PSALM 144 TALK:   BATTLE HYMN FOR TRUE BELIEVERS

PSALM 144 TALK:   BATTLE HYMN FOR TRUE BELIEVERS

(This is the seventh Psalm of a collection of eight Psalms attributed to King David in the fifth and final book of Psalms. This Psalm features the idea of God being our protector and deliverer in the many battles of this life for all true believer in the God of the bible).

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

INTRODUCTION

One of my current ministries at my local church at this time is to help lead the singing during the church service I attend. The service I attend is a more traditional form of worship and we often sing manly older hymns mixed with some new ones and one day to my surprise the organist for the day chose the famous American civil war hymn, “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

I knew this hymn but had never sung it in church before but I’m sure if I was an American Christian I would have sung this famous hymn many times in church in America. I enjoyed singing the hymn and so did most of the congregation that day and when I went home I looked up both the words and the story behind this famous American hymn.

The words of Battle Hymn of the Republic were written by a lady named Julie Ward Howe in 1861. Julie Ward Howe was an abolitionist who after visiting union or Northern troop camps in and around Washington DC wrote the words of this famous hymn to the tune of a song she heard many union soldiers singing called, “John Browns Body”.

John Browns body was a song about a famous radical abolitionist who attempted to start a slave rebellion in the south of America but failed and was later executed. Julie Ward Howe must have had the distinctive tune of the original song swimming around in her brain because she woke up in the middle of the night in her Washington Hotel room and wrote down very quickly her words to this hymn that read like this,

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.

I have read His fiery gospel writ in rows of burnished steel!
“As ye deal with my condemners, so with you My grace shall deal!
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, ”
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free!
While God is marching on.

The song like many parts of the bible use military imagery to speak of the great spiritual battle we are all caught up in which Paul makes plain with these words from Ephesians 6: 12,

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”.

 Wars and rumours of wars Jesus predicted would feature the last days of this world before he comes again to do away with sin, tribulation and the Devil and take all true believers to heaven as the first line of Julie Ward Howe hymn speaks of,

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”

 It is said that these were the last public words spoken by the great American civil rights leader Martin Luther King as the next day after he spoke them he was assassinated.

Battle Hymn of the Republic is a rallying call for all true believers to fight on in the day to day battles with sin, the world and devil a fight not fought with guns and bombs but a spiritual war where we use the spiritual weapons Paul speaks of in the verses that follow Ephesians 6: 12.

God does not leave us alone in the battlefields of life but rather he is our protector and deliverer as Paul states clearly in Ephesians 6: 10 – 11,

 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

Psalm 144 is David’s Battle Hymn for True Believers and seems to be very closely linked with an earlier Psalm, Psalm 18. Many of the images and even words and terms used in Psalm 144 are found throughout Psalm 18.

 I like Tremper Longman 111 explanation of the possible connections between these two wonderful Psalms,

“Psalm 18 thanks God for saving him, while Psalm 144 requests God to save him”.

 Maybe David wrote Psalm 144 first when he first became king of Israel and faced many external threats from Nations around him like the Philistines who had just soundly defeated the former king of Israel, King Saul.

Psalm 144 then was David praying for protection and deliverance from these fierce and powerful enemies and then when God answered David with many great remarkable victories over nations like the Philistines as recorded in 2 Samuel 8 he wrote Psalm 18.

Psalm 18 was modelled on Psalm 144 and is a much fuller praise of the protection and deliverance God gave David over his enemies.

Psalm 18 could well be David’s fulfilment of the promise he made in verses 9 and 10 of Psalm 144,

“I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
10 to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David”.

 Maybe the original collectors and editors of David’s Psalms of the first book of Psalm left out Psalm 144 because it was now superseded by Psalm 18 or they simply did not know of David’s first composition asking for God’s protection and deliverance from his many enemies. However, the later collectors and editors of book 5 somehow found David’s original Psalm 144 and decided to include it in this final collection of Psalms written by David.

So, in this Psalm talk I will use David’s war and battle images as metaphors for the war or battle we are involved in spiritually with the world, the flesh and the devil and also so the very real connection of David’s words of praise for God’s protection and deliverance in Psalm 18. Hopefully I will produce for you a true “Battle Hymn for all true Believers” and so with this in mind my headings for this Psalm are:

     1.  (1 – 8)   GOD MY PROTECTOR

  1. (1 – 4)God the protector of the unworthy
  2. (5 – 8)Powerful protector active in history

2     (9 – 11)   GOD MY DELIVERER

  1. (9 – 10) A new song of deliverance promised
  2. (vs.11)  A prayer for deliverance

     3.  (12 – 15) GOD MY PROVIDER

  1. (12 – 14) God’s blessings of his protection and deliverance
  2. (vs. 15) Blessings, protection, deliverance only for true believers

 Using these headings, let’s now have a closer look at this “Battle Hymn for true Believers”:

      1.   (1 – 8)   GOD MY PROTECTOR

             1.   (1 – 4)  God the protector of the unworthy

As I said in my introduction this Psalm contains a lot of images and even phrases used in Psalm 18 and also other Psalms of David and some bible scalars have criticised this Psalm as some later writers attempt to compose a Psalm of David piecing together bits and pieces of previous Psalms of David particularly Psalm 18.

I like the explanation and quote H.C. Leopold gives in his commentary on this issue,

In place of the idea that this Psalm is an inferior piece of patchwork it might be well to consider the possibility that Schmidt suggests that we have here, ‘an original work of art’”

The opening verse of this Psalm is a praise of God David made for how God is the source of his protection and even battle skills in the fierce battles he had already faced,

“Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle”.

 David often called God his rock something that features in my Psalm talk on Psalm 28 which commences with the words,

“To you Lord I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me”

 Then in Psalm 18, which we believe was written after God answered the battle prayer of this Psalm David writes in verse 46,

“The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Saviour”

 David wrote or prayed in Psalm 61 verse 2,

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I”.

 Over and over again throughout the life of David God protected him like a rock which he could hide behind and even when he was forced into physical battle God was a rock for him as he gave him the skill or ability to fight as he says in the second part of verse 1,

“Who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle”.

 Sometimes I watch action movies that contain very sure and even conceited men who act like they are invincible, dogging bullets and winning physical battles against lots of enemies who attack them and I often think it would only take one slip or false move and a bullet would simply bring them down.

However, Hollywood would suggest that true heroes possess unbelievable luck to doge the may bullets that come at them. In reality, there is no such thing as luck or all powerful human beings who are invincible but rather there is only an all- powerful and all- knowing God in whose hands is our destiny as David makes clear by what he suggests in the second part of verse 1 of Psalm 144 and makes clear by what he says in Psalm 18: 35,

“You make your saving help my shield,and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great”.

 This verse in Psalm 18 also reflects what David, I believe originally prayed for in Psalm 144 which I have proposed was David’s prayer for protection and deliverance soon after he became king of Israel.

This reflection of Psalm 18: 35 and verse 2 of that same Psalm is what David is speaking about in his Psalm 144 verse 2 version of these concepts,

He is my loving God and my fortress,my stronghold and my deliverer,my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoplesunder me”.

 The big additive in verse 2 of Psalm 144 is the wonderful concept of God’s love expressed in the opening words of verse 2,

“He is my loving God”

Which is an Old testament reference to the Covenant of Love David and other writers of the Psalms knew and often referred to. This covenant of love is expressed in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

 David trusted completely in this God of covenant love and God protected him from his enemies on many occasions like a fortress, stronghold, shield and deliverer. This means that David did not believe he had some kind of right to the protection and deliverance of God but rather that God only gave it to him because he was a great God of love who is always faithful to his promises.

This aspect of God’s underserved love for us is made even clearer in the New Testament in so many places like what Paul says about our spiritual deliverance or salvation in Romans 8: 6 – 8,

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

 God helped David not only by protecting him from his enemies but also God delivered him from many of them expressed so well in the words at the end of verse 2 that simply says,

“Who subdues peoples under me”.

 In the past, some Christians have gone to war literally with their enemies expecting a kind of Old Testament victory over them but they failed to realise that we are not fighting a physical war or battle but a spiritual one and our weapons of war in these battles are spiritual ones as Paul states clearly in 2 Corinthians 10: 3 – 5,

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.

 Our battle hymn is that we are weak and defenceless against the mighty forces of evil but as Paul states clearly in Ephesians 6: 10 – 11, we are strong because we trust in a strong and loving God,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

This volubility and weakness to protect and defend ourselves is made even clearer by what David states in verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 144,

“Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow”.

The question David proposes in verse 3 is very similar to the question he proposes in Psalm 8: 3 – 4,

“When I consider your heavens,the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars,which you have set in place,what is mankind that you are mindful of them,human beings that you care for them?”

 Albert Barnes makes it clear what David is saying in Psalm 144 verse 3 and Psalm 8 verse 4 with these words,

The idea is, it is amazing that a being so insignificant as man should be an object of interest to God, or that One so great should pay any attention to him and to his affairs”.

 This is then both a statement of the insignificance and weakness of mankind and the great love of God in that he not only is interested in us but as we shall see is willing to get involved in our world and with us in a most costly way to deliver or save us.

Our volubility in the battles of life against powerful spiritual forces is made even clearer again by David’s description of us in verse 4,

“They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow”.

 Allan Harman points out our volubility and its corresponding needs in these words,

“It means man’s existence is of such a fleeting nature, then how much does he need the Lord’s help”.

 David needed the Lord’s help and protection so much but as we have seen in the previous verses he acknowledged that God had given it to him in the following three ways, God was his,

  1. Rock – fortress or stronghold
  2. Fighting equipper
  3. Deliverer

 

We have the same promise of rock, equipper and deliverer or saviour in the words of that great doxology at the end of Jude – verses 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— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

 So, our Battle Hymn for true believers clearly states that even though we are weak and spiritually powerless the Lord makes the difference in our lives by him making us strong against all the forces we are in battle with.

      2.   (5 – 8)   Powerful protector active in history

There are many people in the past and even today who say they believe in God or an active first force but he or that force is not still active in our world, rather he or the force set the world up like a clock that was started ticking and then left it ticking away and it takes it’s natural course according to the general laws of nature this so called absent God or force set down.

This belief in God is called Deism and it is believed this is the kind of God Albert Einstein believed in.

I believe verses 5 – 7 of this Psalm 144 put down the idea of God being absent from this world after he created it for David prays,

“Part your heavens, Lord, and come down;touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.Reach down your hand from on high;deliver me and rescue mefrom the mighty waters, from the hands of foreigners”.

 David is asking for God to personally intervene into his day and protect him from his powerful enemies. Which David later thanked God for in Psalm 18: 6 – 15.

How could David come to pray such a prayer as this?

The simple reason is that David was not a Deist but as I am and I believe all true believers are a theist who believes in the God of the bible. David knew from the bible and his own personal experience of this God that God does get involved in our world and always has.

What David is asking for sounds very much like what happened in the book of Exodus when his ancestors where at Mount Sinai as we read in Exodus 20: 18 – 19,

 “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

 I don’t think David literally wants God to do a Mt Sinai as I believe verses 5 and 6 are a poetic image of God reaching down in power and might to protect and deliver David from his enemies. He puts this intervention of God another way in a Psalm like Psalm 57: 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me,rebuking those who hotly pursue me- God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

 I stated before that David believed in a God who actively intervenes in the lives of those who put their trust in him because of his faith in God’s word the bible and his own experience. He is speaking in Psalm 57 of his experience of God’s intervention in his life to save and protect him in Psalm 57 and later in that Psalm states it again this way in verse 10,

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;your faithfulness reaches to the skies”.

 The heading for Psalm 57 is that David wrote this Psalm or came to the idea of it from his experience of being trapped in a cave when on the run from King Saul who sought to kill him.

David actually survived twice from being trapped in a cave and both times sceptics could say that was not God who saved David but good luck but David did not believe in luck in the battles of his life, a battle he described as being rescued from mighty waters (vs. 7) another direct reference to Psalm 18 for in verses 16 and 17 we read,

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me;he drew me out of deep waters.

17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me”.

 So, again what David asked God to do for him in this Psalm 144 he actually did for David, it seems because of what have just read in Psalm 18 verses 16 – 17.

We know the hot water or rather mighty waters was the attack of foreign enemies as we read at the end of verse 7,

“From the hands of foreigners”

Foreigners like the Philistines who God helped David totally defeat according to 2 Samuel 8:1. Other foreign nations are mentioned in 2 Samuel 8 like Moabites, the king of Zobah, Arammeans and many others. After these many victories, I believe David probably wrote Psalm 18 and in verse 3 of that Psalm David boldly says this,

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies”.

 In a far greater way we have been saved by the God of the bible who wonderfully got involved in history when he,

“Reached down his hand from on high” (verse 7)

This is when God sent his Son into the world who took flesh to save us from our sins as John boldly declares in John 1: 14,

“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”.

 Or as John says in chapter 3 verse 16,

“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 also believe in a God who intervenes into the lives of men even today as I have seen answers to my prayers that could be also explained away as good luck but over and over again I see them as God helping me in my daily life to protect and guide me in the many battles of life.

Lastly in this second part of the first section of this Psalm 144 David speaks of the nature of his enemies he needs God’s intervention to protect and save him from in these words,

“Whose mouth are full of lies, whose right hands are deceitful”.

 In our spiritual battles of life, we like David are up against the Devil who Jesus called both a liar and the father of lies, John 8: 44,

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies”.

 If David is speaking about foreign enemies he is possibly speaking of the often deceitful and false alliances and promises his enemies made but David knew their real intentions as he expressed in Psalm 2: 1 – 3,

“Why do the nations conspireand the peoples plot in vain?The kings of the earth rise up

and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,“Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”

 Again, in the battles of life as in any conflict the wise course of action is know your enemy and also know your bible so as true believer’s our best preparation in the battles of life is know and put into practice the advice James states in James 4: 7 – 10,

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

 In the life’s battles the hymn should sing is of the great God of heaven and earth who is willing to intervene into our daily lives for all true believers if they but call on him turning away from the devil and his lies and humbling ourselves before our loving saving God.

 2     (9 – 11)   GOD MY DELIVERER

  1. (9 – 10) A new song of deliverance promised

On four other occasions David uses this expression “a new song”, Psalm 33:3, 40: 3, 96: 1 and 98: 1 and we also find the same expression in Isaiah 42: 10.

Here in verse 9 of Psalm 144 David is promising to sing a new song to the Lord on a special instrument he played called, “ten string lyre”. It seems the normal instrument David played was a 5-string lyre but he also had a larger and fuller sounding 10 string lyre and Leopold suggests why David refers to his new song of praise being played on a ten- string lyre rather than 5 string lyre as,

“to allow for full toned music and thus suggest that an effort to match the greatness of the mercy received is going to be made”.

 What does David and Isaiah mean by the expression “sing a new song”?

I have had two attempts to explain this phrase before and will share with you now my two attempts to explain this phrase:

  1. Psalm 33: 3,

“For David writing new songs was not a strange experience as we have over 73 original works of David in the book of Psalms alone. But Leupold points out there is three possible interpretations of this concept of a new song: 

    1.   Singing the old hymn with deeper understanding

    2.   Fresh colour to and old hymn

    3.  The composition of a song entirely new”.

Whatever David is referring to in this verse his deliverance experience caused him to sing. Music has been described by many as “The expression of the emotions of the heart” and when we sing with meaning or from the heart we are expressing our true understanding of what God has done for us in delivering us from the power of sin and death.”.

 

  1. Psalm 98: 1,

 

To sing a new song to God does not necessarily mean that we are to compose new songs all the time and not sing old songs.

The Hebrew meaning for “New Song” is apparently, “made or become fresh.” This means that old songs we know and love can be “New Songs”, when we sing them from a fresh or renewed understanding of God and his word.

 I know sometimes I sing in church old songs and I fail to really connect in my heart to the wonderful truths of its words. However more than often I sing something in church or at a special Christian meeting that I have sang many times before but God’s spirit moves in my heart with a fresh appreciation of what it is saying to me about God and his word, then it is truly a “New Song”.

 If Psalm 144 is the request for God to deliver or save him from his many enemies and Psalm 18 is that request answered and praised then Psalm 18 could well be David’s new song he promises to compose here.

 As a singer, musician and even song writer myself I can identify with David and his obvious enthusiasm to use his music to praise and glorify God and I must stress as David did that he saw the main value of music as a vehicle to glorify God as he makes plain by what he goes on to say in verse 10,

“To the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David”.

 He promises to give credit to the one who credit is due namely his God who gives him victories in the battles of his life. Victories for David, verse 10 indicates are victories for his people as he is their king but note David does not want any glory for his unique privileged position as King as he then calls himself God’s servant.

Even the Lord Jesus spoke of himself as God’s servant who had a great mission to save us as we read in Mark 10: 45,

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 Paul makes it clear we are to be like the Lord Jesus and serve one another, Galatians 5: 13.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love”.

 Peter also makes a similar point in 1 Peter 4: 10,

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”.

 So, David promises as God’s king and servant to sing a new song to the Lord, which could be an old song sung with new understanding and meaning once God has delivered him from his current battle with his enemies. We to should always be ready to praise our God for his deliverance or salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily battles of life as Paul encourages the Colossians to do in Colossians 3: 15 – 17,

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.

       2    (vs.11) A prayer for deliverance

We come then to the end of verse 10 and verse 11 which is like a refrain as the words in verse 11 are almost identical to the words David used in verses 7 and 8. David writes in verse 10b and verse 11,

“From the deadly sword deliver me; rescue me from the hands of foreigners whose mouths are full of lies, whose right hands are deceitful”.

 David is obviously facing very difficult times at the hands of his enemies and again makes it clear to God in prayer the heavy burden he bares which is, I think, made even more clearer by David using these words as a kind of refrain or poetic summary of the main point of his Psalm.

In David’s time the principle weapon of destruction was the sword which he calls in the hands of his foreign enemies who are lying and deceitful a deadly sword.

Note again that David is not just saying he faces just physical force but he also faced verbal abuse as his enemies use their tongues and mouths to destroy him.

A missionary on home leave who serves with his wife and family in India spoke in our church today and referred to what he called “Hate crimes” by those who oppose Christians there at the moment. They falsely accuse Christians of all sorts of made up charges and have them thrown in jail awaiting a court appearance. He said usually after a couple of months in jail awaiting trial they are freed as the charges are dismissed by the courts as being false.

The devil has and will use lies and deceit to bring down and destroy true believers as a proven battle tactic but we must always find courage in the words of Paul in Romans 8: 37 – 39,

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

     3.   (12 – 15) GOD MY PROVIDER

            1.   (12 – 14) God’s blessings of his protection and deliverance

Some bible scalars argue that the final four verses did not belong to the original Psalm of David and because of the reference to breaching walls and captivity in verse 14 these verses were made up and added to this Psalm after the return from Babylonian captivity.

However, there is another logical conclusion to this problem and that is that David has moved by faith from his desperate need for protection and deliverance to what he sees as the possible outcomes he and his nation would have when they had victory over their enemies.

Victory over his enemies he argues will lead to God’s blessings of a strong and vital nation, prosperous and free of the possibility of being overrun by powerful and vicious Godless foreigners.

So, I believe David presents three main forms of national blessings if God protects and delivers his people from battle or war with his many enemies and these are presented in what I call Old Testament material benefits:

  1. A strong and vital future for the nation and its people (vs. 12)
  2. A materially prosperous nation (vs. 13)
  3. A sense of national security and peace (vs. 14)

Let’s then have a closer look at these three Old Testament style blessings God’s protection and deliverance will bring to David and his people:

  1. A strong and vital future for the nation and its people (vs. 12)

Each of the three forms of blessing are not only spoken of in Old Testament realities but are also presented in poetic imagery as well.

The first of these Old Testament blessings is what I have called a strong and vital future for the nation and its people and verse 12 reads this way,

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well- nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace”.

 I like Albert Barnes explanation of this verse when he writes,

“That our sons – not called forth to the hardships of the tent and the field, the perils and the exposures of war – may grow up under the culture of home, of the family, in quiet scenes, as plants carefully cultivated and flourishing”.

 This concept of the Children of Israel being blessed by God because of the protection and deliverance God would give his faithful true believers is stated in his covenant agreement with his people Israel as we see in Deuteronomy 28: 1 – 4,

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country 3 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks”.

 The second half of verse 12 speaks of not only sons flourishing in a secure blessed nation delivered from the battles of war but the nation’s daughters as well,

“And our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace”.

 Apparently, many ancient Palaces and Temples featured statues of sleek and healthy young females on their walls and pillars. This image would be a vital and real one for the people of Old Testament times and again represents healthy vital young people who David believed would thrive once the threat and turmoil of foreign invasion had passed.

So, in Old Testament, Old Covenant sense the blessing of children living in a safe and prosperous land is what I believe David has in mind,

However, what does God promise us in the New Covenant as his blessings for being his faithful true believers?

Here are three important New Testament, New Covenant promises we have in Christ:

1.    Eternal Inheritance through Christ – Hebrews 9: 15,

For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

  1. Every Spiritual blessing in Christ – Ephesians 1: 3,

“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”. 

  1. God’s blessing of the Holy Spirit – Romans 8: 26 – 27,

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

 Finally, Paul declares in the next verse of Romans 8, verse 28 that he works everything for Good for those who are faithful true believers,

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose.

  1. A materially prosperous nation (vs. 13)

The next verse, verse 13 and the start of verse 14 along with other Old Testament verses like it have been miss – quoted by many Christians to imply that God promises all faithful true believers material blessing in this life as it says,

“Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads”.

 This is a miss quote or wrong interpretation as this is again Old Testament, Old Covenant promises like the one before concerning prosperous families. I refer back to Deuteronomy 28: 1 – 4,

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country 3 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks”.

As I said in connection with the last verse this promise of material blessing to God’s faithful people has been superseded by the greater and far more reaching promises of the New Covenant.

However, I am not advocating that God does not bless Christians with strong stable families and even material blessings. I have seen over all my years in the church how often the turning to Christ by a husband and wife leads to a far more stable, happy family and often brings material benefits but material benefits in this life is not a guarantee for those who turn to Christ as God is not concerned primarily for our earthly happiness but his concern is for our eternal holiness or sanctification which will lead to us glorifying his wonderful name as Paul make clear by Romans 5: 1 – 5,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And weboast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but wealso 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”.

 We must realise we live in sinful fallen world, that even as Christians our bodies suffer the consequences of sin which is decay and death and on top of thiat we are caught up as God’s faithful true believers in a constant and great spiritual battle. Like David we should pray for protection and deliverance from all this but total victory in this great battle will not come unto The Lord Jesus Christ returns and all evil and those associated with it is done away with as predicted in passages like Revelation 20: 11 – 15.

Following this passage in Revelation we have the wonderful description of the New Heaven and the New Earth that results from the final judgment and its cleansing processes and in Revelation 21: 1 – 4 we read of the great hope all faithful true believers can look forward to,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 Up to that great day God does not leave us all alone in the battles of life but he through the Lord Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit stands with us to comfort, protect and even fight for us in every difficulty the battle of life can bring upon us Paul confidently told the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”

  1. A sense of national security and peace (vs. 14)

The final outcome and blessing David predicts will come to him and his people if God protects and delivers them from their enemies is what I call a sense of national security and peace expressed in the words and poetic images of verse 14,

“There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets”.

 We must always try to come to terms with the words and images used in the Psalms in the context of the ancient world they were written in and here in verse 14 we have a great example of this.

The people lived in the ancient world lived under the constant threat of being conquered and over run by other nations. Ancient history is littered with stories of peace loving and often materially successful nations being conquered and overrun by an enemy. The miracles of the history of Israel and the Jews is that even as a tiny in worldly terms insignificant nation or race of people they survived so long throughout history when far more powerful nations perished.

The conquering of a nation in ancient times involved invasion and usually the sieging of cities that always had large walls around them to protect them from invading armies. This is why David says that if God protects them and delivers them from their enemies that would experience,

“No breaching of walls”.

 Once a wall of a city was breached the conquered population was often taken into captivity as happened to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722BC by the Assyrians and then nearly 200 hundred years later the Southern Kingdom of Judah was overrun and taken into captivity by the Babylonians in 587BC and Jerusalem’s walls were breached and its people were taken in captivity,

        2   (vs. 15)   Blessings, protection, deliverance only for true believers

I have many non-believing friends and family who I seek to be a witness to but they often seem so entrenched in ignoring God and even considering that faith God has any value and purpose. I know many of my non-believing friends and family even find me to be an irritant to their so called Godless existence. I often wish them well on their birthdays and other special times but deep inside I know that without turning to God in faith and obedience there is no real blessing from God for them because all the promises of God are for faithful true believers.

David makes this clear in the closing verse of his Psalm 144,

“Blessed is the people of whom this is true, blessed is the people whose God is the Lord”.

 Certainly, God does bless both the righteous and the unrighteous in this life as Jesus makes clear from what he said in Matthew 5: 45,

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

 The context of Jesus words here is his call for us to love our enemies and be like his father our God in heaven who believe sent his son The Lord Jesus Christ into the world and has made us his children. So wishing non-believers well is acting like our Father in heaven and his Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus put his words into action about loving our enemies even when he was being crucified he prayed for the forgiveness of those who were nailing him to the cross.

However, David is correct, the best and only way for people to have a guarantee of God’s blessing in their lives is by people having a true and genuine faith in the God of the bible who David calls,

“God the Lord”

I like Albert Barnes comments on this verse when he writes,

“Prosperity and peace, such as are referred to in the previous verses, are, and must be, the result of pure religion. Peace, order, abundance, attend it everywhere, and the best security for a nation‘s prosperity is the worship of God; that which is most certain to make a nation happy and blessed, is to acknowledge God and to keep his laws”.

 All through this Psalm I have referred to two unique aspects of this Psalm, which are:

  1. The images of ancient battle and war which I have applied to the spiritual battle we as true believers are always caught up in.

2. The obvious connection of this Psalm, 144 to David’s Psalm 18, which I have advocated is that Psalm 144 is the prayer for protection and deliverance from his enemies and Psalm 18 is a praise for that protection and deliverance from those enemies.

So, if I am correct somewhere in Psalm 18 I should find evidence of both of these two unique aspects and I believe verses 25 – 29 is proof of my theory,

 “To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.

27 You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.28 You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;my God turns my darkness into light.29 With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall”.

 These are great words of praise of a faithful true believer of the God of the bible who has experienced the blessing of God for himself and his people in the form of protection and deliverance from their many enemies.

As Christians, I have advocated in this Psalm talk and many others that being a true believer in the God of the bible does not mean we will not face hardship and difficulty as we are always caught up in a great spiritual battle as Paul spoke of in Ephesians 6: 12.

“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”.

 We will not also escape the reality in this life that we are living in a fallen and often Godless world but this does not mean that God is not with us and even blessing us.

I am reminded here of the apt words of James in James 1: 2 – 8 about God’s purpose and role of facing the battles of life with God through the Lord Jesus by our side,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do”.

Julie Ward Howe in 1861 saw first-hand the horrors that man’s rebellion to God can cause and even true believers like her could not escape the difficulties and trials the horrific war called the civil war in America brought to all people in its day but Julie Ward Howe saw the spiritual dimension to that war and the hope that only Faith in the God of the bible through the Lord Jesus Christ can bring and this hope and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is beautifully expressed in her last verse of her great hymn, “The Battle Hymn of the republic”,

“In the be beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me,

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free!

While God’s is marching on”.

I close as usual with an original poem / song and a final word of prayer:

THE CHRISTIAN BATTLE SONG

(Based on Psalm 144)

Praise to the Lord my rock who trains me for war

He guides me by his hands so that I will not fall.

Against all the forces of evil he gives me success

For my God is a loving God and fortress.

A strong hold when my life is in distress

So, praise to the Lord my deliverer who longs to bless.

 

O Lord what are human beings that you care so much for them.

For they are just mortal beings Oh yes, we are just mere men.

We’re like a breath of air that’s here and gone

May our world come to see that they are wrong.

Show your power against our enemies we do long

O Lord reach down your hand make our enemies be gone.

 

I will sing a new song to you Lord on the string instrument I play.

I will sing of the victory He gives to me each day.

Great powers of darkness now oppose our God

Many enemies stand in the path that we trod

The words they use against us are the bombs they lob

But I will sing of God’s power trusting in the word of God.

 

Blessed are all the people who trust in the mighty God above.

Their sons and their daughters will be blessed with love.

And spiritual riches will be theirs all of their days

For they will be free from sins curse and Satan’s ways.

For Jesus died on the cross and in victory was raised.

Blessed then are those who turn to him in faith and praise.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 I thank you Lord that you are always with me in the many battles of life. I thank you Father in heaven that you sent your son, Jesus Christ to die for my sins on the cross making a way back to you in heaven. I thank you Holy Spirit for your presence in my life making me strong against the devil’s attacks and interceding for me with the Father in heaven when I need assistance and help in my daily battles with sin the world and the devil. I look forward then to the day I will be with you in heaven when there will be no more pain, death and tears, when all true believers will experience your total blessing for all eternity, In Jesus name I pray this, Amen.

 

 

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PSALM 143 TALK:   THE HOPE OF FAITH

PSALM 143 TALK:   THE HOPE OF FAITH

 (This is the sixth Psalm of a collection of eight Psalms attributed to King David in the fifth and final book of Psalms. This Psalm features the idea of how faith in God brings us hope in what might seem hopeless situations.)

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

INTRODUCTION

Why do people commit suicide?

In my research on the net on this subject I found a key issue that might give us at least a general answer to this question and that is the concept of hope or in the case of a person committing suicide the loss of hope.

An article in the “Irish Times’ in 2004 put it this way,

“Hope is the key factor in the research into suicide it has been identified as critical in determining how we negotiate suffering. If people believe that their suffering will end, or that some possibility of rescue is likely, they can endure incredible discomfort”.

 A lady who simply calls herself Becky made a post on an internet page called “Our Side of Suicide” in January 2015 and made this telling statement about her father’s suicide and how lack of hope helped to cause it,

“The other day, I heard a survivor say their loved one “died from a loss of hope.” This is such a simple, beautifully-articulated statement. How have I not used this myself before?

As I read and studied Psalm 143 I realised three things:

  1. David indicates throughout this Psalm that he faced what seemed a hopeless situation like verse 3,

“My enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead”.

  1. David seems to have found hope through his faith in God, as we read in verse 8,

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life”. 

  1. David in the midst of his hopeless situation longed to learn and do what God wanted him to learn and do like vs. 8b

“Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life”

 and vs. 10b

Teach me your will, for you are my God”

 In this Psalm talk I will not suggest that prayer is some kind of miraculous tool to make God take our problems and difficulties away from us but real faith in the God of the bible gives us real hope to cope as David reveals in verse 5 and 6,

“I remember the days of long ago; I mediate on all your works and consider what your hands have done”. I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land”.

 Real faith in the God of the bible gives us real hope in the face of what might seem to us a hopeless situation.

This hope of faith is like what the writer to the Hebrews speaks of in Hebrews 6: 19 – 20a,

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf”.

 When did David write Psalm 143?

This unfortunately the answer to this question is not clear and it was in either in his early life while on the run from king Saul or in his later life when on the run from his rebellious son Absalom. H.C. Leopold makes an interesting point about how many Psalms are not clear about when they were written when he says that many of the Psalms where written in,

“A sort of generalization so as to make the Psalm usable by people in all manner of similar situations”.

 With the general theme of “The Hope of Faith” in mind my outline for this Psalm is:

  1. (1 – 2)  FAITH DESIRES HOPE
  1. (vs. 1)  A cry for hope based on faith
  2. (vs. 2)  Without God’s love there is no hope

      2     (3 – 6)  FAITH INSPIRES HOPE

  1. (3 – 4)  Faith in the face of hopelessness
  2. (5 – 6)  Faith in God’s word inspires hope

      3     (7 – 10)  THE HOPE OF FAITH

  1. (7 – 8)  The faith and hope connection
  2. (9 – 10) The results of the hope of faith

      4     (11 – 12) FAITH LEADS TO A LIFE OF HOPE

  1. (vs.11)   Faith leading to hope
  2. (11 – 12) Faith in God’s love will give us victory

 With the concept of the hope of faith in mind as seen in the outline above lets then have a close look at this amazing Psalm of David.

  1.   (1 – 2)   FAITH DESIRES HOPE
  1. (vs. 1) A cry for hope based on faith

 We have been looking at a number of Psalms in this series of eight final Psalms of David that are set in very difficult times in his life. Probably in a time when David, at the time of writing it felt humanly speaking that he faced a total hopeless situation.

This can be seen in David’s two opening verses of this psalm when he is crying out to God but even verse one is what I call a desperate cry to God based on his faith in God as David writes,

“Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief”.

 Firstly, this first verse indicates this is not the first time he has prayed to God for what he calls relief and we can see similar wording to this verse in two recent Psalms probably written in the context of similar difficult times, Psalm 140: 6,

“I say to the Lord, ‘You are my God”. Hear, Lord my cry for mercy”

 And Psalm 141: 1,

“I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you”.

 David does not present in this Psalm that prayer is some magical set of words that always get an immediate response from God when uttered. No in fact the prayers of David in the book of Psalms are simply David calling out to God in faith for help and could represent days or even weeks of David pleading with God for help and assistance but he always even in his most desperate moments reveals faith in God in his prayers that leads to hope.

Many years ago, when I worked for an overseas mission organisation on their home staff we started each morning with staff prayers. One morning one of the older secretaries who I worked with spoke of on- gong health issues that caused her and her family much pain and anxiety. The Lord inspired me to refer to the words of Paul in Philippians 4: 6,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.

 I told her I believe that Paul is saying to us to turn our worries or anxieties into prayer and then I quoted her Paul’s next verse, verse 7,

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

 The secretary immediately thanked me for my insights and said she would now not only pray for healing in her family members but also commit to God the anxiety she felt while going through her time of trial and difficulty.

I learnt just as much from my advice as the secretary as I started to turn my worries and anxieties into prayers from that day on and even though I sometimes forget to do this from I have generally found God’s peace and hope in the many times I have faced difficulties in my life.

This is the hope of faith in action and even in David’s opening verse of Psalm 143 when he is crying out to God for relief he does so in the context of faith as he writes,

“Listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief”.

 David speaks of three unique characteristics of the God of the bible here as the basis of his faith and hope,

  1. Mercy
  2. Faithfulness
  3. Righteousness

Other religious faith practice prayers of some kind and the Jewish / Christian faiths are not unique in that but what is unique to a faith based in the bible is the character of the God we are praying to and these three characteristics of the God of the bible that David believed in are unique to bible believing Jews and Christians.

Let me explain:

  1. Mercy

The word mercy means what the New Testament calls grace which is love given to someone who does not deserve it. David knew this kind of love from God and spoke of it on many occasions but the supreme example of it is when he confessed to God the sins of adultery and murder and then wrote Psalm 51 where he cries out to God for forgiveness.

On what grounds does he ask God for forgiveness for adultery and murder?

Let me quote David’s answer to this all- important question:

Psalm 51: 1

“Have mercy on me, O God,according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

 Even though the Old Testament, the basis of the Jewish faith does present a God of love and mercy (love we don’t deserve) it is only in the New Testament that we learn of how the forgiveness of God is possible and Paul explains clearly how God’s gift of grace, his total forgiveness is made possible in Ephesians 1: 6 – 7,

“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” 

  1. Faithfulness

Faithfulness and indeed even mercy or love we don’t deserve comes right out of the covenant God made with his people Israel through Moses that David had faith in and which obviously gave him hope as we read in Exodus 34: 6 – 7a,

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”.

God does not promise one day to do something and then change his mind the next day not to do it as God is faithful and what he says he will do he does as we read so clearly stated in Deuteronomy 7: 9,

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

 And even clearer in Lamentations 3: 22 – 23,

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed,for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;great is your faithfulness”.

 Finally, in the New Testament Paul boldly speaks of the faithfulness of God to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 11 – 13,

 Here is a trustworthy saying:If we died with him,we will also live with him;

12 if we endure, we will also reign with him.If we disown him,he will also disown us;

13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself”.

 So, we can trust in God and his promises of love and protection for our lives and this, like it was for David is the hope of faith.

  1. Righteousness

God being righteous means that he again can be relied upon as righteousness implies holiness or the total pure and never changing rightness of God and his actions but as Albert Barnes points out,

“We, though sinners before God, may feel that our cause is a just one as toward our fellowmen, and, when wronged, we may ask God to interpose, as a righteous God, in our behalf. We cannot, however, ask him to save us on the ground of our righteousness toward him, for we have no such righteousness”.

 This is why we needed the coming of Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Son who offered his life in death on the cross so that we might receive the righteousness of God as a gift as Paul speaks of in Romans 1: 17,

17 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.”

 So, this cry of David to God might have been a desperate prayer and was prayed in the context of what seemed like a hopeless situation but it was prayed on the basis of faith in the God of the bible and this brought to David great hope.

  1. (vs. 2)  Without God’s love there is no hope

 David then in verse 2 makes a clear statement that his standing before God is as a sinner which is the situation we all face in the judgment to come, David writes,

“Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you”.

 David is saying that before God in judgment he could not rely on his own righteousness as he had none. Therefore, he could only rely on the mercy and faithfulness of God that he believed God had given him.

So, if our hope of going to heaven is based on our own righteousness or good deeds then we have nothing but a false hope as Paul makes it clear in Romans 3: 23,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

I like the evangelistic question you can ask another person,

“If you died tonight and stood before God what would you say to let him to convince him he should let you into his heaven?

 Our answer to this question reveals where our real faith in God lies for if we say I lived a better life than most or something like that then Pauls words of Romans 3: 23 would come down on us,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

What then is the correct biblical answer to this all- important question?

Paul gives us the answer to this question in the next three verses

“And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”.

 So, David’s faith and the hope it brought him was based on the love and mercy of God and not his own righteousness and so should ours if we want to have the same hope of faith people like David had.

      2     (3 – 6)  FAITH INSPIRES HOPE

  1. (3 – 4)  Faith in the face of hopelessness

The darkest two verses of this Psalm are now found in the words of verses three and four and present a situation that humanly speaking are hopeless. David describes the situation he is in as he cries out to God,

“The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead. So, my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed”.

