PSALM 147 TALK: WHY PRAISE GOD?

PSALM 147 TALK:   WHY PRAISE GOD?

 (This is the second of the last five Psalms of the book of Psalms often called The Hallelujah Psalms and this Psalm features a detailed answer to the all- important question of why we should praise God and God alone.)

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

INTRODUCTION

In 2009 an author named Cooper Lawrence had a book published called “Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with The Stars Reveals About Us” and I read this opening Amazon reviewers description of the book that said,

“America’s fast-growing religion is—let’s face it—celebrity worship. From gossip magazines to entertainment TV, from blogs to ads featuring famous faces, the stars are our new gods and goddesses. But why are we so quick to put them on pedestals? Why are we even more spellbound when they topple back down to earth?”

 What this reviewer said about this book coupled with its title reveals how in our present day we are so easily caught up in praising some kind of celebrity whether he or she be in sport, film, politics or some other field of human endeavour but do they really deserve our praise and adoration?

I believe like the writer of Psalm 147, that God alone deserves our adoration and praise which he clearly states in his opening verse,

“Praise the Lord, how good is it to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him”.

 Unlike human celebrities who come and go, rise and fall and worse still go out of fashion God remains the same yesterday today and forever, he alone has the power and many good reasons for our praise and worship. Psalm 147 sets down many of these good reasons why God alone deserves our praise and worship.

I want to take you through this second Hallelujah Psalm in the final five Psalms of the book of Psalms to show you the answer to that question “Why Praise God”?

However, before we delve into this Psalm I want to answer the question of when it was written and for this Psalm I can even come up with a possible date that it was first sung and that date is 444 BC. This is the date that historians give to the dedication of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem recorded in the bible in Nehemiah 12: 27 – 43.

Many believe this is the time this Psalm was first sung on that great day of celebrations in Jerusalem because of two verses in the Psalm namely verses 2 and 13.

Verse 2 says,

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem, he gathers the exiles of Israel”

 We will see that the exiles of Israel in this Psalm are those who returned from Babylonian captivity not long before the walls of that ancient city where rebuilt under the leadership of Nehemiah.

Verse 13 says,

“He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you.”

 This is a direct reference to the rebuilt gates on the walls of Jerusalem that along with the wall was celebrated and dedicated in 444BC and more than likely this Psalm took centre stage in the praise and worship of the great God of the Bible who made that day possible.

Another piece of evidence for this Psalm being written and used for the dedication of the newly built walls of Jerusalem in 444BC is the fact that the Septuagint, The Syriac versions of the Old Testament ascribe this Psalm along with the previous Psalm to the two prophets of the time of Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. Albert Barnes sites the actual wording of the Syriac version of the Old Testament that reads like this,

“A Psalm of Haggai and Zechariah, when they urged the completion of the Temple in Jerusalem”.

 This took place around the time of the dedication of the newly built Jerusalem walls around 444BC that had happened 60 years or so after the dedication of the Temple around 515BC.

Interestingly Zechariah gets a mention as one of the priests and Levites around the time of the building and dedication of the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 12: 16:

“Of Iddo’s, Zechariah of Ginnethon’s, Meshullan”

With the theme of the answer to the question of why we should praise God my outline for this Psalm is:

  1. (1 – 6) PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS OUR GREAT SAVIOR
  1. (vs. 1)    Praise God because he alone deserves it
  2. (2 – 6)    Praise God because he saves the lost

     2  (7 – 11)  PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS THE GREAT  

                         PROVIDER

  1. (7 – 9)    Praise God because he provides food for all
  2. (10- 11) Praise God because he delights in those who

                          put their hope in his love

      3 (12 – 20) PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS BLESSES HIS

                            PEOPLE 

  1. (12 – 14) Praise God because he blesses his people with

                            peace and security

  1. (15 – 18)  Praise God because he controls this world
  2.    (19 – 20)  Praise God because he gave us his word

Let’s have a closer look at this Psalm then using this outline:

  1. (1 – 6) PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS OUR GREAT SAVIOUR
  1. (vs. 1) Praise God because he alone deserves it

As all of the closing five Psalms in the book of Psalms do this Psalm starts and finishes with the special ancient Hebrew word for praise, “Hallelujah” which is translated in English as “Praise the Lord”. Hallelujah literally means “Praise Yah” or more specifically, “Praise Yahweh” and “Yahweh” is the special covenant name of the God of the bible.

 This covenant name carried with it many wonderful truths about God like his eternal and loving nature and once this opening “Hallelujah” is spoken the psalmist goes on to state his first reason for praising this great God of the universe and covenant, he writes,

“How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him”.

The writer here spells out three reasons for why we should praise this great eternal and loving God of the bible who alone deserves our praise:

1.    It is good

2.    It is pleasant

3.    It is fitting

Alan Harman says:

“There is a cumulative impact created by these adjectives”

But even though these three reasons for why we praise God have a cumulative impact individually they have much to tell us about why God alone deserves our praise so I will give you some of my insights into these three reasons for why we should praise God alone.

1.    It is good

Alfred Barnes quotes another use of this term Psalm 92: 1,

“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High”

Barnes goes on to make some great comments but I like this one the best,

“it is good as it is due to God. For all his favour, we should be thankful – and all that we enjoy is his gift”.

David makes this clear in his own beautifully poetic way in Psalm 34: 8,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him”.

So, praising God because he is good brings blessing because that act of faith when we acknowledge God’s goodness opens up God’s blessed help and protection.

As Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 4: 4 – 5,

 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

  1. It is pleasant

I like H.C Leopold’s comment on this when he writes,

“The idea is first reinforced praise itself is a pleasant and most delightful occupation”.

 All through the bible praise and worship is not a drudge or dull thing to do but is a very pleasant and joyful activity as we see in the first two verses of Psalm 95,

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgivingand extol him with music and song”.

 Even Paul speaks of and encourages the churches to engage in joyful and pleasant praise and worship as we read in Colossians 3: 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”.

 Finally, heaven itself will be a very pleasant, joyful place of worship because it will be focussed on a God who loves and cares for us so much as we read in Revelation 19: 6 – 10,

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.Let us rejoice and be gladand give him glory!For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his

bride has made herself ready.Fine linen, bright and clean,was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

 Then in chapter 21 of Revelation heaven is presented as a very pleasant place of praise and worship as it will be the place where there is no more death, mourning, crying or pain for we will be with God forever, Revelation 21: 1 – 8.

3.    It is fitting

Praising God is fitting because as Tremper Longman 111 says,

“Praising God is what we were created for”.

 Often in my Psalm talks I have quoted the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and that first question goes like this:

“What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”.

 To glorify God is to enjoy God and likewise to enjoy God is to glorify or praise God as Paul points out to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 17,

Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

It is God’s will because we were made to be in a special relationship with God but sin separated us from God and that special relationship he design us for but praise God through the Lord Jesus Christ death on the cross our sin has been paid for.

Because our sins have been paid for we can come through Jesus and his death for us back to God as Paul so triumphantly speaks of in Romans 5: 1 – 8,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,  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   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.

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.”

 This passage alone should bring us to our knees in adoration and praise because it demonstrates how fitting and right God through The Lord Jesus Christ deserves our praise and worship.

  1. (2 – 6) Praise God because he saves the lost

Even the writer of Psalm 147 writing over 400 years before the coming of Christ, we believe knew that the God of the bible deserved our praise because he is a loving saving God of those who are lost.

He speaks of this in the way he and the people of his time knew the great truth of the amazing love of God in the historical story of how God brought back his people from their desperate state of captivity in Babylon to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem particularly represented by the rebuilding of its fallen smashed walls and this is what I believe the writer is speaking of in verse 2 – 3,

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem: he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds”.

 I believe this Psalm was first written to celebrate with praise the dedication of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah. God laid on Nehemiah’s heart the broken spirits of his people back in Jerusalem after they had returned from exile to find the devastation of the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem still very obvious in that place.

We read of this in Nehemiah 1: 1 – 4,

“The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:

In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven”.

 Nehemiah goes on to pray to God for the restoration of his homeland based on the promise God gave Moses long ago recorded in Deuteronomy 30: 4 – 10 which involved Israel confessing their sins, which Nehemiah does on their behalf and receiving from God his redemption out of his love for them which would lead to God’s full and wonderful restoration, see Nehemiah 1: 5 – 11.

His final words in his prayer asks God to give him success in granting him favour to obviously help his people achieve this restoration of their ancient capital of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was certainly in a great position to find help for his people as he held the privileged position of cupbearer to the great Persian King Artaxerxes a position of great trust and a position that gave Nehemiah direct access to the king’s ear. However, if Nehemiah spoke up for his people in the king’s presence he could have lost his life as such behaviour was forbidden in those times.

God used Nehemiah’s broken-hearted state to prompt King Artaxerxes to ask why he looked so sad and this gave Nehemiah the opportunity to tell the king about the terrible state of his people which still was a dangerous thing to do but God blessed Nehemiah and gave him the answer to his prayer. The king gave Nehemiah official leave and permission to return to Jerusalem to organise the re-building of the city walls.

This is what I believe verses 2 and 3 is speaking about as another great reason for the people of God in Nehemiah’s time to praise God,

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem: he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds”.

What is the New Testament or Christian application of these two verses?

To me when I read of Jerusalem in the Psalms I think of the place of God’s special presence with his people which is particularly symbolic in the ancient building called in the bible the Temple on the hill in Jerusalem called Zion.

Jesus in his ministry on earth predicted the destruction of the Temple which happened historically in AD 70 less than 40 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus so what has replaced the Temple in New Testament thought?

The surprising answer to this is found a couple of times in the writings of Paul like 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20,

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies”.

 So, God’s special presence is now in every true believer of Christ and I have said before that we are like walking Temples of God or walking presence’s of God in our world and in fact when we meet together as the church of God on earth Jesus promises this in Matthew 18: 20,

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the church as one day being the Heavenly Jerusalem or Heavenly Zion, Hebrews 12: 22 – 24,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

 We as individual members of the New Jerusalem called into being from the lowly state of sinners under the judgment of God which fits well with the wording of verse 2 of Psalm 147,

“He heals the broken hearted  and binds up their wounds”.

 This should always be a wonderful reason for us to praise God alone as Paul does in 2 Corinthians 4: 15,

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God”.

Then surprisingly the writer of Psalm 147 seems to jump from personal salvation of his people speaking about God’s saving word to God’s cosmic power and might in creation, he writes in verses 4,

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them by name”.

 Why does he do this?

I think this writer does this all through this Psalm to demonstrate the power and majesty of the God he is praising who as I have been saying all through this Psalm talk alone deserves our praise and worship.

I heard a bible teacher many years ago make a very wise and informative statement, he said something like if you want a big faith in God you need to get a big view of God. This is what this writer of Psalm 147 is seeking to give us a bigger view of God to inspire bigger praise of this mighty wonderful and powerful God.

This is the God who he has just claimed in verse 3 heals the broken hearted and now the same God who created the billion upon billion of stars in the universe and who not only created them but knows them all so well he has named them so he controls them for to name them means he is in control of them.

The God of the bible is just what the next verse says about him,

“Great is the Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit”.

 Allan Harman explains,

“Encouragement comes to the people with the thought that the restorer of Israel is none other than the God of creation. Even the stars are his and he knows them individually because he controls and knows them all”.

 Modern science and astrology only makes this fact even more mind blowing as we now know the incredible vastness of the universe so this God of the bible is truly both great and powerful and therefore he alone deserves our praise and worship.

However, the writer of Psalm 147 wants us to realise why he has just spoken about how great and powerful this God of the bible is for us and that is again made clear in verse 6 which simply says,

“The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground”

 God wants us all to come to him in praise and worship but we can only do that by humbling ourselves before God and he will give us his grace or undeserved favour as Peter speaks of when addressing younger people submitting to their elders, 1 Peter 5: 5 – 7,

“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,“God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”.

