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Ps 1
two roads in life

Ps 1 is considered by some the first psalm in Book I (Ps 1-41) and by others as the stand-alone introduction to the entire Psalter itself. Be that as it may, Ps 1 is a psalm of sharp contrast. Vv 13 describe the road that leads to peace and security. Vv 45 describe the road that leads to misery and pain. As the psalmist contrasts the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked, we see that these two roads lead toward very different eternal destinies. The double judgment.

The psalm begins (v 1) by extolling the blessedness of obeying God. Those who do not follow the values and attitudes of the wicked world system will be blessed. The psalmist’s description includes three progressive verbal negatives that serve as a warning to Christians.
If we are wise, we will not to walk in the counsel of the wicked. We won’t listen to their supposed wisdom or accept and follow their values or principles.
If we are wise, we will not stand in the way of sinners. We won’t keep company with them and join in their sinful actions.
And, from that stance, if we are wise, we will not sit in the seat of scoffers. We won’t settle down in comfort with those who openly scorn God and his ways. Bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor 15 33).

Each warning progressively leads to the next. If we let sin walk into our lives, it will soon stand there firmly planted, and it will eventually sit down and make its home with us.

Paul in Ro 12 2 directs God’s people to not conform to this world. Instead, he tells us to let ourselves be transformed by the renewal of our minds. As we persistently study God’s Word and his wisdom, the Holy Spirit changes our hearts and minds. That’s just how it works. The Spirit is there to turn us away from the wisdom of this world and toward the righteous ways of God. The deeper our relationship with God, the stronger his grace makes us to fight sin and Satan.

Also, as we read Jesus’ prayer for his followers in Jn 17 13-19, we hear Jesus talking about Christians as being in but not of the world. A helpful way to understand that text is that we live here now on planet earth. However, our true citizenship is in the heavenly Jerusalem which will one day come down out of heaven (Re 21) in the new heaven and new earth. We do not belong to the world system. In our baptism, we have renounced the world’s wisdom and Satan’s values.

Instead of that walking, standing and sitting as the psalmist puts it, we want to be godly and delight (v 2) in God’s Word. The righteous person’s delight must be in the law of the LORD. The original Hebrew word used here is Torah meaning God’s illumination, God’s revelation, God’s instruction and so on. It stands for the whole Word of God.

We are meditate on God’s Word, pondering both what it says and how it can change our lives. We simply cannot resist the influence of worldly wisdom and its temptations if we spend only occasional and casual time in God’s Word. We must be in the Word ‘day and night’ (v 2).
God’s gospel and his law – his entire Word – is a delight for us Christians because our greatest joy is found in the gospel which tells us of God’s forgiveness and of the eternal life believers have in Christ. As the Holy Spirit works Jesus’ love in our hearts, we want to obey God’s commands – which are his law – and do the things that are pleasing to him. In this way we also delight in God’s law.

Once we are planted (v 3) beside the river of God’s Word, our lives will produce abundant fruit. The Holy Spirit connects us to God through his Word like branches that are attached to a tree trunk. Through our study of God’s Word, the Spirit produces fruit in our lives. Christ’s love for us – the love we learn to know in the Scriptures – motivates us to love and serve others – which is the fruit that we bear. We are motivated to love and serve God and others by his gospel. We are guided in bearing fruit for him by his revelation, illumination and instruction.

In fact, we can take v 3 as a promise from God. Those who, by His grace, guide their lives by His Word and thus avoid living out the ‘wisdom’ of the wicked will experience great prosperity true prosperity. This includes a rich worship life, peace during life’s storms and trials, the blessing of a conscience washed clean by the blood of Christ, and the joy and hope of an eternal home in heaven when life on this earth ends.

Contrast the fate of the wicked (v 4). They shift back and forth with every change of public opinion. On the Last Day, they will be revealed for who they really are the enemies of God, sinners stained by rebellion and unwilling to come to Him for His gift of righteousness and True Wisdom, our Lord Jesus.
Ps 1 closes with a statement of fact. The way to righteousness is through the LORD and the LORD alone – the LORD who is Jesus and Jesus alone as we read in Jn 14 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Reflecting on this v and on Ps 121, we can find comfort, especially as we think of times we were tempted to travel the way of the wicked, … we can find comfort in God’s promises to “keep our life” the way of the righteous. We can be certain that God will not let us go, that he will not let Satan snatch us away from him. As we continue to feed on God’s Word, God will continue to guide us. No matter what happens, we can always trust in God. So the Lord approves (v 6) of those who are righteous by faith. God watches over His own to protect and strengthen them. But the wicked drift into destruction as they place themselves outside God’s care.

Ps 1 is the biblical approach to ethics that Kierkegaard so praised and Kant so derided.

Ps 1 is fitting introduction to the whole psalter because right from the start, before we even go into Book I of the Psalms, the psalmist tells us thee central theme of the book of Ps: the destiny of the righteous is life and blessing but not so for the wicked. Theologians call this the “two ways” in the Psalms, the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. This is also called the concept theologians call the “double judgment.” There is no middle ground. You may be part way on one path or the other, so there is maybe a middle point. You may be going down the wrong path and there is still the opportunity for you to get back on the correct path. Or, you may be going down the right path and come back up and then go on the wrong one. Still, ultimately, these two paths only lead to two very different destinations: either life and blessing or judgment and destruction. There are the righteous and the wicked. So here we have the two very different destinies of the righteous and the wicked.

The righteous person does not necessarily just mean someone who is perfect because as we’ll see later in the Psalms, the righteous who are praying these Psalms are going to be those who have known their sinfulness and their unrighteousness and who talk about their need for forgiveness. So it can’t be someone who doesn’t need forgiveness.

So what does the Bible mean when they say “the righteous?” Some might say “well, that’s someone who keeps certain rules and so on. It doesn’t really much matter what they think about this YHWH character.” But that would be way off too. What are the Psalms talking about when they talk about “the righteous?” When the Psalms talk about the righteous, they are those who know the LORD, and that’s how the Psalms function as Torah. The Psalms tell you what it means to be righteous.

Ps 1 is a wisdom psalm. Wisdom Psalms provide us with practical instruction for life. It teaches the way of wisdom, of the wise, of how one must live to be blessed. It is teaching from God to us. It’s like other wisdom literature in the Bible such as the book of Pr which is part of the wisdom literature that teaches the way of wisdom, the way one should live.
Wisdom literature is always very practical. “Here is how one should live to be blessed.” Still, it’s practical in the Bible’s way, not necessarily in the way we consider practical. It’s the ultimate true practicality.

By being the introduction to the Psalter, Ps 1 is saying that this whole way of seeing God, not only the instruction in the Psalms but also this posture toward God of prayer and worship and praise and seeking God’s face, that is the way of wisdom. That’s what it’s saying. This is telling us that the Psalter is more than just a book of prayers. Instead, the Psalter is the book of life of us. It shows us the way to God and how we should live in response to God.

v 1

The synonymous parallelism here shows us 3 different ways of describing the life of the righteous or godly person, of saying the same thing but notice how each way expands on the other. Each clause enriches the other. So it’s not just synonymous in terms of repetition. It’s not just that the person is blessed who does not stand in the path of sinners; there’s another aspect as well. Each clause says the same thing but in a slightly different way so that the clauses together bring out the whole truth. It’s synonymous but a little bit different with who does not walk in the way of the wicked … And who does not sit in the seat of scoffers. So this is a parallelism with each element adding to the meaning.

Here counsel (follow the advice of) means walking in step with the wicked without any room for God in one’s life. Notice that the psalmist is giving wisdom teaching about what makes one truly blessed and how one should live. And the psalmist says blessed is the one who does not walk in their counsel or their teaching or their advice.

Then in v 1c we have does not sit in the seat of scoffers – the company of mockers. The scoffers have a specific identity within the OT (in Pr, the Psalms, the prophets and other places in the Bible). Scoffers are those who reject God, his teaching and his revelation and his ways. The scoffers are those who say ‘who is YHWH, who is the LORD that we should worship him?’ The scoffers were those who rejected the Word of God and God’s ways. They scoff at God and his ways.

So the parallelism is never pointless. It always brings out the truth more fully, and we get a more full picture of the righteous person. We should notice here that when you have this depiction of the blessed one …

Getting this more full picture of the righteous person in this text really shows us something important about the biblical concept of righteousness or doing good or being a good person. This is something which contrasts with our culture in which we talk about someone who may have a hostile attitude toward God or the Church or who may have a complete lack of faith and yet we say that person is still a good person. That may be true on one level or another. However, from the biblical perspective that can never be true. “What a person is” is centered on their relationship with God. They don’t walk in the counsel of the wicked. One’s relationship with God determines “what a person is.”

Many read this v with a weak understanding of what virtue or not walking in the ways of the sinful was. Others also have the same sort of defective understanding. By our culture we’ve been given a secularized vision of virtue or goodness so that we think solely in terms of a few activities like the second table of the Ten Commandments: don’t commit adultery or theft and instead help the poor and so on. Yes, those things are important and that’s clearly part of it and we’re going to see that in the Psalms.

However, and this is a very big however, notice here that the portrait of the righteous person, the good person, the Godly person does not exclude but includes all of what the theologians call the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Faith in God. Hope in the promises of God and of his coming salvation. And love for God and neighbor. These are the specific virtues that we see in Christian faith and in Scripture that lead us to God. Notice that they are virtues, ways of living righteously. We tend to narrow and compartmentalize righteousness in sort of a very secularized view whereas within the Bible it’s the whole of life.

Sometimes we equate being a good person and we equate righteousness with something like a minimized version of love of neighbor. However, from the biblical perspective you cannot really have that apart from the larger context of faith in God, hope in God and love in God which leads to love for neighbor. So the righteous person is a godly person, one who follows both the second table of the Ten Commandments but also the first table (the first three commandments) as well.

Notice that part of being righteous, as depicted in this psalm, is following God’s teachings and not following the advice and teachings of the wicked. We tend to think that, “well, someone might reject the faith but that they are a good person.” Notice that within the biblical framework that’s not true. That’s not possible. Within the biblical perspective you cannot be a good person and reject God and his ways. In other words, part of being a righteous person is faith in God, hope in God, love for God. It’s not sitting in the seat of scoffers. It’s not following the advice and counsel and teaching of the wicked. This may sound harsh to some but that’s what it’s saying here.
Mt 7 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Within the biblical framework, righteousness of life is not just this narrow set of virtues of not stealing, of helping the poor and so on as some “good” persons do. So the righteous person is rightly related to God which we see here in v 1. Righteousness of life involves worship and prayer and fasting and Bible study and evangelism – all things that we might consider something different than virtue and righteousness. That’s part of what a righteous life is all about. It’s not only the ethical virtues per se but the theological virtues. It’s doing not only this but things like we’re doing right now – focusing on the Scriptures, on Christ, seeking to follow his ways more clearly.

Notice that that is part of the picture of what a righteous person is. That’s not an accessory part of our being righteous and following God’s ways. It’s at the center. Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, who does not stand in the way of sinners nor sit in the seat of scoffers (those who reject God’s revelation).

So when the Bible talks about a righteous person, it’s talking about their whole life, especially righteousness involving one’s attitude and posture and orientation toward God. It’s talking about one who is oriented toward God. You may fall and slip but you are oriented toward God in faith, hope and love.

As noted above people tend to think of righteousness as the second table of the Ten Commandments. That is, we tend to forget about the first table. You shall have no other gods except me. You shall not worship an idol. You shall not take the name of the LORD in vain. We tend to think of that as religious actions and then it’s our ethical actions make us righteous or unrighteous. The Bible, however, sees our life as a whole, and especially those religious actions are at the center of it because those determine our heart and those then determine our whole life. We see that in v 2 where we notice how the righteous person is described. The truly blessed person is described as loving the law – the Torah – of the LORD.

v 2

We also have parallelism in v 2. Here we have the godly person meditating on God’s ways, teaching, and truth, etc.

Torah

This is not to say that they delight in the law as we understand law (rules) alone. The law in that sense is no more than a bunch of legal prescriptions. The Hebrew word Torah most often gets translated in our Bibles as law but it does not mean law in our current understanding of law. Law is hardly the best translation for the Hebrew word Torah. A better translation of this would be the main Hebrew word for law in the Bible, Torah which has a much richer meaning than just the word law because it isn’t just law – that is, commands and rules for living, although it importantly includes those. It’s meaning includes the idea of law but it more accurately means and includes God’s instruction, God’s teaching, God’s revelation, God’s illumination. In fact, when reading the word law in our Bibles we’d be better served were we to think about it as God’s instruction and God’s teaching and God’s revelation. See glossary file for Torah. It includes the whole revelation of God’s mercy, of God’s care and goodness. It includes God as Creator, God as Redeemer. It includes the whole biblical story of God’s salvation through Christ.

Further, the law (the Torah, God’s instruction) always functioned within the gracious framework of the covenant of God with Israel through Abraham and it’s provision for mercy through repentance and sacrifice. In all the places the word Torah is used in Scripture many times the psalmist or the prophet or Moses will use it of the whole story of God which began with Creation and moved through the redemption of his people in the Exodus and God’s mighty acts on behalf of his people, God’s compassion and love, God’s dwelling among his people. It’s the whole nine yards. It’s the whole story of God and his people. It’s the whole revelation of God and his truth. It’s not just law as we think of law. It includes our response to all of this but that’s in the context of what God has done for us.
So when an ancient Israelite thought of God’s Torah, they thought first of all, “Oh, God is the Creator God who redeemed us from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery, that we might be his people and that he might be our God. Then we have all these commands he gave us to follow.” That’s what they would think of.
And we, in light of the fuller revelation in Christ, think of Christ and his work for us. The Torah which we meditate on is Christ’s Incarnation, his death, his resurrection for us.

We can think of the law as how we respond to God’s grace. But when the Bible uses the word law, it includes God’s grace and all that God has done for us, and our responses, the whole story – what God has done for us and how we should now respond. It includes both.
Another way to describe this is that theologians sometimes distinguish between the gospel of Christ in the narrow sense and the gospel of Christ in the broad sense.
The narrow sense is the good news about Christ and what Christ has done for us as we see in the Creed or in the great acclamations of the church and worship. Christ has died; Christ has risen for us; Christ will come again. Everything that God has done. Then we have the law which is where Paul can say you are saved by the gospel, not by law, by faith and not by works. That the gospel in the narrow sense.
The gospel in the broad sense includes both what Christ has done for us and the whole counsel of God about how we should live, the whole teaching of Christ, the whole gospel. That’s the gospel in the broad sense.
Now, Torah or law in the OT equals exactly this. So if you think of the gospel in the broad sense, God’s grace, which has come to us through Christ, and then the response that we should have in our lives and God’s teaching about that, that’s exactly what Torah means in the OT.

