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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 1-17--- ECCLESIASTES --- ISAIAH 1-5 --- 6-12 --- 13-23 --- 24-27 --- 28-35 --- 36-39 --- 40-48 --- 49-55--- 56-66--- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 ---

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--- THE GOSPELS & ACTS

Commentary on the Book of Psalms (2).

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.

Psalm 11.

This is a psalm in praise of YHWH. The principle idea of it is that once a man has put his trust in YHWH and taken Him as his refuge he can stand firm against all opposition, whatever the danger, because YHWH is with him. For YHWH looks down and sees all, and brings about His righteous will. And it stresses that such a man will not stoop to the evil behaviour of the unrighteous in retaliation, for to do so would shake the very foundations of God's Law. To behave in such a way would be to make him evil too. And then what would the righteous do? To whom would they be able to turn? It is a firm statement that if men behave unrighteously towards us it does not justify our behaving in the same way towards them.

11.1a 'For the Chief Musician. Of David.'

The psalm is dedicated to the Choirmaster and is of the Davidic collection, of which a large part, if not all, were written by David himself. For his reputation as a psalmist see 2 Samuel 23.1 where he is called 'the sweet psalmist of Israel'; 1 Chronicles 16.7; Amos 6.5.

There may be good reason to see that it was indeed written by David for it pictures his situation exactly. For if the psalm is by David it may signify the time when he was under threat by Saul while in his service, but refusing to flee and raise up his supporters against him, although aware that an attempt might be made by a secret hand to strike him down. For although he was too popular for Saul to condemn him publicly, an assassination was always a possibility. Would it not then be sensible to strike first?

On the other hand it could apply to any situation where a godly man was under threat. It does not mean that a man must not take wise precautions, but is a reminder that there are times when a man must not flee, but must bravely face a strong opposition in order to stand firm for the right.

11.1b-3 'In YHWH do I take refuge.

How do you say to me,
Flee, oh bird, to your mountain,
For, lo, the wicked bend the bow.
They make ready their arrow on the string,
That they may shoot in darkness at the upright in heart.
If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?'

Note the central point. The one spoken of has taken refuge in YHWH. He could have no stronger or safer position. Thus all his judgments must be made in this light. Sometimes such a man may need temporarily to flee, but he must also consider his duties and responsibilities and decide what is best for the establishment of righteousness and a true foundation for life.

So he challenges the advice given to him by those around him. How should such a one as he flee? (compare Nehemiah 6.11). The next question we must then ask is whether the reference to the wicked assassins continues the argument of the advisers or is part of the psalmist's reply to suggestions made by those advisers ('For, look, it is the wicked who bend the bow').

If the psalmist is David this reply to the advice to flee may well indicate the suggestion made by others (whether friend or subtle foe) that he flee to where he had men waiting in their mountain refuge, so that they may return secretly and deal with the tyrant Saul once and for all through an arrow coming out of the darkness. If so David's reply is one of horror. He signifies that it is only the wicked who behave in such a way. It is the wicked who would shoot arrows out of the darkness; those who are truly upright are the targets of such evil, not its perpetrators. And he wants to be one of the upright.

He was especially aware that if his men fired their arrows in this way it would be against YHWH's anointed. And to slay YHWH's anointed would be to destroy the very foundations of the covenant to which they were all committed. How then could he, as one who has taken refuge in YHWH, behave in such a way? And if he did what then could the righteous do? He would have destroyed the very foundations that he and they believed in.

We know in fact that David did behave exactly like he claimed, refusing to slay Saul even when Saul was hunting him down to kill him (1 Samuel 23.14, 25-26), precisely because Saul was YHWH's anointed (1 Samuel 24.6, 10). He would not lift up his hand against YHWH's anointed. And in the same incident he uses a similar picture of Saul as seeking him like he would seek a partridge in the mountains (1 Samuel 26.20).

The more general thought may be that the psalmist's friends have advised him to flee for refuge like a bird to the mountain where he has his supporters, because there is someone out to get him. Again the thought being that he return with his supporters secretly and kill his adversary. But the psalmist is horrified. He has taken His refuge in YHWH, how then can he behave in such a way, like the wicked, for murder hits at the very foundations of the covenant. Then he would rightly lose any respect from the righteous. He would cease to be regarded as upright. Rather must he remain where he was and stand firm for the truth.

Or it may be that his advisers are declaring that there are those who are ready to bend the bow, fit their arrow, and shoot at him in the darkness, and that he should flee before it is too late. Then he is suggesting that to flee in the face of such a threat would be cowardly and to give way to tyranny, and thus by such cowardice he would help to destroy the foundations of society. The tyrant would then think that he could do the same to others, and achieve his purposes by threats. And if that happened what then could the righteous do? There are some men whose position is such that they must stand firm and even be willing to face the possibility of death so as to be on hand to defend justice and truth.

The point behind all these scenarios is that the righteous man must behave righteously whatever the provocation, otherwise the purposes which are dearest to his heart will collapse. To behave like the wicked would be to make him wicked. To flee unnecessarily would be to desert his cause.

'Flee (singular), O bird, to your (plural) mountain.' The idea would seem to be that the one who is to flee has a place of refuge in some particular mountain where he has supporters who are in possession of it. Fleeing to the mountains is a popular Biblical image (e.g. Genesis 19.30; 1 Samuel 14.22; 23.14; 26.1; Matthew 24.16). But the singular suggests a special mountain which can be a natural fortress.

'If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?' The important thing to the psalmist is that at all costs the foundations are preserved, otherwise the righteous have nowhere to turn. That involves maintenance of YHWH's Instruction (Law) at all costs however hard it may be in the circumstances. To obtain the right in the wrong way, or not to defend it when called upon to do so, would be to destroy the right.

Of course the foundations can never actually be destroyed, for 'The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, that the Lord knows those who are his' (2 Timothy 2:19). In the end all depends on God and on His personal and eternal knowing of His people. But it is still the duty of the righteous to uphold those foundations at whatever cost.

11.4

'YHWH is in his holy temple,
YHWH, his throne is in heaven,
His eyes behold, his eyelids try,
The children of men.

The psalmist now turns from the challenge that has been put to him and the reply he has given, to the God in Whom he trusts, the God Who is his refuge. He knows that he does not need to defend himself in this case for YHWH is over all. He is on His heavenly throne (9.4, 7), and from His heavenly Temple He watches over His people (compare 1 Kings 8.26 onwards) and over him. Indeed His eyes behold all men, and His eyelids test them out, so that the wicked are under His eye too. He knows all that they do. The idea behind the eyelids is that when we are carefully peering at something we tend to contract the eyelids. So God peers at the behaviour of men carefully and constantly. The word for testing out is used of the refining of metals. At a glance YHWH can distinguish what is true from what is base, for YHWH has an all-seeing eye.

For His Temple as signifying Heaven see also 18.6; 29.9; Micah 1.2; Habakkuk 2.20 compare also 9.7 with 11. This is a reminder that the earthly Temple was always seen as but a shadow of the heavenly, a kind of way by which His people could approach the heavenly Temple through the earthly (1 Kings 8.26 onwards). This was what was in Ezekiel's mind when he spoke of the heavenly Temple descending on an anonymous high mountain, a pure and heavenly Temple accessible through the earthly altar in the physical Temple, the altar which men were commanded to build (they were not commanded in Ezekiel to build a Temple, only the altar).

11.5-7

YHWH tries the righteous,
But the unrighteous and him who loves violence his soul hates.
On the unrighteous he will rain snares,
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
For YHWH is righteous. He loves righteousness.
The upright shall behold his face.'

The psalmist finishes with a strong contrast between righteousness and unrighteousness. He is confident that YHWH accounts him righteous and so he will trust YHWH to watch over him and ensure that justice is done. 'YHWH tries the righteous.' That is, He tries them in order to establish their faithfulness and loyalty, in order that He might then bless them. So what have such to fear? In contrast, however, He tries the unrighteous, those who do not seek to obey His laws, and those who love violence, and He 'hates' them (has an aversion to them) because of what He finds. So the psalmist can safely leave his enemies to the judgment of God.

Indeed YHWH will rain snares on the unrighteous, and what they 'drink' will be fire and brimstone and a hot, searing wind such as some miserably experience in the desert. That will be their portion. And this must be so because YHWH, Who is Himself righteous, loves righteousness and hates iniquity, rewarding goodness and punishing sin.

Finally he points out that in contrast to those who must drink of YHWH's anger, the upright look up and see His face. They walk in His presence. And if a man walks in YHWH's presence why should he fear his foes?

Note the parallel between the upright at whom the wicked shoot their arrows (verse 3), and the upright who walk in His presence and see and behold His face. If we walk with God we should not be surprised that arrows are levelled at us (Ephesians 6.13). For the wicked hate God and all that is of God.

One final point we must remember. It was because of David's situation and because of his position that he could not flee. He had been secretly anointed as the successor to Saul. He was a man of authority. He stood in the court for righteousness. Many looked to him for the future, and his destiny was there. It would not have been right for him to leave until he had no alternative, although when that time came he did flee. There are times when discretion is the better part of valour, but there are others where we must stand firm because so much rides on it. And God will help us to decide which applies when. We are not called on to be foolhardy. But we are called on to trust God in all circumstances.

Psalm 12.

This Psalm was written in dark times when evil seemed to prevail. But the humble and lowly were assured that while it might seem like it, it was not so, and that whatever the situation God was aware of their need and would sustain them. The same promise comes to His people today.

12.1a 'For the Chief Musician; set to the Sheminith. A Psalm of David.'

Again the psalm is for the Choirmaster. 'Sheminith' means eighth. It may refer to an eight stringed instrument, or to a musical notation. Again the psalm is a part of the Davidic collection.

12.1b-2

'Help, YHWH, for the godly man ceases,
For the faithful have disappeared from among the children of men.
They speak falsehood every one with his neighbour.
With flattering lip, and with a double heart, do they speak.'

It is a sad day for good men when it appears as though all godly men have disappeared (compare Hosea 4.1-2; Micah 7.2-6; Isaiah 57.1; 59.12-15; Jeremiah 5.1-4; 7.28; 9.2-6). It often seems to be the case, but it is never truly so. This godly man who writes the psalm is evidence of that, and he was not alone, even if he perhaps thought he was. He was like Elijah who thought only he was left (1 Kings 19.10, 14), only to learn that God had reserved for Himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19.18).

But the situation was certainly bad. Deceit and falsehood were prevalent. No one could be trusted. Honesty between men seemed to have vanished. They lied, they flattered falsely, they spoke with double tongues, saying one thing and thinking and meaning another. The world seemed totally corrupt. They were bad times. So the psalmist cries out to YHWH for help, for deliverance. Surely He cannot allow things to continue as they are?

