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IS THERE SOMETHING IN THE BIBLE THAT PUZZLES YOU?

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THE PENTATEUCH

GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- PSALMS 1-36--- ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 --- MICAH ---

NAHUM--- HABAKKUK---ZEPHANIAH --- HAGGAI ---ZECHARIAH --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-16 --- 2 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-13 -- -GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- HEBREWS 1-6 --- 7-10 --- 11-13 --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION

--- THE GOSPELS & ACTS

The Book of Psalms (The Psalter)1-10

A Commentary by Dr Peter Pett BA BD Hons London DD

Note: Throughout this commentary God's Name is represented as YHWH in accordance with the Hebrew text. LXX represented it as 'LORD'. It is in fact a name that was seen as so sacred that no one ever pronounced it. Thus how to do so has been forgotten. Yahweh is probably the nearest best guess, although others suggest Yohweh. Jehovah is a corruption of it.

The Book of Psalms divides up into five sections, each of which ends with a special 'blessing, which are as follows:

  • Book 1. Psalms 1-41, which ends with 'blessed be YHWH the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting, Amen and Amen.'
  • Book 2. Psalms 42-72 which ends with 'Blessed by YHWH God, the God of Israel, Who only does wonderful things. And blessed be His glorious name for ever, and let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen.
  • Book 3. Psalms 73-89 which ends with 'Blessed be YHWH for evermore. Amen and Amen.
  • Book 4. Psalms 90-106 which ends with 'Blessed be YHWH the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting, and let all the people say, "Amen". Praise you YHWH.'
  • Book 5. Psalms 107-150 which ends with 'Let everything that has breath praise YHWH'. Praise you YHWH.'

    It is not my intention to go into detail at this stage about the book as a whole. There are many views which are helpful in encouraging thought, but interesting though they may be, much is speculation about things that we will never know the answers to, and are not necessary to the appreciation of the Psalms.

    Suffice to say that Psalms (spiritual songs and prayers) were written from an early stage. See for example Exodus 15.1-18, 21 and Judges 5. Compare Numbers 10.35-36. They often arose from people's experiences and would be in the forms of Hebrew poetry, and they were used for worship, prayer and praise. Israel's covenant view of YHWH would demand such expressions of praise, as the song of Miriam demonstrates, and these would undoubtedly from the beginning include psalms referring to the Exodus deliverance which may well have been incorporated into some of the Psalms we now have. Such psalms were indeed part of the milieu of the time of Moses and later, and Canaanite examples from before the time of Moses are found at Ugarit.

    Unless such ancient psalms and songs disappeared completely, something which must be considered very doubtful with regard to what would have been precious to many people, and would have been seen as of ancient tradition, we must consider the probability that many of them were incorporated in the later Psalms as we have them now.

    I Chronicles 6.31-32 makes clear that there was an official group of singers in the Tabernacle once the Ark had taken its due place there in the time of David. And they had to have something to sing. But it is doubtful if they were a total innovation. There would have been singers connected with the Tabernacle from the earliest days (as the song of Miriam demonstrates - Exodus 15.20-21).

    So while it is reasonable to call the book of Psalms 'the hymn book of the second temple' if we do not interpret that too restrictively and literally, (for it certainly was that), we would have to assume, even if we had nothing else to go on, that many were written and used in public worship long before the days of the second temple. For most hymns were written for use as individual Psalms before they were introduced into a collection, and the same is true of many of these Psalms, and there are indications that there were possibly smaller collections before they were gathered into one large collection. We have no reason to doubt that some of them were originally used for worship in the Tabernacle, in the first Temple, and in the worship of the northern kingdom (see Isaiah 30.29; Amos 5.23). Similar works of worship and praise to their own gods were found from the earliest times among the Canaanites, as witnessed at Ugarit, and in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Therefore Israel's stress on the fact that YHWH revealed Himself through historical deliverance and activity was even more likely to produce such songs of praise and worship.

    Thus the one thing that we can be sure about is that the book grew from smaller beginnings, and developed over the centuries. As we shall see we have indications that a good number of them at least were set to music, and that some were seen as particularly suitable for certain musical instruments and for certain specific occasions. Some were connected with specific incidents, but in the end even these became generalised, for they were used for general worship.

    With regard to authorship we must tread with care. In the case of some of them specific authorship is stated, but other ascriptions may be more general. Whereas David wrote many Psalms (see 2 Samuel 23.1 where he is called 'the sweet psalmist of Israel') the ascription 'to (or 'for') David' may not always be intended to indicate authorship. Some may simply have been dedicated to David by later composers, who admired him and saw themselves as following in his train, especially by such descendants of his as inherited his musical prowess, their works being possibly then being seen as part of a smaller corpus 'for David'. Many do, however, see the heading as indicating his authorship in view of the fact that the same appellation is used for psalms which are undoubtedly the work of David.

    There is no reason intrinsically why a good number should not be attributed to him. Just as Moses wrote out the Law to meet the particular needs of a conglomerate group delivered from Egypt, so might David, with his poetic and musical soul, and as priest after the order of Melchizedek, have felt a responsibility to add to the worship material available for the Tabernacle and for the Temple that it was his desire to build. He was after all the nation's intercessor. And once he was refused permission to build the Temple he may well have devoted his talents to preparing for its building by writing psalms ready for its more formal worship, adapting some of his own compositions to that end. For as he grew older he regularly left the fighting to others (2 Samuel 11.1)

    It is probable that some of the Psalms were to some small extent developed and changed by pious men, both for musical reasons and with the idea of 'modernising' them, and clarifying their meaning, or providing some extra element of worship, just as in modern hymnals hymns are altered in order to 'improve' and modernise them, with, in the latter case, a verse being added or taken away. The ancient Hebrew language was originally primitive, and, as with all languages, developed and grew through the centuries. It would have been very different in the time of Moses from the time of the Exile. So just as many of us find Chaucer difficult to understand because he wrote in ancient 'English', so would Israel find ancient Hebrew difficult to understand, especially in poetry. Thus in a book so constantly used in worship it is probable that an occasional modernising touch would be considered necessary in order to maintain the sense for the users.

    But in the end we have here an inspired collection of sacred writings suitable for our use, and with many lessons to teach us, although we must ever remember that, while we can learn from them, they are not carefully worded doctrinal statements but ideas conveyed through vivid poetry. We cannot justly treat a verse from a Psalm as analytically and as factually as we would a verse from Paul's letter to the Romans.

    The Headings.

    We must differentiate the headings, which are not a part of the text, from the Psalms themselves. They may provide valuable insights into the significance of a particular Psalm and many are clearly very ancient (by the time the LXX was translated in the three centuries preceding Christ's coming the meaning of many of the terms had been long forgotten), and some contain information not known of from elsewhere. They cannot fairly be dismissed as just an attempt to fit the life of David in with the Psalms. They bear the evidence of ancient tradition. This is evidenced by the fact that LXX clearly did not understand the language of many of the titles. But whether these headings were seen as part of 'the inspired word' is doubtful. LXX did not hesitate to add further titles. They were probably rather seen as helpful notes.

    The influence of David is everywhere obvious. The Psalms in the first section of the Book, apart from an occasional anonymous Psalm, are dedicated 'to David'. We could almost call this 'the Davidic collection, were it not for the fact that Psalms of David appear in all four of the remaining sections. In section 2 we have Psalms 51-65 and 68-70, and it ends with a Psalm of Solomon. In section 3, mainly composed of Psalms of Asaph, with a few of the sons of Korah, we have Psalm 86, 'a prayer of David'. In section 4 we have Psalms 101 and 103, although apart from one by Moses most are anonymous. In section 5 we have Psalms 108-110, 122, 124, 131, 133, 138-145. So the influence of David pervades the whole Psalter. Many would have essentially been written by David himself, but it would soon become customary to dedicate Psalms 'to David' (the Davidic house) so that we must not be over dogmatic. What we must not do is allow such questions to interfere with our appreciation of the Psalms.

    PSALM 1.

    This psalm is introductory to the whole collection. The entire psalm extols the blessedness of the one who avoids the path of the sinful, and delights in the Instruction (Law) of YHWH, walking in its truth. Such a person chooses the way of righteousness.

    The Psalm initially declares what the way of the righteous is by describing what it is not, and this is followed in verse 2 by an indication of what specifically differentiates the righteous, resulting in verse 3 in the declaration of their great reward, that their lives flourish and blossom like a tree beside life-giving streams.

    In verse 4 he points out that the way of the unrighteous is the very opposite of that. For instead of being firmly rooted they are swept away as the chaff is swept away by the wind, with the result that, in contrast with the righteous they will be unable to face God when He judges (verse 5). Verse 6 then summarises the situation, explaining that the way of the righteous is known to God, while the way of the unrighteous perishes. It is the righteous who truly live.

    1.1-3 The Way of the Righteous.

    1.1-2

    'Blessed is the man,
    Who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
    Or stand in the way of sinners,
    Or sit in the seat of the scornful.
    But his delight is in the law of YHWH,
    And in his law he meditates day and night.'

    The psalmist first declares that the righteous are blessed. To be righteous means to be in a right relationship with God, having a heart that responds to Him and His word, and walking in His ways, using the provided means of mercy and forgiveness from a true heart. To be blessed means to prosper in the right way, to prosper in spirit. It is to enjoy God's approbation. And it is to enjoy the exultancy that comes from it. We might translate this as 'O the multiple blessednesses'. It is plural and emphatic, and speaks of great joy.

    And then he explains why such a person is blessed, first negatively and then positively. Firstly he declares that the righteous are blessed because of what they do not do. They do not live in a way that results from following the counsel and advice of the wicked, they do not align themselves with the behaviour of the sinful and wrongdoers, who come short of the mark, and they do not reveal themselves as those who associate with the scornful, the ungodly, those who mock at the ways of YHWH, by sitting among them and seeming to be one of them. They stand up for truth.

    So the first negative is that they do not 'walk in the counsel of the wicked'. To walk is to go deliberately along in a certain way. It is to have an attitude that determines the direction that you take, and then to follow that attitude through continually. Thus the righteous do not listen to the advice and planned purpose of the wicked, that is, of those who choose to disobey God's laws, who behave 'wickedly', and who are willing to do anything to advance themselves or to find enjoyment at the expense of others, and who counsel others to do the same. Such men say 'you have to look after yourself in this life' and 'this is business'. They point out that those who are too fussy will not 'get on'. They advise us that a little bit of sin is fun and does no one any harm. They will even go so far as to say that it is bad for us to repress our feelings and that we should express our natural desires, meaning simply by this that we should 'let ourselves go'. (There is of course sometimes some truth in some of this in some instances, but they take it to excess). 'The wicked' is the most common expression in the Old Testament for those whose lives are contrary to God's ways. They are those who are not in harmony with God.

    But the righteous will close their ears to such advice. They will refuse to take the way of such people (Job 21.16; 22.18), and will reject the very way such people plan their lives (see the use of 'counsel' in Exodus 18.19; Micah 6.16). They will reject the whole attitude which lies behind it. For they know that it is selfish and inconsiderate, harmful to others and displeasing to God.

    So while the wicked are set on a determined course which means ignoring God's commandments, thinking that it will result in prosperity, power, freedom and fun, the righteous take up another position. The righteous take up the position of obedience to God. They walk with God, knowing that this will bring them blessing, spiritual power, true freedom and fullness of joy. Each of us has to choose which way we walk.

    'Stand in the way of sinners'. The first phrase described the walk of the sinner. This describes his stance. The sinner takes his stance in the way that sinners, those who 'come short of the mark', take, with the full intention of joining them. This is a matter of deliberate choice. He takes his stance on refusing to love his neighbour, and instead puts himself and his desires first. He fails to show compassion and mercy, and instead fights to ensure that he gets his rights, and that no one interferes with his liberties or his pleasures. He takes his stance on easy living. He chooses 'the broad way' (Matthew 7.13).

    But the righteous do not take their stance in the way of sinners. They take their stance on the word of God, and on obedience to that word. They take their stance in the way of His instruction. They study His word and seek to live it out. Each of us has to choose our stance, and that will very much determine what we are and what we become.

    Thirdly, the righteous do not 'sit in the seat of the scornful'. There are always those who are scornful of right living, of being particular to obey God's commands, and of adherence to the word of God. They are often supercilious and scornful of anyone who does not see things as they do. It is the most difficult thing for the godly person to fight. It is not opposition or persecution, it is simply contempt. And that is hard to bear.

    In the twenty first century it includes those who are scornful of reliance on the word of God. They make clear their contempt of anyone who dares to really believe that the Bible is the word of God, even though men with powerful minds do believe it. They reveal their contempt of those whom they see as 'narrow-minded', those who put God's will first. They consider it foolish and old-fashioned. Their view is often that rules and regulations do not matter. That what matters is to do our own thing, to be free. Others do the opposite and make rules and regulations everything. But they too scorn the way of faith and trust. The righteous, however, do not join with these people or take up their position. Nor do they sit among them as though they are one with them. They stand out and make their position clear. They recognise that the freedom that these people seek can lead to scepticism and bondage.

    Being scornful is elsewhere connected with those who are at ease and enjoy over-excess of wine, with the attitude of those who consider themselves superior (Hosea 7.5). Scorners pride themselves on what they are and deride others (Psalm 119.51). They are in contrast with the wise who seek to live rightly and gladly accept criticism (Proverbs 9.8). They refuse to listen to rebukes (Proverbs 13.1; 15.12). They consider themselves right all the time. They are in an entrenched position.

    'The seat of the scornful' can be contrasted with 'the seat of the elders' which was occupied by those who praised YHWH for His goodness (Psalm 107.32). Here too, in the seat of the scornful, we often have learned and important men (compare Isaiah 28.14), but their learning has taken them in the wrong direction. They are self-satisfied. They are scornful of God's word. They are scornful of God's ways. They are scornful of simple faith.

    The problems were not basically different in the psalmist's day from our own day. They are the problems that men continually face. They simply often express them in a different way.

    So the psalmist has dealt with a man's walk and what advice he listens to, his stance and what position he takes up, and whom he takes up company with, and how he views things, and points out that the way of the world, the path of the wicked and the unrighteous, and the position of the scornful are to be avoided.

    The righteous man takes the high road. He rises above what is wrong. He keeps himself clear of anything that can taint his life. He delights in the law of God. In contrast the very sinful take the low road. They are the ultra wicked. They are mixed up in everything that is unpleasant. But most take the middle road, the way of ease and non-exertion, of compromise and self-consideration. They come short of God's requirements. They come short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23). That is 'the way of sinners'.

    'But his delight is in the instruction of YHWH, and in his instruction he meditates day and night.' This is the positive side. The righteous man delights in God's ways, in the ways of YHWH, the covenant God whom he sees as being his Deliverer and Saviour. He longs to know God's will, he wants to know the Lawgiver Himself. So he meditates day and night in His 'instruction' (torah - Law), His word.

    This is what lifts him above the world and its ways, this is what sets him on the high road, for he lives in the rarified atmosphere of God's revelation of Himself. He listens to the word of God (Isaiah 1.10; 2.3). He goes into a private place to meet with God. He comes to know God and the ways of God, and thus he knows that there is no other way worth following.

    He does not make lists of rules he has to follow, although he carefully studies God's word in order to obey it. He rather fixes his eye on his Creator, on the great Deliverer of Israel (as many psalms will make clear). He reads of His wondrous ways and doings, of how He defeated the power of Egypt, of how He brought them to Sinai where He revealed Himself in splendour and made His covenant with them, of how He brought His people through the wilderness in spite of their weakness and failure, and how He established them in the promised land. And he worships and honours God and gladly responds to His commands, which he sees are good and right, recognising with joy the special relationship he has with God through His gracious covenant. Indeed he is so full of God's revelation that he cannot put it down. The instruction of his God is in his heart (Psalm 37.31; 40.8). He meditates on it and thinks about it day and night (compare Joshua 1.8). It is not a hardship, it is a joy (Psalm 112.1; 119.35).

    Today we can add to this that he reads the word of God as revealed in the New Testament. He rejoices in the life and death of Jesus Christ and all that it has accomplished for us. He constantly studies the life and teaching of Jesus. He studies in order to understand all that Christ is and what He has done for us, and can be to us. And he responds to that word.

    The Hebrew word translated "meditate" is used of a young lion standing over his prey and roaring his defiance (Isaiah 31.4), of the moaning of a dove (Isaiah 38.14), as meaning to think over and imagine (Psalm 2.1), as meaning to speak righteousness and wisdom (Psalm 35.28; 37.30; 71.24). Thus it contains within it both the idea of careful thought and of effective declaration to others. A man meditates so that he may speak.

    We should note the change in tenses. In verse 1 the verbs are 'definite'. The righteous man has taken up a definite attitude towards these things. He is set in his ways. In verse 2 the verbs are 'indefinite', indicating continuous action, he continually delights in, and continually ponders, God's law.

    The Reward of the Righteous (verse 3).

    1.3

    'And he will be like a tree planted by the streams of water,
    Which produces its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also does not wither,
    And in whatever he does he will prosper.'

    Here the word of God is likened to streams of water, providing the unfailing and multiplied means of life and growth. It is life-sustaining. And the one who meditates on it is like a tree, drawing through its roots on those streams of water, and thus becoming fruitful and abounding with life. Nothing about his life withers; all who see his life behold his fresh green leaves, they observe the abundance of his life. And he prospers in all he does. The thought is not of prospering physically in the sense of becoming rich, but of achieving God's ends (Joshua 1.8), of doing well what he sets his hand to (Genesis 39.3), so that God causes it to prosper for the advantage of all (Genesis 39.23). It is of having a fulfilled life, a worthwhile life, contributing to the good of mankind. He is like a fruitful tree. He prospers in fruitfulness. And like a tree drawing water from a river he draws in to himself the word of God, and lives by it. As Jesus Himself declared, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God' (Matthew 4.4 citing Deuteronomy 8.3).