 The opposite thing to humbling ourselves before God is to remain proud and self-reliant which in Old Testament terms is to stay wicked and the writer of Psalm 147 says that the fate of the wicked is to be cast to the ground which is a picture of judgment also spoken of in the New Testament like John 15: 6,

“If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned”. 

     2  (7 – 11)  PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS THE GREAT

                        PROVIDER

  1. (7 – 9)    Praise God because he provides food for all

This Psalm has three clear sections and each section starts with a call to praise God expressed in a different way each time and this section puts the call to praise this way in verse 7,

“Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp”.

 Allan Harman points out that the Hebrew word for sing literally means respond but the reference to a musical a compliment in the rest of verse 7 makes singing the way this writer wants us to respond to what we will see is the God who provides food here in verses 8 and 9 to all his creatures, he writes in verses 8 and 9,

“He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call”.

 So, the writer goes for the bigger picture of God to inspire a bigger praise for God here again and God is the controller of the weather and even what modern science calls the water cycle of clouds producing rain that helps makes things grow and then this food provides the grass and crops that feed the animals, here cattle and birds.

This is similar to what we read in Psalm 104: 13 – 14,

“He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.14 He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth”.

 Why does the writer pick out the raven to represent the feeding of birds?

I Like David Guzik’s who quotes a commentator named Poole to answer this,

“Young Ravens” Which he mentions, partly, because they were most contemptible, especially to the Jews, to whom they were unclean and forbidden for food; partly, because they are greedy and voracious; and partly, because they are not only neglected by men, but also forsaken by their dams as soon as ever they can fly, and so are wholly left to the care and keeping of Divine Providence.”

God even cares for the downcast birds of nature which man and other creatures despises such is his love for the unlovely.

Here again we have yet another reason to praise the God of the bible. God is merciful and so should we be like him if we truly seek to live a life of praise to him as Jesus simply states in Luke 6: 36,

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”.

       2. (10- 11)  Praise God because he delights in those we put  

                             their hope in his love                 

In my introduction, I referred to the cult of the celebrity or the worship of human personalities and here in verse 10 is an Old Testament or ancient Israelite example of this kind of false worship for 10 says,

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior”.

You see in ancient time what men thought was great and important particularly for their security and prosperity was the soldier and his strong horse. Maybe today a lot of people put their trust in their counties military might, planes, missiles and well equipped and well- trained soldiers but God sees no value in these so called human powers and abilities as Allan Harman says,

“Human strength, even military might, is no substitute for divine power”.

We might not care much for military power but our faith or adoration for some famous celebrity or maybe Politian is misplaced and misguided for these people are human just like we are and so often these so called great ones fall and fail causing us a great sense of disappointment and pain but we should have the same adoration and faith as the next verse, verse 11 expresses so well,

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love”.

This is a round- about way of saying don’t trust in so called human strength and ability but trust or hope in the God of Heaven and earth, the God of the bible for he alone deserves our praise because he is the God of unfailing love.

Note it says “unfailing” which means God and his love is constant and therefore will not let us down like obviously human forces or celebrities will let us down. As John writes in 1 John 4: 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”.

 Verse 11 speaks of fearing God which is another way of saying revere and praise God which is the basis of all true worship and we praise God according to these verses by hoping or trusting in the unfailing love of God which we show by who we really serve in our lives.

In the New Testament Paul speaks of the basis of true worship now that we have the love or mercy of God shown to us in Christ in 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”.

3  (12 – 20) PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS BLESSES HIS

                         PEOPLE 

  1. (12 – 14) Praise God because he blesses his people with

                            peace and security

We come then to the third call to praise at the start of the third and final section of this Psalm 147 that we have seen has been telling us in some detail the answer to the question of Why praise God.

Before we look at the final reasons of why we should praise God I will make couple of comments on this third call to praise, which reads this way in verse 12,

“Extol the Lord, Jerusalem praise your God, Zion”.

 The Hebrew word for extol apparently to Hebrew scholars is another word for praise and Albert Barnes points out,

 “In addition to this general praise in which all may unite, there are special reasons why Jerusalem and its inhabitants should praise God”.

 As I said in my introduction I believe this Psalm was at least adapted if not written for the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem as recorded in Nehemiah 12: 27 – 47 in which two large choirs plus large musical performers went to the top of two of the main gates on the newly built walls around Jerusalem.

Here the choirs, musicians, leaders and people below are called upon to extol or praise the Lord and the reasons for praise here include the peace and security God has given them. This is evident in a physical way by the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and re-building or the Temple a few years before the walls were rebuilt.

This becomes clearer by what we read in verse 13,

“He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you”.

 Note how the wording of this verse has both a physical and spiritual aspect to them for the gates on their own do not guarantee peace and security but God strengthens the bars of the gates and he blesses the people within them.

The people are not being called on to praise the physical strength of the gates and walls but rather the strength of the God who made them possible as it was only God’s divine and providential leading and prompting of Nehemiah that led to his return with the authority and resources of their Persian overlords to organise the re-building of these gates and walls.

This blessing by God of peace and security is made even clearer by the next verse, 14 which says,

“He grants peace to the borders and satisfies you with the finest wheat”.

 Here the physical blessings of God for his people who praise Him and as we read in verse 11, put their hope in his unfailing love mirror the spiritual blessings we have in and through The Lord Jesus Christ as Paul speaks about God giving us peace in difficult times in Philippians 4: 7 after turning to God in faith and prayer:

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

 This peace God gives us what I call peace to cope not the cessation of conflict and this peace to cope is yet another reason why we should praise God.

  1. (15 – 18)  Praise God because he controls this world

As this Psalmist has done twice already in verses 15 – 18 he turns to the bigger picture of God’s control and power seen in nature. As I said before he wants his readers or even those who use this Psalm in worship to get a bigger view of God which leads to bigger praise and bigger faith in the hearts and lives of those who read, speak or sing this Psalms.

He speaks of God doing four incredible acts in nature that all should inspire and strengthen our faith in God:

  1. God’s swiftly answered commands (vs. 15)
  2. The spreading of snow (vs. 16)
  3. The hurling down of hail (vs. 17)
  4. The melting of ice and snow by his word (vs. 18)

 I will now make a brief comment on each of these four acts of God in nature.

  1. God’s swiftly answered commands (vs. 15)

As I said in my last Psalm talk the God of the bible is the Real Deal as this verse indicates how God operates in our day to day natural world, verse 15 says,

“He sends his command to earth; his word runs quickly”.

 This is reminiscent of the often- repeated term in Genesis 1,

“And God said”

 God simply speaks or here commands and things happen such is the power of the word of God. Things happen so quickly and wonderfully when God speaks or commands that the writer describes it with the phrase,

“His word runs swiftly”

 John in the opening of his Gospel calls the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ “The word” and describes his creating work this way in John 1: 1 – 5,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcomeit”.

 Paul goes even further in describing the Lord Jesus Christ as the creating word and force of everything including our salvation, 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”.

 This gives us a much bigger view of God and his Son the Lord Jesus Christ and should lead us to a bigger praise of him.

  1. The spreading of snow (vs. 16)

The second reason for praising God that uses God working through the natural world is the phenomenon of snow and frost, verse 16,

“He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes”.

 I had not realised that snow fell in ancient or modern Palestine even more so Jerusalem but I read this interesting comment in the Pulpit commentary on this Psalm and this verse that says,

“Snow, though rare in Palestine, does occasionally fall, and is said to “cover the streets of Jerusalem two winters out of three. It generally comes in small quantities; but there are sometimes very snowy winters.” In 1879, for instance, snow lay in Jerusalem to a depth of seventeen inches”.

 Our writer must have witnessed one of these rare Palatine winters and described vividly the spreading of snow being like probably fluffy wool. Frost in winter in Palestine is not as rare as snow and frost both come from the hand of God and this indicates that the swift commands or word of God in creation is still happening daily in our weather winter, Spring summer or autumn.

This also is a reason to praise God although these reasons and the next of hail stones could be seen by some as a reason not to praise God owing to their discomfort and possible danger. However, God has the weather under his control and he has his good reasons for their workings so we must join with Paul and by faith claim the truth of what Paul says in Romans 8: 28,

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

  1. The hurling down of hail (vs. 17)

Verse 17 speaks of a natural phenomenon that God can send down on the earth not only in winter as it is the natural phenomenon of hail, verse 17,

“He hurls down his hail like pebble. Who can withstand his icy blast?

 Where I live in Australia big thunder storms that send down often massive size hail causing much damage at times is in the height of summer not winter although we can get the occasional thunder storm in winter as well.

 As I said in the last natural phenomena that the Psalmist uses as a reason to praise God namely hail some might see as a destructive power and a reason not to praise God. However, as I said by faith we can join Paul and believe in God’s sovereign good will in all things that seem to us both good and bad.

As I have been advocating if we have a big view of God we can have a big faith in God and take him at his word that he works all things together for good for those who love him and have been called according to his purposes. Spurgeon makes this insightful comment about the words at the end verse 17 that says,

“Who can withstand his icy blast?”

 “That which God sends, whether it be heat or cold, no man can defy with impunity, but he is happy who bows before it with childlike submission”.

 This is the nature of true biblical praise that we put into practice the words of Paul 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”. 

  1. The melting of ice and snow by his word (vs. 18)

The last natural phenomena that is presented as a reason why we should praise God is the melting of snow and ice again by his word as we read in verse 18,

“He sends his word and melts them; he stirs up his breezes, and waters flow”.

 So, God might send down snow, frost and even destructive hail but they end or stop when he decides by his word or command as verse 15 told us so God is sovereign over nature and everything.

God’s word is powerful and achieves exactly what he wants it to do as Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 55: 11,

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”.

 Or as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 4: 12,

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.

 The question I would like to ask is that if God’s word can melt snow, frost or hail can it also melt the cold unbelieving hearts of man?

The answer to that I believe is he certainly can as we just read in Hebrews 4: 12 that God’s word can penetrate,

“even to dividing soul and spirit”.

 I spoke with some good friends recently who sadly as a couple had to leave their church they faithfully attended for many years because the word of God was now downgraded and even made to be irrelevant and of little use in our modern world. That church was losing the life changing heart melting power and force of God’s word and is now doomed to die as a result.

God in nature melts the snow, frost and hail by stirring up a breeze, no doubt a warm breeze and the ice and snow melt and become water.

Jesus speaks of the power of his spirit which we receive by faith in his word as a powerful force of water in John 7: 38,

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”.

 This is yet another wonderful reason why we should praise God alone.

  1.    (19 – 20)  Praise God because he gave us his word

The writer of Psalm 147 has called three times on the people of God to praise the Lord and has given us many reasons why we should praise him.

He started with how good, pleasant and fitting it is to praise the God (vs. 1) who made heaven and earth and then moved on to what God had done recently for the re-building of Jerusalem (vs. 2, 13 and 14). He then speaks of how this rebuilding of the broken nation of Israel through his unfailing love is yet even more reasons why me should praise God (vs’s 3 – 6 and 11).

Throughout the Psalm he has pointed us to the cosmic and natural hand of God’s control and provision as yet another reason why we should praise God (vs’s 4 – 5, 8 – 9 and 15 – 18).

However, all these reasons why we should praise the Lord of heaven and earth cannot match the final great reason why we should praise God and God alone and that is how he has revealed himself to us through his word, through initially the ancient nation of Israel and then through the The Lord Jesus Christ.

We read of God’s revelation of himself as a reason why we should praise him in verses 19 and 20, that says,

“He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws. Praise the Lord.

 We know from this revelation of God we call the bible that because mankind has turned its back on God we are all in the dark especially when it comes to knowing God as he is.