12.3-4

'YHWH will cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that makes great boasts,
Who have said, 'With our tongue will we prevail,
Our lips are our own, who is lord over us?' '

YHWH assures him in his heart that it will not always be so. Those who have flattering lips will be cut off, as will those with a boastful tongue. They thought they could speak as they liked, they thought that their powerful words would enable them to achieve their own selfish ends, they challenged the right of anyone to be lord over them, they thought that none could gainsay them. But they will inevitably be proved wrong. They will discover that there is indeed One Who is Lord over them.

Very much in mind here are those in authority or seeking authority, those seeking to win people by half-truths and downright lies. Those seeking to get their own way by the power of speech. Thus they speak and think arrogantly, prior to their inevitable downfall.

12.5

'Because of the oppression of the poor,
Because of the sighing of the needy,
Now will I arise, says YHWH,
I will set him in the safety that he pants for.'

But they should recognise that YHWH sees all that happens on earth, and He was aware of the oppression of the poor. He heard the sighing of those in need. He saw their panting after deliverance. And because of such things He will arise, and will remedy the situation, and give them the security that they long for. Truth and righteousness will be made to prevail in the end.

12.6

'The words of YHWH are pure words,
As silver tried in a furnace on the earth,
Purified seven times.

In contrast to the deceit and falsehood of men the words of YHWH are true and pure, and totally to be relied on. They are like silver which has been refined, yes refined 'seven times' (totally and completely), as silver on earth needs to be. But the words of YHWH are so pure that they do not need such a refining process. They are already purer than any silver on earth, even though they are practical and effective on earth. Thus we can always rely on His word to see us through any situation. It has survived through the centuries, and will continue to do so. And it brings home truth to the heart.

There may also be the thought here that the words of YHWH themselves have such a purifying effect, making those who receive them pure.

12.7 'You will keep them, O YHWH.

You will preserve them from this generation for ever.
The wicked walk on every side,
When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.'

So through His word YHWH will keep His people and will continue to preserve them through the generations for ever. His words are the perfect antidote to unbelief, sin and deceit.

But meanwhile sin will continue to walk abroad, the unrighteous will appear to be on every side, and vileness will be exalted among men. They will boast about it. God is not deceived about the human race. He knows what men are. Thus must the godly look constantly to the word of God, and God will then preserve and keep them. Note that the opening 'You' is emphatic, for in the end it is only YHWH Who can keep His own and enable them to persevere.

Psalm 13.

As often with the Psalms this is the cry of someone in dire trouble. It would fit many periods in David's life, but it would also fit the same in many of his godly successors. It would also fit Israel at various times. In the end it is a message that sometimes fits us all. And that is the genius of the Psalms. They apply to the psalmist, they apply to those who sing the psalms, and they apply to all who read them today. But the psalm also ends on a note of confident assurance. The psalmist refuses to believe that YHWH will leave him in his distress.

13.1a 'For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.'

Once again we are reminded that this is one of the Psalms dedicated to the Choirmaster, and from the Davidic collection.

13.1b-2

'How long, O YHWH? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart by day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?'

The psalmist has been at prayer over his problems but feels that his prayers are unanswered, and that YHWH has forgotten him, and has hidden His face from him, and he does not know why. It almost feels to him as though it is going to be for ever, and yet he does not really think so, for he asks how much longer he must wait.

So he is puzzled and wants to know how long this is to go on. His thoughts within him are in turmoil, his heart is filled with sorrow, and the reason is because his enemy seems to triumph.

'How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart by day?' The problem is such that it requires much thought during each day. It would seem that he had little to fear at night. This may suggest such a time as when David was hiding in the mountains which he and his men knew well. Saul would not dare seek him at night for he did not himself know the terrain. But once day came he pursued David with a vengeance, prompting David to constant use of his mind, and counsel from others, in order to avoid him.

This might well fit David when his controversy with Saul had been going on for some long time, when the searches were constant and he was beginning to feel that it would never end. It would fit any ruler who was being hard pressed by enemies in such a situation. It fits any who have a private enemy and feel that they are experiencing constant persecution and defeat in one way or another. It is a reminder of those times when God tests us by not responding immediately, so that we might learn to trust Him 'in the dark'.

But in its own way it is also a cry of faith. The psalmist cannot believe that God can leave him in this situation for much longer. He is confident that at some stage God will act. But the question is, when?

How often we too might find ourselves in such a situation, and then we too must have the confidence that in the end God will act on our behalf.

13.3-4 'Consider, answer me, O YHWH my God:

Lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest my enemy say, I have prevailed against him;
Lest my adversaries rejoice when I am moved.

Yet the situation is getting desperate. He pleads for YHWH to consider his case and deal with it. He is very much aware that death may not be far away, so the situation is serious. And he prays that his enemy might not triumph over him simply because he himself is in despair and becomes careless or uncaring. He does not want him to be able to gloat over his removal. This could again well fit David's problems with Saul. But it could also have in mind any continual dangerous threat against a ruler.

'Consider, answer me.' He urgently presses YHWH to look at the situation, and respond. Let him no longer forget him and hide His face from him. For it is a genuine response that he desires, not just comfort.

'Lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.' The light in the eye can reveal the situation of the soul. He is weary of what he is facing. He feels that life is going from him. He wants YHWH to lift him from his state of resignation and imbue him with life, (which indicates that he already feels half dead), and to bring new light to his eyes so that he is again confident and again looks for and receives YHWH's positive response. For he does not want to die at the hand of his enemy.

Or the thought may be that he wants God's light to shine on Him, that He wants the evidence of His presence in His activity on his behalf, so as to save him from death.

13.5-6 'But I have trusted in your covenant love (lovingkindness within the covenant);

My heart will rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to YHWH,
Because he has dealt bountifully with me.

But the psalmist finishes on a note of assurance. In the darkness he finds light. He reminds YHWH that he is trusting to His covenant love. That is what the covenant is all about, that YHWH will act on behalf of those who are faithful towards Him. So he anticipates deliverance, and that he will again sing to YHWH, because he expects Him to deal bountifully towards him, indeed know that He must do so for He has chosen him as His own. For he who believes in God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11.6). So in the end his despair vanishes in the renewed faith that his prayer has revived.

Psalm 14.

The psalm begins with a verdict on man's general attitude towards God, and follows it with a general view of the whole world, seeing it as totally sinful. It then moves on to the fact that either YHWH's or the psalmist's people are being devoured in that world by 'the workers of iniquity', those who do not call on YHWH or obey His commandments but reveal the sinfulness of their hearts by their lives. This will assuredly result in some judgment on those workers of iniquity which will reduce them to great fear, because YHWH looks after the righteous. He allows them to be subject to chastening but in the end He will act to deliver them. But these workers of iniquity will have only themselves to blame because they will have deliberately thwarted God's people, overlooking the fact that YHWH is the refuge of His people. So from this position of confidence the psalmist then prays that that deliverance will now become actualised.

14.1a 'For the Chief Musician. Of David.'

This is yet another psalm dedicated to the Choirmaster and part of the Davidic collection.

14.1b

'The fool has said in his heart,
There is no God.
They are corrupt, they have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.'

A general verdict is passed on mankind. They behave like fools because they reject the idea of God as the one to Whom they are accountable. They have many gods, they worship idols who but represent aspects of creation, but in their hearts they reject the living God who speaks to them through the wonder of creation and through their consciences. They say that there is no such God. See Romans 1.18-23.

'The fool.' This is rather describing the morally perverse person who rejects the idea of living a godly life. 'Folly' in the Old Testament is a term used to describe the person who behaves foolishly in that he forgets or misrepresents God or refuses to do His will (Deuteronomy 32.6, 21; Job 42.8; Psalm 74.18, 22), he commits gross offences against morality (2 Samuel 13.12, 13) or sacrilege (Joshua 7.15), or he behaves churlishly and unwisely (1 Samuel 25.25). See also Isaiah 32.5-6. Inevitably he always sees himself as wise.

'In his heart.' It is not his intellect that rejects the idea of God, but his will and emotions. He does not want to have to face up to God because of what it might involve in a transformed life. He likes living as he is. See 73.11; Jeremiah 5.12; Zephaniah 1.12.

'They are corrupt, they have done abominable works.' Compare Genesis 6.11. They are corrupt within and their lives reveal what they really are, sinful, violent, idolatrous, sexually perverted. See Romans 1.18-32.

'There is none who does good.' This is the final verdict on the world. All mankind are fools in this sense, for sin is folly. The difference is that some have found forgiveness. God is declaring that there is no true, positive, untainted goodness in the world. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23). All are likewise guilty.

14.2-3 'YHWH looked down from heaven on the children of men,

To see if there were any that did understand, that did seek after God.
They are all gone aside; They are together become morally corrupt,
There is no one who does good, no, not one.'

But God would not judge men without a fair examination, and so He looked down to see if there were any who understood and sought after Him. The vivid anthropomorphism brings out the truth of God's constant examination and assessment of the human race (compare Genesis 11.5), and His call to accountability. But all had turned aside, even the best; all had become morally tainted (compare Job 15.16). There was not one man on earth who did good and did not sin (Ecclesiastes 7.20). (For the thought of the one man Who would come see Isaiah 50.2 with 4-9; 52.13-53.12).

14.4-6

'Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge,
Who devour my people as they eat bread,
And call not on YHWH?
There were they in great fear,
For God is in the generation of the righteous.
You put to shame (deride) the counsel of the poor,
Because YHWH is his refuge.'

Indeed God is perplexed at the folly of men. He cannot believe that they are so lacking in wisdom and common sense. They neither call on YHWH nor treat well those who do truly call on Him. They 'eat up My people as they eat bread'. 'My people' must refer here to those who truly call on Him, the faithful in Israel (Micah 2.9; 3.5). For while 'my people' is used of Israel as a whole it is always with the understanding that they are potentially responding to the covenant. Those who fail to do so in the end cease to be 'His people'. They are combined with the enemy. Devouring or eating up His people refers both to depriving them of their possessions, devouring their wealth, and to oppressing them, giving them a hard time and even doing violence to them (compare Micah 3.1-3; Isaiah 3.14-15). So the world is seen as in deliberate antagonism against God, and against true righteousness as personified in His true people.

'The workers of iniquity' are thus those who deliberately continue in the way of sin having refused to become one of His people. They are not necessarily great sinners as the world would view it, but they are from God's viewpoint, because they fail to truly respond to Him.

What is more they overlook the fact that 'God is in the generation of the righteous', that He is among the righteous and concerned about them and looks after them in each generation. Thus He will judge the persecutors in such a way that they will be in great fear. (This may be referring to a past event, or a number of past events, an example of judgments that have already happened. Or it may be simply looking to the future, to a judgment yet to come. Hebrew tenses are often not particular as regards to time. They are more concerned with whether an action is complete or incomplete, than whether past or future). And all because they have taken advantage of, or have derided, the lowly who have taken refuge in Yahweh, and whose thoughts and honesty and peacemaking attitude make them a prey to their scheming.