    Note also that the tree is 'planted' there. It did not arrive there on the wind, it did not grow there wild and by chance, it was deliberately 'planted'. It was selected and chosen. It is God's tree, and He is the planter. For all who delight in the word of God finally do so because the Father has drawn them (John 6.44; Deuteronomy 7.6-8). They hear His word and respond to it because He has chosen to plant them. He gives them "a festive garland instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness, so that they may be called 'trees of righteousness, the planting of YHWH' so that He might be glorified" (Isaiah 61.3). Moreover the streams of water are probably to be seen as artificial canals. They too are not there accidentally. They are God's provision. They have been prepared in order to water the tree, so that it will not wither in the burning heat of the sun (compare Ecclesiastes 2.6, 'I made myself pools of water that I might water from them the forest where trees were reared').

    We should also note that the tree 'bears its fruit in its season'. Just as water does not produce instantaneous growth or instant fruit in a tree, so the word of God does not immediately bring us to maturity and fruitfulness (see Mark 4.28). God has ordained that this is a process which takes time. Thus we should not grow impatient or doubting because our progress is not as fast as we would like it to be. In due time we will come to full fruitfulness if we faint not. But we should certainly become concerned if some fruit does not at some stage become visible.

    The Destruction of the Unrighteous (1.4-5). .

    1.4-5

    'Not so the wicked!
    They are like the chaff which the wind blows away.
    Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.'

    The opposite is true of the wicked. They are not fruitful. They are not firmly grounded and planted. They are not good grain. They are rather chaff, the outer husk, the useless and lifeless part of the grain. They have no substance, they have no value, and instead of being rooted in the ground they are eventually blown away by a puff of wind as useless and worthless. They cannot produce fruit. They are chaff.

    So just as the chaff is blown away when the grain is tossed up, separated from the grain by the wind, so are the careless and sinful blown away in their frailty. They are blown away when God's wind blows on them. This picture of sinners as chaff is a constant one in the Old Testament (Psalm 35.5; Job 21.18; Isaiah 29.5; Hosea 13.3), and in the New (compare Matthew 3.12; Luke 3.17), and the wind is compared in one place with 'the Angel of YHWH' (Psalm 35.5), that mysterious figure Who is the representation of God Himself. It is God Who blows them away.

    When judgment comes they will not be able to stand (Psalm 5.5; 130.3), they will have no place in the gathering of the righteous. The thought is not specifically of some final Judgment Day, but of whenever God's judgment comes on them (for an extreme example see Numbers 16). It is a principle of Scripture that God continually judges the wicked, even before the day of His final judgment which finally completes that judgment. Because sin must be judged and must be condemned God deals with it continually in all kinds of ways. And in the face of that judgment the wicked will be blown away. They will not be able to prevent it. They will be unable to stand. If you 'stand in the way of sinners', you will not be able to stand at the judgment.

    'The assembly of the righteous.' Israel were known as 'the congregation, the assembly' which represented the whole of Israel as they gathered together as God's people. But here already we see the idea of the remnant within Israel (Isaiah 6.13), the true Israel (Isaiah 49.3 with 5), the assembly of the righteous. For not all of Israel were Israel. Not all were faithful to God and the covenant. And that separation will become apparent by judgment, when the righteous are gathered as one, separated from the wicked (Matthew 25.31-46; 13.30; 24.31).

    1.6

    'For YHWH knows the way of the righteous,
    But the way of the wicked will perish.'

    Every man must choose the way in which he walks, whether in the way of the word of God or in the way of sinners. And those who walk in the way of His word 'YHWH knows' (see Genesis 18.19), He reveals Himself to them, He meets with them, and He blesses them. They are His people and they enjoy His presence and His watch over them. And He knows their way. It is the way of life (Psalm 16.11; Proverbs 12.28), it is the way of peace (Isaiah 59.8), it is the everlasting way (Psalm 139.24). So although they may be tested in it they will finally triumph, for He is with them (see Job 23.10).

    But the way of the wicked can be described quickly, its end is that they will perish. That is its one certainty. Whatever they may enjoy along the way, and that is not certain, finally they will perish (compare Psalm 73.17). All in which they are involved will be destroyed. Their way is the way of death (Proverbs 14.12).

    For this whole psalm compare Jeremiah 17.7-8 where he speaks of those who 'trust in YHWH' in similar terms. And then he finishes by saying, 'the heart is deceitful above all things and is desperately sick. Who can know it?', speaking finally of those who have not trusted in YHWH.

    PSALM 2.

    The first psalm looked at the righteous man and his relationship with God, indicating the blessings that flowed to him from God.. This psalm looks at the Righteous One and His relationship with man. It is necessary first to consider the background to this Psalm for it concerns first the King of Israel. It describes him as YHWH's anointed, His adopted son and as the prospective world ruler. But in the end it has in mind the Great King Who is yet to come, the One Who will fulfil all YHWH's will..

    Abraham was called by God to leave his family and go to the land of Canaan. When he arrived he received the first of a series of promises. Part of that promise was that the whole world would be blessed through him (Genesis 12.3). This was later expanded to include the fact that he would be the father of kings who would rule nations (Genesis 17.6). And indeed in the thinking of those days the only way by which a man could bless the whole world would be seen as by ruling over it. Thus intrinsic in these promises was that Abraham's descendants would rule 'the world'.

    A hint of this was included in Genesis 49.10 and Numbers 24.17, both of which indicated the ruling of an empire by the coming descendant of Judah/Israel. The idea was vague but growing. They thought in terms of their 'world'. Exodus 19.6 speaks of Israel becoming a kingdom of priests and this again required that the nations should look to Israel. Thus Israel had a growing sense of the fact that one day they would be called on to act on God's behalf on the world as it was around them.

    Then the triumphs of David caused hope of the fulfilment of the dream. And this was when this psalm was written. To take it as just the description of a local squabble is to overlook a number of things. Firstly Israel's vision of itself; secondly, the fact that David was a poet as well a king, with all a poet's dreams; and thirdly, that his meteoric rise, as well as his successes, was extremely likely to cause a hunger after more. In the eyes of most of Israel he must later almost have seemed to be king of the world. He certainly ruled their 'world', and the 'worlds' round about, with an iron hand. And this would probably have seemed even more so in the splendour of the reign of Solomon. They are a picture (when viewed idealistically) of the future Kingly Rule of God.

    So David exulted in his privilege as being made YHWH's anointed, and he calls on the nations to submit and yield themselves to YHWH. Then and then alone will come worldwide blessing. He no doubt hoped for it in his day, with the eyes of the visionary, or at the worst in his son's day. But he spoke better than he knew. For its fulfilment would await the coming of his Greater Son, Jesus Christ.

    After the fall of Solomon this idea of future kingship was taken up with a vengeance by the prophets. In their eyes the collapse of the kingdom had not removed the possibility, only delayed it. Although the kingship appeared to be in decline they declared that YHWH could not finally fail. God had promised to David an everlasting kingship. So there would come one day a king from the house of David, endued with the Spirit of God, who would become the perfect example of righteousness and He would rule the world, with the result that the nations would be transformed (Isaiah 9.6-7; 11.1-4 with 9-10; 32.1-2; Psalm 72; Ezekiel 37.24-28). Thus the continual ideal 'king to come' was seen as destined to rule the nations, bringing the blessing promised to Abraham on all the families of the earth. This was their hope. This was their dream. And it was necessary in order to fulfil God's promises for the kingship, and God's promises to Abraham. So when David failed to fulfil the ideal, the coming of a greater David became a certainty. And it was that dream that was in the people's minds when this psalm was sung throughout the periods of the first and second temples and beyond.

    In Acts 4.25-26 the new people of God refer to the opening words of this psalm saying 'Who by the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David did say'. Then they referred the significance of the Psalm to Jesus. They saw the psalm as spoken by the Holy Spirit through David and fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, and especially in the resurrection of Jesus, the final fulfilment of the psalm. He had been treated abominably by all the world, both king and governor, both Gentile and Jew (Acts 4.27), but had finally been set on God's holy hill as YHWH's Anointed (Acts 2.34-36).

    The time of the writing of the psalm was probably not too long after Nathan's vision from God, declared to David in 2 Samuel 7.8-16. We can imagine the impression those words made on David as he saw himself as the anointed of YHWH, adopted as His son, as his sons would be after him. Thus he sought to express the ideal in poetry. Each was 'YHWH's anointed', but ever awaiting the One Who would rule the everlasting Kingdom (2 Samuel 7.13, 16).

    It seemingly also arose at a time when there were simmerings of rebellion among the tribute nations. Possibly there was news of a plot afoot to rebel against David. But he was not afraid, for he knew that he was YHWH's anointed. He knew that he had defeated the mighty Philistines, taking over their empire (2 Samuel 8.1-14), and even at that stage the vision was possibly already growing in his mind of a 'world' empire over which YHWH would rule. If he could defeat them he could defeat anyone.

    So in the psalm he signalled the certainty of the triumph of the favoured of YHWH, and gave warning to all of what it would mean to rebel against him and his God. Indeed the poem might have been despatched to kings in his empire as a subtle warning that he was aware of plans that were afoot. Inevitably they would be brought into fruition at any sign of weakness. But when it was sung regularly within the Temple it signified a looking forward to the dream, the dream of the great and godly king of the house of David who would one day arise, with YHWH's help and power, to rule the world, thus fulfilling David's vision.

    The psalm begins with the nations and rulers seething and hatching rebellion against YHWH and against His anointed king. It continues with YHWH's derision of their attempt to overthrow His anointed. Then it declares to the nations that this one against whom they rebel is in fact YHWH's 'son', adopted by Him in order that he might rule the world and bring judgment on God's enemies. And finally it calls on the nations to submit to YHWH and His son, finishing with the words "Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him".

    While possibly springing from a specific occasion we must remember that this is poetry. It was intended to be sung. It depicted David's view of the Davidic kingship. It was a vision of the significance of the rule of the 'anointed of YHWH' which would carry on through generations, and it was his idealistic view of what it would achieve. David did not just have himself in mind. He thought of his sons, and his son's sons over an everlasting kingdom, with all men submitting to YHWH, as YHWH had promised him (2 Samuel 7.8-16). It was to be fulfilled in Great David's Greater Son.

    The Nations In Rebellion Against YHWH and Against His Anointed One

    2.1-3

    'Why do the nations rage,
    And the people imagine a vain thing?
    The kings of the earth set themselves,
    And the rulers take counsel together,
    Against YHWH and against his anointed.'
    Saying, Let us break their bands asunder,
    And cast away their cords from us.'

    The first reference is probably to a proposed confederation of nations under his rule planning to overthrow the king of Israel, the Davidic king, of which the king had become aware. David would ever be aware of such plots and schemes They began from the moment when David took 'the bridle of the mother city' (the right to rule others) out of the hands of the Philistines and took over their subject nations, who did not, however, want to exchange tribute to the Philistines with tribute to this upstart king of Israel, and thus fought for their freedom (2 Samuel 8.1-14). The plots would continue in later simmerings of rebellion of which we are not told, plots and schemes that finally came to nought. In all cases they would be seen as an attempt to avoid being under the rule of YHWH.

    But if so it is described in words that look beyond local nations to the world situation of David's dreams. While David may partly have had the local situation in mind, it also looks forward to the greater vision, the vision of the world as required to be subject to YHWH and His anointed. YHWH was King over all the earth (Genesis 18.25; 1 Chronicles 29.11; Psalm 22.28; 47.2, 7; Jeremiah 10.10; Zechariah 14.9). But people did not want to be under His yoke. They wanted to be free to do exactly what they wanted. So he saw the wider world also as constantly simmering in its rebellion against God. He knew that not only the local nations, but all the nations of the world would one day be called to be subject to YHWH, but would plan rebellion against Him and thus would need to be brought into subjection to Him or summarily dealt with.

    This demonstrates David's great vision, and may well have been the result of David's dreams at that time. He possibly felt that that was his destiny, or the destiny of his son to whom he would hand over a powerful empire, world submission to YHWH. His vision of world empire was not thus just totally selfish. And he spoke better than he knew. For unknowingly he spoke of One Who would come as God's Anointed, Who would indeed be rejected and spurned, but Who would then lay claim to the submission of the world to His Father. He spoke of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    The stress is on the nations as being at odds with YHWH. The nations rage (definite tense) because they do not want to be in subjection to Him. The thought infuriates them. The people go on imagining (indefinite tense) folly by thinking that they do not have to obey Him. It was like that then. It is the same today. Men seek to throw off His restraints, they do not want Him to tie them down.

    The kings and rulers of the earth are also involved. They too seek ways of escaping from YHWH's grip. They try every way to avoid His rule. They are at enmity with YHWH and with His anointed. They are constantly setting themselves (indefinite tense) against Him, and thus take counsel together (definite tense) with this in mind. The world and its rulers are in it together.

    David may well have seen himself like this as the supreme anointed of YHWH (1 Samuel 16.13; Psalm 89.20). He laid great stress on what it meant to be 'the anointed one', chosen by YHWH. That is why he spared Saul so often (1 Samuel 24.6, 10; 26.9 etc). To him being 'the anointed of YHWH', the one chosen and called out by YHWH and empowered by Him, was the greatest privilege a man could have. And it contained within it a world view. Thus their refusal to submit to him was itself a sign of their rebellion against YHWH.

    So he saw in these local nations, simmering in their rebellion, a picture of the whole world unwilling to submit to God and His anointed one, a world that he wanted to conquer, a world that should submit to YHWH's rule. What he did not at that time know was that his dream for himself would never be fulfilled. But he would have been quite content to know that it would be fulfilled in his descendants, and, had he known of Him, in the greater Anointed One yet to come. It was then recognised that a promise from God was often to a man and his seed, so that David would be satisfied to think that what he had begun Another would take up. But they would reject Him too.

    'Against YHWH and against His anointed.' We can almost hear David's scandalised tone. To David the two were one. The one who was anointed with oil had been set aside as the servant of YHWH. He was YHWH's anointed and expressing YHWH's will. Thus when the nations rebelled against God's anointed, they rebelled against God (2 Kings 19.22). It was the greatest of crimes, a crime that deserved only judgment.

    And his world would constantly consider rebellion against David. It was hardly possible to hold together an empire of the kind he ruled without it being so. But the attempts would be futile. He would bring them in subjection to his feet, because YHWH was on his side. The world would also similarly reject the greater Anointed One, the greater David, when He came, even though He came as the prince of peace. Indeed, the New Testament reveals how they constantly raged against Him. How they imagined vain things against Him. The rulers came together to take counsel against Him, and 'kings' like Herod and Pilate set themselves against Him. All this was to be literally fulfilled. But it was a hopeless cause. They could not get rid of YHWH's Anointed. And they rage against Him and rebel against Him still, and still try to get rid of Him. But their attempts are in vain.

    'Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.' The subject nations saw David's rule as being like a yoke fitted on oxen ready for the use of the plough. The bands bound the yoke to the oxen so that they could not be rid of it. The cords may have been similar to reins. They chafed at being guided by someone else's reins. The more David conquered, the more it would be so. And the nations did not want to see themselves as oxen.

    And today the world still seeks to throw off God's yoke, and to rid themselves of His reins. For the truth is that obedience can always be looked on in two ways. One as glad obedience to a Father, the other as submission to a tyrant. And the latter was the view here.

    The world ever sees God as making demands that are too great. They do not want to submit to Him or His anointed servant. They want to be free of restraint, free to do what they like. They want to rid themselves of what they see as His chains. So 'the bands' are what ties the yoke to the shoulders of the oxen, and they do not want to be subjected to His yoke. The 'cords' can be seen as the reins for directing the oxen, but they do not want to be guided by YHWH. And because they could not attack YHWH directly they attacked His Anointed, and still do. It is an irony that the One Who offers perfect freedom is accused of bringing chains and ropes. But that is how they see His demands.

    God Will Laugh At Man's Folly.

    2.4-6

    'He who sits in the heavens will laugh,
    The Lord will have them in derision,
    Then will he speak to them in his wrath,
    And vex them in his sore displeasure ('fiery wrath').
    "Yet have I set my king,
    Upon my holy hill of Zion".'

    The picture of derision is not to be taken literally. It is men who deride their enemies, not God. The point is that YHWH is being depicted as the great Overlord, who is not afraid of His enemies and can afford to laugh at their feeble attempts to overthrow Him. He does not draw back before their vehemence against Him. Rather He can, as it were, laugh because of the futility of what they are doing, and carry out His purposes without any hindrance from man. None can prevent His will.

    ''He who sits in the heavens.' He is enthroned in majesty (Psalm 123.1), aware of, and controlling, all that goes on on earth (Psalm 11.4; 103.19; 113.4-6; Revelation 5.13; 6.16). And He can only laugh at their folly (Psalm 37.13; 59.8; Proverbs 1.26). They are as nothing before Him (Isaiah 40.17).

    David was confident that YHWH was on his side. In the face of this how foolish were those who took up arms against him, only to meet defeat. And later how foolish were those who took up arms against God's greater Anointed One. For what they did was also folly and could only in the end result in their defeat and ruin. And it is just as foolish today.

    'Then will He speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.' God is angry at those who rebel against His anointed. It was so and it is so today. And when YHWH speaks, powerful results follow (Isaiah 55.11). YHWH spoke to the enemies of David by the size of his victories and the punishment that followed. But He spoke to those who attacked His Son in an even severer way by destroying Jerusalem and the Temple and by scattering them throughout the world (Luke 21.24), and by many other means. Empires tottered and fell. And there will be greater judgment yet to come for all who reject Him still. God is still angry at those who reject Jesus, His Anointed.

    "Yet have I set my king, upon my holy hill of Zion" These were the triumphant words of YHWH as He spoke in response to the words of His enemies in verse 3. He acknowledged David as His anointed, and declared that he was YHWH's king, YHWH's earthly representative, established on YHWH's holy hill. Thus they should submit to him. And when the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH were established on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, making it 'His holy hill', David was king there on his throne. And he could boast in the certainty of his success, because YHWH, the Creator, the God of all the earth, had set him there.

    'Zion' was the name appertaining to the original mountain on which Jerusalem was built (2 Samuel 5.7), and, as a result of the introduction of the Tabernacle, it was brought into the orbit of Israel's religion as a holy place.

    This was not David's coronation psalm. While it had in mind that he was the anointed of YHWH and adopted by Him as His son, it probably followed the vision presented by Nathan (2 Samuel 7) while looking back to his coronation. The more he thought on what God had said through Nathan the more he exulted. And when he heard of plots among his subjects this was the result.