I like the way the apostle John explains this reality of how people are in the dark, spiritually and actually it seems John suggests we naturally like the darkness so much we shun the light or revelation of God when it shines on us, 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”.

 Many years ago, when I worked as a church Youth worker I taught scripture classes in three high schools where there were hundreds of young people who had no contact with Christians and the Christian Gospel message. I was often asked the question:

Why did God, if he exists at all have to speak to us through a book called the bible, why doesn’t he simply just speak directly to us?

When I was first asked this question I simply could not think of an answer and then it came to me. Imagine what it would be like if the students got what they were asking for and when I explained my answer to them I would curl up a piece of paper to look like a megaphone and then yelled at the top of my voice,

“Hey all you people down there I am God listen to me”

 Even in a school class room this was a very unpleasant experience and I pointed out that big voices in the sky still would not be believed as many people would say how do we know that the voice is the sky is God speaking to us.

I would also point out that God is spirit and is great and awesome so he chose the best way possible to reveal himself which was through the story and history of a special nation he called into being and then through that nation he made himself known more fully as a person just like you and me yet also he was still God and this is of course is The Lord Jesus Christ who the apostle John speaks of this way 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”.

 The writer of Psalm 147 speaks of God revealing his word to Jacob who was one of the founding fathers of the nation of Israel God chose to reveal himself to and then eventually the world.

The name Jacob reveals that God spoke to a sinful fallen man as Jacob in Hebrew means supplanter and Jacob through most of his life was a self- serving devious man who sort to bring down his older twin brothers birth right to advance himself.

Jacob later in his life had a special encounter with God recorded in Genesis 32: 22 – 32 and after wrestling with God, through an Angel of God Jacob is humbled with a permanent injury to his hip causing him to limp and God gives him a new name which is Israel that means “Struggles with God and prevails” and that is the name of the Nation he helps to bring into being.

The writer of Psalm 147 then speaks of the special revelation of God to the Nation of Israel with these words in verse 19,

“His laws and decrees to Israel”

 This is a direct reference to the covenant agreement God made with the ancient nation of Israel a covenant that speaks of God choosing to love and bless a nation called Israel and they are as their part of this covenant or binding agreement to keep his laws.

The story of Israel and the bible is that by and large Israel failed to keep God’s laws so God had to fulfil the covenant agreement another way and that was by providing the perfect sacrifice for our sins in the person of his Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is what the writer to the Hebrews is speaking about in Hebrews 9: 14 – 15,

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

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 last verse of this Psalm speaks of the unique position Israel as a nation holds in world history as God chose only one nation on earth through which he made himself known,

“He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws”.

 One commentator I read spoke of how the truth of this would have been clear to the Jews who had just come from the Babylonian captivity as living in Babylon they would have felt first- hand how nations without the revelation of God and his laws were so much in the dark and how this meant they had no idea about the One True God as they lived in total spiritual darkness not knowing or understanding who he is and what he requires of them.

As Christians, we are called to be The New Israel of God as Paul calls the church in passages like Galatians 6: 16 and implied by Galatians 3: 26 – 29. This means we also are in a unique position in the world we live in as Peter speaks so powerfully of in 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”.

 So, we can join in the writer of Psalm 147 call to praise the God of the bible for his special revelation of himself that has called us as Peter declares in verse 9,

“Out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

 This is the last and greatest reason why we can join the writer of Psalm 147 and say or sing,

“Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord”.

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

IT IS GOOD TO PRAISE THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 147)

 Praise the Lord

For it is good to sing praises to the Lord

Praise the Lord

How fitting and pleasant it is to praise the Lord

For he builds up his church

As he gathers them together as one

For he heals the broken hearted

Through the selfless giving of his only Son.

 

Chorus:

 

It is good to praise the Lord

For he’s done so much us

And he longs to bless us now

But we must turn around and trust.

 

Praise the Lord

For he made the stars up above

Praise the Lord

For he now controls the universe with love

And great with mighty power

Is our God who’s understanding has no end

And he sustains those who fall

And who seek his kingdom to extend.

 

Chorus:

Praise the Lord

Who takes no pleasure the strength of a horse

Praise the Lord

Who does not delight in human fighting force

But his delight is in those

Who trust and hope in his amazing love

For he sent his son to die

So that one day we could all rise up above.

Chorus:

 

Praise the Lord

For his wonderful provisions for the earth

Praise the Lord

Who makes the rain that gives our world new birth

And his revealed himself to us

Through his people called Israel who lived long ago

And through them he sent his son

So that message of his love to the world could now go.

Chorus:

 

It is good to praise the Lord

For he’s done so much us

And he longs to bless us now

But we must turn around and trust.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

We praise you Lord, Father in heaven above who made the universe and still keeps it going with your mighty power and your love. We praise you because you alone deserve our praise for all the wonderful loving things you have done for us and continue to do for us. Above all we praise and thank you for how you sent your Son to both reveal yourself to us and to die for our sins on the cross so that we could be forgiven of all our sins and come out of our darkness into your glorious eternal light. In Jesus name we pray this, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PSALM 146 TALK:   CHOOSE THIS DAY WHO YOU WILL PRAISE

PSALM 146 TALK:   CHOOSE THIS DAY WHO YOU WILL PRAISE

 (This is the first of the last five Psalms of the book of Psalms often called The Hallelujah Psalms and this Psalm features the theme of choosing to praise the Lord rather than mankind or any other God substitute. It offers wonderful reasons why we should praise God alone.)

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

INTRODUCTION

Ever since my late teenage years I have loved character studies of people in the bible. I was introduced to this by an assistant minister of the church I attended in my late teenage years who often led us through bible character studies at a bible study he ran for young people before evening church on a Sunday night. He often said the bible presents these characters “warts and all” meaning the bible revealed their strong Godly characteristics and their human failings as well.

One bible character I have always loved is Joshua and I believe he had very big shoes to fill as he had to take over the leadership of the people of Israel from the mighty Godly leader Moses. Joshua also had to lead Israel in many battles against the far more humanly powerful and numerous Canaanites. He did this by trusting in God alone and his strong and God focussed faith led Israel to possess and occupy the Promised Land.

Some of the words of Joshua to his people, made at the end of his life recorded in Joshua chapter 24 came to my mind as I read Psalm 146. Joshua issued a challenge to Israel before he passed on to be with God in heaven that goes like this, according to Joshua 24: 14 – 15,

 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

These words came to me to my remembrance after I read these words in Psalm 146: 3 – 5,

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;on that very day their plans come to nothing.Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,whose hope is in the Lord their God”.

 Who we really serve ends up who we praise as we usually serve or follow the example of the person or thing we desire and admire the most in this life.

I often hear or read of people sometimes even Christians promoting a politician or political party or political ideal as the answer to the problems of our world today and in doing so they show their faith and hope is in man not the God of heaven and earth.

Not that Christians cannot hold political views and in fact Paul encourages us as true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ to pray for those in authority, 1 Timothy 2: 1 -4,

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—

 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

 For many years now I have decided to pay respect to all political leaders and to pray for them no matter what party they belong to that God will lead them to the truth about his saving love in Christ and that they might be led to govern our country in such a way that everyone, including Christians can lead a peaceful life in godliness and holiness.

What I speak about shows who or what I think is worthy of praise and Psalm 146 makes this very clear. It seems its writer might have fallen himself into the trap of putting his faith and hope in earthly leaders of his day but when God reminded him of who he really is and what he has done for us as fallen sinful people in great need of Salvation he resolved to praise the Lord with his whole being or soul verse 1 and entire life verse 2.

This Psalm 146 became one of the final five Psalms in the book of Psalms that start and end with the Hebrew term, Hallelujah or as we translate it, “Praise the Lord” or more accurately praise Yahweh, Yahweh is the special covenant of love name for God who is, has been and will be forever more be as Moses was told at the burning bush by God recorded in Exodus 3: 14,

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

The name “I am who I am” is believed to be, “Yahweh” in Hebrew but others say it should be Jehovah but we are not sure because the Jews held the name in such a holy high way they would not write down vowels and only wrote down the four consonants YHWH.

So, these last five Psalms in the book of Psalms became known as “The Hallelujah Psalms” different from the other Hallelujah Psalms in book 5, 113 – 118 which are, “The Egyptian Hallelujah Psalms” as they praise God from a “Passover Preparation” perspective which is the celebration of God delivering Israel out of slavery in Egypt.

So, it seems the editors of this final book of Psalms placed Psalm 146 at the start of this final collection of Hallelujah Psalms as it makes it clear who we should be praising.

With the theme of the challenge of choosing who we will praise and serve, namely the God of Heaven and earth and not human beings or any other God substitute my outline is:

 

  1. (1 – 2) THE WRITERS COMMITMENT TO PRAISE THE LORD
  1. (vs. 1) May my whole being praise the Lord
  2. (vs. 2) May my whole life praise the Lord

      2   (3 – 5)   THE CHALLENGE OF CHOOSING WHO YOU WILL PRAISE

  1. (3 -4) Do not choose to praise and serve man
  2. (vs 5) Choose to praise the God of the bible

3.  6 – 10) THE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD CHOOSE TO PRAISE GOD

  1. (vs 6) Choose to praise God because he made everything
  2. (7– 9b) Choose to praise God because he cares for lost humanity
  3. (vs 9) Choose to praise God and not a God substitute or face frustration
  4. (vs 10) Choose to praise God because he is the eternal King
  1. (1 – 2) THE WRITERS COMMITMENT TO PRAISE THE LORD
  1. (vs. 1) May my whole being praise the Lord

 The writer of Psalm 146 opens with the ancient Hebrew term all of these last five Psalms of the book of Psalms open and close with,

“Hallelujah”

 Or as our English versions translate,

“Praise the Lord”

 As I have already stated, “Hallelujah” is literally, “Praise Yahweh” and Yahweh if you were an ancient Hebrew spoke of the great and powerful God of heaven and earth who has always existed and always will who made himself known to his chosen people and who established with them a special relationship of love.

As Christians, we know that this same God has made himself known to us in his saving acts of grace in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Yahweh worked through the Old Covenant to establish the new covenant of love as the writer to the Hebrews speaks of 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 wonderful message of the whole bible is that the one true God of heaven and earth is in fact a God of love as the famous New Testament verse, John 3: 16 clearly states,

“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”.

 The writer of Psalm 146 therefore adds to his “Praise Yahweh” or “Hallelujah” a second “Praise the Lord” and follows it with a commitment to praise this great God of love with his soul which in Hebrew means his whole being. The second part of verse 1 of Psalm 146 should read,

“Praise Yahweh with my whole being”

 This God, he believes deserves his total all out praise and service and we will learn from the rest of the Psalm why this is so.

  1. (vs. 2) May my whole life praise the Lord

Just to make sure we get what he has already stated he says much the same thing in verse 2 when he writes,

“I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live”.

 This man is totally committed to praising the God of heaven and earth who is “Yahweh” the one true eternal God who has made himself known to us through the Nation of Israel and more specifically through the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as we as Christians know now.

This verse and the verse it follows is a commitment to serve and praise the God of the bible who deserves our praise as we will see from the rest of this Psalm. This is a life- long commitment as he uses life- long terms,

“all my life” and “as long as I live”

 Stephen J. Cole writes,

“Praising God every day as long as you live won’t happen naturally or because you have a cheery disposition. It requires a God – ward focus, where you see every blessing and trial coming from his loving hand”.

 Paul gave us a deep and thorough God – ward focus to continually praise and serve the Lord in some of his opening words of his letter to the Ephesians and I will quote just 6 of these verses here in this Psalm talk to help inspire us to praise the Lord all our lives, Ephesians 1: 3 – 9,

“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, hemade known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ”.