Next, in all of our English translations of the Bible where you find the word law, it’s the Hebrew word Torah that underlies it. Therefore, when you read the Psalms, including the whole of the OT, whenever you come across the word law we should instead in our minds think of and say God’s teaching, God’s instruction, God’s revelation, God’s gospel – thinking about it all in the broad sense. In doing so you will find that way of understanding and thinking will bring that passage alive. You’ll find that it may not make sense using the word law and instead the passage will come alive when you start thinking of Torah instead as God’s revelation, teaching, instruction. For example, we can now say:
but his delight is in the teaching of the LORD, and in his teaching he meditates (ponders) day and night.
but his delight is in the revelation of the LORD, and in his revelation he meditates (ponders) day and night.

but his delight is in the instruction of the LORD, and in his instruction he meditates (ponders) day and night.
but his delight is in the gospel of the LORD, and in his gospel he meditates (ponders) day and night.
but his delight is in the illumination of the LORD, and in his illumination he meditates (ponders) day and night.

So the psalmist is saying he delights in the whole teaching, instruction, illumination and revelation of God. He will joy and delight on all of God’s mighty acts for us and not just the commands about how God wants us to live. Even more importantly, the psalmist delights in the story and truth about this one, true creator God who has redeemed Israel. So it doesn’t mean law in the sense of only commands. That’s why the psalmist goes on to say in v 3 and he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in it season, its leaves do not wither. And whatever he does he prospers.

The depiction here of the righteous Israelite is not of someone who obeys certain rules, although that’s part of it. Instead, it’s someone whose delight is in the instruction of the LORD who meditates on God’s instruction day and night. For instance, all of Ps 119 is about loving the Word of God and loving the teaching of God. It actually has 8 different synonyms that are used for Torah and it will show that it doesn’t mean law and it doesn’t mean obedience. You have all sorts of different synonyms that involve teaching and instruction. Some of them involve statutes, something you obey but many of them do not. It’s the whole teaching of God. V 2 is all about the delighted study of God’s Word.

Remember the one thing the psalmist said he would ask for in Ps 27 4 was for God’s presence. 4 one thing will I ask of the LORD, that will I seek the LORD’s face, dwelling in the house of the LORD all the days of my life and beholding the beauty (wonder, majesty) of the LORD, …
To inquire/meditate on the law of the Lord means to seek the LORD’s face, dwelling in the house of the LORD all the days of my life and beholding the beauty of the LORD, … inquire (meditate) is the same word as in Ps 1 2 … meditates (ponders) day and night.
People misread the Bible when they take passages like delighting in the law of the LORD as being legalistic because they misunderstand this as saying they are delighting in how well they kept God’s commandments. In fact, however, you’ll find it’s just the opposite. It’s these psalmists praying for God’s forgiveness and delighting in God’s ways and wanting to know God’s ways. Jerome F. D. Creach, The Destiny of the Righteousness in the Psalms (2008) pages 54-69, Chapter 4, “The Lord’s Anointed and the Suffering of the Righteousness: Psalms 1-89, in the Sacred Story companion does a good job of telling us about this.

So the righteous, as asked about just above, are those who love the LORD and follow the LORD’s ways. Notice how that fits in with the larger biblical story. For instance, the author of Ki rated the kings by whether or not they loved the LORD exclusively and stayed away from idolatry and served the LORD. It’s the same thing here. This is a constant biblical theme. The whole relationship of the psalmist with the LORD is a relationship of faith but it’s a relationship of faith expressed in a whole life lived for God.

Ps 1 goes together with Ps 2 in the psalter. Creach (Sacred story companion p 64 ff) claims there is a relationship between Ps 1 1 and Ps 2 12.
1 how blessed is the person who does not walk in the way of the wicked nor stand in the path of sinners nor sit in the seat of scoffers;
12 bow in homage before the son lest he become angry and you perish in your way; for his wrath is easily kindled. How blest are all who take refuge in him.

We have this language of blessing in both Psalms. The first v of the first Ps and the last v of the second Ps are tied together by the word blessed. So the opening v of Ps 1 corresponds with the last v of Ps 2 which means we’re dealing with the literary framing device known as an inclusion here. The psalmist is showing in a very sophisticated way the linkage between Ps 1 and 2 by having a phrase at the end of 2 that corresponds with the first v of 1.

The biblical text is quite sophisticated.
So Ps 1-2 have this language of blessing linkage. Notice how again we how this life of meditation on the law of the LORD is trusting in the LORD, following the LORD. That is followed by books 1-3.

The structure of v 2 in the original Hebrew is that of a chiasm. A B B´ A´. Notice the concentric structure.
A B B´ A´ corresponds to his delight / is in the law of the LORD /// and in his law / he meditates day and night.
Here we see what the light is all about; it means meditating, pondering, seeking day and night. So here we see parallelism at work again.

Next, vv 3-4 now say of this godly person meditating on God’s ways, teaching, and truth, etc. as described in vv 1-2 …

v 4
We have a contrast here in vv 3-4 between two different images with the righteous being described as a tree and the wicked as chaff.
The imagery of the tree is one of lushness, flourishing, prospering and rootedness. Those who study the law who do not go in the path of the sinners will be the ones who are strong and will last like trees planted by streams of water. The tree is there to stay.
That imagery is contrasted with the imagery of the wicked, those whose path leads to judgment just as like chaff the wind drives away. This is familiar imagery we see elsewhere in the OT. Chaff is useless and is burned for fire. Malachi uses chaff this way as well.
In antiquity the farmers would take the grain to the top of a hill and with the winnowing fork throw it up in the air. The wind would carry the worthless chaff away, and the grain would fall to the ground.
So we have this stark contrast between the flourishing tree and the worthless chaff, a contrast be the righteous and the wicked. The psalmist paints a picture of human flourishing and stability. The wicked are those who don’t follow the teaching and instruction of YHWH.

When the Bible describes the righteous person, those are they who follow the ways of God, becoming fully human. Their humanity becomes what it was meant to be. There will be human flourishing here. The tree is stable and flourishing and what it was created and meant to be. On the other hand, the chaff is what is unstable and fleeting and worthless and finally has no stability. So we have this picture of flourishing and stability in contrast to a picture of ultimate instability. The psalmist is saying that the ways of those who reject God are ultimately unstable and leading to nothing. On the other hand the righteous flourish and are stable in the eyes of God.

It’s not a legalistic thing where you have people that follow certain moral commands and therefore these people are good (as we see in our culture), and you have people who don’t follow certain moral commands and therefore they are bad. And what they think about the LORD might seem immaterial to us – whether or not they are a good person. No, it’s not that. In the Bible it’s totally opposite of that.

Goodness always starts with God. Goodness always flows out of a relationship with God. So when the psalmist talks about following in the law of the LORD, it’s not just following commands. It is following God’s commands but it’s out of love for God, and it’s in the context of this whole teaching and revelation about who God is and what God has done as a saving God. On the other hand, the wicked are those who spurn this God, who don’t want anything to do with this God. They may from an outward view lead very respectful lives but from a biblical point of view they are wicked because they are not in touch with the one, true creator God who is the source of all goodness. Again, rather harsh but still very biblical in every way!

v 5
This is not only a parallelism of two lines but as it is often in the Psalms, it’s also a parallelism of every word.
wicked is equivalent to sinners
This is a way of saying the same thing two different ways. This is an example of synonymous parallelism.

There are these two ways, this double judgment so there will be this separation of the righteous and the wicked.
How can the psalmist talk about the righteous when we know from the rest of Scripture that we are all sinful and in need of forgiveness? Is the psalmist perhaps filled with self-righteousness and not recognizing his own sin that he can talk about those who are righteous as opposed to the wicked? People stumble over this in the Psalms which are constantly talking about the righteous and the wicked. Further, the psalmist will sometimes include himself among the righteous. At the core of matters, isn’t that self-righteousness an inability to recognize one’s own sin? Isn’t that inferior to the full revelation of Christ when we know that we are all sinful? In fact, it’s not. When the psalmist talks about the righteous, it does not conflict with the psalmist’s understanding that all people are sinful. How can the psalmist contrast the ways of the righteous and the wicked when all people are sinful?

The righteous will have life; the wicked will not have life. The psalmist is making the point here in v 5 about the wicked: the unrighteous are headed for destruction and they won’t be in the congregation of the righteous because they won’t be in God’s presence. The congregation or the assembly of the righteous is the normal way in the Bible that you talk about the great assemblies when you would come together in the temple to worship the LORD. The wicked will not be there because they have rejected God and rejected God’s presence. They won’t be in the presence of the LORD. We see that in Creach as well.

Creach: “The pairing of this word judgment with ‘in the congregation of the righteous,’ however, suggests that the destiny of the wicked is to not be in God’s presence. The wicked are often characterized as those who think God does not notice them (Ps 14 1a; Ps 73 11). [Note: That could be misunderstood. He means not that the wicked say ‘God doesn’t notice me; I wish God would.’ They are the wicked who say ‘I can do whatever I want because this God is a nobody and a weakling and probably doesn’t even exist and I can just do what I want.’ That’s what he’s talking about here. So they say ‘God takes no heed.’ This God doesn’t see when I do such-and such.] Ps 1 concludes with the ironic assertion that at the end God will not pay attention to the wicked; God will not grace them with his presence. This is at least one important part of what it means for them to ‘perish’ v 6. There may be other dimensions to the judgment of the wicked, of course, but Ps 1 emphasizes precisely this point: ‘the LORD watches over the way of the righteous.’ v 6. The destiny of the two groups is defined in the most basic of terms – of being or not being near God.”

That is so powerful because that links up with what we learned last time: Of all the different hopes of Israel, the one, central hope that ties them all together is the hope of the coming of YHWH to Zion. Notice how this concept of to have life is to be in the presence of YHWH. Said another way, to not be in the presence of YHWH is to not have life; it’s to perish. That fits in with the central prophetic expectation and hope that YHWH will come to Zion once again. That is why for the righteous that was the ultimate horror of the Exile: God had departed from his people; YHWH was no longer with his people. They were longing for the coming of YHWH to Zion. That fits in here with Ps 1 as the opening Ps of the psalter.

v 6
This is an example of antithetical parallelism. This is “A” and “not A”. It’s a way of making the same point. For instance, here in v 6 the second clause expands on the first, telling us more about what is going on. “A” = The LORD knows the way of the righteous. Therefore, the LORD is with the righteous. And the LORD is the source of life, and therefore you have the second clause which says the same thing albeit a little differently. “Not A” = but the way of the wicked will perish.
It does not say that the LORD does not know the way of the wicked. Instead, it says but the way of wicked is apart from the LORD meaning it will perish. It saying something that’s a little bit extra. It’s never quite synonymous, and it’s never quite just antithetical. It’s synonymous and antithetical parallelism in which together the two give the whole thought.
Ps 2
God’s choices for the nations
Royal Psalms

Many commentators miss the point of Ps 2. Ps 2 describes the futile resistance of the leaders of this world to the rule of God and warns them to bow before the Lord and His Anointed. This is a royal psalm. It may have been written for the coronation of earthly kings, but it finds its complete fulfillment in the coronation of Jesus Christ as He enters heaven after His death and resurrection. We may want to picture in our minds both Ascension Day and the Last Day as we read it. The title gives no author, yet Peter and John attribute this psalm to David in Ac 4 2426.

The psalmist begins with an absurd fact (v 1). Vv 1-2 describe the plotting of earthly kings and rulers against God and his anointed. The nations on earth rage and plot. Why? To overthrow the rule of God (v 2)! They gather together, consolidating their armies, so that they may stand against the Lord (V 3). They see God’s kind and loving rule as bondage, as slavery. These are sinners; they belong to the kingdom of darkness, and they are blind to the Father’s love. They chafe under the liberty and wisdom of His kingdom.

This opposition, as all of us know, goes on still today. A successful film producer recently advised wouldbe writers that no movie can succeed unless its characters break at least three of the Ten Commandments! The sad truth is that he was probably right. Sadder still, the young people with whom he spoke probably would have had trouble naming three commandments.

Yes, we know Ps 2 1-3 all too well in our day. People despise God’s Word and oppose the Gospel of God’s grace. People think they can be free only if they get away from God. Yet their sin enslaves them.

The scene shifts from earth to heaven at v 4. Now we see the truth: God laughs at the ridiculous attempts of the nations to unseat Him. He mocks their foolishness (V 5). The laughter quickly becomes anger. Rebellion will receive punishment. Those who reject mercy will receive judgment (V 6). God will install His King over the nations. As the armies of the world gather, they are already defeated! What a comfort that, though the world around us plots and rages, God’s plan of mercy for us in Christ cannot be overturned. His kingdom will never end.

The kingdom of Christ will rule for all eternity because it is founded on an eternal decree from God Himself (v 7). As the earthly king, David had a special relationship with God. We see this from v 7 also. And David’s kingdom would grow, just as v 8 promises. But even the farthest ends of the earth would not escape the Messiah! David was the foreshadow, Christ is the reality! Typology.

V 9 elaborates on the fate that awaits all who reject the Messiah and those who conspire against Him. Their judgment will be swift and sure. It is our great comfort that, while the world system around us may despise our Lord and His teachings, still, He will triumph as we read in Ep 1 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,

The psalm closes (vv 10-12) with a warning to the rulers of the world. Their destruction is unnecessary. God’s mercy is for everyone. They would be wise (v 10) to listen and heed the psalmist’s words. They are to serve (v 11) the Lord with awe and reverence, mixed with joy. The phrase ‘kiss the Son’ in v 12 goes back to the traditional greeting still used today in the Mideast. Only friends and allies could get close enough to a great king to greet (‘kiss’) him in this way. “Ally yourselves with this King!” David is saying. “Don’t stay in the kingdom of darkness! There’s grace for all. Submit fully without reservations!” But those who refuse to bow before the Anointed of God will be thoroughly broken.

Oracles in the prophets about the coming ultimate Davidic king (whom scholars call the Messiah) such as Is 9 and Is 11 1-10 are called royal oracles (or messianic oracles) by scholars. They are about the Davidic kingship and this ultimate Davidic king, the Messiah. In these we are told that the Davidic covenant would be fulfilled through the eternal reign of a coming Messiah known as the ultimate Davidic king.

The Psalms also have these wonderful portraits and predictions and longings for a coming Messiah. Because some Psalms are also about the coming royal, Davidic king (the Messiah), scholars call these Psalms royal Psalms or messianic Psalms. So the royal Psalms correspond to the messianic (royal) oracles in the prophets. Royal psalms were originally composed for the coronation of Davidic kings in light of the LORD’s covenant with David that we read about in 2 Sam 7. Royal Psalms are by definition about the promise of the ultimate Davidic king. The royal Psalms are a big part of the psalter, and in them we see the promise of a coming ultimate Davidic king.

Ps 2 is the first of the royal psalms. They are like the overlays on an overlay projector. In their original context this psalms were about the ruling, reigning Davidic king of the time. But they always looked forward to their ultimate fulfillment in the ultimate Davidic king. Typology. Therefore, sometimes these Psalms will say things that only apply to the Davidic king while at other times the Psalms will say things that apply clearly only to the messianic king to come. In either case, they are ultimately prophetic, looking forward to the Messiah to come.