    But the greater Anointed One would also be established as king on Mount Zion, when He rode triumphantly up the holy hill of Zion, as prophesied by the prophets (Zechariah 9.9; compare Micah 5.5), overturned the tables of the money changers, drove the cattle out of the Temple and commanded the removal of the birds, claiming the Temple for His Father (see Mark 11.1-11, 15-17 and parallels). Then when after His resurrection God tore the veil of the temple from end to end and the earth shook (Matthew 27.51), it was God declaring that He had set His King on the holy hill of Zion, the heavenly Zion (see 1 Peter 2.6; Revelation 14.1) and that the way into His presence was open through Him (Hebrews 10.19-20) . And today His Anointed One is seated in the heavenly Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12.22, 24; Galatians 4.26), and from there He exercises His kingship (Hebrews 1.3; Luke 22.69) and calls all to come under the Kingly Rule of God. But still men reject His call.

    2.7

    'I will declare the decree of YHWH.
    He said to me, "You are my son,
    Today I have begotten you."

    This is the solemn decree of God. This has firstly in mind the words of Nathan to David in 2 Samuel 7.8-16. God had chosen him, a humble shepherd, to be prince over Israel, yes, to be a great name like the name of the great ones on the earth. It was then that he was 'adopted', and informed that God would be father to his son, indicating that He was so to David too. And He promised that this would continue on in his descendants. Just as God was a father to David so would He be a father to his son, and his son's sons (Psalm 89.29, 36). Each would be made God's son, adopted by YHWH.

    In those days an adopted son was looked on, and described as, 'begotten'. He became a full member of the family. Thus they would be the begotten of YHWH by adoption. And through the house of David would be established an everlasting throne. Inherent in this is that David would not be the greatest. An even Greater than he would arise, great David's greater son, to bring in the everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7.13, 16; Ezekiel 37.25).

    We must see here the ideas in Psalm 89.3-4, 20-21, 26-29, 35-36 where this is clearly in mind. 'David', who had probably long since passed away, was to be made God's 'firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth', the term firstborn signifying high position and authority as well as descent. Thus this theoretical position was to pass on through his line until it found its fulfilment in a greater David. And as the words were sung regularly in the temple, the people looked forward to the coming of this greater David. This would lead on to belief in the Messiah (the supreme Anointed One).

    So we can understand David's confidence in the light of the great position that was his. He was YHWH's son, the chosen of God, and the destiny of his house was world rule. No wonder he had no fear of his enemies.

    And that decree was later spoken over Another, when at His baptism a voice from heaven spoke, and said, 'You are My Son, the beloved' (Mark 1.11), and the Holy Spirit descended on Him, the heavenly sign of His anointing. The greater David was here, the One Who was not only adopted as His Son, but was truly 'the Son' (Mark 13.32; John 5.19-23 and often; Philippians 2.6-7), begotten of the Father (John 1.14, 18), full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4.1), the One Who fulfilled all the significance of Davidic sonship and more. And He too would triumph over His enemies and their rebellion. The words are indeed quoted in Hebrews 1.5 in order to declare that Jesus is the true Son of God.

    God's Offer To His Anointed One.

    2. 8-9

    "Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance,
    And the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.
    You will break them with a rod of iron,
    You will dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

    Here the widespread nature of the promises is made clear. David is promised that to him and his house will be given the world-wide dominion promised through Abraham. The nations will be blessed through them, and the whole world will come under their control. Kings always described their conquests in terms of blessing under their benevolent rule, and often depicted them as universal, but certainly in mind is something more widespread than a few local small kings. David is given a vision of widespread conquest. But first they will have to be conquered, although Jesus would later point out that it must be by words.

    'Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance.' Israel's original inheritance was the promised land (Genesis 17.8; Deuteronomy 4.21; 32.49), but now the inheritance is to be enlarged for YHWH's adopted son. He will give to him 'the nations' outside Israel. That is then expanded as reaching to 'the uttermost parts of the earth.' He is to seek by prayer for the expanding of YHWH's rule to the whole of the known world. He was not to know that his prayer would be fulfilled in One Who was not a warrior, as all over the world people of all nations would submit at His feet, given to Him by the Father as His inheritance (John 6.37, 39), as His possession (Titus 2.14; 1 Peter 2.9). He asked and He was given His inheritance.

    'You will break them with a rod of iron.' This may indicate the severity of the treatment. Beaten and broken, not with a wooden stick but with a rod of iron. Or it could equally well be translated, 'you will rule them with an iron sceptre'. Either way the idea is of stern control, with all who refuse to submit firmly dealt with. Judgment will come on the rebellious, either once they are defeated or in process of that defeat. For we must ever remember that ruling also includes judgment. Those who will not submit will suffer his wrath.

    The picture of the potter's vessel may well have in mind the vessels which come out of the kiln of substandard quality and are irreparable, and are therefore deliberately smashed by the potter (Jeremiah 19.11; Isaiah 30.14). So what is being demanded is submission, with the alternative of judgment. Both pictures are vivid, depicting the iron control of God where it is needed, and His devastating judgments on those who finally refuse to submit to His will. All men must choose between willing submission, or the rod of iron

    The words are later specifically applied as His destiny to the glorified Jesus in Revelation 12.5; 19.15, and to the persecuted people of God in Revelation 2.27. They too will partake in the judgments of God (Matthew 19.28; 1 Corinthians 6.2).

    The Call For Response.

    2.10-12

    'Now therefore be wise, O you kings,
    Be instructed you judges of the earth,
    Serve YHWH with fear,
    And rejoice with trembling,
    Kiss the son, lest he be angry,
    And you perish in the way,
    For his wrath will blaze forth quickly.
    Blessed are all those who put their trust in him.'

    Was this poem sent to certain kings to seek to achieve their submission before they had even rebelled, a hint that he knew what they were about without being too direct? (Compare for such an idea Judges 11.12-27). Or was it simply sung to sustain his own people? We do not know. But after describing the certainty of his success it calls for submission.

    'Now therefore be wise, O you kings, be instructed you judges of the earth.' He calls on the kings and their councils, and others responsible for justice (see Psalm 148.11), to be sensible and to accept reproof. Note the emphasis on the 'dispensers of justice'. Unless they bow the knee they are shortly to have justice dispensed on them. 'Wise' means to be understanding, prudent, sensible. The word for 'instructed' has within it the idea of chastening. Let them consider their ways before severe chastening comes upon them because of their proposed rebellion.

    The words also had in mind the wider world, who in their turn would be faced up with the claims of YHWH. Let all kings and rulers everywhere take note of his words and submit to YHWH before they too are sought out for judgment. All men are similarly advised to consider their ways. Will they continue with rebellion, or will they submit to YHWH? They should be wise, for David has already revealed that they face an invincible force.

    'Serve YHWH with fear, and rejoice with trembling.' Notice that it is YHWH to Whom they must submit. This is the positive option. Recognition of God's authority and a reverent fear of YHWH evidenced by submission to YHWH's Anointed. This gained new meaning when the lowly King came, and called men to submit to His teaching. They were to allow themselves to be conquered by His word, and come under the Kingly Rule of God.

    To 'rejoice with trembling' indicated the blessing that could be theirs in return for their acknowledgement of His overlordship. If they bow the knee in fear and awe they will prosper under His benevolent rule and it will be well with them. They will be able to rejoice, and have good cause to do so. This is true also for those who enter under the Kingly Rule of God (compare Philippians 2.10). They too must 'fear the Lord', and then their joy will unspeakable.

    'Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way. For his wrath will blaze forth quickly.' The summons is urgent. They must either kiss the feet of the anointed of YHWH in submission and acknowledgement of YHWH's uniqueness (compare 1 Kings 19.18; Hosea 13.2 where the kisses are given to idols), or wherever they are they will perish. There is no time to lose. At the appointed time His wrath will blaze forth, and it will do so quickly, without further warning.

    The same warning went out when God's greater Anointed walked the earth. He not only offered mercy to those who would submit, and receive His words and follow Him, He also warned of judgment to come for those who refused to do so, a judgment vividly revealed in Revelation 19.11-21. Men must either come under the Kingly Rule of God or under His wrath (John 3.36).

    'Kiss the son.' If the text is correct it is a most unusual usage. The word for 'son' is not the Hebrew 'ben' as in verse 8 but the Aramaic 'bar'. The only other usage of the latter, apart from in Aramaic sections of the Old Testament, is in Proverbs 31.2 (three times) in a context where there are other Aramaisms. But that usage warns against dismissing it too easily. Its use may be deliberate here in order to stress the expansion of his message to the whole world. In verse 8 the 'son' (ben) is adopted as the chosen one of Israel, but here he is the world's 'son' (bar), offering himself to the world. The wider world and not only Israel must recognise him as the son of YHWH, 'bar YHWH' as well as 'ben YHWH'.

    This is even more significant when applied to the greater David. He had come to offer Himself to both Jew and Gentile, to the whole world, and all were called to kiss His feet.

    Instead of 'kiss the son' the LXX has 'lay hold of instruction' and the Targum 'receive instruction'. But these may have arisen as a paraphrase, partly as a result of the above problem, so as to avoid it, and possibly because they did not like the word 'bar' being applied to David.

    'Lest he be angry.' The verb used here is elsewhere only used of God's anger. Thus the 'He' here is YHWH, angry at the thought of the rejection of His anointed.

    'And you perish in the way.' That is before you reach your objective. Their plans will never reach fulfilment. This may have in mind the rebellious forces being cut down while on the way to meet YHWH's anointed in battle, but it could also be in order to stress that God's judgment will catch all the world's rebellious unawares as they go about life's business. Compare Matthew 24.40-41.

    'Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.' But for those who respond positively there will be great blessing. For He will watch over them and protect them and enable their ways to prosper (compare 2 Kings 18.31-32), because their confidence is in Him. Just as Abraham believed in YHWH and He counted it to him for righteousness (Genesis 15), and Israel of old came under His protection when He called them to Him in the covenant at Sinai, and they responded, so will all in the whole world who respond to Him come under His protection and blessing. So this great psalm finally points to the final triumph of YHWH.

    A Meditation.

    While very much rooted in the environment of the times this Psalm can also be seen as clearly pointing forward to Our Lord, Jesus Christ. And that is unquestionably how it was seen in the New Testament. It is cited in Acts 4.24-27 with reference to the attitude of the Jews towards Him, to say nothing of references to it in the words spoken at Jesus' baptism and transfiguration (Mark 1.11; 9.7; Luke 3.22; 9.35; Matthew 3.17; 17.5). We will now therfore consider it from this viewpoint.

    The Nations In Rebellion Against YHWH and Against His Anointed One

    2.1-3

    'Why do the nations rage,
    And the people imagine a vain thing?
    The kings of the earth set themselves,
    And the rulers take counsel together,
    Against YHWH and against his anointed.'
    Saying, Let us break their bands asunder,
    And cast away their cords from us.'

    In these words we have a picture of the world's attitude towards God and towards Jesus Christ. For while they cannot agree together the nations as a whole are united in one thing, breaking the yoke of God upon them, and the result is the rejection of Jesus Christ as their Lord and King. Even among His people many may call Jesus Christ to be 'their Saviour' but they do not want His cords and bands to bind them, they do not want to be under His yoke (Matthew 11.29).

    But these words are especially applied in Acts 4 to the rejection of Jesus by the Jews in what is a very important passage, for it makes clear the final rejection of the unbelieving Jewish nation, and a dismissal of them as simply being a part of the 'nations'. They are no longer to be seen as God's people. For the true Israel, the genuine descendant of Israel, is found in that small group of men and women through whom the Holy Spirit has begun His work, and it is to them that all the promises of God in the Old Testament now apply.

    Let us consider it in more detail. In Acts 4.27-28 Luke demonstrates quite clearly that the old unbelieving Israel is no longer, after the resurrection, the true Israel. This is clearly to be inferred from the words of the infant 'congregation', for we read, "For in truth in this city against your holy Servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatever your hand and your council foreordained to come about." Note the four 'items' mentioned, the Gentiles, the peoples of Israel, 'King' (Tetrarch) Herod and Pontius Pilate the ruler. And note that these words follow as an explanation of a quotation from this Psalm as follows:

    'Why did the Gentiles rage,
    And the peoples imagine vain things,
    The kings of the earth set themselves,
    And the rulers were gathered together,
    Against the Lord and against His anointed --.'

    The important point to note here is that 'the peoples' who imagined vain things, who in this Psalm were described as nations who were enemies of Israel, have now become in Acts 'the peoples of Israel'. Thus the 'peoples of Israel' who were opposing the Apostles and refusing to believe are here seen as the enemy of God and His Anointed, and of His people, and as having become simply one among the nations in their opposition. It is a clear indication that old unbelieving Israel was now to be seen as 'cast off' and numbered by God among the nations, and that that part of Israel which had believed in Christ were seen as the true Israel. As Jesus had said to Israel, 'the Kingly Rule of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruits' (Matthew 21.43). This is confirmed by Paul in Romans 11.13-32.

    Thus the King now has a new people of Israel to guard and watch over. If it be asked, what then of the return to Israel of the Jews, is this not a fulfilment of prophecy? my reply would be, yes in so far as He is gathering them so that He might do a work of His Spirit among them in order to win many of them to Jesus Christ, with their thus becoming a part of the new Israel (compare Isaiah 32.15; 44.1-5; Joel 2.28-29; Ezekiel 26.24-25), but no in so far as people suggest that God will deal with Israel on a separate basis. They have been brought back to Israel in order that they may again have the opportunity to respond to Him in the very place where they arranged His crucifixion, and rejected Him after His resurrection. They are being given a second chance. But that chance can only be accepted by responding to Him and becoming His disciples, not as a separate nation. Indeed Revelation 11 suggests the vainness of even that hope for the majority. It suggests that once again God has in mind simply a remnant prior to the Rapture of His people.

    God Will Laugh At Man's Folly And Exalt His Anointed.

    2.4-6

    'He who sits in the heavens will laugh,
    The Lord will have them in derision,
    Then will he speak to them in his wrath,
    And vex them in his sore displeasure ('fiery wrath').
    "Yet have I set my king,
    Upon my holy hill of Zion".'

    But God will laugh at the folly of man in thinking that they can dismiss Him. For in spite of their opposition as so vividly described above He will yet set His King upon His holy hill of Zion. It is true that when the King presented Himself in Mark 11.1-18 and parallels, He was rejected by all but a few, and once they had crucified Him they thought that they were rid of Him, but it was He Who had the last laugh, for He rose again from the dead, was enthroned and acclaimed in Heaven (e.g. Acts 2.36; 7.56; Ephesians 1.19-21; Revelation 5), and came down at Pentecost in wind and fire in order to establish His claim to Kingly Rule (Acts 2.1-3; compare Matthew 28.18-20), the Holy Spirit bearing Him witness (Acts 2.4). On that very holy hill of Zion that God had promised His Kingly Rule was manifested. The Kingly Rule of God had come with power (Mark 9.1).

    2.7-9

    'I will declare the decree of YHWH.
    He said to me, "You are my son,
    Today I have begotten you."
    "Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance,
    And the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.
    You will break them with a rod of iron,
    You will dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

    And after Jesus had been baptised as the representative of the new Israel (Matthew 2.15), He came up out of the water and the decree of YHWH was declared, 'You are My Son, My Beloved, in Whom I am well pleased'. He had passed His probation with flying colours, and was now set on course to fulfil God's purpose for Him. And on the mount of Transfiguration His Kingly glory was revealed, with Moses on one hand and Elijah on the other, and again the heavenly voice declared' 'This is My Beloved Son, hear Him' (Mark 9.7). And we need not doubt that He asked of His Father precisely this, that He would give Him the nations for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. Indeed we are told how this began to happen at Pentecost when men were present 'from every nation under Heaven' (Acts 2.5), and from then on through Acts we have the description of how He triumphed until at last He came to Rome itself where Paul proclaimed His Kingly Rule and taught the things concerning Jesus (Acts 28.31).

    But there is also another side to the King, for there are those who will refuse to accept His rule, and concerning them God declares, "You will break them with a rod of iron, You will dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." For He has committed all judgment to His Son (John 5.22), and those who reject Him must finally face their judgment.

    The Call For Response.

    2.10-12

    'Now therefore be wise, O you kings,
    Be instructed you judges of the earth,
    Serve YHWH with fear,
    And rejoice with trembling,
    Kiss the son, lest he be angry,
    And you perish in the way,
    For his wrath will blaze forth quickly.
    Blessed are all those who put their trust in him.'

    And so the call comes to us today, as it came to the men in David's day. Let all who take authority on earth recognise their need to serve YHWH with godly fear and awe, and even in their times of relaxation remember to tremble, for they will one day have to give account to His Son. Thus they should make obeisance to the Son, and submit themselves to Him, for if there is rebellion in their hearts He will be 'angry', and that 'anger' will spill over into judgment. In contrast all those who believe on Him, and put their trust in Him, will be truly blessed.

    PSALM 3.

    Heading 'A psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son.'

    The headings of the Psalms were clearly very ancient and this may well therefore be a reliable tradition.

    The context in which this psalm was written by David is thus stated to be the civil war in Israel caused by the rebellion of Absalom, the son of David, as he wrought to seize the kingdom from under David's control (2 Samuel 15-18). This is probably why it follows Psalm 2, whose message is pertinent here. Even his own nation rages and his own people have risen up against YHWH's anointed, a 'king' has set himself against him, and taken counsel together with his advisers. They wanted to be free from his iron control.

    The Psalm brings out the attitude of such peoples. They think that he is a write-off. They say of him, 'there is no help for him in God' (verse 2). They consider that God has finished with him. But they had forgotten that it was YHWH Who had set him on the holy hill of Zion, and that He was merciful to those who called on Him. And they thus do not realise that from that holy hill He will reach out and deliver him (3.4).

    The rebellion caused David great bitterness of soul. His complacency had been shattered, his anguish that his beloved son would do this to him tore at his heart, and even his triumph over Absalom would cause a bitterness all the greater because of the death of his son. Here in this Psalm we have depicted his personal despair at such an unexpected event, and how he responded to it. And that is why it was retained and sung. It was a continuing reminder that however bitter the circumstances might be in a man's life, God can provide a solution to them.

