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--- THE GOSPELS & ACTS

The Book of Psalms (The Psalter) - 27-30 (5).

A Commentary by Dr Peter Pett BA BD Hons London DD

Note: Throughout this commentary God's Name is represented as YHWH in accordance with the Hebrew text. LXX represented it as kurios ('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 27.

This Psalm to some extent follows the pattern of Psalm 25. There also a prayer of confidence and certainty (25.3-15), was followed by an urgent plea for help (25.16-21). It is often thus with the people of God in the place of prayer. As their eyes are turned upwards towards God and His ways, confidence overflows, and nothing can distress them. They can move mountains. All is serene. And then the eyes turn on the problems around and at that point entreaty becomes urgent, and even desperate, as the pressing needs are considered and 'earthly reality' takes over. It was thus with the Psalmist. The change of emphasis is underlined, not only by the words, but also by the change in poetic structure. The smooth rendition in the first half (verses 1-6) suddenly becomes rough in the second half. For while he is confident in God, he is deeply aware of the parlousness of his position as one cast off even by his family, and it is tearing his heart apart..

The explanation for why the compiler positioned this Psalm after Psalm 26 can be found if we compare verse 7 with Psalm 26.11, and verse 11 with Psalm 26.12. There are similarities of thought.

Heading.

27.1a A Psalm of David.

27.1b

'YHWH is my light and my salvation,
Whom shall I fear?
YHWH is the strength of my life,
Of whom shall I be afraid?

The Psalm opens with a declaration of the Psalmists confidence in God, and his recognition of His attributes. He has taken his mind off his own troubles as he considers the wonder of God's love and faithfulness. Note the tripod on which his life is built, God is his light, God is his salvation, God is the strength of his life.

'YHWH is my light.' The Psalmist may have had in mind here the seven-branched lampstand in the Tabernacle/Temple which continually burned (see verse 4), and which pictured the glory of YHWH that Israel believed was hidden behind the veil. It was a perpetual reminder of the glory of God which was revealed in the pillar of fire that had led His people out of Egypt, and of the further glory of YHWH which had been revealed on Mount Sinai. Compare here 78.14, 'In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.' Thus he saw himself as being led forward by the glory of YHWH. This idea of glory ties in with Isaiah 60.1, 'arise, shine, for your light is come, and the glory of YHWH is risen upon you.'

Furthermore it was from His light that His people obtained guidance, assurance and truth. 'The entrance of Your words gives light, it gives understanding to the simple' (119.130). 'Your word is a lamp to my way, and a light to my path' (119.105). 'He lightens the lampstand of His people and lightens their darkness' (18.28). 'They look to Him and are lightened, and their faces are thus not ashamed' (34.5). 'For with you is the fountain of life, in your light shall we see light' (36.9). 'Oh send out your light and your truth, let them lead me' (43.3).

He is also elsewhere compared by David with the glorious light of the noonday sun. 'He will be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, a morning without clouds' (2 Samuel 23.4). But to him YHWH outshines the sun, and His light reflects on His people, making them righteous too. 'He will make your righteousness go forth as the light, and your just dealings as the noonday' (37.6). That is why Jesus could say, 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in Heaven' (Matthew 5.16).

And we need not doubt that it includes the thought of the light of YHWH's favour. The Psalmists regularly speak of 'the light of His countenance' as shining on His people (4.6; 44.3; 89.15; 90.8; compare Proverbs 16.15).

For us the light shines even more clearly. Not the dim light of the Tabernacle lampstand, but the glorious light of Him Who is 'the light of the world' Who gives the light of life to His own (John 8.12; 12.35-36, 46; 1.4, 9). 'The Word was made flesh and dwelt among and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth' (John 1.14) 'I am come a light into the world, so that whoever believes in me may not continue on in darkness' (John 12.46), 'but will have the light of life' (John 8.12).

'YHWH is my salvation.' What picture could be more comprehensive? He is the God of the deliverance from Egypt at the Red Sea (15.2). He saves him by forgiving his sins (25.7, 11). He saves him by delivering him from his enemies (verse 2). He saves him by bringing him through everything that he has to face triumphantly. This indeed is what the name of Jesus means, 'YHWH is salvation', because He saves His people from their sins (Matthew 1.21).

'Whom shall I fear?' And with such certainty who can be afraid? If my life is hid with Christ in God I need fear nothing but sin, for although sometimes the future may seem dark, He will make all right in the end. None can stand against Him.

'YHWH is the strength of my life.' This underlines the significance of God's light and salvation. The certainty of God's presence with him provides him with an inner strength that nothing can resist. The 'stronger than he' is here and Satan and all his enemies will be vanquished (compare Luke 11.22). David was well acquainted with Satan (1 Chronicles 21.1). Furthermore YHWH is like a fortress round about him protecting him from all assaults of the enemy (18.2; 31.2, 3).

'Of whom shall I be afraid?' He knows that having YHWH with him he need fear nothing and no one.

27.2

When evil-doers came upon me,
To eat up my flesh,
Even my adversaries and my foes,
They stumbled and fell.

He casts his mind back to the past, and remembers how his enemies had tried to destroy him But no matter who they had been, whether internal enemies or external, they had all stumbled and fallen. None had been able to prevail against him. They had been unable to 'eat his flesh', that is, to destroy him. And the same was still true. The Hebrew 'past tense' reflects not so much the past, but the sense of definiteness.

Significantly when the greater David came His enemies would be allowed to 'eat His flesh' (John 6.53) by destroying Him. For it was only through doing that that light (John 8.12) and salvation (Matthew 1.21) could be made available to His people as they too could 'eat His flesh' by trusting in Him (John 6.35)

27.3

Though a host should encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear.
Though war should rise against me,
Even then will I be confident.