God’s chosen representative on earth, the king, figures in distinctive ways in the following Psalms: (Pss 2; 18; 20; 21; 45; 72; 89; 101; 110; 132; 144). These are Psalms composed for specific events in the king’s life. These are prayers for or by an earthly ruler of Israel or Judah that relate to public worship and the role of the king. The royal psalms depict a variety of kingly matters: coronation, with its promise of divine protection and special relationship with God (Ps 2, 110); God’s choice of David and Zion (Ps 132); prayer for the king as an ideal agent of justice (Ps 72); concerns of battle (Ps 2021; 89); thanksgiving for success in battle (Ps 18); and a royal wedding (Ps 45). The “royal psalms” are not all the same literary type but rather form a class of psalms sharing the common characteristic of presenting the earthly king as implementing God’s rule and sovereign claim over all the world. Royal psalms were preserved even after kings no longer ruled Israel because they maintained God’s promise that one day the Messiah, the ideal king, would come. In other words, when the rule of kings failed, the people still believed God would keep his promise by sending a Messiah.

Royal psalms appear throughout the Psalter. As the opening psalm of Book I, Ps 2 initiates special intimacy between God and Israel’s monarch. Ps 18 follows up with divine action that validates the king’s sovereignty and vindicates God’s own reign. Ps 72 reinforces this relationship and concludes Book II. Ps 89 recounts the failure of human kingship and concludes Book III. In Books IV and V, God’s role as King takes prominence over that of an earthly representative. This displacement is evidenced in Ps 110 (a visionary affirmation that God’s rule is eternal) and Ps 132 (messianic hope for Zion). Ps 144, which is sometimes listed as a royal psalm, rereads Ps 18 and other psalms to affirm in the tradition of David that happiness and prosperity (cf. Ps 144 1, 15) derive from God’s sovereignty. This last of the royal psalms comes to the conclusion that the people, not an individual, embody God’s blessings (see 144 1215). While the royal psalms preserve some part of the ceremonial language and actions associated with the LORD’s relationship to a king of Israel, they come to have wider usage.

Ps 2 is the first of the royal Psalms and Ps 2 gives prominence to the king’s role as God’s agent. Later, David’s son and David’s Lord will proclaim the messianic meaning of the psalm. That is, while the psalm here refers to the Davidic king, it will ultimately be fulfilled in Christ. Accordingly, Ps 2 is often quoted in the NT where it applies to Christ as the great son of David and God’s anointed one. For instance, He 1 5 quotes from Ps 2 about Christ.

Royal Psalms were carefully and strategically placed in the psalter which is important theologically. Often they are the first Ps of one of the five books of the psalter as well as the last Ps of a book. Ps 89 is another royal psalm we looked at previously and it’s the last Ps of the third book.

The royal Psalms are the counterparts of the messianic oracles of the prophets (also called royal oracles by scholars). The first half of Is – Is 1-39 contain 4 messianic oracles in 9, 11, 16 and 32. These famous oracles are about the Davidic kingship, the Davidic covenant and look forward to the coming of the ultimate Davidic king figure, the Messiah. These messianic (royal) oracles tell us that the Davidic covenant would be fulfilled through the eternal reign of a coming Messiah. [The second half of Is – Is 40-66 contain 4 servant songs in 42, 49, 50 and 53 and no messianic oracles. Is 53 is the famous climaxing suffering servant song.] In other words, when prophets talked about the coming ultimate Davidic king, they used messianic oracles. When psalmists talked about the coming ultimate Davidic king, they did it in a royal psalm. The royal Psalms are about the ultimate Davidic king, the Messiah figure promised in the prophets.

Remember, Ps 1 is an introductory psalm for the whole book of the Psalms; it serves as a preface to and introduces the five books of the whole psalter (the book of Ps). Book I of the Psalter actually starts with Ps 2.

Remember that the Psalms were used and collected long before the Exile. As such, each Ps had two kinds of context: proto-literary context and full literary context. Hence, understanding the literary context of each Ps is crucial. That is to say:
1. When every psalm was originally composed, it was used individually in Israel’s worship which gave it what is called a proto-literary context, ie, how it was used before the psalter was gathered together as a whole. This proto-literary period was in the time of Israel’s kingdom, prior to the Exile, when everything seemed, at least for a time, hunky-dory.
2. Then, just as any passage gets its meaning from the chapter and then from the larger book in which it’s enclosed, the individual Psalms were later collected into five books and eventually the five books were arranged into the psalter as we know it. Once collected and arranged, every Ps then had a full literary context, ie, how it was used when it was put into this very carefully structured book of Psalms that we call the Psalter.
Each Ps then took its full meaning not only from that Ps but from the whole context of the whole book of Psalms. Therefore, we do not have the full literary context of the Psalms until after the Exile because that’s when the book of Ps was actually brought together into a collection.

So how does the Exile figure into all of this? How does this fit into our story behind the Story?
To start with, Ps 2 was first composed about the ruling, reigning Davidic king who was in place at the time before the Exile.
It may well have been used upon the accession of every Davidic king. In other words, whenever they got a new Davidic king, they used this Ps 2.
So before the Exile the Psalms we now have in our “book” of Psalms were nothing more than just individual Psalms and small collections of Psalms.
Therefore, when this Ps 2 was used before the Exile within its proto-literary context (before all of the Psalms were assembled into a “book”), it would have been referring to the Davidic king. However, the Exile came and the Davidic kingship was abruptly ended; therefore, this promise of an everlasting Davidic throne seemed to have been broken by the Israelites when they fell into idolatry by worshiping gods other than the one, true God, YHWH.

Then, when the people of Israel went into Exile, when all of God’s promises about the Davidic king seemed to have gone awry because there was no more Davidic king, all of the Psalms, including Ps 2, were put into their full literary context. That is, it was then, after the time the Exile, that the whole book of Psalms was assembled into its five books. It would have been at this point that someone who was there when the whole book of Psalms was being assembled might have said, “Well, as we gather together our full, carefully structured collection of Psalms, we will need to get rid of these royal Psalms because we don’t have a Davidic king anymore. The promise of an everlasting Davidic throne seems to have been broken.”

Notice, however, what the people of Israel actually did. The prophetic collectors who gathered these Psalms together instead put the royal Psalms at the heart of the psalter. In fact, they put Ps 2 at the very front of the psalter! right after the preface to the book of Psalms, the programmatic introductory Ps 1. This provides us with some explosive theologically insight as to what is happening here in Ps 2. Ps 2 is about the Davidic kingship and God’s rule through the Davidic king. Ps 2 is expecting this coming time of God’s kingdom and reign. That is, Ps 2 is not only in the psalter but it’s especially highlighted right at the beginning of Book One of the psalter!!! Thus, when the collectors put the Psalms together [AFTER THE EXILE!!!], they put Ps 2 right at the start to show that God will still come through; there would be a Davidic kingship to come. This is a poignant act of faith because Israel had been in Exile; the promised kingdom of God had not shown up. Putting the royal Psalms at the center of the psalter tells the reader that the Davidic Messiah was still coming in spite of everything that had gone on leading up to and during the time of the Exile.

That is, in the proto-literary context many of these royal Psalms were composed about the reigning Davidic king of the time. For instance, Ps 72 was originally composed about Solomon. But, with the Exile the Davidic kingship appeared to have ended. The people were in Exile and they didn’t even have their promised Davidic king any longer. It seemed that God was either unfaithful or powerless or both.

However, as Israel continued to read these Psalms, they realized that this language within the Psalms that was originally about the reigning Davidic king was actually like a foreshadow of what was to come. That is, the reigning Davidic king (in the proto-literary context) actually foreshadowed the ultimate reality to which these Psalms really pointed. The ultimate reality to which these Psalms pointed was to the ultimate Davidic king to come (full literary context) which, when realized, would be the full reality of the foreshadowing.
Another way of saying this is that we know that even prior to the Exile that you had the hope of the messianic king to come, and although these Psalms would have been composed as applying to the original reigning Davidic king, they would have also been understood as an overlay, as two elements at work. That is, the Psalms are about the reigning Davidic king in their proto-literary context but that was seen as a foreshadow of the ultimate Davidic king to come in their full literary context.

Hence, the promise of a Davidic kingship appeared to have been broken with the Exile, and that whole hope of the Davidic covenant seemed to be torn away because the Davidic kingship had been destroyed in the Exile. In fact, Is 11tells us that the Davidic kingship had not been destroyed but was, in fact, a stump. All of God’s promises seemed to be but an allusion. Still, when the people of Israel put the book of Ps together, they put these royal Psalms at the heart of their psalter which was, in reality, a tremendous expression of their faith in their God. In this context and although they no longer had a Davidic king, the people of Israel were still waiting for a coming Davidic king, the one who would be the ultimate Davidic king – the Messiah – to come. They still believed these promises of Isaiah and the other prophets that there is going to come this Davidic king as promised.

Theologically, part of the inspiration of scripture involves not only the words but also the way things are ordered and put together. The book of Ps was put together after the Exile by the people of Israel – and there was no more Davidic king! – and yet they still put the royal Psalms at the heart of the psalter which theologically tells us the remnant still believed God’s promises.

That’s why they are called royal Psalms (sometimes messianic Psalms) because earlier they were about the ruling, reigning Davidic king looking ahead to the ultimate Davidic king to come. The reigning Davidic king was a type or a foreshadow of the Messiah to come.
Now, when the Psalms are put in their full literary context after the Exile, all of the royal Psalms – including Ps 2 – can refer to no one else but ultimate Davidic king or the Messiah. In terms of understanding the faith theologically it’s crucial to notice that even after the hope seemed to be gone, the people had such faith and trust that God was going to bring about his promises – contrary to what seemed to be the reality – that they put the royal Psalms at the heart of the psalter. So at the heart of the psalter is this hope for this coming Davidic kingship, and the Psalter was constructed so that you know that the people (and you) know that RIGHT UP FRONT!!!

v 2
This anointed one (v 2) of the LORD is the figure of the Messiah – which actually means anointed – God’s anointed ultimate Davidic king.
In the Davidic covenant there was this promise of an everlasting throne promised to David. Then Isaiah brought in a new feature within this biblical hope that this was not to be an everlasting Davidic throne but one everlasting ultimate Davidic king, what theologians call the Messiah, this one ultimate Davidic king. That’s what Ps 2 is talking about.
Also, in Ac 4 25-27 Peter described the fulfillment of Ps 2 1-2 as the conspiracy of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the gentiles and the Jews – all of whom united against Jesus and thus participated in his crucifixion.

Sometimes scriptural prophecies are partially fulfilled at one time and come to pass more fully later on. From 2 Sam 2 1-4a we see that David was the anointed king of Judah and was thus God’s anointed, his representative on earth and a “type” of the coming Messiah. Later in Lk 4 18-21 Jesus claimed the title of the anointed. He was the one to whom all messianic Psalms pointed.

v 3
People today burst God’s chains and cast away God’s cords by ignoring God’s Word and by choosing lifestyles that defy God’s will. Those who teach things other than the pure Word of God also burst God’s chains.
In Jn 8 31-32 Jesus says that his truth sets us free. All who believe in Jesus are set free from the power of sin and death. Although we were and are unable to be completely obedient to God’s will, Jesus came to earth to be completely obedient in our place. He received the punishment we deserved because of our disobedience.

vv 4-5
In his righteous anger, God will mock and rebuke those who rebel against God and his Son. Because God is the one, true God, he has every right to be angry at those who willfully reject him. Those who break away from God and his rule will be judged and will receive his wrath.

v 6
Now YHWH speaks. This is God talking about enthroning the anointed Davidic king, his human ruler who will lead his people. He is speaking about that because these royal (messianic) Psalms all go back to the Davidic covenant, the covenant that God made with David, that from his descendants there would be an everlasting Davidic throne. And remember, God “progressively revealed” through his prophets this “Davidic king” promise more fully and specifically throughout Scripture. Further, that one, everlasting Davidic throne became “one everlasting Davidic king” who would sit on that throne, “the ultimate Davidic king”.
So God is talking about enthroning his king (the ultimate Davidic king, the Messiah) on Zion, his holy mountain. In this royal Ps we’re talking about this ultimate Davidic king whom God will raise – this enthroned Davidic king who speaks in v 7.
The nations wanted their own kings to rule over them but God’s plans for all Creation, including the gentiles, was that they all would be ruled by the king of Israel who was this ultimate Davidic king, the Messiah.

v 7
In this v 7 the ultimate Davidic king speaks, telling what the LORD said to him (him, the ultimate Davidic king): “You are my son; today I have begotten you. … v 8 Ask of me, I will surely give the nations as your inheritance, the very ends of the earth as your possession and so on in verses ff. God is saying this to the ultimate Davidic king. God is referring to the messianic king as the son of God. In Mk 1 11 at Jesus’ baptism God will use this exact phrase you are my son when speaking to Jesus which, therefore, identifies Jesus as the ultimate Davidic king.
What does that mean when the ultimate Davidic king is here, by God, called my son? Is this language here to be taken as functional or ontic? See functional discussion in Lecture NT file.

The ancient Israelites would have understood You are my son as referring to the messianic king as the son of God. In Scripture, one of the ways you could talk about the Messiah was to call him the son of God. So when this Ps was first written, the first readers would have thought of this phrase you are my son in a messianic sense only. That is, you are my son was a title for the messianic Davidic king. Hence, when this psalm was first written, it didn’t mean he was God. Instead, it meant he was the Messiah. Therefore, unlike what we Christians might expect, the “son of God” in the OT was a messianic title; it was just another way of saying “this is the Davidic king.” Because he had this important place in God’s plan, describing the Davidic king as the son of God was just a way of using this very high language to describe him.

That groundwork now laid, among ancient Israel expositors and readers of the scripture, there was 100% unanimity that this language in Ps 2 was functional in its OT usage. The phrase “son of God” was to be taken in the titular sense – as a title only – in the messianic sense. The Davidic king was not to be YHWH or YHWH’s son ontologically (that is, really and truly YHWH). Instead, this language here in Ps 2 expressed the great function that the Davidic king had in the story behind the Story. It was a functional title for the Messiah and it had a messianic sense.

Therefore, the ancient Israelites did not understand this son as a divine son of God or as a Messiah who was God. They were not waiting for a divine Son of God or a divine Messiah who was actually God. No. Instead, the ancient Israelites interpreted this “son of God” phrase as being a title of the Messiah, as another way of talking about the Messiah. Hence, one way you could refer to the Messiah was as son of God and you could do this because of the Messiah’s closeness to God and because of his central place in God’s plans. You could even refer to the ruling and reigning Davidic king in its proto-literary context as son of God. But, the unanimous interpretation of Israel at this time was not that the Messiah was going to be divine or God. Hence, by saying you are my son, he was saying he was the everlasting Davidic king, the ultimate Davidic king.