    Some have argued that the psalm does not contain a sufficiently clear reference to what happened and is therefore simply a more general psalm. But there is no evidence for their position apart from that, and we can argue quite reasonably that David is here expressing his own personal emotions and spiritual battles, rather than praying about the circumstances in detail. He is not concerned with the details of the situation, but with God, and with his own emotions and how it affected him personally.

    Furthermore it is likely that he did not want to include mention of his son in it, the son whom he loved who had betrayed him, for that would have meant giving details of his betrayal. It would have seemed like a betrayal of love on his own part. So it was deliberately a very personal prayer even though produced for public usage. It brings out just how personally he felt the situation.

    The Psalm splits up into four sections.

    • 1) The distress in which he found himself (1-2).
    • 2) His recognition of God's help and protection (3-4).
    • 3) His confidence in the midst of danger (5-6).
    • 4) His prayer for deliverance, and cry for blessing on his people (7-8).

      Section 1. The Distress in Which He Found Himself.

      3.1-2

      'YHWH, how are my adversaries multiplied,
      Many are those who rise up against me,
      Many are those who say of my life (nephesh),
      "There is no help ('deliverance') for him in God".
      Selah (possibly a musical pause, a pregnant silence, meaning 'think of that!').

      The Psalm opens with a cry of distress and almost despair. As he lay in his hastily erected tent, snatching a few brief hours of stolen rest, before moving on again, hopefully to relative safety, David was deeply aware that his life was in grave danger. He had only just escaped with his life by a hairsbreadth, and he had seen how many there were who were against him. The rebellion had taken him completely by surprise, even though he must have been aware of Absalom's activities and attempts to win the people's hearts. For in his sublime self-confidence he had not doubted the people, and he had indulgently thought that his son was simply preparing for the time when he died, when it would be normal for sons of different mothers to dispute the right to the throne. He had even probably smiled tolerantly to himself, knowing what his own plans were.

      Now, however, he was appalled. He was totally taken by surprise, and very upset, to discover how many there were who were clearly disenchanted with his reign. He had not expected this. He had not realised, in his sense of his own supremacy, that the days of his early popularity had gone, and that his reign was now probably considered too harsh. His constant calling on men for war to sustain the status quo, and his plans for expansion which involved them even more, had disillusioned the people (e.g. 2 Samuel 11.1). They had been unable to work their land as they had wanted to, and had had to spend too much time away from home. Apart from his own private army, ('his men'), the whole army had turned out to be disenchanted with him. And with some reason, for it was clear that justice for the ordinary people had become hard to find (2 Samuel 15.2-4) and that they felt cut off from the king (2 Samuel 15.5). That was always the danger of becoming powerful, it resulted in becoming remote from the people. But he had not realised that it had happened.

      How easy it is to become like David. We become complacent with our lives and fail to observe that we are no longer taking account of the feelings of those around us Our complacency leads us into taking too much for granted rather than into putting in the effort that success requires. We feel that we can manage very well as we are, and we forget to keep strict accounts of our lives, and to recognise that others might have concerns different from ours. The ministry of many a servant of God has been minimised because of complacency. And the consequence is that one day we can be pulled up short by unpleasant realities.

      So David's cry here was concerning the huge number of people who were teemed up against him, and, (and this was what hurt most), especially the number of the people of Jerusalem his own city who were against him. He had won Jerusalem for them (and from some of them) and now they had turned against him. But worse. Not only had they turned against him, but they were also clearly equally convinced that YHWH had turned against him, for they cried, 'there is no help for him in God'. The word for 'help' is 'deliverance' as in verse 8. Thus they believed that God would no longer watch over him and deliver him, and that they could therefore rid themselves of him with impunity. They no longer saw him as 'the Lord's Anointed'.

      This last fact especially smote his conscience. Their feelings seemingly went very deep. And he reluctantly had to recognise that much of it was probably due to his sin against Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11.2-5) and Uriah the Hittite. They had seen his adultery, and they had also heard of his callous and dreadful murder, by underhand means, of a faithful servant (2 Samuel 11.6-21). For the rumours would undoubtedly have spread, and the whisperings would have gone on behind people's hands. They knew by this that he had openly broken the covenant, no, that he had shattered it. He had committed sins worthy of death. And that was why they could not believe that God could still support such a king. Thus, as a result of his actions, they could only consider that he was no longer YHWH's anointed, the representative of the people, the 'breath of their nostrils (Lamentations 4.20). They expected better of the king than they expected of themselves, and he had failed them. And the result was that they had lost their awe of him, and their confidence in him.

      So as he saw how the people had multiplied against him David's conscience was smiting him, and the more so because he knew that he deserved it. He was aware that he was unworthy, not only before these men but before God. And he recognised that there were some grounds for their doubts, for they were not fully aware of the depths of his repentance (Psalm 51) and of how God had forgiven him.

      It must be remembered that the king had an important part to play in the people's worship of YHWH. He had a role of non-sacrificing priest, a priest 'after the order of Melchizedek' (Psalm 110.4). For he regularly had to approach YHWH on the people's behalf (compare how the prince had a special place reserved for him in Ezekiel's temple - Ezekiel 44.1-3). He was their intercessor before YHWH (compare 2 Samuel 24.14, 24-25; Jeremiah 30.21). And they felt that he had thus failed his people. Of what use was an intercessory priest whose life was so tainted? And he had to face up to the fact that they were partly right.

      So here he now was, lying as a fugitive in his tent, fleeing for his life, with a great army of common people (2 Samuel 15.12-13), the disillusioned people who had once looked to him and admired him, ready to seek him out and destroy him. And with a deeply troubled conscience concerning what had brought it about, he was, at this moment, in an agony of doubt. He was aware of their numbers. He was conscious of the smallness of his own force. What hope then had he against them? He knew that if they caught up with him he was done for. So he brings his need before God.

      We all need to remember that how we behave inevitably affects the way that people think about us and behave towards us. And that once we have lost their confidence it is hard to regain it. Like David we may find forgiveness but the physical consequences of our sins may go on and on. If we sin an open sin others may consider that God can no longer be with us. This was true of David. He was forgiven by God, but his people remembered and had not forgiven him. It is sometimes easier to find forgiveness from God than from fellow-sinners.

      We can compare here Matthew 27.43 where a greater than David was subjected to similar taunts. He had not sinned but He too was surrounded by enemies, enemies greater than we could ever know (Colossians 2.15), but He defeated them all.

      Section 2. His Recognition of God's Help and Protection.

      3.3-4

      'But you, O YHWH, are a shield about me,
      My glory and the lifter up of my head.
      I was crying to YHWH with my voice,
      And he was answering me out of his holy hill.' Selah (think of that!)

      However, in the moment of his extremity David did the wisest thing possible. He took his eyes off himself and looked at God. Having acknowledged his own inadequacy he turned his thoughts towards God's complete adequacy and faithfulness.

      What the people had overlooked was that he was a forgiven sinner, that he had deeply repented of his sins, and had been forgiven and accepted back by God. That he was still therefore YHWH's anointed. Thus in this moment of deepest need, and even perplexity, and with his conscience screaming out at him, his heart reached upwards and he turned towards YHWH, his covenant God. He no longer now prayed to Him as 'God'. He prayed to Him as 'YHWH', the One Who loved him.

      Lonely and desolate in his tent he sought reassurance. He reminded YHWH, and himself, (for that is often what prayer is, something in which we remind ourselves of the promises of God), that YHWH had promised to be his shield. To be the One Who guarded and protected him, like a great shield of war. That He was his glory, the One without Whom David knew that he was nothing, and that He was the One Who lifted up the head of, and restored, those who were cast down, and so would lift up David's head. And he threw himself on the grace of God.

      'You are a shield about me.' To a warrior like David the shield was a vital weapon. His trusty shield had saved his life many a time. Thus the thought of YHWH as his shield comforted him. He Who was Abram's shield (Genesis 15.1) must be his shield, for he was the seed of Abram, one of the kings who came from his loins. He Who was Israel's shield (Deuteronomy 33.29) must be his shield, for in himself he represented Israel before God. And he could remember back to when God had given him the shield of His deliverance when He had saved him from Saul (2 Samuel 22.3, 36. See also Psalm 5.12; 84.11; 119.14). So he knew that God was like a surrounding shield to him, a great protective shield, even greater than one carried in the ordinary way into battle.

      We also as we face the problems that life can bring need to constantly remember that if we are truly His, God is our shield. If we are walking in faithfulness to Him, with our sin forgiven and behind us, we too can be confident of His protection, both in the trials of life, and from the arrows of the Evil One. He will not fail us nor forsake us.

      'You are my glory.' The glory of the king was the reflected glory of YHWH. He was YHWH's anointed, glorious because YHWH was glorious. For the king's glory was obtained from YHWH, and given to Him by YHWH. YHWH's glory was also revealed in His deliverance of him, when YHWH laid on him honour and majesty (Psalm 21.5 compare 62.7). So in every way he knew that his glory depended on YHWH Who was his glory. Without YHWH he was nothing. And without YHWH he would no longer gain the victory. So he now looked again to YHWH and trusted Him to restore his glory, because He was his God.

      We too need to recognise that without God our glory is nothing, our lives are nothing. We may strut around for a while convinced that we are something, and that we are achieving great things, or we may stumble along in doubt and feel that life is no longer worthwhile. But unless we recognise that our glory comes from God we will finally achieve nothing. Either way we need to look off to God's glory, the one in order to learn humility, the other in order to gain strength. For it is only as our eyes are set on things above, and as our confidence is placed in Him, that our lives will become finally meaningful and we will then become 'something', something that will be everlastingly worthwhile. Jesus Christ will cover us with His glory (John 17.22).

      'The lifter up of my head.' At this moment when his conscience was revived over his past doings David's head was bowed, and he needed it to be lifted up, so that he was no more ashamed and could be assured that he was truly restored to favour. He knew that YHWH had done exactly that for him in the past and he was confident that He would do it again. Thus his cry was that YHWH would lift up his head in deliverance.

      In other references the lifting up of the head also reflects release from prison and restoration to favour and prominence (Genesis 40.13, 20; 2 Kings 25:27), and its negative to not being able to invade any more because of weakness (Judges 8.28). Compare also Psalm 27.6; 83.2. Thus the idea includes here David's confidence that God will restore him in his time of need, will release him from the danger of captivity, and will weaken Absalom in his plotting against him.

      And he knew within him that his prayer was answered. That is why he wrote down his agonised complaint and his prayer, - and then the consequence of his prayer. He knew that it was happening already. 'I was crying to YHWH with my voice, and He was answering me out of His holy hill.' Peace now flooded his soul. He knew that his prayer was being heard. YHWH had seen his distress and had drawn near to him and was in process of delivering him. As he continued on with YHWH, constantly looking to Him, he knew that he need not be afraid. He may still lay tossing in his tent, with the enemy still pursuing. He may have to strike camp shortly and continue his flight. But now he knew that God was on his side, and he had nothing to fear.

      'Out of His holy hill.' Probably, in the light of 2.6, this means the holy hill of Zion. There was the Tabernacle, and there was the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH. There were the symbols that spoke of His faithfulness and love. There was YHWH's earthly dwellingplace, and from there He had responded to David in the past and would continue to do so.

      His faithful priests had in fact brought the Ark to accompany them in their flight, but David had sent it back to the Tabernacle, confident that if it was YHWH's will that he should be restored to minister there again (2 Samuel 15.24-29), it would be so. He knew that God was with him wherever he was, whether the Ark was there or not, but he had wanted YHWH still to be seen as reigning from Zion. Whatever happened to him God was not to be put to flight. That was unthinkable. He was the God of Israel, not just of David.

      Section 3. His Confidence In The Midst of Danger.

      3.5-6

      'I laid myself down and slept,
      I awoke, for YHWH sustains me.
      I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people,
      Who have set themselves against me round about.'

      So satisfied that YHWH had heard him he could now settle down to sleep. And in the morning he awoke, aware that he was still safe because YHWH was sustaining him. With that knowledge he would not be afraid of anyone, even 'ten thousands' of people (a great army), even though they had surrounded him and were set against him.

      The picture fits exactly into the circumstances. David in the camp, supported by his men, his faithful private army, together with others who had accompanied them, faced with the possibility of an approaching army of Israel surrounding the camp in order to destroy them, but no longer afraid because YHWH sustained him.

      His Prayer for Deliverance, and Cry for Blessing on His People.

      3.7-8

      'Arise, O YHWH, save me, O my God,
      For you have smitten all my enemies on the cheekbone
      You have broken the teeth of the wicked.'

      David's cry here parallels the marching song of the hosts of Israel (Numbers 10.35; compare Psalm 68.1) as they went forward in confidence with the Ark leading the way. In the same way he was confident that YHWH would equally be with him even though the Ark was not there, for he knew that YHWH was not restricted to a physical object, however sacred.

      He brings to mind past victories when God had smitten his enemies on the cheekbone. The smiting on the cheekbone was an act of reproach to a defeated opponent (Job 16.10; 1 Kings 22.24). It indicated reproach offered to someone who should have known better, and was a sign of total victory, and that all their resistance had ceased. Thus would YHWH again vindicate him at this time.

      'Breaking the teeth' of the wicked meant rendering them powerless, removing their weapons, and was based on the idea that captured wild animals would often have their teeth broken so as to render them safe (see Psalm 58.6). He has no doubt that God will deliver him again, rendering his enemies powerless and subject to reproach for attacking YHWH's anointed.

      Those who trust in God can always be sure that even though they may have reached their weakest point God will hear them. Indeed the fact is that He often deliberately brings us to our weakest point so that we might learn to trust Him more.

      3.8

      'Salvation belongs to YHWH.
      Your blessing be on your people.'

      The psalm ends with a cry of confidence. Salvation is in the hands of YHWH, for all deliverance is finally in His hands. This includes the deliverance of a nation or a king, and it includes a person's own personal deliverance. He is the Saviour (or otherwise, as He chooses) of kings, nations and individuals. All salvation belongs to Him. We are not therefore to look to strength of arm, but to the strength of God. In the New Testament this develops into the idea of God's saving action in each individual life. He works within us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2.13). So daily we should face life with the same cry, 'Salvation belongs to God'. And it is to Him that we should look daily in order to continually enjoy it. For although in one sense once we become His our salvation is complete, in another we need Him to continue to save us daily.

      'Your blessing be on your people.' Finally he prays that God's blessing may be on His people. Not just those who were with him at that time but on all his people. He recognised that much of the blame for the rebellion lay at his own door. Thus he sought that when he was finally delivered they might be blessed under his own re-enlightenment. Even in his extremity he did not forget his intercessory role. And as 2 Samuel 19.8-10 reveals, not all the people had followed Absalom. In the confusion of unexpected civil war, and leaderless, many of them had simply sought refuge in their homes to await events.

      And as we know from our knowledge of later events, things turned out just as the Psalm says.

      PSALM 4.

      Heading. 'For the chief musician, on stringed instruments. A psalm of David.'

      This psalm is one of a number dedicated to the Choirmaster, or chief musician. What this actually signified we do not know. Possibly the choirmaster originally had his own collection of psalms and hymns. This one was intended for public use. It was for playing on stringed instruments and was a psalm of David.

      It is generally recognised that there is a close affinity between this and the previous psalm. Compare for example the 'many there be that say' (verse 5) with 3.2, a phrase unique to these two psalms. It was probably written a little later than Psalm 3 when things were more settled and the fight back was beginning.

      It is divided up by 'selah', that is pauses in the music, although others have seen the divisions differently. However, it is all a matter of opinion for in the end the psalm is one whole.

      We may divide it as follows:

      • David's cry to God to be heard (4.1).
      • The plea to his rebellious people to consider what they are doing (4.2).
      • The declaration of his own status before God (4.3).
      • The command for them to consider their ways (4.4).
      • His plea for them to repent and come into the right way (4.5).
      • His confidence that they will do so (4.6).
      • His great rejoicing at his restoration (4.7).
      • David's final confidence (4.8).

        4.1

        'Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness,
        You have set me at large when I was in distress.
        Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.'

        The psalm begins with prayer. The writer is grateful that when he was in distress God delivered him from it and set him 'at large'. He had brought him out of his distress both physically and spiritually and given him freedom, both outwardly and within himself. This would well fit the fact that David was now delivered from the initial source of impending danger. Now he prays for continued mercy to be shown to him, in response to his praying.

        'O God of my righteousness.' The righteous God is the source of his vindication, and its upholder. It is the righteous God Who has accepted him as righteous through forgiveness, and enables him to walk in righteousness. Thus his conscience can be clear because of God's graciousness.

        The Christian has an equally great joy. He can say that Christ has been made to him righteousness, that we have been 'made the righteousness of God in Him' (1 Corinthians 1.30; 2 Corinthians 5.21).

        'Have mercy on me.' This is meant in the sense of 'show your graciousness towards me' (see Exodus 34.6). He is seeking that God will continue to act on his behalf in response to his prayer.

        4.2

        'O you sons of men how long will my glory be turned into dishonour?
        How long will you love vanity, and seek after falsehood?' Selah.

        This again fits well with David's situation. It was the vanity of Absalom that had finally resulted in the rebellion, as a result of Absalom's false claims (2 Samuel 14.25-26; 15.1-6). Thus David's glory as king in Jerusalem had been replaced by the dishonour of dwelling as a fugitive in tents. And even more his status as 'Yahweh's anointed' had been marred by the accusations that had been made against him.

        However the words can also apply to any man of God who has been dishonoured because of men's vain thinking and deceptiveness. How easily can a man's reputation be wrecked by lies. For the world hates those who are true to God (John 15.18-19; 16.2). So Jesus paradoxically warned of the danger of being thought well of, for that too would only result in persecution because of the nature of man. Men hate those who are truly righteous (1 Peter 4.14, 16; Matthew 5.11-12; Luke 6.26), especially when others see them as righteous. It was something that Jesus Himself suffered from, as He was misrepresented by the leaders of the people. These words could easily be applied to Him.