In the light of YHWH's presence with him nothing could stand against him. Whether it be an enemy encamped against him, and he had seen many of those, or whether it be open war, he had nothing to be afraid of, for his confidence lay in the One Who was mighty in battle, YHWH of hosts (24.8, 10). In quietness and in confidence would be his strength (Isaiah 30.15). Our enemies may be of a different kind, especially the enemies of the soul (Ephesians 6.12), but the One Who is our light and our salvation will deliver us from them all as we clothe ourselves in His armour (Ephesians 6.10-18) and walk with Him (Matthew 10.28).

27.4

One thing have I asked of YHWH,
That will I seek after,
That I may dwell in the house of YHWH,
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of YHWH,
And to enquire in his temple.

For he has only one goal, and that is to enter more fully into His light and salvation by 'dwelling in the house of YHWH all the days of his life' in order that he might behold the beauty of YHWH and learn from Him. He does not mean by this that he intends to live perpetually in YHWH's house in a literal sense, but that he may constantly feast at His table and have fellowship with Him (compare 23.4-5; 15.1; 78.19) while he meditates on His beauty (compare 16.11; 90.16-17; 96.6, 9; Isaiah 25.6). The literal element will be when he goes to enquire in His temple. For 'the temple' as signifying the established Tabernacle see 1 Samuel 1.9; 3.3; 2 Samuel 22.7.

He visualises YHWH as some great oriental prince, magnificently arrayed (compare Exodus 28.2) and magnanimous to His guests, and himself as one who has constant access to His Table. 'Your eyes shall see the king in His beauty' (Isaiah 33.17). A beautiful picture of this is found in the life of Mephibosheth, where one who was lame in both his feet, and therefore in those days to be hidden away, instead dwelt in the king's house and sat daily at the king's table (2 Samuel 9.13). He must often have looked around filled with wonder at the sudden change in his fortunes.

We too should seek constantly to feast with the Lord at His table, enjoying His presence, gazing at the beauty of His life, seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4.6), and meditating constantly on His words, continually coming to Him and believing on Him so that we might enjoy the Bread of life to the full. 'I am the Bread of Life, He who comes to Me will never hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst' (John 6.35)

'And to enquire in His temple.' Not the least of his privileges was that he could approach YHWH in His temple and enquire of His will, in the same way as we can at the throne of grace (Hebrews 4.16). The word elsewhere means 'to seek out, to search out'. Alternately this might mean, 'reflect upon His sanctuary' (compare 73.17), as he 'searches out' its symbolism which reveals something of the nature of God (compare verse 1; and see Hebrews 8.5, and the whole message of Hebrews).

27.5

For in the day of trouble he will keep me,
Secretly in his pavilion.
In the covert of his tabernacle will he hide me,
He will lift me up on a rock.

That the Psalmist is already conscious of the troubles that will take up the second part of the Psalm comes out here. But he recognises that his trust must be firmly in YHWH. YHWH will protect and keep him. He will keep him safe in His pavilion, hidden in the security of His tent, firmly established in his impregnable fortress on a rock. None can feel insecure when protected by the Warrior King, the Mighty in battle, YHWH of hosts.

Once again we have the dual comparison of the King's table, spread in His pavilion, and the protection of the sanctuary which was absolute. The one who was in the King's pavilion was safe from plottings and deceitful tongues, especially when his presence there was unknown (31.20). In the same way Isaiah also pictures the glorious future of God's true people in terms of a pavilion where the glory of YHWH is manifested (Isaiah 4.5-6), and of a strong city where none can harm them (Isaiah 26.1-4), protected by the walls of salvation and praise (Isaiah 61.18). And one day, 'a Man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land' (Isaiah 32.2) and will be manifested by the opening of ears and eyes, and the giving of knowledge and the releasing of tongues (Isaiah 32.3). And it is to Him that we must look constantly.

27.6a

And now shall my head be lifted up,
Above my enemies round about me.
And I will offer in his tabernacle,
Sacrifices of joy.

His confidence in YHWH's protection gives him the further confidence of triumph. He knows that because God is on his side his enemies will stand no chance against him, for God will lift up his head above theirs. And the result will be that he will be offering 'sacrifices of joy' (thanksgiving offerings offered in rejoicing as a result of victory) within the Tabernacle, God's Dwellingplace. He will not overlook what he owes to God, but will express his gratitude with a joyous heart. The thought may includes the shouts of joy and clashing of cymbals often accompanying worship at the Tabernacle (33.3; 47.1, 5; 95.1-2; 2 Samuel 6.15).

I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to YHWH.

The section ends with a change of metre, as he concludes it with words of praise to YHWH (compare the similar situation in verse 14). Note the dual emphasis on his singing. 'I will sing, yes, I will sing.' But the questions is, what will he sing? And the answer is that he will sing praises to YHWH. His heart will be full of joy in Him. (Again compare the repetition in verse 14, but there it is of waiting on YHWH as befits the change of tone)

From this point on the metre deliberately becomes less definite in order to indicate the situation in which he finds himself. The smoothness of his experience with God now gives way to the hurly-burly of life. What follows is not a new Psalm but a descending from the high point of worship to face up to the realities that lie before him. For a while he had been able to forget his troubles but now they come home to him with a vengeance. It is not an unusual situation for a believer who is confident in God and yet aware of great troubles ahead.

27.7

Hear, O YHWH, when I cry with my voice,
Have mercy also on me, and answer me.

In this second part of the Psalm it appears as though his family have cast him off, with the result that he is concerned lest YHWH too cast him off. It is necessary here to remember the closeness of family ties in Israel, and their importance. To be cast off from the family was to be rejected by the tribe. And that could be seen as being cut off from God. Such a situation may have resulted from false information having been laid against David by Saul, so that even his family withdrew their support from him. but whatever it was it went very deep.

And so he cries to YHWH that He will hear his voice, and will in compassion answer him, and be gracious to him.