 Whenever I feel tempted to turn from praising the Lord I like to read these words or even the first couple of chapters of Paul’s amazing letter to the Ephesians and my God ward focus of praise for the Lord returns in bucket loads.

      2.   (3 – 5)   THE CHALLENGE OF CHOOSING WHO YOU WILL PRAISE

  1. (3 -4) Do not choose to praise man

Surprisingly the writer of Psalm 146 after he has declared his commitment to praise the Lord with his whole being and throughout his entire life then speaks in negative terms about not putting trust and praise in human leaders called in his day, “Princes”. He write in verse 3,

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save”.

 Why does the writer of Psalm 146 turn from talking about total commitment to serving and praising God to a negative statement about not serving or using his words trusting in princes or human beings?

One commentator I consulted named Leopold suggested that this might have come about because our writer wrote this Psalm after he had learnt the bitter lesson of being caught up in trusting and praising human leaders rather than God.

I must tell you that the Hebrew word for “Princes” is “Nadib” which Richard Neil Donovan says represents,

“People in high places – people who wield authority – wealthy people”.

I can relate to this temptation because I know I live in a fallen world I feel surrounded by powerful human voices vying for my attention and allegiance. Powerful people can wield authority and even attractive messages and tempt us to gain our support and allegiance.

We can easily get sucked in to start trusting in a charismatic leader or person and in doing so forget that only God can be trusted and only God deserves our trust and praise.

Stephen J. Cole says,

“You will praise the one whom you trust if he helps you”.

 However, the writer of Psalm 146 makes it clear that no matter how much a human person helps us he or she,

“Cannot Save”

 They prove that they cannot save us because verse 4 says,

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that day their plans come to nothing”.

 In other words, if you trust in a human being you will be eventually let down for the hope they offer will end in disappointment and even disaster.

I mentioned in my introduction I referred to Joshua’s call to serve the Lord in Joshua 24 verses 14 – 15,

 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

In Joshua’s day the great temptation for his people was to return to serving the false God’s of Egypt or the God’s of the people of Canaan they had just conquered who would have got there powerful message blasted into the minds and lives as they lived in a culture totally devoted to them.

We have no problems turning to the ancient God’s of Egypt or Canaan but other alternative God’s or anti – God of the bible philosophies have a dominate voice in our world and tempt us to follow them. I live a secular often Godless western country that is dominated by a non-God of the bible philosophy like materialism or worship of self-interest which shouts its message at me daily seeking to win my elegance.

I also pointed out how Joshua mentioned the God’s of the people they are now living amongst as another form of non-God of the bible alternative and it was those God’s that Israel did by and large turn to causing great strife and pain for Israel and leading to God’s judgement like the fall of Israel in the North to the Assyrians and the fall of Judah in the south to the Babylonians followed by seventy years of Captivity in Babylon.

We all face the great temptation of not serving and praising God as the devil uses the world around us to shout a non-God allegiance message at us to subtly draw us into non- God of the bible thought and action.

James has this advice for us as we face and come under the influence of the Devil and his evil schemes to draw us away from serving and praising the Lord 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”.

 We must then be aware of the temptation of trusting in “princes” or powerful leaders of our world who cannot save us and praise the God of the bible who through the Lord Jesus Christ has saved us and given us the wonderful gift of eternal life as Paul declares so often in his letters to the churches and people like Timothy like 1 Timothy 1: 15 – 16,

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life”. 

  1. (vs 5) Choose to praise the God of the bible

So, the writer of Psalm 146 has warned us about falling into the trap of trusting in and praising “Princes” powerful human leaders who cannot save us and so in verse 5 he now says who we should trust in and praise he writes,

“Blessed are those whose help is in the God of Jacob, whose hope is the Lord their God”.

 In other Psalm talks have I pointed out that the word “Blessed” actually means something like “Happiness” but not the kind of happiness our current world seeks but true deep spiritual happiness that Paul speaks of as peace with God as he speaks of in Philippians 4: 7,

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

 So, this happiness or peace that transcends all understanding is finding help and hope in the God of Jacob. This term “God of Jacob” has come up in many Psalms and I have pointed out before that Jacob is the other name of the patriarch who was later in his life named by God as Israel which became the name of the nation that descended from him.

I believe this use of the other name of Israel is no accident as Jacob up to the day he became known by God as Israel lived up to his former names ancient Hebrew meaning of “the supplanter” or the one sought to pull others down to advance himself. This is a good description of the life of Jacob up to his close encounter with God (Genesis 32: 27 – 31) and God touched Jacobs hip as he wrestled with his angel causing Jacob to have a permanent limp which made Jacob a person who stopped seeking to advance himself to become Israel which means, “May God Prevail” or “He struggled with God and God prevailed”.

“The God of Jacob” then is the God of sinners who submit their rebellious wills to the God described in the next verse as,

The maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them”.

 This God then, as verse 5 says,

“Is the Lord their God”

 This God then, alone deserves our “Hallelujah” or “Praise” as we read so often in the book of Revelation like 14: 6 – 7,

“Then I saw another angel flying in mid-air, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

     3.   (6 – 10) THE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD CHOOSE TO PRAISE GOD

  1. (vs 6) Choose to praise God because he made everything

The final five verses of this Psalm 146 spell out many reasons why this God of Jacob or God of rebellious sinners who turn to God as the Lord deserves our praise.

The first of these reasons why the God of Jacob deserves our praise is in verse 6,

“He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – he remains faithful forever.”

 This concept of God being a powerful God who deserves our praise because he made everything has come up many times in the book of Psalms like Psalm 115: 15,

“May you be blessed by the Lord, the maker of Heaven and earth”

 or Psalm 121: 2,

“My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”.

 Spurgeon aptly says,

“This God who still makes the world by keeping it in existence is assuredly able to keep us to his eternal kingdom and glory. The making of the worlds is the standing proof of the power and wisdom of that great God in whom we trust”.

 The fact God is the one who made this world and keeps it going as Spurgeon has just suggested alone deserves our trust and praise especially compared to any other God substitute like so called powerful leaders we read about in the previous verses.

This great creator God who has made himself known in his Son Jesus Christ Paul tells us does a work of new creation in us through Christ as Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 2: 17,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!”

 The concept of God being the maker or creator of everything led our writer of Psalm 146 to then declare at the end of verse 6,

“He remains faithful forever”

 Spurgeon says this about these words,

This is a second and most forcible justification of our trust: the Lord will never permit his promise to fail.

He is true to his own nature, true to the relationships which he has assumed, true to his covenant, true to his Word, true to his Son. He keeps true, and is the keeper of all that is true. Immutable fidelity is the character of Jehovah’s procedure. None can charge him with falsehood or vacillation”.

 This reminds me of Paul words in 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

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

Again, God alone deserves our trust and praise who is faithful and will never let us down unlike human alternatives who cannot be trusted as they will as fallen people let us down as the writer of Psalm 146 said at the end of verse 4,

“Their plans come to nothing”

 I might add the so- called help and hope they offer comes to nothing.

  1. (7– 9) Choose to praise God because he cares for lost humanity

Just the realisation that the God of the bible made everything should give us ample reasons to praise God alone but the writer of Psalm 146 speaks of even more reasons other than God being the creator of heaven and earth as reasons for choosing each day to praise him with our whole soul and life.

Verses 7 to 9 list six other reasons why the God of the bible deserves our praise daily and they are:

  1. (vs. 7a) Upholds the Oppressed
  2. (vs. 7b) Gives food to the hungry
  3. (vs. 8a) Gives sight to the blind
  4. (vs. 8b) Lifts up those who are bowed down
  5. (vs. 9a) Watches over the foreigner
  6. (vs. 9b) Sustains the fatherless and the window

Before we look at each one of these in a bit more detail I want to try and answer the question are all these six ways God shows that he deserves our praise to be read as physical or spiritual things?

I have decided that I think they are both physical and spiritual. I like the way David Guzil speaks of them when he writes,

“The Psalmist here began a marvellous description of Yahweh as a God of power, care, justice and compassion”.

 David adds:

“The Psalmist seems delighted to describe Yahweh in His great works of love and power”.

 The Jewish law speaks literally about God’s people having obligations of upholding the oppressed (Exodus 23: 6 – 7), obligations under the law to look after the poor (Deuteronomy 15: 7) and also obligations to care for the foreigner, orphaned and widowed (Deuteronomy 24: 19 – 22).

God placed these obligations in his law to the oppressed, poor, foreigner, orphaned and widow for his people because that is who he cares for and he wants his people to intimate him as God declares to his people in Deuteronomy 10: 17 – 19,

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt”.

 Note how the motivation God offers his people Israel to care for the poor, oppressed and particularly foreigners are that they were foreigners and of course oppressed and poor people in Egypt when God saved or delivered them out of Egypt.

Even though I believe we can rightly interpret these 6 ways God cares for us as literal reasons for reasons for us to praise him alone I think the book of Isaiah and the New Testament particularly the teachings of Jesus can be applied equally well as spiritual reasons for giving God praise and I will now seek to interpret these six reasons as spiritual reasons for giving God alone praise.

  1. (vs. 7a) Upholds the Oppressed

“He upholds the cause of the oppressed” (vs. 7a)

As I have just said Isaiah speaks of God upholding the spiritual oppressed in a verse like Isaiah 61: 1,

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoner”.

  In Luke 4: 16 – 20 Jesus applies this prophecy to himself,

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,because he has anointed meto proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisonersand recovery of sight for the blind,to set the oppressed free,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him”.

 Jesus mission was to set the oppressed free who are oppressed by their sins and he achieved this by his death and resurrection as Paul proclaimed in the Synagogue in Antioch in Acts 13: 38 – 39,

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses”.

 So, the freedom Christ won for us from the oppression of our sins is another wonderful reason why should give God our praise all the days of our lives.

  1. (vs. 7b) Gives food to the hungry

“And gives food to the hungry”

 Isaiah speaking, I think about spiritual food and nourishment says this in Isaiah 55: 1 – 2,

“Come, all you who are thirsty,come to the waters;and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy?Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare”.

 The spiritual link is made clear by the next verse that says,

“Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live, I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David”.

 Jesus promises to give us this spiritual food or nourishment if we but believe in him in John 6: 35,

“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”.

 So, the spiritual food or nourishment Jesus gives us when we believe in him is another wonderful reason why should give God our praise all the days of our lives.

  1. (vs. 8a) Gives sight to the blind

 “The Lord gives sight to the blind” (vs. 8a)

Isaiah spoke a lot about God giving blind people sight like Isaiah 35: 5 – 7,

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.Water will gush forth in the Wilderness and streams in the desert”.

 Jesus gave physical sight to blind people but also offers far more valuable spiritual sight to anyone who comes to him in faith as we read in Acts 26: 15 – 18 which is part of Pauls defence before King Agrippa when he refers to his conversion and call to ministry when he had a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ,

“Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?

  I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

 Paul prays this for the Ephesians in Ephesians 1: 18,

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people”.

So, spiritual sight to our spiritually blind eyes Jesus gives us when we believe in him is another wonderful reason why should give God our praise all the days of our lives.

  1. (vs. 8b) Lifts up those who are bowed down

“The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down”.

 Albert Barnes writes,

The reference is to those who are bent and bowed under the duties, the cares, the trials of life; who go bowed down under those burdens. God is able to strengthen them so that they can bear those burdens without being crushed under them”.

 Sin crushes us and causes us to carry many burdens in this life but the help and hope of the Lord the writer of Psalm 146 spoke of in verse 5 now brings the fourth reason for praise namely the Lord lifting up those who are bowed down but bowed down before the Lord as the last part of this says,

“The Lord loves the righteous”

 James tells us in James 4: 10,

10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

 So, lifting us up from the crushing effects of sin that the Lord gives us when we bow down before him with Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is another wonderful reason why should give God our praise all the days of our lives.