        'O you sons of men.' Not ben 'adam but ben 'ish, high born men rather than low. See its use in Psalms 49.2; 62.9. His address is to the high born who are responsible for his distress. By evicting him from Jerusalem with the intention of removing him from the throne they had dishonoured him and the glory that was his as YHWH's anointed. But they are still but sons of men, in contrast to God, and they should remember that, for God is not pleased when those He favours are ill-used. And whenever the true people of God are attacked falsely and dishonoured it is God's glory in them that is being outwardly tarnished.

        'How long will you love vanity, and seek after falsehood?' When men attack those who are God's they are revealing that they love 'vanity', that, is the desire for empty and meaningless things. They are seeking what is temporal rather than what is eternal. And regularly they do it by deceit, as Absalom had deceived. They deceive themselves and they deceive others, twisting facts in order to win their case, erecting a refuge of lies which will one day be swept away (see Isaiah 28.25-27).

        4.3

        'But know that YHWH has set apart him who is godly for himself?
        YHWH will hear when I call to him.'

        Compare 3.3. He warns his opponents that God has set him apart specially. He is the anointed one, supremely favoured by the covenant God. And he points out that he is still in God's favour, he has been reinstated in godliness. Therefore to rebel against him is to rebel against God. And they must remember that as His anointed one God will hear him when he calls on Him.

        Indeed all those who are godly (or those whom God favours) have been chosen by Him for Himself. To touch them is to touch the apple of God's eye (Zechariah 2.8). Thus men should beware of how they treat them.

        The word for 'set apart' also contains the idea of marvellous dealing (see Psalm 17.7; 39.14). He not only sets them apart but also 'deals marvellously' with them. It is a dangerous thing to touch YHWH's anointed (Psalm 105.15).

        'Him who is godly.' One who is characterised by covenant love to God, and is within God's covenant love, and therefore 'one who is favoured by His covenant love'. Therefore they are God's own special possession. That is why He will hear when they call on Him.

        4.4-5

        'Stand in awe and do not sin,
        Commune with your own heart on your bed and be still, Selah
        Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
        And put your trust in YHWH.'

        In view of whom they are dealing with they should pause and stand in awe. They are touching YHWH's anointed. Let them therefore fear before God and beware of incurring His anger, for such fear will prevent them from sin. Let them wait for the quietness of their beds, away from the incitement of others who are just as foolish, then let them talk to themselves sensibly and thus they will cease from what they are doing. They will cease to sin.

        Then they can be true to YHWH and offer true sacrifices, sacrifices which are offered from a true heart (Deuteronomy 33.19; Psalm 51.19; Isaiah 1.11 with 16-18). Thus can they put their trust in YHWH. For to offer sacrifices truly was to come to God in trust and love, depending on His promises of mercy. This once again strongly reminds us that sacrifices alone were insufficient to turn away God's wrath. They had to be offered from a true heart and with the intention in the future of living a righteous life (1 Samuel 15.22). And must be accompanied by trust in YHWH Himself.

        4.6

        'Many there are who say, "Who will show us any good?
        Yahweh, lift up the light of your face on us,"

        Glad in heart he is aware that many who have been against him, or have been neutral, are now having second thoughts, because they have 'stood in awe' and considered. They had turned to Absalom because of his promises of what he would do for them but now they are reconsidering. They are now remembering all that David had achieved for them, and possibly also aware that as he has survived the first onslaught he may well come out as the victor. They are also remembering that he had been a successful intercessor. Thus they are asking YHWH to guide them as to what choice they should make. And the result is that many are gathering to David to support his cause.

        'Who will show us any good.' Who is the one who will make the best king so that we prosper under his rule? Who will be the best intercessor? And they recognised that it had to be the one anointed by YHWH.

        'YHWH, lift up the light of your face on us.' Compare Psalm 31.16; 80.3, 17, 19. The idea behind the phrase is of YHWH acting on their behalf. So having made their choice for YHWH's anointed, they seek His delivering power to deliver David and themselves and bring the country back to normal.

        All of us can ask the same question. 'Who will do us any good?' And the answer for us is great David's Greater Son. As we seek Him with all our hearts God will act for us and reveal the glory of His presence to us. His face will be turned towards us.

        4.7

        'You have put gladness in my heart,
        More than those have when their corn and their wine are increased.'

        The greatest gladness in life in an agricultural society was for the corn and the wine to increase. And the harvest festivals, in a good year, were their time of greatest rejoicing (see Isaiah 9.3; contrast Jeremiah 48.32-33). It meant plentiful food, much enjoyment, increasing wealth and a year of fullness. But the gladness that YHWH puts in the heart, David says, is greater far than that. David rejoiced in the pouring out of His goodness for it far exceeded the blessing of the harvest. And he especially rejoiced in that in his present situation God was working for Him and would continue to do so.

        But every child of God can echo his experience. Like David they may sometimes find themselves in tight corners, seemingly unable to escape. But when His time comes they will be delivered, and great will be their rejoicing, far exceeding anything that the physical world offers.

        4.8

        'In peace will I both lay me down, and sleep,
        For you YHWH alone make me dwell in safety.'

        David finishes with his declaration of full confidence in YHWH. The final battle is not yet over, but as he prepares for it he can afford to lie down, and yes, he even sleeps (compare 3.5). For he knows that his safety and security are in YHWH's hands. Because he is YHWH's he is confident of his safety and security in YHWH's hands. We too may sleep in peace if we are His.

        The great emphasis on the sin of rebelling against YHWH's anointed finds even greater significance in the light of the coming of Jesus. Here was YHWH's Anointed par excellence. And so the psalm becomes a call to all men to lay down their arms and submit to Him.

        PSALM 5.

        Heading 'For the chief musician, with the Nehiloth (wind instruments?). A psalm to/for David.' On behalf of the choirmaster and written by or dedicated to David.

        This psalm can be divided as follows:

        • The psalmist's plea to be heard (5.1-3).
        • A description of those whom God rejects (5.4-6).
        • His prayer for God to lead him (5.7-8).
        • His accusations against God's enemies (5.9-10).
        • His prayer for the righteous (5.11-12).

          5.1-3

          'Give ear to my words, O YHWH,
          Consider my meditation.
          Hearken to the voice of my cry, my King and my God,
          For to you do I pray.
          O YHWH in the morning you will hear my voice,
          In the morning I will order my prayer to you, and will keep watch.'

          This is an introductory plea for YHWH to hear his prayer. He asks that God will respond to his words, and consider his thoughts, and addresses Him as both his King and his God (compare Psalm 84.3, also 44.3; 68.24; 74.12). He exults in His majesty and power, and thus declares that He is the One to whom he prays and Who is able to do what he asks. He points out that his prayer is not haphazard. It is ordered and disciplined. Furthermore he wants God to know that he will be on the watch for YHWH's response and direction, and on the watch so that he does not sin. It is a prayer for use in the morning as a person prepares for a new day, a reminder that we too should begin each day with prayer.

          'The voice of my cry,' stresses the urgency of his petition. It is an imploring cry (see Psalm 22.24; 28.2 etc).

          'My King and my God.' That is, his great Overlord and God, stressing the mightiness and sovereignty of the One to Whom he comes, and to Whom we also can come.

          'O YHWH in the morning you will hear my voice.' He begins each day with prayer, for he recognises that he must go into the day with God.

          'I will order my prayer to you.' Literally 'I will set in order for you' ('prayer' is read in). The word 'order' is used of setting pieces of wood in order on an altar (Genesis 22.9; Leviticus 1.7), or the parts of the sacrifice (Leviticus 1.8). So just like those who set in order the sacrifices he does not pray haphazardly but comes to God with an orderly approach, setting out his prayer before Him (compare Job 33.5; 37.19 for its use of 'words'). This is a lesson we all need to learn. We should come to prayer with hearts and thoughts prepared. While extempore prayer is good, it should not necessarily be without previous thought. That can be lazy prayer. Some, however, see the words as indicating a morning sacrifice, at the offering of which he prays.

          'And will keep watch.' He will be like a watchman on the lookout to hear YHWH's word to him, no doubt throughout the day, and will guard his way so as to avoid sin (compare Isaiah 21.6; Micah 7.7). All God's people should be watchmen in a similar way.

          5.4-6

          'For you are not a God who has pleasure in wickedness,
          Evil will not sojourn with you,
          The arrogant will not stand in your sight,
          You hate all workers of iniquity,
          You will destroy him who speaks lies,
          YHWH abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.'

          This is why he is on the watch, so that he will not be like these. His words make clear to himself and others the kind of God YHWH is and the kind of people that God rejects. God hates wickedness, evil, the arrogant, workers of iniquity, men of deceit (repeated twice) and bloodthirstiness. That the psalmist refers to his own countrymen is suggested by the lack of reference to the nations, and by the fact that they cannot 'stand in His sight', that is, enter the Temple in true worship expecting acceptance. Thus this is a dreadful indictment on the nation and its condition.

          'Evil will not sojourn with you, the arrogant will not stand in your sight.' To sojourn was to stay as a guest (compare 15.1). Thus none who are evil can spend time in His presence and be made welcome. Nor can the arrogant stand in His sight. That is, those who are presumptious, who assume that the approach to God can be made lightly and without proper reverence. They cannot come into His court to stand before Him. They may think that they can for they arrogantly sin against Him, and then equally arrogantly assume that it does not matter. But the psalmist tells us that it does matter. They may stand in the temple but they will not stand in His sight. If we would seek to know the presence of God we must do away with sin.

          'You hate all workers of iniquity, you will destroy him who speaks lies, YHWH abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.' The worker of iniquity is the one who practises what is morally worthless and wrong, he acts contrary to God's Instruction. Such are 'hated' by God because He is a holy God and must recoil from sin. Speaking lies and being a man of deceit are also spoken against in the strongest terms. Deceit is constantly condemned throughout the Bible (10.7; 24.4; 35.20; 36.3; 38.12 and regularly). We are told in the New Testament that the liar will never enter God's heavenly kingdom (Revelation 21.27 compare 14.5). So men of violence and deceit are 'abhorred' by Him. Notice the strength of the verbs which reveal God's attitude; hated, destroyed, abhorred. Sin is no light matter.

          5.7

          'But as for me, in the multitude of your lovingkindness I will come into your house,
          In your fear I will worship towards your holy temple.'

          His own entry before God rests in his confidence in God's overwhelming lovingkindness ('warm covenant love' - chesed), His benevolence and goodness, and his own reverent awe and fear. He comes aware of the greatness and holiness of God, but also aware of His grace and mercy revealed through the covenant between God and His people, a covenant which has provided a way of forgiveness for all sin through the shedding of blood. And he worships ('prostrates himself before') God with proper respect and due deference.

          This is why we too can come with such confidence. It is not because we are such good people, but because we come to One Who loved us and gave Himself for us, and it is in Him that we find a welcome. It is because He has made a new and living way for us through His flesh (Hebrews 10.20), so that we can come through Him.

          He mentions God's house and God's temple. While mention of these may suggest that he lives at the time of what we know of as the temple, that need not be so. The phrase 'God's house' is equally used of the tabernacle (Exodus 23.19; 34.26; Deuteronomy 23.18; Joshua 6.24;1 Samuel 1.24; 3.15; see also 2 Samuel 12.20) and so is God's 'temple' (1 Samuel 1.9; 3.3). For God dwells in house, temple and tent without regard (Psalm 27.4-6). In view of the fact that Israel did not have a temple until the time of Solomon, to describe the tabernacle as God's 'temple' would be natural, as a shadow of the heavenly temple (Psalm 11.4; 18.6), and in contrast with the temples of the nations. The words are all synonyms for God's earthly dwellingplace. However, note that he worships 'in God's house' but 'towards His holy temple'. Thus he may be thinking of the house as earthly and the temple as heavenly (see 1 Kings 8.30). Or the latter phrase may simply refer to the inner sanctuary

          5.8

          'Lead me, O YHWH, in your righteousness because of my enemies,
          Make your way level before my face.'

          He asks God, because He is righteous, to lead him, in view of those who lie in wait for him. He needs protection from those who are seeking to entrap him, and asks that God will show him the way ahead, and will keep his path level so that he will not stumble or fall on it.

          For 'in your righteousness' see Psalm 31.1; 71.2; 119.40;143.1, 11, where it clearly means 'because you are righteous'.

          The psalmist claims no merit of his own. He can walk in righteousness because the righteous God leads him, and because he has been forgiven. But it is God Who must lead him forward and make the way before him a level plain.

          5.9

          'For there is no faithfulness (steadfastness) in their mouth,
          Their inward part is destructions (or 'a yawning gulf'),
          Their throat is an open sepulchre,
          They flatter with their tongue.'

          He describes his enemies, those who are against him and against YHWH. He declares that what they say cannot be trusted, that their inner thoughts plan destruction for others, and especially for the people of God, that their throat is like an open grave i.e. what they say may result in death for the unfortunate so that they enter the open grave, or may lead to ruin. And yet at the same time they speak smooth words with their tongues. They are totally untrustworthy.

          Alternately behind the idea of the open sepulchre might be the idea of a grave that has been opened and the stench of a rotting body rises from it. So are the lives of these wicked men, they stench rottenly, and those who have contact with them become unclean.

          5.10

          'Hold them guilty, O God,
          Let them fall by their own counsels,
          Thrust them out (or 'down') in the multitude of their transgressions,
          For they have rebelled against you.'

          What upsets him is that these people have rebelled against God Himself, and so He calls for God to deal with them because they have rebelled against Him. Let Him recognise their guilt, he pleads, and hold them to it. Let Him bring their own clever schemes down on their own head, let the heavy load of their transgressions thrust them down. For they are unrepentant rebels against His Instruction (Law), and cause great problems for His people. Let them therefore reap what they sow.

          5.11-12

          'But let all those who put their trust in you rejoice,
          Let them shout for joy because you defend them,
          Let those also who love your name be joyful in you,
          For you will bless the righteous,
          O Yahweh you will compass him with favour as a great shield.'

          But in contrast let those whose trust is in YHWH and His covenant, those who love His name, rejoice, aware that He is defending them; let them shout for joy because they know that He will bless the righteous. So His defence of them and His blessing are causes of their great rejoicing. They know that the huge shield of His favour protects and watches over them.

          'Your name.' That is His being, attributes and character. They love Him for what He is, the Deliverer of His people. See Psalm 69.36; 119.132.

          So the psalm began with confidence and ends with triumph, triumph in the God of the righteous. Triumph in the name of the One Whose being, attributes and character they know so well, the One in Whom they can put their trust without any fear of being confounded.

          PSALM 6.

          Heading 'For the chief musician on stringed instruments, set to the Sheminith ('the eighth', a musical notation?). A Psalm to/for David (i.e. a part of the Davidic collection, dedicated to and possibly written by David).'

          The psalmist cries desperately to God in his need. Possibly because he is overburdened by his sin which he seems somehow unable to control, something which has been brought home to him by a prostrating illness. The mention of his 'enemies' comes in only in a secondary fashion as they seek to make the most of his grief. It is not they who mainly concern him, but his sin. But finally he ends on a note of triumph, and he knows that his enemies will be ashamed.

          Then, having begun by praying for restoration of his health, and for an end to the chastening that he feels is the cause of the illness, he goes on to call on YHWH to restore him, describing his grief and misery, and finally tells his mocking adversaries that YHWH has done so, to their chagrin,

          6.1-3

          'O YHWH do not rebuke me in your anger,
          Nor chasten me in your hot displeasure,
          Have mercy on me (show your graciousness towards me), O YHWH for I am withered away,
          O YHWH heal me, for my bones are troubled.
          My soul also is sore troubled,
          And you, O YHWH, how long?'

          What his illness was we do not know, but it had certainly deeply affected him, not necessarily because it was serious, but because it felt serious. He felt as though he could die. And this had brought home to him his sinfulness and he was deeply distressed and troubled in mind.

          He knew that he deserved God's rebuke. That he merited His hot displeasure. But he nowhere states why, and it may well be that it was just a result of the general sense of sinfulness he felt because of his belief that his illness was a punishment (in contrast with Psalm 38). But now he felt that he had been chastened enough and sought relief (compare Job 5.17).

          Conscience makes cowards of us all, and certainly it had deeply affected him. His body felt withered, and his bones felt troubled, so that he longed for healing, but far more than this was the fact that his inner self was troubled by the thought of his sinfulness. He wanted to know how long it would be before YHWH brought him relief from his conscience, and gave him the sense of forgiveness.

          'Heal me, for my bones are troubled.' The bones are poetically representative of the whole physical body. They are the seat of health (Proverbs 16.24), and of pain. (Compare the dry bones in Ezekiel 37 and see Psalm 31.10; 32.3; 38.3; 42.10; 102.3, 5). He was physically troubled and spiritually troubled. So he looked to the only final Source of healing, the One Who could heal both.

          6.4-5

          'Return, O YHWH, deliver my soul,
          Save me for your lovingkindness' sake,
          For in death there is no remembrance of you,
          In Sheol who will give you thanks?'

          He senses the loss of YHWH's presence (compare Psalm 51.11). He feels that his sins have separated between him and God. So he pleads for Him to come back to him, on the basis of His warm covenant love, His lovingkindness, so as to heal him and restore their relationship. For he points out that he cannot worship YHWH if he dies and goes to the grave.

          Sheol means the mysterious grave world where the dead go, and where they are only shadows without real life, in the land of silence and forgetfulness from where no man could return (30.9; 88.10-12; 115.17; Isaiah 14.9; Ezekiel 31.17; 32; Job 3.17). And he felt so miserable and sinful, that unlike some other psalmists he could not muster up the thought that he might go to be with God (contrast Psalm 16.10-11; 23.6; 49.15; 73.24-25; 139.24).

          6.6-7

          'I am weary with my groaning.
          Every night I make my bed swim,
          I water my couch with my tears.
          My eye wastes away because of grief,
          It grows old because of all those who distress me.

          He goes on to describe his present state, groaning both because of his illness and because of his conscience stricken state, so much so that his bed is soaked with tears. Indeed it has affected his eyes, which reveal what he is going through, made worse by his adversaries who mock him in his state. The state of a man's health is often revealed by his eyes, and here his eye 'grows old', that is, wrinkled and careworn.

          Very few who are God's have not experienced such times. Times of distress and smitten conscience, when they grew weary of the sense of sin and longed for deliverance. It is often a prelude to blessing, but it does not seem so at the time.