 When David wrote this as I said in my introduction we simply cannot tell but David often found himself in this kind of hopeless situation when on the run from King Saul in his early years or when on the run from his rebellious son Absalom in his later years of life. However, both situations would have seen, humanly speaking a hopeless situation.

We often, I think do not enter into the real feelings of despair and hopelessness people like David felt when he prayed these prayers for deliverance and relief because we know that God did give David deliverance and relief on all occasions when on the run from King Saul and his rebellious son Absalom.

However, in my study of this Psalm I have tried to imagine what David was facing and the best clue to that is what he says in these two verses and I have come up with three ways David was feeling as he initially prayed the prayer of Psalm 143,

  1. He felt a sense of certain doom and defeat
  2. He felt a sense of darkness and death
  3. He felt a sense of growing soul sapping dismay

Let me elaborate on these three feelings David felt as he prayed the prayer of Psalm 143:

  1. He felt a sense of certain doom and defeat

David speaks of in verse three that his enemy pursues him and is so close he could feel their crushing blows of destruction, he writes,

“The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground”.

 To David this is a statement of certain doom and defeat at the hands of his enemies in which fits both the case of King Saul and Absalom who both had large armies supporting them in hot pursuit of David. So, in this situation David felt like he was being crushed. Albert Barnes says that the Hebrew word for crushed means broken into pieces and gives us three other times this word was used in the bible, Psalm 72: 4, 89: 10 and Job 6: 9.

I like Spurgeon’s explanation and application of this feeling of being crushed that David speaks of in the opening part of verse 3 when he writes,

“The existence of David was made bitter by the cruelty of his enemy; he was as one who was hurled down and made to lie upon the ground, where he could be trampled on by his assailant. Slander has a very depressing effect upon the spirits; it is a blow which overthrows the mind as though it were knocked clown with the fist”.

 As Christians, we too can feel a sense of doom and defeat when we face all kinds of attacks by the evil one that can come in the form of persecution, sickness or any other problem and difficulty we might face in the fallen sinful world we live in.

However, even in the face of what seems like certain doom and defeat the Gospel message offers us hope as Peter so boldly proclaims in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 5,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”.

 This is another example of the hope of faith.

  1. He felt a sense of darkness and death

David facing what seemed like certain defeat and death at the hands of either Saul or Absalom speaks of feeling this way in the second half of verse 3,

“He makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead”.

 Peter who gave us the wonderful promise or hope of new spiritual birth in this life and eternal life with Christ in the next verse then speaks of suffering all kinds of trails and difficulties in this life in verse 6 of 1 Peter 1,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”.

But even these should give us hope as Peter goes on to explain in 1 Peter 1: 7,

“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 honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

 The truth is that no matter what we face or go through, even death itself God is with us helping us go through these experiences of life teaching us things we could have only learnt through these difficulties and therefore giving us hope as Paul speaks of in Romans 15: 13,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

 Earlier in the book of Roams Paul speaks of the hope of faith we have and the role of the Holy Spirit of God helping us to have this hope even in difficult times in Romans 8: 22 – 27,

 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God”.

 So, our desperate prayers like David prayed are according to Paul the spirit helping us in our weaknesses and he will give us the hope of faith in these difficult times if we but turn to God in prayer like David did in Psalm 143.

  1. He felt a sense of growing soul sapping dismay

Then in verse 4 David speaks of his desperate situation making him feel a great sense of dismay, David writes,

“So, my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed”.

 I have been studying the book of Psalms for just on ten years now and I have been so struck by the raw and brutal honesty of man like David as they prayed to God. They held nothing back as they simply told God how they were feeling. I don’t think I have ever heard people pray like that in the church circles I have been in.

I wonder how valuable it would be if we would simply open up to God and tell him honestly how we are feeling in prayer.

David felt very low and going lower as he says his spirit is growing week within him and he now felt dismay. Jesus prayed like this when he faced his terrible death on the cross for our sins on the night he was betrayed. Jesus was really hurting inside like David and Matthew records what happened to Jesus and how he prayed in Matthew 26: 36 – 39,

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

 If we pray like David did when we feel overwhelmed by what seems a hopeless situation we can pray with the confidence that the one we are praying to knows and understands what we are going through as writer to the Hebrews speaks about in Hebrews 4: 14 – 16,

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

 This also is another example of the hope of faith.

  1. (5 – 6) Faith in God’s word inspires hope

I have been putting into practice already the main point of verses 5 and 6 which is that God’s word inspires hope by all the Old and New Testament verses I have quoted already.

David puts this important idea this way in verses 5 and 6,

“I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.I spread out my hands to you;I thirst for you like a parched land”.

 I see two aspects of David using God’s word to inspire him here:

  1. He remembers what God has done in the past (vs. 5)
  2. He puts God’s word into practice by praying (vs. 6)

So, let’s have a closer look at David being inspired by God’s word and putting it into practice.

  1. He remembers what God has done in the past (vs. 5)

First of all, then, David remembers what God has done in the past, he writes in verse 6,

“I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done”.

 Actually, this verse says more than just remembering what God did in the past it speaks of also meditating on it. This is a great way of speaking of what God’s word actually is, it is what God did and said in the past given to us to think through in our day to day lives.

David knew his bible and he must have read it or recalled it to his memory as he faced what seemed like a hopeless situation just like Jeduthun speaks of in Psalm 77: 11 – 12,

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

 Where did David and Jeduthun learn of God’s mighty deeds of the past?

They read of them in God’s word the bible and God’s mighty deeds David would have been able to read of included creation, the exodus or God saving Israel out of Egypt, the conquest of Canaan and even his own previous experience of the mighty deeds of God in his life.

Before writing Psalm 143 David experienced the mighty deeds of God for him like delivering him from enemies like Goliath and depending on when he wrote this Psalm previous deliverances from King Saul’s attempts to kill him.

As I have already indicated David not only remembered God’s mighty deeds in the bible as he knew them he mediated on them which I believe is David’s description of how he pondered them deeply, prayed them through, inwardly digested them and acted out their significance in his life as David speaks of in Psalm 19: 14,

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,

 Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer”.

 Non-believers cannot understand how the bible is such an inspiration for hope and life as they reject it as a God’s inspired book and simply don’t read it but Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17,

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

 God’s word is a great source for the hope of faith.

  1. He puts God’s word into practice by praying (vs. 6)

As David mediated on the great works of God in the past he prayed it through so he used God’s word as a vehicle and inspiration for his prayers and this is what verse 6 is speaking about when it says,

“I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land”.

 The expression of spreading out your hands to God is an Old Testament physical expression of prayer and David has referred to this practice many times before in his Psalms like Psalm 28: 2,

“Hear my cry for mercyas I call to you for help,as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place”.

 His reading and mediating on the word of God has lead him to pray and again his prayer is a desperate one as the second half of verse 6 indicates when David says,

“I thirst for you like a parched land”.

 This verse fits well into David’s run from his rebellious son Absalom as we know he escaped to a very dry desert area and another Psalm writer, a son of Korah who it seems was with David and those who fled with him used a similar expression in Psalm 42 verses 1 and 2,

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”

 Another Psalm we believe David wrote at the time of the run from his rebellious son Absalom uses a similar expression in Psalm 63: 1,

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;I thirst for you,my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched landwhere there is no water”.

The effects of sin on our souls which is being cut off from God because of our many sins causes us all to be spiritually thirsty and only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can quench this great thirst as Jesus told the spiritually thirsty Samaritan women at the well in John 4: 13 – 14,

“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

So, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his death for sin on the cross and his life- giving words brings about a great soul refreshment a great hope of faith.

      3     (7 – 10)  THE HOPE OF FAITH

  1. (7 – 8)  The faith and hope connection

We come then to what I see as the key two verses of this Psalm that present I believe David starting to recognize the hope of faith in the face of his seemingly hopeless situation. I see these two verses presenting to us what I call the faith and hope connection.

There are two verses here and two main things to learn about how faith and hope are connected and they are:

  1. God’s presence changes everything (vs. 7)
  2. God’s love offers us sure and future hope (vs. 8)

Let’s then have a closer look at each of these two faith and hope connections:

  1. God’s presence changes everything (vs. 7)

Even though David I believe has shown us that he has the hope of faith this does not mean he does not need God’s help in fact the hope of faith is that God is there and not only listens to our prayers but answers them.

So, in verse 7 David again asks for God’s help in prayer, he prays,

“Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails”.

 Again, David is totally honest before God and describes his desperate situation with the apt but simple expression,

“My spirit fails”

 Note how life’s problems and difficulties have a very deep impact on our lives and for some that spiritual impact that life’s problems cause them are so unbearable that they cannot bare it any longer and they end their lives.

However even though David is deeply troubled by his seemingly imminent destruction by his enemies he has faith in his God and that gives him hope as he says this in verse 7,

“Do not hide your face from me”

 The concept of the face of God Tremper Longman 111 says is a,

“metaphor for God’s presence”

David believed that he would be safe no matter what happened to him if God’s face or presence was with him as he clearly states in the negative way in Psalm 30: 7,

“Lord, when you favoured me,you made my royal mountainstand firm;but when you hid your face, I was dismayed”.

 In Psalm 30, we believe David had sinned by disobeying God’s command not to count his fighting men in Israel and God sent a terrible plague on his country and Psalm 30 is David’s prayer for God to turn away from his anger and forgive him and stop the plague for at the times of him writing Psalm 30 God’s presence seemed to be no longer with David.

So, David asks in Psalm 143 for God’s presence in his life or, as the last part of verse 7 says,

“Or I will be like those who go down to the pit”.

 This is a poetic description of dying and means in this context that the murderous objectives of his enemies will be successful if God’s presence is not with him. So, David is saying what will make the difference in his current terrible situation is “God’s face” or “God’s presence”.

When we face dark difficult times we often feel all alone even thinking that God also has deserted us but we need to exercise faith when we feel like this and take God at his word like Romans 5: 5,

“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”.

 And even more clearly Romans 8: 37 – 39,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 We need to realise that through God’s Holy Spirit Jesus is with us always as he promises in Matthew 28: 20b,

“And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age”.

 Surely this promise alone should give us the hope of faith no matter what we are going through or facing in this life.

  1. God’s love offers us sure and future hope (vs. 8)

Then we have in verse 8 David’s clear poetic statement of his hope of faith in verse 8, he writes,

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go for to you I entrust my life”.

 According to Allan Harman David is saying,

“The darkness of the night is replaced with the light of God’s favour and mercy”.

 This mirrors David’s similar statement of the hope of faith in Psalm 30 were David writes in verse 5,

“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime;weeping may stay for the night,but rejoicing comes in the morning”.

 Even when David faced the darkness caused by his wilful sin in the time of Psalm 30 his faith in the love and mercy of God gave him hope expressed so beautifully by the image of the darkness of the night being broken by the dawning of the sun in the morning.

I have read of people near their deaths in the night but rallying in the morning to live another day. David had faith in the love and faithfulness of the God of the bible and this love of God gave him hope as it can give us if we but allow ourselves to open up to it in prayer as David had expressed so well in the start of verse 6,

“I spread out my hands to you”

 Where did David get this concept of the hope of God’s love from?

Again, I found Allan Harman so helpful in coming to an answer to this question, he writes,

“The covenant servant has his heart firmly fixed on God”

 As David so wonderfully expresses in Psalm 9: 10,

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you”.

 David knew the covenant God amazingly expressed his covenant love in Exodus 34: 5 – 7a,

“Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and

faithfulness,maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”.

 As Christians, we know a far greater expression of the love of God in the New Covenant that Jesus established by his death and resurrection as the writer to the Hebrews describes in Hebrews 9: 15,

For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

 The faith and hope connection then is found in the love of God which John expresses so well in his first letter in 1 John 3: 1 – 3,

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure”.

 This idea of God’s love giving us hope and leading to our lives being purified is what David is speaking about in the last part of verse 8, which says,

“Show me the way I should go for to you I entrust my life”.

 David has just expressed his hope of faith believing that God’s deliverance and help would come to him soon like the morning dawning breaking the darkness of the night and this comes totally from the love of God and so now he wants to go God’s way as he entrusts his life to this wonderful God of love.

Many times, in my life when I have come to a time of difficulty or unsureness of what I should do or where I should go I have prayed and sought to act out, mediated on the famous verses in the book of Proverbs 3: 5 – 6,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”.

 What way God wants us to go is up to him and we must learn to trust him that he knows best and uses even the worst of situations to do his good work of love in our lives as Paul says in Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

 Just think of this, if David had not been led by God into all the problems and difficulties he faced in his life we would not have had these wonderful Psalms that David wrote for us to read, learn and mediate on.

 Put your life in the hands of the great God of love and he will bring you through the darkness of your life to the bright morning light of the hope of faith.

      2.  (9 – 10) The results of the hope of faith

 David now looks to God for how the morning might come to his darkness in real terms which he expresses in verse 9,

“Rescue me from my enemies, Lord for I hide myself in you”.

 Spurgeon opens up this clear call of faith by David for deliverance from his enemies and makes an excellent application of them in these words,

“Many foes beset us, we cannot overcome them, we cannot even escape from them; but Jehovah can and will rescue us if we pray to him. The weapon of all prayer will stand us in better stead than sword and shield”.

 Spurgeon’s application thoughts echo the words of Paul in Ephesians 6: 10 – 18 which set down how we all face great spiritual enemies, day after day but by God’s strength and his armour or spiritual weapons and protections he can deliver us from our enemies. So far as the role of prayer in this Paul says this in Ephesians 6: 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”.

 The idea of hiding ourselves in God is similar to the main idea of the previous Psalm about the Lord being our refuge, like Psalm 142: 5,

“I cry to you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living”.

The hope of faith is that our God is greater than any foe or enemy we might face in this life so we must turn to him always especially when we come under attack. We do this through prayer and as David expresses in verse 10 by seeking to go his way, he writes,

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good spirit lead me on level ground”.

 Note how David asks God to teach him which comes primarily through careful study of God’s word and through the counsel of gifted mature friends and ministers. I have not stopped attending weekly bible studies all through my Christian life and value the wonderful counsel and teaching I have gained through attending these regular small group bible studies over many years.

Note also how David recognised the role of the Holy Spirit who he calls God’s good spirit in teaching him God’s way and leading him on what he calls “level ground”. This concept of level ground is also called by David, “a straight path” as he speaks of in Psalm 27: 11,

“Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors”

 Leupold explains this term this way,

“To walk in the course in which He directs men always means to be walking ‘in a level land’. It is not a path that is tortuous and difficult but a clear- cut path of right and truth”.

 Which reminds me of the advice Jesus gave on how we should live our lives 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. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

 To find such a path and be able to walk it we need what David calls “God’s good spirit” to help us as we read in Galatians 5: 16 – 18,

“So, I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law”.

 So, many people find themselves in really dark hopeless situations in life because of the way they have walked in their life but when we find the hope of faith we must walk God’s way and if we do we will find his help and protection that will be like the dawning of a new day after a long dark night.

      4     (11 – 12) FAITH LEADS TO A LIFE OF HOPE

  1. (vs.11)   Faith leading to hope

David now closes his Psalm 143 on a confident note of prayer not yet delivered from his enemies but showing in how he prays about that, that he has faith in God to help him that is leading him to a very real sense of hope. He prays this in verse 11,

“For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble”.

 Albert Barnes writes this on the phrase, “For your name’s sake”,

“Thou wilt thus show thy power, thy faithfulness, thy goodness. Thou wilt thus get honour to thyself. This is the highest motive which can influence us – that God may be glorified”.

 We know from the two books of Samuel that God did over and over again preserved the life of David against such powerful foes as King Saul and his rebellious son Absalom. David had not yet been preserved by God from his enemies when he wrote Psalm 143 yet when he wrote this Psalm it sounds like to me he had the hope of faith that God can and would soon deliver him.

Long before he wrote this Psalm David had this hope of faith so much he wrote these words in Psalm 23: 1 – 4,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

 God delivers us also from darkness because he is a loving and righteous God and when he does it is him alone who deserves our praise and thanks for giving us this hope of faith.

  1. (11 – 12) Faith in God’s love will give us victory

I see the last verse of this Psalm as still a request for deliverance by David from his enemies however like the previous verse it is spoken of in a note of faith and hope, David writes,

“In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant”.

 David prays yet again for the destruction of his enemies which he often has done before yet on at least two occasions David had the opportunity of carrying out this prayer and desire on King Saul one of his greatest enemies but both times he said something like what is recorded in 1 Samuel 26: 9 – 11,

“But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”

 David was asking for God to judge his enemy as the New Testament clearly teaches like James 4: 12,

“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?”

 Jesus actually encourages us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, Matthew 5: 43 -48. So, God’s mercy or as David called it God’s unfailing love should lead us to act radically different than the normal human reactions to persecution but instead show love just as God has shown love or mercy to us, sinners deserving his judgment.

Saul eventually did fall under God’s judgment and in the face of his hopeless situation of defeat by the Philistines he took his own life. Absalom likewise was defeated in battle and was defeated and killed by David’s faithful general Joab much to the dismay of king David who wept for days over the death of his son Absalom.

David calls himself at the end of Psalm 143, “Your servant” or God’s servant and David Guzik makes this interesting comment about this title David gives himself,

“David appealed to God on the basis of His name, His righteousness, and His mercy; yet also on the basis of his relationship with God as His servant. David understood that the servant has obligations to the Master; yet the Master also has obligations to the servant”.

 Again, David reveals the hope of faith which looks forward to God’s victory over all his enemies and we too can look forward to the great hope of God’s total victory over all who oppose him and over all evil as we read in Revelation 20: 11 – 15,

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

 Our faith in the Lord Jesus however leads to the great hope of heaven when we will pass from this life to be with God forever and not come under the final judgement owing to the payment of our sin by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross as we read in Titus 2: 11 – 14,

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”.

 This is the great final hope of faith that one day we will be with our Lord forever and this alone should help us face the pain and difficulties of this life which God might lead us into from time to time.

As the article in the “Irish Times’ in 2004 I quoted in my introduction put it,

“Hope is the key factor in the research into suicide it has been identified as critical in determining how we negotiate suffering. If people believe that their suffering will end, or that some possibility of rescue is likely, they can endure incredible discomfort”.

 If we have then the hope of faith we can endure and conquer as Paul speaks of in 2 Timothy 2: 10 – 13,

“Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.11 Here is a trustworthy saying:If we died with him, we will also live with him;12 if we endure,we will also reign with him.If we disown

him,he will also disown us;13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself”.

Real faith in the God of the bible, the God who out of love sent his son, Jesus Christ into the world to save us from our sins offers us great hope a hope I call, hope to cope. So, I encourage you to put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and no matter what life might bring your way you will always have the hope of faith.

I close as usual with an original poem / song and a final word of prayer:

HOPE FOR TOMOROOW

(Based on Psalm 143)

 

Refrain:

Hope for tomorrow for today I look above

Hope in the morning for in the dawning I’ll see God’s love.

 

Hear my prayer a cry for mercy

For I trust in God’s love and faithfulness.

Give me Lord relief and peace

For my enemy’s cause, me pain and stress.

When they attack they make me feel despair

Help me Lord in my darkness

By showing me your loving care.

 

Refrain:

Do not bring me Lord into judgment

For all men are sinners before you Lord.

Give me mercy and forgiveness

As I trust and meditate upon your word.

I see all the things you’ve done in the past,

Mighty things your hands performed

O yes Lord your love is so vast.

 

Refrain:

I spread my hands out before you Lord

For I thirst as my spirit seems to fail.

Do not hide your face from me

Or I will descend into death dark jail.

Rescue me from the evil that surrounds me

So, I can hide myself in you Lord

For you alone can set me free.

 

Refrain:

 

Teach me to do your will O Lord

May your Spirit lead me to level ground.

Preserve my life O Lord I pray

May all my troubles go and peace be found

Silence enemies and show me your love.

Help me to always serve you Lord

And raise your name high above.

 

Refrain:

Hope for tomorrow for today I look above

Hope in the morning for in the dawning I’ll see God’s love.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 I look to you Father up above to help me in my many struggles in this life with faith in your Son, The Lord Jesus Christ who always gives me hope. I pray that I will not turn away from this great hope, the hope of your constant help and protection, hope in your loving will for my life and hope in future glory with you in heaven. May I live out every day with this hope of faith, in the great and powerful name of The Lord Jesus Christ I pray this prayer, Amen.

PSALM 142 TALK:   GOD ALONE IS MY REFUGE

PSALM 142 TALK:   GOD ALONE IS MY REFUGE

(This is the fifth Psalm of a collection of eight Psalms attributed to King David in the fifth and final book of Psalms. This Psalm features the idea of trusting in God as our only refuge and help in times of trouble or difficulty and we do this by turning to God in the midst of our difficulty in trust and earnest prayer.)

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

INTRODUCTION

Where do you turn to or who do you turn to when life throws up problems and difficulties for you?

I have lived for many years now and of course in all the years I have lived I have had my fair share of problems and difficulties. Four years ago, I was studying Psalm 61 and as I came to the end of writing my Psalm talk I wanted to write a poem or song based on this wonderful Psalm. Then in the matter of one week three of my close family members became gravely ill. One of my nieces a week before she was to be a bridesmaid for one of her two sisters got very sick and had to go into hospital. Then my mother in law who was in a nursing home stopped eating and was in the throes of dying. Then as we drove the four hours to see her my eldest son rang me on my mobile phone to say that his wife had come down with a bad case of pneumonia and had to go into hospital.

The words of two verses of Psalm 61 verses 2 and 3 helped me greatly during that week that I felt battered around by what I later called, “The storms of life” and these verses read this way,

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe”.

 I believe David wrote these words later in his life when he was on the run from his rebellious Son Absalom who over through his reign as king of Israel and then sought to kill him and his close family and friends.

Psalm 142 was written much earlier as its Hebrew heading calls it,

A maskil of David. When he was in the cave”.

 This Psalm then was written by David when he escaped death in the Philistine town of Gath and went to hide in a cave in a desert place called Adullam as King Saul had sent a large force of men to capture and kill David who he treated as a national traitor.

Psalm 142 contains the same thought as Psalm 61 of God being our only refuge in the storms of life as we read in verse 5,

“I cry to you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living”.

 My wife and I prayed and looked to the Lord for refuge in our great storms of life four years ago and God answered our prayers and gave us comfort and hope in the midst of our troubles and my niece was well enough on the day of her sister’s wedding to attend and my daughter in law recovered well after a few days in hospital.

However, my mother in law passed away a week or so later and again God gave my wife and I comfort as we mourned her passing. My mother in law had attended a Baptist church for a few years with her eldest son and his wife before going into the Nursing home and also attended a service held in her nursing home for the last five years of her long life. We believe she had developed a simple faith in the Lord Jesus in the last years of her life and is now with him in heaven.

The first verses and chorus of my song inspired by the words of Psalm 61 and my experience of finding refuge in the Lord in the storms of life that week four years ago goes like this,

“Hear my prayer I cry Oh Lord

For I feel so far from you

Help me find a refuge Lord

In your Son who helps me through.

 

Lead me, lead me

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I

Help me, Help me,

Help me stand the storms of life I cry”.

 Psalm 142 is also called a “Maskil” which is a Hebrew word that means according to H. C. Leopold,

“A didactic poem – the Psalm would therefore, conveys some helpful instruction on the basis of the experience out of which it grew”.

 David seems to be both on the run for his life, alone and in a very dark place both spiritually and physically when he wrote this Psalm. He feels deserted, in desperate need of help and comfort as he hid in a cold dark cave in a place that would have seemed like the back of nowhere. Here he calls out to God with this desperate prayer we now call Psalm 142.

I aim to open up this Psalm in the context of David’s desperate situation and with other thoughts and ideas of David’s Psalms in the context of the main idea of God being our refuge and indeed our only refuge when we face the storms of life or the problems and difficulties that life often brings upon us.

With this in mind my headings for this Psalms are:

  1. (1 – 3)  A CRY FOR REFUGE
  1. (1 – 2) A cry for refuge
  2. (vs. 3) The need for refuge

      2    (4 – 5)   GOD IS MY REFUGE

  1. (vs. 4) No refuge in man
  2. (vs. 5) God alone is our refuge

      3  (6 – 7)   BE MY REGUGE LORD

  1. (vs. 6) A further cry for God to be his refuge
  2. (vs. 7) Be my refuge Lord so I can praise you

 Let’s have a close look at this Psalm with these headings in mind:

  1. (1 – 3)  A CRY FOR REFUGE
  1. (1 – 2) A cry for refuge

David uses four descriptions of what he did in that dark cave of Adullam,

  1. “I cry aloud to the Lord”
  2. “I lift up my voice to the Lord”
  3. “I pour out before him”
  4. “Before him I tell my trouble”

Putting these three descriptions of his desperate prayer we read this in verse 1 and 2 of Psalm 142,

“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble”.

 Leupold points out,

“There seems to be some advantage in putting trouble into words”

 I have often wondered in my own prayers and the prayers of others I have heard, why do we need to tell God our situation or the situation of the person we are praying for when we know from the word of God that God sees and knows everything?

Again, Leupold is right there is intrinsic value I believe for us to verbalize our situation or need to God in prayer. After all what is real prayer? Is it not us having a conversation with God or is it not us turning to God for help and refuge in the difficulties of our lives.

I like the first verse of the old hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus”,

“What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer”.

 Paul exhorts the Philippians to do what this hymn says in Philippians 4: 6

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.

 Note what God gives us when we take our problems and difficulties to him in prayer according to verse 7,

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

 David cried out and lifted up his voice asking God for mercy which is the Old Testament word for grace or love we don’t deserve and David constantly recognised his need for the mercy or grace of God all through his life as we see in many other Psalms like the start of Psalm 86: 1 – 2,

“Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.Guard my life, for I am faithful to

you;save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God have mercy on me Lord, for I call to you all day long”.

 When David was probably at the lowest point of his life even lower than when he was in the cave in Adullam, when he had committed adultery and murder he wrote in the first two verses of Psalm 51,

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin”.

And God in his grace or unmerited love for us has washed away and blotted out our many sins by the spilt blood of Christ on the cross as we read in Ephesians 1: 7,

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”.

 Finally, David according to verse 2, pours out to God his complaint and in this we see David’s honesty and faithfulness as he is telling God how he is really feeling and how his situation in the cave of Adullam had put him in what seemed like, humanly speaking a hopeless situation.

David is all alone and on the run from a powerful and vicious enemy and he needs protection and help from something or better still someone far greater and more powerful than he is and this is why years later when he is on the run from his rebellious son Absalom he prays,

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”. (Psalm 61: 2)

In Psalm 142 David is calling out to God for refuge and help while on the run from the great enemy of his younger years King Saul. However, he is teaching us in this didactic poem how we should react to the problems and troubles of life. James always full of practical advice tells us to do the same sought of thing with wonderful promises attached in James 4: 7 – 10,

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”. 

  1. (vs. 3) The need for refuge

 In the next verse, verse 3 David speaks of why he needed God to be his refuge as he continues his prayer for it, he writes,

“When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way, In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me”.

 This verse reveals both the great confidence he has in God watching over him and guiding him and the great danger he seems to believe God has led him into.

I will like to say to you come to Jesus and follow his way and your life will be free of all trouble and difficulty but I cannot say this as the bible, like this verse in Psalm 142 teaches that God does not promise the Christian life to be as the colloquial saying goes, “a rose garden”.

What God promises us is summed up well in the comforting words of Jesus in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 This promise of Jesus to come and help us carry our burdens is an echo of David’s words,

“When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way”.

 God wants us to go through times of problems and difficulties but he does so by helping us go through them being with us through his Holy Spirit and helping us carry the burdens we might bare. All of the main New Testament writers, Paul, James and Peter speak of how God uses the difficulties of life to teach us and make us better and stronger people as Peter writes 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 honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

Or as Paul teaches in Romans 5: 3 – 5,

“Not only so, but wealso 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”.

 When I went through my week of problems and difficulties four years ago when three close family members got very sick it seemed I was not in a good place in my life but looking back I can see the loving hand of God in my life helping my wife and I carry the burden we shared and bringing us through to a new understanding of his love for us.

Verse three of Psalm 142 has three terms describing the life God wants us to live found extensively in the book of Psalms and Proverbs namely the words or ideas of:

  1. Way
  2. Path
  3. Walk

Let me share a verse from Psalms, Proverbs and a verse from the New Testament that will give you the idea of how important these three little words are describing the life God wants us to have and has planned for us to live if we truly trust in him.

  1. Way

Psalm 27: 11,

“Teach me your way, Lord;lead me in a straight pathbecause of my oppressors”.

 Proverbs 8: 20,

“I walk in the way of righteousness,along the paths of justice”.

 John 14: 6,

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. 

  1. Path

Psalm 119: 105,

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path”

 Proverbs 3: 5 – 6,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heartand lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”.

 Hebrews 12: 12 – 13,

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed”. 

  1. Walk

Psalm 1: 1,

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers”.

 Proverbs 28: 26,

“Those who trust in themselves are fools,but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe”.

 Galatians 5: 16,

“So, I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh”.

In the Psalm 142 David is speaking of the “path” which he “walks” as being a dangerous one as he is only in the cave in Adullam because God led him there because King Saul was hot on his path or way to seek to kill him. David sees this dangerous path as like a path full of traps like a hunter sets in the possible paths of animals they are seeking to kill which David speaks more clearly of in Psalm 140: 5,

“The arrogant have hidden a snare for me; they have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along my path”.

So, again David wants God to be his refuge owing to the dangerous path he has led David to take and I like these comments by C.H Spurgeon on this,

“This is a great trial, but the Lord is greater still, and makes us to walk safely in the midst of danger, for he knows us and our enemies, our way and the snare which is laid in it. Blessed be his name”. 

      2    (4 – 5)   GOD IS MY REFUGE

  1. (vs. 4) No refuge in man

 It seems that David was in this cave in Adullam on his own and the text of 1 Samuel 22: 1 simply says,

“David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there”.

 So, initially it seems when David went to this cave of Adullam he was on his own and eventually was joined by members of his family when they heard he was hiding out there on his own and in great danger.

So, when David prayed the prayer of Psalm 142 he was on his own with no human help and assistance as verse 4 seems to be saying,

“Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life”.

 This verse represents how David felt when in the cave of Adullam on his own but we know from 1 Samuel 22: 1b that people were concerned for him and help was on the way. However, for a time, we don’t know how long David had no one at his side to help him which he expresses with the words,

“There is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me”.

 God might lead us to a point in our own lives when we think we are all alone or that no one can help us. This makes me think of another story of a man of God in a cave, Elijah and after Elijah had a great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel his life came under great danger from the wicked Queen Jezebel and Elijah fled for his life like David did years before.

We read of how Elijah himself ended up in a cave in 1 Kings 19: 7 – 9,

“The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.There he went into a cave and spent the night”.

 There Elijah, like David before him complained to the Lord that he was all alone and in Elijah’s case was the only one left who truly trusted in the Lord as he says to God after God asked Elijah why was he was in the cave alone Elijah replied with these words in 1 Kings 19: 10,

“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

God’s reply to this outrageous statement of Elijah is very revealing for we read in 1 Kings 19: 18 God told Elijah,

“Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

We might feel sometimes that we are alone or that our world is diminishing fast of true people of faith but God always has a remnant of true believers and we need to trust in him and he will lead us out of our sense of lowliness into fellowship with other followers of Christ.

In the case of David, he is saying that in his present condition, alone in the dark cave of Adullam he had no refuge or protection provided by any human agent as he says in verse 4b,

 “I have no refuge; no one cares for my life”.

 David Guzik writes,

“David felt alone and forsaken, yet this very cry to God declares that David knew that even if he were forsaken by men, God had not forsaken him. Even if every other refuge failed, David found in God an ear for the voice of his cry”.

 This reminds me of Pauls words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4: 16 – 18 where Paul describes how he felt humanly forsaken yet he knew the Lord was with him and helped him,

“At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen”.

 Paul told the Thessalonians this in 2 Thessalonians 3: 3 and through them us,

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

  1. (vs. 5) God alone is our refuge

 The confidence in the protecting strength and power of God that Paul has just declared in 2 Thessalonians 3: 3 is now declared by David in the fifth verse of his Psalm 142 and he writes,

“I cry to you Lord: I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living”.

 This time David’s cry is full of confidence for he has the faith to believe that even though he cannot find refuge or protection in any human source he can and does find refuge and protection in his God, the same God of the bible we believe in like Paul.

In that dark damp cave, all alone David faced the very real possibility that his enemy King Saul would find him and with a large force of soldiers overwhelm him but now David realises in verse 5 that he has a God he can turn to who will be a refuge or a protection to him against any human or spiritual force.

In Ephesians 6: 12 Paul declares that we all face overwhelming forces of evil,

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”.

However, like David Paul declares that even though, humanly speaking, we are no match to these powerful forces of evil by faith in the Lord, the God of the bible we are strong and can withstand the powerful forces of evil’s constant attack, Ephesians 2: 10 – 11,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

 Satan’s great weapon against us is sin and what it leads to, death but Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 56 – 57 proclaims that through faith in Christ and what he did for us on the cross we can and in fact do have victory over sin and death,

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

 David spoke many times about how God is his great refuge and he needed God’s protection and help – refuge particularly for up to eight years when on the run and outnumbered by King Saul and his army. At the end of this unsuccessful campaign against David when King Saul was defeated by his great enemy The Philistines and committed suicide David wrote a great song of praise we know as Psalm 18. Listen to just the first six verses of this magnificent song of praise,

“I love you, Lord, my strength.The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

 I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.The cords of the grave coiled around me the snares of death confronted me.In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.From his temple, he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears”

 So, Psalm 18  is the confident praise of God and his mighty protecting power – refuge, made at the end of those long difficult years he was on the run from King Saul and his army and Psalm 142 is David praying to God for that protection – refuge at the beginning of those long eight years.

After David became king of Israel his need for God’s protection – refuge did not stop and as I have already pointed out in his later years of his life he was on the run for his life again when his rebellious son Absalom sought to overwhelm him with his army and destroy him.

David not only calls God his refuge in verse 5 as he also calls him,

“My portion”

 And adds,

“In the land of the living”

What does David mean by calling God his portion?

I believe David here is speaking about his God given inheritance all Israelites had except for the Levitical priests who God gave a portion of the sacrifices given in worship (see Deuteronomy 18: 1 – 8). The inheritance all other Israelites had from God in Old Testament terms was land in the Promised Land of Israel allocated to the twelve tribes of Israel which is set out in some detail in Joshua chapters 13 – 21.

David was from the tribe of Judah and would have been a recipient of land in the Bethlehem area of Israel but now as he prays in Psalm 142 he is in a foreign land far from his inheritance or portion of land and as an exiled traitor in the eyes of the current King of Israel it would seem that had lost his inheritance or portion of the Promised Land of Israel.

This same idea of loss of his land, inheritance or portion is expressed in more detail in Psalm 16: 5 – 6, another Psalm David wrote while on the run from King Saul,

“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;you make my lot secure.The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance”.

 David’s unexpected and difficult situation of being forced out of his inheritance or portion, his rightful allocation of land in Israel gave him a unique insight to what God is to him,

“You (God) are my refuge, my portion”.

 This is something the New Testament will make much clear in that God gives all of his children, those who truly believe in his Son, Jesus Christ (see John 1: 12 – 13) an eternal inheritance or portion as the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 9: 15,

For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

 Note how David is given this unique insight through trial and difficulty only really spelt out 700 years later by the coming of Christ through. He realised that his portion even as lived his life,

“In the land of the living”

 Was not a piece of land but a great hope of the eternal protection and provision of life found only in God. In this life, as Christians we often seem to invest so much of our time and money in land and property in this world yet our real time and money should be invested in the wonderful heavenly home God has for us in eternity as Jesus put it so simply and with so much of a challenge in Matthew 6: 19 – 21,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. 

      3  (6 – 7)   BE MY REGUGE LORD

  1. (vs. 6) A further cry for God to be his refuge

All through this Psalm David has been speaking of a very dangerous and difficult time he is experiencing at the time of its inception and I have been proposing that the Hebrew heading gives us the setting of the cave of Adullam as the second cave David was trapped in in a place called in a place called En Gedi and there David was not alone but was hiding in the back of that cave with some of his loyal men (see 1 Samuel 24).

We saw that David declares in this Psalm in verse 4 that he is all alone in this cave,

“Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life”.

So, it is not surprising that in verse 6 David indicates his desperate need for God to rescue him from this cave and the situation he finds himself in there,

“Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me”.

 David seemed to be lost and without hope in the cave at Adullam, he might have seemed to be all alone and very frail and voluble but he has just realised yet again that God is his refuge and portion so again he cries out to God for rescue from his very strong oppressors.

I have been referring to Paul’s words in Ephesians 6: 10 – 12 and how Paul speaks of the overwhelming spiritual forces we face but again he speaks of this in the context of how we have a mighty, powerful and strong God we can both turn to in the face of this battle who can help us stand against the devils many evil schemes,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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”.

 Another man of God who faced unbelievable odds against him was Martin Luther who stood up against the might and power of the Catholic Church of his day to proclaim the true word of God and the Gospel message it presents. Martin Luther should have lost his life on many occasions but like David he cried out to the Lord for rescue and God saved him from his enemies over and over again.

Martin Luther was not only a great bible teacher, reformer and pastor of his day but he wrote hymns and I like the first two verses of his famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is our God, which go like this,

  1. “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
    Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
    For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
    His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
    On earth is not his equal.

    2.  Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabbath, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle”.

  1. (vs. 7) Be my refuge Lord so I can praise you

 David ends this Psalm with a promise to praise his God when he rescues or saves him from the prison of the cave where he feels trapped by an overwhelming enemy, he writes in verse 7,

“Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me”.

 This promise of praising God by David particularly once he has been saved or delivered is common to many of David’s other Psalms like, Psalm 56: 12 – 13, 61: 8, 64: 10, 70: 4, and Psalm 109: 30 – 31, which I will quote here,

“With my mouth, I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him. For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them”.

