eight Psalms in the chorus and this Psalm in the verses and then a prayer.

LORD BE MY REFUGE AND DELIVERER

Hear me Lord as I raise my voice to you

Protect me Lord and help me through

The devils schemes and wants me too

Turn from always following you.

 

Hide me Lord from the tempters power

Help me to trust you every hour.

Raise me up to your high tower

As the Devil seeks to turn me now.

 

Chorus:

Lord be my refuge and deliverer

Lord be my fortress in life’s battles I pray

Lord be my rock and set me on high

Lord protect me every step of the way.

 

Evil forces work together to fight

Those who trust in the God of might

God will bring down all who turn on him

God will one day judge all their sin.

 

Jesus will return and be seen in the sky

The tables will turn on those who defy.

The angels will raise believers on high

And those who are left will then cry.

 

Chorus:

 

All mankind will praise God as King

When Christ returns they kneel before him.

The message will go out that God is great

But for many it will prove to be to late.

 

So lift up your voices in endless praise

Those who served him throughout their days.

He is our refuge, Savior and King

Now we must always rejoice and sing.

 

Chorus:

Lord be my refuge and deliverer

Lord be my fortress in life’s battles I pray

Lord be my rock and set me on high

Lord protect me every step of the way.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 PRAYER:

Lord of heaven and earth we thank you for your protection and help throughout our lives. Lord, we pray, help us to always to seek to be strong in you as we face the mighty forces of evil. Help us to always remember that your Son had victory over sin and the Devil on the cross. Help us now to fight as good soldiers of the cross the battle of good over evil ever looking to your Son as our Savior and our Lord. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.