          6.8-10

          'Leave me alone, all you workers of iniquity,
          For YHWH has heard the sound of my weeping.
          YHWH has heard my supplication,
          YHWH will receive my prayer.
          All my enemies will be ashamed and extremely vexed,
          They will turn back, they will be suddenly ashamed.'

          At last his illness begins to subside. He has once again become more confident in YHWH. He tells those who are distressing him to leave him alone because YHWH has responded to him. He knows that God has accepted his repentance, and is once again receiving his prayer. (Of course YHWH had never ceased receiving his prayer, but it was no good telling him that). He is once again restored to full fellowship with YHWH.

          We know nothing about who the 'workers of iniquity' are. This is a favourite expression in the Psalms (5.5; 14.4; 28.3 and often). In Matthew 7.22-23 it refers to those who while professing belief were not genuine in their belief. They were 'wrongdoers'. These wrongdoers had possibly sought to comfort him by telling him not to take his sin so seriously. Or they may taken the opportunity to get their own back for ways in which he had previously pricked their consciences by his life and behaviour, by speaking out against his beliefs. They may well have thought that his experiences had demonstrated that they were right. We can compare Job's friends in the book of Job.

          But now he senses the restoration of God's presence with him. He knows that he is forgiven. And he knows that the result can only be that those who railed at him are now put to shame, as well as being annoyed at his restoration in this way. It has upset their self-satisfied thoughts and beliefs. Thus they will turn back from him and leave him alone. It is their turn to be vexed or troubled (compare verses 2-3).

          Notice the three steps to his restoration. YHWH has heard what his weeping has revealed, that he is truly repentant for his sin. YHWH has then heard his spoken prayers and pleas, returning to him the sense of His presence. And finally he is aware that once again YHWH is receiving his prayers. Full fellowship is restored.

          And finally he is satisfied because his 'enemies' are thwarted. Like Job's comforters, in the end they are put to flight. And his final hope is that through this they might be made to face up to their own position, recognising that his experience should trouble them and put them to shame.

          PSALM 7.

          Heading: 'Shiggaion of David which he sang to YHWH concerning the words of Cush a Benjamite.'

          Shiggaion probably corresponds to the Akkadian segu, 'to howl or lament'. It thus indicates a poem of passionate character written under the influence of strong emotion.

          No details are known of Cush the Benjamite. He was a fellow-tribesman of Saul and probably one of those who accused David before Saul, insinuating that he was seeking to take the king's life (1 Samuel 22.8; 24.9; 26.19). The background of David's life when he was hunted from place to place by Saul, and spared his life when he had him in his power, is essential background reading to the psalm (1 Samuel 21-26).

          In this psalm David prays for deliverance from his pursuers (1-2), declares his innocence of what he is accused of (3-5), prays for another worldwide judgment like the Flood which will purify the earth and establish righteousness (6-10), reveals that God is a man of war against unrepentant sinners (11-13), declares God's law of retribution on those who seek to harm their fellows (14-16), and finally gives praise to YHWH Most High for His goodness (17).

          David Prays To Be Delivered Because He Is Pursued and Hard-pressed (7.1-2).

          7.1-2

          'O YHWH my God, in you I put my trust,
          Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me.
          Lest he tear my being like a lion,
          Rending it in pieces when there is no one to deliver.'

          The prayer is a trusting cry to YHWH in the face of false accusations made against him that he was seeking Saul's life, and the resulting need to flee for safety. He prays for deliverance from those who are seeking to hunt him down, and especially from his chief enemy, who, as a lion does to his prey, wants to tear him in pieces. He had often seen sheep torn to pieces by lions, and had himself outfaced them. He knew precisely what they were capable of. And he knew that God had delivered him from the mouth of lions (1 Samuel 17.34-37). Thus he knew that He was also able to deliver from these adversaries as well.

          The singular of lion demonstrates that he had one particular person in mind, probably Saul, for he knew how merciless he could be in his mad rages. But it may have been Cush who was leading the search for him.

          His appeal is to the covenant God, YHWH, on the ground of His covenant promises. 'In you do I put my trust (take refuge)' is a constant theme in psalms (11.1; 16.1; 31.1; 57.1; 71.1; 141.8). It expresses his confidence in God and his sense of insecurity in the present situation.

          'There is no one to deliver'. Along with those who were with him he knew that every man's hand was against him. They had no powerful friends apart from God.

          The psalm will be a comfort to all who are hard-pressed or falsely accused. For in the end the hard-pressed one is delivered through prayer.

          He Pleads His Own Innocence (7.3-5).

          7.3-5

          O YHWH, my God, if I have done this,
          If there be iniquity in my hands,
          If I have rewarded evil to him who was at peace with me,
          Yes, I have delivered him who was without cause my adversary,
          Let the enemy pursue my life (nephesh), and overtake it,
          Yes, let him tread my life (chay) down to the earth,
          And lay my glory in the dust.' Selah.

          David is aware that YHWH at least knows the truth, that he is innocent of seeking Saul's death. He is guilty of no 'iniquity' in this regard. Iniquity is the opposite of 'right' and indicates what is crooked and distorted. Indeed he has never done evil against anyone who was at peace with him, and he has spared Saul's life more than once, in spite of the fact that he is his enemy without genuine reason (1 Samuel 24.3-6; 26.11). Happy is the man who can say from an honest heart that he has treated fairly those who have treated him fairly, and even those who have treated him unfairly, as David could.

          He declares that he is quite willing to be judged in this regard, and that if it be proved untrue, then he is ready to forfeit his own life to the violent men who seek him. Then let him be pursued and slain, his breath be taken from him, and his life trodden in the earth, and his glory laid in the dust (compare Isaiah 26.19). 'Breath', 'life' and 'glory' are three parallel words. Man had within him the breath (nephesh) of life (chay) (Genesis 2.7), and was made in the image of God (Genesis 1.26-27). This was man's glory, the image of the divine glory (compare Psalm 16.9; 30.12; 57.8).

          He Calls On God To Set Up a Court of Justice and Put All On Trial So That The World Can Begin Again (7.6-10).

          His plight has moved David to a consciousness of the way sin triumphs and the righteous suffer. He is filled with a huge desire that righteousness might be established and that all sin might be done away, and that the world might become one in which righteousness prevails.

          7.6-10

          'Arise, O YHWH, in your anger,
          Lift yourself up against the rage of my adversaries,
          And awake for me. You have commanded judgment.
          And let the assembly of the peoples surround you,
          And over them return you on high.
          YHWH ministers judgment to the peoples.
          Judge me, O YHWH, according to my righteousness,
          And to my integrity that is in me.
          O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous,
          For a righteous God tries the hearts and reins,'
          My shield is with God who tries the upright in heart.'

          Conscious that he is not in the wrong and moved by his unfair treatment David calls on God to set up a court of judgment, both in anger at the behaviour of his adversaries, and in order to justify him, and all who are like him, for his misery has made him aware of all who are treated like he has been in an unfair world. He wants God as the commander of judgment, to 'command judgment' (set up the court for that purpose), gather an assembly of the peoples, while He Himself sits on high as Judge in the place of honour. Then He must pass judgment on all, giving David among others a fair trial, and weighing up his righteousness and his integrity. As a result wickedness will cease, and the righteous will be established, for it is the righteous God Who will test all out. His confidence is that God is his shield, his Protector, and that his own heart is upright, so that he has nothing to fear.

          ('You have commanded judgment' = you are the commander of judgment having established the principle from the beginning. From the eternal point of view judgment and justice are determined, are permanently God's intention and are continually under His control).

          'Arise --- return.' There may be intended as a background here the cry when the Ark went forward or settled down in the wilderness. 'Rise up O YHWH and let your enemies (here David's enemies) be scattered,' and then 'Return O YHWH to the ten thousands of the thousands of Israel' (Numbers 10.35-36). So David calls on YHWH to rise up to deal with his enemies, followed by His returning on high (to His throne) as the assembly of people surround Him.

          'Arise, O YHWH, in your anger.' Aware of God's anger continual against sin, that is, His revulsion to it and determination to deal with it and remove it either in mercy or in judgment, he asks Him to awaken on his, David's, behalf and judge the sinfulness of his enemies, a sinfulness revealed by their rage against him.

          'You have commanded judgment.' It is YHWH who has previously decreed that all must be judged, therefore let Him now set up a court of justice, so that all righteous men might be delivered from the kind of treatment he is receiving. It is a reminder that God requires true judgment, and will finally bring it about.

          'And let the assembly of the peoples surround you, and over them return you on high.'

          The idea is that He should make a general call to judgment of all peoples. He clearly has in mind a previous similar judgment ('return you'), possibly the Flood which covered all men, destroying the wicked and establishing the righteous. But see also Genesis 15.14; Exodus 12.12; Deuteronomy 32.39-41 where it is established that God is a God of judgment in many circumstances. ,So he calls for YHWH to return for another such judgment, with Himself 'on high' on the Judge's (or King's) throne. There is a case for suggesting that he especially has in mind Deuteronomy 32.41-42, which looked to another such judgment, where the whetting of the sword and the arrows of verses 12-13 also occurs.

          'YHWH ministers judgment (is the One Who administers judgment) to the peoples. Judge me, O YHWH, according to my righteousness, and to my integrity that is in me. O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous, for a righteous God tries the hearts and reins.' The psalmist has a real concern that justice for all might come, and that wickedness might be done away. If his prayer were to be answered YHWH would sit in judgment on all the peoples, for He is the minister of judgment. Then David himself is ready to give account because he is satisfied that he is righteous and a man of integrity. As a forgiven sinner his conscious is clear. But his concern is not just for himself but for all righteous men. His prayer is, 'let righteousness triumph'.

          Thus he pleads that wickedness might come to an end by God judging and dealing with the wicked, and that all who are righteous might be established, by the One Who tries the hearts and the reins. The heart signifies the mind and the will which produce man's moral and religious character, the reins control man's behaviour. He desires that both will be fully tested. The idea of trying the hearts and the reins was popular with Jeremiah (11.20; 17.10; 20.12. See also Revelation 2.23).

          Notice David's confidence in his own state of righteousness before God. He knows that although he is a sinner, he is a forgiven sinner. And he has offered with a righteous heart the appropriate sacrifices, and his conscience is clear before God. Indeed he can say. 'My shield is with God who tries the upright in heart.' It is the covenant God Who shields and covers him, and he has assurance that God will keep him.

          So David's prayer, dragged from the bitterness of his experience, is that once again God will come in a great act of judgment, with the result that evil will be removed from the earth and the righteous will be established to build up a new world. Then man can begin again as he did at the Flood. But it is not a totally selfish prayer. He has in mind all the righteous, especially those suffering unfairly (compare Revelation 6.9-11). He longs for a fair world.

          He Reveals That God Is A Present Judge on All (7.11-13).

          7.11-13

          'God (Elohim) is a righteous judge,
          Yes, a God (El) who has indignation every day.
          If a man turn not, he will whet his sword,
          He has bent his bow and made it ready,
          He has also prepared for him the instruments of death,
          He makes his arrows fiery shafts.'

          But while longing for that great day of judgment which will slay the wicked and establish the righteous, he wants all to know that even now God judges continually on earth every day (see Psalm 10.4, 11, 13). He is a righteous judge, and thus has indignation every day as He looks at the state of the world. For all things are open to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do, and He never overlooks anything.

          God looks for men to repent, but if they will not do so He becomes a man of war against their sin. He sharpens His sword and has already prepared His bow, and makes ready His arrows, which He has already prepared as His instruments of death. His arrows are shafts of lightning (see Psalm 18.14; Zechariah 9.14), although he may also have in mind arrows with inflammable materials attached which were often fired among the enemy.

          It is noteworthy that even here David leaves room for repentance ('if a man turn not'). He remembers what mercy God had had on him. But his picture is a warning to all who play with sin that God is not mocked. And that He is even now ever ready to deal with sin by death (compare Ezekiel 18.4 onwards).

          He Declares That There Are Even Now Present Consequences of Sin (7.14-16).

          7.14-16

          'Behold he exerts himself with iniquity (worthlessness),
          Yes, he has conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.
          He has made a pit and dug it,
          And fallen into the trap which he was making.
          His mischief will return on his own head,
          And his violence will come down on his own pate.'

          (It may be that this was to be sung by a different section of the choir to distinguish the change of subject).

          While looking for a great act of judgment David does not over look the fact that God judges continually. The ones who exert themselves to what is worthless and evil, and especially to violence (verse 16), who plan and bring to birth mischief, and deceive men, laying traps for them, will find if they are not careful that they will fall into the hole of deceit that they are digging for others, will find their mischief returning on their own heads, and their violence crushing their skulls. Thus what they sow they will reap.

          The pit being dug has in mind the hunter's trap. The picture is of one who digs his pit, and while doing so accidentally falls in even before it is finished.

          David's Final Hymn of Praise.

          7.17

          I will give thanks to YHWH according to his righteousness,
          And will sing praise to the name of YHWH Most High.'

          His final gratitude is expressed concerning the fact that God is righteous and behaves righteously, thus establishing the righteous and destroying the wicked, and this results in his singing praise to YHWH Most High and all that He is (His name). It is only the righteous who recognise the importance of righteousness, who can rejoice that God is truly righteous. Others wish that He was not so particular.

          PSALM 8.

          Heading 'For the chief musician, set to the Gittith. A psalm to/for David.'

          'Gittith may refer to a musical instrument named after its origin in Gath. The Septuagint, however, has 'for the winepresses (gittoth)' suggesting that it was sung in connection with the feast of Tabernacles, and as 'gath' means winepress it could possibly be right.

          The psalm is a hymn of worship to the Creator, and a description of man's intended higher status in that creation, exceeding that of the physical heavens and of all other created things, but only once he is returned to innocence.

          Two sections of humanity are in mind, on the one hand the 'innocent' and on the other 'the enemy and the avenger'. Man restored to innocence, as pictured by the innocent babe, is seen as the one through whom God's final purposes will come to fruition, the establishment of righteousness. The enemy and the avenger, unless returning and being restored, are excluded from this hope of future blessing.

          8.1a

          'O YHWH our lord,
          How excellent is your name in all the earth.

          The psalm begins and ends with the same two lines. This is the first aim of the psalmist, to ascribe praise to YHWH, the One Who is the great and mighty Overlord over His people, the One Whose name and nature is revealed as excellent throughout all the world, by nature if not by man. Thus the splendour, the majesty, the overall excellence of His name is being declared (compare Psalm 148.13). 'The name' to Israel ever indicated the essence of the one to whom the name was applied. Here it is YHWH, 'the One Who is', 'the One Who causes to be', Lord of Being, Lord of Creation. And His name is all-excelling, majestic over all the earth (compare Psalm 104.1 onwards, where that majesty is clearly revealed), for He is Lord of the whole earth and is its Creator.

          But the ascription of praise, which might at first sight appear only to stress the glory of His name, also stresses His close relationship with His people. He is not only 'the Lord', He is our Lord. The writer has a thrill of pride as he recognises that YHWH is their Lord, the Lord of His people. He has chosen them as His people, and they are uniquely His, and yet at the same time His excellence is revealed over the whole world. So the great Creator had become their Deliverer. There is here a contrast between the small ('our') and the great (all the earth') which continues throughout the psalm.

          8.1b-2

          You whose glory is spread over the heavens,
          Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have established strength,
          Because of your adversaries,
          That you might still the enemy and the avenger.'

          Setting verse 1b with verse 2 maintains the parallelism, is equally in accordance with the text, ties in with the contrasts in the first four verses, and agrees with the idea that the psalm opens and closes with the same majestic statement. It would seem therefore the right translation.

          The One 'Whose glory is spread over the heavens' (compare Habakkuk 3.3), which themselves speak of God (Psalm 19.1; 97.6), must be glorious indeed, yet the heavens in mind are but an 'earthly' revelation of His glory. As the psalmist studied the moon and the stars shining brilliantly from the night sky, full of wonder at their all pervading splendour, he was filled with awe. 'The invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even His everlasting power and Godhood' (Romans 1.20).

          But, he adds, He has spoken even more emphatically through babes and sucklings. Each tiny baby, with his budding morality, with his ability to think and reason, with his coming ability to do good in the earth, and with his prospective mastery of the world, is a wonder of creation and declares the glory of God. Here under God is the prospective lord of creation. For he is to be crowned with glory and honour (verse 5), he is to be set over all living things, and in relation to the world he is indeed little less than God Himself (compare Genesis 41.40). He is the image of God, that which in its own way, while still innocent, reveals and reflects God. It is an idealistic view of man as Hebrews 2.5-10 brings out. It is depicting God's final intention.

          So the writer sees in the baby the image of what was before the fall and the image of what must be. Its innocent cry silences the enemies of God and strengthens God's position as Overlord of all things. Here is the prototype of God's purpose for man. Here is one who rebukes all who have fallen from that position. The babes and sucklings are not in opposition to God. They represent man in his obedience. They do not seek vengeance for fancied wrong. They have committed no sin. Their hearts are open. They are potentially the fulfillers of God's purposes.

          These are in stark contrast to 'the adversaries', those who oppose God. But who are these adversaries, 'the enemy and the avenger?' Psalm 44.16 depicts them as those who reproach and blaspheme. In that psalm they are the nations of the world who are not in submission to YHWH, those Who reject His name and rule. But there the contrast is with God's people. Here, however, the contrast is with the innocent babe. Thus we must expand the idea to include all who are against God and who speak against His name, in contrast with this tiny child. He is a reproach and a rebuke to them all. He depicts what they might have been. And they are 'stilled'. Their voices are silenced. Revealed innocence condemns them, for these babies are the prototype of what should be, and what should have been.

          That is why Jesus regularly depicts those who would respond to Him and believe as themselves needing to become like the innocent babe (Matthew 11.25; 18.3-4; 19.14 compare Psalm 131.2), man restored to his innocence through faith. Thus the babes and sucklings in the end represent all who are true believers, restored to innocence and trust by the mercy of God. This must be so for otherwise the believers do not appear in the psalm, and it is finally dealing with the concept of 'man'.

          The words that follow must therefore be read in that light. They are not a paean of praise to man in general, but to man in 'innocence', man as restored to the favour and mercy of God. It is not 'men' who are to be 'crowned' but 'God's men', God's true people. Those who will still the enemy and the avenger. For that is why they were born.