27.8-9a

To (or 'towards') you my heart said,
"Seek you my face",

It is tempting here to see these words as the words of YHWH interspersed with the Psalmist's own words, or put into the Psalmist's mouth, so that it is the heart of YHWH speaking to his heart, and saying 'Seek My face'. And that fits best with what follows. On the other hand, the general impression of the Hebrew is rather that they are the words of the Psalmist, in which case they refer to a desperate heart plea to YHWH to seek him out and look into his face when no one else will do so. All have turned away from him, including his family, but he still hopes that YHWH will seek him out and look him in the face, as he intends to look YHWH in the face.

"Your face, YHWH, will I seek,
Hide not your face from me."

But whatever the situation he intends to seek the face of YHWH, and so he prays that YHWH will not hide His face from him. The heart rending nature of the situation is clearly apparent, and brought out by the stuttering metre.

27.9b

Put not your servant away in anger,
You have been my help,
Cast me not off, nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.

He continues his theme. Though all have turned against him he prays that YHWH will not turn against him, for it is ever YHWH Who has been his help, and if He were to turn from him what would he have left? So he pleads with Him not to cast him off or forsake him, and to remember that He is the God Who saves, and Who saves him, as he has already stated in verse 1. That being so he throws himself on Him. It reveals something of how deserted he feels. When all others have cast him off, YHWH is his last hope.

27.10

When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then YHWH will take me up.

But in the end he is confident that even though his father and his mother forsake him, and he is cast off by his family and tribe, YHWH will take him up. We are reminded of Jesus' words to His disciples about the fact that some of them must expect rejection even by their own families (Matthew 10.21-22, 35-36; Mark 13.12-13). That is what can be the result of following Him wholly. For when men follow God they can never know what it will involve. But at such moments they can remember, 'The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man will do to me' (118.6, cited in Hebrews 13.6). Compare here Isaiah 49.15, 'shall a woman forget her breast-feeding child, that she should not have compassion on the son that she bore? Yes she may forget, yet will I not forget you. Behold I have engraved you on the palm of my hand'.

27.11

Teach me your way, O YHWH,
And lead me in a plain path,
Because of my enemies,

The crisis moment past he now prays that YHWH will show him the way ahead. He wants Him to teach him His way, and lead him in a level path in which he will not stumble, a real necessity in view of the behaviour of his enemies. He is aware that he is in a sticky situation, But is confident that God can guide him through it.

27.12

Deliver me not over to the will of my adversaries,
For false witnesses are risen up against me,
And such as breathe out cruelty.

So with his confidence somewhat restored he asks that his life might not be subjected to what his opponents want for him, for they have risen up against him and maligned him, and have spoken about him cruelly, which is no doubt why his family have rejected him. The last thing therefore that he wants is to be subject to their will.

27.13

Unless I had believed to see,
The goodness of YHWH in the land of the living.

And finally he brings out the fact that he had almost been in despair. Had it not been that he had believed to see the goodness of YHWH in the land of the living, he could not have endured, such was the anguish resulting from his rejection. When our spiritual legs fail us it is good that we can look to the certainty that 'the Eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms' (Deuteronomy 33.27).

'Unless I had believed.' We would expect something to come before this. Some add words in translation like 'I had fainted unless --'. That is clearly the idea. LXX has simply, 'I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.' Alternately he may be saying, 'such as breathe out cruelty were it not that I believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living' with the idea that his faith in YHWH in some way prevents them from behaving in that way towards him. But it is undoubtedly very awkward.

27.14

Wait for YHWH, be strong,
And let you heart take courage.
Yes, wait you for YHWH.

Like the first section, the second section ends with a repetition, but this time it is a repetition of the need to wait for YHWH, addressed by the Psalmist to himself, and to every individual in the congregation. Sometimes patient endurance is required. God does not always act at once. And so each must wait and be strong. Each must let his heart take courage, for it is necessary to wait for YHWH, with the confidence that in the end, in His own time, He will act. He will not leave us comfortless, He will come to us (John 14.8).

Psalm 28.

This Psalm commences with an earnest appeal, and finishes in the triumphant knowledge of God's salvation and watch over both the Psalmist himself, and His people.

We should note that as in Psalm 26.4-5 the Psalmist is again concerned with the company he keeps (verses 3-5). This should act as a warning to us that if we would keep company with the Lord we cannot also keep company with those who oppose Him. For God will take note of the comany that we keep.

The Psalm splits neatly into four.

1). The Psalmist earnestly calls on God to hear his prayer (1-3).
2). He prays that he might not be counted among those who go astray after their own ways (3-5).
3). He rejoices because he knows that YHWH has heard him and will be his strength (28.6-7)
4). He finally rejoices because he knows that YHWH will also be the protector of all His people (28.8-9).

Heading.

28.1a A Psalm of David.

The Psalmist Earnestly Calls On God To Hear His Prayer (28.1b-3).

In each of these two verses the ideas fall into an abbc pattern, with each central idea then being repeated in another form. Note the contrast between the two verses. In the first the Psalmist wishes to avoid what to him is virtually a living death, a silent YHWH. In the other He joyously looks to the living God within the inner Sanctuary, in full anticipation of response. Woe be to us also if God is silent in our lives.

But there is a great deal of difference between God being silent, and our having to go through the valley of thick darkness trusting God along the way (23.4). Sometimes we have to learn to trust God in the dark. It is not then that God is being silent, but that He is teaching us to trust Him even when the lights are off. We must not think that our spiritual lives are dependent on our feelings. They are dependent on the gracious activity of God. So even when our feelings are at a low point, we must continue to look to Him with trust and confidence. 'In returning and rest you will be saved, in quietness and in confidence will be your strength' (Isaiah 30.15). The valley will not turn out to be endless, and we will emerge from it the stronger.

28.1b

'To you, O YHWH, will I call,
O my rock, do not be deaf to me,
Lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down into the pit.'