  1. (vs. 9a) Watches over the foreigner

“The Lord watches over the foreigner”

 I quoted earlier from Deuteronomy 10: 17 – 19 which contains God’s law for his special people to care and love fatherless, widow and in other parts of the law the poor etc. and verse 19 says,

“And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt”.

 Note how the motivation God gives his people to care and love the foreigner is the fact that they once were foreigners in Egypt before God saved them out of their slavery and oppression to eventually give them a homeland in what was called The Promised land.

Spiritually before we came to Christ we were slaves to sin and spiritually foreigners to the family of God but now we are members of the family of God as Paul speaks of in Galatians 3: 23 – 29,

“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, 27 for all of you who were baptized 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”.

 Peter speaks of this as well in 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”.

 Interestingly Peter goes on to say in the next verse that we are like foreigners in this world owing to the fact that we have been called out of the darkness of this world to be part of God’s chosen people or royal priesthood that is his holy nation on earth,

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul”.

 So, being loved as foreigners who through Christ death on the cross for our sins are now considered by God as part of his chosen Holy nation on earth is another wonderful reason why we should give God our praise all the days of our lives.

  1. (vs. 9b) Sustains the fatherless and the window

“And sustains the fatherless and the widow” (vs. 9b)

God made specific commands for his chosen people to love and care for the fatherless and widows in his law as we saw earlier in Deuteronomy 10: 18,

18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing”.

 In Old Testament ancient times to become a widow and loose the support of a father would have been both devastating both socially and physically as only the man could grow the crops or earn a wage for the services he provided for the community unlike today because we have social services and widow pensions to help provide some form of financial support for women without a husband and children without a Father.

God wants then his people to care for those who are suffering and live at a disadvantage in this life and this has a spiritual application in that before we came to God through Christ we were like orphans or even foreigners to God but God’s love sent Jesus into the world to shine his light upon us and through his death on the cross he forgive our many sins that separated us from him and now by faith in what he has done for us he has brought us into the family of God.

This is what we saw Peter said before in 1 Peter 2: 10,

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”.

 This also is yet another wonderful reason for us to praise God all the days of our lives.

  1. (vs 9) Choose to praise God and not a God substitute or face frustration

The end of verse 9 says this,

 “But he frustrates the ways of the wicked”

 The end of verse 9 speaks briefly then of the fate of those who refuse to praise the God of heaven and earth and instead praise some other God substitute.

The writer of this Psalm has already stated that trusting in someone or something other than God will lead to frustration as he says in verses 3 and 4,

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing”.

 You can see the element of frustration in the words at the end of verse 4,

“Their plans come to nothing”

 Only when we turn to the One true God of heaven and earth and praise and serve him can we experience the truth of the words of verse 5 which says,

“Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,whose hope is in the Lord their God”.

 Not praising God leads then to a life of frustration as we have seen the end of verse 9 says,

“But he frustrates the ways of the wicked”

 The New Testament makes this fact even more clearly like Pauls words of advice to the Church in Ephesus when he advises them not to let those who have not turned to the Lord turn them back to the frustrating Godless life they once lived, Ephesians 5: 6 – 11,

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them”.

 What pleases the Lord could be summed up in putting into practice the main theme of this Psalm namely seeking to praise and serve the Lord all the days of our lives.

  1. (vs 10) Choose to praise God because he is the eternal King

The Psalm ends with a final reason why we should praise the God who made heaven and earth alone all our lives and a final word of praise namely a final “Hallelujah” or Praise the Lord.

First, I will comment on the final reason for praising the God who made heaven and earth all the days of our lives which the writer of Psalm 146 states clearly at the start of verse 10,

“The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations”.

Which is a clear reference to Exodus 15: 8 spoken by Moses in his special song he wrote after God opened up the red sea for Israel to cross and closed it to drown the army of Pharaoh who had sought to pursue them to destroy them. Here God showed he reigns over nature and mankind and also that this fact is a point of wonder and source of reasons to praise this God who helped and gave hope to his special people called in Psalm 146 verse 10,

“O Zion”

 Zion is a special name in the bible for God’s people along with a word used to describe God’s special place on earth in Old Testament times where he is said to dwell with his people, namely the Temple that stood on top of the hill in Jerusalem called Zion.

Hebrews 12: 22 – 24 gives us the New Testament meaning of the word Zion,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

 So, we are to praise God according to Psalm 146 verse 10 and Hebrews 12: 22 – 24 as the Lord or God who reigns forever in and through his church called in Hebrews 12: 22 – 23,

“Thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven”.

 Reigning forever with God is the last reason for our praise and is in direct contrast to praising and trusting in human Princes in verse 3 who according to verse 4 leads only to frustration as they cannot save us or live forever.

This then lead our writer to make his praise and worship known in a final,

“Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord”

I conclude then with an original poem or song based on what I have learnt from this Psalm 146 and a final word of prayer.

I WILL PRAISE THE GOD OF HEAVEN ALL MY LIFE

(Based on Psalm 146)

I will praise the God of Heaven all my life

I will praise the God heaven all my life

I will sing of his glory

And seek to tell his story

I will praise the God of Heaven all my life.

 

I will not trust in human leaders of this world

I will not trust in human leaders of this world

For they cannot save me

They will simply die and leave me

I will not trust in human leaders of this world.

 

Blessed are those whose help is in the Lord

Blessed are those whose help is in the Lord

For he gives them hope for living

For he is always giving

Blessed are those whose help is in the Lord.

 

Praise the God who’s the maker of heaven and earth

Praise the God who’s the maker of heaven and earth

He’s a faithful God forever.

And I will praise him as my treasure

Praise the God who’s the maker of heaven and earth.

 

I will be a poor man’s brother like my Lord

I will be a poor man’s brother like my Lord

For he helps the blind to see

And sets the prisoners free

I will be a poor man’s brother like my Lord

 

I will praise the God who reigns for evermore

I will praise the God who reigns for ever more

I will sing of his glory

And seek to tell his story

I will praise the God who reigns for evermore.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven maker of heaven and earth I long to praise you all my life because you are such a faithful loving God. Help me not to trust in and praise human leaders or any other false God substitutes who will only lead me to frustration and death. Help me to praise you Lord always because you care for the lost and give sight to the blind and you have saved me through the death and resurrection of your dear Son Jesus Christ in whose name I pray, Amen.

PSALM 145 TALK:   UNIVERSAL PRAISE FOR A UNIVERSAL GOD

PSALM 145 TALK:   UNIVERSAL PRAISE FOR A UNIVERSAL GOD

 (This is the eighth and final Psalm of a collection of eight Psalms attributed to King David in the fifth and final book of Psalms. This Psalm features the idea that the God of the bible is the one great universal God and is the creator of everything so he deserves universal praise. Also, this universal God is a God of love and justice and cares for those who turn to him in reverence and love but will destroy those who oppose him.)

(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 a universalist and Wikipedia defines Christian Universalism as,

“A doctrine stating that every human soul will ultimately be reconciled to God because of divine love and mercy”.

 However, if I believe the teaching of Psalm 145 I must believe in a God who is universal and who deserves and I believe receives universal praise. This Psalm ends with these words,

“My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord, let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever”.

 The Psalm also has the word, “all” 12 times in it in 9 verses, 9, 10, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18 and 20 and it presents the God of the bible as the king of everything and everything is called “Your Kingdom” in verse 11 and 12 and “an everlasting kingdom” in verse 13.

The Christian faith is a universal faith as it is based on the Gospel of The Lord Jesus Christ he commanded his disciples in Mark 16: 15 to,

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”.

 However, there are people who the universal God will reject if they continue to oppose and not believe the Gospel of Christ as John declares in John 3: 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”.

 Even David speaks of this in Psalm 145 verse 20b,

“But all the wicked he will destroy”

 For many years now I have had the privilege of joining with Christians from many different parts of the world and have been united in Christ and in the message of his Gospel. Through this unity in Christ I have joined with them in wonderful universal praise to the God of the bible.

 Psalm 145 then has this wonderful theme of “Universal Praise for a universal God” and it is the final Psalm the book of Psalm attributes to David but it is also the first of the final six Psalms of the book of Psalms that feature the concept of “Praising God”.

We have no idea when David wrote this Psalm but it certainly is a Psalm of David as it has his fingerprints all over it.

The Psalm is the last acrostic Psalm and there are six others and H.C. Leupold explains well what an acrostic Psalm is with these words,

“Each successive verse begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet”.

 Although for some reason one letter of the Hebrew alphabet is missing and I could not find a convincing argument to why this is the case. However, I do believe this involved style of writing was used for the purpose of being an aid to memorisation as ancient people had no books to carry around and scripture had to be committed to memory.

David was a Jew but his God was very big and as someone once said to me, “If you want to have big faith then you must get a big view of God”. David’s God was not just the local God of Israel but as he said at the start of his Psalm he is,

“God the King”

 and his kingdom is as verse 13 says is,

“An everlasting kingdom, and your domain endures through all generations”

 All this reminds me of what we pray at the end of the Lord’s prayer:

“For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen”.

So, in this Psalm talk I want to promote a big faith in God by presenting a big view of an amazing universal God of love and my headings for the breakdown of this Psalm reflect this:

  1. (1 – 7)  A CALL FOR PRAISE OF A UNIVERSAL GOD
  1. (1 – 2) I will praise God the king of everything
  2. (3 – 7 God’s greatness and worthiness praised and proclaimed

      2    (8 – 13a)  THE UNIVERSAL GOD OF LOVE

  1. (8 – 9) The God of universal love
  2. (10-13a) Universal praise of God the king of everything

      3   (13b- 20)  THE UNIVERSAL GOD WHO CARES FOR HIS UNIVERSE

  1. (13b -16) The universal God looks after all creatures
  2. (17 – 20) The universal God is faithful to those who love him

      4   (vs. 21)    A CALL FOR UNIVERSAL PRAISE

 With these headings in mind lets then look closely at this incredible last Psalm of David in the book of Psalms:

  1. (1 – 7)  A CALL FOR PRAISE OF A UNIVERSAL GOD
  1. (1 – 2) I will praise God the king of everything

The Psalm starts with an amazing call to praise and in two verses David uses three words to describe his longing to worship his God he calls king and those three words are:

“Exalt”, “Praise” and “Extol”

These two verses read’s this way,

“I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever”.

Each of the three worship words mean much the same thing and David’s desire is to practice praise filled worship forever Albert Barnes describes this desire to praise this way,

“I will lift up thy name and praise, so that it may be heard afar. I will bless or praise thee. I will do it in all the future. I will do it in time; I will do it in eternity”.

 What is your picture of heaven?

Most of us as sinful fallen creatures still have a self- based view of heaven like an eternal relaxing holiday in paradise but the bible and particularly the book of Revelation has a very different view of heaven as a place yes of peace and wonder but a place filled with endless days of enormous unified praise as we see in a passage like Revelation 19: 1 – 8,

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:“Hallelujah!Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,2 for true and just are his judgments.He has condemned the great prostitutewho corrupted the earth by her adulteries.He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

  And again they shouted:“Hallelujah!The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:“Amen, Hallelujah!”

 Then a voice came from the throne, saying:“Praise our God, all you his servants,you who fear him,both great and small!”Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.Let us rejoice and be gladand give him glory!For the wedding of the Lamb has come,and his bride has made herself ready.Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

If you don’t like joining together with other believers in praise and worship in this life then you won’t be looking forward to heaven as heaven according to Revelation 19 is a place of multitudes of creatures great and small praising God forever.

Even in this life praise and thanks is the prime activity God wants us to be involved in according to 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”.

 Note Pauls words, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” so praise and thanks should be at the heart of all we do in the Christian life.

Finally, David twice in these opening verses of Psalm 145 speaks of praising God’s name,

“I will praise your name forever and ever”and “I will praise you and extol your name forever and ever”

 So, what does it mean to praise God’s name?