Very closely related to this are what theologians call the two streams of expectation in the Hebrew scriptures. See “streams” discussion in Lecture NT file.

However, now we jump forward into the present. Now the time of the fulfillment has long since come with the Incarnation in which God became man and Jesus fulfilled not only the promise of the Davidic king but also the promise of the coming of YHWH to Zion. Therefore, when you are my son is used in the NT, as it is all over the place such as in He 1 5, it has the full divine, ontic sense. That is, he truly is the divine Son of God. With that fulfillment in mind the author of He says in He 1 v 5 to which of the angels did he ever say, “you are my son. Today I have begotten you.”

YHWH continues talking (vv 7-9) about the ultimate Davidic king figure, the Davidic Messiah, this king who will rule and reign not only over Israel but over all nations. God’s promise to the king with the use of nations echoes the Abrahamic covenant of Ge 12 1-3.
v 8 is echoed in He 1 in v 2: his Son whom also he made the heir of all things.

12 bow in homage before the son (kiss the son) lest he become angry and you perish in your way; for his wrath is easily kindled. But how blest (blessed) are all who take refuge in him.

kiss the son means to do homage to the son.
We have the idea here of the twofold event of both judgment and salvation depending on one’s response. v 9 You shall rule them with kingly power (with a rod of iron); you shall shatter them like pottery. This is God coming with his might and power to put down evil and rebellion and to destroy evil once and for all, to reward the faithful. Notice how crucial the ultimate Davidic king is in all of this. This ultimate Davidic king will rule over Israel and all nations in this coming kingdom and reign of God.

Vv 11-12 warn the kings and rulers of the earth to serve the LORD by obeying him and submitting to him. God is not being capricious here. No human being need ever experience God’s wrath because Jesus pad the full price for our sins. However, in stubborn pride some still refuse to receive his gift of eternal life. They insist on living the way they want to live, ignoring the friendship and peace God wants to give them. They trample the blood of Christ underfoot and insult God’s love. They rightly deserve God’s wrath. So God is not being capricious in being angry with them.

Further hopes and expectations of the people of Israel.

Now we shift to another expectation that we see in Is 42. We now know about the Messiah and the coming of YHWH to Zion from our Ps 2 discussion; we’ve seen this promise of God’s coming – which is an even greater promise than the promise of the Davidic Messiah. Is 42 introduces another key figure and a new mystery. See notes there.
Ps 6
Our Desperate Need for God’s Peace

The title connects this psalm to David at an unknown time of his life. The term Sheminith resembles the Hebrew word for ‘eight’ and may refer to playing this psalm on an eightstringed instrument.

Sin hurts. It hurts us, and it hurts our heavenly Father. It can also hurt family members, friends and others around us.

This psalm pictures a man in deep distress because of illness. Yet, his distress is not only about his illness. It is about the guilt that has brought these consequences upon him. His greatest need, therefore, is for peace with God.
In Ps 6 David expresses the hurt caused by unconfessed sin. He also cries out for God’s forgiveness.

The psalm opens with and appeal by David of God. In vv 1-3 David asked God not to impose the penalty he deserved for his sin. David also asked God not to rebuke him or discipline him in anger but to be gracious and merciful toward him. In other words, from his first words in v 1, David pleads that God act in grace toward him to build him up, not in anger to cast him away. His illness has only served to show his desperate need for God in vv 2-3.
David bases his pleas on God’s mercy (v 2), and love (v 4), for he knows that he is not worthy of help. He does not deny his guilt, but places his confidence in God’s help.

In v 3 David asks God, “How long?” David boldly asked God this question because he believed in God’s righteousness and love for him. He also knew that God is faithful to his people. David believed that God would act on his behalf. In his anguish, David wondered when God’s aid and forgiveness would come.

V 5 indicates that his illness is so severe David fears he will die. The full penalty David deserved for his sins was death. It’s also the same penalty we all deserve.

While we cannot tell the exact nature of David’s suffering, we cannot deny its intensity. He is weak (v 6) from moaning and (v 7) from grief. Guilt and pain (v 6b) have caused him to flood his bed with tears. And his enemies (again, perhaps this is the enemy, Satan and his demons) have taken advantage of David’s condition (v 7).

A number of vv show us that David felt great distress and fear because of his sin and because of the anger from God he knew he deserved. In v 2 David stated I am languishing … my bones are trouble. Then in v 3 he said my soul also is greatly troubled. Then in v 6 he said I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood me bed with tears. V 7 states my eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.

David’s anguish led him to experience physical effects in his body. The physical effects of sin that David mentioned (in vv 2, 6 and 7) were weakness, fainting spells, pain, fatigue, burning eyes and blurred vision. We could probably include other symptoms as well. Worry and guilt can indeed make a person physically sick.

We, too, can cry out to God when we find ourselves guilty and sick from anguish. Does every illness come from unconfessed sin? No; not every illness is a direct result of unconfessed sin. Nonetheless, and still, guilt can affect our physical health. Guilt can cause consequences in our bodies. Guilt, remorse and physical revulsion can become spiritually healthy. No matter what the reason for our distress, we can cry out to God for help. Holding in our feelings and our guilt may result in foolish acts or inner depression. Only pouring out our needs to God will bring healing.
Note: The words and phrases of 1 Jn 1 9 provide the most comfort when we confess our sins.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

On the one hand, many of us could take sin more seriously than we actually do. After all, our sin caused the death of the sinless Son of God!
On the other hand, God does not want us to wallow in guilt feelings and remorse, thereby damaging our bodies that he has given us. Instead, Jesus died so that we could live free from guilt and the terror of our sins.

David shoos away his enemies like flies in v 8. He will not listen to them or give in to fear over their threats. A new era has arrived. God has heard his weeping and accepts his prayer in vv 8b-9. With his relationship to God restored, healing can begin.

Our healing begins at the cross, where we find God’s forgiveness and love. There we find hope. There we find help. No matter how deep our shame or how distressing the effects of our sin, God is our refuge.

Nonbiblical documents from the ancient near east indicate that in OT times it was a general belief that while only gods were immortal, the dead lived on in a kind of dismal netherworld. At first v 5 of Ps 6 seems to indicate there is no life after death, even for God’s people.
5 for in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will giver you praise?

But one cardinal principle of biblical interpretation is that we take all of what Scripture has to say on a topic into consideration as we form our understanding of what the Holy Spirit is teaching us. Based on Ps 16 9-11; 17 15 and 73 23-26 the OT people of God did indeed believe in a life after death and that for the believer, this life included being with God. In these texts the psalmists explained what OT people of God believed about life after death. For instance:
Ps 16 9-11 says that the body will rest secure and that God will not abandon his people to the grave. Ps 16 goes on to say that God will fill us with joy in his presence. V 10 in particular talks about resurrection from the dead. The “holy one” refers to Jesus Christ, whose resurrection makes our own bodily resurrection possible.
Ps 17 15 says when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. When believers awaken from physical death, we are at once with God.
Ps 73 23-26 says that after physical death, God will take his people into glory (heaven).

Therefore, in v 5 David was apparently talking about his body, which, once buried in the grave, would not give praise to God until after the resurrection. Our souls return to God immediately upon death, and then, at the resurrection, soul and body are reunited to an eternal and glorious existence in the lofe of the world to come (Nicene Creed) which is the renewed and restored created order.

Satan can use the anguish our sins cause us to make us doubt God’s love, mercy, grace and eternal plan for us. Throughout all of Scripture, God constantly reassures us of his grace toward us in Jesus Christ, as well as of his forgiveness of our sins for Jesus’ sake.
In 1 Jn 3 19-20, the Holy Spirit assures us that when our consciences condemn us we can remember that God is greater than our heart. His verdict on our lives counts, and that verdict is that in Christ we are “Righteous!”
In Ja 5 13-16 James urges us to confess our sins to one another and to pray for one another. This practice can be of special help when we struggle with a guilty conscience. Our pastors and priests are specially trained to serve as confessors and are specially empowered by Christ and the congregation to pronounce absolution. But any Christian can assure us of God’s forgiveness. Such assurance is based on the authority of God’s Word and is absolutely valid in heaven’s courts.

Ps 8

Ps 8  is called the great Creation psalm (among other Creation Psalms 19, 29, 104, et. al.) because it’s all about God’s good Creation. Ps 8 is the psalmist’s great paean (song of praise or triumph) to the wonders of Creation. paean is a song of praise, thanksgiving, joy or triumph.
Ps 8 especially focuses on human beings, God’s image-bearing creatures, the pinnacle of God’s creation, creatures made in the image of God (Ge 1 27), creatures appointed by God to be his little kings over Creation, to have rule over Creation. All of Creation was to be subjected to humanity, so humanity has this wonderful place in the plan of God, a place of life and blessing.

Creation Psalms celebrate Creation with an eschatological outlook. Creation Psalms celebrate Creation not because Creation is divine but because the Creation was made by God and, therefore, it’s good. Therefore, unlike the pantheists, Paul doesn’t see the Creation as divine but he sees it as very good. Unlike the Platonists he doesn’t see the material Creation as a bad thing; he celebrates it because God made it. That’s the whole biblical outlook which Paul shares.

So Creation Psalms have an eschatological outlook in which they celebrate Creation and they anticipate Creation’s restoration. The OT is eschatological in its outlook; it is always looking ahead to what God is going to do. This ties in with the creational monotheism of the Bible. If creational monotheism is true, it follows that you will have this hope of resurrection because the world as it is now in the biblical perspective is not the world as the world was created to be because it’s filled with evil, sin, suffering and death. As such the whole of the OT looks forward to the time when God will put all things right. And Ps 8 is part of that picture. It not only celebrates Creation but it looked forward to Creation’s renewal and restoration.

Ps 8 looks back to God’s good Creation in Ge 1-2. At the pinnacle of all Creation that God made were man and woman in his image to be his image-bearing, ruling creatures, ruling as God’s vice regents over all Creation, in a right relationship with God and therefore with a right relationship with all of Creation. Further, Ps 8 not only looks back to Ge 1-2 but in light of the evil, sin, suffering and death that have now entered into the world as enemies to God’s good Creation, the psalm also looks back to the “Fall” of Ge 3. It’s on that basis Ps 8 looks forward to YHWH’s restoration of humanity and to the renewed created order which is to come.

In other words, Ps 8 is also a psalm about the “Fall” and God’s restoration because Ps 8 was written after the “Fall”. The “Fall” had taken this great Creation plan of God in which humanity was put over God’s good Creation, and the “Fall” had derailed that purpose of God to make human beings these blessed creatures ruling over all things. In other words, Ge 3 had undone Ge 1-2. God’s purposes to give life and blessing to his image-bearing human creatures and place them in power and authority over all Creation was undone by the “Fall”. As such, the image of God within humanity had been effaced in the “Fall”. God’s purposes for Creation had been thwarted by the “Fall”. Therefore, Ps 8 looks ahead to this hope for the restoration and renewal of all things, when everything will be put right, when humanity will again be put in its proper place with the people in their proper relationship to God and Creation – worshiping God and under God, AD vice regents of all Creation.

So when Ps 8 was written, this was all no longer true, or maybe only true in some shadowy sense redolent of our original purpose of our Creation. Humanity had a certain preeminence over all Creation but human beings did not rule over all of God’s Creation as they were meant to reign.
Notice it says this is what human beings are. It’s either a looking back at what was, or within the context of the whole biblical framework, it could be the hope of what is to come. Ps 8 is not just looking back to what was as if it can never be again. Instead, Ps 8 is looking forward to what will be because, as we’ve seen, the whole biblical story is about God undoing the tragedy of Ge 3 in order to put back on track the project of Ge 1-2. And that project is not only to save us but to restore us to the original purpose God intended for our Creation.

So Ps 8 is this wonderful Creation psalm looking forward to God’s coming redemption when his true purposes for Creation and us as God’s image-bearing creatures would be revealed. For instance, we see this in He 2 6-8 where the biblical author has so spot-on caught that entire biblical framework, just as you might expect that he would.
6 But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? 7 You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor 8 and put everything under his feet.” In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.

So Ps 8 is looking forward to humanity’s Creation in the image of God, male and female, in Ge 1-2. It’s celebrating that Creation. But in light of Ge 3 and of the evil and death which has subsequently entered into the world, this psalm is anticipating Creation’s restoration when God will bring about his whole purposes of putting humanity as his image bearers as rulers over his good Creation.

Note: Ps 8 is also cited in Ep 1 22 of Jesus! who has put all things under his feet. The goodness of Creation which is extolled in Ps 8 is now restored in Ep 1 22 with Jesus.
22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,
To see how this all works out we return now to 1 Cor 15 27.

Ps 14
a doublet Ps with Ps 53
Ps 14 is a wisdom psalm.
What is the way of wisdom? How does one become wise? How does one live wisely? What is wisdom all about?
Wisdom Psalms have a teaching function. Through the psalmist God is teaching us the way of wisdom, of blessing, of the wise. Wisdom Psalms tell about the true path to life and blessedness. They provide us with true, practical wisdom for life from the spiritual perspective, different from what one might consider practical instruction in another context.

We have from Paul in Ro 3 10 as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.”

Ro 3 10-12 is actually a wonderful composite echo of two texts:
* Ec 7 20 Surely there is no one on earth so righteous as to do good without ever sinning. and
* Ps 14 1 Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God. 3 They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one.

Whenever Paul, or any other biblical writer, has an echo of scripture, the meaning of the passage which echoes that scripture is going to be a wonderful, electrifying combination between the echoed passage and the echoing passage.
So it might make sense that Paul’s echo in Ro 3 was intended to draw in the whole context of the echoed passage, Ps 14.
Still, you would be surprised to see how few scholars have gone back and looked carefully at these passages that Paul so carefully echoes here. When reading the commentaries of some scholars, it’s actually quite incredible to see how so many of them miss the vast intertextuality going on in Scripture.

So let’s look at Ps 14 to see if someone like E. P. Sanders is correct, that Paul is just ripping these things out of their Jewish context. Or is Paul being faithful to their Jewish context in perhaps a surprising way?

The context of Ps 14 is that it envisions Israel in Exile. Israel has been exiled for rebellion against God.

From his reading of Ps 14 E. P. Sanders is saying that Paul is doing something in Ro that is a big mistake. That is, Sanders says Paul was charging all people, not only gentiles but also Jews, with sinfulness. Paul was talking about universal sinfulness which according to E. P. Sanders is unJewish.
However, it’s obvious that the thought of Ps 14 is talking about a universal sinfulness.
Also, as we’ll go on to see in the later part of the psalm, the psalmist here is not thinking even primarily of gentiles here – they are included, of course – but also of his own people Israel.
Paul seems to cite this appositely (appropriately) when he talks about universal sinfulness.
Could it be, therefore, that someone like E. P. Sanders has missed something important when they talk about the idea of universal sinfulness as not being Jewish? In fact, universal sinfulness seems to be very much the part of the Jewish context, doesn’t it!