He commences by calling on YHWH as his Rock. The idea of YHWH as a Rock is common in Scripture, especially as the rock on which we are founded so that nothing can move us (18.2, 31, 46; 27.5; and often; Deuteronomy 32.4, 18; 2 Samuel 22.2-3, 32, 47; 23.3; etc), and therefore as the source of our strength. He is regularly described as the Rock of our salvation, and this is often connected with the idea of an impregnable fortress. It is in this Rock that we must put our confidence. What we have to do is ensure that we are 'in Him'. And then we will be secure.

This idea of the Rock on which we are built is then also applied to Jesus Christ, where He describes Himself as the chief cornerstone of His church (Mark 12.10). Those who are founded on Him, and what He has done for them on the cross, and through the resurrection, will withstand every earthquake shock (1 Corinthians 3.11). Nothing will move them for they are founded on a rock.

For the rock in which we can find shelter from all that would get us down see Isaiah 32.2. For we must not only be founded on Him, but 'in Him'. We must recognise that 'we' are dead and that our lives are hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3.3).

Note his fear that his Rock, even YHWH, may be deaf to him, and be silent towards him when he prays, for in his eyes that would simply result in a living death. To go down into the Pit is to enter Sheol, the grave world (compare 88.3-4; 143.7). It is the world of those who do not hear YHWH. And to him the thought of being out of touch with YHWH is unbearable. It would be like joining the living dead. And the test of that is not our feelings. It is the test of the genuineness of our hearts towards Him.
28.2

'Hear the voice of my supplications,
When I cry to you,
When I lift up my hands,
Towards the innermost place in your sanctuary.'

But the thoughts of his heart are actually in a far different direction. They are directed towards the inner sanctuary in which is the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, the earthly throne of the heavenly King, and it is to there that he cries out and lifts up his hands in prayer (a regular way of praying, compare 63.4; 1 Timothy 2.8). And even while he does this he is aware that he is speaking to the One Whom even the heaven of heavens cannot contain (1 Kings 8.27).

For us there is an even greater privilege, for our Lord Jesus Christ has made a way for us into God's very presence, a new and living way established through Himself and the offering of Himself on our behalf, and we can ever therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, (the throne from which God reveals His compassion and lovingkindness) where we can obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 10.19; 4.16)

He Prays That He Might Not Be Counted Among Those Who Go Astray After Their Own Ways (28.3-5).

But those who would enter His presence and walk with Him, must also be careful of the company they keep (compare 1 Corinthians 5.11). And he especially has in mind here those who pretend to be one thing, while all the time having the intention in their hearts to be very different. On the one hand they speak peace with their neighbours, but on the other their intentions towards them are not for their good. And this is because they have no concern for YHWH and His works and ways. They are not out to love their neighbours as themselves, but rather to squeeze out of their neighbours as much as they can. They are selfish and concerned only for their own good.

But the problem with enjoying such company will be that we enjoy also their end when they receive their final deserts. And they will be broken down, rather than being built up.

28.3

'Do not draw me away with the wicked,
And with the workers of iniquity,
Who speak peace with their neighbours,
But mischief is in their hearts.'

So the Psalmist does not want to be counted among those who are deliberately misleading or downright dishonest, those who are 'workers of iniquity', while all the time putting on the appearance of being the opposite. He does not want to, as it were, be arrested along with them and dragged off for sentence ('drawn away'). For he does not approve of their ways. This is a warning that we should consider people's motives and well as their outward actions before we involve ourselves with them. How easy it is to be led astray by those who outwardly appear only to be concerned for what is good, while having a hidden agenda in their hearts.

In this verse we have parallel ideas in the first two lines, the wicked and the workers of iniquity, followed by a contrast which is in a sense a test. They speak peace with their neighbours while their intention towards them is very different. Like him therefore we must always consider the genuineness of our thoughts and actions. We must ensure that our hearts are true.

28.4

'Give them according to their work,
And according to the wickedness of their doings.'
Give them after the operation of their hands,
Render to them their desert.'

The Psalmist wants to have no time for such people. He agrees that they should receive their full deserts because of the ways in which they behave. Here we have an abba pattern. Centrally their doings are wicked, as are the operations of their hands, ideas which are contained within the envelope of giving them according to their works, and rendering to them what they deserve.

If we see this as harsh we must remember that these words are on the mouth of one who has been called to act as a judge in Israel. He has a responsibility for law and order. Thus it is a cry that God will enable him to ensure sound justice without fear or favour, and to remove criminals from the streets, while at the same time ensuring that he only gives them what they deserve. He is aware that he must ever remember that he is acting on behalf of God.

28.5

'Because they do not regard the works of YHWH,
Nor the operation of his hands,
He will break them down,
And not build them up.'

In the end their behaviour is the result of the fact that they have no concern for YHWH, and are not interested in His doings. They are like the fool who says in his heart, 'there is no God' (14.1). And the result will be that they will be dismantled rather than being built up. Their lives will come to nothing. Note the contrast with verse 4. The operation of their hands is precisely because they do not take notice of the operation of His hands. Their doings are wicked because they ignore His works. We can compare here Isaiah 1.16, 'put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well'. It is not that God has not given them a chance to repent. If they are willing to do so there is always a way back.

Note also the impact of the illustration taken from the idea of pulling down and erecting buildings. They have had no interest in what God is achieving, and act contrary to it, and so, although they may stand proud for a time, He will dismantle them and whatever they are achieving, for it is contrary to His ways. Rather than building them up and making them eternally useful, he will bring them crashing down. In the end their lives will count for nothing. Compare 73.17, 'until --- I considered their latter end'. Many a building stands proud, tall and immovable, until the arrival of the demolition squad. We should look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen, for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4.18).

He Rejoices Because He Knows That YHWH Has Heard Him And Will Be His Strength (28.6-7).

His thoughts now become more positive. The negative was necessary, but now he begins to look upward. He has prayed through to a point of confidence and faith. And the more he prays the greater his faith. ('This kind goes out only through prayer' - Mark 9.29, for it is prayer that produces growth in faith).

28.6

'Blessed be YHWH, because he has heard
The voice of my supplications.'

