Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Psalms To See Me Through Psalm 21: A Tale Of Two Kings

Praise for Deliverance. For the choir director. A Psalm of David.

Deliverance; a universal desire of the hurting, oppressed, discouraged and wounded. Some pray for deliverance from sickness and disease; from poverty; addiction; from persecution, or whatever their current circumstances may be. Psalm 21 records David’s praise to God once again for delivering him in times of trouble.

My mind and heart are flooded with circumstances and situations that cause me to cry out to God for deliverance. God’s deliverance does not always come the way we wish, but we can learn from David and how he prayed and praised God whether the outcome favored him or not.  

Lord, in Your strength the king will be glad, and in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice!  You have given him his heart’s desire, and You have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah (vv. 1-2).

The king in this verse refers to David, but has messianic implications as well. This is one of many royal Psalms which celebrate the coronation of God’s chosen King.  David’s praise illustrates a tale of two kings; David is the current king from which the Messiah will come to rule and reign forever—the future King.  Ezekiel prophesied the reign of the Messiah:

They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever (37:25 NASB).  

David My servant will be their prince forever speaks to the line from which the Messiah will come. David and the Messiah both are kings, who suffer from enemies who deny their sovereignty. David was never free from enemies who sought to dethrone him. In fact, when David sinned by taking Bathsheba and killing her husband, the Lord pronounced that the sword will never leave his house, because his actions despised God (see II Sam. 12:10). The anti-Christ spirit has been operating in the world (see 1 Jn. 4:3) since Jesus walked this dusty earth. You and I are not without trouble in this world, as Jesus promised (Jn. 16:13), but we always have hope; the Lord is faithful to those who wait on Him. He is a Refuge and Strong Tower, a present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).

 For You meet him with the blessings of good things; You set a crown of fine gold on his head.  He asked life of You, You gave it to him, Length of days forever and ever.  His glory is great through Your salvation, splendor and majesty You place upon him (vv.3-5).

God always keeps His promises. This crown speaks to Christ’s reward, and David’s. The Lord promised David that he would be king of Israel. But just like in our own lives, some promises come step by step, not in quantum leaps. David first became king of Judah because the kingdom had split and was encumbered in a civil war. But the Lord is faithful to watch over His Word to perform it (see Jer. 1: 12), He promised that the scepter would never leave Judah; a promise that began in Abraham (see Gen. 49:10). God fulfilled His promise to David (see II Samuel 5:1-5).

David’s story is a tumultuous journey of faith; he walked by faith waiting for his promise to be fulfilled. The Lord sent Samuel to anoint David as king when he was still a teenage boy watching sheep in his father’s field (see I Sam.16). It was a meager beginning to say the least; Jesse didn’t think David worthy to be considered to bring before the greatest prophet in Israel, and left him in the field. Samuel looked over each of Jesse’s six sons, but they were not the chosen king. Samuel asked Jesse again if he had any other sons, and they finally called for David, and Samuel anointed Him as God commanded.

From the time David was anointed king, he had to endure hardship and trouble. He had a few glorious moments, but mostly trouble. His father didn’t bother to bring him before Samuel; considering it ridiculous that he would be chosen king. Saul hunted him ruthlessly to kill him; he lived as an outlaw for quite a while, accompanied by some loyal men who knew he would eventually be king.  He was finally crowned at thirty years old. In every situation David endured, he praised God in the face of the adversity. Here is a bit of what David suffered:

Psalm 3: He fled from his son Absalom who tried to dethrone and kill him.
Psalm 7: He sang—praised the Lord when threatened by Cush, a Benjaminite.
Psalm 18: The Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, including Saul who was ruthlessly hunting him.
Psalm 34: he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, so he drove him away instead of killing him.
Psalm 51: Nathan rebuked him for taking Bathsheba from her husband and having him killed. Only because he repented did God relent from killing him.
Psalm 52: The betrayal of Doeg who attempted to turn him over to Saul.
Psalm 54: The betrayal of Ziphites who told Saul of his whereabouts.
Psalm 56: When the Philistines seized him in Gath.
Psalm 57: When he fled from Saul in the cave.
Psalm 59: When Saul sent men to spy on his house to kill him.
Psalm 60: when he struggled with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, and Joab returned, and smote twelve-thousand of Edom in the Valley of Salt.
Psalm 63: When he was in the wilderness of Judah.
Psalm 142: When he was hiding in the cave.

This only recounts some of his troubles; but through them he praised the Lord. When you are facing trials and hard times, remember God is working patience and endurance in you. Your promise (your calling and destiny) will come because God is faithful. The skies maybe stormy or dark; but in the end you will see God’s promise fulfilled.