God’s name in the bible is his very character and therefore involves all we know about him. In this Psalm David will declare much of God’s character or who God really is and in the opening verse he describes God as,

“The King”

David is a king but his kingship comes from God and is limited to a small part of the world called Israel but God is a far greater and worthy king than David as he is the king of everything. God therefore is a greater king of any king before or since David.

Earthly kings throughout history have seen themselves as so great and powerful that they have thought of themselves as divine and we have examples of this in the bible like King Nebuchadnezzar and in the times of the Roman Empire where kings of Rome known as Caesar’s like Augustus declared themselves as God and demanded their subjects fall down and worship them.

All these earthly kings had a time of powerful reign but all of them died and there so called divine power and might dyed with them.

Only the God of heaven and earth reigns supreme forever and his name or character alone deserves our praise and worship. As Paul declares in Roman 11: 36,

“For from him and through him and for him are all things.To him be the glory forever! Amen”.

We will learn more about God’s character in the rest of this Psalm that should encourage and inspire our eternal praise and gratitude.

 

        2. (3 – 7)   God’s greatness and worthiness praised and proclaimed

David continues to build up a great picture of the character of God and therefore his worthiness of praise in these next four verses, which I have broken down this way:

  1. God’s greatness no-one can fathom (vs. 3)
  2. The message of God’s greatness each generation declares (vs. 4)
  3. The message of God’s greatness each generation declares spelt out (5 – 7)

Let’s then have a closer look at these three aspects of God’s greatness each generation declares:

  1. God’s greatness no-on can fathom (vs. 3)

In verse 3 David speaks of the greatness and worthiness of God to be praised as unfathomable,

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom”.

 David speaks of the greatness and unfathomable nature of the God of the bible this way in Psalm 40 verse 5,

“Many, Lord my God,are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”

 Paul in his doxology in Romans 11 which I previously quoted from with verse 36 says this in the verses leading up to that verse, verses 33 – 35,

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom andknowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments,and his paths beyond tracing out!34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?Or who has been his counsellor?”35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”

 I always try to keep in mind in my study on the Psalms that I can come to a reasonable understanding of them with careful and prayerful study of them but I can never believe I can totally plumb the depths of their teaching and this is why Christians can study the bible all their lives and still keep finding new understandings of what God is saying to us through it.

  1. The message of God’s greatness each generation declares (vs. 4)

David then raises a very important issue of how God wants each generation to pass on the great message of the great works and character of God, he writes this in verse 4,

“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts”.

 Some commentators believe David is referring to God’s command to believing parents in the book of Deuteronomy to teach their children the deeds and knowledge of God, like Deuteronomy 6: 1 – 3,

“These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you”.

 Then in verses 20 – 25 of that same chapter we read,

In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household.23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

 Paul speaks of this teaching or passing on the message of God to the next generation in his advice to Timothy when he first reminds Timothy of how he came to be a believer himself in 2 Timothy 1: 5,

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also”.

 Then he commands Timothy to do the same sort of thing in his ministry for the Lord in 2 Timothy 2: 1 – 2,

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”

 I came to faith and my understanding of God’s word through the faithful ministries of many Christian believers of the previous generation to mine passing on the message of the Gospel to me and for many years I was involved in children and youth ministry passing the message of the Gospel on to my next generation and it encourages me greatly to see them doing the same today to their next generation.

Even today my work on the Psalms is published in an attempt to pass on to my current generation God given insights to his word and hopefully future generations as well.

  1. The message of God’s greatness each generation declares spelt out (5 – 7)

We have in these three verses some of those wonderful characteristics I spoke of earlier as some of the decrees or teaching each generation should and indeed must pass on. I read the other day of what the writer of the articles called the failure of the eighteenth century American generation of the great evangelical revival often called the 18thcentury awaking for not passing on effectively their great insights of God and his word to the next generation.

This article, I believe did pick up some aspects of what happened then but failed to acknowledge the great push and expansion of missionary work this revival did produce organisations like The Baptist Missionary Society in 1792 in America through men like William Carey and The Church Missionary Society in England around 1799.

However, each generation we have just seen must engage in preaching and teaching and disciplining new converts and Psalm 145 verses 5 – 7 in summary spells out the sorts of things that should be passed on through preaching, teaching and disciplining and I see six things hear in these verses:

  1. Speak of God’s splendour and majesty (vs. 5a)
  2. Meditate on God’s wonderful works (vs. 5b)
  3. Tell of God’s powerful and awesome works (vs. 6a)
  4. Proclaim God’s great deeds (vs. 6b)
  5. Celebrate God’s abundance goodness (7a)
  6. Joyfully sing of God’s righteousness (7b)

Let me comment briefly on each of these 6 things these verses tell us we should do for the next generation:

  1. Speak of God’s splendour and majesty (vs. 5a)

We read these words in verse 5a,

“They speak of the glorious splendour of your majesty”

 We see God’s splendour and majesty through God’s acts or deeds in creation and salvation. David referred to this often in his Psalms like God’s glory and splendour in his acts of creation in Psalm 19: 1,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands”

 or even better Psalm 8: 1,

“Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens”.

 So far as God’s acts of Salvation showing his splendour and majesty we have the Sons of Korah speaking plainly of this in Psalm 45: 4 – 5,

“In your majesty ride forth victoriously:  in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s

enemies; let the nations fall beneath your feet”.

 Then David speaks of how God gave him glory through his victories or salvation over his enemies which revealed his splendour and majesty in Psalm 21: 5,

“Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendour and majesty”.

 In the New Testament, the glory of God is seen in Christ, the word become flesh for our salvation 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”.

 And how the glory and majesty of God is seen through the death and resurrection of Christ enabling our salvation by grace alone which Paul speaks of so beautifully in Ephesians 1: 6 – 8,

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

 So, we should speak to our generation and the next of God’s acts of splendour and majesty in Christ.

  1. Meditate on God’s wonderful works (vs. 5b)

This followers on from speaking of God’s glorious splendour and majesty encouraging us to mediate on Gods wonderful acts,

“And I will meditate on your wonderful works”.

 Remember God’s works are seen in creation and salvation and we mediate or prayerfully think on them, seeking to inwardly digest the message of his creation and salvation through what we read of them in his revealed word we call the bible.

In Psalm 19 David speaks of God’s message of creation in verses 1 – 6 and then moves onto the message of what he calls the law of the Lord, another name for the word of God in verses 7 to 11,

“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.The commands of the Lord are radiant,giving light to the eyes.The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward”.

Paul speaks of the role and place of the bible in the Christian life 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 Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

 So well speak and now mediate on God’s mighty works in creation and salvation while we are alive in this generation and we should seek to pass it on to the next as well.

  1. Tell of God’s powerful and awesome works (vs. 6a)

A similar expression of what we should pass on to the next generation appears in the start of verse 6,

“They tell of the power of your awesome works”.

 I have a detailed explanation of this biblical word “awesome” in my Psalm talk for Psalm 66 which features it. I speak there of how modern youth culture has devalued the meaning of the word, “awesome” and today it simply means something is good or exciting but awesome here in Psalm 145 and particularly Psalm 66 means that what God has done in the past to save us is unbelievably great and wonderful, unbelievably “AWESOME”.

The writer of Psalm 66 who could be David and certainly David hear in Psalm 145 probably has God’s great work of saving his people out of Egypt as his awesome works. Listen to what the writer of Psalm 66 says in verses 5 – 7,

“Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot— come, let us rejoice in him.He rules forever by his power; his eyes watch the nations— let not the rebellious rise up against him”.

 This is an obvious reference to God’s acts of salvation in the Exodus when he dried up the waters of the sea for his people to safely cross and then closed those waters on the Egyptians destroying their enemies who because they opposed God and his people were God’s enemies under God’s judgment.

In the New Testament we have the awesome act of God in the sending of his Son to die on the cross for our sins making a way for us through the dark waters of death into the loving arms of God in heaven as we read in a passage like Hebrews 2: 9 – 11,

“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. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So, Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters”.

 This is an “AWESOME” message we should be inspired to tell this generation and the next.

  1. Proclaim God’s great deeds (vs. 6b)

Verse 6 concludes with,

“And I will proclaim your great deeds”.

David was keen on proclaiming what he knew about God and what God had done for him and spoke about it often in his Psalms like Psalm 26: 6 – 7,

I wash my hands in innocence,and go about your altar, Lord,proclaiming aloud your praise

 and telling of all your wonderful deeds”

 Or Psalm 40: 9,

“I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;I do not seal my lips, Lord,as you know”.

 David uses another word for proclaim in his Psalms which is declare and his Psalm 96 verse 3 shows us that he not only spoke of proclaiming God’s deeds to Israel when they gathered to worship God but he also desired to proclaim or declare God’s deeds to the nations or the world as we see in Psalm 96: 3,

“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all people’s”

 So, even David had a universal vision for the message of the one great saving God who is described this way 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”.

 And as I said in my introduction to this Psalm Jesus had a universal vision and command to proclaim his Gospel message to all of creation as we see in Mark 16: 15 to,

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”.

 Preach is another word for proclaim or declare and every generation needs to hear the message of the Gospel to be saved.

  1. Celebrate God’s abundance goodness (7a)

Verse 7 speaks of another activity each generation should be involved in and that is celebrations. We read these words in verse 7a,

“They celebrate your abundant goodness”.

 The Jewish faith and tradition was full of celebrations most of which we as Christians do not practice as they relate to the Old Testament sacrificial system which has be superseded by the coming of Christ and the establishment of the New Covenant through his death on the cross and his rising from the dead on the third day after his death,

Jesus instituted a new way of remembering and celebrating his death and resurrection which is called by a variety of names like The Lord’s Supper or Communion but the New Testament shows particularly 1 Corinthians 10: 14 – 23 and 11: 17 – 34 that the church celebrated regularly together the coming of Christ and his death and resurrection with a form of Lord’s supper.

I had a lengthy discussion with a close relative recently about a church his son was attending that totally banned the celebration of Christmas. This turned out to be a much more complex question than I first thought but I agreed that the commercial and secular style of Christmas has big issues Christians should avoid.

However, I believe there is a Christian way to celebrate Christ coming to earth through his birth and Christmas provides us a great opportunity for Christians to proclaim why Jesus came and who he really is. My Church last Christmas held a wonderful outdoor carols service that many members of the public attended and the Gospel was proclaimed in a wonderful way at that event.

Easter celebrations is not so controversial among Christians except for the pagan and secular elements of Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies but again Easter has both a Christian way of being celebrated and also provides Christians with the opportunity of proclaiming generation after generation why Christ came and what he has achieved for us through his death and resurrection.

  1. Joyfully sing of God’s righteousness (7b)

I spoke before of David’s great desire to proclaim or declare God’s wonderful deeds throughout the book of Psalms but he also longed to do this through song or music. We see this in the last part of verse 7 of this Psalm which says,

“And joyfully sing of your righteousness”.

 God’s righteousness is another great aspect or characteristic of the God of the bible and David spoke a lot about that as well like Psalm 36: 6,

“Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals”.

 God is holy and totally true and reliable and out of his righteousness comes his love as in the New Testament Jesus had to give his life as a sacrifice for our sins to secure our righteousness before God as Spurgeon puts it,

“Jesus died as our substitute, righteousness requires and secures the salvation of all the redeemed”.

 David knew that he needed God’s forgiveness and trusted in the righteous loving God for it. David and many of the Psalm writers seek to proclaim both the righteousness of God and his salvation and love of God though song as we read of in Psalm 98: 1 – 3,

“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things;his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.The Lord has made his salvation knownand revealed his righteousness to the nations.He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen, the salvation of our God”.