He begins by blessing God for having heard his pleas. The fears of verse 1b have departed, and he praises Him for listening to his supplications. It is a reminder to us that however dead our prayers might appear, if we genuinely approach Him in Jesus' Name (with His good in mind, not ours), we can be sure that they are being attended to.

28.7

'YHWH is my strength and my shield,
My heart has trusted in him, and I am helped,
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song will I praise him.

And having blessed God, he now firmly establishes himself on what he knows about Him. It is He Who is the source of his strength, and is the great shield behind which he can take shelter. He knows that YHWH the Mighty Warrior, the God of battle, is acting on his behalf, both positively to give him the victory, and negatively to keep him from all harm, and that he is being helped. No wonder then that his heart rejoices and he is filled with praise. He knows that one with God is a majority. Note the order. He meditates on what God is on His behalf, then he is helped, and this causes him to rejoice in his heart, with the result that the praises break forth from his mouth.

He Rejoices Because He Knows That YHWH Will Be The Protector Of All His People (28.8-9).

But the Psalmist is not only concerned for himself. His concern is for all God's people. And he rejoices because what God is for him, He also is for them. He has now become one of God's intercessors. This was in fact one of the king's privileges. He could approach God on behalf of his people because he was a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek (110.4). But that is also our privilege too, for we have become sons of the King, called upon to reign with Him (Revelation 5.10; 20.4; 1 Corinthians 4.8).

28.8

'YHWH is their strength,
And he is a stronghold of salvation to his anointed.'

Note the change to 'their'. What YHWH has been for him (his strength and shield,) He is also for His people. He is their strength and their stronghold, the strength on which they can constantly draw, the stronghold into which they can enter in order to be saved. He is a strong refuge (71.7; 61.3). The righteous run into it and are safe (Proverbs 18.10).

'To His anointed.' This may refer to the king as the anointed of YHWH and the representative of his people (2.2; 18.50; 20.6; 2 Samuel 22.51; 23.1; etc), or to the people themselves, whom God has set apart for Himself under the shelter of His Name. Our blessing too comes because we are sheltered under the Name of His Anointed, even Jesus in Whom we trust.

28.9

Save your people,
And bless your inheritance,
Be their shepherd also,
And bear them up for ever.'

So he finishes by calling on God to save His people and bless His inheritance. They are not only His people but of value to Him as well (compare Exodus 19.5-6). And they are something for which He has a responsibility. Thus he asks Him also to be their shepherd and to uphold His people for ever, bearing them up in His arms (compare Isaiah 40.11).

But David could never have dreamed that one day this very Shepherd would come down from above to be the good Shepherd Who would die for His sheep, so that they might follow Him and be given eternal life and total security (John 10.11, 17-18, 27-28). How much more then should we praise the Name of Him When we consider how much He has done for us.

Psalm 29.

This Psalm appears to have been written during or after a storm of particular violence. And we should recognise that when such storms occur in Palestine they can be very violent and very vivid indeed. Thus the very power of this storm brings home to the Psalmist the majesty and power of YHWH. 'Look at this, O heavenly ones,' he is saying to the angelic host. 'And consider the glory of YHWH.'

He is so moved by the storm that, in the midst of the clashing of the thunder, the powerful streaks of lightning lighting up the sky, the powerful wind sweeping across the land and stripping the trees, and the drenching rain pouring from the heavens enveloping everything around, he feels that the only ones he can address are the glorious beings who surround the throne, because only they can appreciate what they are seeing. And he calls on them with their knowledge of the glory of YHWH to bear witness to that glory as revealed in the storm, and worship Him in the beauty of His majestic holiness. For he is seeing behind the storm to what it tell him about YHWH.

Then he turns to a consideration of the phenomena of the storm itself, and describes it in vividly poetic style,. Picturesquely he brings out the voice of the thunder, shaking the clouds which are full of flood water, or rolling over the floods which are already being caused by the drenching rain, and vividly portrays the dancing trees which are behaving like living creatures caught up in the storm. He draws our attention to the blinding streaks of forked lightning flashing down from the sky, lightning which in its plurality appears to be hewed out by YHWH, and describes equally vividly the bushes in the semi-desert of Kadesh as they are shaken in the tempest. And he visualises the cowering hinds who in their anxiety at the storm have been brought into a state of premature birth, and finishes with a description of the great forest which is itself being stripped bare of its leaves by the mighty wind. And his summation of all that he has described is simply this, 'and in His Temple everything says glory'.

He then finally follows all this up with a vivid picture of the heavenly King as He once sat in His majesty at the Flood, and is still sitting there in the same majesty this very day. That is what the storm is saying to him. But the thought is not that God will now destroy the earth for a second time, but that He sits there as the One Whose purpose is to impart something of this mighty strength to His people, so that even when the very foundations of life appear to be shaken, they can know that He is there, and will, even in the storms of life, bless them with a remarkable peace which is in startling contrast to all that has described before. In the midst of a world which appears to have been torn apart the believer hears a voice which says, 'Peace, perfect peace, in this dark (and violent) world of sin, the blood of Jesus whispers peace within'.

Isaiah put it another way, but with the same majestic perspective, when he says, 'For thus says the high and lofty One, Who inhabits eternity, Whose Name is Holy. "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones' (Isaiah 57.15).

Heading.

29.1a A Psalm of David.

The Psalmist Calls On The Angelic Hosts To Bear Witness To The Glory Of YHWH As Revealed In A Devastating Storm (29.1-2).

29.1b

'Ascribe to YHWH, O you sons of heavenly ones (or 'of mighty ones' or 'of God'),
Ascribe to YHWH glory and strength.

29.2
Ascribe to YHWH the glory due to his name,
Worship YHWH in holy array.

The Psalmist commences by calling on the mighty heavenly host, 'the sons of heavenly ones', to behold the storm and ascribe glory and strength to YHWH, and to worship Him in their holy array (their holy garments for beauty - compare Exodus 28.2). For he feels that even to them this mighty storm must surely indicate something of the glory and strength of YHWH, and reveal Him as fitting of all honour, and as having power over all things (compare verse 10).