For You make him most blessed forever; You make him joyful with gladness in Your presence (v.6).  

Though I have spoken much of David’s story, I must not overlook the messianic implications. Christ is the King of Kings to whom we look; David is but a shadow of Him.

The word joyful is חָדָה  châdâhkhaw-daw'; a primitive root; to rejoice:—make glad, be joined, rejoice (Strong’s). God has so blessed the King, and of course David, and makes Him joyful in God’s presence. The Hebrew word for presence used here is פָּנִים   pânîympaw-neem' (I know that’s a lot of Hebrew!). The KJV translates this word many ways (see Strong’s here); a few of them jumped off the page at me:
before; face/ face of seraphim or cherubim; presence/person; countenance. These words evoke in me the Tabernacle; I see the Bread of Presence in the Holy Place; the Presence of Yahweh between the two cherubim covering the Mercy Seat. His Presence now dwells in us through the Holy Spirit, and we can have joy in His presence.

John’s Gospel brings the Tabernacle into the New Testament:

Though God is great and mighty, and I am but dust, He invites me to find joy in His presence. He welcomes meyou into His presence.

In verses 1-6 David built a memorial to the Lord for what He has done in the past, and how faithful God has been to him. In verses 7-13 He gazes into the future to the One who is always faithful.
For the king trusts in the Lord, And through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will not be shaken (v.7).

The language here shifts into the third person, toward the king, and the King, which alludes to perhaps a congregational liturgy. The names of God here in the Hebrew, are Yahweh and Elyon. Elyon or Most High/Most High God means “Highest” or “Exalted One,” God is the highest in every realm of life. When the Most High is praised, we are pouring our worship on the One whose power, mercy, and sovereignty is unrivaled, unparalleled, unequaled, and utterly incomparable. He is Transcendent: He is above and independent of all creation.

Your hand will find out all your enemies; Your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them as a fiery oven in the time of your anger; The Lord will swallow them up in His wrath, And fire will devour them Their offspring You will destroy from the earth, And their descendants from among the sons of men (v.v. 8-10).

In the Hebrew it is literally make them as a fiery furnace or like a furnace of fire. Many previous oppressors of Israel made them burn; the desperation is heard in Lam. 5:10, Our skin is hot like an oven, because of the burning oven (NASB). According to the Tehillim Commentary this describes death by starvation, whereby one slowly deteriorates away until there is nothing left of him. “Measure for measure, let these oppressors suffer the same gruesome fate in the time of Messiah when starvation will turn them into furnaces of hungry fire (*Tehillos Hashem).”[1]

Though they intended evil against You And devised a plot, They will not succeed. For You will make them turn their back; You will aim with Your bowstrings at their faces (v.v. 11-12).

These are hard prayers. It is hard to know how to reconcile these types of prayers with Jesus and His command to love our enemies. But isn’t that what prayer is? “Prayer in which all the dirt and noise of ordinary life is boiled out. It is prayer that cultivates exalted feelings and sublime thoughts.”[2]

God is not lacking enemies. People of the cross will always experience haters. It is important to note that though these are hard prayers, judgment to be poured out on their enemies, they leave in the hand of God to deliver His retribution; He is the Sophet the Righteous Judge.

“The last word on enemies is with Jesus, who captured the Psalms. Love your enemies and pray for them that persecute you…Our hate is used by God to bring enemies of life and salvation to notice, and then involve us in active compassion for the victims.”[3]

We must remember that praying for our enemies will not change them into our friends. “Love is the last thing our enemies want from us and often act as a goad to redouble fury. Love requires vulnerability, forgiveness, and response; the enemies want power and control and dominion. The enemies that Jesus loved and prayed for killed him.”[4]

Be exalted, O Lord, in Your strength; We will sing and praise Your power (v.13).

In light of all the evil and oppressors, the Lord is exalted. The Psalm opened with praise to the Lord, and so it closes with praise to the Lord. All the oppression, all the haters, the evil, the trials of life, the overwhelming circumstancesthe hard placesare bookended in praise to the Most High, who is sovereign, mighty, and without rival. May He be exalted in our lives.

Photo by Piper Green

My scribbling....

For a bibliography of resources for studying the Psalms, and to read all the Psalms in the series,  Click Here.

*The Praises Of Hashem
[1] "Psalm 21," In Tehillim: The Book of the Psalms, edited by Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz, 266, Vol. 1 (Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications, 1995).
[2] Eugene Peterson, Answering God: The Psalms As Tools For Prayer (New York: HarperCollins, 1989), 49.
[3] Ibid., 102-103.
[4] Ibid. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Psalms To See Me Through Psalm 18: The Psalm Worth Repeating—Part I

The Lord Praised for Giving Deliverance.