Let’s dig into the rich theology regarding sinfulness found here in Ps 14.

v 1
Is Paul in Ro 3 20 citing Ps 14 appositely (appropriately) or inappositely?
20 because by the works of the law no flesh (human being) will be (made righteous) justified in God’s presence (before him) for through (by) the law comes the knowledge of sin.
Are vv 1-3 of Ps 14 talking about universal sinfulness? Most certainly! 2 YHWH has looked from heaven upon the children of human kind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God. 3 they have all turned aside; they have all become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not a single one.

Paul in Ro 3 is echoing certain portions of Ps 14. Still, there are portions he doesn’t echo or quote explicitly that even add to the universal tenor of it all.

We should notice here, maybe surprisingly in light of the invective of Sanders which you just got a little taste of previously, …. we should notice that you might be surprised to go back to the OT and see this very thing that Sanders sees as so unJewish, to say that all are sinful, including the descendants of Abraham, is right here in the OT text.
There’s some neat biblical theology as well as an understanding of wisdom here. Notice you have a contrast between those who understand in v 2 and the fools in v 1. This is a contrast between wisdom (v 2) and folly (v 1).
What is the understanding of wisdom here? With what does wisdom equate? The answer is that the wise seek God whereas for the fool, God is irrelevant. Ps 14 1 describes the fool who engages in folly which is the opposite of wisdom. In the deepest, most wicked sense, this folly is the opposite of true wisdom in that it denies that there is a God.

By the way, this isn’t necessarily only talking about theoretical atheism. This is not the theoretical atheist speaking. That is, almost surely this does not mean a theoretical atheism only, as if this is someone who is an atheist.
This text is primarily talking about practical atheism. This is the practical atheist speaking, someone who may well be a theist in expression or in confession but in their heart banishes God to irrelevancy. The practical atheist is one who says ‘God may or may not exist, or I may even agree that God exists but for all practical purposes God has nothing to do with me or my life.’ This person for all practical purposes lives as if God does not exist or matter. The biblical idea here is that God is irrelevant. This is that practical atheism that is at the heart of life apart from God. This is that practical atheism that all people, including so-called Christians, are tempted to do. This is that practical atheism that says ultimately God is not relevant. The practical atheist say, “I don’t need to concern myself with God.” That’s what the psalmist is addressing here in v 1 – practical atheism! Our fallen nature tempts all of us to play the role of the fool and “put God on the shelf”. In so doing, God is not important or relevant in the living of our so-called Christian lives. Whereas, in this covenental relationship with God, we put God at the center. That is what it means to be righteous.
Note: Just look, practically-speaking, how many people sitting right next to us in church do just that. They are practicing “practical atheists” and they don’t even know it. They think “they know it all” and yet they remain in many ways essentially clueless to their so-called faith. Jesus addresses this very issue in Mt 7 (Lk 13 27) 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ I never knew you means they never had a true faith relationship with God. The Lord spoke similar words to the foolish virgins in Mt 25 12. This (mis)understanding of one’s faith is all around us, and it’s found in every denomination. It’s our task to help those who think they know but do not. Our Scriptures give us the means to both further catechize those of faith and to evangelize those not of faith. In both departments there is an incredible amount to be done as this psalm, as well as the whole of Scripture, tell us.

They are corrupt; they have committed abominable deeds makes it sound as if it’s just those who say what was said earlier. Then it broadens out, and it’s clear that all people are sinful. There is no one who does good. All people have this brokenness; all people are fools who say this in their heart.

This concept of wisdom is that wisdom involves seeking for God and that the opposite of wisdom is to make God irrelevant reminds us of the wisdom literature in the Bible. The theme of wisdom literature is that God is wisdom, that wisdom comes from God, and, therefore, wisdom for a human being involves seeking God (v 2).

v 2
So wisdom according to the psalmist in Ps 14 2 is defined as seeking God just as it is in the Proverbs where wisdom is knowing the Lord. For example, we have in Pr 1 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (wisdom); fools despise wisdom and instruction.

v 3
Notice that you can be this way and also be Jewish according to the psalmist.
At the heart of sin is rebellion against God so it comes out in vv 1-3 that the fool is all of humankind. In fact, this is the stark part of the charge. He claims that this fool ultimately equals all of humankind, and this traces back through this whole biblical story which has this important Act II which is all about “the Fall” of humanity and turning from God in Ge 3. Here in v 3 you have this vision of humanity all as a whole turning from God.
Notice that this is not simply people not quite living up to a 100% of the commands or something. Instead, this is a heart problem of turning from God entirely. So you do have this strong indictment, as strong or stronger than what you have in Ro 3. It kind of raises some questions about Sanders’ view which ultimately must be rejected.

In vv 2-3 we see that there is no one who does good, not even one. All are sinful. Even the most saintly of saints are sinful. See Ro 3 9-12, 20. Notice how that is consistent throughout Scripture. Paul will quote and echo these passages repeatedly in Scripture in order to make the same point.

V 4
Now there’s this distinction. We see the wicked who eat up my people as if they were bread and do not call upon the LORD.

remnant theology of the OT

vv 4-6 sound a little bit different and somewhat contradictory, as if vv 4-6 don’t fit with vv 1-3 because here we have a distinction, a contrast being made between the righteous and the wicked. But these vv really fit into the whole thought.
So we have these people who are called my people (v 4) – the righteous generation (v 5), the afflicted – the persecuted people of God.
my people – prominent in scripture, especially in the Ps – are the faithful remnant or the righteous remnant.
Notice this contrast between the righteous remnant and the wicked in Israel. The faithful remnant are contrasted with the wicked in Israel who afflict and oppress them.

The idea is that you can be part of Israel, that you can be physical Israel, that you can be a descendant of Abraham, that you can even be in the land of promise, but you can still be among the wicked if your heart has turned from God. The only true people of God are the righteous remnant who follow in the ways of the faith of Abraham, who trust in God like Abraham trusted in God.

Why would this distinction between the righteous and the wicked not conflict with the universal sinfulness of all in the first part of the psalm? We seem to have the same problem that E. P. Sanders pointed to in Paul’s letters. It seems as though you could say about Ps 14 that ‘this psalmist seems very conflicted and confused. He doesn’t seem to be able to hold his views apart from anguish and finally a lack of logic (Sanders’ quote) because first he said there was universal sinfulness for both Jews and gentiles and then he talked about the righteous and the wicked.’

So, is there any way that the thought is united between those two parts of the psalm? The idea here is that they are righteous within the context of the covenant with God and God’s promise of grace, mercy and forgiveness. The faithful remnant theology which pervades the OT always has this idea in mind, that you have this distinction between the righteous and the wicked. And the righteous are those who trust in God, who adhere to YHWH, who cling to YHWH. They are, of course, sinful but they are forgiven of their sins through the grace and mercy of God and the covenant.

On the other hand, the wicked are those who spurn the covenant, who reject the covenant with God. So within the thought of the psalmist here in Ps 14 they go together. Yes, although there is universal human sinfulness, the psalmist can still talk about the righteousness and the wicked but only in the context of the covenant. So also in the law of Moses when it talks about keeping the law and so on. It’s not talking about keeping the law to perfection. It’s talking about those who trust in and follow God. They are not keeping the law perfectly but their sins are forgiven through the gracious context of the covenant and God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness contained therein.

v 6
God’s people are the afflicted and they are so because they follow God’s ways. Still, their refuge is in God – in the LORD.

So this very psalm has already said there is no one righteous (back in v 3), and now here in vv 4-6 it’s saying they were not righteous because they distanced themselves from God. They disconnected themselves from God. They refused to come to God. They refused to come to God’s grace and mercy in his covenant. That is, the righteous were not righteous because they were sinless or because they didn’t need forgiveness. No. Instead, they were the righteous because they had entered into covenant with God.

In the gracious context of the covenant in which God’s grace and mercy is poured out on us, in the gracious context of Christ, in the gracious context of the Church, we are the righteous because we have the forgiveness of Christ, because Christ is at work in us transforming us, because we have taken refuge in the LORD and have fled to him.

So there is this distinction being made between the righteous and the wicked, and it all has to do with the covenant. We are righteous only because we are in the gracious context of God’s grace and mercy as found in the covenant which has already been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Bible can talk about God’s people being righteous in the context of the covenant.

Further, we can tell the righteous and the wicked apart by what they do. The wicked flee from God, turn from his ways, oppose God’s truth and don’t follow God’s commands. The righteous take refuge in the LORD, trust in him, follow his ways and seek to live his commands. Though the righteous are never perfect and always in the need of forgiveness, Scripture distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked. Scripture distinguishes between those who flee to God and who are righteous within the gracious context of his covenant and those who flee from God and reject God and his covenant.

The people of the OT were saved the same way those were and are following Christ’s death and resurrection, through God’s covenental grace and mercy. The people of the OT were not saved through the sacrifices that they made even though those had been commanded by God. We know that because, for instance, the author of He says the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin. [He 10 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.] Instead, it was Christ’s sacrifice that took away sin and brought this transformation not only in the new covenant, but that was also made effective for those under the old covenant.
In other words, the people of the OT were NOT saved through the Abrahamic covenant itself. The Abrahamic covenant itself was based on something greater, on what was to come, and the psalmist looks forward to what was to come in Ps 14 7.

v 7
The psalmist is waiting for this time of salvation of God to come, this salvation on which all the sacrifices and God’s grace and mercy and the Abrahamic covenant are based. The psalmist is waiting for the time when the LORD would restore his captive people and bring about this new Exodus, this new thing he was going to do.

This is also in the time of the Exile, and the prayer is that the new Exodus would come, that God’s salvation and redemption would come. Thus, this Ps – read in its totality – enriches Paul’s thought.
The sin that the Ps talks about here is not just disobeying this or that command. The sin the psalmist talks about is rebellion; it’s idolatry; it’s this disconnection from God. So we have this future aspect, this solution, this remedy, this hope that YHWH will restore his people from captivity, this future hope of the new Exodus, this salvation, this redemption.

Rather neat here in this OT thought is that the salvation for Israel would come out of Zion. When would that salvation for Israel come? Is it present or is it yet in the future as far as the psalmist is concerned? It was in the future for the psalmist because they were in Exile. Notice that it’s the salvation of Israel. The biblical thought here is that there is this grace and mercy operative in the covenant. There is this mercy and grace and salvation operative in the sacrifices in the sacrificial system in which you go to God for forgiveness. But the foundation of these animal sacrifices had not yet come about. The salvation of Israel had not come out of Zion.

The psalmists are very clear that the people of Israel understood that they were only saved by God’s covenental grace and mercy. They also grasped that no sacrifice or an animal could atone for the heinous sins that human beings did. So there was this wonderful mystery behind the Abrahamic covenant and the sacrifices. And that mystery was centered on the question, “How could it be that sacrificing an animal could bring forgiveness of sins?” So the people of Israel wondered from where that grace and mercy which was so lavish in the Abrahamic covenant came.

These were the questions asked of the great Jewish thinkers of ancient Israel. They thought and wrote extensively about these questions. They searched for the source of God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness. They trusted and knew it was there, but they often questioned from where the grace and mercy of the Abrahamic covenant came. There had to be a source of God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness otherwise God would be unrighteous to forgive sin.
One theory said that perhaps it was the Akedah, Abraham’s binding of Isaac, his near sacrifice of Isaac. Could the source be Abraham’s faithfulness in sacrificing Isaac? God had stopped him in the last second but Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son. So some thought the Akedah was the source for this grace and mercy. But that simply would be the righteous act of one human being. So others said no, that it had to be something else. So they continued to wonder what was the source of this grace and mercy in the covenant.

So here in v 7 we see the psalmist expressing the same thought and raising that same question. In the time to come the salvation of Israel was going to come out of Zion.
All of the puzzlement and wonderment was ultimately answered when the fulfillment came, when we learned what was the source of God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness. The source of that grace, mercy and forgiveness was in the passion of Christ who was not only truly human like us but truly God. The source of it all was in this infinitely precious death of Jesus upon the cross and his resurrection for us. That was the source of God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness, and it all depends on whether we are in Christ, in the covenant, or whether we are outside of Christ and outside the covenant.

So these ancient Jewish thinkers were metaphorically close to the truth because it wasn’t the near sacrifice of Isaac but it was instead God’s full and real sacrifice of God’s own son. They were right on the track of the truth. They were as close as you could get before the actual fulfillment showed the truth. … The mystery here is that try as one might, we will never be fully faithful to God and yet the mystery is that we will always be forgiven providing we continue to strive and have faith.

But now, in v 4 how are the faithful remnant (the my people of v 4) called the righteous generation (the company / generation of the righteous of v 5)? The psalmist just said in v 3 that there is no one righteous, not even one. That would appear to be a huge contradiction. How then is the righteous remnant righteous? That is, because the psalmist says they are righteous, they must therefore be righteous in a different way because, after all, the psalmist had said that no one is righteous, not even one (v 3). So how were the righteous remnant righteous?

v 4 tells us that the evildoers … do not call upon the Lord which is in contrast to the righteous remnant which seeks God and calls on the Lord.
Still, vv 1-3 tell us the righteous remnant are sinful but they are righteous … Here’s how the OT is the opposite of legalism. …
The righteous remnant is righteous in the context of God’s covenental grace and mercy and the forgiveness that it brings. It’s not that they are righteous because as we all know, they are, in fact, sinful within the Jewish viewpoint! But they are righteous because they call on the Lord and are in the covenant. The righteous remnant may be sinful in many ways but their sinfulness is covered over through the forgiveness which comes through the covenant. And the people access the covenant because they call on the Lord.

On the other hand, the wicked are those who in idolatry turn away from God, who flee from God and who do not call on God. That’s the essence of their unrighteousness. They are justly called wicked and unrighteous because their beings are considered apart from the covenant and its provision of mercy. If their needs are considered apart from the covenant, they are wicked and evil.

Notice this wonderful Jewish theology of what sin, redemption and righteous are all about which underlies the passage here.

Return now to Ro 3 15-17 to see how that enriches the thought. Paul is talking about people who are not just guilty of this or that misdeed but people whose hearts are in need of redemption, whose hearts need to be turned back to God, who are in rebellion and idolatry and need to return to God.
Paul also echoes v 7 in Ro 11 as fulfilled in Christ. In Christ the salvation of Israel has come out of Zion. [ I couldn’t find this echo. Did he mean to say Ro 3? ]

So through the whole Bible this is what’s going on. Do not stumble or be confused when you have the psalmist talking about the righteous. When the psalmist says LORD I am righteous or blameless in your sight, the psalmist is saying he’s righteous because he takes refuge in you LORD. The psalmist knows he has forgiveness in the LORD. The wicked are those who turn from God and his covenant. No one can be saved by their works. We are instead saved by God’s grace but the difference between the righteous and the wicked is revealed precisely in their works because as James says, it’s the works that flow from our faith. The works of the wicked are in tune with their lack of faith.