'O you sons of heavenly ones (bene elim - compare 89.6; and also Job 38.7 where we have bene elohim).' Compare for this the bene ha-elohim of Job 1.6; 2.1; Genesis 6.2 where we must render 'sons of God'. Whether the lack of article and lack of 'h' justifies the different translation is a moot point, for the form is poetical. But the question is not of too much importance because whichever way we translate these are not seen as literally 'sons of God' but as a class of 'God-like' beings ('sons of --' indicates 'being like, being followers of') compare 89.6, 7; 97.7c. And yet they too ascribe strength and glory to YHWH and worship Him in their devastatingly beautiful and holy garments. They are a class apart from men, but still worshippers of YHWH.

'The beauty of holiness.' This is a possible translation, and there are a number of alternative suggestions as to its meaning:

  • 1). That 'the beauty' refers to their gorgeous clothing which sets them apart as God's servants, compare similarly 'the beauty of holiness (holy beauty)' in 2 Chronicles 20.21, and the garments for beauty in Exodus 28.2.
  • 2). That 'the beauty' refers to God in the beauty of His holiness.
  • 3). That the heavenly court are seen as wholly dedicated as servants to God, which is seen as making them truly 'beautiful' in their behaviour and attitude.
  • 4). That the moral holiness of these heavenly beings is in itself their beauty.

    There may in fact be a combination of thought in that Heaven is a place of holy beauty both because God is there and because of the angels who do His bidding. Here it may well indicate distinctive character (holiness - set apartness) in contrast to man.

    The whole idea is that these glorious beings all worship YHWH and ascribe glory to Him, and that they can hardly help doing so in the face of this mighty storm with its primordial connections going to the very heart of creation. It is not just a question of very bad weather or even the majesty of the storm. It is a seeing in the mighty storm all the forces of nature that lie behind it, forces which God has under control, and which are the result of the way He created the world. As such they had once been let loose at the Flood, and the thought behind it is that if God were not reigning over it then the whole universe would go into reversal. Compare Colossians 1.17 where Jesus is described in terms of 'He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together'.

    A Vivid Description Of The Mighty And Unforgettable Storm (29.3-9).

    The Psalmist now vividly describes the power and awesomeness of the storm, and ends up with visualising true believers sheltering in the Temple and crying, "Glory!" They thus join with Heaven itself (verses 1-2) in ascribing glory to 'the Lord'.

    29.3

    'The voice of YHWH,
    Is upon the waters,
    The God of glory thunders,
    YHWH is upon many waters.

    Attention now turns to the storm itself. 'The voice of YHWH' occurs seven times in the Psalm indicating its importance to his meaning, ad stressing the completeness of the divine activity. Here is the voice of the Creator at work upon His creation. We can compare the seven references to 'and God said' in Genesis 1.3-25 prior to the creation of man (or alternately one for each day and two on the sixth day). And there too the voice of God had spoken on the waters (Genesis 1.9), and now here it is happening again. But this time the voice is a voice of thunder and it is reverberating on many waters, and is a reminder of the Flood (verse 10). This vivid picture may be indicating that He sits over the storm clouds which are just waiting to pour out their floods as He thunders upon them (18.11-12; Jeremiah 10.13), or it may indicate that they have already poured out much of their contents, so that it already almost appears as though the whole land is again about to be flooded (compare verse 10, where mabbul is used, a word which is a reminder of The Flood and only used of that, being found eleven times in Genesis 7-11, and otherwise only here). Either way He is in control and will not allow another such disaster to happen (Genesis 9.11). However, the point is that He could if He wanted to, all the power is there to be able to do it again, but that instead it is rather His intention to exercise His tremendous power on behalf of His people (verse 11). And what is being described here is the voice of the God of glory mentioned in verse 1 performing His own will.

    It is instructive to consider what His voice will do, for all is at His command. It is powerful and full of majesty (verse 4). It breaks the cedars in pieces, and makes them skip like young cattle (verses 5-6). It hews out and separates the lightning (verse 7). It 'shakes' the wilderness (verse 8). It causes the pregnant hinds to calve (verse 9a) It strips the forest of its leaves (verse 9b). And the resulting cry comes back from the Temple of, "Glory", as it brings home to His people the majesty of YHWH.

    It is valuable in this regard to see the whole canvas, before considering the detail.

    29.3-9

    'The voice of YHWH,
    Is upon the waters,
    The God of glory thunders,
    YHWH is upon many waters.
    The voice of YHWH is powerful,
    The voice of YHWH is full of majesty.
    The voice of YHWH breaks the cedars,
    Yes, YHWH breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
    He makes them also to skip like a calf,
    Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild-ox.
    The voice of YHWH hews out the flames of fire.
    The voice of YHWH shakes the wilderness,
    YHWH shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
    The voice of YHWH makes the hinds to calve,
    And strips the forests bare,
    And in his temple everything says, "Glory."

    Having thus read it and appreciated its beauty and its forcefulness we will now consider it verse by verse.

    29.4

    ' The voice of YHWH is powerful,
    The voice of YHWH is full of majesty.

    As a poet he sees the storm as revealing the power and majesty of the voice of YHWH. He sees all this as happening because YHWH is speaking, and His voice is powerful and full of majesty.

    29.5

    The voice of YHWH breaks the cedars,
    Yes, YHWH breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

    In those ancient days nothing seemed more firm and solid than the cedars of Lebanon. They stood there firm and strong, appearing to withstand the tide of history, and were seen as 'high and lifted up' (Isaiah 2.13). But before this mighty storm they are broken as though they are but matchsticks. YHWH speaks and the cedars come crashing down, and their mighty roots are torn up, while others are simply torn apart leaving their stems sticking up into the air.
    29.6

    He makes them also to skip like a calf,
    Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild-ox.