'The poor' regularly indicates those who are lowly and godly. This confirms that while 'My people' must in one sense mean Israel, it basically means the ones who show that they are His people by their way of living. The remainder are linked with the world.

14.7

'Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!
When YHWH restores the fortunes (or 'brings back the captivity) of his people,
Then will Jacob rejoice,
Israel will be glad.'

The psalmist finishes on a note of longing. O that Israel's deliverance had come. This confirms that they are here seen as under some kind of misfortune. In Job 42.10 the verb 'restores the fortunes' clearly signifies a restoral of fortunes to Job. He is only a captive to his misery. And this fits all the other places where the verb is used. Thus it is possibly the best translation here. It could therefore refer to a period of subjection under the Philistines, or some other enemy of Israel..

But even if we translate as being in 'captivity', it would not necessarily mean exile. It could equally signify being in subjection in the land. So we are probably to see them as being under the iron rule of some foreign monarch, subject to tribute and in a period when they were being treated badly. 'From Zion' probably has in mind Mount Zion from which, speaking in an earthly way, God will act. Or the thought may be that the psalmist was looking to Zion's king, the anointed of YHWH, to bring about the deliverance. Either way the deliverance will be of God. And that is the final certainty, that YHWH will restore His people. And then they will be glad and rejoice.

'Brings back the captivity', or 'restores the fortunes', of His people.' See for the use of the phrase Job 42.10; Hosea 6.11; Amos 9.14; Ezekiel 16.53; Zephaniah 2.7.

So the message of the Psalm is of God's calling to the account the folly of the nations, both as regards Himself, and especially as revealed in their attitude towards His people, having very much in mind here His true people. The thought is that His being and nature are so obvious in the light of creation and conscience, and His people so precious, that humanly speaking, from the psalmist's point of view, God could only question the behaviour of the world in its treatment of His people.

Psalm 15.

This psalm is called only 'a psalm of David'. This may signify that it is to be sung by the congregation rather than by the choir (not 'for the choirmaster'). It is a psalm of approach. Possibly it was sung, with responses, when the people approached the tabernacle in assembly during feasts.

15.1a 'A Psalm of David.'

It is a further psalm in the Davidic collection. The reference to the Tabernacle or Dwellingplace suggests the pre-Solomonic nature of the Psalm. Thus it may well have been written by David himself.

15.1b

'YHWH, who shall sojourn in your Tent?
Who shall dwell in your holy hill?'

As the people begin to consider their approach to God's Dwellingplace they ask themselves the question, quite rightly, as to who has the right to sojourn in His Tent, that is, be there on a temporary basis. Then the question becomes a little stronger. Who has the right to take up a dwelling in His holy hill? The point is that to approach near to YHWH's Dwellingplace is a serious thing, and only open to those qualified. The former situation may be thinking of the people, the latter of their representatives the priests. They are conscious that both situations represent a great privilege. Or the latter question may be as to who has the right to establish their camp there during the feasts. The questions by their nature acknowledge that not all are to be seen as having the right.

The mention of the Tent suggests an early date, and some have seen it as first written when the Ark was to be brought to the Tabernacle after being in the house of Obed-edom (2 Samuel 6). Possibly the death of Uzziah made David think more seriously about the holiness of God.

The reply follows in detail. It is very significant, however, that it is not the cultic requirements but the moral requirements that come to the fore. Both priests and people who would approach God must be pure and holy in their lives. That is the first requirement. It is not anti-cult. The very purpose of their approach is to offer sacrifices and to worship God in accordance with His ordinances. But it emphasises that genuine moral purity rather than ritual requirements are primary with God.

15.2-5a

'He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart,
He who does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his friend,
Nor takes up a reproach against his neighbour,
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honours those who fear YHWH,
He who swears to his own hurt,
And does not change,
He who does not put out his money to interest,
Nor takes reward against the innocent.'

The man who would approach God and dwell with Him must be upright, righteous and without deceit. He must not be a slanderer, nor a doer of evil, nor a talebearer. He must regard with disapproval and reproach those who reveal their disregard of God's commandments, and he must honour those who fear YHWH. He must keep his word once given even when it costs him to do so, and he must not take interest when he lends to the poor, or accept bribes to pervert justice and harm the innocent. This is the portrait of the true believer. He alone can dwell in God's presence.

'He who walks uprightly.' This refers to a man of full integrity, who does right in all his ways. He is the complete man, blameless and devoted to God (18.23; 119.1; Genesis 17.1; Deuteronomy 18.13). LXX translates it amomos for which see Ephesians 1.4; Colossians 1.22.

'And works righteousness.' He is a doer of righteous deeds so that he is loved and respected among God's people. Compare Isaiah 56.1; Acts 10.35; 1 John 3.7.

'And speaks truth in his heart.' He is genuine through and through, right from the heart. His word can be trusted, and he is totally reliable. Contrast those in 12.2.

'He who does not slander with his tongue.' Everyone knows that such a man will not bear tales, or gossip about others. He will say only what he knows to be true, and only do so when it is necessary.

'Nor does evil to his associate, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbour.' Both associate and neighbour can rely on him not to let them down in any way, either in the way he behaves or by small talk. He never causes them hurt or speaks badly of them without cause.

'In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honours those who fear YHWH.' He is a man who disapproves of those who are not true through and through, especially those who treat God and His ways lightly, but honours those who truly fear YHWH, and whose lives reveal the fact. 'Despised' is not to be taken in its literal application. It rather indicates disapproval, not so much of the person, as of the person's way of life and attitude towards God.

'He who swears to his own hurt, and does not change.' There was a time in the last century when the word of a gentleman was his bond. Nothing would cause him to break it. That is what the godly man who approaches YHWH must be like. Even if he regrets what he has sworn or what he has promised, he must fulfil it. He has given his word.

'He who does not put out his money to interest.' The reference to not charging interest was because in an agricultural society men who borrowed did so because of dire poverty. No good man would therefore seek to benefit by such a person's poverty and dire need. He would lend from the goodness of his heart. (See Leviticus 25.36-37; Exodus 22.25; Ezekiel 18.17).

It has no reference to a modern capitalist society, and in fact charging of interest was allowed with foreigners (Deuteronomy 23.19-20). The point was not that charging interest in general was forbidden, but that a man would not do it to his brother in God. The principle clearly still applies in so far as it applies to money lent to the poor, or to a fellow-believer in need, and includes not being greedy in the amount of interest taken in general.

'Nor takes reward against the innocent.' He would scorn to accept the possibility of accepting bribes in order to perjure himself (Isaiah 33.15; Ezekiel 22.12; Deuteronomy 27.25; Exodus 23.7-8). To aid the condemnation of an innocent person would be abhorrent to him.

15.5b

'He who does these things will never be moved.'

The man described above, whose behaviour is like this because of his love for YHWH, will have access to YHWH's holy hill and Tent. None will seek to move him from where he sojourns at feasts on the holy hill, close to the Tent. None will dispute his right to approach YHWH and find atonement. And that joyous position will be true for him wherever he goes. He will always be close to YHWH. YHWH will always be with him. He will enjoy His protection and guidance under all circumstances.

Psalm 16.

16.1a 'A Michtam of David.'

The word michtam has been related to the Akkadian katamu, 'to cover'. Some therefore see it as a prayer for, or with an assurance of, protection. It is a part of the Davidic collection, with special reference to the house of David.

During his inspired building up of the psalm he ascends to greater and greater heights of being lost in YHWH, until in the end he recognises that those who had been made 'holy' (separated to God, devout, faithful) like him could not possibly face corruption. To suggest that one so made holy by God could be laid in the grave and left there to rot was beyond his comprehension and acceptance. Their future had to be in the presence of God. It was by no means fully thought out. It was a flight of the soul. But it contained within it the seed thought that would blossom out into the resurrection of God's Holy One, the Greater David. He foresaw more than he knew. For what was true for David would be even more true for the great Seed of David.

In Acts 2.25 Peter says of this psalm that the one who spoke through it was David, and he added that he spoke as a prophet, for through it he foresaw not only his own certainty of life with God in some form beyond the grave, but in seed form to an even greater resurrection and certainty of life for his Greater Son.

16.1b

'Preserve me, O God, for in you do I take refuge.

The michtam opens with a plea for protection. The psalmist commits himself to God and prays that God (El) will preserve him in all circumstances, because he sees God as a safe refuge in Whom he can find shelter. It is a prayer based on the confidence of what God is to him, not because of some particular situation of urgency that requires assistance, but as an overall basis of life. We too should seek to take such refuge in God daily in a similar way. It is the right situation to be in for a man of faith.

16.2-3

'You have said to YHWH, You are my Lord,
I have no good beyond (apart from) you.
As for the saints (holy ones) who are in the earth,
They are the excellent (nobles) in whom is all my delight.'

The psalmist now addresses himself. 'You (feminine singular) have said to YHWH.' The reference of the feminine singular is unclear. He is possibly attributing it to some feminine noun applied to himself which he is carrying in his thoughts (compare 'you, O my soul' 42.5a; see Lamentations 3.24). Or it may be in deference to his reference to YHWH, with him seeing himself as God's helpmeet.

He reminds himself that he has declared YHWH to be his sovereign Lord, to be the source of all his benefits, indeed of his whole life. For apart from Him he has nothing. So he delights in the fact that YHWH is everything to him, and he has no good beyond or apart from Him. He is a YHWH-gripped man.

Parallel with this is his delight in YHWH's own true people, those truly set apart to God, His 'holy ones'. He sees them as the true 'nobles' of Israel, the most excellent people on earth and as such takes delight in them. So all his thoughts at this time are of YHWH and of YHWH's true people, His 'holy ones', to him the two most important things in life. For 'holy ones' compare his description of himself as 'your holy one' (verse 10) although the Hebrew word is different. Certainly later it is a word used to describe God's true people.

Others see the reference to 'holy ones' as signifying heavenly beings, but nowhere else are similar comments made about heavenly beings. They are always seen as background to the glory of YHWH, not as to be appreciated in their own right. To delight in the angels would be totally without precedent, whereas the use of 'holy ones' in the Psalms to denote God's people is a regular feature (30.4; 31.23; 34.9; 37.28; 50.5; 52.9 and often).

16.4

'Their sorrows shall be multiplied who give gifts for (or 'exchange for') another,
Their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer,
Nor take their names on my lips.'

He spurns the idea of any contact with 'another', i.e. with any of 'the gods' whose names he will not take on his lips. Those who give gifts to such gods or who exchange YHWH for another god, will have their sorrows multiplied. As for him he will not offer to such gods drink offerings of blood or even take their name on his lips (he has assiduously avoided doing so here. They are nonentities).