 Here in Psalm 109 he is promising to praise God in the future once he can safely join with a great throng of worshippers which would be in the Sanctuary in David’s time and later in the Temple after David’s time in Jerusalem.

So, it would seem that Psalm 109 like Psalm 142 was written by David when he was a long way away from Jerusalem on the run from king Saul or his Absalom who both sought to kill him.

So far as the expression in verse 7 of,

“Set me free from my prison”

 I agree with most commentators who say that this statement is metaphorical and fits the Hebrew titles claim that David wrote this Psalm when he was in the cave, which I have suggested is the cave of Adullam.

In this cave, it seems David had escaped to from the dangerous situation he ended up in Gath and only got away from Gath in the nick of time as Saul was well on his way to Gath to capture and kill David there.

The cave with no obvious escape opportunity would have felt like a prison to David. So, he asks God to set him free from it.

In the New Testament Paul uses the idea of being locked up in prison metaphorically to describe the bondage of sin for we cannot fully keep the law of God in Galatians 3: 23 – 26, notice in this passage we are set free from the prison of the law and sin by the Lord Jesus Christ,

“Before the coming of this faith,we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”.

 We are set free by Christ death and resurrection to serve him and not sin as Paul states clearly in Romans 6: 22 – 23,

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 This wonderful release from sin and death should lead us to praise God for his grace seen in his wonderful act of deliverance or salvation for us as Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 5,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”.

This is what David wants to do when he is saved by God out of his prison, the cave of Adullam and the amazing thing is that if this was written in that cave at Adullam soon after writing it we read this in 1 Samuel 22: 1 – 2,

“David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him”.

 So, these two opening verses in the twenty second chapter of the first book of Samuel seem to indicate for time David was hiding out on his own in a cave in Adullam but then after a period of time, which we have no idea how long David is joined by members of his family along with a number of other faithful followers of David around 400 in all.

From this time, onward David is not alone but has his own small army of fighting men, still vastly outnumbered by King Saul and the large armies of Israel but at least he has some help and fellowship while on his many years of being on the run from King Saul.

So far as praising God once he was set free from his prison we have no direct reference in the book of Samuel but we have many Psalms written by David in this period of his life and of course we have Psalm 18 which was written by David once he was fully free from the prison of being constantly pursued by king Saul and his many men.

I will quote again the first six verses of Psalm 18 which are a wonderful example of David praising God for his deliverance from the grip of Saul which David calls in Psalm 142, “My Prison” and which he calls in Psalm 18 verse 5, “The cords of the grave coiled around me”.

 “I love you, Lord, my strength.The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

 I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.The cords of the grave coiled around me the snares of death confronted me.In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.From his temple, he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears”

 We to can give the same kind of praise to God for his salvation won for us in Christ and which is not only eternal life with God when we pass from this life to the next but includes God’s help and protection – refuge now as we seek to walk the path God has for us to walk as David spoke of in verse 3 of this Psalm and which Jesus speaks of 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. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

 Jesus has made this path or way for us to go John 14: 6,

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

 And Jesus has gone ahead of us to make this way and goes with us to help us walk its way as indicated by Hebrews 12: 1 – 2,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

 I close as usual with the words of an original poem / song and a final word of prayer:

GOD IS MY REFUGE

(Based on Psalm 142)

I cry aloud to you O Lord

I Lift up my voice in prayer

I pour out my complaint to you O Lord

For my troubles seem too hard to bear.

 

CHORUS:

 

O God I need a refuge

A safe place where I can go

To find you’re love and protection

In a world, full of sorrow and woe.

 

When my spirit grows faint and weary

O Lord you watch over all my way

But the road that I walk has got danger

So, I need your help each day.

 

CHORUS:

 

O God I need a refuge

A safe place where I can go

But no man can give me protection

In a world full of sorrow and woe.

 

I have no earthly refuge Lord

Against the devil’s attack

So, I cry to you for refuge Lord

And you give me the strength that I lack.

 

CHORUS:

 

O God I need a refuge

A safe place where I can go

For only you O Lord can protect me

In a world, full of sorrow and woe.

 

Listen to my desperate cry O Lord

Rescue me from sins dark curse

You’ve saved me Lord through Jesus Christ

In his death, he broke sins force.

 

CHORUS:

 

O God I need a refuge

A safe place where I can go

Where I can find the salvation, I need

In a world, full of sorrow and woe.

 

Set me free from this prison Lord

Of sin and the judgment to come

Then I will praise you always Lord

And sing with your people a great song.

 

CHORUS:

 

O God I need a refuge

A safe place where I can go

A place to sing your praises Lord

In a world, full of sorrow and woe.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven I ask you to be my constant refuge and protector in this life as I trust in your Son’s death and resurrection for me. Help me to continually come to him in the many trials and difficulties of this life. Help me to know continually your help and support in the great spiritual battles of this life knowing that in you I am strong and can have victory over the devils many evil schemes and attacks. This I pray in the powerful name of Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour, Amen.

PSALM 141 TALK:   LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION  

PSALM 141 TALK:   LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION

 (This is the fourth Psalm of a collection of eight Psalms attributed to King David in the fifth and final book of Psalms. This Psalm features the idea of asking God to help us not to be led into temptation. It is a desperate prayer to God by David asking God to save him from his enemies and the sometimes-attractive wicked ways they offer him to lead him away from God and his heavenly calling.)

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

INTRODUCTION

In my study of Psalm 141 the Lord caused me to reflect on the old hymn by Horatio R. Palmer called “Yield Not to Temptation” which Palmer seemed to have received from God directly as he says the words and music of the verses and the chorus came to him when he was reading a dry subject of theory in his study on the 26thof April 1834.

Palmer showed both the words and music to a friend for criticism and his friend offered some changes to the third verse and from that day on this hymn has had a powerful effect for good over many people for many years.

I found one powerful effect on people recorded on the net about how this hymn helped subdue a prison riot in the female section of the famous US prison called Sing Sing in New York. The story goes that a visiting Christian woman was conducting a prison visit one day in Sing Sing where female prisoners gathered as usual to hear the women preach from the word of God and sing hymns together. Suddenly some of the prisoners started screaming threats using vile language to the visiting women and a nasty revolt quickly erupted.

As the matron, in desperation, sent to the men’s department for help a strong clear voice arose singing “Yield Not to Temptation”.

Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin;

Each victory will help you some others to win;

Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue,

Look ever to Jesus, He’ will carry you through.

 

Chorus:

 Ask the Saviour to help you,

Comfort strengthen and keep you;

He is willing to aid you

He will carry you through.

 

Shun evil companion’s bad language disdain,

God’s Name hold in reverence, not taken in vain;

Be thoughtful and earnest, kind hearted and true,

Look ever to Jesus, he will carry you through.

 

Chorus:

 

To him that over cometh, God giveth a crown;

Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down;

He who is our Saviour our strength will renew;

Look ever to Jesus, he will carry you through.

 

Chorus:

 As the hymn progressed more and more inmates joined in singing this well- known hymn and as they sang they all peacefully marched back to their cells and no one was hurt as the riot was quelled by the singing of this great old hymn.

This hymn kept playing in my mind as I read the words of Psalm 141 and particularly when I read verse 4,

“Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds”.

 These words and indeed the whole Psalm with the hymn, “Yield Not to Temptation” also made me think of the words in the Lord’s prayer as recorded in Matthew 6: 13,

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”.

 In this Psalm talk I will lead us through Psalm 141 with the words of both Horatio R. Palmers hymn “Yield Not to Temptation” and the words of Jesus in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6: 13 in mind. In fact, all my headings will come from Palmers hymn, “Yield Not to Temptation”.

So far as the author of this hymn, I accept the Hebrew heading as being a Psalm of David but I have no idea when David wrote this hymn although many commentators think it fits well into the time of the rebellion of Absalom.

No – matter when this Psalm was written David faced both harm and temptation from his enemies all through his life and he of course knew the pain and difficulty of falling to Temptation as the two books of Samuel and the first book of Chronicles record so clearly. I will also touch on in this Psalm talk with the problem and cure of yielding to temptation.

So, with this in mind my headings for this Psalm talk are:

  1. (1 – 4)   YIELD NOT TO TEMPTATION
  1. (1 – 2) Ask the Saviour to help you
  2. (3 – 4) Comfort strengthen and keep you

      2    (5 – 7)   SHUN EVIL COMPANIONS

  1. (vs. 5) Fight manfully onward dark passions subdue
  2. (6 – 7) Each victory will help you some others to win

     3     (8 – 10) LOOK EVER TO JESUS HE WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

  1. (vs. 8)  Jesus will carry you through
  2. (9 – 10) Through faith we will conquer

 So, let’s now have a close look at this Psalm with these headings in mind:

  1. (1 – 4)   YIELD NOT TO TEMPTATION
  1. (1 – 2) Ask the Saviour to help you

 The Psalm starts with David offering up to God a desperate call or prayer for help,

“I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you”

 The rest of the Psalm reveals something of the desperate plight of David that led to this call for help as he speaks of particularly in the last two verses of snares and traps his enemies have set for him and how they speak nasty threats against him like verse 7 reveals,

“They will say, “As one plough’s and breaks up the earth,so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”

 A reference no doubt to David being pursued by powerful enemies who vow to leave no stone unturned till they devour him and his followers which fits well into David on the run from both King Saul in his earlier life and his rebellious son Absalom in his later life.

The fact that David adds the phrase, “Come quickly to me”, indicates he needed God’s help urgently. This is not a strange prayer request of David as we read of him making many such requests before like Psalm 4: 1, 7: 1, 13: 3, 17: 1, 22: 2, 31: 1, 54: 1 and 2, 55: 1 and 2, 59: 1 and 2, 64: 1, 70: 1, 86: 1 and Psalm 140: 1. All these desperate requests in prayer to God for help in the face of great danger illustrate that David relied on God constantly for help when facing temptation and opposition from his evil enemies.

Our greatest enemy is the evil one himself, the devil who has a vast army of forces seeking to over throw us and the faith we profess as Paul speaks of so clearly in Ephesians 6: 12,

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”.

 In the Lord’s prayer Jesus encourages us to pray daily,

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”.

Note how Jesus pin-points the need for us to be delivered from the evil one and Horatio R. Palmer concludes each of his three verses of his hymn, Yield Not to Temptation” with the line,

“Look ever to Jesus, He will carry you through”.

 So, we like David must look to the Lord in prayer asking for his help to fight the evil one and his many forces of evil that attack us daily in our lives with Temptations and threats of spiritual harm.

No doubt the Christian women who sought to minister in the Sing Sing prison that day many years ago when she came under attack by the women prisoners prayed desperately to God for help and his answer came in the form of one strong clear voice singing the hymn “Yield Not to Temptation” and like that last line of each verse says,

“Look ever to Jesus, He will carry you through”.

Paul makes this clear in his word of the battle we fight against vast and powerful forces of evil for he says in Ephesians 6: 10 – 11,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

 However, David adds an interesting description of his desperate prayer to the Lord in verse 2 that says,

“May my prayers be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice”.

 I found H.C Leopold’s comments on this verse helpful when he writes,

“The second verse indicates that at least among the more enlightened saints of the Old Testament there was an understanding of the ritual observations of the current worship, particularly of such facts as that the essence of offering of incense was prayer, or that prayer is the true incense which rises up to God like a sweet and acceptable odour”.

 I, personally have a real problem with incense as strong smells like incense produces is a trigger for migraine headaches for me. I attended many years ago a very High Anglican church service where incense was waved around filling the church with lots of smoke and odour and it triggered a massive migraine headache and I was physically sick at the communion rail when I knelt to take communion there.

So, I have a natural aversion to the use of incense in Christian worship but what does the bible say about the use of incense in Christian worship?

In the Old Testament as H.C. Leopold refers to the burning of incense was a symbol of prayer to God and God instituted this in the books of law as we see in Exodus 30: 7 and 8,

“Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come”.

 This was a strict and regulated form of burning incense as we have even the incense formula set down in Exodus 30: 34 – 38 and Isaiah picks up the misuse of incense in the Temple worship as a sign of the people’s hypocrisy in Isaiah 1: 13,

“Stop bringing meaningless offerings!Your incense is detestable to me.New

Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies”.

 In the New Testament, these old forms of worship were superseded by the coming of Christ and his death upon the cross for our sins that has made a sure way into heaven for us as the writer to the Hebrews states clearly in Hebrews 10: 19 – 23,

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 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. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful”.

 In the book of Revelation incense is a symbol of our prayers going up to God’s throne as we read in Revelation 5: 8,

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people”.

 And then even clearer Revelation 8: 3 – 4,

“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne.The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand”.

 Unfortunately, I believe incense burning in public worship is not a good witness in our world today as it is more associated with non- Christian worship practices like those of Buddhism and Hinduism and therefore I believe should be avoided. I like the conclusion that a man named David Reagan wrote on his excellent article on the net called “Burning Incense”, he writes,

“In conclusion, it is not honouring to God to burn incense to Him. Even under the law when incense had a particular use, God wanted true love and obedience more than the incense. On one occasion, He states, “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me” (Isaiah 1:13). He did not want their incense; He wanted their submission to His will.

I do not believe that this keeps us from enjoying scented candles or other spices if we wish. However, we should never put any spiritual or religious significance to them. In doing so, we are leaning towards idolatry. And God hates idolatry”.

David in verse 2 of Psalm 141 also refers to his desperate prayer for help in the face of Temptation and danger from his enemies as,

“May the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice”.

David again picks up an Old Testament form of worship both the lifting up of arms in prayer and what he calls the evening sacrifice. Some commentators suggest that David is referring to these formal acts of Old Testament worship of his day as he actually is separated from the sanctuary where they were practiced and he wants his desperate prayer far away from Jerusalem to be accepted as God’s word in the Torah, first five books of the bible, say they would be accepted.

Adam Clarke develops this idea with this insightful comment,

“The psalmist appears to have been at this time at a distance from the sanctuary, and therefore could not perform the Divine worship in the way prescribed by the law. What could he do? Why, as he could not worship according to the letter of the law, he will worship God according to the spirit; then prayer is accepted in the place of incense; and the lifting up of his hands, in gratitude and self-dedication to God, is accepted in the place of the evening minchah or oblation. Who can deplore the necessity that obliged the psalmist to worship God in this way?”.

 This again points towards David writing this sometime during his fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom and reminds me of another man’s Psalm written I believe by a Son of Korah when he was in the wilderness with David on the run from Absalom and writes in Psalm 42: 4,

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul; how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng”.

 David is pouring out his soul also in desperate prayer as he calls on God for help as he faces temptation and the threat of attack from his evil and wicked enemies but he takes comfort in the word of God that his prayer will be heard by God like the Temple incense and sacrifice is acknowledged or seen by God according to what his word says in the book of the law in the Old Testament.

We can take heart that when we ask the Saviour to help us he will carry us through as the writer to the Hebrews confidently proclaims in Hebrews 4: 14 – 16,

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”. 

  1. (3 – 4) Comfort strengthen and keep you

 David now expresses the content of his desperate prayer and it is summed up in these two verses and I see three main things he wants God to give him:

  1. To set a guard over his mouth (vs.3)
  2. To lead him not into temptation and evil (4a)
  3. To not be drawn into the attractiveness of the sin of his opponents (4b)

Let’s then have a close look at these three things David wants God to give him:

  1. To set a guard over his mouth (vs.3)

David’s first prayer request seems to come as a surprise to me as he says in verse 3,

“Set a guard over my mouth Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips”.

 Why would David ask for God to set a guard over his mouth?

H.C. Leopold answers this with these words,

“The connection may well be that the trouble in which the Psalmist finds himself is such that he may under the circumstances be tempted to speak rashly and act foolishly”.

 Pressure particularly spiritual pressure can cause us to say or do things we would later regret and I can think of many times in my own life that I said and did things I should not have said or did when pressure of some kind was brought upon me.

David seems to have the wisdom of the Proverbs in mind here as this request is like Proverbs 12: 6,

“The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them”.

 The proverbs have a lot to say about controlling our tongues just as the book of James famously does, James 3: 3 – 7,

“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind”. but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison”.

David speaks in many Psalms of the verbal attacks his enemies used against him like Psalm 12: 3 – 4,

“May the Lord silence all flattering lipsand every boastful tongue—those who say,

 “By our tongues we will prevail;our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

 Even those who David felt close to and trusted in like his own son Absalom and David’s trusted adviser his father in law named Ahithophel turned against David with words of treachery and lies as the first two verses of Psalm 12 seem to indicate,

“Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.Everyone lies to their neighbour; theyflatter with their lips but harbour deception in their hearts.”

 When we cop a barrage of abuse or lies or both from those who hate us because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we can act in only one of two ways, either we curse them or we do what Jesus commands us to do, we seek to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, Matthew 5: 43 – 48.

James in James 4 goes on to speak of these two reactions our tongues can have, James 3: 9 – 12,

“With the tongue, we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water”.

 So, like David when we face verbal attacks we to need to ask God to put a guard over our mouth and the best way we can do this is pray the kind of prayer Horatio R. Palmer expresses so well in the chorus of his song, “Yield Not to Temptation”,

Ask the Saviour to help you,

Comfort strengthen and keep you;

He is willing to aid you

He will carry you through.

  1. To lead him not into temptation and evil (4a)

We come then to what I see as the key verse of this Psalm 141 which kicks off with the second prayer request of David in this Psalm,

“Do not let my heart be drawn into what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds”

Jesus encourages us to pray something similar in his model prayer we call the Lord’s prayer, Matthew 6: 13,

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”.

Some versions of The Lord’s prayer change the words, “from the evil one” to simply evil which is what the evil one is all about and is what David wants God to help him avoid as well as verse 4 says,

“let my heart be drawn into what is evil”.

 Albert Barnes explains very accurately what David is asking for here when he writes,

“The expression “Incline not” is not designed to mean that God exerts any “positive” influence in leading the heart to that which is wrong; but it may mean “Do not place me in circumstances where I may be tempted; do not leave me to myself; do not allow any improper influence to come over me by which I shall be led astray.”

 This is the same meaning of Jesus term,

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”.

James correctly tells us how temptation that leads to sin and doing evil works in James 1: 13 – 15,

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death”.

 However even as true believers the pull of our fallen sinful nature gets the better of us and we sin but God in his love provides the way for our forgiveness and restoration as we read in 1 John 1: 8 – 10,

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us”.

 So, Horatio R. Palmers chorus to “Yield Not to Temptation” is an apt word of encouragement when we are dealing with Temptation,

Ask the Saviour to help you,

Comfort strengthen and keep you;

He is willing to aid you

He will carry you through.

  1. To not be drawn into the attractiveness of the sin of his opponents (4b)

We have just read how we are tempted and fall to sin according to James 1: 13 – 15 and now I believe David speaks of this kind of thing in the last part of verse 4,

“Do not let me eat their delicacies”.

 I think David is speaking here of how other sinners might be used by the evil one to arouse our desires and entice us to fall to temptation as again Albert Barnes so skilfully declares,

“Let me not be tempted by any prospect of participating in their mode of living – in the luxuries and comforts which they enjoy – to do a wicked or wrong thing. Let not a prospect or desire of this overcome my better judgment, or the dictates of my conscience, or my settled principles of what is right. People often do this”.

 David seems to be offering similar advice that the book of Proverbs offers as we read in Proverbs 1: 10 – 15,

“My son, if sinful men entice you,do not give in to them.11 If they say, “Come along with us;

 let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,let’s ambush some harmless soul;12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,and whole, like those who go down to the pit;13 we will get all sorts of valuable thingsand fill our houses with plunder;14 cast lots with us; we will all share the

loot”—15 my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths”.

 Psalm 1 expresses the slippery slope of being drawn away from the way of the Lord in its opening verse,

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way the sinners take or sit in the company of mockers”.

 First, we walk with sinners or spend too much time with them, then we start standing with them taking on their attitudes and lifestyle and finally before we know it they have enticed us to sit with them which means we have joined them completely in attitude and sinful ways.

I have seen many of my Christian friends go the way of eating sinner’s delicacies or seemingly attractive sinful ways and they have ended up sitting in the company of mockers.

Paul gives us the answer to this aspect of temptation in 1 Corinthians 10: 13,

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be temptedbeyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”.

 I like Horatio R Palmers chorus to his famous hymn, “Yield Not to Temptation” here again when we are enticed by what seems the attractiveness of the non-believer’s lifestyle,

Ask the Saviour to help you,

Comfort strengthen and keep you;

He is willing to aid you

He will carry you through. 

      2    (5 – 7)   SHUN EVIL COMPANIONS

  1. (vs. 5) Fight manfully onward dark passions subdue

David in this Psalm has so far presented ideas and teaching on the great battle he daily fought within and without against the forces of evil that particularly came in the form of opposition who he often calls evil doers. I mentioned in my introduction that what David is speaking about is the great spiritual battle we are all caught up in which Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6: 12,

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”.

Paul spoke of the might and power of the Lord we have to fight this battle in the two previous verses if we but would look took to God in trust and faith, Ephesians 6: 10 – 11,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

I called this section “Shun evil companions” but before David spells this out he speaks of receiving or appreciating good or righteous companions and particularly the advice and even correction or rebuke they can give us when we are in danger of falling to temptation or have even fallen to temptation and are going the way of evil, he says this in verse 5,

“Let a righteous man strike me – that is a kindness; let him rebuke me – that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers”.

 This verse again is an echo of much teaching in the book of Proverbs which speaks volumes about the role and value of accepting criticism, correction and advice from other wise believers as we read in Proverbs 10: 17,

“Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray”.

 Or Proverbs 12: 1,

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,but whoever hates correction is stupid”.

 Or an even stronger word of advice about accepting Godly criticism, Proverbs 29: 1,

“Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy”.

 David speaks of the kind of Godly or righteous criticism or rebuke he desired was like a punch in the face, my paraphrase of his phrase,

“Let a righteous man strike me”.

 This spiritual punch in the face he calls “kindness”and this makes me think of movies that depict a person becoming hysterical and another person has to slap them hard to snap them out of their emotional hysteria and this form of slapping would not be considered an act of violence but kindness.

The book of Hebrews presents the idea that God’s discipline of us is done out of love for us as we read in Hebrews 12: 5 – 11,

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

 “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son,

 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”.

 I have had my share of God’s discipline in my life and have received many loving spiritual slaps in the face and at the time of God’s discipline I have not enjoyed it but as the writer to the Hebrews put it in verse 11,

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”.

 David goes on to use an ancient oriental custom he would have been familiar with to describe the value and effect of the righteous spiritual slap in the face,

“That is oil om my head”

Leupold explains this way,

“This rebuke is likened to the perfume that Orientals in days of old were in the habit of pouring upon their guests at a banquet”.

 David refers to this pleasant experience that this ancient oriental practice produces in his famous Psalm 23, verse 5b,

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows”

 Spoken in the context of the poetic image of a great feast or banquet as the start of verse 5 indicates,

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”

 He then says that his head or he himself would not refuse this enjoyable and pleasant experience of being anointed and then adds one of the benefits of the assistance of receiving Godly discipline gives him,

“My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers”.

 This is an Old Testament way of saying he will be shunning evil companions and praying for God’s judgment to come on them. This kind of way of reacting and treating our enemies has been superseded by the teaching of Christ who commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, Matthew 5: 43 – 48.

A couple of years ago I read a very interesting book about how Paul actually physically wrote his epistles and one of the things I realised from this book was how much the writing process was a collaborative exercise and lots of hints and evidence in the many letters of Paul speak of how many Godly followers of the Lord Jesus Christ of Pauls’ day worked with Paul in putting these letters together.

At the end of the first letter to the Corinthians Paul writes, 1 Corinthians 16: 19 – 21,

“The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscillagreet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. 20 All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand”.

 My point is that even the great apostle Paul sought and relied on the support and help of fellow believing companions in his vast ministry and life and practiced what he preached about the value and place of close Christian companionship or friendship as he speaks of in Galatians 6: 2,

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ”.

Or Romans 12: 10,

 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.

So, Horatio R. Palmer in the third line of his hymn, “Yield Not to Temptation” wrote,

“Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue”

However, we often need, like David the advice or rebuke of a fellow believer to be aware of the dark passion we need to subdue so we should seek and value close Christian friends who can be helped and can help us to fight manfully onward in the battle ground of this life.

  1. (6 – 7) Each victory will help you some others to win

 As I have been arguing all Christian believers are locked in a battle with powerful spiritual forces (Ephesians 6: 13) and God’s strength is given to us through his Son and the Holy Spirit to fight this battle (Ephesians 6: 10 – 12 and 14 – 18).

This battle has a victorious end with God and his faithful followers being totally victorious as we read in many places in the New Testament like Revelation 17: 14,

“They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

 So, after speaking of the Godly or righteous influences in his life that help him fight for the Lord in the battle life David returns to the wicked or evil forces that he and of course the God he believes in are opposed to.

 Interestingly David also speaks of this future great victory over these evil or wicked forces he is fighting against and I believe shunning as we read this in verse 6,

“Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs, and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken”.

 This verse is Old Testament and ancient oriental poetic image of Judgment and destruction to the wicked who are those who oppose God and his chosen anointed king (see Psalm 2: 1 – 6). The image of wicked rebellious enemies being thrown down cliffs is literally used by God as an act of judgment in 2 Chronicles 25: 12,

“The army of Judah also captured ten thousand men alive, took them to the top of a cliff and threw them down so that all were dashed to pieces”

However, I see verse 6 as a poetic image of God’s judgment coming on his wicked enemies who were seeking to tempt and destroy David and the faithful followers of God who were loyal to him.

 The rulers are probably the leaders of the rebellion of God like Absalom and who led many in Israel to their destruction as we read in the accounts of this rebellion in 2 Samuel 15 – 19.

Then we have the most difficult verse of this Psalm to interpret, verse 7 which says,

“They will say, ‘As one ploughs and breaks up the earth, so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave”.

 As I said earlier in this Psalm talk this verse represents the kind of nasty threats David’s enemies spoke against him and is a reference no doubt to David being pursued by powerful enemies who vow to leave no stone unturned till they devour him and his followers. This would fit into the time of King Saul’s eight-year pursuit of David and his faithful followers or a similar pursuit of his rebellious son Absalom when he forcefully took David’s crown of Israel.

Albert Barnes rightfully points out that humanly speaking this saying of David’s enemies of Saul and or Absalom was an accurate description of David’s predicament but of course God saved David and his followers in both instances and this shows both the love of God for his faithful followers and his mighty power to save and preserve them and Paul has this confidence in The Lord Jesus Christ for him and us expressed so beautifully in Romans 8: 37 – 39,

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 As the second line of Horatio R Palmer first verse of his hymn “Yield Not to Temptation” declares,

“Each victory will help you some others to win”.

 Yes, in Christ we are more than conquerors and Paul sees us and the church of God we belong to as on a victory march according to 2 Corinthians 2: 14 – 17,

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God”.

 So, we are to appreciate and seek the advice and assistance of true Godly believers in the battle of life and shun the evil influences of those who oppose God and his faithful followers who will surely face the coming judgment of God when our Lord returns again.

      3    (8 – 10) LOOK EVER TO JESUS HE WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

  1. (vs. 8)  Jesus will carry you through

David brings his Psalm 141 to a close with three verses that declare how God is with him and us in the battle against temptation and the powerful forces of evil and as each verse Horatio R. Palmers hymn “Yield Not to Temptation” declares,

“Look ever to Jesus, he will carry you through”.

 This concept of God helping or carrying us through the battle of life is expressed so well in David’s eighth verse of his Psalm that says,

“But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge – do not give me over to death”.

 David all through the book of Psalms turned to God, the Lord of all which is what Sovereign Lord is, the one great supreme God of the universe as David so beautifully expressed in the previous Psalm in verse 7,

“Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle”.

 We also must look to The Lord Jesus at all times but particularly as we face temptation and or attacks from the evil one as the writer to the Hebrews puts it in 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.

 10 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”.

 David not only sought deliverance or salvation as we seek in Jesus but also protection in this life as he says in verse 8,

“In you I take refuge”

 This prayer for God to keep him safe in the battles of life particularly against his many enemies is another great theme and feature of the Psalm of David and I particularly love David’s desperate call to God for this in the first three verses of Psalm 61 which says this,

Hear my cry, O God;listen to my prayer.From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; 

lead me to the rock that is higher than I.For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe”.

 These verses inspired me to write this chorus of a new song I wrote based on this Psalm which says,

“Lead me, Lead me

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I

Help me, help me,

Help me stand the storms of life I pray”.

The sovereign Lord of all is that rock we can look to when we face temptation and any form of attacks from the evil one and his many forces and wicked influences and like Horatio R. Palmer wrote in his hymn, “Yield Not to Temptation” we can sing,

“Look ever to Jesus, he will carry you through”.

  1. (9 – 10) Through faith we will conquer

 The final two verses of David’s Psalm 141 end with great poetic words of confidence which David has when he faced his many enemies like the powerful king Saul and his rebellious son Absalom. These two great enemies of David and of God set out to trap and capture David while he was on the run from them.

In the case of King Saul David eluded the traps set by King Saul for around eight years we believe. In the next Psalm 142, we are told by the Hebrew Heading that this Psalm was inspired by the trap David found himself in when he was in a cave. Actually, David hid in a cave twice when on the run from King Saul. The first time in s place called Adullam (1 Samuel 22: 1 -2) and then in the desert of En Gedi (1 Samuel 24) where he was literally trapped by Saul but managed to hide with his men at the back of the cave while King Saul went to the toilet at the front of the cave.

So, it is not surprising that David asks for safety from his enemy’s traps in the last two verses of this Psalm, verses 9 and 10,

“Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers,from the snares they have laid for me.10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,while I pass by in safety”.

 This idea of David’s enemies falling into the traps they have set for him, David has prayed before like Psalm 35: 8 and Psalm 57: 6 and Adam Clarke makes this interesting comment about the wicked falling into their own traps,

“This is generally the case; those who lay snares for others fall into them themselves. Harm watch, harm catch, says the old adage. How many cases have occurred where the spring guns that have been set for thieves have shot some of the family! I have known some dismal cases of this kind, where some of the most amiable lives have been sacrificed to this accursed machine”.

Horatio R. Palmers third verse of his hymn “Yield not to Temptation” speaks of the protection in the midst of spiritual attacks and writes,

To him that over cometh, God giveth a crown;

Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down;

He who is our Saviour our strength will renew;

Look ever to Jesus, he will carry you through.

I like the second line of this verse,

“Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down”

 As it is both an honest assessment of the Christian life that we often find the allure of Temptation and the difficulties caused by the evil one and his many forces a trap that causes us to feel cast down but by faith in The Lord Jesus Christ we can conquer as Paul boldly states in 1 Corinthians 10: 13,

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”.

 Satan might set traps for us particularly with temptations but if we look to God he provides an escape from these traps and again as Paul states in Romans 8: 37 – 39,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 As Horatio R. Palmer said all through his hymn, “Yield Not to Temptation”

“Look ever to Jesus, He will carry you through”.

 I close as usual with my own original poem / song and final word of prayer:

LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION

(Based on Psalm 141 and Matthew 6: 13)

 Lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil

I call on God to quickly hear my prayer

And my prayer like incense is now rising

As it lifts its way up into the air

Oh, lead me not into temptation O Lord please hear my prayer.

 

Lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil

Set a guard over my mouth close the door of my lips

For my heart is often drawn to evil

And I sometimes fall to Satan’s tricks

Oh, lead me not into temptation save me now from Satan’s grip.

 

Lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil

May a righteous man rebuke me when I fall

May I not refuse the rebuke that he gives

But rather see it as God’s great call

Lead me not into temptation and help to surrender all.

 

Lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil.

Give me the words to say to those who rule today

And may those who oppose the Lord of all

Be turned around to know God’s love I pray

Lead me not into temptation and help God’s enemies to obey.

 

Lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil.

Help me to fix my eyes on you the Sovereign Lord of all

Keep me safe from the traps of all evil doers

And lead me every day to follow God’s call

Lead me not into temptation and help me God not to fall.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 As you Lord taught us to pray, lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil. May I constantly know your loving power in my life to resist the pull of temptation to sin and to have victory over the forces of evil that seek to pull me away from you. Help me Lord to help my fellow believers in their battles with temptation and evil and finally help me to be more than a conqueror through the loving power of the Lord Jesus Christ transforming me and protecting me from the Devils schemes and tricks, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

PSALM 140 TALK:   A SONG FOR THE PERSECUTED

PSALM 140 TALK:   A SONG FOR THE PERSECUTED

 (The third Psalm of a collection of eight Psalms attributed to King David in the fifth and final book of Psalms. This Psalm features the idea of how God’s enemies always seek to bring down God’s people one way or another and therefore persecute God’s people sometimes in vicious and cruel ways. This is because we are all caught up in a great spiritual battle against the forces of evil but God promises through his mercy and love to help and protect his persecuted followers and ultimately bring them into his eternal presence in heaven.)

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

INTRODUCTION

You will not see this on the news or read it in the newspapers or on the internet but Christians today are the most persecuted people in the world. If you don’t believe me let me share these statistics I found on a site called “Open Doors”,

Every month:

  • 255 Christians are killed
  • 104 are abducted
  • 180 Christian women are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage
  • 66 churches are attacked
  • 160 Christians are detained without trial and imprisoned.

I don’t want to hit you with more statistics but simply point out that no matter where you live as a Christian you will face some kind of opposition for simply believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and his word.

In the west Christians are verbally attacked by non-believers as people who believe in fairy tales and hold dangerous ideas that lead to people into false hope in a God who simply does not exist. This opposition in the west can lead to loss of jobs or job promotions, verbal abuse and as I have felt the butt of many people jokes.

In communist countries like China and North Korea Christians suffer much worse physically and socially with imprisonment and even death.

In Muslim countries things get even worse for Christians as many Muslims see Christians as their number one enemies who in their belief system are under God’s judgement and deserve not just death but painful death.

I could tell you many incredible true stories of what I call acts of courage’s love that demonstrate Christians loving their enemies and praying for those who persecute them as Jesus commands his followers to do in passages like Matthew 5: 43 – 44. I will share just one to show how Christians have acted towards their persecutors and how powerful their witness is. The story I would like to tell comes from an internet blog page called “Daily Focus” in 2017.

In the war -torn country of Syria during the time of the extreme Muslim IS persecutions of many Christians there Pastor Farid and his family received many death threats and over 30 of these were spray painted on the front of his house.

Some of these spray- painted death threats went like this, number one how they would kill the Pastor, two how they were going to kill his wife and three how they were going to kill his children.

Pastor Farid chose to show love towards the people who made these death threats and pray for his persecutors. He got death threats from one Muslim man named Rashid by text messages on his phone. Pastor Farid did not replace his phone but continued to pray for Rashid and eventually working out where he lived and one day Pastor Farid knocked on his door and gave him a copy of the bible.

The story goes that Rashid and his family some weeks later found themselves trapped in their home during a time of intense bombing and Rashid finding no comfort in the Quran decided to read the bible Pastor Farid had given him. Rashid found the bible message so helpful and it is said he fell in love with the Jesus he found there. Rashid and his family became Christians and Rashid now is so committed to his new church in Syria he writes beautiful Syrian hymns for worship.

Psalm 140 is another Psalm of David that I have called “A Song for the Persecuted” as David sings a song that is also a prayer to God asking for protection and help against his enemies who seek to kill him, verses 4,

“Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who devise ways to trap my feet”.

 David speaks of his problems with his persecutors as being like a war (vs. 2) or a battle (vs. 7) and this reminds me of the words of St Paul in Ephesians 6: 10 – 12,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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”.

 We cannot tell exactly when David wrote this Psalm but this Psalm is similar to the next four Psalms and Psalm 142 Hebrew heading speaks of it being written or inspired to be written when David was on the run from King Saul and hid in a cave. This could indicate that Psalm 140 and the other three Psalms were also written some time during the eight years that David was on the run from Saul when he faced serious persecution from Saul and his many followers.

 In this Psalm talk I will treat this Psalm as “A Song for the Persecuted” as David gave this Psalm to “The director of music” and features all through it encouraging teaching for any Christian who is facing persecution.

My outline for this Psalm talk illustrate this:

  1. (1 – 3)   RESCUE FOR THE PERSECUTED
  1. (vs. 1) A call for God to rescue the persecuted
  2. (2 – 3) A description of the persecutors

      2   (4 – 5)   PROTECTION FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 4) Keep the persecuted safe and protected
  2. (vs. 5) The arrogance of the persecutors

       3   (6 – 8)  MERCY FROM GOD FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 6) A call for God’s mercy for the persecuted
  2. (7 – 8) May God’s mercy shield the persecuted

       4  (9 – 11)   VINDICATION FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 9) Vindication for the persecuted by God turning the tables
  2. (10-11) Vindication for the persecuted by God’s judgment

       5  (12 – 13)  ASSURANCE FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 12) God upholds the persecuted
  2. (vs. 13) The persecuted will praise God in his presence

 Let’s then have a close look at this “Song for the Persecuted” using these headings:

  1. (1 – 3) RESCUE FOR THE PERSECUTED
  1. (vs. 1) A call for God to rescue the persecuted

This song for the persecuted starts with a desperate call to God for rescue from violent persecutors,

“Rescue me, Lord from evildoers; protect me from the violent”.

 Allan Harman points out that the Hebrew word for rescue,

“Occurs quite often describing rescue of his people from distress”

 Like Psalm 81: 7,

“In your distress, you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud;

 I tested you at the waters of Meribah”.

 Note how David describes his persecutors in this opening verse as violent evil doers and this is a good description of King Saul and his followers and a good illustration of this is when David first escaped from King Saul and went to a place called Nob and sheltered with a group of priests in a place of worship there. The head priest was a man named Ahimaleck who gives David and his men shelter, food and the sword of Goliath.

King Saul learns of David’s stay with Ahimelek and goes there to question him and then his evil and violent attitude towards the God fearing and God honouring David is described this way in 1 Samuel 22: 17 – 19,

 “Then the king ordered the guards at his side: “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.”

But the king’s officials were unwilling to raise a hand to strike the priests of the Lord.

18 The king then ordered Doeg, “You turn and strike down the priests.” So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod.19 He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep”.