          It is, of course, true of all men potentially. But those who have risen against Him, those who have turned their backs on Him, are by their act excluded unless they repent and return to innocence. What is described, while potentially the lot of all men, can only actually be for those who are in submission to Him.

          It is the same picture as that given by Hosea. 'When Israel was a child, I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt' (Hosea 11.1). Again it was an idealistic picture. It was the picture of an 'innocent' Israel in Egypt, God's babe, whom He taught to walk, whom He bore in His arms, whom He drew to Him with the reins of love, whom He 'healed', whom He fed. But they fell from Him and rebelled against Him, and so He called on them to return to what that idealistic picture of what they had been when they were in Egypt. However there in God's inheritance they refused to return and were thus handed over to Assyria (Hosea 11.1-4). It is only to man walking in innocence with God that the promises will be fulfilled.

          8.3-5

          'When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers,
          The moon and the stars which you have ordained,
          What is man ('enosh) that you are mindful of him?
          And the son of man (ben adam) that you visit him?
          For you have made him but little lower than God,
          And you crown him with glory and honour.

          As the psalmist considers the glories of the universe, the beauty of the heavens as seen in the night sky, the glorious lights in that sky, it makes him ask, what is weak man in comparison with these? We today with our knowledge of the vastness of the universe have even more reason to ask that question.

          'The work of your fingers.' God has shaped and moulded them and given them their glory, not literally but by His word (Genesis 1). They are His deft workmanship.

          The words used for man stress his frailty and humanness. 'Enosh stresses his impotence and mortality (Psalm 103.15; Job 4.17 and often in Job). Ben 'adam stresses his earthly origin (compare Job 14.1). And yet God is mindful of him in his frailty, and visits him. The words denote His care for man, and His exaltation of him, once he is responsive through faith (in contrast with the enemies and the avenger).

          But his answer to the question of 'what is man?' is clear and unequivocal. At his best man is 'over all'. That is why in Daniel the true people of God are represented as 'like a son of man' while the nations are likened to wild beasts. The heavens have no dominion, but God has made man, when in his right mind, to be His regent, to stand on earth in relation to living creatures as little less than God. Man is a rational thinking and authoritative being, with a conscious relationship with God. He is a 'king', crowned with glory and honour. He is thus superior to the night skies. But not in himself, it is God's appointment of him that has made him great. Man as he should be, restored to innocence, is great because God has destined him to greatness.

          'Little lower than God (or the elohim - the angelic spirits)'. He is below the spiritual heavens but above all else. Made in the same image as God and the elohim (Genesis 1.27), he is the contact between the spiritual heaven and earth. Note therefore that the 'gods' whom others worshipped, connected with the skies, are hereby dismissed. Man is greater than the gods.

          'And you crown him with glory and honour.' The honour and glory with which he is crowned is described in the next verses. It is revealed in his domination under God of all living creatures. The psalmist sees believing man, and possibly especially as epitomised in the Davidic king, as the crown of earthly creation, (it is not likely that he had in view the enemy and the avenger), through whom will come blessing to the whole world, even peace and plenty and fulfilment (Isaiah 11.1-10).

          But in the letter to the Hebrews this crowning is seen as finally being achieved through Jesus. Until Jesus came all things had not been put under man. The vision was not fulfilled. But Jesus coming as Representative man, was the only One perfect enough and innocent enough to deserve the crown. And taking on Himself the form of frail man, and coming here on our behalf, He did triumph and was crowned through triumphant suffering, so that He was made the perfect Saviour and true Representative of man through that suffering (Hebrews 2.9-10 compare Job 7.17-21), followed by His resurrection to glory and honour. This rather idealistic simple picture painted by the psalmist in its bare outline is there defined in terms of a fuller realism of suffering for sin, to be followed by a crowning and a glory that is all the greater. The psalmist was limited by the fact that this world was all he knew. The reality is of a far greater world yet to come.

          8.6-8 'You made him to have dominion over the works of your hands,
          You have put all things under his feet,
          All sheep and oxen,
          Yes, and beasts of the field,
          The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
          Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.'

          The idea is based on Genesis 1.21-28; 2.19-20. The word in Genesis for 'have dominion' has the root meaning of 'tread under foot'. Note that cattle, wild animals, birds and fish are all included, finally also including the great sea monsters ('whatever passes through the paths of the seas'). He has in mind not only those that man has domesticated, or tamed, but the whole of living creation. That is man's privilege, only partially fulfilled but it is his ultimate destiny (Isaiah 11.6-9).

          To the psalmist this was the height of attainment. A world restored to innocence with righteous man, walking in submission to God, ruling over all creation.

          But this idealistic picture finds its greater final fulfilment through Christ when as 'the last Adam', 'the second man', all things are put in subjection under His feet (1 Corinthians 15.27, 45, 47) in the final Kingly Rule of God (verse 50) in the far superior new creation. What God intends for restored man is better far than man could ever dream.

          Summary of the Thought.

          That the writer is not just celebrating the special position of mankind as a whole comes out in his mention of the adversaries, the enemy and the avenger. What he has in mind is therefore believing man, righteous man, man when true to God. It is they, as first pictured in terms of babes and sucklings, who have dominion and rule under God. It is they for whom God has foreordained glory. Thus the writer in Hebrews is not unduly overextending the passage when he sees it as fulfilled in Christ, the representative man and Saviour, the only One Who was finally truly innocent.

          8.9

          'O YHWH, our lord,
          How excellent is your name in all the earth.'

          This repetition of verse 1 again summarises a main purpose of the Psalm, to give glory to Israel's God (and ours), and especially for the final restoration that He will bring about when He will be all in all.

          Psalm 9. A Psalm of Future Hope.

          Psalm 9 is a song of hope and victory, looking forward to the coming of the everlasting kingdom. The first two verses exalt YHWH, and this is followed by a description of what He has done for the writer and for Israel in defeating all unrighteous opposition, and rendering them powerless. It would well fit David's chain of victories by which he established his extensive rule. But that was only temporary. Here the idea is more of the certainty that God's people will finally triumph over all their enemies, that all enemies of God will be defeated, and that finally God's righteous kingdom will come in.

          So in contrast with the opposing enemies is the vision of YHWH as sovereign over all, as the righteous Judge, ruling righteously (through His chosen king), and as a fortress for those in need.

          It then goes on to declare God's interest in the needy and oppressed which results in the writer's prayer that God will consider his own needs and concerns, which are also the people's, so that he may then praise God for His deliverance. And it finishes with a declaration of the certainty that one day all the sinful of the nations will be called into judgment while the needy and helpless will be remembered, and a final cry to God to make the true position known by bringing it about.

          Like many psalms this one is written as a kind of acrostic. Each of the four lines in verses 1-2 commence with aleph (A), the second stanza begins with beth (B), and so on, but it is not carried through consistently. The poem was more important than the gimmick.

          9.1a 'For the Chief Musician; set to ('al) Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.

          The psalm is offered for worship to or by the Choirmaster, and set to the tune 'al Muth-labben (possibly 'on the death of a son', but it has been suggested that by repointing it could mean 'trebles (or 'young women') for clarity' - 'alamoth labin). It is of the Davidic collection, and may well be by David himself.

          9.1b-2

          'I will give thanks to YHWH with my whole heart;
          I will show forth all your marvellous works.
          I will be glad and exult in you;
          I will sing praise to your name, O you who are Most High.'

          The psalmist begins with a cry of worship and praise to YHWH. He declares his gratitude for what God has done for him, for His marvellous works on His people's behalf, and especially (as is revealed later) because that in itself is a reflection of what YHWH will finally do for all the righteous. He declares further that he will therefore be glad and exult in YHWH, and sing praise to His name as the Most High.

          ''I will give thanks to YHWH with my whole heart.' This was what the psalmist was determined to do whatever the circumstances, for he could look back on past blessings and knew that however dark it might sometimes seem, the future was safe in God's hands. Whatever our situation this must also be our first concern, a whole-hearted giving of thanks to YHWH our God. However bad our situation there is always something to give thanks for. So let us determine to do so. 'With my whole heart.' It is good for us too to examine ourselves to ask whether our praise also is from our whole heart, or just perfunctory.

          'Your marvellous works.' This signifies the outstanding works of God both in nature (Job 5.9), in His dealings with His people in history (Exodus 3.20), and especially at the times of their great crises (Psalm 78. 4, 11, 32). It no doubt includes the situation described in verses 3-6. He is determined to show them forth and confident that those marvellous works will continue until the end. The Bible is full from beginning to end with His marvellous works. That in the end is what it is all about, and none more wonderful than the coming of Jesus and its consequences.

          'Your name.' That is, the character and being of God as revealed through His name. That He is the Most High is the guarantee that what He desires, the total vindication of the righteous, will be accomplished. None can circumvent His will.

          'I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O you who are Most High.' The psalmist had learned the truth that when things appear blackest (see verse 13) is the time to sing and give praise. We too need to learn that lesson. If sometimes things seem dark then make yourself sing your favourite hymns. You will be surprised how quickly things will appear brighter. For then we will realise that the Most High is still on our side.

          9.3-6

          'When my enemies turn back,
          They stumble and perish at your presence (face).
          For you have maintained my right and my cause;
          You sit in the throne judging righteously.
          You have rebuked the nations, you have destroyed the unrighteous,
          You have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
          The enemy are come to an end,
          They are desolate for ever;
          And the cities which you have overthrown,
          The very remembrance of them is perished.'

          This could be speaking of David or it could have in mind the current king, but in the end it is the greater David Who is in mind for He achieves the final victory. In each case the king rejoices in the great victories that YHWH has accomplished. He knows that he himself has been victorious because YHWH has been with him. That is why his enemies turned back, fled in panic, and stumbled and perished. They were in the presence of YHWH ('before the face of YHWH') and could not face Him, and therefore could not stand against God's anointed. For similar descriptions of the effect of God's presence compare 'you shall make them (your enemies) as a fiery furnace in the time of your presence' (Psalm 21.9), for 'the face (presence) of YHWH is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth' (Psalm 34.16). See also Exodus 14.24.

          And, as the Psalm goes on to point out, this is not only what He is like for the king, or even for the people as a whole, but an example of what He will be to each of His people, even to the very lowest (verses 12, 18). All their unrighteous enemies will be similarly dealt with. The face of God will be with them and in the end all will flee before Him.

          'For you have maintained my right and my cause, you sit in the throne judging righteously.' It is important to recognise that God only acts thus in a righteous cause. It was only because the king was living and judging righteously that he could expect help from YHWH. But because of that, and because God had chosen him, he can then expect help from the Righteous One. God has delivered in this case because the one delivered was accounted worthy. All who walk worthily in a way that is acceptable to God can also be sure that their enemies will finally be defeated, because for them too He is on His throne judging righteously. And this all finally points forward to the triumph of the greater David Who will one day come and triumph in YHWH's name in the day of permanent triumph.

          'You have rebuked the nations, you have destroyed the unrighteous.' This explains why God has given His righteous king, the one accepted as righteous in His sight, the victory. It is because his enemies were unrighteous in God's sight. Thus their final fate was sealed in a way that was to be the inevitable fate for the unrighteous. For the unrighteous there is no future hope, unless they turn from their sins and respond to His mercy.

          'You have blotted out their name for ever and ever. The enemy are come to an end, they are desolate for ever; And the cities which you have overthrown, the very remembrance of them is perished.' The king looks with gratitude at the way that God has dealt with his enemies, and sees in it a guarantee that in the end all the unrighteous must be destroyed. The temporary victory will be followed by the final victory. The finality of it is revealed. Their name will be blotted out (compare Exodus 17.14), they will come to an end and be desolate for ever, and the remembrance of their overthrown cities will perish. This is the only end possible for the unrighteous, unless they return to God.

          9.7-8

          'But YHWH sits enthroned for ever:
          He has established his throne for judgment;
          And he will judge the world in righteousness,
          He will minister judgment to the peoples in uprightness.'

          In contrast to the brevity of the nations is the eternity of YHWH. And in contrast to the unrighteousness of the nations, is the righteousness of YHWH. He sits enthroned for ever (compare 29.10), and His throne is established for judgment. And that judgment will be in righteousness and will be on all peoples and will always be upright. Thus we are assured that YHWH judges the whole world in righteousness without fear and without favour. Every knee will have to bow to Him, every tongue will have to confess to God (Isaiah 45.23; Philippians 2.10). Notice that the 'He' in 'He will judge' is emphatic. None other is fit to judge apart from 'He', and the teaching of Jesus made clear that this 'He' is none other than Jesus Himself Who has been appointed to be the Judge of all (John 5.22, 27).

          9.9-10

          'YHWH also will be a high tower for the oppressed,
          A high tower in times of trouble;
          And those who know your name will put their trust in you;
          For you, YHWH, have not forsaken those who seek you.'

          But it is not only the Davidic king who enjoys God's protection, it is he and all God's true people. God protects all who, because they are righteous and trust in Him, are oppressed by the unrighteous, and He will be a fortress tower on their behalf, into which they can enter and be safe. While they may be laid siege to, or may be bombarded, they will be totally secure. Those who know Him for what He is will put their trust in Him, knowing that He will never forsake those who seek Him. They know by faith that he is totally reliable, and that they can shelter securely in His hands.

          'A high tower.' A regular description of YHWH's protecting hand (e.g. 18.2; 144.2; see also Proverbs 18.10 )

          'In times of trouble.' That is, in the extremity of trouble when all hope of deliverance seems to be cut off.

          9.11-12

          'Sing praises to YHWH, who dwells in Zion:
          Declare among the peoples his doings.
          For he who makes official enquiry for blood remembers them;
          He does not forget the cry of the poor.'

          Indeed all the peoples, and not only Israel, are to know the praises of the One Who dwells in Zion, where His earthly Dwellingplace (Tabernacle) has been set up. For His doings are to be declared to them, that they may do so. And these doings encompass His enquiries into all crimes committed against them, especially crimes of blood (Genesis 9.5-6). For he does not forget the cry of the poor. So they learn that God is personally concerned about their welfare, sufficiently to act on their behalf. In Israel the oppressed and the poor were regularly associated with the righteous. It was mainly they who in the trials of life kept close to YHWH. And we are assured that He remembers them, and keeps an eye on their affairs.

          'Who dwells in Zion.' From the beginning they were well aware that this Dwellingplace (the Tabernacle/Temple) was but an earthly shadow of His greater Dwellingplace in Heaven (1 Kings 8.27, 29, 30 etc.). But the latter was seen as their point of contact with Him, as Solomon makes clear.

          'For he who makes official enquiry (or 'requisition') for blood remembers them.' YHWH is hear seen as acting either as judicial examiner on behalf of the cities of refuge (Numbers 35.24-25) where an innocent killer could escape from the avengers of blood, revealing Him as enquiring into whether a killing was deliberate or accidental, looking into every case of violent death. Or it could signify that He will in fact be the avenger of blood Himself for those who suffer deliberate violent death. Either way He is acting as protector of His true people.

          In those days it was the responsibility of the family of the dead man to pursue a case of homicide, and they had the right to a life for a life. They were to be the 'avengers of blood'. In a time when there were no police and no local prisons it was an attempt to ensure justice, and to ensure that murder was punished. But an innocent man could flee to a city of refuge, and while there he could not be touched. However, if the family claimed that he was guilty of deliberate murder the case would be examined and if proven the man would be rejected by the city to face the avengers.

          'He does not forget the cry of the poor.' God hears those whom no one else listens to, those who have little influence, who are downtrodden and forgotten. The poor are often synonymous with the righteous, for they have nowhere else to turn but God. They are the humble seekers of God who bow down before Him.

          (This is one of those few cases where the Massoretic Text offer two alternatives, the kethib being the textual reading, 'what is written', the qere being a correction, 'that which is to be read'. This arose because so sacred was the text seen to be that once written it could not be altered. Thus where the experts considered that rarely the text had been corrupted by error (for they knew the text by heart and knew what it should be) they would append the correction without changing the text back to what they considered it should be. It was not done lightly. The kethib here is 'anniyim and the qere 'anavim (a yod for a waw - they were very similar in written Hebrew, often almost indistinguishable). Both are derived from the root 'bend or bow down', denoting either those who are bowed down (the poor), or those who bow down (the humble)).

          9.13-14

          'Have mercy upon me, O YHWH;
          Behold my affliction from those who hate me,
          You who lift me up from the gates of death;
          That I may show forth all your praise.
          In the gates of the daughter of Zion,
          I will rejoice in your salvation.'

          Having declared the general position the psalmist now applies it to himself. He is going through great trouble, suffering at the hands of those who hate him, the unrighteous. He asks YHWH to behold his suffering and affliction. In view of verses 3-4 it may be that we are to see these troubles as internal, enemies in the midst, for there are always enemies within as well as enemies without. But the following verses suggest a further outbreak of trouble from the surrounding nations.

          However he is confident that these enemies too will be defeated. For it is YHWH Who shows mercy, it is YHWH Who raises him up when he feels that he is about to die. And he seeks that YHWH will do so now in order that he might show forth all the praises of YHWH, and rejoice in His deliverance. Let the gates of Zion be triumphant that he might rejoice there in His deliverance.

          Note the contrast between the gates of death and the gates of the daughter of Zion. He wants to live in public triumph and joy in Jerusalem, with the unrighteous defeated, he does not want to die and go into the gloom of the grave. 'The gates' were the place where public affairs were carried on, where celebrations took place and where the representatives of the city were regularly to be found. And there in the gates of Jerusalem he will rejoice in God's deliverance, and show forth all His praise. All will know of God's goodness.

          Others see these verses as looking back to verses 3-4 and as indicating his cry to God then, which brought about the deliverance that he speaks of there, and that interpretation would also gain some support from verses 15-16 which reiterate the defeat of the nations. But the psalm appears to be ongoing and this may rather be a reminder that once one crisis is past another may appear on the horizon, with God being triumphant over all, until at last in the end righteousness triumphs for ever.

          'Daughter of Zion.' An expression only found here in the Psalms but taken up by the prophets later. Zion was the mountain, and her daughter the city built on the mountain, especially important because it was on the mountain which God had chosen. But as always a city also signifies its people.