'The drink offerings of blood' may refer to drink offerings offered with child sacrifices which certainly occurred elsewhere in connection with the worship of Molech (see Isaiah 57.5-6), or it may be that drink offerings of blood were made to some gods, or it may refer to drink offerings made by men of violence. Or he may simply be saying that their drink offerings are so detestable that they may be likened to offering the forbidden blood for the god to drink

16.5-6

'YHWH is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup,
You maintain my lot.
The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places,
Yes, I have a goodly heritage.'

Rather than drink offerings of blood the psalmist delights in what YHWH has bestowed on him by giving him Himself. YHWH is all to him. It is YHWH of Whom he wants to drink (compare 42.2; John 6.35). It is YHWH Who is his portion. And he rejoices in the fact that YHWH has indeed graciously given Himself fully to him. He is the psalmist's lot, better than his inheritance in the land, He is his all, so that he wants no other. And what is more His faithful God is the One Who maintains that lot for the psalmist by maintaining his position and their relationship constantly. Thus the psalmist can continually delight in YHWH, and that is all he wants to do. It is a goodly heritage, better than any physical inheritance in the land, and means that his lines (the lines marking off his lot) have fallen to him in pleasant places. They have separated him off to God. So to the psalmist YHWH is all.

16.7

'I will bless YHWH, who has given me counsel,
Yes, my reins instruct me in the night seasons.'

And with the joy of having YHWH as his lot, and of His possession of so goodly a heritage, he can also rejoice in the wisdom and guidance given to him by YHWH as he lies in his bed at night. Along with all his other benefits he blesses YHWH for the counsel given to him. His 'reins', those things which guide and control him, his conscience and the voice of God, give him his instruction night by night so as to maintain his continuing fellowship with God.

Happy are those whose lot is so in God, and who are experiencing having their lines set in pleasant places as they walk with Him, wanting no other inheritance, and who nightly so receive wisdom from God that their daily walk with Him continues untarnished. For they too will have the joy of the psalmist.

16.8-11

'I have set YHWH always before me,
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices,
My flesh also will dwell in safety.
For you will not leave my soul to Sheol,
Nor will you suffer your holy one (or 'beloved one' - chasid - a man separated by covenant love) to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life,
In your presence is fullness of joy,
In your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Indeed the psalmist's joy in God is such that he desires that it go on for ever (verse 11), and indeed is confident that it will do so. And to that end he has set YHWH always before him. He meditates day and night in His word (1.2-3). He walks with Him by faith (Genesis 5.22). He looks constantly to Him. And because YHWH stands at his right hand as his mighty Champion, (as a king's champion would stand at his king's right hand) he knows that nothing can disturb him or remove him from YHWH's presence. But while it may be a walk of faith, it is not a dreamy faith, it is a positive, responsive faith as genuine faith must be, faith that produces a glorious life. And because he is there in YHWH's presence he knows that he will not be moved. He will remain there constantly.

This gives him great gladness of heart. 'Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices.' His 'heart' represents his will, mind and emotions, his 'glory' the spiritual life within him, made in the image and likeness of the elohim (Genesis 1.26-27). It is the latter especially which makes man glorious. So both his heart and his spirit (his glory) rejoice within him in what YHWH is to him. His spiritual emotion and ecstasy is rapidly expanding. He feels immortal.

Thus when he thinks of the coldness and darkness of the grave with all it involves of worm-eaten bodies, of lifelessness, of dankness, of emptiness and especially of the horror of 'uncleanness' and God-forsakenness, he knows instinctively that YHWH must somehow preserve him from it (as He preserved Enoch - Genesis 5.22). He can surely not allow him, as one of God's holy ones (qethoshim - verse 3), as the anointed of YHWH, as separated to YHWH by His covenant love, and faithful (chasid) to Him, to see such corruption. There is undoubtedly an awareness here that he is seen as a holy one (both one set apart in holiness to YHWH, and one beloved of YHWH and devout, separated and faithful) and that because he is such 'a holy one' YHWH will give him a long life, and keep him from an early grave, and from early corruption. But is that all it means? Not if we take the language literally. And such an interpretation misses the whole point which is that one who is so close to God that he feels that they are inseparable, cannot believe that the unclean grave can claim him, any more than it did Enoch.

There is in fact clearly so much more in David's mind. The grave eventually creeps up on us all. Eventually we do all see corruption of our physical bodies. But David would hardly go into such ecstasies about a few short years of life, even though it would be with God, if that were to be its end. It would almost be to come down from his high level to the trite and mundane. Rather he is at this time of ecstasy so conscious of YHWH and His presence with him, and of what God has wrought in him, that he is confident at this moment that as God's 'holy one' (both qadosh and chasid) he is beyond all corruption, that the grave has no hold on him, that he can never finally die and perish and suffer corruption, for it would not be seemly.

He is here seized with what it means to be a 'holy one' (qadosh) and a separated one (chasid - one bound by God's covenant love, and devotion and faithfulness). He is fully aware of the holiness of all that was in the Tabernacle, set apart from the mundane and untouchable because it was God's, and made holy (qdsh), seemingly there to go on for ever. No corruption could enter there. And he saw himself as similarly God's 'holy one' (verse 3), God's set apart one, anointed by Him and set apart in holiness as His, so that though his body descend to the world of the grave, to Sheol, as all men's bodies must, corruption will not be able to seize hold of him, indeed will not be able to touch what he essentially is. There is that in him which is beyond 'corruption', which is incorruptible, that which is bound up with God. For God must surely see His anointed, separated one and somehow deliver him from the after effects of death. It must be so, for he is holy, set apart totally to Him. He is YHWH's 'holy one', His anointed. And what is YHWH's is so holy, and so without blemish and so whole, that it is set apart from the profane world and all that is profane, including the grave with its uncleanness. He may even have had in mind that when certain holy offerings were burnt on the altar the blood was put on the horns of the altar pointing upwards and its smoke went up to God as a pleasing odour.

So there is reason to think that he is at this moment confident of life with God through and beyond the grave in the presence of His holiness, as His beloved and separated one. Compare for this thought Isaiah 26.19 contrasted with 14, where God's dew was the dew of light falling on His people so that the shades could not hold them but had to cast them forth. There His light, and the people who had experienced His light, were incompatible with the darkness of Sheol. In the same way David feels that his 'holy life' and anointing from God is incompatible with the corruption of the grave.

We must not see this as a thought out doctrine but as something arising from his there and then experience of God, in the ecstasy of beholding YHWH. At this time, and as placed on record for ever, he was confident that he would somehow live on with God, free from corruption, although in an undefined way. For him an end in Sheol was out of the equation. And what would be true for him he would see as true also for such of his sons who were anointed and faithful to God, for they too would be God's anointed.

'You will show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy, in your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.' There is an eternal ring to this. He feels that, rather than having to face his end in death, life awaits him, continuing in this life and beyond, a life of joy and abounding in delights. YHWH will show him the path of continuous life, abjuring death. And in YHWH's presence he will find fullness of joy continually. Yes, at His right hand, as His chosen one, His anointed, he will find everlasting pleasure and delights that will never end.

So in the ecstasy of the moment, and of his poetic and divine inspiration, David has been lifted up into a new sphere, the thought that for those who walk with God (perhaps he had Enoch in Genesis 5.22 in mind), and especially for him as God's anointed one, death cannot be the final end. It would be to soil that holy relationship, and to soil what has been made holy, something no longer contaminated by a profane creation, and was the inward human equivalent of the furniture in the Tabernacle which could not be touched by earthiness. So inevitably God and they must go on for ever.

Next day his thoughts might descend again to the mundane world, and his assurance dim, and the glory partly evaporate, but here recorded for ever in his psalm, and sometimes repeated elsewhere (17.15; 23.6; 49.14-15; 73.24; 139.5-12), are the foundations of a glory that was yet to be revealed, not yet fully thought out but clear to him at that moment nonetheless. And surely something of its glory would stay with him. And the corollary of his thinking might have been that this would also be true of all God's true people (116.15), His holy ones (verse 3), His 'holy, separated and faithful ones', as Isaiah makes clear. If so it was a first reaching out to the idea of an afterlife. But here his concentration is really only on his own relationship with God.

But most true, of course, would it necessarily be of the greater David, Who as God's unique Holy One, the final David, would rule over his kingdom for ever, and could never be allowed to remain in the grave to suffer the tarnish of corruption. The thought that was true of the psalmist would be even more true of Him. His place and destiny was with His Father in the beauty and otherness of His holiness. Thus in having this glorious vision and speaking thus of himself, David spoke even more, although partly unaware of it, of the Holy One yet to come, his Greater Son. For within his dream were all his descendants who were faithful to YHWH. And his spiritual logic would apply even more specifically to this One.

Of course it was an idealistic picture. His flesh, if taken literally, would finally see corruption. But by 'flesh' David probably meant his whole self as a human being, himself as he was, (I as I am in my flesh), not just his body. It was he as 'the holy and faithful one' who could not suffer corruption.

That is why in Acts 2.25-36 Peter points out that if the words are taken literally these words are more true of Jesus than they could ever be of David, for David's body had suffered corruption, while that of Jesus had not. But that was to literalise what David spoke of in ecstasy, and to emphasise the flesh aspect. David knew that what was holy in him must survive, although he did not know how. But, says Peter, David spoke as a prophet, and here was an even greater and more literal fulfilment in the Seed of the house of David Who would be the everlasting king (Daniel 7.14; Ezekiel 37.25). For He was not just holy in soul, His very body was most holy. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit. He was the Holy One. And no part of Him could therefore see corruption, as David had indicated. Let all therefore recognise that Jesus is supremely both Lord and Anointed One par excellence with the power of an endless life (Acts 2.24-36).

Note on chasid. This is the adjective from the noun chesed which means 'covenant love'. In the Psalms almost without exception (over a hundred times) chesed signifies God's covenant love towards man, His compassion, lovingkindness and mercy revealed in the covenant relationship. Thus chasid might quite reasonably be seen as signifying 'one subject to YHWH's covenant love', a chosen one and precious. But such love is a love that demands response, a two-way relationship, and so it also signifies one who is faithful to and separated by the covenant, one who is devout and godly. No man can be a chasid who does not respond appropriately. The first meaning, however, predominates in the Psalms.

Note on David's Concept of 'Everlasting Life'.