 David knew the gory details of Saul’s violent persecution at Nob because one son of Ahimelek named Ahitub escaped and joined David’s small band of followers. David tells Ahitub this recorded in 1 Samuel 22: 23,

“Stay with me, don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me. You will be safe with me”.

 Psalm 140 could well be a Psalm David wrote after this tragic persecution of the priests of Nob but many more tragic acts of persecution were performed by King Saul and his followers over the next eight years before King Saul took his life in the midst of a losing battle with The Philistines and then David became king.

Even if David was a traitor to King Saul and his homeland Israel, which he wasn’t the reaction of Saul was grossly over the top and we see today the reaction to Christians in our world today is often grossly over the top. They are treated in many countries with such evil violence that not even the worse of criminals in their countries receive and yet all they seek to do is live peacefully and show love to their neighbours.

The problem is of course King Saul and those who persecute Christians today are not operating on a rational level but are motivated by dark and evil spiritual forces set on pulling down the people of God. Peter pin- points that it is the devil who is behind these attacks and when he gives us this word of warning and encouragement about the operation of the devil in this world as we as Christians seek to live for Christ, 1 Peter 5: 8 – 9,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings”.

 So, David prays for God’s protection from these evil violent persecutors something we will see him develop even more in this Psalm 140.

  1. (2 – 3) A description of the persecutors

David then goes on to describe his evil and violent persecutors in much more detail in verses. 2 and 3 which says,

“Who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up way every day. They make their tongues as sharp as serpents; the poison of vipers is on their lips”.

 David gives us three vivid poetic descriptions of his evil and violent persecutors and they are:

  1. Devisers of evil plans
  2. War mongrels
  3. Sharp poison speakers

Let me flesh these three poetic descriptions out a bit:

  1. Devisers of evil plans

David describes his persecutors as those,

“Who devise evil plans in their hearts”.

 Albert Barnes believes the phrase “evil plans” is better translated, mischiefs” or “evil wickedness” and says this,

“It was not a single purpose, the plan embraced many forms of evil – doing him wrong in every way possible”.

 So, in his persecutors hearts lay the idea and plan to bring evil upon David and his faithful followers. David spent up to eight years on the run from King Saul and as we saw previously even innocent people who simply showed care and hospitality to David and his men were treated in a most vicious cruel manner showing that king Saul and his faithful followers of like Doeg were motivated by a very evil and Godless force.

Today many Christians like those in North Korea face the same “evil plans” from the Godless leaders of their country. 

  1. War mongrels

David describes his persecutors as those who,

“Stir up war every day”

 In verse 7 David uses war type imagery again when he writes,

“Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle”.

 In my introduction, I quoted Pauls words in Ephesians 6: 10 – 12 that tell us that in this life before Jesus returns to totally over – throw all evil we are all caught up in a great spiritual battle or war,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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”.

Paul goes on to speak of the spiritual armour and weapons God equips us with to fight in this war of “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. So, the war we are all caught up in is very real and at times violent and disturbing but as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ Paul says in Romans 8: 37 – 39 that we are more than conquerors,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Some non-believers say that religions have caused most of the world wars in history and of course this is a very broad sweeping claim but there is some truth in it as behind all wars, I believe from what the bible says there is a spiritual dimension and the devil has used the sin or rebellion of man to God to raise up evil leaders like Adolf Hitler who forced the world into war by his wilful invasions of peace loving countries in Europe in the 1930’s and 40” s.

War could be described as sin and rebellion to God on a national level as greed, power and racial prejudice’s cause many counties to go to war with other countries with devastating consequences.

David and his small band of followers were forced into a kind of war with his own country when King Saul accused David of national treachery and even though David wanted to pursue peace Saul stirred up war every day as verse 2 tells us.

Jesus predicted that before he comes again there will be wars and rumours of war in Matthew 24: 6 – 8,

“You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

 Note how Jesus both speaks of wars and rumours of wars before he comes again but does not say that they will be the indication of his coming but part of the age we live in which I like to call The Gospel Age as he goes on to speak of persecution and an increase in wickedness but then the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world and then the end will come in verses 9 – 14,

 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”.

 Also note how Jesus predicts persecution of his followers before he returns as well.

 So, as Christians what should we be noted for in times of war?

I believe what we should be noted for in times of war in the Gospel age is:

  1. Preaches of the Gospel (Matthew 24: 14)
  2. Promoters of love and peace (Matthew 5: 7 – 9)

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of heaven”.

 Even if God leads a Christian to serve in the military his or her service should also reflect Gospel witness, love and the promotion of peace. I have read of great Christians who served in the military who manged to be seen as both a great witness for Christ and also demonstrators of love and peace.

  1. Sharp poison speakers

David then speaks in verse 3 of his persecutors use of what he calls, “their tongues” and he writes,

“They make their tongues as sharp as serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips”.

 David speaks a lot about what I call “The Battle of Words’ which is the title of my Psalm talk for Psalm 12 and I like what David says about this battle of words or the tongue in verses 3 and 4 of that Psalm,

“May the Lord silence all flattering lipsand every boastful tongue—those who say, “By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

 David was a great warrior but he seems to have had just as much attack by what his enemies said to him or said about him. Here in verse 3 of this Psalm his persecutors tongues are described as a sharp weapon like a sword and like the poison a snake injects into its victims.

It is the persecution of verbal attacks that seem to feature from here on in the Psalm and it is verbal attacks that many Christians suffer today from their non-believing God of the bible persecutors.

Jesus speaks of verbal persecution in the context of general persecution in Matthew 5: 10 – 12 and tells us it will happen and how we are to react to it when it comes,

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.

 Note how Jesus says we are to rejoice and be glad when we are verbally persecuted and this lies in the idea that we are proving we are truly Jesus disciples when we are verbally persecuted and our reward is in heaven because we belong to Christ.

      2   (4 – 5)   PROTECTION FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 4) Keep the persecuted safe and protected

David continues to ask God for rescue and protection from his persecutors in verse 4 and puts that this way,

“Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who devise ways to trip my feet”.

 David escaped or was rescued and kept safe from his chief persecutor in his early life, King Saul on many occasions and I think David never took this help he received from God for granted. Saul went out of his way to trap and capture David but over and over his attempts to do this failed and David sometimes in the nick of time escaped the clutches or as it says in verse 4, “the hands of the wicked”.

 Today many Christians, as I pointed out in my introduction face constant threats of death at the hands of many vicious persecutors but I have read of many miraculous interventions of our Lord on their behalf saving many from traps their persecutors had set for them to trip them up and take their lives.

Some of course are caught by their persecutors and killed for their allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ but as Jesus said in Matthew 10: 28,

 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.

 The one who can destroy both soul and body in hell is of course God who this verse is referring to as the Judge and the judgment that comes on those who oppose God and his people but as we read in the last section Jesus also said in Matthew 5: 10,

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

 The persecutors of Christians cannot stop those they persecute going to heaven and if of course they do not repent and turn to Christ as their Saviour they one day will fall into the hands of the God who can, “destroy both soul and body in hell”.

  1. (vs. 5) The arrogance of the persecutors

 However, in this life usually the persecutors of Christians are like how David describes his persecutors in verse 5 as “Arrogant”, he writes,

“The arrogant have hidden a snare for me; they have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along my path”.

 Arrogance or Pride lies at the heart of rebellion to God and is mentioned along with other sinful activities that comes from our rebellion to the rule of God in our lives, Romans 1: 28 – 32,

“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”.

 David then uses a favourite poetic image for the way these arrogant persecutors act towards him, namely the image of a hunter’s trap, he writes,

“They have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along my path”.

 H.C Leopold picks up four other times David speaks of his persecutors setting traps for him, Psalm 31: 4, 57: 6, 64: 5 and 142: 3 and as I said before Saul sought to trap David many times but failed and as Psalm 57: 6 says Saul often found his trap only caused him to fail.

They spread a net for my feet— I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit in my path—

 but they have fallen into it themselves”.

 On two occasions when Saul sought to trap David he ended up in a cave where David could have easily killed him but David refused to do so as he believed he could not kill the Lords anointed King only God could do this. Interestingly Psalm 142 has the Hebrew Heading of, “Of David. When he was in the cave” and verse 3 of that Psalm is the final David reference to his persecutors setting traps for him.

Christians today are often set up to fail or be caught by their persecutors but they too often experience these traps being foiled by the Lord working through the events of these incidents.

Paul was so confident the Lords protection he speaks of it in his second letter to the Thessalonians this way, 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”

       3   (6 – 8)  MERCY FROM GOD FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 6) A call for God’s mercy for the persecuted

 Other religions like Islam seem to present the idea that martyrdom or being persecuted earns a person the right for God to help them or even reward them in heaven but the Jewish / Christian faith says something very different as we see in verse 6 of David’s Psalm 140, which says,

“I say to the Lord, ‘You are my God’. Hear, Lord my cry for mercy”.

 David has asked God to rescue and protect him against his persecutors violent and their arrogant threats but he asks for this according to this verse on the basis of God’s mercy or in New Testament terms, grace which is undeserved love which the God of the bible has much to give. As David points out in Psalm 57: 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me – God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

 Even David realised he did not deserve God’s mercy or love and faithfulness but God gave it to him because that’s who God is, a God of love and faithfulness. Paul speaks of God’s grace over and over again in his letters to the churches and this amazing grace of God is especially spelt out in a passage like Ephesians 2: 4 – 9,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

 Note how Paul makes it clear that our salvation is not a result of our works in any way but comes totally from the undeserved love of God he calls “God’s Grace”.

So, when Christians today are rescued and or protected from their persecutors it is not because of their acts of bravery or good works but it comes because the God they trust in is a God of mercy or grace.

  1. (7 – 8) May God’s mercy shield the persecuted

 So, David wants God to rescue and protect him from his persecutors on the basis of his mercy or in New Testament terms, grace and now in verses 7 and 8 he spells out even clearer what God’s mercy needs to provide for him, he writes,

“Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,you shield my head in the day of battle.Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord; do not let their plans succeed”.

 I see two things David wants God’s mercy to do for him:

  1. Deliver and Shield him
  2. Fraught the plans of his persecutors

Let’s have a closer look at each of these two things David wants God’s mercy to do for him:

  1. Deliver and shield him

David makes an appeal for deliverance using a very strong name or expressed characteristic of the God of the bible in the words,

“Sovereign Lord my strong deliverer”

 I turn to a commentator who knew Hebrew to explain the full implication of this description of Gods character here at the start of verse 7, Albert Barnes, who writes,

“Literally, “Yahweh, Lord, the strength of my salvation” The word rendered “God,” in the original, is יהוה Yahweh The, address is to Yahweh as the Lord; that is, as the supreme Ruler – who presides over all things. Him the psalmist acknowledged as “his” Lord and Ruler. The phrase “the strength of my salvation” means the strength or power on which my safety depends. I have no other hope of deliverance but in thee”.

 David wants this powerful and mighty God to be his deliverer and shield and remember he can only hope for such a powerful God to help him because he is also a great God of mercy or in New Testament terms grace – unmerited love.

The term, “shield my head in the day of battle” is also a very interesting term and I like Leupold’s explanation of this,

“It is as if a man held a sturdy protection over the head of the other”.

 Here David wants God to hold a shield over his head as he faced his vicious persecutors. The head in ancient times had lots of special and strong protection and in Paul’s picture of our spiritual armour the head is protected by our salvation, Ephesians 6: 17,

“Take the helmet of salvation”

 As we saw in the previous section we are saved by God’s grace alone, Ephesians 2: 4 – 9,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

 So, the only thing that can fully protect us against the attacks of our persecutors is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for he alone has saved us no matter what any persecutor might say or do to us. This is why Paul can say in Romans 8: 37 – 39 that we are more than conquerors,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. 

  1. Fraught the plans of his persecutors

The second thing David wants God in his mercy to do for him is expressed this way in verse 8,

“Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord; do not let their plans succeed”.

 Of course, the plans or some commentators translate “Schemes” are to hurt and bring down the faithful followers of the God of the bible so David appeals to that God, he calls Lord to interfere with these plans so that they do not succeed. I have read of Christians in badly persecuted countries praying similar types of prayers and God has answered them with the way things have not worked for the persecutors and many Christians have been saved.

Spurgeon makes a very balanced comment on this when he writes,

“The Lord may allow success to attend the policy of the wicked for a time for wise reasons unknown to us. But we are permitted to pray that it be not so. The petition “Deliver us from evil” includes and allows such supplication”.

 No matter what plans or wicked persecutors might succeed with we as true believers can rest in the comforting words of Paul in Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

 Note how this wonderful verse indicates that God has a purpose or plan for those who love him and sometimes that might not always seem obvious especially when I read of the terrible things Christian persecutors have done to believers in some parts of the world today but God has a plan and this verse says that this plan is,

“That in all things God works for good”. 

       4  (9 – 11)   VINDICATION FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 9) Vindication for the persecuted by God turning the tables

We come then to the imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on our enemy’s part of this Psalm. I have spoken many times on how we as Christians are commanded by The Lord Jesus Christ to treat and pray for our enemies and persecutors and the verses I have often shared on this are Matthew 5: 43 – 48,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

 This change of attitude to that found in many Psalms on how we treat our enemies and persecutors like we find here in Psalm 140 and other places where we have imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on our enemy’s is mainly because with the coming of Jesus we have a much clearer offer of the grace of God or the mercy of God to fallen wicked men and women. Jesus then wants us to offer the same grace we have received from God to all other sinners including those who seek to persecute us.

In verse 9 David is praying an imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on our enemies for his enemies or persecutors but it could also be seen as a kind of vindication as well, he writes,

“Those who surround me proudly rear their heads; may the mischief of their lips engulf them”.

 Allan Harman strikes this note of vindication with these words,

“He (David) is a loyal covenant servant who wants God to vindicate him by turning the evil of the enemies back upon them”.

 Albert Barnes explains the phrase, “proudly rear their heads” with a quote from Luther,

 “Luther renders this, “The calamity which my enemies design against me must fall upon their own heads.”

 While other translations like the English Standard Version translate the phrase, “engulf them” to “overwhelm them”.

 Again, David is seeking vindication from God in that as God’s faithful servant trusting in his mercy and love he wants his proud and cruel persecutors to have what they want done to him actually happen to them.

For us a Christians I must point out two important realities here:

  1. Jesus wants us to love and pray for those who persecute us
  2. God’s ultimate judgment will fall on those who refuse to turn to Christ and continue to persecute believers.

Let me now comment on these two realities”

  1. Jesus wants us to love and pray for those who persecute us.

As I pointed out Jesus a number of times calls on all of his followers to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5: 43 – 48). I’m sure that is what many early Christians did for Saul who became Paul who Acts 9: 1 and 2 says,

“Was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem”.

 We all know what happened to Saul on the way to Damascus as this proud and cruel persecutor of Christians in the days of the church was engulfed or overwhelmed by a wonderful vision of the Lord Jesus and through this Saul was soundly converted to Christ and became Paul one of the greatest Christian missionaries and writer of a great part of the New Testament.

In my story of persecution in Syria of recent times I spoke of Pastor Farid who loved and prayed for one of his persecutors named Rashid and put this into action by giving Rashid a copy of the Bible and this led to Rashid’s conversion to Christ and his total transformation into a faithful servant of the church he once persecuted.

  1. God’s ultimate judgment will fall on those who refuse to turn to Christ and continue to persecute believers.

I have said on a number of previous occasions when imprecatory prayers before that these prayers remind me of the bibles teaching that God’s judgment is certainly coming.

If those who persecute Christians and the churches they belong to don’t turn to the love and forgiveness of God they will face certain judgment as we read in John 3: 17 – 21,

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

 I think it was Martin Luther who pointed out that every time we pray the word’s in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” we are praying for God’s judgment to come and that means that those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus for their salvation will fall under the judgment of God when Jesus returns.

2    (10-11)  Vindication for the persecuted by God’s judgment

David gets even more into the praying for God’s judgment to come upon his persecutors in verses 10 – 11 and verses 10 says this,

“May burning coals fall on them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise.

 This verse has to me the feel of prophecy for verse 10 not only relates to the persecutors of true God believers in David’s day but is in fact is a kind of prophecy of the future judgment to come for all who do not turn to Christ and who oppose him and his faithful followers.

Two very scary and sobering passages come to mind in the New Testament that mirror verse 10 for me and the first comes from the lips of The Lord Jesus Christ himself in Matthew 13: 49 – 50,

“This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

 The second comes from one of the final chapters of the book of Revelation, Revelation 20: 10 – 15,

“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.

 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 

 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

 This frightening prophecy of what will happen to all non-believers including those who persecute Christians and the churches they belong to should cause us to pray and witness to them so that they might like us escape this terrible day of judgment through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his death for our sins on the cross.

 So far as verse 11 which says,

“May slanderers not be established in the Land; may disaster hunt down the violent”.

 Again, I think David is seeking vindication through God’s judgment of his persecutors in that they will not prosper and be established in his country, Israel but rather have disaster hunt them down and with verse 10 in mind be done away with forever.

David Guzik sums up this verses with these words,

“These evil men hunted David. David prayed that the same would be returned to them, that the hunters would be hunted by their very evil”.

 Israel is God’s Covenantal Promised land for his people in the Old Testament and is replaced in the New Testament by the New Covenant and the eternal home of heaven and that eternal home is only offered to those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Paul speaks about in terms of eternal glory or heaven and how it is obtained when writing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 10 – 12,

“Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the

salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.11 Here is a trustworthy saying:If we died with him,we will also live with him;12 if we endure,we will also reign with him.If we disown him, he will also disown us”.

 The writer to the Hebrews speaks of heaven to come for all true believers in Old testament terms of an eternal inheritance and New Covenant that God offers to all true believers in Hebrews 9: 15,

“For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

 So, again I see David’s imprecatory prayers or prayers for God’s judgment to come on our enemies as a reminder of the certain judgment of God to come when Christ returns which also reminds me of the great hope of heaven that all who turn to Christ in repentance and faith have that also fully comes at the return of Christ.

       5  (12 – 13)  ASSURANCE FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 12) God upholds the persecuted

Once David finished asking for God’s judgment to come on his persecutors which he saw as a kind of vindication for his faithfulness to the God of merciful deliverance he turns to a word of assurance for all who are persecute.

In verse 12 he claims that God upholds the persecuted in the face of the unjust and often violent persecutions, he sings in verse 12,

“I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy”.

 We need to understand who David is speaking about when he sings of God securing justice and upholding the cause of the “poor” and the “needy”.

Who are the poor and the needy then?

David not only referred to himself as poor and needy when he was on the run from King Saul but also in later life as the king of his country Israel.

So obviously being poor is not simply lacking in material possessions and I found a very helpful explanation of the bible and indeed David’s use of poor and needy in theological word by a man named John W. Riteubaugh called “The Beatitudes, Part two: Poor in Spirit” which is obviously a lengthy explanation of Jesus words in Matthew 5: 3,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Riteubaugh writes,

 “At first “poor” simply indicated to be in material need, to be in poverty. Gradually, its usage spread to other areas besides economics to indicate people in weakness, frailty, feebleness, fragility, dependence, subservience, defencelessness, affliction, and distress. The poor were people who recognized their utter helplessness before what life had dealt them. They recognized that nothing within their power solved their weak state, thus they would eagerly reach out to others for assistance in rising out of their situation, as a beggar would”.

 Riteubaugh goes on to define what poor and needy actually meant in the bible and applies this to David’s usage of these terms in his Psalms in the book of Psalms,

“Eventually, the word took on spiritual overtones because some began to perceive that these afflicted people often had no refuge but God. Thus David, a person we would not consider as defenceless, nonetheless says of himself in a situation where he felt only God could deliver him, “This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:6)”.

 This broader definition of Riteubaugh applies then to God believers who are material poor as well as people like King David who was rich in material wealth but poor spiritually and when faced with persecution in great need and help from God who alone could secure justice for him and uphold his cause in the face of such overwhelming opposition.

This word of assurance would offer great comfort to anyone facing over-whelming persecution.

I believe in in death the truly poor and needy person has great victory over death and evil as Paul boldly proclaims in 1 Corinthians 15: 54 – 56,

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[ 55 “Where, O death, is your victory?Where, O death, is your sting?”[ 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

These are great words of assurance for anyone facing even death at the hands of cruel and merciless persecutors.

  1. (vs. 13) The persecuted will praise God in his presence

I have referred before a couple of times in past Psalm talks to a special guest speaker we had at our church a few years back wo was a prominent representative of an organisation that seeks to support Christian churches in countries that are heavily persecuted today. He spoke of just visiting a church somewhere in North Africa that was considered one of the most persecuted churches of that time.

The speaker said that he attended a night service at this church and expected to find a very sad and dejected small huddle of Christians who were constantly afraid of rebels breaking into their church services with guns and bombs. To his surprise he said he found that the church was full of people loudly praising God in a way that completely overwhelmed him.

He asked some of the members of that church who spoke English why they were so full of praise when they had experienced recently beatings, imprisonment of some of their church leaders and even death when some of the congregation had been dragged from their homes and cruelly executed.

Their reply was something like, “but the Lord Jesus is with us so we must praise him”. It seems the more Christians are persecuted the more they have to look to and rely on The Lord Jesus Christ and he is so much more real to them then to us in the west where our lives are not under constant threat by our persecutors.

This is the reality of the assurance David has for himself and anyone else who faces persecution and he puts that this way in verse 13, the last verse of this Psalm,

“Surely the righteous will praise your name, and the upright will live in your presence”.

 David in this verse as he has done many times before speaks of “the righteous” and of course he could not be saying that he is righteous like God especially when he would have had for many years of his life the painful memory of his many sins like adultery and murder in the Bathsheba affair.

Paul makes it clear that no one is righteous but God on many occasions like Romans 3: 23 so how could David refer to himself as righteous? And who are the righteous then in David’s mind?

I found this very good explanation of who the righteous are on an article on the net by Jean. E. Jones,

“However, Scripture calls some people the righteous: these are those whose faith in and love for God causes them to order their lives according to God’s laws (Psalm 1:2; 1 John 3:7); God bestows righteousness on them because he counts faith as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Philippians 3:9)”.

 I think that last quote, Philippians 3: 9 sums this us so well I will fully quote it here,

“And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith”.

 David did not know the righteousness that comes from Christ and his death for our sins on the cross but he, like Abraham before him looked to the mercy of God and had faith in God and his mercy to forgive his sins, somehow and make him therefore righteous by faith before God as David expresses so well in Psalm 51: 1 – 2,

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin”.

 We might say that David and all of the Old Testament believers looked forward to, by faith the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ the Messiah who would as Isaiah put it in Isaiah 53: 5,

“Was pieced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed”.

 By the way the expression here of “by his wounds we are healed” is in spiritual terms of being made righteous before God when we are nothing more than sinners, spiritually sick and dying.

So, people of faith who trust in the mercy or love of God will praise God like that church in the northern African country even in the midst of suffering caused by terrible persecution.

Finally, the Psalm finishes with a further word of comfort and triumph with the words,

“And the upright will live in your presence”

 The speaker who visited our church years ago who shared with us the joy and praise he witnessed by severely persecuted Christians in a country in North Africa spoke of how these people could not do anything but praise The Lord Jesus Christ because they felt so close to him. I call this living in the presence of the Lord and David is saying that the upright which is a term like righteous as people who trust in the mercy of God and seek to go his way and live as he wants them to live are people who live in God’s presence.

Even when we here of martyred Christians who die at the hands of their wicked persecutors we hear of so many of them experiencing visions and comfort by the Lord Jesus Christ in their dying moments.

I remember another story that came out of Syria not so long ago where a woman who was about to be beheaded by extreme violent Muslim IS men looked up and smiled and cried out the name of Jesus who she seemed to be saying she could see in heaven and many in the crowd who witnessed her death were so influenced by her witness and faith they sought out Christians privately and came to the Lord themselves.

Jesus words ring true here when he said in Matthew 10: 28,

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.

 Christians have it both ways, by faith they live this life in the presence of Jesus and after death they are transformed into the actual full presence of the Lord.

As Paul proclaims in 1 Corinthians 13: 12,

 “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”.

 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

 I found no better summary and conclusion to this Psalm than that offered by Albert Barnes so I will quote it fully as my understanding and summary of this 140thPsalm written by David,

The general idea of the psalm is, that the poor, the persecuted, the afflicted, if righteous, shall enjoy the favour and protection of God. God is on their side, and not on the side of the wicked who oppress them. But then, people “should be righteous” in order that they may find the favour of God and dwell with him. There is no reason why a “poor” wicked man should enjoy the favour of God any more than why a “rich” wicked man should. It is not poverty or riches that commend us to God; it is faith, and holiness, and love, and obedience, in the condition of life in which we are placed, be it in a cottage or a palace”.

I close as usual with another original poem / song this one goes to the old folk tune of “The Streets of Lerado” and the last verse is the first verse of a Gospel song I wrote and sang many times in my early twenties to this same tune when I was in Bible College. This last verse is my New Testament application of the Psalm.

A SONG FOR THE PERSECUTED

(Based on Psalm 140 and the tune of “The Streets of Lerado)

Rescue me Lord from my enemy’s slander

Save me O Lord from their vicious tongues

Keep me safe from the hands of the wicked

Protect me O Lord from their fists and their guns.

 

The arrogant Lord hide and seek to entrap me

They spread out a net on the path that I’ve trod

But even if find that my way is dangerous

I’ll just call on the mercy of my wonderful God.

 

Sovereign Lord be my strong deliverer

Shield my life every day of this war

For Satan and his forces seek to destroy me

May their evil plans be dashed to the floor.

 

Those trouble makers now do surround me

May they drown in their poison words and games

And if they don’t turn back to the true God of heaven

They will be thrown into hells great flames.

 

I know that the Lord is on the side of the victims

And upholds the cause of those who know God’s love

And surely God’s people will praise God forever

As they live in the presence of the God above.

 

So where would I be if I hadn’t seen Jesus

Where would be if I hadn’t seen him

For Jesus is with me both now and forever

O where would I be if I hadn’t seen him.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we look to you always in both good and bad times, in times when people love and support us and especially in times when we face persecution form those who oppose you and your love for us. When we face opposition help us to remember that your promise, Jesus is that you are always with us and so armed with this knowledge help us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. May many of our enemies be like St Paul who came to a clear vision of The Lord Jesus and turned from being a persecutor to a great witness of your love and eternal presence in our lives, In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

PSALM 139 TALK:   SEARCH ME O GOD

PSALM 139 TALK:   SEARCH ME O GOD

 (The second Psalm of a collection of eight Psalms attributed to King David in the fifth and final book of Psalms and this Psalm features the idea of how God is a God who is all knowing (omniscient), always present (omnipresent) and all powerful (omnipotent). This God searches after us and knows us intimately and we cannot avoid him even though some openly do try to do so and go even further by opposing him and his faithful followers and for this they will face the judgment of God.)

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

INTRODUCTION

“Search me O God,

And know my heart today

Try me, O Saviour,

Know my thoughts I pray,

See if there be

Some wicked way in me

Cleanse me from every sin

And set me free”

 This is the first verse of a hymn written in 1936 by a Baptist evangelist, James Edwin Orr after he was the main speaker at an Easter evangelistic campaign in New Zealand. It has been said that James Edwin Orr, an expert in the history of Christian Revivals saw for himself first hand a wonderful revival of God through his Holy Spirit at that Easter evangelistic campaign in New Zealand.

Apparently before James Edwin Orr left the area he had been working in for that evangelistic campaign some local Maori girls sang a local Maori song of farewell and James Edwin Orr immediately fell in love with this beautiful tune and wrote the first verse of a new hymn also inspired by the last two verses of Psalm 139 (verses 23 and 24).

Orr believed that these two verses from Psalm 139 and the rest of his hymn (another 3 verses) reflected the heart of the revival he had seen taking place in that evangelistic campaign he had conducted in New Zealand that Easter. You can see his theme of Christian revival in the rest of his hymn and particularly the last verse and the rest of Orr’s hymn goes like this,

“I praise, Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;

Fulfil Thy word and make me pure within;

Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;

Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.

 

Lord, take my life, and make it wholly thine;

Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;

Take all my will, my passion, self and pride;

I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.

 

“O Holy Ghost, revival comes from The

Send a revival, start the work in me;

Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need:

For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead”.

Orr’s “Search Me O God” hymn only reflects the last two verses of Psalm 139 and I see those two verses as the climax to that Psalm and because they are the climax to that Psalm you cannot both fully understand the message of that Psalm unless you come to terms with the 22 verses of Psalm 139 that proceed it.

The Psalm was written by David during his reign and given to his director of music at that time (see Hebrew heading) featuring the idea of God searching us as it starts with God searching us and ends with a plea by David for God to search his heart and lead him on the path of everlasting life.

So far as when it was probably written we cannot tell but it was obviously written at a time when David faced grave danger of death from some kind of enemies who were also the enemies of God as he writes this in verses 19 and 20,

“If only you, God would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name”

 These verses are a good description of David’s rebellious son Absalom and his followers.

However, David faced bloodthirsty enemies all through his reign and before his reign so this Psalm could fit into a number of known situations in David’s life.

So, I will seek to open up this Psalm with the main theme of “Search Me O God” and my Psalm talk outline reflects this:

  1. (1 – 6)   GOD’S SEARCHING OF US CANNOT BE AVOIDED
  1. (1 – 4) God’s thorough searching of us
  2. (5 – 6) How wonderful is God’s searching of us

      2    (7 – 12)  WHY GOD’S SERACHING OF US CANNOT BE AVOIDED

  1. (vs. 7) Where can I go to avoid God’s searching
  2. (8 – 12) Nowhere to hide from God’s searching

      3    (13 – 18)  WHY GOD CAN SEARCH US

  1. (13 – 16) God created us so he can search us
  2. (17 – 18) How precious is God’s searching of us

      4    (19 – 22) WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE WHO OPPOSE GOD’S SEARCHING

  1. (19 – 20) God’s judgment on those who oppose him
  2. (21 – 22) Have nothing to do with those who oppose God
  1. (23 – 24) SEARCH ME O GOD
  1. (vs. 23) Search me O God
  2. (vs. 24) Search and lead me on God’s way

 Let’s then have a closer look at this Psalm with this outline in mind:

  1. (1 – 6)   GOD’S SEARCHING OF US CANNOT BE AVOIDED
  1. (1 – 4) God’s thorough searching of us

David opens this Psalm with a clear statement of how God has searched him,

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me”.

 Most commentators speak of this Psalm as a deeply personal Psalm and is in fact an example of David sharing with us in this Psalm how he has experienced the searching and deep work of God in his life. Albert Barnes picks us the meaning behind these opening words of this Psalm this way,

“The word rendered searched, has a primary reference to searching the earth by boring or digging, as for water or minerals”.

 Barnes refers to another example of the same Hebrew word or term in Job 28: 3,

“Mortals put an end to the darkness; they search out the farthest recesses for ore in the blackest darkness”.

 So, God’s search, David is saying went deep within his inner self or heart and therefore he can say because God has probed so deep he knows him. We might say God knows us better than we know ourselves. Paul speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives says this in Romans 8: 27,

“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God”.

 David goes on to speak of the thoroughness of God’s search and uses what Tremper Longman 111 calls a series of merisms to express this and Longman describes merisms as,

“Pairs of opposites that denote everything in between”.

 This Psalm contains four examples of these merisms and the first is in verse 2 that says,

“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar”.

 This merism describes simply and beautifully the attribute of God we call omniscience or God’s all – knowing ability Arthur Pink in his book, “The Knowledge of God” sums up the whole bibles teaching on God’s attribute of omniscience with these words,

“God is omniscient. He knows everything: everything possible, everything actual; all events, all creatures, God the past, the present and the future. He is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every being in heaven, in earth and in hell. ‘He knoweth what is in the darkness’ (Dan. 2: 22). Nothing escapes his notice, nothing can be hidden from Him, nothing is forgotten by him”.

 So, every part of David’s day when he sits and rises God perceives or knows his,

“Thoughts from afar”.

 God’s searches man’s hearts and sees and knows everything as even the Apostle John declares in 1 John 3: 20,

“If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything”.

 Jesus says that God’s knowledge of us is so complete and detailed that,

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head all numbered” by God, Luke 12: 7.

Then in verse 3 contains the second merism when it says,

“You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways”.

 Spurgeon explains the first part of this verse so well with these words,

“I am encircled within the bounds of thy knowledge. Waking or sleeping I am still observed of thee. I may leave thy path, but you never leave mine. I may sleep and forget thee, but thou dost never slumber, nor fall into oblivion concerning thy creature”.

 God’s searching and probing mind sees and knows our day to day lives and walk through life made clear by David’s words in the second part of verse 3 that says,

“You are familiar with all my ways”.

 The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 4: 13,

 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

 A few years back I was involved in a special evangelistic outreach program where nonbelievers in the area I live where invited to a series of dinner meetings where the basic Christian message was explained over a meal and table discussions. These proved to be an effective program for introducing and explaining the Christian message to non- believers and the program was called “Christianity Explored”.

One night we were discussing our certain judgment day and our study guides pictured that day being like standing before God and around him was in full colour a movie re-run of our lives in every detail. We were asked how would we like God and everyone in heaven seeing our detailed re-run of our lives like this?

Our answer was of course we would not like to experience this but God does not need a movie to run of our lives on the day of judgment as he knows every day, hour and second of our lives and armed with this he will judge all of us.

I went home a bit freaked out by this but of course my source of comfort was what I know as the Gospel message which Paul expresses so well in Romans 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 God knows our every sin but in Jesus our every sin is paid for and covered by his death on the Cross as Peter declares in 1 Peter 3: 18,

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit”.

 Finally, in this first part of the first section of Psalm 139 David declares,

“Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely”.

 This verse completes David’s thoroughness of the searching omniscient or all- knowing mind of God as God knows,

“All that I say; all that I have power to say; all that I am disposed at any time to say” (Albert Barnes).

 And when David said this he must have realised that God knew both the good and bad things he had said and would say and yet he believed God still loved him as we learnt from verse 2 in the previous Psalm, 138,

“I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness”.

 We know this love even more than David would have known as we as the writer to the Hebrews puts it in verse 9,

“We 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”.

 It is that grace of God or unmerited love of God that makes the difference between God hearing and knowing our not so good words and the judgment we deserve because of them and his loving hand still being on us, as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 1: 6 – 10,

“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. With all wisdom and understanding,9he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ’.

 Another evangelistic approach I have heard of involves asking people two questions and the first question is,

“If you died tonight and you stood before God and he asked you why should I let you into my heaven, what would you say?”

We could not say, well I basically lived a good life as David has just said God knows every word we have said and will say and we all know we have said things we know we should not have said. Later in this Psalm 139 David says in verse 20b,

“Your (God’s) adversaries misuse your name”.

 We all are guilty of that one way or another and so our only answer to the all- knowing heart-searching God to the question of why he should let into his heaven is because we have put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins which include the careless and sinful words from our lips on many occasions.

In this Psalm talk I want to share with you my own verses for the James Edwin Orr hymn, “Search me O God” that are not just based on the last two verses of Psalm 139 but follow the teaching of Psalm 139 all through it and climax with Orr’s first verse of “Search me O God”. Here is my first verse which is a summary of this first part, verses 1 – 4 and of course they can be sung to the old Morori tune called “The Morori Farewell”.

You have searched me Lord

You surely do know me

You see when I rise

And all my thoughts you see

And everywhere I go

You surely do know

Even the words I speak

Before I speak you know.

  1. (5 – 6) How wonderful is God’s searching of us

We come then to two verses in this first section of this Psalm 139 that declare that David did not dislike God’s all – knowing searching eye and ear in his life but rather he saw its benefits and thanked God for it. He starts this with these words in verse 5,

“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me”.

 This hemming him in by God could be seen as a negative fact only that we can see from a verse like Job 1: 10 how this could also be seen as a positive thing,

“Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land”.

 This hemming him in or hedge around him by God could well mean that David sees this as God’s protection and help which was something he experienced and spoke about in many of his Psalms like Psalm 31: 1 – 5,

“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your

righteousness.Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue;be my rock of refuge,

 a strong fortress to save me.Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,for you are my

refuge.Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God”.

 David knew through real life experience the hemming in of God and because he knew it and had experienced it he continually asked God for it again and again as we see him doing in Psalm 31. Paul speaks of our sure hope in God’s protection and help in 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

We know that David saw the all- knowing searching mind and hand of God hemming him in as a positive thing as he goes on to say in verse 6,

“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain”.

 Allan Harman writes,

“Called ‘wonder’ actions that by their nature are beyond human ability or ‘Marvellous deeds”.

 He gives then three bible cross references, Psalm 71: 17, Psalm 72: 18 but I will quote directly here Psalm 86: 10,

“For you are great and do marvellous deeds; you alone are God”.

 God’s help and protection which David came to know by living in the presence of his God who searches and knows us intimately is something he marvels at and in the end he simply cannot fully understand as David expresses in the words,

“Too lofty for me to attain”.

 When I was in Bible College many years ago now I came upon the expression, “Mind blowing” and I used it on many occasions when I came across marvellous truths about God and his ways and deeds. Maybe David is saying here that God’s searching mind and hand of protection is to him something that is simply mind blowing.

In 1 Corinthians 13 verse 12 Paul makes a mind- blowing statement about the difference between what we know and understand in this life to what we will know when we get to heaven and he puts it this way,

“For now, we see only a reflection as a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”.

 This is even more of a mind-blowing statement as mirrors in Pauls day were nothing more than highly polished brass dishes.

So, I will now share my second verse of my version of James Edwin Orr’s “Search me O God” hymn to the tune of “The Morori Farewell” tune that covers verses 5 and 6 and the next verse, verse 7 which I will deal with next.

You have hemmed me in

Your behind and before

Such is your knowledge that

It’s to wondrous to explore

Where can I go

To flee away from you

For your Holy Spirit Lord

Has me within your view.

      2    (7 – 12)  WHY GOD’S SERACHING OF US CANNOT BE AVOIDED

  1. (vs. 7) Where can I go to avoid God’s searching

David in this Psalm uses the literary devise of the rhetorical question and that is exactly what we have here in verse 7 that asks two rhetorical questions,

“Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?”