The basic point here is that the Psalms and the whole Bible use righteous in two different ways.

Righteousness apart from the context of the covenant says no one can be righteous, that no one can be righteous apart from Christ. That’s why outside the Church there is no salvation. We cannot reject the gospel, we cannot reject Christ and be saved. There is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved. Of course, there will be those who, therefore, call Christianity intolerant because of this but the fact of the matter is that it’s scriptural. It’s in the Bible.
Ac 4 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
No one, including the greatest saints, is righteous apart from Christ.

However, elsewhere in the Bible it talks about saints who are righteous but these are those who are righteous in the context of the covenant. This all has to do with God’s forgiving merciful covenant having been fulfilled in Christ.
Ps 16
safe in his refuge

Ps 16 is classified as a miktam in the title which means a “choice piece” or “gem”. Miktam is always used in the headings of Davidic Psalms intended to be prayed in times of great danger such as we see in Ps 16, 56-60. For instance, Ps 58 asks God to judge the wicked rulers and to help the people who suffer because of corrupt government. That now said, we don’t know the circumstances under which this psalm was written.
In this psalm David acknowledges that God blesses him and keeps him safe, that God comforts him with the certain hope of eternal life and that he rejoices in God’s comfort and protection.

Ps 16 proclaims the joy that comes from faithfulness to the Lord in contrast to the sorrow of those who fall into idolatry. So strong is the joy of God that the psalmist moves from the blessings of this life to confident hope for the future based on God’s goodness. This messianic psalm can serve as our lifelong prayer because Christ has won the blessings for us that will continue into eternity. As with all messianic Psalms the ultimate fulfillment comes in Christ’s death and resurrection.
[Note also in the category chart above that Ps 16 is also categorized as an individual lament! In other words, the Psalms, just like the rest of Holy Scripture, are impressively elaborate and magnificent enough to carry multiple themes within the content of each psalm. So don’t get bent out of shape because some of our Psalms carry multiple themes. In fact, the whole of Bible does the same thing, beyond marvelous book that it is!]

The psalm begins with a plea for God to continue His loving protection and care (v 1). The psalmist recognizes (v 2) that the Lord is the source of His blessings and dedicates himself to follow the Lord. He realizes (v 3) that he is not alone in these blessings, but that our generous God showers them on all His people. The blessings (v 3) stand in stark contrast to the sorrow (v 4) of those who have sought other gods. The heathen bring the pain of judgment and the disappointments of their false gods upon themselves.

In vv 2-4 David makes an important point about his relationship with God, that apart from God, he has nothing.
Of course, should one not have faith in God as their refuge and Savior, their thoughts and actions will undoubtedly be different when they face danger. They may speculate on feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, worry and emptiness. Without God and forgiveness and eternal life that God gave us in Jesus, all we have is what is here on earth which means we have no hope of being saved. We have no true peace or joy. We have only ourselves to rely on in times of trouble. Without Jesus Christ, when faced with the death of loved ones or with our own death, we would not have the comfort and assurance of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come (the Nicene Creed).

Just as the Levites received their portion by lot (v 5), God has brought good fortune to David so that his life is blessed (v 6) and secure. David takes delight (v 6) in the blessings that come from living in God’s care and gives (v 7) the glory to God. The Lord is his great heritage, and his relationship with God is his greatest possession. While life is not easy, David is secure because the Lord (v 8) is near him. The words of vv 58 remind us of Jesus, who accepted the cup that the Father would not take away and confidently went forward to the cross.

True joy is deeper than mere happiness, for it is based on God’s continued presence. Happiness comes and goes because it is based in circumstances, which always change. Yet our God (v 10) will not abandon us, even in death. God will care for us in eternity just as He has in life. We know He can do so, because He has already (v 10b) brought the Holy One, Jesus Christ, back to life. In Ac 2 2528, Peter quotes vv 811 as proof of God’s eternal plan of salvation. As we cling in faith to the tremendous future God has for us, we have a joy that will not fade.

Portions of vv 8-11 are echoed and alluded to at several points in the NT. Intertextuality, typology and two-way traffic. For instance, Luke has both Peter and Paul echoing Ps 16 8-11 in Ac as proof of Jesus’ resurrection. Peter does so in Ac 2 25-32 and Paul does so in Ac 13 35-37. Both men echoed these vv to remind the people of David’s words that foretold that God would not allow Jesus’ body to decay. Instead, he would be raised from the dead. David’s body did die and decay; therefore, this psalm only makes sense when we apply it to the Lord Jesus.

The words David prayed in vv 9-11 declared his joy in the eternal life given him by God. We Christians know the path of life shown to us in Jesus Christ, and that deeply influences our outlook on life and death. Knowing already that we have eternal life in Jesus, we can live in confidence today, secure in his love. We can also boldly share God’s saving love with others by the power of the Holy Spirit. Knowing that we have eternal life, we no longer need to fear death as the end because it’s not the end! Death is actually the beginning. Death is rather a passage for us from this life on earth to our new, perfect life with Jesus, which will be in life everlasting in the consummated kingdom of God, the renewal and restoration of all Creation, here again on earth in the new Jerusalem come down out of heaven (Re 21) as part of the new heaven and new earth. We Christians can be certain that God will be with us as we step through the doorway of physical death from this life into the next. We can look forward with joy to living in God’s presence for eternity in life everlasting in the renewed Creation – in the life of the world to come as we say daily in the Creed. That’s just the way Scripture tells us over and over it will work out for all people found in faith. And for that, we can emphatically and respectfully say, “Thank you Jesus.”

While there are no Psalms of “the Fall”, there are Psalms that relate to the fact that although the kingdom of God has been inaugurated, we are not the church triumphant yet but we are still the church militant. We live in the midst of trials and temptations, sins, difficulties, sufferings and afflictions, sorrows and all the rest.
We see in Ps 143, one of the penitential Psalms, Psalms which put the stress
on the difficulties and trials that the psalmist faced and that we face and
on sins that beset us.

Another kind of psalm recognizes the afflictions that one faces and how God is our only helper, and these Psalms of trust put the stress on the help, power and love of God. Psalms of trust are spoken by the psalmist in time of trial and trouble and these Psalms focus on the help that comes from God alone. Ps 23 is another psalm of trust.

v 1
The psalmist is praying for God’s protection in the various trials and afflictions that the psalmist is facing, and we are praying with the psalmist.
Then there is a reason – the warrant – given why God preserves. Here’s what everything is built on – God. For I take refuge in you. I trust in you. I put my hope in you. That’s the warrant, the reason.

We saw in Ps 143 that is the foundation of our relationship with God. It’s true that our good works are acceptable to God, and it’s true that a true, living faith will always bring forth good works. We’ll see that come through in spades in some of the other Psalms. God is at work in us to do these good works because of that basic covenental relationship that unites us to God. We put our hope and our trust in God.
So again and again in the Psalms – as we saw in Ps 143 – that is the basis for our relationship with God. I trust in you. That’s how we are united with God. Of course, God’s grace comes first but we have access to that grace and mercy and power of God by something very simple – by trusting in God, by hoping in God, by putting our whole heart in God.

This is not a quid pro quo situation here in v 1. This is not as if faith or trust in God were an arbitrary requirement that God set. It is not as if God said “Hmmm. I need to make a quid pro quo. I’m going to do something for them but I want them to do something for me. I’ll do something for them but I want them to do something for me. Let’s see. What should it be? Should it be this work or that work or maybe faith as a work?”

No. That’s not the idea here. It’s not arbitrary or something that God makes up.
It’s structural meaning that we were created by God who is our Creator. We are God’s creatures. We are meant to run on God like a car runs on gas. So the only right relationship with God, the only way we can find life, blessing and fulfill our humanity is through this basic relationship of trust in our Creator God. It’s built into the Creation; it’s built into who we are as God’s created creatures. It’s not arbitrary or a quid pro quo. It’s the ultimate reality of how things are. God is our Creator and Savior, and the way we rightly relate to God is by hoping, trusting and believing in him. It’s not just in the NT such as with Paul who says we are saved by grace through faith in Ep 2. It’s through the whole Bible that we know this. Preserve me O God, for I take refuge in you (v 1).

This is this covenental relationship with God that we see in the covenant formula of I will be your God and you will be my people. We enter into a covenant with God, a covenant which is all on the basis of our faith, hope and trust in God. That’s why the Church has always talked about the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. These theological virtues are different from all other virtues because these virtues relate us to God. These virtues always go together. A true living faith is not only a trust in God but a hope in God that knows God’s love and power. And it’s also a faith that truly loves God and truly cleaves to God. Then that love overflows from God to our neighbor. So we see this right relationship with God. It’s not a relationship with God built on some legalistic formula. It’s not built on our being able to work our way into God’s favor or to do good works so that God says ‘I in mere justice must save and redeem them.’ Instead, it is that we are totally reliant on God’s love and mercy and forgiveness. The correct and only relationship with God that is a true relationship is built on faith, hope and trust.

This why in the liturgical worship of the church we again and again express our faith, hope and trust in God. Again and again we confess our sinfulness before God. Not only the most sinful but also the most saintly must confess their sins before God, that they are unrighteous before God, and that their only hope in God is in God’s grace and mercy.
That’s what we see in this psalm. Preserve me O God for I take refuge in you. I trust in you.

v 2
you are my Lord indicates this reciprocal relationship. This is another expression of the covenant formula of the Abrahamic covenant. I will be your God and you will be my people. They will be my people and I will be their God. Here the psalmist enters into that covenant relationship with God in saying you are my Lord.

v 3

Here our translations vary because the Hebrew is a little difficult and the Greek is not much easier.

You have the Lord who is the psalmist’s God and Lord, but notice here that the psalmist talks about God’s holy ones, God’s saints who are in the earth, the holy ones in the earth. Here is the concept of the people of God as the saints of God, as the holy ones of God.
In the original context the psalmist is talking about all of those among the people of God who with him worship the one, true God. They are the majestic ones. They are the saints in the earth. They are in contrast with those who barter after another god as we see in v 4. So in the context the psalmist is talking about all of God’s people.

Notice that the psalmist’s relationship with God includes his relationship with all God’s people. There is this fellowship and connection with the saints of God (and not with those who turn from God in v 4). Our relationship with God includes the fellowship of the church; it does not exclude the people of God but includes the fellowship of all the people of God, of all the saints of God, of all believers.
Some people want to do a “do it alone Christianity” in which it’s just “me and God” in which the church and other believers are out of the picture. Notice here that for the psalmist the relationship with God involves relationship with the people of God.

In fact, v 3 has been used by the church in its liturgies through the centuries in commemoration and honor of the saints including those saints who are special examples of holiness and a Christ-like life. Here the saints are all God’s worshipers. They are the one in whom the psalmist delights (v 3).
Holiness and a Christ-like life go together. We totally misunderstand the Church’s commemoration of the saints if we think that the whole purpose of that is to say “these are people who lead a Christ-like life that we don’t need to or are not called to follow.”

In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. We have these examples of the saints to remind us constantly that all of us are called to be saints as well. We are called to give our total commitment. We remember the great saints and martyrs who gave everything for Christ. This is not to say ‘here are the martyrs. Isn’t it great that we don’t have to be like that or are not called to be like that.’ Instead, we commemorate the martyrs to remember that we are also in this fight, and we, too, must be ready if called upon to give up our lives to the death. So the whole purpose of the commemoration of the saints is to recall us to the truth that we, too, are called to be God’s saints.

We see this contrast between the saints of God in v 3 and those who turn from God in v 4.
We see the saints of God here in v 3 who, like the psalmist, are in this relationship with God through faith and trust, which also involves love and commitment to God.
But in v 4 it’s a very different group of people who are described differently. They are classed among the wicked and not among the righteous.

As always in the Bible, the contrast between the righteous and the wicked is not a moralistic contrast – though it’s crucial that our faith must always bring forth good fruits. In fact, the contrast is between those who trust in God and those who turn to other gods. And from that everything flows. Trust in God produces a lifestyle glorifying God and opens us up to the life changing, transforming power of God. However, to turn from God puts us on a path to dehumanization and sorrow.

v 4
choosing another god classes these people among the wicked and not among the righteous. These people hasten after another god. What is the result of this life style, this decision to turn to other gods? Their sorrows will be multiplied.
The psalmist is talking about the names of the false gods. He will not pour out their drink offerings of blood. He will not be among the unrighteous who follow after other gods.

Going back to v 1, he will only worship the one God. Preserve me O God, for I take refuge in you. He doesn’t take refuge in these other gods which others follow but in the one, true God. Keep me O God. Save me O God. For I take refuge in you. v 1 is in contrast with v 4 in which we see those who follow after other gods.

Here in this psalm of trust we see something very counter cultural in the biblical Christian message, the exclusivity of truth. This is one, true God. These other claimants to deity, these other religious expressions, these other gods are false gods within the teaching of the God and the Church. That is very counter cultural in our time of what is called pluralism or relativism in which we are told by our culture that it’s OK to say that I’m a Christian or that I follow Christ, but one must add “because Christ does it for me. Some other god may be right for you.” That is not at all the true biblical message!

Pluralism in a political sense is a good thing, that is, that we have freedom of religion. The Bible is not here rejecting political pluralism. However, religious pluralism in which “all truths are the same”, in which “all paths lead to God”, in which we cannot really know the ultimate truth and all religions are just shadows and expressions of a truth we cannot know, .. all of this is the modern, pluralistic, relativistic outlook unfortunately of many these days, and it is very contrary to what we know from Scripture.

According to the Bible the one, true God is the true God and has the truth, and the ultimate reality has made itself known in Christ through the Incarnation! So it is that through Christ we are in touch with ultimate reality, not some secondary, false shadowy imitation of reality that just classes the biblical truth and the Christian faith among all other so-called world religions. What we know from Scripture is the one and only way of truth.

This is not to say that there are not many good elements of truth in other religions, in other faiths and even in the worship of these various deities. However, from the Christian biblical perspective, there is but one, true God and all other gods are false claimants to that title.