There were already in Scripture a number of pointers to the possibility of 'everlasting life' to the special few. Adam had originally been intended to live for ever (Genesis 3.22). That was the privilege that was lost by sin. But it did make clear that it was possible, and Enoch had later walked with God and had thus escaped death (Genesis 5.24). He had been granted everlasting life. Thus it was clearly available on a rare basis to one especially holy who walked with God. And now God had set David apart and had promised to the seed of David that he would reign over an everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7.13). Thus God had planted the idea of everlastingness in David's heart, and had established with him an everlasting covenant (Isaiah 55.3). It was only a step from this to the realisation, when in a kind of spiritual ecstasy, that as God's 'holy one', especially anointed by Him, the grave could not retain him, and that he could somehow enjoy God's pleasures for evermore (compare Micah 5.2 where the future son of David comes from 'everlastingness'). The same idea would in Isaiah 26.19 expand into a concept of resurrection for all God's holy ones. But here David might well have limited it to himself and his heirs.

Psalm 17.

17.1a 'A Prayer of David.'

A further psalm from the Davidic psalms.

17.1b-2

'Hear, O YHWH, righteousness, attend to my cry,
Give ear to my prayer, which goes not out of deceitful lips.
Let my verdict come forth from your presence,
Let your eyes look on rightness (or 'your eyes look on what is right').'

The psalmist is under attack by the world and cries to YHWH to vindicate him. The verb indicates that his cry is strong and piercing. 'O YHWH, righteousness' might signify that it is God Who is his righteousness ('YHWH of righteousness'), or that he wants YHWH to judge righteously.

The scene is the heavenly court. He declares that he is speaking honestly and has nothing to hide. There is no deceit on his lips. He asks that he might be justified in the eyes of all men as YHWH passes judgment on his life and behaviour. Let YHWH Who knows all things hear his plea, and come to the right verdict, the right judgment, and make it known to the world (compare 37.6; Isaiah 42.1-4; contrast Habakkuk 1.4). Thus will His eyes look down on what is totally right.

17.3

'You have proved my heart, you have visited me in the night,
You have tried me, and find nothing,
I am determined that my mouth shall not transgress.'

'You have proved my heart.' That is, have tried it and tested it and found out the truth about it.

'You have visited me in the night.' The night is the time when men can be alone and the truth can come out. It is at night that a man's thoughts roam freely and people consider mischief (36.4). It is also possible that when seeking a solution in a case the judge would visit a man at night when, alone together in privacy, he may be able to discover the truth. Compare how Nicodemus came to Jesus by night in order to find the truth (John 3.1). But YHWH has visited him and tried him then and found nothing. Indeed he is determined that nothing that he says will suggest transgression against God's Law and against His requirements.

17.4-5

'As for the works of men, by the word of your lips,
I have kept myself from the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths,
My feet have not slipped.'

When he compares his behaviour with the behaviour of others he can justly claim that because he has heard YHWH's word from His lips (through His Law) he has kept himself from being an unjustly violent man, even though none might have had better excuse. For he was a trained fighting man, had a band of men at his call, and had been unjustly treated. Yet he has ensured that his steps held fast firmly to YHWH's paths, and his feet never slipped. What we suffer provides no excuse for how we behave.

17.6-7

'I have called on you, for you will answer me, O God,
Incline your ear to me, and hear my speech.
Show your marvellous covenant love,
O you who save by your right hand,
Those who take refuge in you,
From those who rise up.'

He calls on YHWH as the Deliverer, the One Who reveals His marvellous covenant love, Who saves by His powerful right hand, confident that He will answer him. He cries to Him to do so. The 'I' is emphatic. He has taken refuge in YHWH. Let YHWH deliver him from those who rise up against him, as for one who is true to the covenant.

17.8-9

'Keep me as the apple of the eye;
Hide me under the shadow of your wings,
From the unrighteous who oppress (spoil) me,
My deadly enemies, who encompass me about.'

The apple of the eye is the pupil. It represented the precious gift of sight. Thus it is above all things what a man guards, and it is protected by the eyelid. Thus the psalmist wants God to protect him as a man would protect his eyesight, indeed he wants him to be as an eyelid to him. The second illustration is that of the bird which takes its young under its wing for protection. Thus the psalmist claims dual protection.

The reason that he needs such protection is then given. The unrighteous, those who do not heed the voice of God, are oppressing him and seeking to despoil him. His deadly enemies are surrounding him, those who seek his death. They may have been internal enemies like Saul. They may have been external enemies. But the need is the same. The writer seeks protection from them all because he is YHWH's, because he is righteous and does observe YHWH's Law and YHWH's will.

Those whose trust is in God can look to God with confidence when unbelievers press in for He will be their eyelid to protect His precious eye, He will take them under His wings to protect His young.

17.10-11

'They are enclosed in their own fat (midriff?),
With their mouth they speak proudly.
They have now encompassed us in our steps,
They set their eyes to cast us down to the earth.'

It may be that he vividly picture his enemies as being entrapped in their own midriff. (Different parts of the body are often used to depict the whole person and as thus affecting behaviour). Thus they are unable to consider their ways or behave humanely. The fat blocks their ears. Or it may signify that in their current prosperity (possibly gained by toadying up to the psalmist's enemy) they are unable to hear the voice of God and behave righteously. Thus when they speak it is always with pride and arrogance. Either way they have now trapped the psalmist and his men, with their eyes showing their determination to cast them down to the earth.

17.12

'He is like a lion which is greedy for his prey,
And as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.'

The 'he' here is some individual who is like a hunting lion greedy for its prey, a prime young lion of the pack lurking in hiding ready to pounce. There is always a ringleader, one who is especially subtle and dangerous. Certainly David found himself in such a situation against Saul. But many of God's people experienced the same in those dangerous days. Our enemies may be less deadly but they can seem as equally dangerous. But God is able to deliver us from them all.

17.13-14

'Arise, O YHWH. Confront him, make him bow down,
Deliver my soul from the unrighteous by your sword,
From men by your hand, O YHWH,
From men of the world, whose portion is in this life,
And whose belly you fill with your treasure.
They are satisfied with children,
And leave the rest of their substance to their babes.'

'Arise, O YHWH. Confront him, make him bow down.' He calls on YHWH to awaken to the situation, and to face up to 'the lion', confront him and bring him down to the ground. Let him be rendered powerless. Let YHWH's sword deliver him from the unrighteous, those who contrary to God's will seek to bring him down. Let His hand save him from the men who come against him.

'From men of the world, whose portion is in this life, and whose belly you fill with your treasure. They are satisfied with children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.' He sums up the unrighteous. They are men taken up with the world (compare John 15.19; Philippians 3.19), men whose sole portion is in this life, (they have no portion in God - contrast 16.5), their only aim being to bear sons to perpetuate their name and to pass down what they have built up to their children. Thus they ignore God and His ways, their lives are meaningless and inward-looking, and their lives can be summed up in their children and so on ad infinitum. They live a purposeless existence.

And all this in spite of the fact that it is YHWH who supplies them with good things, fills their bellies with treasure, making His rain fall equally on the unrighteous (Matthew 5.45) in order to provide them with the treasures of the harvest.

Or 'bellies filled with His treasure' might refer to the children in the wombs of their wives, their wives' bellies being seen as their own.

The whole picture of the unrighteous is of meaninglessness of existence rather than of positive evil. They fail to do the good required by God's Law. They fail to love their neighbours as themselves. They fail to truly worship God. They fail in all that is most important.

17.15

'As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness,
I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with your form (likeness).'

In contrast to his enemies the psalmist beholds YHWH's face 'in righteousness'. This may mean that it is because God has accounted him as righteous in that he has responded to Him truly under the covenant, including the necessary making of atonement, or because he sees YHWH as the Righteous One. Either way he considers that to see the face of YHWH is better by far than all that the unrighteous can have.

'I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with your form.' When he wakes he will be satisfied if he but behold the 'form' of YHWH, as Moses had done before him (Exodus 33.17-23). What are the treasures of earth beside this? His only desire is to live for YHWH and enjoy His presence and see His face.

It is quite probable that we are to see in this his conscious hope of living on for ever in the presence of God (compare 16.9-11). The point is that the unrighteous live on in their children, and maintain their treasures by passing them on, while he lives on in beholding YHWH continually and his continuing treasure is found in YHWH. He needs no children or children's children in order to be fulfilled because he will find his continual fulfilment in God. And God is his eternal treasure. In his times of ecstasy at least he cannot conceive of being separated from God by anything, not even by death.

'When I awake.' Probably not from the sleep of death, for that is a much later concept, but from the sleep of half-realisation of YHWH to being awake to the full realisation. He is confident that one day he will see Him as He is (1 John 3.1-3). That is all that he desires.

Psalm 18.

Heading.

'For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David the servant of YHWH, who spoke to YHWH the words of this song in the day that YHWH delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. And he said,'

This Psalm, dedicated to the Choirmaster, and therefore now prepared for public worship, is a revision of 2 Samuel 22.1-51. It was a Psalm written in the first place in order to express David's gratitude to God for all his deliverances once he had reached the plateau of security as king and ruler over his wide dominions, and to begin with he had in mind especially his deliverance from the hand of Saul. All his trials and problems now seemed behind him, and he gave glory to YHWH.

And indeed in the future he would continue to be victorious, over all but himself. But like all men, although he was able to conquer his world, he was not able to conquer the sin within. And through that, great king though he was, he would continually learn the grace of God to a repentant sinner. In this he was different from the greater David who would one day come to be the Saviour of the world, for He would be the One 'Who knew no sin'. And this greater David is also in mind, for the blessing David is describing is not just for himself. It is for his seed for evermore (verse 50).

But his own failure is not the theme of the Psalm, the whole aim of which is to glorify YHWH for what He is to His own, and what He does for them. Everything is concentrated on that. Everything that has happened in his packed life is seen in that light. It is all about what YHWH has done and will continue to do.

His greatest delight was in the fact that he was 'the servant of YHWH', a mirror of the great Servant yet to come (Isaiah 42.1-4; 49.1-6; 52.13-53.12). It was this that gave meaning to his life. This above all is why his life was significant, because YHWH had chosen him and called him to serve Him. And he delighted in doing so. And this is his testimony. The title 'servant of YHWH' is a rare one in Scripture, used regularly of Moses, and twice of Joshua. It was a title of high honour.

And yet all of us may in our own way (or should we say in His way) be 'servants of YHWH'. The position is open to all who will respond.

For in the end this is not just a personal psalm. It may have been initially but it has become a part of the worship of God's people. Each one who is faithful to Him can apply its thought to himself. Each one can, as it were, step into David's skin and experience what he has experienced, and partake in God's blessings to the king.

David Expresses His Trust in YHWH (18.1-3).

18.1 'I love you, O YHWH, my strength.'