 Some commentators have suggested David is for some reason or another seeking to get away from God so he asks these types of questions and the famous “Hound of Heaven” poem seems to have been written by a back slid den Roman Catholic poet named Francis Thompson in 1893.

I found this explanation of the poem on an internet high school study guide called “Cummings Study Guides”,

“Francis Thompson was a devout Roman Catholic who led a tortured life. After abandoning studies to become a priest and later a physician, he drifted and fell into financial hard times.

So, poverty-stricken was he in London, where he was pursuing a career as a writer, that he sold matches to earn money and borrowed paper on which to write poems. His troubles increased when he developed neuralgia. To relieve the acute pain of this condition, he began taking laudanum, a concoction of opium and ethanol. He became an addict’.

 This study guide goes on to explain the message of this famous poem,

 “In “The Hound of Heaven,” the speaker runs from God in order to maintain the pleasures of his dissolute life. One can imagine the speaker’s real-life counterpart, Thompson, doing the same as he pursued the groggy pleasures of his opium habit. Meanwhile, he contracted tuberculosis. Though he fought his drug habit, he eventually succumbed to TB, dying a month short of his forty-eighth birthday”.

 So, is David because of great sins like his adultery and murder in his affair with Bathsheba seeking to run from God like Francis Thompson sought to do?

I believe there is another better explanation of what David is seeking to communicate in this second section of his 139 Psalm. H.C. Leupold explains this other explanation of David’s words with this,

“David is not attempting to flee from God but rather visualize what might happen if one were to attempt to get beyond the reach of God”.

 So, David’s rhetorical questions in verse 7 are hypothetical and they present a wonderful simple presentation of the omnipresence of God or the fact that wherever we might go or be God is there as God’s searching eye and mind is everywhere. This means God’s searching or awareness of us cannot be avoided.

Jeremiah speaks clearly of God’s omnipresence or God searching eye and awareness is everywhere in Jeremiah 23: 23 – 24,

“Am I only a God nearby,”declares the Lord, “and not a God far away?24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?”declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the Lord”.

 Or even in the New Testament Paul speaks of God’s omnipresence or God searching eye and awareness is everywhere in his speech to the Athenians in Acts 17: 27,

“God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us”. 

  1. (8 – 12) Nowhere to hide from God’s searching

 David continues his use of rhetorical questions and his use of what Longman describes as merism’s,

“Pairs of opposites that denote everything in between”.

 In this second part of the second section of Psalm 139 he uses these rhetorical questions and merisms to spell out much more the God’s omnipresence or God searching eye and awareness is everywhere. Let’s have a look at each of these verse by verse starting with,

Verse 8,

 “If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there”.

This merism Allan Harman says,

“The extremities are used to signify the totality of the universe”

 Harman then gives us two bible cross – references (Job 11: 7 – 9 and Amos 9: 1 – 4) and I really like Job 11: 7 – 9,

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know?Their measure is longer than the earthand wider than the sea”.

 Nothing in all of creation Job is saying goes unnoticed by the God of the bible, the one true God of the universe. This, as I said before is another example of a mind- blowing concept as our finite minds cannot fathom how this is possible but clearly God is so wonderful and so different than us that he can and does operate like this.

Verse 9,

 “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea”.

 Albert Barnes explains this verse so well I will directly quote him here,

“Literally, “I will take the wings of the morning.” That is, I will take this as a supposable case; I will imagine what would occur, should I be able to take to myself the wings of the morning, and endeavour to escape “by flight” from the presence of God, or go where he could not pursue me, or where he would not be. The “wings of the morning” evidently mean that by which the light of the morning “seems to fly” – the most rapid object known to us. It is not to be supposed that the psalmist had an idea of the exact velocity of light, but to him that was the most rapid object known; and his language is not the “less” striking because the laws of its flight have become accurately known. The word rendered “morning” refers to the dawn – the daybreak – the Aurora – the “first” beams of the morning light. The beams of light are in fact no swifter then than at any other time of the day, but they seem to be swifter, as they so quickly penetrate the darkness”.

 So, even if I could escape from God at the speed of light his omnipresence is so powerful he could still see me or anyone just as he could see us on some far of sea the light might take us to.

Verse 10,

 “Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”.

 The key term in this verse is the last phrase, “will hold me fast” and it is similar in meaning to verse 8, “You hem me in”, according to Allan Harman and like “You hem me in” the phrase, “will hold me fast” is not a negative thing but a very positive reality for all true believers for the right hand or the strongest and most powerful hand of the God of the universe is with us anywhere we go or go through.

Paul had this kind of confidence in God and the Lord Jesus Christ for from his prison cell he wrote these words to the Philippians in Philippians 4: 12 – 13,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

Paul could do all things that God wanted him to do for Christ who sits at the right hand of God is with him through his Holy Spirit as the writer to the Hebrews says about what Jesus did and where he is now in Hebrews 1: 3,

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”.

 Then in chapter 4 verses 14 – 16 the writer to the Hebrews speaks of holding fast because Jesus is there at the right hand of God in heaven for us, Hebrews 4: 14 – 16,

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

 Verse’s 11 – 12,

 “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light becomes night around me’, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you”.

 So, distance and speed, the speed of light cannot be used to hide from the searching eye and mind of God so maybe darkness can do it?

I mentioned earlier the famous poem “The hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson who used drugs and living a dark life of debauchery to try and get away from God but he found God to be the hound of heaven who searched him out in his darkness like a hound chasing after its prey as the first verse of that famous poem says,

“I fled him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Up vustaed hopes I sped;

And shot, precipitated,

A down Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

But with unhurrying chase,

And unperturbed pace,

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy.

They beat – and a Voice beat

More instant than the feet –

‘All things betray thee, who betrayed Me”.

The reality of life so many people today live their lives like Francis Thompson speaks of in his tragic poem thinking that darkness will be where they can hide from God but to God who is like pure light,

“Darkness will not be dark to you (God); the light will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you (God).”

 This reminds me of the words of John in John 3: 19 – 21,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

 Even the darkest places of human existence and experience like Francis Thompson sought to go to hide and run away from God was not successful for God searches after us even in those dark places of sin and hopelessness and offers us his love as Paul indicates by his words in Ephesians 5: 13 – 14,

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:“Wake up, sleeper,rise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you.”

 I close this second part of the second section of Psalm 139 with two more verses of my version of James Edwin Orr’s hymn, “Search me O God”,

If I go on high

Lord I know that your there

Or to the depths of the sea

Lord your every where

Even if I fly

To parts unknown to me

You are there to help and guide

And surely set me free.

 

Even if I say

Darkness please hide me

Darkness is not dark to you

For you will help me see

For you O Lord

Are this world’s great light

Nothing can hide from your

Great power and might.

      3    (13 – 18)  WHY GOD CAN SEARCH US

  1. (13 – 16) God created us so he can search us

When we consider the number of people even in the world today and the vast distances across the earth we live we might ask how is it at all possible that anyone even the God of the universe can know and see the deeds, thoughts and intensions of every human being?

David’s answer to that important question is verses 13 – 16 and the key answer to this question is verses 12 and 14 where David says,

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”.

 When you consider the miracle of life expressed in the beauty and wonder of it all then what could God not do. David expressed this thought in another way in Psalms 8: 3 – 4,

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”

 I was at a church lunch the other day and a good friend of mine and I were having a discussion about the wonder of God’s creation and I made particular mention of how incredible involved and amazing is the design of our human bodies. I then made the point that the only other alternative to a great and powerful designer God as what lies behind this is that we and all creation is a miraculous accident or series of complex amazing accidents.

My friend said that the evolution non- believing God explanation for creation needs even a greater amount of faith to believe in than believing in a great designing God being behind it all.

David like me in my conversation with my good friend picks up the design and creation of the internal workings of a human being evidence of God’s ability to be able to search us and know us all,

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”

 Here David also points us to the wonder of human birth and the complex and amazing biological process of our creation in our mother’s womb. This process also is in the hands of God and David goes on to conclude that we are fearfully and wonderfully made as is all of God’s works of creation, verse 14,

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”.

 So, if God is so clever and powerful to make us and all creation why can he not be so clever and powerful to be able to search out and know every human being on earth that he has made?

David’s continues to meditate of his creation as a human being in his mother’s womb in verses 15 and 16 and again picks up the twin God attributes of omniscient – all knowing and omnipresent – present everywhere and these verses and the two before them forces us to also think of God being omnipotent – all powerful and supreme as David says,

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days

ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”.

 Allan Harman explains the phrase,

“Woven together in the depths of the earth”,

 With these words and other phrases about the womb,

“Share the idea of separation from the normal realms of life”.

 The other interesting and to sometimes puzzling phrase is,

“Written in your book before one of them came to be”.

 Harman explains this phrase well with these words,

“God does not need written record, but the idea of a book is used in the Old Testament as a reassuring way of speaking of God’s knowledge of, and care for his people (Exodus 32: 32, Psalm 56: 8, Psalm 69: 28 and Malachi 3: 16)”. 

  1. (17 – 18) How precious is God’s searching of us

So, God knows us all intimately from the time of our conception and into our lives and his searching eyes and ears see and hear all we say, do and even think and so David armed with this insight turns to praise and wonder again in verses 17 and 18,

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—  when I awake, I am still with you”.

 David praises the very thoughts of God that he states in two ways, they are precious and they are vast.

They are actually precious because they are so vast and the analogy of their vastness is that they are more numerous than the grains of sand upon the seashore. This is an uncountable number and the last phrase of verse 18 seems to suggest he has fallen to sleep trying to count them yet when he awakes no matter how horribly he failed to count the thoughts of God for him God is still with him,

“When I awake, I am still with you”

 As another Psalm writer Asaph says in Psalm 73: 23,

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand”.

 Jesus makes a special promise to always be with those who take his Gospel to the world in Matthew 28: 19 – 20,

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 Jesus promises his church his special presence in Matthew 18: 20,

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them”.

 So, God’s ability to see and hear everyone’s lives and thoughts comes from his mighty creative ability that did not stop after the universe was first made but continues even today and if we, like David look to him in faith we too can know and appreciate his special presence always with us to help and guide us in this life.

Here is another new verse for “Search me O God” that covers the last six verses we have just looked at:

“Lord you created me

So, wonderful we’re made

Before I was born you knew

What days I was ordained,

Precious are your thoughts

They are so vast to me.

I could not count them Lord

Like the sands of the sea.”

      4    (19 – 22) WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE WHO OPPOSE GOD’S SEARCHING  

  1. (19 – 20) God’s judgment on those who oppose him

 David then turns this beautiful Psalm about the searching, ever- present, all knowing and all-powerful God on its head as he writes four verses of what we have come to know as imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on his enemies.

We have seen a number of examples of these types of prayers right throughout the book of Psalms and I have made many comments on these before. Basically, my line of biblical thought is that with the coming of the Lord Jesus a greater more loving approach has been given to us through Christ in how we should act towards our enemies.

This greater way of dealing with our enemies who are also God’s enemies is to love them and pray for them as Jesus commands us to do in passages like Matthew 5: 43 – 44,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

 Jesus goes on to give what I believe is the main reason why we must do this which is that God loves us, who before we came to know the love of God through The Lord Jesus Christ we were enemies of God yet God did not do this to us. Therefore, if we are children of God, Jesus argues, we must love others just as he has loved us, Matthew 5: 45 – 48,

“That you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

 So, with this in mind we have in verses 19 – 20 what I have called, “God’s judgment on those who oppose God”.

“If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name”.

 We must note that David is actually praying for God to judge those who oppose him and in opposing him oppose God. We see this in the way these wicked God opposing people speak of God,

“They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name”.

 There are many people in my country and other western countries today who use the name of Christ as a swear word and I have often thought why do they choose to use the name of God or the names of God as a way of cursing or a way of letting go frustrations?

My thought is that they are in such rebellion to any idea of a God that they are choosing any name or idea of God to denounce and ridicule any thought or idea of his existence. They also know that God believers hold the name or ideas of their God in high esteem so to put them down and attack their beliefs they hold dear to them they misuse the name of God to upset them.

David also tells us in verse 19 that these wicked God haters are also murderers as in verse 19 he says,

“You who are bloodthirsty”

 To understand what David might be saying here we must look at a time when he faced wicked God haters who sought to kill him and a great example of this is in the time of his oldest son Absalom rebellion and we read these words of David to his officials in Jerusalem when Absalom turned the hearts of the people against David and his faithful followers in 2 Samuel 15: 14 – 18,

“Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.”

15 The king’s officials answered him, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king chooses.”

 16 The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace. 17 So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at the edge of the city. 18 All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king”.

 Albert Barnes explains the term, “You who are bloodthirsty” another way with these words,

“The Hebrew is, “Men of bloods;” that is, men who shed blood. The language is used to denote wicked men in general. The idea here is not that the psalmist was in danger from them at that time, but that he desired to be separate from that class of people; he did not wish to be ranked with them, to partake of their conduct, or to share in their fate. He had no sympathy with them, and he desired to be separate from them altogether”.

 So, whether this term, “You who are bloodthirsty” refers to actual enemies of God David faced at the time like Absalom and his many followers or is a general term for the wicked who oppose God like Albert Barnes suggests we cannot tell but in both cases God revealed to David in Psalm 2 that those who oppose David, the Lord’s anointed oppose God, verse 2 and for this they will face the certain judgment of God verse 5.

The ultimate, “Lords Anointed” king is The Lord Jesus Christ and those who oppose him, if they do not repent and turn to him will also face the certain judgment of God as we read in a verse like Revelation 21: 8,

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”

 So far as those misuse of the name of God Jesus says this about that and the coming day of judgment in Matthew 12: 36 – 37,

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 How does Jesus command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us fit in with David’s words in the two verses we have just looked at?

My answer to this is the wonderful example of the great Apostle Paul who before he came to see and experience the love of God through Christ was called Saul and Acts 9: 1 says this about him,

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem”.

 It was on that road to Damascus that Saul who became the great apostle Paul came to the know the love of God through the Lord Jesus when Jesus appeared to him and said in Acts 9: 5 – 6, Jesus tells Saul who he is with these words,

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

 It was the apostle Paul who years later told the Roman church this in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

 My point here is it is only the love of God through Christ that can save anyone even a former great persecutor of the early Christian church so we must pray for and offer this love of God to all our enemies and maybe God will use this to save some of them from the certain judgment to come.

Recently a non-Christian person I know on Facebook had a go at my Christian faith by posting a picture of Roman Catholic inquisitors torturing probably protestant believers in the middle ages and saying Christians and Christianity is no better than extreme Muslim believers who torture and kill Christians today.

My answer was that this was so called Christians who had lost sight of the teaching of the bible especially the teachings and example of Christ himself and this is why the church needed to have a reformation to get back to the way Jesus wants us to treat others including our enemies who might even seek to kill us for our faith in Christ. Thankfully today Christians around the world especially in the many persecuted countries show love to their enemies not hatred and bloodshed.

  1. (21 – 22) Have nothing to do with those who oppose God

 David continues his imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on his enemies in verses 21 – 22 and does this with even stronger words,

“Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies”.

 David, in this part of the imprecatory prayer makes his elegances clear with his words in verse 21,

“Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
Allan Harman points out that David is pledging his loyalty or elegance to the Lord,

“In a manner, customary in the ancient near east”.

 Harman gave me a very interesting cross reference of Psalm 5: 8 – 12, interestingly more than likely written by David during the Absalom rebellion when his own son and his many followers turned away from trusting in the God of the bible and became an enemy of David when they sought to kill him and all his family and faithful followers,

 “Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies—make your way straight before me.Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies.10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall.Banish them for their many sins,for they have rebelled against you.11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield.

 We might not express our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ the same way that David did in these two verses but Jesus still demands our allegiance and his words in Matthew 12: 30 express this well as an indication that passive non – allegiance is a bad as aggressive opposition to Jesus and his faithful followers,

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters”.

 David’s words in verse 22 says,

“22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies”.

 I find particularly jarring to my Christian ears or thought processes that know those commands of Jesus like Matthew 5: 43 – 44,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

However, I read David’s words in verse 22 and even 21 as a way of him expressing his desire to have nothing to do with those who oppose God, those in the context of this Psalm try to shut out or shut down the searching eye and mind of God. People like Francis Thompson who wrote “The Hound of Heaven” who for many years sought to run away from God but discovered God was like a hound not giving up on its prey.

Francis Thompson like all non-believers were and are in rebellion to God. That means they don’t not recognize God’s rule in their lives and are either running away from God like Francis Thompson was or are directly opposing God like David’s enemies were seeking to do.

So, we to must not let those who are running away and rebelling the rule of God in their lives drag us way from God. We must hate the sin they do because of their rebellion to this ever-searching God but because of the love of God we should love the sinner not the sin they commit. Love the sinner like God loves us, saved sinners when he brought us out of our darkness into his glorious light through the message of his Sons death and resurrection for us.

So, my new verse of the hymn “Search Me O God” for these verses is,

Lord save me from

Your enemy’s O Lord

Judge them for their wickedness

They hate you and your word.

Help me to love

And pray for them O Lord

So, they could be saved like me

By your life -giving word.

  1. (23 – 24) SEARCH ME O GOD
  1. (vs. 23) Search me O God

We come then to the two verses that James Edwin Orr wrote the first verse of his famous hymn, “Search Me O God” and the question I have been toiling with all through my study and reflection of this Psalm is,

Why does David speak so clearly on how God has searched him and knows him as he searches and knows everyone yet here in verses 23 and 24 he closes his Psalm with the request for God to search him?

He starts this request for God to search him in verse 23 with these words,

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts”

 So, he is praying for God to search him to know him and I think there are three reasons for David praying this prayer that answers my question above:

  1. David wants to make sure he has not got a wicked wayward heart like God’s enemies have.

2. David is applying his theological understanding of God’s all- knowing (omniscient), ever-        present (omnipresent) and all- powerful (omnipotent) nature to his own life and experience.

  1. David wants to know himself as God knows him as God knows us better than we know ourselves.

Let me now explain these three reasons why David prays search me O God:

  1. David wants to make sure he has not got a wicked wayward heart like God’s enemies have.

The immediate context of this prayer request for God to search him is David’s imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on his enemies. In that prayer, he has pinpointed many of the characteristics of the wicked:

  1. Bloodthirsty
  2. Speak of God with evil intent
  3. Misuse God’s name
  4. Hate God
  5. Rebel against God
  6. Are God’s enemies

So, David is saying to God, “Search Me”, “Know me”, “Test Me” and in verse 24, “See if there is any offensive way in me”. David knew he was a sinner after all he at one point of his life committed two big sins, adultery and murder. Stephen J. Cole puts it this way,

“David no sooner mentions the wicked and his hatred for their irreverence than he quickly realises his own need for God’s cleansing”.

 I said before that one way of describing and non-believer is that they are in rebellion to God and his rule of their lives and David as we should must ask God to deal with any sin or rebellious attitude to God he might have.

The apostle John puts it this way in 1 John 1: 8 – 10,

 

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us”.

  1. David is applying his theological understanding of God’s all- knowing (omniscient), ever- present (omnipresent) and all- powerful (omnipotent) nature to his own life and experience.

David started this Psalm 139 with a clear statement of God’s omniscient nature or all – knowing nature with the words,

“You have searched me, Lord and you know me”.

 He goes on in the Psalm to speak of God’s omnipresence or ever – present nature like verse 7,

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence”?

 Then he also speaks of God’s omnipotence – all – powerful nature like verse 14,

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”.

 So, in verse 23 David is applying what he knows about God to himself in the prayer,

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts”

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of applying our faith in Christ in a deeper way in our lives in what he says in Hebrews 10: 22- 24,

“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. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”. 

  1. David wants to know himself as God knows him as God knows us better than we know ourselves.

David Guzik in his commentary on this Psalm writes,

“David knew that he could not know his heart at its depths, so he asked God to know it”

 We might think we know ourselves but I believe the bible says we don’t fully know ourselves but God does and Paul speaks of this and why it is so in Romans 7: 15 – 24,

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 

20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

 These words of Paul sound like that we don’t only know the depths of sin within us but that there is no answer to the terrible situation we have within us but then at the start of verse 25, the next verse that follows this passage Paul declares,

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

 Paul goes on to say how God has delivered us from the bind of our sinful nature by the Lord Jesus Christ in the opening two verses of the next chapter,

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death”.

 So, we should be like David and the Apostle Paul and acknowledge we do have anxious thoughts and offensive ways deep in our hearts and ask God to search our hearts and minds by his Holy Spirit and do a work of recreating us from within as Paul says God does do when we truly do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he has done for us, 2 Corinthians 5: 17,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

 This recreation of our hearts and minds is an ongoing process so we must continually ask God to search our hearts and minds and cleanse and renew us day by day as James Edwin Orr so well put it in his first verse of his hymn “Search me O God”,

“Search me O God,

And know my heart today

Try me, O Saviour,

Know my thoughts I pray,

See if there be

Some wicked way in me

Cleanse me from every sin

And set me free” 

  1. (vs. 24) Search and lead me on God’s way

I have already commented on the first part of this last verse of Psalm 139 that says,

“See if there is any offensive way in me”.

 This is a continuance of David’s prayer for God to search him for the three reasons I gave in the last part of this concluding fifth section of this Psalm 139.

However, in this last verse David adds a final request to God that simply says,

“And lead me in the way everlasting”.

 David knew God as the Lord or “Yahweh”, the great “I am who I am” or eternal, everlasting God so what he is asking for here is to be led God’s way. David believed that going God’s way led to the everlasting God or was a path that would lead to eternal life with God.

In both the book of Psalms and book of Proverbs, ‘the road” or “the way” is referred to a lot like Psalm 27: 11,

“Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight pathbecause of my oppressors”

 Or Proverbs 2: 20,

“Thus, you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous”.

 Note the way of the Lord or the way of everlasting is in complete contrast to the way of sinful man and death as we see in Proverbs 14: 12,

“There is a way that appears to be right,but in the end, it leads to death”.

 So, again David could have in mind here his words in verses 19 – 22 when he spoke of those who are in rebellion to God and his way which he makes clear in these verses lead to the judgment of God and therefore death.

 Jesus came to make the way back to God and his gift or eternal life as Jesus makes clear in John 14: 6,

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

 So, as we join with David in asking him daily to search our hearts and minds to continue his remaking of us within we are looking to go the way or path of everlasting which is the way Jesus is speaking about in John 14: 6.

CONCLUSION

 We have seen through this Psalm how David believed that his God the God of the bible was a God who could and does search us because he is an all -knowing God – omniscient, all – present God – omnipresent and all – powerful God – omnipotent and he knew all this from his experience of God in his life.

Then he declares his hatred of those who oppose and rebel against God who are God’s enemies. These people are bloodthirsty people, intent on evil who misuse the name of God and therefore are denying or running away from the searching eye and mind of God.

Finally, because David knew what God was like as the great searching God who we cannot escape from he asked God to search his heart and mind (thoughts) to cleanse him from the sin he knew we all have so that he and we can avoid being like the God haters who are in rebellion God’s rule in their lives. This means we can experience day by day God’s recreating power and by doing so go God’s everlasting way.

I close as usual with my poem / song and final prayer:

SEARCH ME O GOD

(New words based on Psalm 139 and James Edwin Orr hymn search me O God that was written to the Maori “Song of Farewell)

You have searched me Lord

You surely do know me

You see when I rise

And all my thoughts you see

And everywhere I go

You surely do know

Even the words I speak

Before I speak you know.

 

You have hemmed me in

Your behind and before

Such is your knowledge that

It’s to wondrous to explore

Where can I go

To flee away from you

For your Holy Spirit Lord

Has me within your view.

 

If I go on high

Lord I know that your there

Or to the depths of the sea

Lord your every where

Even if I fly

To parts unknown to me

You are there to help and guide

And surely set me free.

 

Even if I say

Darkness please hide me

Darkness is not dark to you

For you will help me see

For you O Lord

Are this world’s great light

Nothing can hide from your

Great power and might.

 

Lord you created me

So, wonderful we’re made

Before I was born you knew

What days I was ordained.

Precious are your thoughts

They are so vast to me

I could not count them Lord

Like the sands by the sea.

 

Lord save me from

Your enemy’s O Lord

Judge them for their wickedness

They hate you and your word.

Help me to love

And pray for them O Lord

So, they could be saved like me

By your life- giving word.

 

Search me O God,

And know my heart today

Try me, O Saviour,

Know my thoughts, I pray,

See if there be

Some wicked way in me

Cleanse me from every sin

And set me free.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Lord I pray that you will search my heart and mind and find the sin I have within so that through the blood of your Son shed on the cross for me you can cleanse me and remake me into the person you want me to be. I thank you Lord that you are all – knowing, ever present and all -powerful God and therefore I can trust in you and your love to search and change me. Help those who are still in rebellion to your love to come to the realisation of your love and help me to show them your love by the way I seek to pray and love them. I Jesus name I pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSALM 138 TALK:   PRAISING THE LOVE OF GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART  

PSALM 138 TALK:   PRAISING THE LOVE OF GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART

 (The first of a collection of eight Psalms attributed to King David in the fifth and final book of Psalms that feature praise for the God he believed delivered him from sin and his enemies because he is a great God of love and righteousness. The first of these eight Psalms, Psalm 138 feature praising God for his love and sets the tone for the next seven Psalms to come).

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

INTRODUCTION

 “Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all”

 Is the last two lines of the famous hymn by Isaac Watts called “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and these two lines have kept ringing in my head ever since I read recently Psalm 138 in preparation for this Psalm talk.

I believe Psalm 138 features God’s love and I have called it, “Praising the love of God with all your heart”. The Psalm starts with the writer’s desire to praise the Lord with his soul, life and all for what he calls in verse 2, God’s unfailing love and faithfulness and closes with a clear statement of God’s love with the words,

“Your love, Lord, endures forever”.

 Psalm 138 is the first Psalm of an eight Psalm series, 138 – 145 that are the final Psalms of David in the book of Psalms. We know this because the Hebrew Headings for these eight Psalms attribute the authorship of them to David.

Why did it take nearly 500 years for eight more Psalms of David to appear in the final book of Psalms?

The first thing I would say about this is that we have already seen former collections of Psalms not in the book of Psalms before incorporated into this final book of Psalms like the “Songs of Ascent Psalms” (120 – 134) and the “Hallelujah Songs” (111 – 118). So, it seems the editors of the fifth book of Psalms looked around for any final examples of songs and prayers the Hebrew people had sung over many years to formally recognize them as Psalms to go in their fifth and final book of Psalms.

I believe particularly because of the content of many of the fifth book of Psalms being post exile inspired and because the dead sea scrolls did not have the fourth and fifth books of Psalms as we know them that this fifth book and fourth book of Psalms came together after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon.

Albert Barnes answers my question with these words,

“They appear to be of the nature of a supplement to the Book of Psalms, composed of Psalms unknown to the original collector and arranger of the book, and subsequently discovered and ascertained to be the works of David. It is not to be regarded as strange that there should be psalms of this nature David at different periods which might have been preserved in different branches of his family, and which might not have been generally known to exist”.

 It seems that the “Songs of Ascent” Psalms (120 – 134) existed separately as a group of Psalms sung by Pilgrim Travellers to Jerusalem for one of the three worship festivals their and were decided by the editors of the fifth book to be brought into the official book of Psalms in the fifth and final collection.

So maybe these eight Psalms of David newly discovered after the return from exile in Babylon were also decided to be placed at the end of the book of Psalms just as the start of the book of Psalms contains the larger collection of David’s Psalms.

Psalm 138 has David’s fingerprints all over it with many phrases and ideas from his other Psalms mirrored throughout this Psalm. Here are five clear examples of this, Psalm 9: 1 mirrors verse 1, Psalm 5: 7 verse 2, Psalm 113: 5 – 9 verse 6, Psalm 23: 4 verse 7 and Psalm 57: 3 verse 8.

If David did not write this Psalm its writer used many of David’s previous Psalms as his inspiration and style.

So, the first of David’s final collection of Psalms, Psalm 138 features his deep desire to praise the Love of God after it seems he experienced first- hand another example of that love of God for him manifest in his life as we read in verse 7,

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand, you save me”.

 What experience of deliverance David is referring to here we cannot tell as God helped or saved David in many ways on many occasions by his powerful hand of love stooping down from heaven to help and save him as he indicates by what he says in verse 6.

“Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar”.

So, with the theme of “Praising the Love of God with all your heart” and the words of Isaac Watts hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” in mind my outline for this Psalm talk is:

  1. (1 – 3)   GOD’S LOVE DEMANDS MY SOUL, MY LIFE, MY ALL IN PRAISE
  1. (vs. 1) My soul, my life, my all will praise God
  2. (vs. 2) Praise God’s love
  3. (vs. 3) Why David knew again God loved him

      2   (4 – 5)    KINGS WILL PRAISE GOD FOR HIS LOVING ACTIONS

  1. (vs. 4) The praise of kings
  2. (vs. 5) The song of praise for God’s ways of love

      3   (6 – 7)   GOD’S LOVE SAVES US

  1. (vs. 6) God stooped down with love
  2. (vs. 7) God’s love saves and protects us

      4   (vs. 8)   GOD’S LOVE IS OURS FOREVER

 So, with these headings let’s now look at this wonderful Psalm of David:

  1. (1 – 3)   GOD’S LOVE DEMANDS MY SOUL, MY LIFE, MY ALL IN PRAISE
  1. (vs. 1) My soul, my life, my all will praise God

 David commences his Psalm 138 with the words of deep commitment to praise the Lord, “Yahweh” the eternal God of God’s and Lord of Lords, he writes,

“I will praise you, Lord with all my heart; before the ‘god’s I will sing praise”.

 This first verse has two aspects to it that need some explanation before we can fully comprehend what it is actually saying and those two aspects are:

  1. What does David mean by “with all my heart”?
  2. What does David mean by “before the ‘gods’?

Let me explain what I believe these two main aspects of this first verse mean:

  1. What does David mean by “with all my heart”?

Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology” sums up well and explains well the meaning of the term “heart” in the bible with these words,

“Heart” (Hebrew lebab/leb [b’bel], Gk. kardia [kardiva]) occurs over one thousand times in the Bible, making it the most common anthropological term in the Scripture. It denotes a person’s centre for both physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities; sometimes it is used figuratively for any inaccessible thing”.

 One of the most famous use of this term heart is in Deuteronomy 6: 5 and could well be what David had in mind when he used this term in the first verse of this Psalm,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”.

 I mentioned in my introduction that we can find a lot of other known David Psalms that mirror the wording of this Psalm and the use of “heart” is used by David in Psalm 9: 1,

“I will give thanks to you, Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds”.

 So, David like the wording of Isaac Watts hymn wants to praise, thanks and proclaim (tell) the wonderful works of God which are his acts of love as we don’t deserve his love so David praises God  with his whole heart or soul or life or all, As Isaac Watts put it,

“Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all”

 Paul tells the Corinthians that the love of God expressed in the death and resurrection of Christ compels him or drives his praise and service for God in 2 Corinthians 5: 14 – 15,

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again”.

 This kind of praise from our hearts or our soul, our life or our all is spoken about by the writer to the Hebrews who calls it a sacrifice of praise in Hebrews 13: 15 – 16,

“ThroughJesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased”.

 To give our all or to praise God from our hearts for his wonderful loving deeds we need to offer that praise to God as a sacrifice, something we give freely and fully to God for thanks for what he has done for us and Paul says in Romans 12: 1 when we do this we are truly worshipping him,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”. 

  1. What does David mean by “before the ‘gods’?

The more difficult concept to interpret is David’s words,

“Before the “god’s” I will sing”

 What is David speaking about here?

We know he could not be saying that there is more than one God as the bible and particularly the first five books of the bible which David had and knew tells us that there is only one God, like Deuteronomy 4: 35,

 “Youwere shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other”.

 All other supposed God’s are false God’s as David makes it clear in other Psalms like Psalm 40: 4,

“Blessed is the onewho trusts in the Lord,who does not look to the proud,to those who turn aside to false gods”

 I came across three explanations for what David is referring to in his expression, “before the ‘god’s’”.

 The first is that ‘god’s’ are ‘angelic beings’ as we see certainly in David’s Psalm 29 verse 1,

“Ascribe to the Lord you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength”.

 Or As another Psalm writer Asaph speaks of in Psalm 82: 1,

“God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the ‘god’s’”

 The second explanation of ‘before the ‘god’s’” is well presented by Allan Harman when he writes,

“god’s is a Hebrew term applied to human rulers (Exodus 21: 6 / 22: 8 – 9).

 This is an attractive answer for it connects with David’s words in verse 4 of this Psalm that says,

“May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed”.

 The problem with these two possible answers is firstly how can David sing God’s praises before Angels in heaven before he has died and gone to heaven and if ‘god’s” is referring to earthly rulers like kings why does he call them ‘god’s’ in verse 1 and then ‘kings’ in verse 4.

There is a third explanation for David’s term ‘god’s’ which is expressed well by Albert Barnes when he writes,

“The idols, all idols, in preference to them all. This does not mean that he would do this in the presence of other god’; but that Yahweh should be acknowledged to be God in preference to any or all of them”.

 So, before the god’s is before any god alternative we must recognise “Yahweh” as the God that we should praise with all our hearts and sing of him as our great God of love as we will see from the rest of this Psalm.

Sing just as Jude 24 – 25 does,

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen”.

 2    (vs. 2)  Praise God’s love

David’s opening verse of this Psalm simply states he will praise God from his heart, his life, his all even before any other God alternative but in the opening first part of verse 2 David gives us the place and content of his praise, he writes,

“I will bow down toward your holy temple and I will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness”.

 Some modern commentators seize on the mention of the Temple here as a way of putting down the concept that David wrote this Psalm. They argue that the Temple did not become a reality unto after David’s death as it was built by his son Solomon.

Allan Harman puts down this criticism by pointing out that,

“The Hebrew term Temple here is applied to the Tent that was God’s house before the Temple was built”

 Allan gives four references to back this up, 1 Samuel 1: 9, 3: 3 and Psalm 27: 4 – 5.

Note in the Psalm 27 reference David, referring to the Tent of God also called The Sanctuary seeks to dwell in it all the days of his life. This, I believe is not a literal desire but is David recognising the sanctuary and later Temple representing God’s presence on earth and so his real desire is to live in the presence of God and in Psalm 138 verse 2 his desire is to bow in the presence of God and praise and worship him.

So, what is the content of David’s praise for God?

Here in verse 2 of Psalm 138 it is expressed in two ways:

  1. God’s name or character
  2. God’s unfailing love and faithfulness

Let me flesh these two great things out a bit.

  1. God’s name or character

All through the Old Testament the name of God and the names of God are spoken about as something people like David could both trust in and glorify or praise.

Tony Evans says this about the concept in the Old Testament of “The name or names of God” in his book, “The power of God’s names”,

“In Scripture, God reveals Himself to us through His names. So, to fully grasp the significance and power of God’s names, we first need to understand the importance of names in ancient cultures. In Old Testament times, a name was more than simply nomenclature. Rather, it revealed important information about the individual or thing itself”.

 God’s name and names tell us so much about what God is like and David in Psalm 8 says in verse 1 that even creation itself reveals the name or something of the character of God,

“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens”.

 Tony Evans speaks of how the name of God is also a very important concept in the New Testament and says this about this in his book “The power of God’s names”,

“When Jesus said, “I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known” (  John 17:26), He was referencing more than just sounds put together in a word. In Jesus, God came to earth in the flesh and unveiled His heart, mind, will, character, and being through the revelation of His name”.

 Paul speaks of the powerful name or character of Jesus in Philippines 2: 9 – 11 this way,

“Therefore, God exalted him to the highest placeand gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

 So, part of David’s content of his praise of God with all his heart or his life, his all is the name of God his revealed character.

  1. God’s unfailing love and faithfulness

As Mark Evans pointed out,

“In Jesus, God came to earth in the flesh and unveiled His heart, mind, will, character, and being through the revelation of His name”.

 This heart of God David calls in verse 2, God’s,

“Unfailing love and faithfulness”

 Jesus demonstrated this love so well that John was able to say in John 3: 16,

“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”.

David knew this love of God through so many experiences of his life when against all odds God saved him from his enemies like King Saul, the many neighbouring hostile nations and even his eldest Son Absalom when he rebelled against his father and sought to kill him. This Psalm, 138 was probably written soon after one of these demonstrations of God’s saving love.

David praises this saving love of God in Psalm 57 verse 2 and 3 this way,

“I cry to God Most high, to God, who vindicates me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me – God sends forth his love and faithfulness”.

 This term God’s love and faithfulness in the Old Testament usually refers to God’s covenant of love that David knew and which was the basis of God’s special relationship with his people, Israel as we read of in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

 Jesus, in the New Testament is called the mediator of a new covenant, a fulfilment and wonderful expansion of God’s covenant of love that offers Jews and Gentiles the opportunity to be part of his special nation or family as we read in Hebrews 9: 15,

“For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

 In the next part of verse 2 David goes on to say,

“For you have exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame”.

 I found these words puzzling unto I read H.C. Leupold’s paraphrase of these words,

“Thou hast given us a new revelation of Thy glory”.

 The fame of God then is probably his general revelation of himself in nature as Psalm 19: 1 speaks of,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”.

 However, God’s solemn decree which Leopold speaks of as, “a new revelation of Thy glory” is the word of God that makes clear that he is a God of love and faithfulness. John at the start of his Gospel speaks of the word of God creating everything (John 1: 1 – 5) and then says that this word or God’s special decree or revelation of himself is The Lord Jesus himself in John 1: 14,

“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”.

Spurgeon makes this concluding statement about this last part of verse 2 with these words,

“Let us adore the Lord who has spoken to us by his word, and by his Son; and in the presence of unbelievers let us both praise his holy name and extol his holy word”.

 God’s word through Christ coming speaks even more about God’s amazing love as Isaac Watts does in the last verse of his famous hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,

“Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all”. 