So we see this exclusive focus and this conviction of the psalmist that those who hasten after another god (v 4), their sorrows will be multiplied. So the psalmist says in v 1 Preserve me O God, for I take refuge in you. We are to take refuge in God alone.

v 5
Here again the translation of vv 5-6 is more difficult but the overall thought is clear. The LORD is the portion of his inheritance and his cup.
In the psalmist’s present in v 1, it is God in whom he takes refuge. When the psalmist looks to his future, it’s a God-centered future. The Lord is the portion of his inheritance and his cup.
There is still something more going on as well. Remember that the LORD said to the people of Israel, I am your portion and your inheritance. And yet, he delivered them from Egypt and brought them into the promised land. So there is something that goes with the Lord as our inheritance and our portion. To see that go to Co 1 9-13.
Co 1 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
Here we see that union with God which the psalmist in Ps 16 is praying about, that union that’s brought about through trust in God. This is in his prayer and he says what he is praying for them is that they .. walk worthily of the Lord, to please the Lord in every way, … Notice how living faith, as the book of Ja say, always leads to good works.
So here again (in vv 12-13) we have that inheritance or that cup (Ps 16 5). We have seen this concept before. What is the inheritance of the people of God? According to the larger biblical story, the inheritance is what we see in the Church’s teaching and its Creed which comes from the apostolic teaching. The Church, and in the climax of its Creed, tells us our ultimate hope is I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
We’ll talk about the resurrection later but first the life of the world to come. That’s the same as the renewal and restoration of all Creation. Many tend to pass over this or miss it entirely. So often in contemporary pop Christianity, even oftentimes within the Church, we talk as if our hope is going to heaven when we die. Of course, heaven is a wonderful hope but it’s only the intermediate state. Heaven is not the ultimate hope. The ultimate hope is that of the renewed Creation. It’s right there in the Church’s Creed. It’s not that the world ends and God disposes of the world and takes us to some non-physical heavenly sphere. This is a hope of a life which is the life of the world which is to come. That means that the created order we now have will be renewed and transformed by God in a way so ineffably magnificent we cannot even envision. There we will dwell in this very physical renewed Creation and new world order, in our very physical and renewed bodies, brought to life in the resurrection and then transformed to be imperishable. End of Co 1 commentary.

The church has always taught what the psalmist is talking about here in Ps 16 5-6. Our inheritance and our cup is indeed a beautiful one as the psalmist says. It is pleasant. The psalmist says it is beautiful to me.
It’s something much greater and more mind-bending than the rather anemic hope of an everlasting existence apart from our bodies in a heavenly, non-Creational sphere.

Even within the Church we very often fall into the trap of thinking that is all there is. Notice, however, that the Creed tells it very differently because the Creed itself does not mention heaven one time except as the place where Christ has gone and from where he’s going to come again in order to renew and restore all Creation. Additionally, when the Creed climaxes by telling us what our hope is, it doesn’t mention heaven at all because that is the intermediate state. That is the anteroom in which we wait for the ultimate, and the ultimate is the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. It’s the renewal and restoration of all Creation. That how the Creed climaxes – not with “heaven talk” but with renewed Creation talk. Why? Because the ultimate goal is not heaven but the renewed Creation.

With that thought in mind notice now the wonderful symmetry in the biblical story. The inheritance of the people of Israel under the old covenant was the promised land. The hope and inheritance of the people of God in the new covenant is the promised land, but a much greater promised land. Everything is greater in the fulfillment. The promised land was this one land given to this one nation (the Abrahamic covenant). The hope for the Church of God, followers of Christ from all nations, is that with Christ’s second coming there will be the renewal and restoration of all Creation. That is the promised land to come: the whole renewed and restored created order. So our hope is the renewed Creation.

the portion of my inheritance and my cup is a use of the genitive called “the genitive of definition”. He is my portion which is my inheritance and my cup. You see, another way of talking about your inheritance is your portion. Inheritance and portion are equivalent words. So when you say the portion of my inheritance it defines what you are talking about. It’s not one part of my inheritance but the portion which is my inheritance. Basically it’s another way of saying it is my inheritance.

For instance, if I say the gift of love, I don’t mean that there is love and then there is some gift that love gives that is apart from that or part of that. I mean “the gift which is love”. So this is that function of the genitive: the portion of my inheritance is the portion which is my inheritance. To define it otherwise would be problematic where the Lord would be less than everything. Here, the Lord is everything.

This v also reminds us that even with this wonderful hope of the renewed Creation, at the center of that is that we will be with Christ; we will be with God. That’s always why you have the great passages about the renewed Creation and the resurrection of the dead such as we see in 1 Th 4 where Paul, after talking about the resurrection and the renewed Creation and everything else, concludes with v 17 and we shall always be with the Lord. That’s what’s at the center of it because we were created to be in communion and love with God. Our relationship with God which has already begun and which is enriched and made to grow through prayer and the sacraments of the church including Holy Communion in which we draw closer and nearer to God, … that relationship with God will reach its ultimate fulfillment when Christ comes again. And we’ll then have this perfect union and communion with God.

In vv 6-11 the psalmist speaks. We see that part of faith is following the ways, the commands and the truth of God. God counsels him, and his mind instructs him in the night (v 7) based of the Word of God and the truth of God.
Not only is his heart glad but his flesh dwells in hope because he knows something wondrous, that God will not abandon his soul to Hades nor allow his holy one to undergo decay (v 10). Instead, he will make known to me the path of life (v 11).

V 10 was a mystery. How could you explain this because, in fact, David did die and his body did see corruption. This text is explained by Peter in Ac 2 31 ff within the biblical understanding of two-way traffic (which itself is most thoroughly discussed in the Mk file). Peter says there that it’s all explained by the fulfillment of the events in which we see the one who was promised in the Davidic covenant, the Messiah who comes from David’s line, he – the Messiah – was raised from the dead so that his flesh did not see decay.

v 11

So what’s going on in Ps 16? Here we see in this psalm of trust in God that there are not only the other aspects we’ve talked about but there is also a prophetic aspect. That is, Ps 16 praises the LORD for numerous earthly blessings but moves toward a climactic expression of hope for life in God’s presence beyond the grave. Being a psalm of David this psalm was looking ahead to someone greater than David. We see what’s going on here in Ac 2 22-31 and 13 34-35. See extensive notes there here summarized in these next two indents.

We have from Ac 2 31:

The most essential occurrence to which we bear witness as people of faith is the resurrection tou/ Cristou/ of the Christ.
Peter continues in his sermon at Pentecost by quoting from Ps 16 9-10 – showing how Ps 16 was prophetic of Christ, of the one to come. Lk here quotes Ps 16 which says that ‘you will not leave my soul in Hades nor allow your holy one’s body to see corruption.’
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
In v 29 Lk told us that David died and was buried so we know v 30 could not have been about David himself. Then Luke tells us in v 30 that David was actually looking ahead to his descendant, the Messiah. And then in v 31 having looked ahead he spoke about the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was neither left in Hades nor did his flesh see corruption.

So here again Lk emphasizes the very physical, bodily character of the resurrection; that is, that Jesus’ body did not even see decay. Because Jesus was only in the grave “three days”, God did not allow his body to see decay. Had Jesus not been raised from the dead his flesh would have seen decay. Hence, Lk graphically stresses the physicality of Jesus’ resurrection with his description his flesh did not see decay. Luke wants the hearer/reader to know about the physical nature of Jesus’ resurrection. It was a bodily, physical thing which was why he gave us that long narrative in Lk 24 which Luke highlighted through those many convincing proofs. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is of core importance theologically because that’s what fulfills all the promises of God’s victory over death and so on. And now he is raised forever. This was exactly the point that even Irenaeus would later make in the second century.

So we see what the inspired apostle Peter said. This Ps 16 was not just talking about David; it was looking ahead prophetically and speaking of Christ because when Christ was raised on the third day, he was raised so that his body never underwent decay. His soul did not remain in the realm of the dead in Hades nor did his body undergo decay.

Pe is making this claim that we’ve seen before, this claim that Jesus and the events of Jesus have fulfilled these scriptures. But Peter was saying they had happened in a surprising way. Pe knew that no one before this time would have thought of a resurrected Messiah as being what Ps 16 was talking about. However, when we see the fulfillment and we reflect on the words of the Ps, then we can see that the resurrected Messiah really had fulfilled the words of the Ps in a surprising way – through this Messiah who had come from David’s loins being raised from the dead. So again, we see the two-way traffic of the Bible with Luke’s reference to Ps 16. [See Mk discussion of two-way traffic.] In light of the fulfillment events of Jesus’ resurrection, we have to read Ps 16 a whole new way. Peter said Ps 16 wasn’t talking about David, but David was looking ahead to his descendant, the Christ, the Son of David who would fulfill these things. The events illumine and enlighten and show what the original meaning of the original OT passages was.

And from Ac 13 35 … “You shall not allow (permit) your Holy One to see decay” we also see in Ps 16 10.
Ps 16 10 for you will not leave (abandon) my soul in Hades nor allow your holy one’s (body) to see corruption (decay).
Ac 13 35 is a promise and prophecy that could only have been fulfilled in Christ because David had died and underwent decay. All human beings die and undergo decay. Only Jesus died and rose on a third day, not having undergone decay, in order to conquer death for us.
As such, Paul made the same point here about Ps 16 10 as Peter did when speaking about Christ’s death and resurrection in Ac 2 31. Therefore, both Peter and Paul look back to Ps 16 as a prophecy fulfilled in Christ.

According to those two texts in Ac, Peter and Paul, respectively, tell us who is speaking here in Ps 16 7-11: God the Son; Christ Jesus; the Son of God. That’s who’s speaking here.
So David was the original author of this psalm. The title says a Miktam (a certain type of psalm) of David. [Most of these types of Psalms seem to be these Psalms of trust.] While David was the original author, according to the NT apostolic witness this is a prophetic psalm in which the ultimate speaker is “the greater David”. The first David who received the Davidic covenant of this coming ultimate Davidic king, of this Christ, speaks, but it was actually a prophetic psalm in which through David, the greater David, the Christ, the Messiah, the ultimate Davidic king is speaking. He is praying this psalm and it was ultimately fulfilled in him, Christ.

That connects up with something else. In the Church’s teaching the one who was truly praying the Psalms all along was Jesus. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God! Jesus was the one who the Church has always said prayed the Psalms. Now you can see from Scripture why the Church has always taught that. Because Scripture itself teaches that! Peter and Paul taught that! Christ is the ultimate prayer of this psalm.

So David was the first one who prayed but being a prophet, as Peter said, David was actually speaking of the Christ and it’s actually the Christ who is praying. These things are only ultimately true of Christ, not of David. It was only Christ whose body never underwent decay (v 10). V 10 was speaking of the resurrection of Christ as he said.

Further, if the real prayer of this psalm is Christ, can we pray these Psalms? Of course, “Yes!” Through baptism, the Holy Eucharist, faith and the power of the Spirit we are united to Christ which allows us to pray these Psalms. As Paul says we are in Christ (Ro 6 11). So in Christ and in union with Christ is how we can pray these Psalms. How can we pray the words of the holy psalmist who expresses this true relationship with God and this holy devotion to God? Certainly not through our own perfection, works and righteousness! We can pray the Psalms because we are united with Christ. We are in this covenental relationship with God in which our works are acceptable through God’s grace and mercy in Christ. So in union with Christ and in Christ now we can pray the Psalms.

Notice also that in connection with this whole Paul story that David prayed this as a prayer of Israel. The Psalms started out as Israel’s prayer book. Then, through Christ, the kingdom of God has been opened to all nations, and now all nations pray the Psalms. The Church prays the Psalms. Each individual Christian prays the Psalms. People of all nations pray the Psalms.
With the lesser David (those of the Davidic line) it was Israel’s prayer book. Now, the greater David (Jesus himself) has made this the prayer book of all the people of God from all nations. All people of God are now members of Israel. All Israel’s prophets and Psalms and saints looked forward to, Christ. We are now members of Israel in Christ and can now pray these Psalms.
Because we are united to Christ in baptism, the Psalms are the prayer of the Church when someone passes among the faithful, and the Psalms can be read continually through the evening until the morning service. We are buried with Christ and raised with him to newness of life. Very comforting service.

vv 7-11 are all about Christ’s resurrection. So when we pray Ps 16 we are expressing our hope and trust that Christ will raise us from the dead. Christ’s resurrection is always all about God’s defeat of and victory over death so that we might be raised to life. That’s how this dovetails in with the Creed again. We’ve talked about the life of the world to come but the Creed also says I eagerly await (look for), the one place in the Creed where we express an emotion word, a word that’s different from I believe or I confess. So we say I eagerly await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
So this Ps 16, which looks forward to Christ’s resurrection and which we pray now because we are united to Christ, now looks forward to and expresses our confidence and trust in our resurrection from the dead. Christ has risen so that we might rise again. So we pray this psalm in Christ expressing our covenental relationship with God, our commitment to God and to the Church and the saints who are in all the earth (v 3), in eager expectation and hope knowing that the one who raised Christ from the dead will raise us from the dead because Christ was the first fruits of those who sleep. This resurrection has become our hope. The resurrection of the dead.

So just as in the Creed, so also here in Ps 16, we see those two great hopes, that of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come (otherwise known as the renewal and restoration of all Creation, the renewed Creation or the renewed created order. Say it however you will. They all speak of the very same thing!).

Notice also how our trust in God involves not only trust in God’s love but also trust in God’s power.
There are those who say that it’s important to trust in God’s love but they will also talk about ‘well, maybe because there is evil in the world and so on, God is not all powerful, or that God cannot do everything. So we can’t really trust in God’s power.’ However, from the Christian biblical perspective trust in God means not only trusting in God’s love but also in God’s power. If God were a God of love but not an almighty God, we would be without hope. Our hope is that this God who loves us also has the power to give the life and the salvation which he has promised all through Scripture in this ineffable thing that only God can do: the resurrection of the dead and the renewed created order. Apart from that, there is no hope.

So we trust in God’s power because we know and believe Jesus’ resurrection, that one proleptic event in history through which everything that happened before his resurrection must be seen and that one event in history through which everything that happened after his resurrection must be seen and understood as well. The resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection! See how nicely this fits together.

Ps 18
vv 20-24

David – who had received the Davidic covenant from God that would eventually be fulfilled in the birth of Christ – says in v 20 …
Here in vv 20-24 the psalmist talks about his righteousness, his blamelessness. The psalmist said according to my righteousness in v 20 and then in v 23 the psalmist even said my blamelessness with him. This fits right in with Ps 33 in which the psalmist talks about those who are righteous. The psalmist says he’s among those who are righteous and blameless.
This seems to conflict with so many other Psalms that say no one is righteous, that no one is blameless. So what’s the solution to this dilemma? Is this an insoluble contradiction here at the heart of the Bible? Of course not! They actually fit together quite well when one understands God’s grace and mercy that is found at the heart of the covenant of God with his people.

God’s covenant

A crucially important biblical concept is that of God’s covenant with his people. While the Bible tells us of many covenants, most of the time when it used the term covenant, it does so in the singular because all of these covenants have one, merciful goal. All covenants go back to the Abrahamic covenant, which was God’s covenant to be the God of Israel and that the people were to be his people (which is the so-called “covenant formula” of the Abrahamic covenant). I will be your God and you will be my people. Israel was to be the eventual blessing to all nations.

Another, future covenant meant to go with the Abrahamic covenant was the Davidic covenant which was the promise of an everlasting Davidic throne, of an ultimate Davidic king who would rule and reign over God’s people. The prophets also told of how the Abrahamic covenant would be fully fulfilled with a new covenant that God would one day make with his people in which God would write his Word and commands and law in their hearts and thereby transform them to be not sinful nor rebellious but instead godly and faithful.