These words are added to the beginning of the original Psalm. They are not found in the parallel Psalm in 2 Samuel 22.2-51. They are a declaration of personal faith and dedication, especially suitable for expressing worship. In them both the worshipper's genuine love for YHWH, and his personal dependence on His strength are both stressed. Love towards God and trust in His provided strength are the basis of all spiritual life. Blessed is the man who can truly say to God, 'I love you' (Deuteronomy 6.5-6) and can also say, 'YHWH is my strength', the One Who makes him strong.

18.2-3

'YHWH is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I will take refuge,
My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower.

I will call on YHWH, who is worthy to be praised,
So shall I be saved from my enemies.'

David now multiplies metaphors in order to bring out the wonder of what it means to trust in the Almighty God, and the people enter into the experience with him. He twice describes God as a rock, the first time as a strong and firm foundation, the second as a useful hiding place. The idea is firstly of a rock which is firmly a part of the mountain of which it is the expression, firm, solid, dependable, unbreakable and sure. He had cause to know. He had spent much time in the mountains, and knew the strength of those solid rocks in the face of adversity. But he saw God as the great Rock, stronger and more dependable than all.

God was also his fortress, the place where he could go to find refuge so that he could look out on his enemy without fear. Once he was in his fortress he could laugh in the face of the enemy. And He was also his Deliverer, his Saviour. For God not only protects, He also delivers those who are His own.

The second mention of the rock has the idea of it as a place of refuge. It is still firm and strong, but it is a place where the fugitive may hide in its crevices, kept safe from those who would hunt him down.

The fact that the Psalm was introduced into public worship is an indication that we can each take these promises to ourselves. We too can depend on the Rock, take refuge in the Fortress and respond to and rejoice in the Saviour.

'My God (El), my rock, in whom I will take refuge.' Above all YHWH is his God, the ever-reliable, the ever-dependable, the impregnable, the One in Whom is the place of total safety. Nothing can harm us when we are hidden in God, for when we are with Him all that would affect us must come through Him. It may seem fearful, but it is under His control, and can only enter with His permission.

'My shield, and the horn of my salvation.' A shield is in a sense a personal fortress which we can carry around with us. It protects from all attacks, both by arrow, sword or spear, indeed from all assaults of the enemy (Ephesians 6.16). And a horn is the expression of personal strength which we bear, as it were, on our foreheads (as the wild ox does) and with which we can defend and deliver ourselves. It may well be that warriors wore horns on their headgear as an expression of their ferocity. But here our horn is God Himself. Nothing can stand before Him. Thus deliverance is sure. The promise is to each individual as well as to all. We will each be delivered because YHWH shields us and gives us saving strength, and acts as our horn with which to defeat the enemy. For the idea of the horn compare among other references 28.7-8; Deuteronomy 33.17; Luke 1.69.

'My high tower.' And finally we reach the ultimate in security, 'the high tower'. That mighty fortress which men built for maximum security, made even more secure by the fact that this particular high tower is God Himself. No vulnerability here.

'I will call on YHWH, who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies.' Thus David knows that he can call on this mighty Rock, this Fortress, this Deliverer, this Shield and Horn, this High Tower, the One Who is worthy of all praise, and will then in one way or another be saved from all his enemies. And all who sing the psalm with him know it too.

Troubles and Death Had Pressed In On Him (18.4- 6).

18.4-6

'The cords of death encompassed me,
And the floods of ungodliness (literally 'worthlessness' - belial) made me afraid.
The cords of Sheol were round about me,
The snares of death came on me,
In my distress I called on YHWH,
And cried to my God.
He heard my voice out of his temple,
And my cry before him came to his ears.'

David now describes the sore situation in which he had found himself time and again, especially when he had been hunted by Saul. The general nature of the description enables us to apply it to all difficult situations in which the people of God find themselves. All but the most fortunate at some time find themselves in this kind of situation, when life seems to be pressing in on them and there seems to be no solution.

'The cords of death encompassed me, and the floods of ungodliness (literally 'worthlessness') made me afraid.' David had felt the cords of death closing around him. It happened again and again in his attempts to avoid the vengeful Saul, and then also with the Philistines. He had regularly been at the point of death, only to escape with his life, and he had been continually aware that the cords of death could entangle him at any moment. He had lived in the constant shadow of death.

'The 'cords of death' (see also 116.3) may have reference to the ropes that bound a man who was destined for execution (compare Judges 15.13-14), the ropes which Saul planned for David, a prospect that entered David's mind whenever Saul's searchers came into sight, or they may signify the ropes used to hem in wild animals in preparation for the kill, ropes by which David constantly felt himself hemmed in. In both cases they were arbiters of doom.

And the floods of destruction or of moral wickedness too had almost overwhelmed him and had made him afraid. The word belial (worthlessness) may indicate physical destruction or moral wickedness. That Saul's behaviour had been particularly evil supports the second interpretation. It was not only his actions but the sense of the evil behind them that had shaken David to the core. In 2 Samuel 22 it is 'the waves/breakers of death' rather than 'the cords of death', which better parallels the next phrase. However the alteration to 'cords' connects more closely with the next verse and the whole thought.

'The cords of Sheol were round about me, the snares of death came on me.' He had felt continually trapped and ensnared. The cords of the grave had reached out to him, the snares of death had seemed about to close on him. The whole description is vivid, the picture of a man fighting for his very existence, with death a hairsbreadth away.

'In my distress I called on YHWH, and cried to my God. He heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry before him came to his ears.' In his distress David cried to God. The significance of the tense is of repeated prayer. He was to succeed by steady, confident praying. And from His heavenly Temple God heard his cry (compare 11.4; Isaiah 6.1; 29.6; 63.15; Micah 1.2; Habakkuk 2.20). God's ears were not deaf to his need. Though the answer was not instantaneous, David was confident that it would come. He knew that God had heard him and so it would have to come. We are always so impatient, thinking that God should act at once, but God's purposes must move through to fruition in their own way. We are not the best arbiters of what is right for the world. It was during this period that he formed and trained the band of men, 'his men', who would prove his mainstay into the future. What we learn and achieve in these periods is regularly the mainstay of our futures. David could never have become what he did had he not gone through these experiences.

And all who sang the psalm knew something of these experiences. For all face the vicissitudes of life. And each could testify to his own personal experiences and rejoice in the certainty of God's continual deliverance.

God Had Intervened On His Behalf (18.7-19).

David's description of God's intervention portrays the situation from Heaven's point of view. Little was necessarily seen on earth, but David was aware of the mightiness of God active on his behalf in powerful ways. He looked back to the experiences of his forebears, and remembered how God had revealed Himself then, and is confident that He will do so again (Exodus 19.16-18; Judges 5.4-5. Compare also 68.7-8; 77.16-18; Isaiah 29.6; 30.27-30; 64.1-3; Habakkuk 3.3-6). He thinks of it in terms of a great and vivid storm and possibly a thundering earthquake, as YHWH's power unfolds, but YHWH Himself is also seen as essentially there and active. He was thinking of the most powerful forces he knew with which to depict the powerful activity of God.

And through his times of tribulation he was confident that God was acting, and that unseen heavenly forces were intervening in his behalf. That was why he knew he could not fail. In the quietness of our lives we too can be sure that God is active in the same way. Thus we must trust Him and not be afraid.

18.7-8

'Then the earth shook and trembled,
The foundations also of the mountains quaked,
And were shaken, because he was angry.
There went up a smoke from his nostrils,
And fire from his mouth devoured,
Coals were kindled by it.'

The fierceness of God's anger over the treatment of His anointed is expressed in terms of the quaking earth and the mountains shaking to their very bases, in the thick, swirling clouds that sometimes come down to cover the earth and the fire and smoke resulting from bolts of lightning which start fierce fires on it, and the lightning that strikes the very ground. It is intended to be an awe-inspiring scene. As Saul sought to track down David and kill him he was oblivious to this. He was unaware of the vengeance he was bringing down on himself. To him the heavens seemed silent. God was pushed from his mind. What he overlooked was that the mills of God were grinding, and that though they ground slowly, they ground exceeding small, and with great power.

And the people of God knew that when they went through deep trials they too could know that, that while often nothing may seem to be happening, God had not forgotten them. Around them, though they cannot see it, are His thunders and His lightning as He reveals His anger against sin in the world. And God is ever building up to the final showdown when His people will finally triumph.

For the smoke compare verse 15; 74.1; 80.4. The smoke from the nostrils may be intended to indicate the smoking breath of a wild animal, angry, steaming and intent on its adversary. Fire regularly indicates God's anger (97.3; Exodus 15.7; Deuteronomy 32.22; Hebrews 12.29).

18.9-10

'He bowed the heavens also, and came down,
And thick darkness was under his feet,
And he rode on a cherub, and flew ('swooped'),
Yes, he soared on the wings of the wind.'

God was in the midst of the invisible storm. The heavens bowed under His presence, as He descended to earth. Thick darkness was under His feet (Exodus 19.16; 20.21; 1 Kings 8.12; Psalm 97.2). All was power and awe and mystery, for the world was not to be allowed to see Him. God works in His own mysterious ways. He is not to be fathomed by man. When God 'comes down' that is the indication that He is about to act (Genesis 11.7; 18.21; Exodus 3.8; Isaiah 64.1).

'And he rode on a cherub, and flew. Yes, he soared on the wings of the wind.' When God came it was on His transportable throne, borne by 'a cherub', probably a composite singular indicating all the heavenly escorts, the guardian cherubim that bear His throne (see Ezekiel 10 and compare Ezekiel 1). These heavenly beings were symbolised by a powerful wind, bearing YHWH along in majesty.

'And flew.' The word suggests the swooping of a bird of prey (Deuteronomy 28.49; Jeremiah 48.40; 49.22). The picture is vivid. It is as though God swooped down like the great eagle and then soared up again on the wings of the wind (Psalm 104.3-4) having taken the prey. Victory was certain and would be His.

18.11-12

'He made darkness his hiding-place, his pavilion round about him,
Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
At the brightness before him his thick clouds produced,
Hailstones and coals of fire.'

Again the emphasis is on darkness, the darkness of hiddenness, of mysterious working. Darkness and thick clouds were His hiding place and His enveloping tent, His protection and His cover. Man cannot see God and live. But before Him within the cloud and darkness was the brightness of His majesty, which pierced the cloud cover and produced hailstones and thunderbolts, the missiles of God. God's glory could not be fully hidden. His glory shone through and He smote as He would.

18.13-14

'YHWH also thundered in the heavens,
And the Most High uttered his voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them,
Yes, manifold lightnings, and discomfited them.

But having completed His first sally His activity went on. He thundered in the heavens, and 'spoke' as the Most High, accompanied again by hailstones and thunderbolts. And He sent out His lightnings like arrows, scattering His enemies, indeed so many were His lightnings that they were discomfited. For it was the time for deliverance.

18.15

'Then the channels of waters appeared,
And the foundations of the world were laid bare,
At your rebuke, O YHWH,
At the blast of the breath of your nostrils.'