  1. (vs. 3) Why David knew again God loved him

 The third verse of the first section of this Psalm speaks of how David possibly came to his fresh revelation of God’s love and faithfulness which was like a new and better revelation of God and his word and it seems it came from a very real answer to a desperate pray to God because David writes in verse 3,

“When I called you answered me: you greatly emboldened me”.

 On many occasions David seemed like he was trapped and humanly speaking he had no hope but on each occasion, he looked to God and God answered his prayer and saved him and David himself always acknowledged that he did not deserve God’s answer of help but it came because his God, the God of the bible is a God of unfailing love and faithfulness which he called mercy and which the New Testament calls “grace”.

In Psalm 30 we believe David prayed one of these desperate prayers when after counting all his fighting men in Israel which God had told David he must not do David and his nation faced a terrible plague that God used to punish David for his sin.

Then David in this desperate situation prayed to God as the plague was about to take down his people in Jerusalem and on the hill in Jerusalem that became the hill called Zion David saw a vision of the Angel of the Lord and he and the elders of Jerusalem prayed a desperate prayer dressed in sackcloth, a physical Old Testament symbol of repentance and faith and on Mount Zion God stopped the angel of death from killing the people in Jerusalem (see 1 Chronicles 21: 1 – 17).

David records something of that prayer that day in Psalm 30: 8 – 10,

“To you, Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:“What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit?Will the dust praise you?Will it proclaim your faithfulness?10 Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.”

 David saw yet again that day the love or mercy of God as he had seen on many previous occasions and would see again and again on future occasions and this as he says in verse 3 of Psalm 138,

“emboldened him”

 Which some commentators say could be translated “encouraged” or even “strengthened” him and in the last two verses of Psalm 30 we hear emboldening or encouraging words of David in verses 11 and 12,

“You turned my wailing into dancing;you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent Lord my God, I will praise you forever”.

 This is David praising the love of God with all his heart and we too can be confident God listens to our prayers and answers them as Jesus promises to do in Matthew 7: 7 – 8,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened”.

 How often do we miss out on being emboldened or encouraged because we do not take our problems and concerns to God in prayer and this reminds me of the first verse of the old hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus”,

“What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,

Oh, what needless pain we bear.

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer!” 

      2   (4 – 5)    KINGS WILL PRAISE GOD FOR HIS LOVING ACTIONS

  1. (vs. 4) The praise of kings

As I said earlier some see what David is speaking about in verse 4 relates to his difficult to interpret phrase in verse one,

“Before the gods I will sing your praise”

 So, if “the god’s” in verse 1 are the Kings and rulers in this world who have the greatest power on this earth then David is saying the God of the bible is the God of heaven and earth and is far more powerful and greater than any earthly supreme power you could think of or even imagine.

So, what David now says in verse 4 makes real sense for if the God in heaven is the supreme ruler of the entire universe than,

“May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed”.

 Maybe David has another verse in mind from the early chapters of Deuteronomy as we read in Deuteronomy 4: 8,

“And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?”

 The laws in the Old Testament represented the revealed word of God and so if this is so than the revealed word of God is his decrees and when even earthly kings and rulers hear these words from God they should praise that great and loving revealed God of heaven and earth.

The sad reality in David’s day is that the kings and rulers of his time did not praise the revealed God of love and power as David expresses so clearly in Psalm 2: 1 – 3,

“Why do the nations conspireand the peoples plot in vain?The kings of the earth rise up

and the rulers band togetheragainst the Lord and against his anointed, saying,“Let us break their chainsand throw off their shackles”.

 Psalm 2 contains also a prophecy of a change that will come when a greater son of David would come and bring the Nations and of course the kings of the earth under God’s control. We read of this in Psalm 2: 7 – 11,

“ I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;be warned, you rulers of the earth.11 Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling”.

 The final verse of Psalm 2 comes with a warning for kings and rulers of the earth that if they fail to acknowledge the divine rule of the universe with praise and worship of this greater son of David they will face the terrible judgment of God that is coming with him as well, vs. 12,

“Kiss his son, or he will be angryand your way will lead to your destruction,for his wrath can flare up in a moment.Blessed are all who take refuge in him”.

 (See my Psalm talk for Psalm 2 to understand better the poetic images in this Psalm)

Of course, the greater son of David is in fact The Lord Jesus Christ and Jesus identifies with the prophecies like Psalm 2: 7 – 11 and Psalm 110: 1 of him being the greater son of David, The Messiah in Matthew 22: 41 – 46,

 “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”“The son of David,” they replied.43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right handuntil I put your enemies under your feet.”

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions”.

 Matthew commences his Gospel with a detailed genealogy showing how Jesus is not only a descendant of Abraham but a descendant of David and therefore a greater son of David and of course the Son of God through his father in heaven.

Through the greater and clearer message of God’s love for the world through the death and resurrection of this greater son of David this word or message or as we call it Gospel has gone out into all the world and many kings and rulers have come to fulfil desire that,

“May all kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed”.

 Even though some kings and rulers have acknowledged Jesus as their greater king throughout history many others stood against Christ and his followers and persecuted them. An example of a king or ruler who turned to Christ, David’s greater son and praised and served him is the great Roman emperor Constantine who converted to Christianity in 312AD and helped change the Christian’s fate in the Roman empire to outsiders often persecuted to the accepted faith of the entire Roman Empire.

However, as I said many kings and rulers in both ancient and modern history opposed Christ and his followers but in the end the book of Revelation tells us this will all change at the end of history when Christ returns to judge the world and take his faithful followers to heaven as we read in Revelation 17: 14,

“They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” 

  1. (vs. 5) The song of praise for God’s ways of love

David goes on to speak a little more about how these kings of the earth will praise the God of heaven and earth in verse 5,

“May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great”.

 In verse 1 David speaks of him singing the praises of the Lord of heaven and earth possibly before earthly kings and maybe even heavenly exalted ones, angels and demons but now he says these kings or rulers will join him in not only praise but songs of praise as well.

Of course, the ways of the Lord are like the name of the Lord which is the character and actions of the Lord which we have seen is made clear by his love and faithfulness.

So, this song or singing of the ways of the Lord will be about the love of God and in a New Testament context this is the great song of the love of God expressed in the sending of his only son to die on the cross to forgive our many sins.

Paul sings the praises of this kind of love and spells out so clearly why we must always praise the love of God with all our hearts in Ephesians 1: 1 – 8,

 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 hepredestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 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. With all wisdom and understanding”.

 The third verse of Isaac Watt’s famous hymn “When I survey the Wondrous Cross” speaks of the great love of God expressed in the death of his only Son Jesus Christ for us,

“See from his head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet.

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?”

 Watt’s picks up in the last line of his third verse of his hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” the earthly crown of Jesus, the crown of thorns or the crown of suffering but when Jesus returns he will be seen as the great king of kings and Lord of Lords wearing many crowns and as John’s vision of him presents in Revelation 19: 11 – 16, he will be great, powerful and glorious,

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice, he judges and wages war

12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head, are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron sceptre.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords”. 

      3   (6 – 7)   GOD’S LOVE SAVES US

  1. (vs. 6) God stooped down with love

So, David has just predicted that even the greats of this world, Kings, will acknowledge what the God of the universe has done and will sing his praises. Now this great and almighty God will choose to stoop down from his high and lofty heaven to save what David calls, the lowly.

Verse 6 says,

“Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty he sees them from afar”.

 There are two important issues that must be explained first before the full impact of this verse can be realised and those two issues are”

  1. What does David mean by God looking down from heaven?
  2. Who is David referring to when he speaks of the lowly?

I will attempt now to answer these two questions that are the two issues that must be explained to appreciate the full impact of this verse.

  1. What does David mean by God looking down from heaven?

Leupold explains the meaning of God looking down from heaven on the lowly this way,

“It will be an ancient rule that is emphasized throughout sacred Scripture, the rule that the exalted Lord stoops with special interest to the lowly and has regard for them”.

 I have heard atheists argue that the Christian religion or faith is ridiculous as it presents the so- called creator of the universe reducing himself willingly to become a human being to sacrifice himself on a cross to forgive the sins we have committed against him.

I believe this is either a ridiculous idea as an atheist like Richard Dawkins firmly believes or it is the greatest expression of love we could ever know.

In Psalm 113 verses 4 – 8 what Leupold has just called “the ancient rule of sacred scripture is presented so beautifully,

“The Lord is exalted over all the nations,his glory above the heavens.Who is like

the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high,who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?He raises the poor from the dustand lifts the needy from the ash heap;he seats them with princes,with the princes of his people”.

 The New Testament presents how God literally stooped down to save us and it presents this as coming from the core of the God of the universe’s nature or character, namely his love in a key verse like John 3: 16,

 “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”.

 Later the same writer, The Apostle John speaks of this expression of God’s love in a letter to churches he looked after later in his life and ministry on earth and he says this in 1 John 4: 9 – 10,

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”.

 So, atheist’s might mock the Christian Gospel as a ridiculous idea but as Christians we marvel at it as a great act of love and we praise this God of love with all our heart.

  1. Who is David referring to when he speaks of the lowly?

If this Psalm was written by David who was the great king of Israel than who then is he referring to as the lowly as he could not mean a person’s social standing. So, what does he mean by the lowly?

I found two key bible references which I think explain who are the lowly according to the bible.

The first is from the Old Testament and is Isaiah 66: 2,

“Has not my hand made all these things,and so they came into being?”declares the Lord.

“These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit,and who tremble at my word”.

 Then from the New Testament Luke 1: 51 – 52

“He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the

humble.53 He has filled the hungry with good thingsbut has sent the rich away empty”.

Spurgeon explains it well that these people God sees as lowly are people who recognize they are lowly in the sight of the Almighty God of the universe, he writes,

“Because they think little of themselves he thinks much of them. They reverence him, and he respects them. They are low in their own esteem, and he makes them high in his esteem”.

 They are as David was, people of true faith who humble themselves before God and James says in James 4: 10,

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

 So, verse 6 of Psalm 138 is saying that out of love the great God and Lord of the universe stoops down to those who truly trust in him, who humble themselves before God and God looks kindly or lovingly towards them.

2     (vs. 7)  God’s love saves and protects us

 David has just said that the God of the universe who is exalted in highest heaven looks kindly on those who are lowly who we have seen are those who trust in him and humble themselves before him. Now David says what this looking kindly actually turns out to be and in verse 7 he states this clearly,

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your right hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand, you save me”.

 As I said in my introduction this Psalm this Psalm has David’s fingerprints all over it as so much of it mirrors other phrases or concepts David used in other Psalms and the first part of this verse mirrors the fourth verse of David’s famous twenty third Psalm that says,

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil. For you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

 In the twenty third Psalm David is speaking of God’s love stooping down to save and protect him in ancient shepherding terms. David had been a shepherd in his younger days and he knew that his weak and defenceless sheep needed his protection and even at times salvation from dark and difficult places and enemies like lions and bears.

In Psalm 138 he speaks more openly of God’s salvation and protection in the expression,

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life”

 This means that God’s stooping down to the lowly with kindness is in practical terms his saving and protecting interventions for those he loves, namely the lowly or those who truly trust in him and humble themselves before him.

In the New Testament Paul is confident to tell the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

“3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

 David then says that it is like God’s powerful right hand, as the right hand is consistently in scriptures the strong and dominant hand, is stretching out to give him personal protection.

Not only did this right hand of God protected David but according to the last phrase of verse 7, God’s right hand saved him,

“With your right hand, you save me”.

 What David is literally referring to here is unknown but we can refer to many times in David’s life that he was saved by God’s intervention in his life in various ways. Spiritually David was saved from the consequences of his sins of adultery and murder in his sinful affair with the married women Bathsheba. After David confesses his great sins and throws himself at the mercy or undeserved love of God. David confesses to God with words like we read in Psalm 51: 1 – 2,

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin”.

God heard the penitent cry of his lowly servant and forgave David so the mighty outstretched right hand of God is not only powerful but is a loving hand.

In the New Testament Jesus comes from the right hand of God to be our saviour and Lord and after he died on the cross and rose from the dead he ascended back into heaven to sit again at the right hand of God.

Paul picks up the importance of Christ seated at God’s right hand in Colossians 3: 1 – 3 and tells us how this should influence our daily lives,

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God”.

 So, we have been saved by the loving and powerful right hand of God through Christ who came from the right hand of God and who now sits on a throne at the right hand of God so that we can go to him in prayer at any time for protection and salvation as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 4: 14 – 16,

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

 This is yet another reason why we should praise the love of God with all our hearts and Isaac Watts speaks of being lowly and humble servants of God who trust in the death of Christ for our sins alone to save us in his second verse of his famous hymn “When I survey the Wondrous Cross”,

“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood”. 

      4   (vs. 8)   GOD’S LOVE IS OURS FOREVER

 David’s renewed confidence in the love and faithfulness of God continues to show itself in the last verse of this Psalm as he writes,

“The Lord will vindicate me: your love, Lord endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands”.

 Albert Barnes believes the word “vindicate” is speaking of God’s perfecting or completing of David’s salvation and he writes,

“He will complete what he has begun. He will not begin to interpose in my behalf, and then abandon me. He will not promise to save me, and then fail to fulfil his promise. He will not encourage me, and then cast me off”.

 Albert Barnes like a number of commentators then refer to the words of Paul in Philippians 1: 6,

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ”.

 Some Christians shy away from the doctrine or teaching in the New Testament of the assurance of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ because maybe they know sadly fellow Christians who seemed to have fallen away from the faith.

My experience of the Christian faith is that if the bible did not teach the assurance of our faith I would have long ago fallen away from the Lord as in my late teenage years it looked like I had fallen away from God and his good work in me that had started in my early teenage years and looked like it was not going on to completion.

However, God continued to work in my life both internally with a heavily convicted conscience and externally with a dear older sister in the Lord never giving me up and encouraging me to come back to the Lord and his church.

When I did come back I needed intensive Christian counselling and encouragement and I remember with great affection the words of Jesus in John 10: 27 – 29,

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand”.

 Our assurance like David’s assurance is not based in what we have done or not done but it is based as David declares in verse 8 in God’s never- ending amazing love,

“Your love, Lord endures forever”

Someone told me when I was coming back to the Lord after three years of turning my back on him that, “If God no longer feels close to you guess who moved”. God’s love never gives up on us as his love unlike ours is both reliable and eternal.

Finally, David makes what seems at first a surprising word of prayer. It is surprising because he has just stated clearly that God’ love will never give up on him and that is why he believes that the Lord will vindicate or bring his salvation to completion and then he prays,

“Do not abandon the work of your hands”

 This conundrum is answered well by the great C.H. Spurgeon he says this,

“Our confidence does not cause us to live without prayer, but encourages us to pray all the more”.

 We need to seek God’s help daily to grow and keep moving towards what Paul calls in some English translations of Philippians 3: 14, “The upward call of God” or as the NIV translation puts it,

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.

 In a couple of verses before this Paul speaks of how he and I believe all Christians must look to God for help and assistance to press on in the Christian life,

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”.

 So, we too should pray daily the kind of prayer David prayed at the end of Psalm 138,

“Do not abandon the work of your hands”

 Like Paul we can have confidence in the enduring and amazing love of God to always answer this prayer and any of our prayers.

The last verses I will quote in this Psalm talk is 1 John 15 – 17, which sum up God and his wondrous love for us and which also tells us how we can come to know this love and why God’s love gives us confidence in him to complete the work of his hands in us,

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus”.

 The last verse I will quote of Isaac Watts famous hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is the first verse,

“When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride”.

 Our response to this should be the same as David, praise the love of God with all our heart.

I finish with my original poem and prayer as usual. This poem can be sung to the tune of, “There is a Ship” my favourite tune to sing Isaac Watts famous hymn “When I survey the Wondrous Cross”.

 PRAISE THE LOVE OF GOD

(PSALM 138 and the tune “There is a ship”

 

I’ll praise you Lord with all my heart

I’ll praise you Lord the only God above.

I’ll bow my head and praise your name

Because I know your unfailing love.

 

You gave your word that declares your love

A word that’s great for it exalts your name

You answered my prayer when I was down

So, in your love I will remain.

 

May all earths kings praise you Lord

When they have heard what you have done

For they will sing how great you are

When they realise your kingdoms come.

 

Though the Lord is great he looks down on us

Though he is high he helps all who trust

Although I sometimes walk a troubled way

The Lord helps me walk his way each day.

 

 

The Lord’s right hand protects me now

His love saves me every day and hour

So, I do ask the God above

To continue to work in me his love.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 

Thank you, father, in heaven for your great love for us revealed in the wondrous cross of your one and only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. May your love be the source of not only our salvation but our praise and thanks to you. May we from all our soul, life and our all ever praise you for your love shown in the way we serve you and each other day by day until we one day we will go to be with you in heaven for all eternity. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

PSALM 137 TALK:   LOOKING BACK TO ZION / LOOKING FORWARD TO HEAVEN

PSALM 137 TALK:   LOOKING BACK TO ZION / LOOKING FORWARD TO HEAVEN

 (A Psalm that is an ancient Hebrew song written during or just after the Jews went into a 70-year captivity in Babylon that speaks of the great sorrow and sadness felt by the captive Jews as they look back to their ruined capitol city and their forced separation from God’s special presence in Zion. The song features the captive Jews un- willingness to sing about Zion and to not forget about it and the city of Jerusalem. It also cntains the desire for God to judge the merciless and wicked nations of Edom and Babylon for their cruel attack on God and his special people – Israel).

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

INTRODUCTION

Just after I completed my three- year Bible College training I decided to read carefully the next most read book of all time to the bible, John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim Progress”. Bunyan lived between 1628 – 1688 and he was a Reformed Baptist lay preacher who suffered 12 years imprisonment because he refused to conform to the King of England’s law to use only the Book of common prayer in worship services. I decided to read this book because I felt as a Christian minister – actually Youth Worker I could not feel equipped unto I had read the book that has been called,

“The greatest allegory ever written” (gotQuestion.org)

 After I read the original version of this book I read a modern English version and the book had a wonderful effect on me and particularly on my understanding of the Christian life.

The central character of the book is a man named “Christian” who at the start of the book carries a great burden on his back which rolls off his back when he comes to the cross. He then is given gifts to aid him on his long and often difficult journey to what Bunyan calls “The Celestial City”.

On his long journey, he encounters opposition from a variety of sources like, Mr Worldly Wise, Obstinate, Atheist, Money – Love, Mistrust, Formalist, Sloth, Discretion etc. All of these opponents represent the kind of problems and difficulties and even enemies we all face as Christians as we journey towards heaven.

However as got Question. Org says,

“Christian experiences times of mortal danger, refreshment and blessing”.

 Psalm 137 is a Psalm that presents God’s people experiencing very difficult times caused by their many great sins bringing upon them God’s judgment in the form of a cruel and devastating overrunning and destruction of their homeland and particularly their precious city of Jerusalem and the loss of the Temple that sat there on the special hill called Zion. To make things even worse most of the people were forcefully taken into exile in far off Babylon for 70 years.

This Psalm seems to have beeen sung originally in Babylon as the writer and his fellow Jews sat on the shores of one of the great rivers of Babylon. There they had laid down their musical instruments and as they did they were asked by their cruel captives to play and sing one of the now famous songs of Zion.

The Psalm writer says they could not sing of the place they had been taken away from and then he vows to not forget Jerusalem.

He especially vows to not forget the special place of God’s presence on earth called Zion. We will learn that the goal of the Babylonians in taking people into exile was for the captive people to forget their national identity and assimilate into Babylonian mind set and way of living and worshipping.

The writer finishes with a prayer that God would judge his enemies as particularly the Prophets like Isaiah (Isaiah 13) foretells particularly verse 13 of Isaiah 13 that speaks of what I will call “Destruction of off- spring” that would mean the end of any succeeding Babylonian generations. I will discuss much further the New Testament implications of what many see as a tricky verse namely verse 9 and its desire for infants to be dashed against rocks.

How does Psalm 137 relate to us a Christians?

I will argue and pinpoint the “Pilgrim Progress” type application of this Psalm in that the New Testament does not present the Christian life as a “Rose Garden” or a life that means God will wrap us up in some kind of Spiritual cotton wool. On the contrary, I will follow and apply Paul’s view of suffering or difficulty in the Christian life that he states clearly in Romans 5: 1 – 5,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And weboast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but wealso 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”.

 Christian in Pilgrims Progress encountered problems, difficulties and many enemies as he journeyed to the Celestial City – Heaven but with God’s help and by never taking his eye off the ultimate journeys destination he triumphed and eventually crossed over the great river – death to be welcomed with great wonderful fanfare into his eternal home.

In Psalm 137 the Jews looked back to Jerusalem and particularly Zion and vowed not to forget that special place of God’s presence. As Christian’s we look back to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ who made it possible through his death on the cross for our sins to look forward to the ultimate place of God’s special presence the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Zion our eternal home with God forever.

With this in mind my outline for this Psalm talk is:

  1. (1 – 3)   LOOKING BACK WITH TEARS TO ZION
  1. (vs. 1) By the rivers of Babylon we wept
  2. (2 – 3) We could not sing of Zion

      2    (4 – 6)   LOOKING BACK TO ZION NOT FORGETTING GOD

  1. (vs. 4) How can we sing in a foreign land
  2. (5 – 5) Curse me if I forget God

      3    (7 – 9)    LOOKING FORWARD TO GOD’S JUDGMENT DAY

  1. (vs. 7) Looking forward to Edom’s day of Judgment
  2. (8 – 9) Looking forward to Babylon’s day of Judgment
  1. (1 – 3) LOOKING BACK WITH TEARS TO ZION
  1. (vs. 1) By the rivers of Babylon we wept

 When I started my study of this Psalm I remembered that one of my favourite singer song writers of the 1970’s Don Mclean wrote a short song based on the first verse of this Psalm and that song has not got out of my head for the last week or so, the first verses of Psalm 137 says,

“By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion”.

 Don Mclean’s lyric reads like this:

“By the waters, the waters, the waters of Babylon

We lay down and wept, and wept, and wept, for thee Zion”.

 These simple striking words accompanied by Don Mclean’s haunting melody fills me with something of the kind of feeling of dread and sadness that those ancient Jews must have felt when they were cruelly and forcibly removed from their beloved homeland which they saw destroyed by their enemy The Babylonians and then they were made to settle in far off foreign land called Babylon.

As they sat down, probably for prayer and worship next to one of the many waterways of either the Tigris or Euphrates rivers they wept as they remembered where they had come from their treasured homeland and particularly the place their God dwelt in a special way on the Temple hill called Zion.

They gathered by the river because as Jews that was a place that at least some of their religious ceremonies could be conducted as H.C. Leopold points out,

“The presence of water facilitated the ceremonial ablutions which were also a mark of the Hebrew religion”

 It seems Paul could not find a Synagogue in Philippi so we read in Acts 16: 13 how Paul found some Jews gathered together for prayer,

“On the Sabbath, we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there”.

 The Jews who gathered by the river in Babylon did not do much prayer according to verse 1 of Psalm 137 as they were so overcome with grief they mainly wept as they remembered Zion.

According to the New Testament do Christians some- times have to suffer so much they are caused to cry?

My answer to this brings us to the shortest verse in the bible John 11: 35,

“Jesus wept”

 Why did Jesus weep or cry?

Jesus was emotionally effected by the outpouring of grief and loss by the family and friends of his good friend Lazarus even though he knew he would raise him from the dead he still wept in the company of the mourners outside the grave of Lazarus.

Jesus is also recorded as weeping or crying as he approached Jerusalem for the final time in his life in Luke 19: 41,

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it”

 Why did he weep when he saw Jerusalem?

Well verses 42 – 44 answer that,

  42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

 If Jesus wept then it is sure we his followers will have times when our Christian life will lead us into a time of weeping and emotional pain.

I witnessed the death of my dear father nearly twelve years ago and for two days I simply was in a state of shock but as I travelled as a passenger in a car a piece of music playing at that time made me think of my Father and caused me to burst into uncontrollable weeping and when the car was stopped I was physically sick on the side of the road.

Even Christians will face grief when they lose a love one in this life and Jesus weeping outside of the grave of Lazarus tells us this is something that is both normal and even necessary.

So, the Christian life can and does lead us into problems and difficulties that might even cause us to weep or cry but as Christians Jesus does promise to be with us and with his help we can experience what David speaks of in Psalm 30: 11,

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy”.

 Jesus knows that we are like Christian in Pilgrims progress carrying many burdens but through his death on the cross he can offer these wonderful words of promise and help in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 The Jews in Babylon as they sat by one of the great rivers of Babylon wept as they looked back and remembered the special place of God’s presence on earth, Zion. We can look forward to a day that is coming for all who have faith in The Lord Jesus Christ when we will be fully in God’s presence in the heavenly Zion that Revelation 21: 3 – 4 speaks of this way,

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. 

They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

  1. (2 – 3) We could not sing of Zion

 It seems from the text of Psalm 137 that the ancient Hebrews who gathered probably for prayer and worship by one of the great waterways in Babylon were Levite musicians.

This is because in verses 2 and 3 the writer speaks of their musical instruments and singing which in the ancient Hebrew Temple worship services was led by Levitical musicians. As we see David set up in 1 Chronicles 15: 16,

 “David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals”.

 Note how this verse says that these musical instruments which includes harps were to make a joyful sound but in Babylon as captives far away from the now destroyed Temple in Jerusalem these Levitical musicians could not play joyful music and verses 2 and 3 tells us what they did and why they could not play and sing the music they lived to play and sing,

“There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion”.

 Joy was far from their hearts as we saw in verse 1, they were weeping or crying as they remembered Zion so far away and now in a terrible state of ruin. So, they hung their harps on Poplar trees that many commentators point out is similar to what we call weeping willow trees that grow close to water ways throughout many parts of the world even today.

Verse 3 tells us that some of their Babylonian overlords teased and goaded these Levite musicians and singers to sing one of their now famous joyful songs of Zion. This request would have added to the pain they felt and even in the face of what would have been intimidating circumstances they simply could not sing joyful songs of Zion.

I decided to try and write more verses to Don Mclean’s Babylon and my verses for these two verses is,

“Sing us a song of Zion our enemies called upon

How could we sing a song in a foreign land far from Zion?

We remember, we remember, we remember thee Zion”.

 Spurgeon pin- points the cruel nature of the request of their captors and indeed tormentors with these words,

“In this demand, there was an insult to their God as well as a mockery of themselves, and this made it the more intensely cruel. Nothing could have been more malicious, nothing more productive of grief”.

 Like Christian in Pilgrims Progress we also face ridicule and mockery from our enemies who despise our faith in God and in my country Australia the main difficulty we face as faithful Christians is in the form of social and emotional pressure. Many times, have I been made the object of peoples jokes as they see my faith in God as an odd and sometimes dangerous viewpoint that has long been disproved as myth and legend.

I take heart from two bible verses from the writings of Paul and the first is Paul’s advice to Timothy about persecution in 2 Timothy 3: 12,

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.

Then Pauls way of dealing with the persecution he faced in his day in 2 Corinthians 12: 10,

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

 When we face our tormentors, we need to trust as Paul did in Christ and he will help us not only to face the pain these people might cause us but even use their ridicule as an opportunity to show them that our God is real and is with us.

I like Paul’s advice to the Philippians in Philippians 2: 14 – 18 on how we should act in the presence of unbelievers,

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me”. 

      2    (4 – 6)   LOOKING BACK TO ZION NOT FORGETTING GOD

  1. (vs. 4) How can we sing in a foreign land

 The ancient Hebrews in Babylon had little to rejoice in but at least they could remember Zion or look back to Zion the place they knew their God had made himself known to them and ultimately to the world.

However, in their God ordained place of discipline, exile in Babylon, they could not sing joyful songs of the Lord as expressed by the question they asked in verse 4,

“How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”

 When we are in the midst of some kind of painful trial it is hard for us to rejoice in the Lord or give him thanks as Paul calls us to do in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

 This was made clear to me recently when I was recovering from a major operation on one of my kidneys. As I came out of surgery I was very sick and in a lot of pain and I remember thinking about how I could possibly be thanking God in such a state. However, I hung in on trusting the Lord in my difficult days of recovery and within a few days my health improved and apart from one week of an uncomfortable set back after my operation I believe God brought me through my physical trial.

This recent experience made me realise what Paul was saying at the end of the verse I quoted earlier, 2 Corinthians 12: 10,

“For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

 By being made so low in my physical state I had to look to God and he helped me in my weakness to become strong again.

Maybe the answer to the question posed by those ancient Hebrews of,

“How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”

Lies in what they were doing in this Psalm by looking to God in the midst of their trial as David did in Psalm 30: 11 – 12 and in that finding the ability to sing in their hearts as God turned their wailing to dancing and their sackcloth to clothes of joy,

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praise and not be silent. Lord my God I will praise you forever”. 

  1. (5 – 5) Curse me if I forget God

 For now, there is no sign of joy in the heart of the writer of Psalm 137 but there is a steely resolve to not forget Jerusalem and of course the Lord. So, the faith of these downcast weeping Levite singers and musicians is still fixed on the God of the bible despite their terrible life situation.

Leopold calls verses 5 and 6 a,

“self-imprecation”

 An imprecation is a prayer for God’s judgement to come on one’s enemies as the last three verses are in this Psalm but a “self-imprecation” is a prayer for God’s judgment to come on the person praying if their terrible situation in Babylon causes them to turn away from the Lord and the place of his special presence on earth Zion in Jerusalem,

“If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy”.

 The curse the writer calls down on himself if he turns away from the Lord and his special place of his presence on earth Zion in Jerusalem is to do with the special gifts of music he had been given by God, namely his ability to play the harp and the ability to sing.

I can relate to the loosing of the ability to play an instrument as I have played the Ukulele for 49 years now and recently I was diagnosed with the first stages of Osteoarthritisin my hands and for a time this year I could not play the instrument I love to play without lots of pain. I have been trying to do some exercises and taking some pain medications which have helped me to be able to play again. However, the loosing of the ability to play for while caused me great stress and anxiety.

I have learnt to turn my anxiety into prayer as Paul teaches us in Philippians 4: 6 but the experience of going through this has helped me see what losing the ability to play an instrument after being able to do it could be like.

This gifted Levite harp player is saying that if he turns away from his commitment to the Lord and his Holy City of Jerusalem then God should take his wonderful gift of music away from him.

In verse 6 he extends this curse on himself to his ability to sing and Leupold rightly calls what he asks for,

“Paralysis of the vocal chords”

 I too have the gift of singing and to lose that as well I would find devastating. So, this Levite singer is determined not to fall to why the Babylonians took people into exile namely the reorientation of their captives to their way of thinking, living and worshipping.

A paper by a man named Obvious Vengeyi called “An Analysis of Babylonian / Empire Strategies from an African perspective” says this,

“All empires: ancient and modern (represented by Babylonian) were keen on disturbing the human factor qualities of the conquered peoples. They did so and continue to do so by imposing and promoting their cultures, languages, diets, world views and philosophies on conquered people. Using the theory of social death as propounded by Orlando Patterson (1982)”.

However, the determination shown by the writer of Psalm 137 as seen in verses 5 and 6 and most of his fellow Jewish captured countrymen did not allow for the Jewish faith and culture to die out or be assimilated into Babylonian culture and religious belief. In- fact the Jewish faith blossomed and got stronger during the 70 years of Babylonian captivity as seen by the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that record the successful return of the Jews to their God given homeland and the re-building of Jerusalem and the Temple there.

This is a lesson to us as Christians as well as we need to keep hold of our faith in The Lord Jesus Christ even in the face of adversity and strife. I have seen close friends of mine fall away from the faith when difficult times came their way.

Also, I equally know other close friends whose faith has been strengthened in the face of difficulty and strife as they looked to God and proved his never- failing help and support in their times of trial and difficulty.

We must realise like this ancient Levite realised that our highest place of joy is the Lord and his promise of heaven or as Christian in Pilgrim Progress put it our promised Celestial City. As a possible contemporary of this Levite, Nehemiah said in Nehemiah 8: 10,

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Peter advises his readers now suffering persecution from the anti-Christian Roman authorities in 1 Peter 4: 12 – 13,

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed”.

 And Pauls says something similar to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 4: 16 – 18.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.

 My extra verse to Don Mclean’s Babylon that covers these verses reads this way,

“If I forget you Jerusalem may I not be able to sing a song

May my tongue be stuck to the roof of my mouth so I cannot sing a song

We remember, we remember, we remember thee Zion.”

      3    (7 – 9)    LOOKING FORWARD TO GOD’S JUDGMENT DAY 

  1. (vs. 7) Looking forward to Edom’s day of Judgment

We come then to what many see as the tricky part of Psalm 137 the last three verses which are what is called an imprecatory prayer a prayer for God’s judgement to come on one’s enemies.

I have spoken about these kinds of prayers many times in my Psalm talks because it is in the book of Psalms that these types of prayers are prominent. The first time I came across an example of this type of prayer was in Psalm 5: 10 a Psalm of David and I have quoted myself below to explain my New Testament understanding of this type of prayer,

“There are many examples of imprecation in the Psalms and these Psalms are often called Imprecatory Psalms.

This raises the issue in my mind of whether we should pray that God will deal with his enemies the same way today. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for them, Luke 6 : 27 – 29,

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic”.

 However, we also know from the teaching of Christ and the rest of the New Testament that God has appointed a day that all men will be judged, Acts 17: 31,

 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

This means that when we read David praying for God to deal with his enemies like he does here in Psalm 5 verse 10, who are also God’s enemies we should think of this in the context of the final judgment to come. Martin Luther pointed out that when we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom come”, we are praying for God’s Day of Judgment to come as well”.

So, we have in verses 7 – 9 another example of an imprecatory prayer a prayer for God’s judgement to come on one’s enemies.

The first prayer for God’s judgment to come on an enemy is for God’s judgment to come on the Edomite’s,

“Remember, Lord what the Edomite’s did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down, they cried, ‘tear it down to its foundations”.

 It is clear from a number of Old Testament references that Edom was somehow involved in the destruction of Jerusalem along with the Babylonians. We see this in a reference like Amos 1: 11,

“This is what the Lord says:“For three sins of Edom,even for four, I will not relent.
Because he pursued his brother with a sword and slaughtered the women of the land,
because his anger raged continuallyand his fury flamed unchecked”.

 Obadiah 8 – 16 speaks of God’s judgment coming on Edom for their involvement in the destruction of Jerusalem just as verse 7 of this verse does as well,

“In that day,” declares the Lord, “will I not destroy the wise men of Edom, those of understanding in the mountains of Esau?Your warriors, Teman, will be terrified, and everyone in Esau’s mountains will be cut down in the slaughter.10 Because of the

violence against your brother Jacob,you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever.11 On the day you stood aloofwhile strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.
12 You should not gloat over your brother in the day of his misfortune,nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction,nor boast so muchin the day of their trouble.
13 You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster,nor gloat over them in their calamity in the day of their disaster,nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster.14 You should not wait at the crossroad to cut down their fugitives,nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble.15 “The day of the Lord is near for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;your deeds will return upon your own head.
16 Just as you drank on my holy hill, so all the nations will drink continually;they will drink and drink and be as if they had never been”.

 There are other mentions of the judgment of God coming upon Edom in the Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel 25: 12ff, 35: 2 and Isaiah 34: 5ff. Wikipedia says this about Edom’s involvement in the fall and destruction of Jerusalem,

“In the time of Nebuchadnezzar II the Edomite’s helped plunder Jerusalem and slaughter the Judeans.For this reason, the prophets denounced Edom violently”.

 Albert Barnes connects the remembering of Jerusalem and Zion with the evil deeds of the Edomite’s with these words,

“They would remember her (Jerusalem) former splendour; they would remember her desolations; they would go further – they would not forget those who had brought these calamities upon her; those who had done most for her overthrow. As among the most prominent, they would remember particularly the ancient; enemies of their nation – the Edomite’s – who had been among the most active in its destruction, and who had united with the Babylonians in the work of ruin. They would remember all this; and they prayed God that he also would remember the desolation itself, and all the actors in that work of desolation”.

 My extra verse to Don Mclean’s Babylon goes like this,

“Jerusalem is my place of joy unto my enemies seized upon

Remember Lord those Edomite’s and others who attacked Zion

We remember, we remember, we remember thee Zion”.

 What does verse 7 then have to say to us as Christians or followers of Christ our Lord?

I will quote directly now from Stephen J Coles excellent exposition of this Psalm as my answer to this important question, he writes,

“His prayer was not, “Give me an opportunity to get even with those scoundrels!” Rather it was, “Lord, you avenge the evil done to your people.” That is a significant difference. We see this difference in practice when we compare David’s imprecatory psalms with his personal actions. He often prayed that God would take action against his enemies. His passion for justice often caused him to be outraged when he heard of injustice and evil (2 Sam. 3:26-39; 4:1-12; 12:1-5). But when he had a chance to kill his personal enemies, such as Saul, he refused to do it.

 The imprecatory psalms are not rooted in a spirit of personal vengeance, but rather in a passionate desire for God to vindicate His people by judging the wicked.

 It is the same kind of righteous anger that would cause us to pray that a murderer or child molester be brought to justice”.

 I will add that Jesus gives us an even higher and more powerful way of praying for and dealing with our enemies and I will quote again Jesus words in Luke 6: 27 – 29 to illustrate this,

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.”

 The idea in the New Testament is that we are all enemies of God as unforgiven sinners before we come to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith and so we are wonderful recipients of his love called grace in the New Testament which is the unmerited love of God.

This grace of God then should be our main drive in life even influencing how we treat our enemies and it will be the grace of God that will change this world for the better even for those who oppose us and the God we now trust in.

  1. (8 – 9) Looking forward to Babylon’s day of Judgment

We come finally to the Psalmists words of imprecatory prayer for who he calls in verse 3, captors and tormentors the Babylonians. These last two verses and particularly the last verse is a very controversial part of this Psalm.

These two verses read this way,

“Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks”.

In understanding these two verses we must understand three key factors:

  1. This prayer for God to judge the Jews Babylonian enemies comes from God’s Prophetic word about their judgment to come.
  2. 2. The Babylonians were ruthless, Godless and very cruel conquerors.
  3. The prayer is a request for God to repay the Babylonians for what they did to them.