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

I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies
 {vv. 1-3}.

David’s life of worship is a beautiful pattern for us. He pens yet another a song to the Lord for His faithfulness and deliverance. Each day we should rise with thanksgiving pouring from our hearts to God for His faithfulness, and for keeping us in the cleft of His rock. While He hides us there from the storm, His glory is displayed. Moses witnessed His glory from the cleft of the rock {see Ex. 33:18}.

“It is David’s thanksgiving for the many deliverances God had wrought for him. The poetry is very fine, the images are bold, the expressions lofty, and every word is proper and significant; but the piety far exceeds the poetry. Holy faith, and love, and joy, and praise, and hope, are here lively, active, and upon the wing.”[1]

This is the second recording of the prayer in Psalm 18. The first is found in II Samuel 22. David’s love for the Lord is beautifully expressed here. David offers his words as the evening sacrifice {Ps. 141:2}. He praises God with all that is in him. He loves the Lord so deeply and it flows out of his soul like water. I want thankfulness and gratitude to flow from me like this. I want to wake up singing praises to God from the very depths of my spirit. This praise life that David nurtured began by thanking God in everything, which cultivated in him a grateful heart.

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus {1 Thess. 5:18 NASB}.

David cannot praise God enough for His strength, power, and victory over his enemies. The Lord is his rock and fortress—his place of refuge. God is also His shield and the horn of his salvation. David is quite familiar with the horn. Samuel anointed him with oil poured from the ram’s horn. The horn is the symbol of power and strength. Animals use their horns as a defense and are the power and strength of the creature.

David is poetically and prophetically speaking to Christ, the horn of our salvation, and our altar.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant {Luke 1:68-69 NASB}.

Four horns adorn the altars in the Tabernacle and Temple of Solomon. Horns were used to tie the unwilling sacrifice to the altar; though Christ is our willing sacrifice bound to the cross with grueling pain and cruelty—with nails that pierced His precious hands and feet. The book of Revelation describes Jesus as the Lamb of God having seven horns, which is emblematic of the power of His sacrifice, and His body and blood {Rev. 5:6-10}.

The horns of the altar were also a place of refuge for one desperate for mercy. The horns were a place of life or death. 1 Kings 1: 50-53 is the account of Adonijah, a rebel to the reign of Solomon. When he heard that Solomon was crowned king, he ran to the temple and clutched the horns of the altar, seeking mercy from King Solomon; mercy was granted. God granted mercy to David by saving him from his enemies.  Each of us can grab on to the horns of the altar—Christ Jesus and His sacrifice—and find a place of mercy and refuge. No other religion can make that claim, and no other god can make that promise.

The cords of death encompassed me, And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. The cords of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me {vv. 4-5}.

David eluded death on many occasions. God proves ever faithful to David, and promised him the scepter would remain in his house forever. David was not perfect; he suffered weighty consequences for his sins. He had a promise of the scepter remaining in his lineage, but the sword, too, will never depart from his house {2 Sam. 12:10}. It is no surprise that David found trouble—or that trouble found him. But God never left David because of his sin, and he won’t leave us either. Christ died to set us free from sin, not so that we can stay in our sin. He loves us in spite of our sin. He is Faithful and True. He is faithful and just to forgive us when we confess our sin to Him {1 Jn. 1:9}.

Death seems to surround us today as well; the slaughter of people around the globe fills the news. Christians and other religious minorities are being butchered by ISIS. Church shootings, and terror threats confront us on American soil every day. Ungodliness seems to be running amok in our nation, as America grows more hostile to Christianity than at any other time since the founding of this great nation. We live in desperate days indeed. Once again, David serves as our teacher:

In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears {v.6}.

David knows just where to run; He knows God will hear him when he cries. God heard David from His temple.
God heard. Notice the past tense verb. Before we even call, He knows our needs {see Matt. 6:8}. One Jewish scholar suggests that God heard him in the past tense because David lived a life that was thankful to God, and he was grateful for his past victories. Sometimes it may feel like you are praying into the wind, or over an endless mountain range, hearing nothing but the echo of your own voice; but God hears—in fact He heard you before you called.  

In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it {Is. 2:2 NIV}.

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God {Ps. 90:2 NIV}.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? {Ps. 121:1 NASB}.

[1] Leslie F. Church, ed., Matthew Henry’s Commentary in One Volume (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961), 594.