The scene is now pictured as like a great all prevailing flood of adversaries in which David is almost overwhelmed, a flood portraying the men of Saul, the armies of the Philistines, the other enemies round about, but when YHWH rebuked them and blew on them in His anger, channels appeared in the waters, and dry land appeared to ensure David's safety. No flood could stand before the Almighty.

Here David had perhaps in memory the deliverance of Israel at the Sea of Reeds, in poetic form, when the mighty flood had swept back and made a way through for God's people, only for it then to swamp the enemy (78.13-14; 106.9; Exodus 15.8; Nahum 1.4, compare Psalm 104.5-7).

18.16-19

'He sent from on high, he took me,
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me,
For they were too mighty for me.
They came upon me in the day of my calamity,
But YHWH was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a large place,
He delivered me, because he delighted in me.'

He may well have had in mind here some particular incident when the rains had come suddenly, turning a quiet valley into a raging torrent before his eyes, catching men up in its irresistible stream and from which they had struggled to escape (compare Judges 5.5, 20-21). He may himself have had an amazing escape from such. And he sees it as having been repeated in his deliverance from his foes.

So David had been delivered from enemies who at the time had seemed all-powerful. God had sent from on high and had drawn him from the midst of the many waters that would have overwhelmed him, delivering him from his strong enemy, and from all who hated him. All his foes had in the end been swept aside by YHWH.

He admits that at the time they had appeared too mighty for him, for they had come on him when he was weak and ill-prepared as a result of his flight. But he had found that YHWH was there. He had been his stay. And He brought him out into a large place, and delivered him, because He delighted in him. Things always look worse at the time than when we look back on them, having been delivered.

He was brought into 'a large place'. No longer hemmed in and crowded, caught within narrow bounds, but free and triumphant, with the world at his feet, and space to move. So through YHWH's power victory would eventually come out of seeming defeat, and triumph out of seeming disaster. Leaving those craggy mountains that had been his home for so long, and the dry dustbowl of the wildernesses where he had taken refuge, he would ascend the throne in glory and expand his kingdom from the River Euphrates in the north down to the Wadi of Egypt in the south. Everything would be transformed.

So all who sang the psalm were declaring that for all who trust in God there is a large place waiting for them if only they will persevere, as it had waited for David. Darkness may come first, they were declaring, but the morning will always follow.

David's Gives The Explanation For His Triumph (18.20-24).

David's explanation for YHWH's intervention on his behalf is simple. His attitude had been right towards God. He had been faithful to YHWH and His covenant. He had walked in YHWH's ways and had sought to please Him, not in order to earn His favour, but because he looked to YHWH as his life, and was ready to do His will, and maintained his life in cleanliness through the God provided means. It is only if we walk rightly as David sought to do that we can have the same confidence towards God that he had.

This was not boasting. It was indicative of a quiet confidence in God. He knew where his heart lay. There may be times when we are perplexed and overburdened by sin, but the man of God knows whether his heart is set right to seek to please God. He may sometimes regrettably fail, but he knows the intentions of his own heart. He loves God and wants to please Him.

18.20-24

'YHWH has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands has he recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of YHWH,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.'
For all his ordinances were before me,
And I put not away his statutes from me.
I was also perfect with him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.
Therefore has YHWH recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.'

His words are not boasting, but a solid declaration of trust and faith. He had been YHWH's man from the beginning, brought up to faith by a godly father, and he had lived out that faith in uprightness and truth. Now he is receiving his reward. This central theme is vital to his whole message. It is only those who would be righteous who can depend on God's deliverance. In verse 50 the Psalm is applied to all Davidic kings who will follow him. But the indication is that if they are to enjoy the blessings, they too must be righteous like David. And when the greater David came, He would triumph because He was wholly righteous.

'YHWH has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands has he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of YHWH, and have not wickedly departed from my God.' David has no doubt in his heart that he has always sought to please God, because he loves Him. There may have been the momentary failure, but such was an aberration, and he sought forgiveness then with strong crying and tears. And it was because of such a life, lived out in honesty and right living, that he was certain that YHWH would reward and recompense him as a forgiven and repentant sinner. God is always good to His own if their hearts are right, weak and failing though they may sometimes be.

He was not saying that he had never sinned. Indeed he had good cause to know that he had. But when he had sinned he would come to God in repentant faith, and offer the appropriate sacrifices, and make the appropriate cleansing. Thus was he kept righteous and clean before Him. He did not linger with sin. He dealt with it straight away. 'If we walk in the light as He is in the light --- the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin' (1 John 1.7).

'And have not wickedly departed from my God.' Note the 'my God'. David's personal faith shines through. He had 'kept the ways of YHWH'. To have departed from Him would to David have been the utmost wickedness. That was the final evidence of his character.

'For all his ordinances were before me, and I put not away his statutes from me. I was also perfect with him, and I kept myself from my iniquity.' David had loved God's Instruction (Torah, Law). He had kept His ordinances before his eyes, he had clung to His statutes, not putting them from him, he had studied His word, he had meditated on His Instruction (Torah) day and night (1.2). And he had sought to live out all His teachings fully and do what was right, and keep from all that would displease God. And we must remember that this was God's testimony of him too, that his heart was right before Him (1 Samuel 16.7). By 'perfect' he does not mean literally so, but wholehearted and true.

'Therefore YHWH recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.' So, confident that his heart had been right towards God, he repeats boldly what he had said in verse 20. YHWH rewarded and recompensed him because he walked rightly before Him, kept his hands clean from sin, and kept himself spiritually clean in His eyes, utilising the means that God had provided. He had not been perfect, but he had been true.

How important it was that the singers recognise this. Their hope too must lie in the fact of their righteous response to God. They too must recognise that God required them to be wholly righteous. It was only then that they could share David's experiences of blessing.

He Declares That What A Man Sows He Will Reap (18.25-27).

David was confident that righteousness must triumph simply because of what God is. Like him we too can know that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

18.25-26

'With the merciful you will show yourself merciful,
With the irreproachable man you will show yourself irreproachable,
With the pure you will show yourself pure,
And with the wayward you will show yourself perverse.'

He looks to God and declares that in the end He will respond to what men are. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God sees the heart. All men essentially choose the way in which they will walk, they choose their attitudes and what they set their hearts on. They choose whether they will seek God and serve Him, or whether they will be perverse and wayward. And God sees and responds to what they are.

This is the picture of the ideal. David is not claiming to be sinless. He knows he has at times fallen short. But he is expecting God to be merciful to him, as he seeks to be merciful to others, to behave irreproachably towards him as he seeks to live an irreproachable life, to behave with purity towards him as he strives to keep himself pure. All this is apparent also from his other psalms. He knew as most of us do the periods of darkness and doubt, of self reproach, and deep conviction of sin. But he also knew what it was to rise above it and set his heart on God. And he knew that a true walk with God involved mercy, and irreproachability, and purity, made possible by God's grace, and that to such God would respond.

This is, of course, looking from the manward side. Men are revealed by how they behave. By their fruits they will be known. If a man walks with God his life will reveal it.

And the contrary side is that 'with the wayward you will show yourself perverse'. Not for David the idea that God will overlook sin in all. Those who are wayward in respect of God's ways must expect God to behave waywardly with them (Leviticus 26.23-24; Isaiah 29.9-12; Proverbs 3.34).

18.27

'For you will save the afflicted people,
But the haughty eyes you will bring down.'

But he did not doubt that these hopes required the grace and power of God exercised on his behalf. It is God Who will save the afflicted people, and will bring down the haughty. In the end all is of God. The afflicted people are the humble and needy, those whom the world treats badly, those who face the struggles of life, and are aware of their need, and who in their need seek God. And David knows that God will step in to deliver such, and he sees himself as one of them. He puts on no great airs. He is humble before God. Without Him he knows that there is no hope. But the haughty, those who are self-seeking and seek to put God in His place, will discover that in the end they are brought down. For God is over all.

Indeed It Is Through God That We Will Triumph (18.28-29).

18.28-29

'For you will light my lamp,
YHWH my God will lighten my darkness.
For by you I run on a troop,
And by my God do I leap over a wall.

Here is the Godward side. David is confident that it is God Who will deliver him. Note that his reliance is all on God. It is He Who will light his lamp, showing him the way in the darkness and giving him guidance as to how he should walk, and illumination as he seeks God. What seemed at the time dark around him would be illuminated by God. 'God is light' said John (1 John 1.5), 'and in Him is no darkness at all'. And David had found it true in experience. It was because God had shone within him, and would continue to shine within him, that he had hope. What he was, was because God had shone within him. Note the change from 'you' to 'YHWH my God'. As he speaks man to God with God he is suddenly filled with awe to think Who it is he is speaking to. It is not just anyone, but YHWH, Who will lighten his darkness.

There may be here the thought of the lamp in the Tabernacle which was lit daily in the evening (Exodus 30.8) to represent God as a light to His people. As each day began the lamp was lit, the lamp that illuminated Israel. God's illumination was continually with them, repeatedly renewed, and he shone out for them. So was David confident that He would light his lamp daily too.

'For by you I run on a troop, and by my God do I leap over a wall.' The twofold thought here is of success in warfare. He had not chosen warfare but it had been forced on him. And he knew that his success had been of YHWH. To run on a troop is to chase, attack and defeat them, as he did the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30), to leap over a wall describes his taking of cities like the Jebusite city of Jerusalem. The walls were no hindrance to him. He, as it were, simply leapt over them. And it was because YHWH was with him. He gave all the glory for his success to God.

And it will ever be thus. The singers were confident, as they entered into David's experience, and we too may be sure, that whatever foe we face, whatever obstacle lies before us in the spiritual realm we also can 'run on' them or 'leap over' them by the power and sustenance of God.

David Gives A Summary of What God Is And Of All God's Blessings to Him (18.30-36).

18.30

'As for God, his way is perfect,
The word of YHWH is tried (tested and proved true),
He is a shield to all those who take refuge in him.'

David knows that God's way is perfect. Thus to walk in that way is to walk the perfect road. He desired no other. For he knew that God's word had been tried and tested and had never failed. Each of us similarly can enjoy the perfection of God's way, and enjoy the security and blessing that comes from it. And in that way we too enjoy the security of His word. God has spoken and will fulfil it, as many have continually proved. His word, what He has said, has been tried and tested, and has always proved sure.

Similarly God's word is perfect however it expresses itself. His Instruction (Law) is perfect, restoring the soul (19.7), as is His work, for He does the right and is faithful and just (Deuteronomy 32.4). Those who follow Him have the perfect workmaster and guide, know that His word is true, and are secure in His trustworthy and tested promises.