Let me comment on each of these three key factors relating them to these two verses.

  1. This prayer for God to judge the Jews Babylonian enemies comes from God’s

Prophetic word about their judgment to come.

Isaiah speaks of God’s judgment on Babylon in both chapter 13 and 21 of his prophecy and a good verse that illustrates God’s judgment of Babylon in Isaiah 13: 9,

“See, the day of the Lord is coming – a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger – to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it”.

 Isaiah like a number of prophets even picks up the terrible prophecy of the destruction of infants in Isaiah 13: 16,

“Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives violated”.

 This killing of infants and violation of captured women was very common practice in the ancient world and was of course practiced ruthlessly by the Assyrians and Babylonians who both faced the judgment of God for their terrible sins against humanity.

  1. The Babylonians were ruthless, Godless and very cruel conquerors.

As I have just proposed the Babylonians like the Assyrians before them practiced a barbaric and cruel form of conquest and good description of the cruel conquest tactics of Assyrian and later Babylonians is in 2 Kings 8: 12,

“Why is my lord weeping?” asked Hazael.

 “Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,” he answered. “You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.”

 The title of “Daughter Babylon” in verse 8 Leupold says is,

“A collective personification of all her (Babylon’s) inhabitants”

 This means all of Babylon, men, women and children were implicit in their nations sins and cruelty and therefore under God’s Judgment as Isaiah predicts for Babylon in Isaiah 13: 11,

“I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins, I will put an end to the arrogance of the Haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless”.

  1. The prayer is a request for God to repay the Babylonians for what they did to them.

I wont to highlight finally the key words of this imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on God’s enemies in verse 8,

“Happy is the one who repays you (Babylon) according to what you have done to us”.

 Albert Barnes fleshes out both the meaning here and how God’s retribution was paid out on Babylon with these words,

“The idea is, who shall repay thee for thy treatment of us; or, as we should say in common language, “Who shall pay thee back?” That is, he will be esteemed a fortunate man who is made the instrument of inflicting deserved punishment on a city so guilty and so cruel. He will acquire fame and honour by doing it; his name will be made known abroad and perpetuated among people. In fact, the name of Cyrus, who conquered Babylon, is among the names of the most celebrated of conquerors; and the manner in which he took Babylon and overthrew the government and kingdom, has given him a most eminent place among successful princes and conquerors”.

To put it simply Babylon got what it deserved and even the terrible plight of the cruel and ruthless killing of their infants was only a pay- back for what they did to not only Israel but many other nations they over – ran as well.

How then do we as Christians interpret verse 9 of this Psalm and its statement about the horrible death of children?

I have come up with again three possible answers to this important question:

  1. God will judge sin and sinners
  2. Jesus loves children and wants them to come to him
  3. God’s love or grace leads us to love our enemies

Let me explain each of these three possible answers to the Christian interpretation of verse 9 of this Psalm.

  1. God will judge sin and sinners

All through the bible great warnings appear of a day of Judgment to come where God will not only judge sin but do away with it as well forever. Paul makes this clear in Athens when speaking to the top thinkers and philosophers of his day, Acts 17: 31,

“For he (God) has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead”.

 Jeremiah like many Old Testament prophets and New Testament prophecies speak of our sins or deeds being punished as he says in Jeremiah 21: 14,

“I will punish you as your deeds deserve, declares the Lord”.

 This is what the phrase in Psalm 137 verse 8 means when it says,

“according to what you have done to us”

 However, I want you to note that we are both not to judge or carry out in any way God’s judgment as some extreme Muslim followers do as Jesus says in Matthew 7: 1 – 5,

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”.

 This is also seen in Psalm 137 as the writer of that Psalm is not advocating he or other Israelites carry out God’s judgment but is speaking, I think of the ones God was going to ordain or use as his agents of judgment and of course in the case of the ancient Babylonians who conquered and destroyed Jerusalem this act of judgment was carried out by the Persians under the leadership of Cyrus.

  1. Jesus loves children and wants them to come to him

The last verse of Psalm 137 does raise in some modern people’s minds the question of does God judge innocent children?

When I have been asked this question in years past I have spoken about two key facts that the New Testament particularly gives us.

The first is that the God of the bible is the divine judge of everyone and is both a just and loving God.

I cannot speak on his behalf to say what he will do with very young children on the day of judgment but I can say that they like everyone will be in the hands of a just and loving God.

The second New Testament fact about God’s actual attitude to children is Jesus expressed attitude and even commands concerning children. We find this in a passage like Matthew 19: 13 – 15,

“Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there”.

 Jesus love for children is also expressed in Mark 9: 42 – 49 as something he feels strong about even in this life,

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. [44]  45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. [46] (47) And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell”.

So, when asked about the fate of children in the day of judgment I point to the clear stated attitude of The Lord Jesus to little children and say again they like all of us will face a just and loving God on that great day of judgment.

The ultimate answer to anyone facing judgment is the message of the Gospel which we should preach and teach people of all ages that is expressed so well in that famous verse John 3: 16,

“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”.

  1. God’s love or grace leads us to love our enemies

My final word on these last two verses of Psalm 137 is to state again that imprecatory prayer a prayer for God’s judgement to come on one’s enemies are not encouraged in the New Testament owing to Jesus words in the Gospels like Luke 6: 27 – 29,

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back”.

 This advice of Jesus is because we are to treat our enemies as God treats us as we without the grace or undeserved love of God deserve his judgment for our sins. In another place in the Gospels, Matthew 5: 43 – 48, Jesus speaks of loving our enemies particularly those who persecute us and speaks of doing this as children of his Father in heaven who loves us,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

 Finally, Paul makes it clear to the Corinthians that we are constrained, controlled or compelled by the love of God expressed by Jesus death on the cross for our sins in 2 Corinthians 5: 14 – 15,

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again”.

 My verse for extra verses for Don Mclean’s Babylon song for these last two goes like this,

“Remember Lord Babylon and repay it Lord for what it’s done

It lay siege to Jerusalem and attacked your Zion

We remember, we remember, we remember thee Zion.

 CONCLUSION

 Psalm 137 is both a beautiful Old Testament song and encouraging word from God about not giving up or turning away from God and his heaven when life’s troubles and difficulties might come upon us just as we read in the famous Christian allegory called, Pilgrim’s Progress.

I know that some people turn away from God and blame him for their problems and difficulties when they face them. Others I know find God’s help and assistance in the midst of their problems and difficulties and their faith is deepened and grows through that experience.

Will you not forget Zion when you are caused to weep in a Babylonian type place in your life?

Interestingly I did some study on the bibles significance of the Babylonian Empire and the best thing I read on this was the conclusion “Gotquestion.org” said on this and I will quote it directly now for your edification,

“In the Bible, Babylon is mentioned from Genesis to Revelation, as it rises from its rebellious beginnings to become a symbol of the Antichrist’s evil world system. When God’s people required discipline, God used the Babylonian Empire to accomplish it, but He limited Judah’s captivity to 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11). Then, God promised to “punish the king of Babylon and his nation” (Jeremiah 25:12) “for all the wrong they have done in Zion” (Jeremiah 51:24). Ultimately, all evil will be judged, as symbolized by Babylon’s demise in Revelation 18:21: “The great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.”

 My last verse of Don Mclean’s “Babylon” song extended to five more verses reflects Revelations 18: 21 prophecy of the demise of Babylonian ant – God world system and attitude when Christ returns,

“One day the Lord will destroy the forces of Babylon

The Lord Jesus will come, will come and establish Zion

We look forward, we look forward, we look forward to Zion”.

 I close with the full Don Mclean extended song of Babylon and a final word of prayer,

BABYLON

(Based on Psalm 137 and Don Maclean’s Babylon)

By the waters, the waters of Babylon

We lay down and wept, and wept, for thee Zion,

We remember we, remember we, remember thee Zion.

 

Sing us a song of Zion our enemies called upon

How could we sing a song in a foreign land far from Zion?

We remember we, remember we, remember thee Zion.

 

If I forget you Jerusalem may I not be able to sing a song

May my tongue be stuck to the roof of my mouth so I cannot sing a song.

For we remember we, remember we, remember thee Zion.

 

Jerusalem is my place of joy unto my enemies seized upon

Remember Lord those Edomite’s and others who attacked Zion

We remember we, remember we, remember thee Zion.

 

Remember Lord Babylon and repay it Lord for what it’s done

It lay siege to Jerusalem and attacked your Zion

We remember, we remember, we remember thee Zion.

 

One day the Lord will destroy the evil forces of Babylon

The Jesus will come, will come and establish Zion

We look forward, we look forward, we look forward to Zion.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven I pray for your help to keep my eyes fixed on you and your wonderful promise of eternal life with you in heaven even in the dark and difficult times in my life. Help me to always remember your Son who died for my sins on the cross and made a way for me to travel in this life to heaven above. Thank you, Jesus, that you promise to always be with me helping me to carry my load and guide me through to the joy of knowing you now and for ever more. In Jesus name I pray this, Amen

PSALM 136 TALK: THE GOD OF ENDURING LOVE

PSALM 136 TALK:  THE GOD OF ENDURING LOVE

(A Psalm or ancient Hebrew worship song or hymn that appears to be an Old Testament form of liturgy in that one group or person makes a statement and another group of people respond with a continual refrain that thanks God for being a God of enduring love).

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

INTRODUCTION

I have read of many stories of people lost in the darkness of sin and despair turning in prayer to God for help and finding a God who loves them despite the wretched state of their lives. In this Psalm talk I will refer to the famous conversion story of the 18th century former slave trader who became an Anglican church minister whose name is John Newton.

I love John Newton’s story for a number of reasons and one is the hymn he later composed when he was the minister in a church in a small English village called Olney. The hymn is of course “Amazing Grace” in which Newton calls himself a wretch.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

The book of Psalms contains Psalms that are obviously designed as congregational corporate prayers and hymns designed to be read or sung Antiphonally or in a responsive manner. Psalm 136 is an excellent example of such a Psalm. It has the first part of a verse that is a reason to thank God for something specific followed by a set refrain that says,

“His love endures forever”

This specific response in this Psalm speaks of the kind of love John Newton discovered when he called out to God in the midst of a terrifying storm. He prayed something like God if you are really there to save me. The God of the bible is there and wants to save all sinners who turn to him and his Amazing enduring love.

Interestingly this congregational response in an act of worship recorded three times in the history of Israel, God’s ancient chosen people. The first is during the time of dedication of the Temple during the reign of King Solomon recorded in 2 Chronicles 7: verses 3 and 7 in the 10th century B.C.

Two hundred years later in the reign of King Jehoshaphat in the southern Kingdom of Judah we have another record of this refrain,

“His love endures forever”

This time it is part of the song Jehoshaphat appointed singers to sing as they led the army of Judah into battle agains the combined attacking armies of Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites. That day God fought ahead of this army and these attacking armies were routed and turned away from Jerusalem.

Then around four hundred years later we find this same refrain sung again and this time the refrain is sung at the celebration of the laying of the foundation stone of the re-building of the Temple in Jerusalem recorded in Ezra 3: 11.

So, God’s enduring undeserved love is celebrated at least three times over a 600-year period and it seems that around the time of Ezra this well -known congregational response to acts of God’s goodness and love became the Psalm we now call, Psalm 136.

It is believed that the first part of each verse of this Psalm was spoken or sung by a priest in the Old Testament Temple and the refrain was said or sung by the entire congregation present at that worship service. This makes Psalm 136 not only unique but I believe a powerful statement of the central theme of the entire bible, namely the enduring love of the God of the bible.

Only the Jewish – Christian religion presents their God as a God of enduring love and for the Christian the central message of God’s enduring love is summed up in one famous verse, John 3: 16,

“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”.

It has been said that only the Christian faith and message is not based on what we do for God to get into his favour but is simple based on what God has done for us. The fact both the Old and New Testaments presents the God of heaven and earth as a loving saving God and Psalm 136 does this not only in its refrain but in all it says from its beginning to its end.

Psalm 136 calls on us to constantly and regularly thank God for his powerful saving enduring love. Paul made it clear to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18 to praise and give thanks to God always and that this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus,

“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

With the enduring love of God and the call to give thanks to God in all circumstances in mind my outline for this Psalm talk is:

1. (1 – 3) THANK GOD FOR HIS GOODNESS

1. (vs. 1) The God of goodness and love
2. (2 – 3) The God of God’s

2 (4 – 7) THANK GOD FOR HIS CREATIVE POWERS

1. (4 – 5) The creative wise God
2. (6 – 9) The God who made the world

3 (10 – 15) THANK GOD FOR HIS REDEMPTION

1. (10 – 12) The God who saved Israel out of slavery
2. (13 – 15) The God who saved Israel but judged Egypt

4 (vs. 16) THANK GOD FOR HIS GUIDANCE

5. (17 – 22) THANK GOD FOR FIGHTING FOR US

1. (17 – 20) The God who fought off two kings
2. (21 – 22) The God who gave Israel its inheritance

6. (23 – 26) THANK GOD FOR LOOKING AFTER US

1. (23 – 25) The God who helps us and provides for us
2. (vs. 26) Thank the great God of Heaven

Let’s then have a close look at this Psalm with theses headings:

1. (1 – 3) THANK GOD FOR HIS GOODNESS

1. (vs. 1) The God of goodness and love

The opening line of this Psalm 136 is the first call for thanks or praise of the God of heaven and earth. The God we only know because he has made himself known through the events of history when he got involved in it recorded for us in the pages of what we call the bible.

These words, we believe were spoken loudly by a chosen priest in the Temple worship service in Jerusalem in ancient Israel.

The topic of this opening reason for praising or thanking God is The Goodness of God expressed like this,

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good”.

Many times, in the book of Psalms we have read of the goodness of God and in the previous Psalm, Psalm 135 we read in verse 3a,

“Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good”

I stated in my Psalm talk for Psalm 135 and this verse that the Goodness of God is,

“Mentioned in at least five other Psalms, Psalm 25: 8, 34: 8, 73: 1, 86: 5 and 100: 5″.

In Psalm 34: 8 David issues us a challenge that says,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him”.

In my Psalm talk for Psalm 34 and this verse I commented this way on the concept of “Tasting” the goodness of God,

“David wants his listeners to experience for themselves what God can do for them. Many non-Christians say to Christians I will not believe unto I can see for myself that God is true and real. The answer to this is why not take God at his word and see for yourself. I remember when I was a teenager attending church fellowship groups I heard a number of times an older leader challenging us after he had presented the Gospel message to pray a simple prayer like, “God if your there please reveal yourself me” and then he said now sit down in a quiet place and read Johns Gospel. I think he had copies of Johns Gospel in a simple plain English version to give to anyone who was willing to take on his challenge. He had the “Taste and See” approach to evangelism.

David like that fellowship leader had great confidence in God’s willingness to reveal himself as he writes,

“Blessed (happy) is the man who takes refuge in him”.

This taste and see form or challenge is not unique to David as Jesus himself uses it to his listeners when he says in Matthew 7: 7 – 8,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened”.

I have heard the testimonies of many Christians asking God if you are their reveal yourself and as I said in my introduction one is the famous testimony of the 18th century slave Trader John Newton who lived a debouched life but one night was tied to the wheel of his ship by his crew during a powerful storm and in desperation he cried out to God if you’re their save me.

John Newton was saved that night and went on to discover the love and goodness of God and write the famous hymn, Amazing Grace which the first verses says,

“Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see.”

The response or refrain we will see is not a set of mindless words that has no connection to each statement for giving thanks to the God of the Bible and I will show how this refrain relates to each of the statements for giving thanks to God in this Psalm.

So, the refrain says,

“His love endures forever”

You see the goodness of God to us not something we deserve or could ever earn it comes only because the God who is good to us is an enduring God of love. He saved John Newton not because he deserved to be saved but as John Newton wrote it was because of God’s amazing grace that a wretch like him was saved and received the goodness of God.

Paul says in Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”.

The goodness of God which is the grace or undeserved love of God is the first reason Psalm 136 suggests as a reason for thanking God.

2.  (2 – 3) The God of God’s

Again, like the previous Psalm, Psalm 136 the supremacy of the God of the bible over all other God alternatives is presented in the two phrases,

“Give thanks to the God of God’s” (vs. 2)

And

“Give thanks to the Lord of Lords”. (vs. 3)

These statements of reasons for thanks are similar to verse 5 of Psalm 135 that says,

“I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods”.

I will now give you what I said about verse 5 of Psalm 135 which I think is also an excellent commentary on verses 2 and 3 of this Psalm 136,

“This verse is not saying there are other God’s as we will see in verses 15 – 18, the supposed other God’s represented by the great idols people made of them are nothing but false and unreal.

However, the God of the bible is very real and very great and our writer probably has Exodus 18: 11 in mind here that simply says,

“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”

These words were spoken by Moses after the God of the bible had defeated the supposed God’s of Egypt and in the end a whole army inspired by these gods was destroyed when they sought enter the red sea or sea of reeds to pursue and destroy God chosen people, Israel. Interestingly God used forces in nature to destroy this non -God of the bible opponents.

Today we face a society aggressively running away from the God of the bible and turning to other ways of thinking about the origins of life and the great questions of why we exist and how they should live. Paul tells us in Romans 1: 21 – 25

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen”.

Paul is saying here that mankind is actively and collectively turned away from God to some other form of God or God’s and in Pauls day these were represented by idols. Today these idols are not usually images made to look like human beings or animals but are things like money, fame, self-glory or even other religions that have as part of their philosophy the denial of the truth of the God of the bible.

Even in the Christian church today we have influential so-called leaders denying the truth of the bible and offering an alternative way of thinking about it. Paul warned Timothy of such preachers and teachers rising up even in the early church in 2 Timothy 4: 1 – 5,

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 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.
4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

So, we promote and praise the God of the bible like Paul encouraged Timothy to do proclaiming how our God is “Great” and no other so- called god alternative is as great or greater than him”.

The New Testament presents The Lord Jesus Christ as God become flesh and he is spoken about in the book of Revelations, like Revelations 19: 16 as the,

“King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s”.

We are then, to give thanks to God of God’s and Lord of Lords or king of kings and the peoples response to that was again,

“His love endures forever”

Israel only knew this great one true God because he chose to reveal himself to them and in revealing himself to them he set up an agreement with them which we call the covenant of love. This covenant of love started with the great patriarch Abraham but became clear in the renewed covenant of love made to Abrahams descendants through Moses on mount Sinai.

This covenant of love is expressed in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

This covenant of love was fulfilled and transformed by the coming of God’s Son Jesus Christ as Hebrews 9: 15 clearly states,

“For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

So, we thank God for his enduring love expressed in the fact that God is the one and only God who chose to save us through the death and resurrection of his only Son who is God with him and the Holy Spirit one God a great God of enduring love.

The apostle John later we believe in his ministry and life spoke of the enduring love of God as our motivation to both love God and one another in one of his three letters to churches he cared for and we read these amazing words about love and God in 1 John 4: 7 – 12,

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”

2 (4 – 7) THANK GOD FOR HIS CREATIVE POWERS

1. (4 – 5) The creative wise God

We have already seen that Psalm 136 follows a similar pattern of teaching to the previous Psalm, Psalm 135 and this next little section and the one that follows it is another example of this. For verses 4 – 5 looks at the creative abilities and evidences of the great God of the bible followed by the redemptive activities of the God of the bible in verses 10 – 15 similar to that same pattern in Psalm 135 as a reason for thanks and praise of our God.

In verses four and five the creative activities of the God of the bible is spoken about as showing God’s great wondrous nature and also his wisdom as we read these words again spoken more than likely by a leading priest in the Temple,

“To him who alone does great wonders” (verse 4)

And verse 5,

“Who by his understanding made the heavens”.

Allan Harmon writes,

“Creation is the fruit of many wonders that God performed”.

Today the majority of people believe that our wondrous or amazing world and universe came about by an accident of nature. Let me ask you can you accept that the intricate, complex and perfect design of our genes points to its creation as an accident?

I believe modern science has only pushed us further towards concluding that some kind of designer lies behind the wonderful designs and beauty of nature. Many modern scientists say that out of the chaos of the big bang came eventually the order and beauty of nature as we know it.

May I suggest that this view requires a bigger leap of faith to believe than the belief in a wondrous and great almighty God as the creator and designer of the world and our universe.

There are eminent scientists who believe in a God and still practice good sound scientific study and they do not believe that modern science proves the non- existence of a God but sadly many people today blindly accept this as fact.

Psalm 72 verses 18 and 19 express well marvellous or wondrous deeds in creation that deserves our thanks and praise,

“Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvellous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory, Amen and Amen.

The whole earth is filled with God’s glory as we admire God’s handiwork in this world and the universe.

So how did God do it?

According to verse 5 of Psalm 136, he did it by his understanding which could be translated as wisdom,

“Who by his understanding made the heavens”. (vs. 5)
This verse seems to be a summary of what we read in Proverbs 3: 19 – 20,

“By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; 20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew”.

From the amazing and great intelligence of our God came the creation of the world and the universe. God is almighty, powerful and the highest of any intelligence in the entire universe and John tells us at the start of his Gospel that God’s creative intelligence lies in his Son called in this passage “The word”, John 1: 1 – 5,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.

John goes on to say in verse 14 that this great word or God became flesh in the form of the Lord Jesus Christ,

“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, we can thank God for his wondrous and intelligent nature seen in the creation of this world and the universe through his only Son Jesus Christ and join in the refrain the people of God in ancient Israel responded with that says,

“His love endures forever”

God is a God of enduring love made evident every day of our lives by the wonder and beauty of nature. I live in the midst of a beautiful expression of the God of nature, the Blue Mountains west of Sydney Australia and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t marvel at the great enduring God seen in the natural beauty that surround my home.

Paul makes a clear statement about the role Jesus Christ played in the creation of the world and his enduring love for us for not only did he made a beautiful creation but he also continues to makes beautiful re-creations, his church all the company of all true believers that was made possible by his great act of enduring love on the cross for the forgiveness of our many sins as we read in Colossians 1: 15 – 20,

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.

2. (6 – 9) The God who made the world

Our writer of Psalm 136 then goes on to spell out a bit more of the actual creation God’s wonder and wisdom actually made as further reasons for thanks and praise, he writes in verses 6 – 9,

“Who spread out the earth upon the waters” (vs. 6)

“Who made the great lights” (vs. 7)

“The sun to govern the day, (vs. 8)

And “The moon and stars to govern the night”, (vs 9).

These three verses “echoes” Alan Harman says the words of Genesis 1: 6 – 8 is telling us,

“And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day”.

Spurgeon comments aptly on God’s creation of the great lights of day and night with these words,

“This also is a creating miracle worthy of our loudest thanks. What could men have done without light? Though they had the heavens above them, and dry land to move upon, yet what could they see, and where could they go without light? Thanks be to the Lord, who has not consigned us to darkness. In great mercy, he has not left us to an uncertain, indistinct light, floating about fitfully, and without order; but he has concentrated light upon two grand luminaries, which, as far as we are concerned, are to us “great lights.”

Again, the great refrain of the ancient Hebrew congregation responds to this with the words,

“His love endures forever”.

God’s great enduring love is again proclaimed as a word of thanks and praise for his creation of this world and particularly his provision of light. Not only should we thank God for his enduring love for us expressed in his creation of natural light but also for his provision of spiritual light for because of our many sins we are naturally in the dark about God but John tells us in John 3: 19 – 21 both what God has done about our spiritual darkness and how we should respond to it,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

We must accept the gift of God’s enduring love of light given to us freely by God through the Lord Jesus Christ because if we turn away from this great gift of light we are condemned to live in spiritual darkness.

3 (10 – 15) THANK GOD FOR HIS REDEMPTION

1. (10 – 12) The God who saved Israel out of slavery

As I said before Psalm 136 follows a similar pattern to the previous Psalm 135 and here is another example of this with the source or God’s acts and deeds of creation followed by his acts of great redemption for his people as a source for great thanks and praise. It was the enduring love of God that led him to free and save his people from slavery in Egypt.

So, we read of this as a source of thanks and praise with these words, again spoken or sung by a leading priest in the Temple worship service,

“To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt” (vs. 10)

“And brought Israel out from among them” (vs. 11)

And vs. 12, “With a mighty hand and outstretched arm”.

In Psalm 135 verse 8 the striking down of the first born of Egypt is spoken of in verse 8 and again I will quote directly from my Psalm 135 on this,

“The God of the bible is not a God in exile or inactivity he did not create the world and the universe and then remove himself from it. The fact I believe he is actively involved in our world even today leading people to redemption or salvation.

In ancient Hebrew times the proof that the God of the bible was involved in their world in acts of redemption was through his saving of his people out of slavery in Egypt which the writer of Psalm 135 reminds his readers of in verses 8 and 9,

“He stuck down the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of people and animals. He sent signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants”.

I have seen in many Psalms the story of the Exodus used in many ways on many occasions and here it seems to be used to reveal that Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to turn to the one true living God. After many signs and wonders that the God of the Bible revealed to Pharaoh only hardened his heart against the God of the bible. Ultimately God judged Pharaoh and he lost the life of his beloved first born son.

Over and over again in the story of the Exodus is used in the book of Psalms to remind the people of God that the God of the bible is a saving God of love but also a God of Judgement for those who seek to oppose him and his chosen people.

There is no better example of the principle of salvation for God’s people and judgment of those who oppose God and his people than Psalm 81: 5 – 7,

“When God went out against Egypt, he established it as a statute for Joseph. I heard an unknown voice say: 6 “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. 7 In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thunder cloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah”.

Then again and even more clearly in Psalm 106: 7 – 11,

“When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known. 9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived”.

So, God’s great saving hand in the Exodus is referred to in the book of Psalms and in the books of Old Testament prophecies as a concrete example of the Saving Power of the God of the bible”.

Here in Psalm 136 God’s saving outstretched arm is proof of his enduring love God for his people, Israel. This outstretched arm judged Pharaoh and the false God’s he and his people believed in and sought to overcome Israel and their God the one true God of the bibles.

So, God saved Israel out of Egypt just as The Lord Jesus Christ through his death on the cross saved us from the slavery of sin and death. So, like the ancient Hebrews of old we can respond with the same refrain they sang in response to the message of God saving Israel out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt with the words,

“His love endures forever”

The New Testament sees a clear connection between the act of God’s enduring love in the Exodus story and the act of enduring love of The Lord Jesus Christ sacrificing himself on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins as we see from a passage like 1 Peter 1: 18 – 19,

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”.

And Pauls words in 1 Corinthians 5: 7,

“Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”.

John the Baptist saw clearly this amazing connection of Jesus and the passover when he called Jesus this in John 1: 29,

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.

We have great cause and reason to thank and praise God because of his enduring love shown to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which is our hope for our salvation as Paul speaks of in Romans 15: 13,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

2. (13 – 15) The God who saved Israel but judged Egypt

This remarkable story of the redemption or salvation of the people of Israel out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt continues in the next three verses where the salvation of the people of Israel co- insides with the judgement of God on Pharaoh and his non – God of the bible driven army.

We read these grounds for thanks and praise in verses 13,

“To him who divided the Red Sea asunder”

And verses 14,

“And brought Israel through the midst of it,

And finally verse 15,

“But swept Pharaoh and his army into the red sea”.

The story of the Exodus makes clear that Pharaoh after letting the people go had a change of heart and decided to hastily form an army to pursue and destroy the people of Israel.
Pharaoh would have thought he had the people of Israel trapped on the shores of the red sea and all had to do was ride in on his chariots and hack to death the people responsible for the death of his first- born son.

Even the people of Israel felt they were trapped and doomed on the shores of the red sea because we read this in Exodus 14: 10 – 12,

“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”.

However, as verse 13 of Psalm 136 says God divided the red sea asunder and the people were able to cross in safety. When Pharaoh arrived he decided, foolishly to follow the Israelites into the divided sea and he discovered to his horror that God brought Israel through the midst of the sea, safely as verse 14 of Psalm 136.

However, just as God saved Israel he judged Pharaoh and his non – God of the bible believing army and as verse 15 states,

“But swept Pharaoh and his army into the red sea”.

I mentioned earlier the words of John 3 that spoke of God sending his light, Jesus Christ into the world and just before that in verses 17 – 18 we read these words about how the salvation and judgment of God actually works,

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.

Pharaoh and his fellow Egyptian soldiers refused to believe in the God of the Bible even after the many signs and wonders they had witnessed including now the opening of a sea and their stubborn closed minded sinful hearts led to their destruction at the hands of the God they opposed.

This again was wonderful grounds for thanks and praise and so the ancient worshipping congregation says or sings the refrain again that says,

“His love endures forever”

They realised yet again that their ancestors were saved only because their God is a God of enduring love and for that they are full of praise and thanks.

As Christians, we are reminded over and over again through the communion service that Jesus instituted that we are only saved through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ an even greater expression of the enduring love of God. As Paul sets down to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26,

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,
“This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.
” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

Paul made it clear in many places that we are saved only in and through the giving of Jesus in his death and resurrection and that this was God’s great act of love and salvation for us as Paul speaks of in Galatians 2: 20,

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.

This then is central to our continual thanks and praise.

John Newton expressed this central concept of enduring love he called in his hymn “Amazing Grace” and in his second verse of that hymn he says this,

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed”.

4. (vs. 16) THANK GOD FOR HIS GUIDANCE

Most of the commentaries I read on this Psalm 136 made verse 16 a separate topic for the bases of our thanks and praise and I agree with this as verse 16 says,

“To him who led his people through the wilderness”.

This verse speaks of thanking God for the guidance of his people Israel in the wilderness period. We will see in the next section that this guidance included God’s fighting for his people against large and aggressive enemies during the wilderness period of around 40 years.

However, this verse is probably a direct reference to the miraculous way God led his people as expressed in Exodus 13: 21 – 22,

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people”.

Once the people of the wilderness entered the promised land God stopped this very miraculous form of guidance but he still guided them through the conquest of Canaan and beyond with the Ark of the Covenant going before them.

I once read an article about the word Guidance that our English word Guidance is made up of two parts, 1. Guide and 2. Dance and that this is a picture of how God wants us to be guided in our lives.

We are to look to God for Guidance he promises to Guide us and we are to live our lives believing he is guiding us as we look to him which is like dancing. In ballroom dancing it is the male partner who leads and the female who follows and in the dance of the Christian life it is God who leads and it is us who follow that lead as Proverbs 3: 5 – 6 states,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”.

The Ancient Israel worshipping congregation on hearing of how God guided the Israelites through the wilderness respond with that refrain again that says,

“His love endures forever”

God chooses to guide us because he is a God of enduring love and this is yet again wonderful grounds for our thanks and praise. I like Spurgeon’s comments on this when he says,

“Their faithfulness soon failed, but his did not: the fiery, cloudy pillar which never ceased to lead the van was the visible proof of his immutable love”,

In the New Testament we, if we truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are led by his Holy Spirit as Paul speaks so clearly of in Romans 8: 14 – 17,

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory”.

James gives us practical advice of guidance in James 1: 5 – 6 when he says,

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind”.

Personally, I have claimed this verse in the midst of difficult times or times when I felt I did not understand what God wanted me to do or say and I can testify to the fact that in some way or another God always answered my prayer for wisdom and guidance and I have found yet again the love and guidance God has for my life.

God does guide us and this is not because we deserve or earn that blessing but again it is given to us because God is a God of unmerited enduring love. For this also I give God the thanks and praise he deserves.

5. (17 – 22) THANK GOD FOR FIGHTING FOR US

1. (17 – 20) The God who fought off two kings

In verses 17 – 20 two important illustrations of the enduring love of God are stated which are part of the previous point of God guiding his people through the wilderness period. These two illustrations of God’s enduring love and guidance are of the two kings and their nation’s attempt to stop and destroy the people of Israel in their long journey to God’s Promise land of Canaan.

We read of God fighting for Israel against the two kings this way,

“To him who struck down great kings” (vs. 17)

and vs, 18, “And killed mighty kings”

Then vs. 19 and 20 these kings are named,

“Sihon king of the Amorites”

“And “Og king of Basham”.

Albert Barnes explains the significance and application of these verses with these words,

“The idea in the whole passage, in view of the divine interposition in slaying the mighty kings, and in giving their land for a possession to the Hebrew people, is, that it was a proof of mercy and benevolence. It is benevolence to mankind and to the church of God – it is in the interests of humanity, of domestic peace, and of the charities of life, to remove wicked people from the world”.

Of course, wicked people being removed from the earth is never fully done in this present age but in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as judge rather than as Saviour we will see the total over- throw of all evil and wickedness as we see from a passage like Revelation 20: 11 – 15,

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

However, God does judge evil from time to time in this life especially when evil attempts to bring down his church or people like we see in the case of the people of Israel in the wilderness opposed by powerful evil nations led by their non -God of the bible believing Kings.

In the New Testament, I like Pauls prayer in 2 Thessalonians 3: 1 – 5, here Paul wants his readers to pray for him particularly because of the opposition by wicked people to his preaching the Gospel message and also for his Thessalonian brothers and sisters who like him are caught up in the fight or battle against the evil one (the devil) as they live the faithful Christian life.

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance”.

Not how Paul sees in this pray that the Lord does fight for us or helps us fight the battles we all face against the evil forces of this world and the spiritual world as Paul sets down in Ephesians 6: 12,

“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”.

As with other wonderful examples of God’s help and blessing expressed in this Psalm the people or the worshipping congregation respond with the now familiar refrain,

“His love endures forever”.

God fighting for his faithful people is yet another example of the enduring love of God in action. The God of the bible is not just a theory or hope but an active living God of love.
Paul proved over and over again that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ does connect us to God and his loving assistance and no better illustration of this is his words in Romans 8: 37 – 39,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

John Newton expresses his conviction of the enduring love of God he calls “God’s grace” has and will help him in the rough and tumble of this life in his third verse of his hymn that says,

“Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home”.

2. (21 – 22) The God who gave Israel its inheritance

The writer of Psalm 136 then moves from thanking God for his enduring love expressed in his loving help for the ancient people of Israel in their wilderness journeys to the actual provision and possession of the promised land for them.

The next two verses, verses 21 and 22 express this great gift of God for his chosen people,

First, we have verses 21,

“And gave their land as an inheritance.

And verse 22,

“An inheritance to his servant Israel”.

The first portion of the promised land given to Israel was the Transjordan area that the defeated King of the Amorites and Bashan controlled these were given to the tribes of Gad, Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh. This land and the larger land called Canaan is known as the Promised Land as way back it was promised to Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 15: 18 – 21,

“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites,Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

In verses 16 God tells Abraham that this land would not be taken away from these people unto their sinfulness had reached its full measure which means unto their sinfulness was so bad God would judge them and take their land away from them and give it to Abrahams descendants,

“In the fourth generation, your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

God being God knows everything and he knew at the time of Abraham that the sinfulness of the people of the Transjordan and Canaan in the future would reach an unacceptable level and his judgment would fall upon them at the hands of his chosen people who would through God’s enduring love give them this land as a kind of inheritance.

We don’t get inheritance’s because we deserve them but they are given to us in this life because we are the next generation that rightfully can claim them. God’s inheritance of the Land of Israel was not given to Israel because Israel deserved it but it came from the hand of the God of enduring love.

So, the right response of the worshipping congregation is made in the refrain,

“His love endures forever”

The ancient Hebrew congregation is acknowledging that the land they now lived in only came to be theirs because God chose to give it to them out of his enduring and undeserved love.

As Christians, we have a far greater gift of inheritance than a patch of earth to live on as Peter declares in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 5,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”.

Note how Peter says that this eternal inheritance is given to us out of God’s great mercy and therefore we could never say or claim we deserve the gift of eternal life with God in heaven as we only have it because of God’s enduring love. John Newton claimed that this enduring love of God was his Amazing Grace and in his hymn of that title the last verse speaks of the gift of God’s eternal life in heaven coming from God’s Amazing grace with these words,

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

6. (23 – 26) THANK GOD FOR LOOKING AFTER US

1. (23 – 25) The God who helps us and provides for us

In the final four verses the things the writer of Psalm 136 speaks of for thanking God for which he gives freely to us out of his enduring love are more general in nature than the previous verses as they dealt directly with the ancient Israelites.

In verses 23 – 25 we have things to thank God for that relate to what I call God’s promise to look after us in this life.

Verse 23 says,

“He remembered us in our low estate”.

All we have seen so far falls under this general concept of God remembering or helping his people when they needed held and needed it badly or they were in a low estate or in a bad way.

They were in a low estate when they were led by God out of slavery in Egypt and when they faced the Egyptian army coming at them with their backs to the red sea. They were in a low estate when far more powerful kings opposed them in the wilderness. Even as they entered the Promised Land they were in a low estate compared to the numerous powerful Canaanite nations living there.

However, the God of enduring love made the difference between their lowly estate and as verse 23 declares,

“And freed us from our enemies”

Stephen J. Cole makes an insightful spiritual application for us in these words,

“The biggest hindrance to salvation is the notion that you can do something to save yourself. If you think that you are good enough or that you deserve salvation, you don’t get it. Only God can save you from your sins and He does it apart from anything that you can do. You must simply receive it as His gift by faith”.

Israel only had victory over their enemies because the God of enduring love chose to fight for them. On some occasions in the Old Testament Israel went out to battle trusting in their own abilities to save themselves but they were soundly defeated like King Saul towards the end of his reign and life against the powerful Philistine forces he fought against and lost badly. David however trusted in the God of enduring love and God gave him victory over the powerful Philistines.

Paul makes the point that our salvation from sin and death is only made possible by God alone and it is by God’s enduring love he calls grace that we are saved by and that has nothing to do with our good works, Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”.

Humility lies at the heart of the Gospel and this humility or total reliance on God extends as far as our daily needs of food and water as the writer of Psalm 136 speaks of in verse 25,

“He gives food to every creature”.

God’s enduring love extends to all creatures or everyone in the daily provision of food and sustenance a principle Jesus declares in Matthew 5: 45,

“That you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

This general principle of God’s providence to all creatures, good and evil is made even clearer by Jesus in the next chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, 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? 26 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? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Jesus however does make it clear at the end of this chapter that God especially blesses those who turn to him and put him first as Jesus declares in Matthew 6: 33 – 34”,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

This seeking God first is an outworking of God’s enduring love in the hearts and lives of those who come to him by faith an act of God to save us as Paul declares to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1: 9 – 10,

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”.