    Even the stolid mountains of Lebanon and Hermon are made to skip like a calf and dance about like a young wild-ox as a result of His activity. Sirion is the ancient name for Mount Hermon (compare Deuteronomy 3.9). Unless there was an earthquake, we must see here the effect of the storm on what was growing on them. All the trees and vegetation were swaying in, and torn by, the wind, making the mountains look alive, and this went on until the vegetation could stand the pressure no longer and collapsed before the storm. It is a picture of huge desolation.

    29.7

    The voice of YHWH hews out the flames of fire.

    And all around were streaks of lightning flashing from Heaven as though they were being hewn out by YHWH. The Psalmist stands in awe as he sees the continual forked lightning splitting the sky, and setting on fire the trees and vegetation, as the thunder continually rolls. He sees it as the very voice of YHWH from Heaven.

    29.8

    The voice of YHWH shakes the wilderness,
    YHWH shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

    And at the other end of the country, in the semi-desert of the Negev, the bushes and trees are shaken, and torn up by their roots, as a mighty hurricane sweeps the land. It is as though the whole area is being taken up and shaken. And it occurs at the command of YHWH. He speaks and it is done. In it is a hint of the reversal of creation, a reminder of what could happen if the Creator withheld His hand.

    29.9

    The voice of YHWH makes the hinds to calve,
    And strips the forests bare,
    And in his temple everything says, "Glory."

    Meanwhile wildlife also is affected. Such is the effect of this powerful storm that the pregnant hinds come to birth before their time. Nature is being shaken through and through. They are but a vivid example of a more general catastrophe. We are left to imagine the wild beasts cowering in their lairs.

    And the great forests of Canaan are being stripped of their leaves as the howling wind tears through them, until the whole of the forests have been laid bare. And all this again at the sevenfold voice of YHWH.

    'In His temple everything says, "Glory!". This may have reference to the heavenly Temple where the angelic hosts are gathered watching in awe this mighty storm, the like of which has not been seen before within the lifetime of those who witnessed it on earth. Or it may signify that the people had gathered in the security of the Temple and were now, along with the angelic hosts, crying 'glory' to the Lord. Alternately the idea might be that the symbolism of all the furniture in the Temple is crying glory to the Lord, for which compare Hebrews 8.5; 9.1-10.14.

    This Mighty Phenomenon, And Its Limitation, Arises Because YHWH Is Seated In Power In Control Of His Creation, Paradoxically Aiming Through The Storm To Give Strength To His People And To Give Them Peace (29.10-11).

    The end of the Psalm comes as a surprise. Far from being seen as a judgment of God this mighty display of power is seen as revealing His intention to make His people strong and give them peace. For it is a reminder that He Who originally brought the Flood upon the world, and controls all that happens on earth, still reigns as King, and instead of again destroying the world will utilise His power in giving strength to His people and in establishing them in peace and security. Out of seeming chaos will come blessing.

    God is revealed in the same way at the cross. As Jesus hung on the cross all the mighty devastation of the ages was heaped upon Him. But from it was to flow strength to His people, peace with God and a peace which passes all understanding.

    29.10

    'YHWH sat as King at the Flood,
    Yes, YHWH sits as King for ever.'

    And what does this huge act of power demonstrate? It demonstrates that the same YHWH Who once sat as King when the Flood came on the earth and devastated it, is still the same YHWH Who sits on His throne and reigns today. His power is still unlimited. And yet the very fact that they have survived the storm is an illustration of the fact of God's mercy. He has not again brought a Flood upon the earth. He reigns supreme and nature is subject to His will, and His voice.

    29.11

    'YHWH will give strength to his people.
    YHWH will bless his people with peace.'

    And the Psalmist's final remarkable conclusion is that this great power which has caused this devastating storm, the like of which has not been seen before in his lifetime, and which has been a manifestation of the glory of YHWH, is the same power that YHWH will exercise in order to strengthen His people and give them peace. He will work in them to will and to do of His good pleasure. And none know this better than those whose whole hope is placed on what God accomplished at the cross and through the resurrection. That was a storm indeed.

    Psalm 30.

    This Psalm would appear to be an expression of thanksgiving for healing from what had appeared to be a fatal disease. His illness has reminded the Psalmist of his mortality, and has warned him against complacency, but now it re-echoes in praise. Now he is filled with gratitude and thanksgiving. It is such an individual psalm that we must surely see it as originating out of personal circumstances, even if it came to be used in wider ways

    Heading.

    30.1a A Psalm; a Song at the Dedication of the House. Of David.

    The psalm is such an individual one that this heading pulls us up short. And it raises the question as to which 'house' is being spoken of. It is possible that we are intended to see it as referring to 'the house of David'. It may be that this was written by a young descendant of David who had not as yet borne children, but had been very ill and had expected to die. Thus having been healed of what he had thought was a fatal illness, he may well by this psalm have been rededicating his 'house' to God.

    Others have seen it as referring to the plague that swept Israel as a result of David's sin ( 2 Samuel 24.15-17). It may then be seen as David's lament on behalf of his people as he identifies them with himself, and his resulting thanksgiving as a result of God's mercy.

    Still others, however, see the dedication as indicating a purpose to which the Psalm was later put, possibly at the rededication of the second Temple (see Haggai and Zechariah). It may then be seen as having been taken over in order to reflect the deliverance of Israel from Babylon, a deliverance which had eventually resulted in the second Temple, for what happened to the king was regularly seen as reflecting what happened to the people. He was their very breath (Lamentations 4.20). We can also compare how Isaiah saw Israel and Judah as a desperately plagued person who needed restoring (Isaiah 1.4-6).

    But in the end everyone who sang it saw it as referring to himself, as one among the people of God, and saw it in the light of his own blessings.