 Music has been and still is a powerful medium for proclaiming the message of the word of God and particularly the Gospel to our world and even Paul spoke of it twice in his letters in Ephesians 5: 19 – 21 and Colossians 3: 15 – 17.

I like the Colossians passage as here Paul speaks of communicating the message of Christ and using song or music as a way of doing this,

“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    (8 – 13a)  THE UNIVERSAL GOD OF LOVE

  1. (8 – 9) The God of universal love

We now come to the first of many verses that use the word “all’ and it starts with verse 9. The term “all” makes this Psalm clearly a universal message or a message for every man women and child on the face on the earth no matter what nation, tribe or tongue they come from.

David makes a dual statement about this universal God in verses 8 and 9 which states another characteristic of the God of the bible that is unique when compared to what other religions or faiths proclaim about God. That uniqueness is:

  1. Gracious and compassionate and rich in love (vs. 8)
  2. Good and compassionate (vs. 9)

Let’s then have a close look at each of these wonderful attributes of God that David speaks of in verses 8 and 9.

  1. Gracious and compassionate and rich in love (vs. 8)

This universal God of the bible has made himself known in a variety of ways over a long period of time and what David draws on or is at least thinking about in verses 8 and 9 is God’s amazing revelation of himself when he met with Moses on the top of Mount Sinai when he gave his people his covenant of love to Moses and his people Israel.

We read these words in Exodus 34: 6 – 7a,

“And he (God) 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”.

 With this in mind then David writes in verse 8,

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love”.

 All other religions apart from the Jewish / Christian faiths present a different picture of God as usually an avenging God of judgment. We have today extreme Muslim believers who act on God’s behalf showing no mercy and love as they literally slaughter non-Muslim believers and even Muslim believers who don’t agree with their views of God who they call Allah and his supposed holy book called the Koran.

Christians take the love and compassion of God to an even higher level as they believe in the Christian Gospel so wonderfully expressed in the words of the 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”.

 This giving of God’s Son in death on the cross is the supreme act of gracious compassion and love and demonstrates that God is indeed slow to anger which is the complete opposite of the extreme Muslims who are quick to judge and in their God’s name inflict terrible judgment on non- believers who will not turn to their view of God and his unmerciful ways.

Paul makes it clear that even though the God of the bible will judge and even must judge sin he has provided a universal answer to our sin problem and the judgment it deserves and he loves us or shows mercy or grace to us not after we have cleaned ourselves up and become good people but as Paul says in Romans 5: 8,

 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

 Paul goes on to explain how Christ great act of love for us on the cross saves us from God’s judgment or wrath and gives us the gift of reconciliation or being made right with God, Romans 5: 9- 11,

“9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation”.

 This great love of God should inspire us to give our lives in universal praise, a praise we can do with people from all over the globe as we are all one in Christ as Paul declares in Galatians 3: 28.

  1. Good and compassionate (vs. 9)

I believe with Exodus 34: 6 – 7b still in mind David makes a great universal statement of the love and goodness of the God of the bible with the first uses of the word or term, “all” in verse 9, he writes,

“The Lord is good to all, he has compassion on allhe has made”.

 Jesus states clearly the universal goodness of God on every man women and child in what he says in Matthew 5: 45,

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

 This statement of Jesus comes in the middle of Jesus instructions on how we should treat those who oppose us and even persecute us, Matthew 5: 43 – 48,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbourand 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”.

 Luke records similar teaching of Jesus in Luke chapter 6 but adds one important point to why we should love our enemies in verse 36,

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”.

 So, we must always remember that God showed mercy to us in forgiving our sins on the cross of Christ and so we are not saved by our own good deeds but by the loving good deeds of God through Christ.

This means we rely on the great mercy and goodness of God and therefore we must show that same kind of mercy and love to others even to our enemies.

I mentioned before about how today many Christian believers are being ruthlessly persecuted by extreme Muslims and I have read of countless stories of Christians showing their unmerciful persecutors love even at the point of death and many on lookers have been so impressed by these acts of showing love to their persecutors that they have sought out Christians to know more about the God they believe in and in some cases, some of them have become followers of Christ themselves.

The church in China has been recently caught up in further attempts by the atheistic antigod government to destroy them only to find that instead of killing off people following Christ they have only caused more people to turn to Christ owing to the brave and loving reaction of believers to the harsh persecution they have suffered.

This great goodness and love or compassion of God should lead us to universal praise like Paul speaks of 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”. 

           2  (10-13a)  Universal praise of God the king of everything

 This second section of Psalm 145 moves from the love and mercy of God to the great works or acts of God that his love and mercy makes possible and we have in verses 10 – 13 four further reasons for universal praise.

The four reasons for universal praise I see in these three and a half verses are:

  1. God’s works (vs. 10)
  2. God’s glory and might (vs. 11)
  3. God’s mighty acts (vs. 12)
  4. God’s everlasting kingdom (vs. 13b)

I will comment on each these four reasons for universal praise:

  1. God’s works (vs. 10)

In verse 10 we read,

“All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you”

 Note how this verse seems to suggest that God’s actual works themselves praise him which is beautifully expressed by David in Psalm 19: 1,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands”.

 David is saying creation itself praises God by just being there and being so amazingly beautiful. I can imagine David as a young shepherd out in the fields at night looking up at the stars filling the sky and being inspired to write and sing the words of Psalm 8: 1,

“Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens”.

Some commentators say that Psalm 19: 1 is David looking into the daylight sky and praising God while Psalm 8: 1 is David looking into the night time sky and praising God.

However, the works of God are not just the day and night time skies but all of creation as Spurgeon speaks of in these words,

“The skill, kindness, and power manifested in the formation of each living thing is in itself to the praise of God, and when observed by an intelligent mind the Lord is honoured thereby”.

 However, God’s great works are not just what we see in creation but are especially seen in the works of God for his people as we read in the second half of verse 10,

“Your faithful people extol you”.

 The saving works of God in saving David is extolled or praised by David 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”.

 God’s works for his faithful people in The New Testament is seen primarily in God sending from heaven his only son to die on the cross for our sins something we as his people or those who believe in him should always praise him for. Paul gives thanks for God’s acts of love and grace for him and the faithful followers of Christ in the Corinthian church at the start of his first letter to the Corinthians chapter 1 verses 4 and 5,

“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge”. 

  1. God’s glory and might (vs. 11)

The next reason for universal praise is the glory and might of God’s domain called here God’s kingdom,

“They tell of the glory of your Kingdom and speak of your might”.

 So, the objects of God’s creation called God’s ‘works” in the previous verse, verse 10 joined with God’s faithful people to praise him for his glory and might. This glory is the glory of God’s domain here called his kingdom and Spurgeon explains,

“Those who bless God from their hearts rejoice to see God enthroned, glorified, and magnified in power”.

 It is like the final words of the Lord’s prayer I quoted in my introduction that says,

“For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen”.

If God is our God and he alone, we believe deserves our universal praise then we should be always ready to tell or speak of the glory of God and his kingdom.

As Jude so comprehensively speaks of 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”.

  1. God’s mighty acts (vs. 12)

The purpose of this universal praise is now spelt out in verse 12 that says,

“So that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendour of your kingdom”.

 The message of what God has done both in creation and salvation is both praised and now made known or as David said in verse 6 proclaimed to everyone in the universe. John 3: 16 says that God loves the world not just the Jews or any other one group of people.

Sadly, the way some Christians think and act God doesn’t love the world only a certain part of it or a certain race or tribe within it but as I alluded to earlier Paul says in Galatians 3: 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”.

 The impact of this verse really hit me the first time I attended a large Christian convention which was at Katoomba 2 hors drive from Sydney. As I entered the large metal building conventions are held in there I saw a large sign that sits above the speaker’s dais there that reads, “All One in Christ”.

I was there with Christians and God seekers from all kinds of Christian denominations and places all over Australia and maybe from other countries as well but in Christ if we are in him we are all one.

We are also one in the knowledge of God’s mighty acts particularly in Christ and we are all one in the glory of God’s splendour of his universal kingdom. Certainly,

“Thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen”.

I have also attended since that first Christian convention in Katoomba a number of missionary focused conventions held by The Church Missionary society and it is the mighty acts of God particularly in Christ and the glory and splendour of his kingdom that has inspired me and others to take the message of his kingdom, the Gospel to the ends of the earth as Jesus commanded us to in Mark 16: 15 to,

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. 

  1. God’s everlasting kingdom (vs. 13b)

David closes with the fourth reason for universal praise which is the eternal nature of his kingdom which verse 13b calls and everlasting kingdom, David writes,

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your domain endures through all generations”.

 So, God’s kingdom is not only universal in scope but eternal in time and Albert Barnes explains what this means with these words,

The meaning is, that the reign of God will continue forever and ever. It will never pass away as other dominions do; it will not change as dynasties do among people; it will not be overthrown as they are; its great principles will stand firm forever and ever”.

 Paul speaks of God as the King and of his glory, honour and everlastingness in this way in 1 Timothy 1: 17,

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen”.

 I spoke in my introduction of how we can have a big faith in God and I said to get this we must get a big view of God you cannot get any bigger view of God than God being the glorious King of a universal kingdom that will last forever.

      3   (13b- 20)  THE UNIVERSAL GOD WHO CARES FOR HIS UNIVERSE

  1. (13b -16) The universal God looks after all creatures

The third section gives even more reasons why we should offer the God the bible universal praise. The reasons for praise given in this section are of an earthlier practical nature and my breakdown for this third section is:

  1. God’s promises are trustworthy (vs. 13b)
  2. The Lord upholds the fallen (vs. 14)
  3. Those who look to God are given food (vs. 15)
  1. God satisfies the desires of every living thing (vs. 16)

Let’s then have a closer look at each of these four earthlier practical reasons for giving God universal praise:

  1. God’s promises are trustworthy (vs. 13b)

The bible is filled with the promises of God and one web page I looked at on the net said there are 5,467 promises in the bible so it is not surprising that the first earthlier and practical reason for giving God universal praise is his trustworthy promises as verse 13b says,

“The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does”.

 The MSG version translates this verse as,

“God always does what he says, and is gracious in everything he does”.

 I like the old him called “Standing on the Promises” by Allan Jackson which says,

Standing on the promises of Christ my King
Through eternal ages let his praises ring
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing
Standing on the promises of God.

 Chorus:

 Standing, standing
Standing on the promises of God my Saviour
Standing, standing
I’m standing on the promises of God.

 Standing on the promises, I cannot fall
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Saviour as my all in all
Standing on the promises of God.

 Chorus:

 Standing, standing
Standing on the promises of Christ my Savior
Standing, standing
I’m standing on the promises of God.

 So, we can take God at his word and stand or trust in his promises knowing that he is a faithful God which means you can trust that he will keep his promises to us. Paul had confidence in the promises of God for he said this about them in 2 Corinthians 1: 20,

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God”.

 Note how Paul saw Jesus Christ as the “Yes” of all God’s promises because he made the way back to God and through him we have access to God as the writer to the Hebrews puts it 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”.

 So, we can offer universal praise to God for his promises are many and trustworthy because he is a faithful God in all that he does.

  1. The Lord upholds the fallen (vs. 14)

The word about God’s promises being a reason for universal praise because God keeps them is followed by an actual promise that says,

“The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down”.

 All of God’s promises in the bible contain some kind of condition attached to them and this one is no different as God upholds the fallen but the fallen must bow down before him. Bowing down before the Lord is another way of saying looking to the Lord and trusting in him.

There are many promises of God that speak of God lifting up the lowly if they but look to him and I like this promise in the book of James when James says in James 4: 8 – 10,

“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”.

 Note how James alludes to a number of conditions of God keeping this promise.

James speaks of coming near to God, repenting of your sins which is pictured by washing your hands and purifying your hearts and finally changing your selfish sinful attitudes of seeking worldly pleasure represented by changing your laughter and joy to mourning and gloom.