And what is more, in that way we are protected by God as our shield. Those who look to Him and rely on Him, will find in Him the perfect protection. The arrows of misfortune and evil may pour down on us, but the shield of YHWH will prove all sufficient for those who are hid with Christ in God.

18.31-32

'For who is God, save YHWH?
And who is a rock, besides our God,
The God who girds me with strength,
And makes my way perfect?'

For there is none like Him. It is only YHWH Who is the true God. And no rock, no place of safety, stability and security can be like Him, for He is firm and strong and totally dependable. And David knew that this God also girded him with strength, renewing him on the way, and made the way before him perfect with His own perfection, as He will to all who trust in Him.

He knew it was the perfect way because it was God's way. It will have every unnecessary obstacle removed, leading surely in the course of a man's destiny. For God knows the way that we take (Job 23.10). Sometimes it may appear hard and difficult, as David had himself known, but it is the way by which He perfects His own so that He may bring them through triumphantly, so that they are made holy and without blemish.

18.33-34

'He makes my feet like hinds' feet,
And sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

David had proved it. God had brought him through the difficult days, and now he was strong. It had begun with a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17.34). Then it had been Saul and the Philistines. And now he was sure of foot, like the hind on the mountainside, swift and sure footed, skipping from slippery gradient to slippery gradient, with never a falter, and thus, like the hind, standing on high places, from where he can look down in triumph. For the one who serves God truly will always find himself on the high places, above the mundaneness of the world.

Thus David was made skilled and given strength in war and able to bend that ultimate test of a man's strength, a bow of bronze (Job 20.24 lets us know how powerful such a bow was). Israel's antagonists, who had always been a thorn in their side, had to submit to his power. Their foes had been put under his feet. God had made him what he was, and would continue to maintain him in that place, so that Israel might prosper. And his dependence was still all on YHWH. To David God was all, both in times of distress and in times of triumph and vigour.

When we are going through the time of trial it behoves us to look ahead to what will be. And when we have achieved it, it behoves us to remember Who has done it, and Who maintains us there.

18.35-36

'You have also given me the shield of your salvation,
And your right hand has held me up,
And your gentleness has made me great.
You have enlarged my steps under me,
And my feet have not slipped.'

He is conscious that God has done all for him. God's deliverance has been his shield, the guarantee of his protection and of his ability to deal with the missiles of the enemy. God's strong right hand has held him up so that he did not fail. God's 'gentleness' has made him great.

'And your gentleness has made me great.' The word for 'gentleness' means lowliness, meekness, a humbling of Himself. See for this Psalm 113.6. 'Who is like to YHWH our God, Who has His seat on high, Who humbles Himself to behold what is in heaven and in the earth?' The idea is that God is so great on His throne that He has to humble Himself to have dealings with the heavens and the earth, and especially with men and women. He Who is in the high and holy place condescends to stoop to those who are of a contrite spirit (Isaiah 57.15). And David is aware that the Almighty has stooped to make him great.

It must ever be the wonder of our hearts that the Almighty God Himself has taken the trouble to reach down to us and save us. And it should be especially so to us as we face the fact that in doing so He gave us His Son to die for us.

'You have enlarged my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped.' He has enabled David to stride forward with confidence, without stumbling. Nothing has stood in his way. Every step has been a giant one, and yet he remains firmly grounded. His way has been sure.

And the singers participated in his triumphs. How grateful we too should be that God has humbled Himself and stooped towards us, calling us by name and making us His own. With this knowledge we too can go forward in confidence, making great strides with God and yet remaining sure-footed.

He Declares That YHWH Has Given Him Victory Over All His Enemies (18.37-42).

We should note as we consider this cry of triumph that this is not describing peaceful nations who are being subjugated by a tyrant, but nations who 'rose up against me'. David's world was a violent place, with neighbouring nations always on the lookout for weaknesses in their fellow nations so that they could take advantage of it. And Israel had in general been the whipping boy, as a glance at the Book of Judges will reveal. Aram, Canaanites, Edom, Moab, Amalek, Midian, Arabians, Philistines, all had had their bite of the pie. Each in turn had, it is true, been defeated, but undoubtedly only to return again at any sign of weakness, and constantly attacking the peripheries. But now God has raised up His champion to deliver Israel, and make her safe, and this champion acknowledges that he does so by the help of YHWH.

18.37-38

'I will pursue my enemies, and overtake them,
Nor will I turn again until they are consumed.
I will smite them through, so that they will not be able to rise,
They will fall under my feet.'

With YHWH's help he is confident of victory. His enemies will not be able to escape, he will pursue and overtake them and not withdraw until he has utterly defeated them. Then, and then only, can Israel feel permanently secure. He will smite them through so that they cannot recover. They will be subjected to him.

Note that the emphasis is on his victory with the help of YHWH. It is the latter which is his prime concern here. He succeeds because God is with him.

18.39-40

'For you have girded me with strength for the battle,
You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me,
That I might cut off those who hate me.'

It is God Who has girded him with strength for the battle. It is God Who subdues his enemies. It is God Who makes them turn and flee, turning their backs on him and thus enabling David to deal with those who hate him. And they have demonstrated their hate by their invasions. But now they have learned that YHWH is with him. They will be cut off and invade no more.

And it was the singers' hope that God would do this for them too. We too can hope like this. Unlike David our battles may rather be spiritual ones and not physical but we too can have David's confidence. No weapon that is formed against us can prosper, even though it seem to do so for a time as it did with David. But in the end God will subdue our enemies too, and we will triumph.

18.41-42

'They cried, but there was none to save,
Even to YHWH, but he answered them not.
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind,
I cast them out as the mire of the streets.'

These people were so harried that they cried to their gods, and when those failed they got so desperate that they cried to YHWH. This is sarcastic. They saw how powerful YHWH was on his behalf and they hoped that they could steal his God and undermine him. (compare 2 Kings 18.25). But it was a vain hope. They were not the faithful of YHWH. He could not be manipulated. He acts for those who are true to Him.

The result was overwhelming victory. His enemies were like beaten dust, blown by the wind (compare 2 Kings 13.7), they were like rubbish tossed into the streets, turning to mire. They were as nothing before YHWH.

David Describes His Widespread Victories Which Are All Due To God (18.43-45).

18.43-45

'You have delivered me from the strivings of the people,
You have made me the head of the nations,
A people whom I have not known will serve me.
As soon as they hear of me they will obey me,
The foreigners will submit themselves to me.'
The foreigners will fade away,
And will come trembling out of their close places.'

First he was delivered from civil war in Israel and from the strivings of his own people against him, and then from the strivings of those further afield (2 Samuel 22 has 'from the strivings of my people', but this widens the idea). But then the ultimate is reached. His throne has been established, he has defeated Israel's constant enemies, and now his hand reaches wider and he subdues the ever threatening larger neighbours. He has been made the head of the nations, and the people no longer strive to overcome Israel and David (2 Samuel 8.1-14). Indeed he has become so great that his name has become known to those who had not previously been aware of him. They had not known him, but now they will know him, for they will serve him. As soon as they learn of his name they will submit. The word contains the idea of unwilling submission (compare 66.3). They dare not dispute with him. He has reached the zenith of his power.

'The foreigners will submit themselves to me. The foreigners will fade away, and will come trembling out of their close places.' The foreigners are those who were not neighbours. They too will submit. All their courage will fade away, and they will come submissively and tremblingly out of their walled cities and from their previously closed gates, the places which should have kept them close and safe, for they will recognise that there is no point in resistance. Those who would once have mocked at him now fear his name. Such is what God does for His own. Thus was David's kingdom widely established. Out of unlikely beginnings God can do great things for those who trust Him.

Even when Israel and Judah reached their darkest hours they sang of this as their hope for the future. They were certain that one day God would again work for their deliverance. One day a greater David would arise to bring it all to fruition.

David Closes The Psalm By Rejoicing in the God Who Has Done So Much For Him And will Continue To Do For His Descendants (18.46-50).

David finishes the Psalm with a paean of praise to YHWH.

18.46-47

'YHWH lives, and blessed be my rock,
And exalted be the God of my salvation,
Even the God who executes vengeance for me,
And subdues peoples under me.'

David reiterates the essence of what he has previously declared. Firstly that Yahweh is the living God, the One Who is. 'YHWH lives'. Thus all is well for His own. Then he blesses Him that He is to him a Rock, a firm and sure foundation, and exalts Him that He is a Delivering God, a Saviour. Surety and deliverance is the essence of what He is for those who are His.

Thus He executes vengeance for His own against those who have misused him, and subdues all peoples under him. This is not a vindictive statement. It is rather a cry of gratitude and wonder. He had known what it was to be trodden down and in fear of his life. And now the tables have been turned. God has taken vengeance on those who did it, and it is he who subdues people. And what is true for David is true for all His own. God will finally triumph on behalf of all His people.

18.48

'He rescues me from my enemies,
Yes, you lift me up above those who rise up against me,
You deliver me from the violent man.'

And God is the One Who continually rescues him from his enemies. They have been many, but God has delivered him from them all. The thought overwhelms him and he begins speaking directly to God. 'Yes, you are the One Who lifts me up above those who rise up against me. It is You Who delivers me from the violent man.' It is YHWH Who is his personal Deliverer.

18.49

'Therefore I will give thanks unto you, O YHWH, among the nations,
And will sing praises to your name.'

And because of this he will continually give thanks to YHWH among all the nations, and give universal praise to His name, that all may see his gratitude and honour the One Who has been so good to him. And because of this the people continued to have hope.

18.50

'Great deliverance gives he to his king,
And shows covenant love to his anointed,
To David and to his seed, for evermore.'

The ultimate in the Psalm has been reached. God has given great deliverance to His king, the one whom He has chosen to rule the nations, the one whom He has anointed, setting him aside for Himself, the one with whom He has dealings through the covenant, and He will continue to do so. In this is Israel's confidence.

And this delivering goodness of God is not only for David but also for his seed after him for evermore. His house is to enjoy an everlasting rule. Here is seen the confirmation of God's promise in 2 Samuel 7.12-16. In the short term the assumption is, 'while they are faithful'. But the triumph of God in David is not just a passing thing of history, not something that is left to man's initiative, it carries within it the seeds of God's permanent blessing for the whole world, for all who will be His people. Davidic kings may fail temporarily in the future, but in the end God will prevail and a Davidic king will arise Who will be true, triumphant and the source of all God's blessing. This was the hope of the future.

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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 1-17--- ECCLESIASTES --- ISAIAH 1-5 --- 6-12 --- 13-23 --- 24-27 --- 28-35 --- 36-39 --- 40-48 --- 49-55--- 56-66--- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 ---

NAHUM--- HABAKKUK---ZEPHANIAH ---ZECHARIAH --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- 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 --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- REVELATION

--- THE GOSPELS & ACTS 1