We like the ancient Hebrew congregations of old can respond to these great truths with that wonderful refrain,

“His love endures forever”.

God saw our lowly estate of sin and darkness and lifted us up out of that terrible dark place by his enduring love through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

God saved us from our enemies of sin, death and the devil again through his only Son Jesus Christ and his death for our sins on the cross an act of enduring love.

God provides for us our every need and if we lack anything or need his help he again through his enduring love will give us what we need and we only need to ask for it in faith as Jesus boldly proclaims in John 14: 13 – 14,

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it”.

Jesus, I believe is saying this couched in the provision of what we ask for is not contrary to the expressed will of God as if we ask for something that God says we cannot or should not have then that prayer will be answered with a big no. God promises to give us all we need not what we necessarily want as Paul makes clear to the Philippians in Philippians 4: 19,

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus”
Recently I proved yet again how God answers the prayers of our needs as for week I suffered some pain and discomfort after I got out of hospital after major kidney surgery and I prayed that a procedure my doctor was going to perform would be successful and relieve the pain and discomfort I was experiencing. God answered that prayer and immediately after my doctor performed the procedure I was pain and discomfort free.

John Newton knew the full extent of God’s enduring love which he called “Amazing Grace” and in his fourth verse of his hymn of the same name he writes,

“The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures”.

2. (vs. 26) Thank the great God of Heaven

The last verse raps up the ancient Hebrew priest call to his congregation to give thanks or praise with the words,

“Give thanks to the God of heaven”.

And interestingly phase only used in the later books of the bible (Ezra 1: 2, Nehemiah 1: 4, 2 Chronicles 36: 23 and Daniel 2: 18) and Leopold explains its significance,

“This title is a reminder of the exalted nature of him who did his people all the mighty works which have been enumerated in this Psalm”.

This Psalm then has made clear that the God of heaven is a God of enduring love and in fact this is his overriding attribute. He is a God of enduring love in that he,

1. Shows himself as Good
2. Created everything
3. Redeemed his people out of Egypt
4. Guided them through the wilderness and into the promised land
5. Fought for them against their enemies
6. Always provides and helps his people.

This means we should give thanks or praise to The God of Heaven for is Amazing enduring love for us.

As Christians, we know far more of the Amazing enduring love of God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ and Paul speaks of the reality of his enduring love in his second letter to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 5: 14 – 15,

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again”.

In Pauls prayer for the Ephesian church in Ephesians 3: 14 – 19 we see the power, wonder and praise of the enduring love of the God of heaven seen in Christ,

“For this reason, I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”.

So, we can join the ancient Hebrew congregation one more time and say or sing the phrase used throughout this Psalm,

“His love endures forever”.

We might change it to read,

“Christ love endures forever”

For Christ is God’s ultimate expression of his enduring love as we know this from John 3: 16, 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”.

This is then the heart of the message we as Christians have and should take to the world that there is Good News in such a bad News world as even though our sins lead to death or eternal separation from God, God has made a way for us to know his enduring love by the Amazing love of God seen in sending his only Son to pay the price of our many sins on the cross and through that give us the gift of eternal life.

As the little letter of Jude puts it in verses 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— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Before I close I would like to quote one more verse from John Newton’s hymn, Amazing grace, this time verse 5, not often sung these days,

“Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil
A life of joy and peace”.

I close as usual with an original poem and final word of prayer:

THE EDURING LOVE OF GOD
(Based on Psalm 136 and John 3: 16)

(vs’s 1 – 4)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
God’s love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
God’s love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
For we see great things his done by his words
Yes, he made the heavens and this world
For God’s love endures forever.

(vs’s 5- 9)

God by his understanding made the heavens,
God’s love endures forever.
He spread out the earth upon the waters,
God’s love endures forever.
He made the great lights to send their ray
The sun to govern the day,
Moon and stars at night display
For God’s love endures forever.

(vs’s 10 – 14)

To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
God’s love endures forever.
And brought Israel out from among them
God’s love endures forever.
With a mighty hand and outstretched arm
He divided the red sea that was calm
And Moses sang of Israel’s deliverance in a Psalm
For God’s love endures forever.

(vs’s 15 – 21)

God swept Pharaoh’s army all away
God’s love endures forever.
He then led his people through the wilderness;
God’s love endures forever.
He struck down all the kings who opposed them
The Amorite king and the king of Basham
Then he led his people to the promise land.
For God’s love endures forever

(vs’s 21 – 26)

God gave his people an inheritance
God’s love endures forever.
He remembered his people’s low estate
God’s love endures forever.
He freed them from their enemies.
And provides food in great quantities
So give to God in heaven wonderful praise
For God’s love endures forever.

(John 3: 16)

God sent to earth his only Son
God’s love endures forever.
He died on the cross to forgive our sin
God’s love endures forever.
And whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life
And we can trust him even in our strife
So, we praise God for his gift of eternal life
Yes, God’s love endures forever.

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

Dear Father up in heaven we thank you for being a wonderful God of enduring love seen clearly in all you have made and how you have saved us from our many sins. We thank you for your love made clear by the sending of your Son, Jesus Christ to die for our sins on the cross and rising to life to give us the gift of eternal life. May we thank you daily by the way we live and what we say because of your Amazing enduring love and we look forward to being with you in your eternal home where we will join with the Angels in praising you for your amazing enduring love. In Jesus Name we pray, Aman.

PSALM 135 TALK:   PRAISE THE LORD YOU SERVANTS OF THE LORD

PSALM 135 TALK:   PRAISE THE LORD YOU SERVANTS OF THE LORD

 (A Psalm or ancient Hebrew worship song or hymn that directs God’s chosen religious leaders called servants of the Lord to lead the people of God in praise and worship).

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

INTRODUCTION

 I am not an ordained minister of my church but years ago after three years training in a Bible College I worked for 13 years in three full time ministry positions in my church, The Anglican church of the Sydney Diocese. Those 13 years gave me among many things an insight into what’s involved in working full time in ministry for God.

In my thirteen years, I realised I had very little time to myself and I was in constant demand from the people I sought to minister to even putting pressure on my time and commitment to my family. I know that people ask a lot of their ministers and sometimes the pressure this causes them leads them to emotional and even spiritual pressure and even physiological breakdowns.

In the pressure cooker atmosphere of full time ministry, it is easy for us as ministers to lose sight of his calling and what should be his ultimate goals in leading the people of God that God has given him to lead.

Psalm 135 is an excellent reminder of what any full- time minister in his church should focus on and I believe if they do focus on this their ministry will get its priorities right and God will bless them and the church they seek to serve.

In this Psalm talk I am interpreting the phrase, “You servants of the Lord” as first and foremost the full -time ministers or leaders in the church today as verse 2 of this Psalm says,

“You who minister in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God”.

 This is a clear reference to the Old Testament Priests and Levites who were also pinpointed in this Psalm in verses 19 and 20.

 However, because the New Testament teaches us clearly that all true believers are priests or ministers, 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

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.10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

 The special word to servants of the Lord who minister in the house of the Lord has application to all of us. In recent years God has lead me to have a unique ministry in his wider church through music and these studies of the Psalms so I like all who follow the Lord Jesus Christ am a servant of the Lord.

This means that the priorities of ministry Psalm 135 sets down also apply to me as much as they do to one of my full-time minsters at my local church.

I would like to give you one quick word on the general background of this Psalm which deals with how it was written. Psalm 135 has been described as a mosaic or patchwork of thoughts of lots of previous Old Testament Scriptures. Spurgeon writes,

“The whole Psalm is a compound of many choice extracts, and yet it has all the continuity and freshness of and original poem”.

 Because of the use of many Psalms used in this Psalm clearly written after the return from the exile in Babylon this Psalm or song must have been written around the same time. So far as its author we have no way of determining but the suggestion is that the author was probably some kind of Temple priest or Levite which has merit but cannot be proven.

Leupold refers to Nehemiah 9: 4 and 5 as a kind of interesting outworking of the servants of the Lord in the house of the Lord leading the people in praise and worship,

Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God. And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise”.

 With the theme, then of the servants of the Lord leading the people of God in praise and worship my outline for this Psalm talk is:

  1. (1 – 4)  A CALL FOR GOD’S SERVANTS TO LEAD THE PEOPLE IN PRAISE
  1. (1 – 2) Praise him you servants of the Lord
  2. (3 – 4) Praise him for he is good

      2    (5 – 7)  PRAISE GOD’S ACTS OF CREATION

  1. (vs. 5) God is great
  2. (6 – 7) God is creator

      3   (8 – 14) PRAISE GOD’S ACTS OF REDEMPTION

  1. (8 – 12) God’s redemption of ancient Israel
  2. (13 – 14) God’s enduring reputation as a saving God

      4  (15 – 18)  PRAISE THE ONE TRUE GOD NOT IDOLS

  1. (15 – 17)  The truth about God alternatives
  2. (vs. 18) The truth about those who turn to God alternatives

      5  (19 – 21)  A CALL FOR ALL GOD’S PEOPLE TO PRAISE THE LORD

  1. (19 – 20) God’s servants and people are to praise the Lord
  2. (vs. 21) God’s praise is to go out from Jerusalem.

  Let’s then have a closer look at this Psalm using this outline:

  1. (1 – 4) A CALL FOR GOD’S SERVANTS TO LEAD THE PEOPLE IN PRAISE
  1. (1 – 2) Praise him you servants of the Lord

This Psalm opens and closes like so many of the Psalms in book five of Psalms with the Hebrew term, “Hallelujah” which we translate as “Praise the Lord”. This is because the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” is made up of two key concepts:

“Hallelu” which in Hebrews means “praise” and “Jah” which is the start of the Hebrew special name for God most people pronounce as

“Yahweh” which is usually translated in English as “The Lord”.

However, “Yahweh” is a special name for God that carries much deep and significant meaning and Allan Harman points out that “Yahweh” literally means,

“I am who I am” and that this term carries with it the idea of,

“The one who defines himself”.

 We will see from the rest of this Psalm the unique and powerful nature of this God who alone defines himself as good, great, powerful creator, redeemer, real and worthy of praise.

Then we read in the rest of verse 1 of this Psalm 135 that one particular group of people are exhorted to praise the Lord,

Praise the name of the Lord; praise him, you servants of the Lord”.

 The term, “Servants of the Lord” must be referring to the Old Testament forms of full time ministers in Old Testament times, the Priests and Levites which is made clear by what we read they did in God’s service in verse 2,

“You who minister in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of the Lord”.

 You only got to be a priest or Levite by birth as we see from verse 19 of this Psalm that speaks of the,

“House of Aaron”

 This goes all the way back to the time of Moses and we read in Numbers 18: 1,

“The Lord said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your family are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the priesthood”.

 Then in Numbers 1: 48 – 51 we read of God’s decree for the family group known as the Levites as special servants of the Lord in the Temple worship of ancient Hebrew people,

“The Lord had said to Moses: 49 “You must not count the tribe of Levi or include them in the census of the other Israelites. 50 Instead, appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the covenant law—over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it.51 Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who approaches it is to be put to death”.

So, the Priests and Levites where the God ordained full time leaders of worship in his Temple in ancient Hebrew times.

Note how they are to lead by example in praise of the name of the Lord. The name means all that characterises God, his essence and the rest of the Psalm spells out many of these wonderful characteristics of this God that should cause us all to praise him.

So, the number one priority of a full -time servant or minster of the Lord should be to lead the people in praise of the God of the bible. This means that a minister must have as his focus at all times nothing other than the name or character of the God of the bible.

Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18 that Praise or thanks to God is God’s ordained will for all believers,

 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

So, it is not strange to say that our full -time ministers must have as their number one priority the leading of the people of God in praise and thanks.

Paul also sets down to Titus the characteristics and Godly qualities of the full- time elders or ministers of the church in his day and says this in Titus 1: 5 – 9,

“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believeand are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it”.

 The characteristics of these elders I want you to note are the very characteristics of the God of the bible and particularly The Lord Jesus Christ as they both serve and help others to serve.

I see 10 Christ like qualities here:

  1. Blameless
  2. Faithful
  3. Leading a Godly household
  4. Self- controlled
  5. Living a good example
  6. Hospitable
  7. Loving good
  8. Holds firmly to the word of God
  9. Encourages others to know and follow God’s word
  10. Refutes those who oppose God and his word.

To have any of these Godly qualities a person must be putting God first in their lives and always seeking to give him the praise he deserves.

As I said in my introduction I am not an ordained minister of the church I attend in Sydney Australia yet as we are all “priests” or ministers of the Gospel according to 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

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.10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

 Then we all should seek to exhibit the same Godly qualities of an elder or minister that Paul set down for New Testament ministers in Titus 1: 5 – 9 and we too can only do this if we truly put God first in our lives and “Praise his name”.

  1. (3 – 4) Praise him for he is good

 From verse 3 onwards Psalm 135 then spells out all sorts of reasons why the God of the Bible should be praised. The first reason given is in verse 3 which says,

“Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good”

 The goodness of God is a great theme of particularly the Psalms and we see it mentioned in at least five other Psalms, Psalm 25: 8, 34: 8, 73: 1, 86: 5 and 100: 5. I like the last one of these references Psalm 100: 5,

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations”.

 David Guzik writes,

“What would be more basic than this, God is good? Nothing at all, since this is God’s essential nature. Even the word God is a shortened form of “the good”.

 Only this week I experienced the goodness of God, I had one set back from my recovery from Kidney possible cancer surgery and I prayed to God about this and got others to pray for me as well. Only yesterday our prayers were answered by the good God we prayed to and my operations complication went away.

This experience reminds me of two wonderful bible verses that promise us the goodness of God in our daily lives:

Psalm 31: 19,

“How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you”

 Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. Who are called according to his purpose”.

 This knowledge of the goodness of God should show itself in our outward daily worship of this Good God as the second half of verse 3 says,

“Sing praise to his name, for this is pleasant”

 The idea that singing God’s praise is pleasant probably comes from Psalm 133 verse 1 which says,

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity”.

We might say the people of God who sing the praises of God together stay together in unity and peace and this is a very worthwhile or pleasant experience.

Allan Harmon speaks of the Hebrew word for pleasant as coming from the idea of graciousness and the next verse speaks directly of the graciousness of God in how he chose Jacob who became Israel as his treasured possession,

“For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession”.

 The Old Testament makes it clear that Jacob and his descendants who became the nation of Israel did not deserve to be chosen in any way and it only happened because of the Grace or undeserving love of God as we see in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 8,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt”.

 So, it is with us as Christians we are only chosen because the God who chose us is a God of grace as Paul spells out in Ephesians 2: 4 – 9,

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

 So, this great gift of grace should cause us to constantly praise the great God of grace and love and again praise is not only something we do with our lips but we should show it also with how we live our lives as Paul makes clear from Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

 A full -time minister’s priority should always be to encourage and promote the people in their churches to a life lived in praise and thanks to the good God of the bible who is a God of grace or unmerited love.

      2    (5 – 7)  PRAISE GOD’S ACTS OF CREATION

  1. (vs. 5) God is great

The Psalmist then looks at two great ways the God of the Bible reveals why he should be praised by the servants of the Lord and those two ways are:

  1. In his acts of creation
  2. In his acts of redemption

In verses 5 – 7 the Psalmist deals first with God great acts in creation. He starts this by simply stating the greatness of God compared to any other supposed God for in verse 5 he says,

“I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods”.

 This verse is not saying there are other God’s as we will see in verses 15 – 18, the supposed other God’s represented by the great idols people made of them are nothing but false and unreal.

However, the God of the bible is very real and very great and our writer probably has Exodus 18: 11 in mind here that simply says,

“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”

 These words were spoken by Moses after the God of the bible had defeated the supposed God’s of Egypt and in the end a whole army inspired by these gods was destroyed when they sought enter the red sea or sea of reeds to pursue and destroy God chosen people, Israel. Interestingly God used forces in nature to destroy this non -God of the bible opponents.

Today we face a society aggressively running away from the God of the bible and turning to other ways of thinking about the origins of life and the great questions of why we exist and how they should live. Paul tells us in Romans 1: 21 – 25

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen”.

Paul is saying here that mankind is actively and collectively turned away from God to some other form of God or God’s and in Pauls day these were represented by idols. Today these idols are not usually images made to look like human beings or animals but are things like money, fame, self-glory or even other religions that have as part of their philosophy the denial of the truth of the God of the bible.

Even in the Christian church today we have influential so-called leaders denying the truth of the bible and offering an alternative way of thinking about it. Paul warned Timothy of such preachers and teachers rising up even in the early church in 2 Timothy 4: 1 – 5,

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 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”.

 So, we promote and praise the God of the bible like Paul encouraged Timothy to do proclaiming how our God is “Great” and no other so- called god alternative is as great or greater than him.

            2. (6 – 7) God is creator

 God’s greatness is seen then in verses 6 and 7 in his great power and majesty in creation for the God of the bible is first and foremost the creator God as we see from these two verses,

“The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lighting with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses”.

 Note how God does as he pleases and no one man or spiritual being can make God do what they want as God is sovereign a major teaching that runs right through the whole bible and this psalm mirrors a lot of the teaching of Psalm 115 a Psalm the writer or writers of this Psalm must have known and known as verses 2 and 3 of that Psalm says,

“Why do the nations say, “where is their God” Our God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him”.

 Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 19: 26,

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.

 So, God does whatever he pleases and it pleased God to make the heavens and the earth as verses 6 and 7 express and Paul says that God made all this through his Son who is the great supreme one as we read in Colossians 1: 15 – 18,

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy”.

 Our writer speaks of the vastness of God’s creative ability and control by speaking of what we can see in heaven and earth and also what we cannot see the seas and particularly its great depths.

He then in verse 7 eludes to God providing sustenance to the earth like rain or water which come ultimately from God’s vast storehouses,

“He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses”.

 One of the major God of the bible alternatives the ancient people of Israel turned to was the Canaanite God Baal, who is called by its followers as the storm God.

Baal and in fact storms are not to be praised or worship but rather the one true God who is behind them and makes them possible is to be worshiped. Recently our rural sector has been experiencing great lack of rain but I hear nothing of these farmers seeking help from the God of the bible. I’m sure there are churches in our rural areas praying for rain but sadly the general trend in our rural areas for some years now has been the turning away from the God of Bible that shows itself in churches closing down.

We need more servants of the Lord going out into these rural areas to call people to the Lord who is the only answer to the drought our country is presently going through.

My personal thought is that God is using this drought to encourage our country brothers and sisters to turn to him in prayer and praise.

An interesting incident takes place in one of Pauls missionary journeys in the city of Lystra where God leads Paul to heal a man who had been lame from birth. The locals, fixed in their pagan Greek god’s beliefs start thinking Paul and his companion Barnabas are two of the God’s come to earth, named Hermes who they said was Paul and Zeus who they thought was the real identity of Barnabas.

In such a pagan, non – God of the bible world Paul and Barnabas reaction and words to this is very informative, Acts 14: 14 – 17,

“ But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

 My counties rural areas need many men and women preaching this kind of message to people who for a number of generations now have lost faith in the one true God, the God of the bible who Paul says wants us to know the Good News of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      3   (8 – 14) PRAISE GOD’S ACTS OF REDEMPTION

  1. (8 – 12) God’s redemption of ancient Israel

So, we have seen how the servants of the Lord should reflect on the great God of creation as a source of praise and worship and now a second great reason or source of praise is presented in verses 8 – 14 which I call his acts of redemption.

The God of the bible is not a God in exile or inactivity he did not create the world and the universe and then remove himself from it. The fact I believe he is actively involved in our world even today leading people to redemption or salvation.

In ancient Hebrew times the proof that the God of the bible was involved in their world in acts of redemption was through his saving of his people out of slavery in Egypt which the writer of Psalm 135 reminds his readers of in verses 8 and 9,

“He stuck down the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of people and animals. He sent signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants”.

 I have seen in many Psalms the story of the Exodus used in many ways on many occasions and here it seems to be used to reveal that Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to turn to the one true living God. After many signs and wonders that the God of the Bible revealed to Pharaoh only hardened his heart against the God of the bible. Ultimately God judged Pharaoh and he lost the life of his beloved first born son.

Over and over again in the story of the Exodus is used in the book of Psalms to remind the people of God that the God of the bible is a saving God of love but also a God of Judgement for those who seek to oppose him and his chosen people.

There is no better example of the principle of salvation for God’s people and judgment of those who oppose God and his people than Psalm 81: 5 – 7,

“When God went out against Egypt, he established it as a statute for Joseph.I heard an unknown voice say: “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thunder cloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah”.

 Then again and even more clearly in Psalm 106: 7 – 11,

“When our ancestors were in Egypt,they gave no thought to your miracles;they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known.He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries; notone of them survived”.

 So, God’s great saving hand in the Exodus is referred to in the book of Psalms and in the books of Old Testament prophecies as a concrete example of the Saving Power of the God of the bible.

What does the Exodus story have to say to Christians then?

I came across a very interesting Christian article that answers this question beautifully it was by a man named Silverio Gonzalez and in a short section of his Article called “Why the book of Exodus matters for your life” and under the heading “The Pattern of Salvation” he writes,

“After God saved his people from Egyptian bondage, he began to prepare the world for a salvation from greater slavery. Through the Mosaic Law and Israel’s temple worship, God brought his people into a loving relationship to prepare them for the coming Messiah. The Messiah would come to save the world from sin, death, and the devil. This, Jesus did.

Exodus shapes both Jewish and Christian identity. Its themes are a major part of the Psalms and the Old Testament prophetical books. Many themes in Exodus are taken up in the New Testament and displayed in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection”.

The central Jewish feast that remembers and celebrates the Exodus is called the “Passover” for on the night the angel of death passed through Egypt to kill the first born son’s the believing Jews slaughtered a lamb as a sacrifice and blood from this Passover lamb was sprinkled on the doors of the people of Israel. When the angel of death saw the blood of the sacrificed lamb he passed over and the first -born sons of that house and they were saved.

This concept of the Passover lamb or the lamb sacrificed to save us is picked up right through the New Testament and we first come across it in Johns Gospel right at the very beginning of Jesus ministry that led to his death on the cross we read of John the Baptist saying loudly, John 1: 29,

“Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.

At the last supper Jesus institutes a remembrance service that would replace the Passover that helps us look back to what Jesus achieved through his death on the cross in our salvation as Jesus himself said to hid disciple on that last night, Luke 22: 19 – 20,

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”.

 The God of the bible is an active saving God and he continues to get involved in our lives today if we have faith in him but as we have seen in the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians the God of the bible is active in our world judging those who refuse to turn to him which the writer of Psalm 135 picks up in verses 10 – 11 which says,

“He struck down many nations and killed mighty kings – Sihon king of the Amorites, Og king of Bashan, and all the kings of Canaan”.

 These two kings mentioned here are the kings and their people who opposed the people of Israel when they were on their wilderness journeys.

Then we read of the conquest of the Promised land again attributed to the God of the bible who struck down the kings of Canaan to deliver to his chosen people what verse 12 speaks of,

“And he gave their land as an inheritance, an inheritance to his people Israel”.

 In all these battles Israel was always the weaker army but God made the difference and gave his people victory.

As Christians, we are involved in a great spiritual battle with all the forces of evil as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6: 10 – 12,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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”.

 We have not an earthly inheritance but a heavenly one as Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 5,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

 So, as servants of the Lord who lead the people in the house of the Lord we need to encourage both knowledge and praise of the great saving God of the bible and remind them that this is only possible because of the mercy or grace of God.

  1. (13 – 14) God’s enduring reputation as a saving God

We have just seen that the God of the bible deserves our praise because he is a great God of salvation or redemption and that all through the bible the saving acts of God in the Exodus from Egypt and in the conquering of the Promised land are remembered and used to inspire trust and praise in him.

So, the writer of Psalm 135 now states this enduring reputation of the saving God in verses 13,

“Your name, Lord, endures forever, your renown, Lord, through all generations.

 In the next Psalm 136 the enduring and never- ending love of God will be dealt with in some detail. However here in Psalm 135 something of the never- ending saving nature of the God of the bible is spoken of in the concept of his enduring reputation.

Have you ever asked the question, can you always rely on God?

The answer to that question according to verse 13 of Psalm 135 is yes you certainly can. This is because the God of the bible is not a man that he can lie as Numbers 23: 19 proclaims. Our Psalm writer could look back to both recent and long way back evidences of God being reliable as a saving God.

I say this because we are fairly certain this Psalm was written after the return from exile in Babylon and our writer could have been a returning Jew or was only a few generations away from people who recently returned from exile through the mighty saving hand of God.

We can look back to far greater evidences of the enduring nature of the God of salvation particularly as we look back at the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins.

The writer to the Hebrews puts this fact this way in Hebrews 2: 9,

“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”.

 However why does our writer of Psalm 135 say this in verse 14,

“For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants”.

 No matter when we live as believers we will always face some kind of opposition and difficulty and if this was written during the time of the return from Babylonian captivity we know from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that God’s people back in Jerusalem faced great difficulties caused by non- God of the bible believing people so our writer most naturally and properly calls on the Lord for vindication and compassion from his peoples many enemies.

He could be seen in verse 14 as putting into practice what he has just been saying about his God as a God of power, love and salvation that he is now relying on the essence of real faith in God.

As full -time servants of the Lord who serve in the house of the Lord the priority of promoting praise and worship of our God does not diminish in the face of opposition and difficulty but in fact should increase as we prove God in our lives even in the midst of difficulties and strife.

Paul a giant in the field of full time servants of the Lord rejoices in the saving power and love of God in Christ Jesus and also speaks of doing this in the midst of suffering which he sees also is part of God’s loving act of salvation in Romans 5: 1 – 5,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but wealso 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”. 

      4  (15 – 18)  PRAISE THE ONE TRUE GOD NOT IDOLS

  1. (15 – 17)  The truth about God alternatives

Verses 15 – 17 are almost a direct quote from Psalm 115: 4 – 8 and as I did quite a bit of work coming to terms with these verses in my Psalm 115 talk I will now directly quote from that Psalm talk to explain these verses in Psalm 135 with some appropriate adjustments that fit better with Psalm 135 than Psalm 115.

“In our writer’s day, the great God of the bible alternative view was usually some kind of god’s that were made of wood or stone. In Myanmar which I visited again recently the idols are usually big Buddha’s often made of gold or at least coated with gold but no matter how big or expensive looking they might be they leave me feeling cold uninspired as they are useless religious structures that have no spiritual power or ability.

 This is what verses 4 – 7 of Psalm 115 is actually saying and is what verses 15 – 17 of Psalm 135 is saying as well.

 “The idols of the nations are silver and gold,made by human hands.16 They have mouths, but cannot speak,eyes, but cannot see.17 They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths”.

 I love Isaiah’s sarcastic go at the futility of idol worship of idols made out of wood in Isaiah 44: 14 – 20,

 “He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!”

 18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. 19 No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” 20 Such a feed on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

 Idol worship is condemned in a number of places in the bible, like other passages in Isaiah, 40: 18 – 20, 41: 7 and verse 29, 46: 5 – 7 and even Jeremiah has something to say about this in Jeremiah 10: 1 to 5.

 The story of Elijah challenging the priests of the idol worshipping god called Baal shows both the futility and powerlessness of idol worshippers and of course the value and power of believing in the one true God of heaven and earth, the God of the bible. The climax of that wonderful story is in 1 Kings 18: 36 – 39,

 “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.

 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

 Even though idol worship still exists today in the Old Testament form of man fashioning idols as I have seen in places like Myanmar when I visit their other alternatives to the God of the bible is still applicable here.

 Any god view that does not see God as the almighty spirit who dwells in heaven as lord supreme of this world and entire universe and who is both God to be feared and yet God who has stooped down particularly through the Lord Jesus Christ to save us is nothing more than a delusion.

 When Paul was in Athens recorded in Acts 17 he saw the many idols their and reasoned that this was evidence that these people did not know God. All other non – God of the bible views of God are simply elaborate attempts by human beings seeking to know the unknown God and designing from their own minds and imaginations a view of God that is useless and futile.

 So, Paul’s sermon to the top thinkers of the idol worshipping Athenians was to take them from an altar to an unknown God to the message of the God who has revealed himself in his Son, Jesus Christ and Paul says this about him in Acts 17: 24 – 31,

 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’.

 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

 So how do these four verses in Psalm 135 (15 – 17) taken from Psalm 115 fit into the context of Psalm 135?

We must understand that in Old Testament times only the small nation of Israel believed in one great God who demanded no earthly image be made of him, Exodus 20: 4 – 6,

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments”.

 So, Israel was always surrounded by many Nations who believed in many God’s represented by some kind of idol. Tremper Longman the 111 points out this reality about idol worship,

“These idols were not seen as Gods but represented God’s though through certain ritual (the opening of the mouth) they were seen as physical vehicles through which the God’s made their presence known to the people”.

 The problem with Israel and all believers in the God of the bible making an image to even represent the God of the bible is that no image we could come up with would do him justice. If it was a big giant man idol, God is not a man. If the image was an animal like a large bull God’s strength might be understood but a bull is also dumb and God is supremely intelligent.

So, in the context of Psalm 135 the full- time ministers or servants of the Lord were to discourage the people of God from any form of idol worship and promote true spiritual worship of the God of the bible.

In a previous Psalm talk I spoke of an Anglo – catholic Anglican friend of mine when I was attending Bible College taking me to a highly elaborate High Church service and asking me what I thought of it after the service was finished.

I told my friend that the involved ritual was both unnecessary and dangerous as it could promote a form of idol worship where even the communion elements are held up and bowed down to.

My friends reply was both shocking and surprising, he said, Jim you must understand some people like to worship with smell, touch and colour while others like worship God in spirit and truth”.

I had to strongly say to my friend that Jesus came to change and encourage true worship and quoted Jesus words to the Samaritan women about the answer to what is true worship in John 4: 21 – 24,

“believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

 I am not condemning my Anglo – Catholic Christian friends but as a servant of the Lord I must warn them that the danger of heavily dominated ritual worship services is the worshipper worships the service and not the God who it is directed to, sadly this can become another form of idol worship.

  1. (vs. 18) The truth about those who turn to God alternatives

 So, our writer and the writer of Psalm 115 has said that the idol God’s of the nations that surround them are dead and useless, made by human hands, cannot speak, cannot see and cannot hear.

Now in verse 18 he like the writer of Psalm 115 in verse 8 states that,

“Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them”.

 I like C.H. Spurgeon’s comment on this verse,

“The idol worshippers are as bad as the idol makers; for if there were none to worship, there would be no market for the degrading manufacture. Idolaters are spiritually dead, they are the mere images of men, their best being is gone, they are what they seem”.

 What they seem we have learnt is that they are spiritually dumb, blind and deaf to the true living God who made heaven and earth.

Idol worship is a delusion of the devil and people caught up in it are under the condemnation of God as we see from Isaiah 44: 9 – 11,

“All who make idols are nothing,and the things they treasure are worthless.Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing?11 People who do that will be put to shame;

 such craftsmen are only human beings.Let them all come together and take their stand;

 they will be brought down to terror and shame”.

 And in the New Testament Revelations 9: 20,

“The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk”.

 My wife and I visited the ancient ruins of Ephesus in 2011 and we were amazed of how much adultery can still be seen in the ruins there. Shells of temples to God and Goddesses line the steep and narrow streets of that ancient city yet it was here that God made a stand against idol worship through Paul and his preaching of the Gospel. The makers of idols in Ephesus caused a riot as they saw Paul’s message as a great danger to their trade (Acts 19: 23 – 41).

Years later Paul wrote these words as a prayer to the Ephesian Christians in Ephesians 3: 14 – 20, a prayer that contains the true nature and foundation of God ordained worship as opposed to the dead and useless worship of idol worship,

“For this reason, I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”.

 So, all true full- time servants of the Lord who work in the house of the Lord (in New Testament terms the church) are to promote spiritual worship based on the Gospel of Christ and to denounce the false, worthless and dangerous worship of idols or any other alternative to worship of the true and living God of the bible.

      5  (19 – 21)  A CALL FOR ALL GOD’S PEOPLE TO PRAISE THE LORD

  1. (19 – 20) God’s servants and people are to praise the Lord

This Psalm 135 started with a call to praise particularly a call to the full -time servants of the Lord who ministered in the house of the Lord and now this Psalm concludes with a call to praise and worship the Lord. This call is also addressed to the full- time servants of the Lord who minister in the house of the Lord but also widens out to all of Israel who believe in the Lord for verse 19 says,

“All you Israelites, praise the Lord; house of Aaron, praise the Lord”.

 The people of God are to follow the lead of their full- time ministers and praise and worship the Lord. If the people of God do this they are fulfilling the desire and motive of their minister’s goals and objectives.

Sadly, most of the Old Testament reveals that the House of Aaron, or the ordained full -time ministers of praise and worship failed to fulfil their God given role and function. Some even led the people of God into idol worship and many Old Testament prophets pronounced God’s judgment on these priests and the people who follow their evil leadership, like Jeremiah in Jeremiah 32: 30 – 35,

“The people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; indeed, the people of Israel have done nothing but arouse my anger with what their hands have made, declares the Lord. 31 From the day it was built until now, this city has so aroused my anger and wrath that I must remove it from my sight. 32 The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done—they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem. 33 They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. 34 They set up their vile images in the house that bears my Name and defiled it.35 They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin”.

 This judgment of God came on Israel in a devastating way in the form of the Babylonian conquest of Judah and Jerusalem in 598BC.

In the New Testament those who teach and lead the church will be judged with greater strictness as James says in James 3: 1,

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”.

 Paul sets down very clear and strong guidelines for full time ministers of the church of Jesus Christ, ministers he calls overseer’s and deacons in 1 Timothy 3: 1 – 10,

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.

 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.“4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.In the same way, deaconsare to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.11 In the same way, the womenare to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything”.

 Paul also warns Timothy of full time ministers who will enter the church to lead the people of God away from the truth in 2 Timothy 2: 14 – 19,

“Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

 Our writer of Psalm 135 repeats this call for the full -time servants of the Lord who minister in the house of the Lord joined by all the people of God to praise and worship the Lord in verse 20.

“House of Levi, praise the Lord; you who fear him, praise the Lord”.

 I like Albert Barnes comments on this verse and the one before it when he writes,

“It is an earnest call on all classes of the people to bless and praise the Lord. It is language expressive of overflowing joy; the utterance of a heart full of exalted conceptions of the majesty, the glory, and the mercy of God; of a heart which feels to the utmost the fitness of praise, and desires that all classes of people – priests and people – that all created things should unite in the praise of Yahweh. Who, in reading the psalm, can fail to catch the feelings of the psalmist, and to say Amen and amen!”

 It has been suggested that the phrase, “you who fear him, praise the Lord” could include non- Jews who are called Gentiles who came to recognise that the God of the bible is the one true God of Heaven and earth and therefore must be feared or respected and therefore worshipped.

Through the coming of Christ Jews and Gentiles can come to God in faith and praise as Paul speaks of in Galatians 3: 26 – 29,

“So, in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

 Paul lays down in Colossians 3: 15 – 17 the Christian full -time servant of the Lord’s guidelines for leading worship and praise in his household or church,

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. 

  1. (vs. 21)    God’s praise is to go out from Jerusalem

This Psalm ends its word of praise in the place the Lord chose to dwell in Old Testament times, Zion in Jerusalem,

“Praise be to the Lord from Zion, to him who dwells in Jerusalem, Praise the Lord”.

 Allan Harmon points out the significance of these words<

‘The temple in Jerusalem was the visible token of God’s presence with his people. From there he blessed them (Psalm 128: 5), and in turn they ascribe praise to him”.

 Harmon points out that from Jerusalem true praise would go into all the world which was only fulfilled by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ who preached the Gospel in Jerusalem died on the cross just outside Jerusalem, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven close to Jerusalem.

From Jerusalem, the disciples are sent out to preach and teach the Gospel message as Acts 1: 8 clearly states,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.

 Jesus commissions the disciples from Jerusalem with these words in Matthew 28: 19 – 20,

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 Finally, the Psalm ends with the Hebrew term for praise, “Hallelujah” just as it commenced with this term.

God’s full-time servants who minister in the house of the Lord are to be champions of praise leading God’s people in Hallelujah’s or praise for the God of the bible known as Yahweh”. They in New Testament terms are ministers of ministers or priests to priests as we are all priests of God or ministers of God according to 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

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.10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

May we all then serve the Lord with praise and love for both who he is and what he has done for us in The Lord Jesus Christ.

I close as usual with an original poem / song and a final word of prayer:

PRAISE HIM YOU SERVANTS OF THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 135 and influenced by the Polyeleous chant)

Give Praise to the Lord all you servants of the Lord

You who minister in the house of the Lord

Sing God’s praises for he is good

All you chosen sister – brotherhood.

Serve him now for he is full of grace

And he treats us like his chosen race.

 

I know that the Lord is a great amazing God

For he is greater than any other supposed God’s

He does whatever he wants to do

In heaven and in this world too

He makes the clouds rise on the earth

And course’s rain to give the earth new birth.

 

God struck down Egypt’s first -born son’s

For Pharaoh ignored God’s many powerful signs

He like many earthly kings stood against the Lord

And God judged them with his mighty word.

He gave Israel the land as an inheritance

And through Jesus one day we’ll stand in his presence.

 

God’s name endures for endless generations

And the Lord gives those who trust him vindications

For our God is a wonderful God of love

Who sent to earth his Son from heaven above

All other God’s are idols with no power

But our God is real and we can trust him every hour.

 

So, all Christian people join to praise the Lord

You minister’s must show how to praise the Lord

Praise God on earth and in heaven above

Praise him for his undeserving love

From Zion God gave us his word

So praise him you servants of the Lord.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father up in heaven we pray for the minters of our churches that they would faithfully lead us in praise in worship of you and your dear Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Help them to faithfully teach your word, encourage us in our various ministries for you and correct those who fall away from the truth of your word. It is your glory we seek in and through the wonderful name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.