    We may see the Psalm as dividing up as follows;

    • 1). An Expression Of Gratitude To YHWH For His Deliverance From Death (30.1-3).
    • 2). He Calls For All The People To Join With Him In His Gratitude (30.4-5).
    • 3). He Reminisces On The Complacency That Had Been His When He Was Well And The Shock That His Illness Had Been To Him (30.6-7).
    • 4). He Expresses His Prayer For Deliverance (30.8-10).
    • 5). He Offers Up His Final Praise And Thanksgiving Because He Has Been Delivered (30.11-12).

      An Expression Of Gratitude To YHWH For His Deliverance From Death (30.1-3).

      30.1b

      I will exalt you, O YHWH, for you have raised me up,
      And have not made my foes to rejoice over me.

      30.2
      O YHWH my God, I cried to you, and you have healed me.

      30.3
      O YHWH, you have brought up my soul from Sheol,
      You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

      The Psalmist praises God for having raised him up (verse 1) and healed him (verse 2). He had been very conscious of two things while he was ill, firstly that his opponents had been waiting, hoping that he would die so that they could then rejoice over his coffin and pursue their own ends, and secondly of the gaping jaws of the grave that had been waiting to receive him and had been seeking to drag him in. But he recognised that God in His goodness had thwarted both and had spoiled their hopes. God had triumphed on his behalf. His soul had not, of course, actually been in Sheol, it was just that it had seemed to be so as he lay there in his fever, for God had 'kept him alive', and had not allowed him to go down into the Pit. The ideas of Sheol (the grave world) and the Pit are parallel. They are the places where the dead go.

      Note the parallel 'I will exalt you' because 'you have raised me up'. He cannot raise up God, for it is God Who is the giver, but he can at least lift up His Name in order that it might be exalted. And that he will do with all his heart.

      He Calls For All The People To Join With Him In His Gratitude (30.4-5).

      30.4

      Sing praise to YHWH, O you holy ones of his,
      And give thanks to the memorial of his holiness.

      30.5
      For his anger is but for a moment,
      His favour offers life.
      Weeping may tarry for the night,
      But joy comes in the morning.

      He is so grateful to God for his deliverance that he calls on all the people who are true to God (His holy ones) to give thanks with him. The 'memorial of His holiness' may well be the Ark which was seen as the throne of YHWH and the place of reconciliation. But only because it was itself seen as drawing attention to the power and glory of YHWH. Or it may be the Most Holy Place itself, which could not be entered (except on the Day of Atonement) because the holiness of YHWH was represented there. In either case, however, he was looking beyond it to the heaven of heavens where God was enthroned in glory in His holiness (1 Kings 8.27; Isaiah 57.15).

      Verse 30.5a is literally, 'For a moment in His anger, life in His favour,' signifying that His true people may 'experience His chastising anger for a moment when they have sinned, but that in the end those who are 'in His favour' will enjoy life'. Here was a first foundation for the future promise of eternal life. And while the night time may bring weeping, the morning will undoubtedly bring joy. That is the lot of all who are truly His. He is giving praise for God's continuing faithfulness and care for His own (compare Hebrews 12.11).

      He Reminisces On The Complacency That Had Been His When He Was Well And The Shock That His Illness Had Been To Him (30.6-7).

      30.6

      As for me, I said in my prosperity,
      I will never be moved.

      30.7a
      You, YHWH, of your favour,
      Had made my mountain to stand strong.
      You hid your face,
      I was troubled.

      In a few short words the Psalmist brings out his own, and man's complacency. When all is going well men think that nothing can affect them, especially if they are prospering wealthwise. And yet he acknowledges that he had overlooked the fact that it was God Who in His favour and compassion had made his mountain stand strong. This may reflect the strength of Jerusalem, which was David's city, and that he was secure because God had made him so. Or it may simply indicate that the mountain of his personal life had been made strong. But either way he had grown complacent, had forgotten what he owed to God, and had begun to see himself as invulnerable.

      But then God had hidden His face from him, and all his troubles had begun. What a shock it had been to his system. Suddenly he had realised that he was mortal. What an important lesson that is for us all to learn.

      His Prayer For Deliverance (30.8-10).

      30.8

      I cried to you, O YHWH,
      And to YHWH I made supplication,

      30.9
      What profit is there in my blood,
      When I go down to the pit?
      Will the dust praise you?
      Will it declare your truth?

      30.10
      Hear, O YHWH, and have mercy on me,
      YHWH, be you my helper.

      So the Psalmist's cry reaches up to God. It is possible that we should see the initial verb as a historic present, making the picture vivid. 'I am crying to you, O YHWH'. But the main point is that his plea is to YHWH.

      In the depths of his illness his argument is simply that if he dies he will be able to praise YHWH no more. It is the prayer of someone very ill who has at this moment little time for theology. He is down to the basic practicalities. 'In my blood' simply means 'in my death'. The point is that in the grave he will not be able to praise YHWH, nor will he be able to testify of Him.

      His Final Praise And Thanksgiving Because He Had Been Delivered (30.11-12).

      30.11

      'You have turned for me my mourning into dancing,
      You have loosed my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness,

      But then all had changed. The sickness had left him, and he was conscious of a new beginning. His mourning had been turned into dancing, which was certainly not the behaviour of a sickly man. He had been restored to strength. And God had removed his sackcloth, the sign of his mourning, and had instead girded him with gladness. Compare Isaiah 61.1-3 where the coming of the Anointed Prophet would also introduce such joy and gladness. The Good News of God always brings gladness.

      30.12

      To the end that my glory may sing praise to you and not be silent.
      O YHWH my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.

      And the resulting end of his experience will be that in his own glory as the king, which was the result of God's goodness to him, he will sing praises to YHWH, and will not be silent. As far as he is now concerned YHWH is his God, and he will give thanks to Him for ever.

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      THE PENTATEUCH

      GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- PSALMS 1-36--- ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 --- MICAH ---NAHUM--- HABAKKUK---ZEPHANIAH --- HAGGAI ---ZECHARIAH --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-16 --- 2 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-13 -- -GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- HEBREWS 1-6 --- 7-10 --- 11-13 --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION

      --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS 1