          9.15-16

          'The nations are sunk down in the pit that they have made,
          In the net which they concealed is their own foot taken.
          YHWH has made himself known, he has executed judgment:
          The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah

          The consequence is that, thanks to God, those who have raised themselves against him have been defeated. They have set their traps for him and now they have fallen into their own traps. They have laid their hidden nets and now they have been caught in them themselves. Note how these descriptions stress their unrighteousness, because in the end the whole message of the Psalm is about the battle between righteousness and unrighteousness, with righteousness finally being the victor through the power of the Righteous One. Israel, the chosen of YHWH, is to be blessed because in as far as she is righteous. The nations are to be judged because they are unrighteous. On the one hand YHWH has made Himself known on behalf of the righteous, executed judgment and gained the victory, and on the other the unrighteous have been caught in their own snares. (Once Israel proved herself consistently unrighteous she lost the protection and the blessing).

          So these words can still be applied to the true people of God, the new Israel, (Galatians 3.29; 6.16; Ephesians 2.12-22; Romans 11.17-24) today. They live as righteous ones in an unrighteous world, and can be sure of God's genuine concern and action on their behalf.

          'Higgaion. Selah.' Higgaion is a call for musical instruments to play (compare 92.3 where it refers to the sound of a stringed instrument) in order to emphasise the triumphant conclusion. Selah may indicate a moment of pause, possibly while only music is played, signifying 'think of what you have heard' or 'rejoice in what you have heard'.

          9.17-18

          'The wicked shall be turned back to Sheol,
          Even all the nations who forget God.
          For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
          Nor the expectation of the poor perish for ever.'

          After the pause and the music the final triumphant conclusion is reached. It deals with final principles. The unrighteous, and those who forget God (compare Psalm 50.22; Job 8.13; Psalms 10.4), revealing it by their behaviour, will depart for the world of the grave, into gloom and darkness. They will return to the dust from which they came (Genesis 3.19). That is their inevitable end. On the other hand the needy and the poor will survive and come into God's everlasting blessing, which is their destiny, because He has not forgotten them. They may be forgotten now, but they will not always be forgotten. They may see their cherished expectations dying now, but it will not always be so. In the end the righteous will prevail. For the righteous there will be life, for the unrighteous, judgment and destruction.

          Note the change in this verse from YHWH to 'God'. These are those who have rejected YHWH's offer of mercy, and must therefore face Him as 'God' over all, the Judge, and not as YHWH the covenant deliverer.

          They could have come to YHWH. For we must remember that there was always a way into the covenant for any among the nations who would submit to YHWH, for 'strangers' were always welcomed if they would but submit to God's Instruction (Torah - Law), and worship Him in the way that He required (Exodus 13.48-49). Thus by refusing this opportunity and choosing to remain as part of 'the nations' as opposed to 'God's people' they were rejecting God. That is why 'the nations' were the unrighteous. They were 'the world', deliberately turning away from God and His ways, in direct contrast with believers.

          9.19

          ' Arise, O YHWH; Do not let man prevail:
          Let the nations be judged in your sight.
          Put them in fear, O YHWH:
          Let the nations know themselves to be but men. Selah.

          The Psalm finishes with a cry to YHWH to bring about these purposes, and deal with the unrighteous nations. Let YHWH arise and prevent man from prevailing, for he is unrighteous and will behave unrighteously. Let Him judge them in accordance with their deserving, as known by the all-seeing eye. Indeed let Him put them in fear and make them recognise that they are but men. Let see themselves in a proper perspective. For then there would be a hope that some would hear the declaration among them of His doings (verse 11) and recognise their need, and hear and respond to YHWH.

          This is not a vindictive cry. It is a prayer for the deliverance of the righteous. He wants the nations to recognise that they are dealing with the anointed of YHWH and cannot therefore prevail. They may boast about their greatness but they are but men. And thus when their belligerence results in judgment they will be made to recognise the fact. The people of God will win in the end.

          For the truth is that it is only when men are finally brought to a true judgment concerning themselves that the everlasting kingdom of righteousness can be established. It was a feature of the Davidic kingship that in the end not only Israel but the whole world that had not been judged and condemned was to be blessed through it once the unrighteous had been dealt with (Psalm 2.8-12).

          Psalm 10.

          There are indications that this psalm has connections with the previous one. The psalm has no title, the partial acrostic possibly continues, although not consistently, and could therefore easily be a coincidence, while in LXX and the Vulgate they are treated as one psalm. But the possible coincidence of the partial acrostic may in fact have determined the position of the psalm and been responsible for its later being taken as one, rather than vice versa. They are really two separate psalms.

          In this psalm the psalmist is puzzled why YHWH does not intervene in difficult times. His cry can be echoed through all ages. He is asking why the unrighteous seem to triumph while the people of God suffer, and describes the unrighteous in great detail, drawing God's attention to what they are.

          Then he cries to YHWH to rise up and deal with them, removing unrighteousness, and finally sees ahead to the day when YHWH will indeed be King and the unrighteous nations will be no more. In the end His righteous Kingly Rule will be established for ever.

          10.1-2

          'Why do you stand far off, O YHWH?
          Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
          As a result of the arrogance of the unrighteous the poor is hotly pursued;
          They are taken (or 'Let them be taken') in the schemes that they have conceived.'

          The psalmist is puzzled and concerned. His own heart is righteous, and as he surveys the society in which he lives he cannot conceive why YHWH stands back in the day of trouble, why He seems to be hiding Himself while the lowly righteous are suffering (compare 22.1), and are caught in the schemes of the unrighteous. Alternately (for the Hebrew can mean either) he prays that YHWH will ensure that the unrighteous are ensnared in the schemes and snares that they themselves have set.

          Like many he had a low view of sin. He did not at this stage see the lowly as themselves sinful and needing to be purged and as being given the opportunity to become strong in faith, although later his own faith in the face of what is happening will come out. And He did not recognise that YHWH had deeper purposes than he could conceive of. He failed to recognise that the outright unrighteous are indeed sometimes used as instruments of chastening for God's true people, prior to their own final defeat and judgment, a constant theme throughout Scripture.

          'Why do you stand far off?' That is, seemingly so because of His inaction (see Isaiah 59.1-2 for one answer). In contrast when YHWH openly acts He is said to be 'near' (34.18; 75.1).

          'Why do you hide yourself?' Literally 'muffle yourself'. Compare 55.1. Seemingly covering his eyes so that He cannot see (Isaiah 1.15), and his ears so that He cannot hear (Lamentations 3.56).

          'The arrogance of the unrighteous.' Men who are selfish, greedy and strong tend to treat all others arrogantly. And often no one seems to be able to do anything about it. They go their own way without regard for the weak. The writer recognised the total wrongness of this, and therefore wondered why God did nothing about it. Possibly it is saying that He wants them to be caught out by their own schemes, as indeed they often are, but not often enough.

          'The poor is hotly pursued.' It is always the weak and helpless and poor who suffer most under the arrogance of the unrighteous, for they have no way of countering it, and are treated just as pawns and targets. And yet it is often those poor who are the righteous ones. Why then does God allow them to be pursued like hunted animals?

          'They are taken (or 'Let them be taken') in the schemes that they have conceived.' The poor are not only hunted but often captured by the schemes of the unrighteous. The picture is a sad one of the sufferings of the hunted animal and its final entrapment. This continuation of the theme seems to fit better than the alternative rendering.

          10.3-6

          'For the unrighteous man boasts of his heart's desire,
          And the man who is greedy for gain renounces, yes, passes judgment on YHWH.
          The wicked, in the pride of his demeanour, says, He will not require it.
          All his thoughts are, There is no God.
          His ways are fixed at all times;
          Your judgments are far above out of his sight.
          As for all his adversaries, he puffs at them.
          He says in his heart, I will not be moved;
          To all generations I will not be in adversity.

          With deep insight the psalmist recognises that the behaviour of the unrighteous reveals their true attitude to God, whatever their outward protestations. What a man thinks in his heart, that is what he is (Proverbs 23.7). So here he sees these unrighteous men as actually stating by their behaviour that they take no heed to YHWH's judgments, and do not believe that He will call them to account for their failure to observe them. In fact basically they are saying in their hearts, 'There is no God'.

          The arrogance of the modern day is vividly portrayed here. Boasting, greedy, ignoring God's word, fixed in their own ways, closing their hearts against God's requirements, puffing at those who contend with them, and declaring that nothing can stop them in their ways. It is God's photograph of society. But in the final analysis they will be proved wrong, for in the end righteousness will triumph (verses 15-18).

          'The unrighteous man boasts of his heart's desire.' Godless men set their hearts and thoughts on what they want, and not on what God wants, and openly boast about it. There is no submissiveness to God, but a determination to get what they want in any way they can. This is the competitive society with a vengeance, but the point is that they do it without regard for others, and without regard to God, except possibly by a passing reference as a sop to the godly.

          'And the man who is greedy for gain renounces, yes, passes judgment on YHWH.' The deceitfulness of riches chokes the word and it becomes unfruitful (Mark 4.19). Those seized by a desire to possess and to be rich, or even 'well off', put God's will to one side in their pursuit. The desire for gain and wealth possesses them. Thus in effect they renounce YHWH and His requirements, and the Instruction He has given man in His Law, and declare that God's ways are wrong, and thrust Him away, and even pass judgment on Him and His ways, whatever the outward appearance of piety.

          We can, however, equally translate as - 'For the unrighteous praises his heart's desire, and blesses the covetous whom YHWH despises.' The basic idea is the same but brings out more their hypocrisy. They make out that evil is good, and that their greed is right. Compare Isaiah 5.20.

          'The wicked man, in the pride of his demeanour, says, "He will not require it." All his thoughts are, "There is no God." His ways are fixed at all times. Your judgments are far above out of his sight.' Those who take little notice of God's requirements are really declaring that they do not believe that He will call them to account. They are really saying that God is not there (14.1). So they are set in their own ways and blind to His judgments for He is in Heaven and they are on the earth. Thus His judgments are far above them and beyond them. For all practical purposes they are atheists. To them the idea of retribution is far away.

          'As for all his adversaries, he puffs (sniffs) at them. He says in his heart, I will not be moved. To all generations I will not be in adversity.' His attitude towards God continues through into his attitude towards his fellow-man. He treats his competitors and opponents lightly and with a certain contempt. He is confident that he is so firmly established that he can cope with them and that nothing can halt his future plans, or the prosperity of his descendants. He has no fears at all for the future. The remainder of the Old Testament only reveals his folly.

          10.7-11

          'His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppressiveness,
          Under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
          He sits in the hiding places of the villages,
          In the secret places he murders the innocent.
          His eyes are surreptitiously set against the helpless.
          He lurks in secret like a lion in his covert;
          He lies in wait to catch the poor:
          He catches the poor, when he draws him in his net.
          He crouches, he bows down,
          And the helpless fall by his strong ones (might).
          He says in his heart, 'God has forgotten.
          He hides his face. He will never see it.'

          The gradual growth of sin is well depicted in the Psalm. It begins with a callous attitude towards God and his fellow-man, and leads on into deeper and deeper sin. Here the sinner is depicted at his worst. Not all reach these depths, but all have the propensity for it. It begins with his words, which reveal what he is (compare Matthew 12.37), continues on into unscrupulous behaviour, and into increasing callousness, and all because he convinces himself with the vain hope that God has forgotten the world and will not see what he is doing.

          'His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppressiveness, under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.' He is loud-mouthed, aggressive, and deceitful, and plans evil and mischief with his tongue. 'Cursing' may indicate his aggressive attitude, or his willingness to lie on oath to obtain what he wants. 'Deceit' declares his dishonesty in his dealings. He says what he wants people to think, while hiding the true situation. His aim is to deceive people. We can think of much modern advertising and salesmanship. 'Oppressiveness' indicates his determination to get his own way by any possible means. He tries to obtain his own way by aggression and forcefulness. And nothing that he says can be trusted.

          'Under his tongue.' He actually enjoys his unscrupulous behaviour like a man enjoying a titbit (see Job 20.12).

          'He sits in the hiding places of the villages, in the secret places he murders the innocent. His eyes are surreptitiously set against the helpless. He lurks in secret like a lion in his covert; he lies in wait to catch the poor.' Openly included here are muggers, and violent criminals, but equally included are any who are set to catch people out, or trap them into something, and make profits at their expense, without giving due and fair return. In their own way they all 'mug' people. They are like man-eating lions who wait in hiding for some helpless human to pass by.

          'He catches the poor, when he draws him in his net. He crouches, he bows down, and the helpless fall by his might (or rather 'his strong ones').' The picture changes to the subtle hunter who lays his nets out to catch the unwary, and then draws them in. The emphasis is all on hidden motives and secretive behaviour, subtlety and deceit. The one who crouches may be the hunter with his net, or refer back to the lion waiting in hiding. If the former the idea is that he crouches in hiding, bows down behind the bushes when they approach and then quickly draws in his net dragging down his prey with his strong nets and strength. If the latter then the 'strong ones' may be his paws and teeth.

          'He says in his heart, "God has forgotten. He hides his face. He will has not seen it for ever."' This is the crux of the matter, his attitude towards God. He convinces himself that God has forgotten the world, has forgotten the poor and needy, has hidden His face and that he therefore does not see what men are doing, and indeed will never see it, will never bring it to mind. He assumes that men are unaccountable and therefore that he can get away with his behaviour. He forgets, or refuses to accept, that 'all things are laid bare and open to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do' (Hebrews 4.13). It is something he dismisses out of hand.

          10.12-15

          'Arise, O YHWH, O God, lift up your hand,
          Do not forget the needy.
          Why does the unrighteous man renounce God,
          And say in his heart, 'You will not call to account'?
          You have seen, for you behold mischief and spite,
          To deal with it (literally 'give it' i.e. give in respect of it) with your hand.
          He who is helpless commits ('abandons') himself to you.
          You have been the helper of the fatherless.

          From here on an acrostic is introduced with stanzas beginning with Qoph (Q) through to Tau (T)

          The psalmist now expresses his puzzlement and distress at YHWH's reluctance to act. He calls on Him to act speedily on behalf of those who are in need. Let Him 'arise' (in order to do something), let Him 'lift up his hand' (to act in power), let Him show that He has not forgotten the needy. Why does He allow the unrighteous man to get away with his attitude? The psalmist himself is not deceived. He knows very well that God does see the full situation, and knows that God will one day deal with it. But he wants to know, why the delay? And so he reminds God that the helpless are looking to Him and depending on Him to act. For they know that He is the helper of the fatherless, of those who have none to look after them.

          'Arise, O YHWH.' Do not wait any longer. Start to act! Compare 3.7; 7.6; 9.19 and often. 'Lift up your hand.' Commence actual action with your strength. Compare 138.7; Exodus 7.5; Micah 5.9. 'Do not forget the needy.' Do not do what these people say you are doing, but rather show that they are wrong by what You do on behalf of the needy.

          'You have seen, for you behold mischief and spite, to deal with it (literally 'give it' i.e. give in respect of it) with your hand.' Faith declares that, contrary to the belief of the unrighteous, God does see all that is done, and especially such things as mischief and vexation brought on the weak and helpless. And faith also knows that one day He will deal with it and bring retribution accordingly. For the helpless and the weak look to Him as their only Protector. They abandon themselves to Him. And He will not fail them.

          10.15

          'Break the arm of the unrighteous, and as for the evil man,
          Seek out his wickedness. You find none.'

          In unarmed combat the breaking of the arm rendered the opponent powerless. Thus YHWH is exhorted to render the unrighteous powerless, and search out the evil man's wickedness so that He can call it to account. And He will in fact be so successful in removing it that when He looks for wickedness He will find none. Compare 37.17; Job 38.15.

          'Seek out his wickedness. You find none.' Literally 'when You seek to call to account his wickedness you shall not find', because it has been removed. All wickedness will have been done away (compare 17.3). Yahweh had seen everything after all.

          10.16-18

          'YHWH is King for ever and ever,
          The nations are perished out of his land.
          YHWH, you have heard the desire of the meek:
          You will establish their heart,
          You will cause your ear to hear,
          To judge on behalf of the fatherless and the oppressed,
          That man who is of the earth,
          May strike terror no more.

          The psalm, which began with such hopelessness, finishes with the triumphant picture of the everlasting kingdom, with YHWH established as everlasting king, all adversaries and unrighteous thrust out and dealt with, and the meek and the fatherless and the oppressed living quiet lives in full confidence of true justice, and treated with respect by all. In Isaiah's words, the lions will lay down with the lambs, for no one will any longer strike terror into anyone else. It will not be men of the earth who control things, but God. Righteousness will reign supreme. The picture is of total divine dominance by God, dwelling in His light.

          'YHWH is King for ever and ever.' His enthronement will be revealed and His rule over His own will from then on be permanent for ever.

          'The nations are perished out of his land.' The land that He promised His people will now be free of all enemies, of all who defile it and of all unrighteous men. The first thought is probably of the final fulfilling of God's requirement that 'the nations' who had dwelt in Canaan should be thrust out as God had previously commanded, so that all pernicious influences would be removed. But it can also include any nations who had trespassed on God's land and introduced pernicious influences. And with them would be thrust out all who followed in their ways and thus identified with them.

          So those who are without, and even more importantly, the quislings within, will be removed from the land, which will thus be purified. The thought is clearly that the unrighteous were seen as unrighteous because they did not respond to YHWH but submitted to subversive influence, the ways of the godless nations. Thus all these will now have been destroyed out of the land (compare Deuteronomy 8.19-20). It will be the land of His inheritance as it was intended to be, a land of eternal bliss, where all worship YHWH and are obedient to His will. Ancient Israel had no conception of a possible heavenly kingdom and thought in terms of permanent and fruitful possession for ever of the land that God had given them and a possession which was under God's personal rule, where all responded to Him.

          And this will be because YHWH has heard the cries of the meek and lowly. Though they had cried to Him day and night for what had seemed so long, now He would avenge them speedily (Luke 18.8). In the end His will will be done. All fear will be done away. The future will be eternally secure in righteousness.

          Jesus and the Apostles reinterpreted this in terms of the everlasting heavenly kingdom of which His own were citizens.

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