Finally James says we must humble ourselves before the Lord which is like bowing down before the Lord in Psalm 145 verse 14.

2.   Those who look to God are given food (vs. 15)

Following the promise of the Lord lifting up those who have fallen who look to him or bow to him we have the very practical promise of God providing food of all who look to him, verse 15 says,

“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time”.

 When you think about it wherever can any creature look for food than the great universal God who is the maker and provider for everyone.

Sadly many men and women today do not acknowledge the God of the universe and do not look to him and yet mostly they also receive the food they need to eat each day as I mentioned before Jesus said in Matthew 5: 45,

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

 Because we live in a fallen sinful world sometimes God does stop or hinder the provision of food through drought or famine but this I believe is to send a practical message to our sinful rebellious world that they need God’s hand of loving provision for even their daily need of food.

God deserves universal praise then for his provision of food daily and this is why many Christians practice saying grace before a meal as a way of offering that kind of praise or thanks to God.

3.   God satisfies the desires of every living thing (vs. 16)

Verse 16 speaks of the natural order of all living creatures again making the scope of the message truly universal and so David writes,

“You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing”.

 God has set up intricate environmental systems for all living creatures satisfying all they need to survive. David gives an illustration of this natural order in action in Psalm 104: verses 21 – 22,

“The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.22 The sun rises, and they steal away;they return and lie down in their dens”.

 However, we all know this natural order has been disrupted and its disruption is a result of the sin and rebellion of mankind. Mankind’s sinful actions has not only disrupted God’s natural order but in some cases, we have destroyed environmental ecologies and Paul speaks of this in Romans 8: 18 – 21,

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 thatthe creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”.

 God’s natural order has not gone away as it is still operating even though sinful human activity has damaged it. God brings about,

“Satisfying the desires of every living things”

 By his salvation action plan which Paul goes on to speak about in Romans 8: 22 – 25,

“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”.

 Paul spells out this hope or God’s rescue plan for us and our world in other places in his letter to the Romans and there is no better example of this than 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.

 That is the hope we have and then Paul makes clear God’s action plan to save us in verses 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’s universal action plan or salvation plan should or must be shared to the entire universe and will lead to universal praise.

  1. (17 – 20) The universal God is faithful to those who love him

 The practical side of the reasons for universal praise continues but in this section part of the third section of this Psalm the reasons for universal praise get far more personal or personally specific.

I have broken these practical more personal reasons for universal praise into the following 

  1. The Lord is righteous and faithful in all he does (vs. 17)
  2. The Lord is near to all who call upon him (vs. 18)
  3. The Lord fulfils the desires of those who fear him and call on him (vs. 19)
  4. The Lord watches over all who love him (vs. 20)

Let me now make a few comments about each of these four more practical and more personal reasons for universal praise.

  1. The Lord is righteous and faithful in all he does (vs. 17)

Allan Harman writes,

“In the manner in which God operates he always deals in accordance with the norms he has set”.

This is what verse 17 is saying,

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does”.

 The God of the bible is constantly pictured in that book as a righteous or Holy God but he is also pictured or proclaimed as a loving and faithful God. Psalm 116 verse 5 spells out the complete nature of God when it says,

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion”.

 The extreme Muslim engaged in supposed vengeance for a God of judgment has somehow got a lopsided view of God and lopsided views of God can lead to very wrong and dangerous actions by those who have them.

The universal God of the bible is righteous but he is also faithful and loving so much so that he was willing to send his only Son into the world to become sin for us even though he knew no sin so that we might have the righteousness of God as Paul states clearly in 1 Corinthians 5: 21,

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

 This non – lopsided full and correct view of God leads to deeds of merciful love rather than deeds of bloody vengeance and of course inspires us to universal praise for a universal God.

           2.   The Lord is near to all who call upon him (vs. 18)

I said earlier that this third and final section of Psalm145 contains personal and more practical reasons for us to engage in universal praise for a universal God and verse 18 is a wonderful example of that for it says,

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth”.

 I have heard people say that they tried out prayer and it did not work for them and I think it did not work because it is not supposed to work in the sense that you ask God for something and he gives it to you.

No, prayer is not simply asking God for things but is more like a conversation with a good friend, sure in conversations with good friends we ask for things sometimes but real friendship is not based on how much we can get out of someone but how we can help each other and have deeper fellowship together.

Verse 18 does not say,

“The Lord gives you what you want when you call on him”

 It says,

“The Lord is near to all who call on him”

 In verse 17 we learnt that God is righteous, faithful and loving and we know he is the universal king who is great and powerful so if he is near to us we have a powerful friend who promises things like Paul speaks of in Romans 8: 28,

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

 The second half of the verse 18 is like the condition of the promise that the Lord is near to those who call on him for it says,

“To all who call on him in truth”.

 Another reason a person might say, I tried prayer and it did not work for me is because they did it in the wrong way. The second half of the verse says we must call on him in truth. Jesus makes it clear what that means in John 8: 31 – 32,

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 The teachings of Jesus are what the New Testament is all about for even the letters of Paul, John and Peter and other disciples of Christ are the teachings of Jesus explained so to hold to Jesus teaching is to trust and obey his word.

The words of King David in the Old Testament are the truth of God pointing us to the reality of Jesus. It’s been said that the Old Testament is understood by the New Testament but the New Testament is fleshed out and fully understood by the Old Testament.

So, universal praise is inspired by the presence of the King of the universe coming near to us as we call on him in and through the truth of his word.

3. The Lord fulfils the desires and answers the prays of those fear and call on him (vs. 19)

If we call on God in truth or according to his word which is the truth about God and God is near then David says in verse 19,

“He fulfils the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them”.

 If we go to God only asking him for things we want like some kind of God like Santa Clause then our desires will be more than often sinful but if we go to God in faith trusting in him as the mighty universal God we now know through his word the bible then what we ask for is right and true.

This is what fearing God is really all about, it is acknowledging God as the great and powerful universal God who deserves our thanks and praise. If we really fear God or reverence him then our desires will be pure and true and of course according to this verse and many others God will fulfil them.

Listen to what David said about his God in Psalm 34: 8,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him”.

 Or what Jesus said in Matthew 7: 7,

“Ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you”.

 Paul speaks a lot about the value of real sincere God’s word focussed prayer in his many letters and says this in Philippians 4: 7 – 8,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

 In the second half of this verse David says,

“He (God) hears their cry and saves them”

 So, what David’s desire is for salvation probably in the sense of deliverance from his many enemies but in the New Testament Salvation is usually in the spiritual sense of being saved from our sins and if we call on the name of the Lord Jesus and believe in him our desire for salvation will be fulfilled by God according to verses like Romans 10: 13,

“For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 This again should be grounds for universal praise for this faithful loving universal God.

4.   The Lord watches over all who love him (vs. 20)

This last practical and personal reason for universal praise has actually two distinct parts:

  1. The Lord watching over those who love him
  2. The Lord destroying the wicked

Let’s then have a look at these two parts and see how they both relate to a reason for universal praise.

  1. The Lord watching over those who love him

The first part continues the previous two points and actually sums them up. We have learnt so far from this third and final section that The Lord, the God of the bible is a righteous and faithful loving God who is near to those who call on him and who call on him in truth or through what he has revealed in his word. He therefore promises to fulfil their Godly desires particularly their deep and real desire for salvation from the consequences of their sins.

Now David sums all this up with the words,

“The Lord watches over all who love him”.

Jesus promises not only to watch over us or even be near to us but rather be with us as he says as part of the great commission to take the 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.”

 Our God is a universal God who deserves universal praise but he has given us a universal message that he wants us to take to the whole world and as we do this he is with us every step of the way and that includes going to be with him when our earthly path or road is complete as Jesus declares 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”. 

  1. The Lord destroying the wicked

However, verse 20 has a second part which shows that even though the God of the Bible is a universal God and everyone should offer him universal praise for he has given us a universal message of salvation this does not mean everyone will be saved as verse 20b says,

“But all the wicked he will destroy”.

I said at the start that even though I believe in a universal God who deserves universal praise I am not a Universalist as they believe everyone will be saved but the bible does not teach that.

I like the explanation of this found in John chapter 3 starting with the famous verse about the universal God loving this world by sending his only son to everyone who believes in him and that faith in him saves us from perishing and gives us eternal life but listen to what John goes on to say in verses 17 – 18,

“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”.

 If we reject then the free and wonderful gift of God’s forgiveness we will then face the judgment of God and its consequences which is death or in Psalm 145 verse 20 terms, being destroyed by God.

How does this inspire universal praise?

To me it inspires universal praise because the sending of Jesus God’s only son to die on the cross for our sins marries perfectly together the idea of a Righteous, just God and a loving God as Jesus paid for our sins that must be paid for and he did this because he loves us and does not want us to face the judgment we deserve.

However, if we reject his offer of forgiveness we will be destroyed in the judgment along with all creatures spiritual and earthly who oppose the universal God who deserves universal praise.

      4   (vs. 21)    A CALL FOR UNIVERSAL PRAISE

 The climax of Psalm 145 is a clear call for universal praise for a universal God as it says,

“My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord, Let, every creature praise his holy name for every and ever”.

 David has stated over 14 reasons why the God of the bible deserves universal praise and they include:

  • He is God the king
  • He is great and worthy of praise
  • He is glorious and majestic
  • He performs great and wonderful works
  • He is abundantly good
  • He is compassionate and loving
  • His kingdom is great and glorious
  • He is trustworthy and faithful
  • He lifts up the lowly who look to him
  • He supplies every creature the food they need to eat
  • He is near to those who call on him
  • He fulfils the desires of those who fear him
  • He watches over all who love him
  • He will destroy all who oppose him

David then with all this in mind first of all personally declares he will use his mouth to praise this great universal God,

“My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord”.

 Then he calls on every creature in the universe to join him in universal praise for a universal God,

Let every creature praise his holy name for every and ever”.

 Paul predicts that a day is coming when universal praise will happen and that will be when The Lord Jesus Christ will return, he says this in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and 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”.

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

LET EVERY CREATURE SING AND PRAISE

(Based on Psalm 145)

Let every creature praise God’s holy name

And may my mouth speak and proclaim

That God is the King

For he made everything

So now praise and sing.

 

Let every creature praise God’s holy name

And may my mouth speak and proclaim

That great is the Lord

For generations, we have heard

Of God’s mighty deeds in his word.

 

Refrain 1.

Speak of God’s majesty and splendour

Mediate on his wonderful works

His power is awesome to see

I will celebrate what his done for me

For by his love he has surely set me free.

 

Let every creature praise God’s holy name

And may my mouth speak and proclaim

That God’s goodness will not be swayed

For he has compassion for all his made

And he longs for praise to be prayed.

 

Let every creature praise God’s holy name

And may my mouth speak and proclaim

That God’s Kingdom is a glorious thing

For God’s great deeds are every flowing

And God’s kingdom is now building.

 

Refrain 2.

The Lord is trustworthy in all his promises

He is faithful in all that he does.

God upholds all those who fall

And lifts up all who answer his call

So, look up and give God your all.

 

Let every creature praise God’s holy name

And may my mouth speak and proclaim

That the Lord is righteous in all his ways

And he’s near to us all our days

So, let every creature sing and praise

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 We praise you God of the universe for you deserve our thanks and praise for all you have done for us. We thank you for your creation so wonderfully made which speaks day after day of your majesty and power. We thank you for your salvation through the sending of your Son, Jesus Christ into this fallen world to rescue us from death and judgment through his death on the cross for our sins. Help us Lord to take your universal message of salvation to the whole world so that every man women and child can join every creature in praise and worship of the great universal God of love we know you are, in Jesus name we pray, Amen.

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.

 

 

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.