All of these covenants were (constituted) all the ways in which God fulfilled his one covenant with his people. All of these covenants looked forward to the fulfillment of that covenant that would eventually come with Jesus Christ. This covenant God made with his people was this covenant in which he would be their God and they would be his people. This covenant was one of grace and mercy, one that brought forgiveness and transformation and God’s grace.

This covenant was there in the OT; that is, God’s grace and mercy were there in the OT. According to Paul, as we looked back into the past from the time of fulfillment, we knew that undergirding God’s grace and mercy in the OT always was to be the sacrifice of Christ. God forgave their sins when they came to the temple and did the sacrifices, but those sacrifices only worked because they were sacramental foreshadowings which looked forward to the sacrifice of Lamb without blemish himself, Christ. This once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus would be the ultimate sacrifice. The sacrifice of Jesus would be the ultimate means of God’s redemption and salvation of his people.

So the death and resurrection of Christ not only reaches forward to us in out present time to forgive, redeem and save us, but it also reaches backwards in time to forgive, redeem and save the people of Israel in all of those animal sacrifices. Remember that this covenant was one of grace and mercy, one that brought forgiveness and transformation and God’s grace. As such, Paul tells us that the grace and mercy in that Abrahamic covenant was revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus. [This is just one of the numerous instances in Scripture in which a NT author teaches us what the OT was saying, in which a NT author opens up the OT to us in ways we would not otherwise see or understand. Another example we see with the author of He who in He 11, the faith chapter of the Bible, uses the book of Ge to teach us what faith really is. I could go on and on.]

Now, apart from this grace and mercy and forgiveness which comes through Christ, no one can or ever has been saved. That is, salvation is only to be had in the context of God’s grace and mercy. Apart from it you are sunk. Apart from this grace and mercy which comes through Christ, which both reaches forward to us as well as backward to the OT saints, no one can be righteousness. That’s why the psalmist said to not enter into judgment with your servant for in your sight no one is righteous (Ps 143 2). (Because if God did enter into judgment, everyone would go “down the tubes”.) That’s why Ps 14 says there is no one who does good, not even one (v 3). So, apart from this covenental grace and mercy found in Christ, no one is righteous.
Therefore, when the psalmist implores God to not enter into judgment with your servant for no one living is righteous, … when the psalmist says that, he’s fleeing for refuge under and into the covenantal mercy of God.

Therefore, we are in this covenental mercy of God in which our sins are forgiven, in which we are in covenental relationship with God and we are being transformed by God’s Spirit and God’s grace and mercy to be changed into God’s / Christ’s own image and glory. Because we’re in the covenental mercy of God, the Bible can then talk about God’s people as righteous because they are righteous within the gracious context of the covenant.

So here is the difference. When the Bible says no one is righteous, it means no one is righteous apart from God’s grace and mercy found in the covenant of God with his people.
But, when the psalmist talks about those who are righteous, it doesn’t mean that they can be saved by the works. It doesn’t mean they are sinless or that they do not need forgiveness. It means they are righteous in the graciousness context of the covenant. It’s only in the context of the covenant that they are righteous.

On the other hand, the wicked are those outside the covenant who reject God’s grace and mercy. The righteous flee to God’s mercy and covenant, and, within the context of that covenant in which there is God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness, they are righteous.
That’s why when the psalmist in Ps 33 1 talks about the righteous, he is not denying what Ps 143 2 says, that no one in your sight is righteous. He is not denying what Ps 14 3 says, that there is no one who does good, not even one. The psalmist, instead, is talking about those who are righteous in the gracious context of forgiveness, grace and mercy that comes in the covenant of God.

Before Jesus, one’s righteousness came from living within the gracious context of the covenant. Since Jesus, the One who fully fulfilled that covenant, one’s righteousness comes from the context of belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus, a free gift to us – grace – but one which cost God his life. Jesus died so that he might give us his righteousness.

When we talk about this in OT terms or in biblical terms generally, we say we cannot be righteous apart from God’s grace and mercy as found in the covenant. Still, we can be righteous but only in the context of the covenant. Now that we are in the time of fulfillment, that’s the same way of saying that we cannot be righteous apart from Christ. To be righteous we must be in union with Christ. This means that apart from Christ, no one is righteous, but when in union with Christ, we are righteous in the sight of God. We have forgiveness of sins and God is transforming us to be truly righteous people who follow God’s ways.

To further see and explore this go to Ps 130 1-8. We see how this is part of Scripture in Ps 130 1-8.

Ps 19
God’s two great revelations

This wisdom psalm Ps 19 directs us to the greatness of God as it answers the question ‘How do we come to know about God?’ According to the psalmist, God has assembled two great witnesses to testify about Him.

Vv 16 tell about the revelation of God in nature. The heavens declare God’s glory. The sky shows the work of God’s hands. Here in vv 1-6 the psalmist directs us to God’s Creation. From a study of the created world we see that the physical world around us displays God’s infinite knowledge. It points to an all-wise, all-powerful Creator.

Vv 710 speak of the wonderful revelation of God in the Scriptures.

The psalm concludes with personal application (vv 1114). Here, David proclaims the value of both these revelations. David also puts into words his desire to apply their lessons to his life.

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew uses two names for God in this text. In the first verses describing Creation’s revelation, God is called Elohim (translated as ‘God’). This name hints at the fact that He is God of all. In the second section, the section about the Scriptures, the covenant name of Yahweh is used (translated as ‘LORD’). This carries all the connotations of the covenant He is the Lord who wants to live in relationship with us and who has made that relationship possible in Jesus, our Savior.

While people have often worshiped the stars, David proclaims (v 1) that the skies point to their Creator God and not to themselves. The magnificence (v 1) of the sky shows the hands of the Creator. Such grandeur cannot be accidental. The regularity and order (v 2) with which day follows night speaks of a Creator who has set them in place so that they do not stray from their course. All Creation stands in silent (vv 36) witness to the whole world so much so that no human being can claim to be ignorant of God’s existence or of His majesty and glory. As we look at the handiwork and complexity of God’s creation, we thank Him for both the dependability and the beauty of His Creation.

Vv 4b-6 describe the heavens as the sun’s tent. V 6 says the sun gives light and warmth to all creatures. Notice the difference between the sun in these three scriptural references – Ps 84 11; Is 60 19-20 and Ma 4 2 – and the sun that God created in the skies.
We see that the sun in Ps 84 11 and in Is 60 19-20 is a metaphor for God. God is the source of the light of life. The “sun of righteousness” in Ma 4 2 refers to the “light of the world,” Jesus Christ. The sun that God placed in the skies of our universe is only a temporary light. He has made Jesus to be our eternal light. In Jesus, God’s glory is revealed. Jesus is the light of life, our salvation.

As wonderful as the testimony of God’s good Creation is, it is incomplete. It can show us God’s great power but not His love. In v 7 the psalmist changes direction. In a series of six statements (vv 7-10), David describes the names, attributes, and blessings of God’s greater revelation, His Word. As David uses the word law here, he means the whole revelation of God in Scripture, both Law and Gospel.
The Word of God is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true. These words describe our God, as well as the Holy Scriptures He has caused to be written for us. His character and His nature shine through the pages of Scripture. God’s Word, in particular the Gospel, brings us life (v 7), joy (v 8), and light. The Gospel message (v 10) contained in His Word is our true wealth. The Gospel is better than gold, sweeter than honey. And best of all, it will last.

While Creation reveals the glory of God as Creator, the Word of God must reveal the glory of God as Redeemer. The physical Creation cannot tell us about Christ or about God’s forgiving grace. Hence in vv 7-10 the psalmist is saying:
that the six names for God’s Word found in these vv are law, testimony, precepts, commandment, fear and rules. The fear of the LORD (v 9) seems an unusual name for God’s Word. Usually we think of this term as referring to an attitude the Word produces in the believer. But in v 9 this term is used as a figure of speech for the Word itself.
that the qualities of God’s Word named in these vv are perfect, sure, right, pure, clean and true and righteous altogether.
that the Word brings to believers many blessings including reviving the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart and enlightening the eyes. The Word endures forever. It is to be desired more than gold and is sweeter also than honey.

Vv 12-14 speak about the glory of God displayed in believers as they repent of their sins and as they speak and think in God-pleasing ways.

When we meditate (v 12) on God’s Word, it acts like a mirror. It shows us our sins, sins which we then confess before a merciful God, a God who forgives us for Jesus’ sake. Having seen the destructive nature of sin, David prays (v 13) that God watch over him, protecting him from willful disobedience. We pray similarly in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, ‘Lead us not into temptation.’ The psalmist prays the words of v 14 as a praise offering. David (v 14) closes the psalm with a prayer that God will recreate him so that his life will reflect what the Lord has taught him in the Word.

We are to ask God for wisdom so that the words we speak and the thoughts we think might be praise offerings to him.
We are to ask ourselves where we see the Word of God at work in our heart and life, changing and renewing us.  
We can ask God to help us choose our words wisely so that they reflect only his goodness.
We can ask God to help keep our thoughts pure and pleasing to him.
We can ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the wisdom that God gives us in his Word.
We can ask for his help so that we don’t simply read the instructions found in his Word but that we actually live them.
We also ask God for a greater awareness of the fact that we are his representatives in this world.

As God’s representatives we have the responsibility, with his help, to speak and show the saving message of Jesus to all people. We can ask God to guide us so that all we do reflects him and his glory.

Ps 21
the thanksgiving of the king

Ps 21 is the response of king David when God answered his prayer for a victorious battle. We don’t know which battle is meant here. As we have seen so often, the psalms most often remain somewhat general so that we can read into them our own circumstances and needs.
God’s people praised God for a victory that God had given their king in battle. In vv 1 and 7 we see the king – David – crediting the Lord for the victory. The king relied on the Lord’s strength to win the battle. V 7 says that the king trusted in the LORD and his love. The king was secure in God. Therefore, as the center of this psalm, v 7 emphasized the importance of the king’s faith in God. When we trust in the LORD, we have faith.

Beside victory in this particular battle, God granted David other blessings that we read about in vv 2-6. The people thanked God
for granting their king his hearts’ desire and for not withholding the request of his lips (v 2);
for giving him rich blessings and a crown of fine gold (v 3);
for sparing his life and for giving him eternal life through faith (v 4);
for bestowing on him glory … splendor and majesty (v 5); and
for being with him (v 6).
Note that the crown of fine gold mentioned in v 3 might have referred to the riches captured in battle.

David began by professing (v 1) his joy in God’s abundant strength and victories. Now God had done what David had asked and more, blessing him with gifts that David could never have imagined. Each gift exceeded the request that David had made.
He asked for long life (v 4), and God gave him an eternal throne through the Messiah.
He asked (v 5) for victories, and the Lord made him a king of great splendor and majesty.
He asked (v 6) for blessings, and the Lord promised the One who would bless all people for all time.
God always gave more than expected. We, too, can look at all we enjoy from the hand of God. We, too, can see the abundance of His blessings and use them to give glory to Him for all He has done.

Ps 21 pivots on v 7, where the focus changes from past to future. The Lord had vindicated David’s trust in the past. The Lord’s unfailing love would not allow His king to fall in the future.
The verb tense changed in v 8. I n the next section of the psalm, vv 812, the people addressed the king. They hailed the future victories their kings would enjoy because of God’s power. They shared his confidence in the Lord and in the future.

The enemies (v 11) may plot against David, but they would (v 12) fall helplessly into the Lord’s hands before they knew it.

It’s not hard to see the typology behind this psalm, to see how this psalm always pointed toward the ultimate victory Jesus, our king, would have on the Last Day – judgment day. Ultimately all of this applied to Christ and to His kingdom.

Jesus ruled in God’s strength (v 1), and we rejoice in His great the greatest! salvation.
God had made Jesus King forever in the Church; He rules there in honor and majesty.
Jesus would never lose His throne (v 7); he would never be deposed.

These words describe God’s anger at the wickedness of Satan and at the human agents who do his bidding (vv 8-12). They will be utterly destroyed. And, as with Israel of old, we (v 13) will sing and praise the mighty King whom we worship.
And so we are left with these images that point to Jesus’ ultimate victory over evil.
V 8 – Your hand will find out all your enemies.
V 9 – The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them.
V 10 – You will destroy their descendants from the earth, and their offspring from among the children of man.
We see from these vv that the power and might of the Lord will destroy every enemy that rises against him and his people.

The Church is ever threatened by this evil or that evil. But for the believer – us – vv 8-12 are to comfort us. As we suffer the effects of sin’s corruption and chaos in the world around us, these words of the psalmist remind us that God is in control. Providential monotheism. God does indeed have power, and God will eventually end all of the influence of sin, Satan and death. We can be certain of this because Jesus has already gained the victory over evil, sin, suffering and death through his death and resurrection. Ps 21 paints a powerful picture of our active and all-powerful God who promises to take action to preserve and to rescue us, his people, his family; and God has already done so in giving his life as a ransom for many.

So we see that in light of the dangers faced by leaders of our nation in today’s world, and especially given their demonstrated inability to deal effectively and properly with the many problems this nation faces, it is important that we remember to include our leaders in our prayers. We face incredible problems with terrorism, wars and corruption, both within and outside our nation. It is important that we ask God to be with our leaders, to guide them in their decision-making and to keep them focused on God’s Word as their source for true strength and wisdom. When we find ourselves being governed by someone not a Christian or by someone who makes decisions contrary to God’s Word, we need to ask God to work to change the mind and heart of such an individual and to bring that person to faith in him. As citizens, we need our hearts and minds centered on our Savior God so that we remember to participate prayerfully through the election process and other proper means God has given us to change leaders and laws when necessary.
Ps 22
from suffering to joy

Ps 22 is the lament psalm which the Church used specifically for Good Friday. Ps 22 follows the same pattern as other lament psalms but here the language is specific. It starts with Jesus’ words from the cross, with his feelings of abandonment. Ps 22 is one of the most explicit, as far as the words and actions of the enemies. The gospel writers echoed and alluded to Ps 22 extensively.

As David speaks, in the power of the Spirit, Ps 22 is one of those Psalms that prophetically foretell the passion of Christ. David’s prayer here in Ps 22 points beyond itself to the suffering endured by Jesus at his crucifixion. Ps 22 is similar in many ways to Ps 69 (an imprecatory psalm) in that both Psalms contain foreshadowings of Christ’s sufferings. However, Ps 22 does not call on God’s judgment on his enemies as does Ps 69.

Ps 22 makes good sense because it’s the sinful, captive to evil, human being, king David who said my God, my God. Why have you forsaken me? We are not troubled by the fact that David was in a position in which it appeared as God had forsaken him.
But when Jesus says it in Mk 15 34 and Mt 27 46, what was the theology behind that in the gospels? Notes from Mk 15 34 brought in here below.
Mk 15 34 is also a word of great trust because in the midst of his forsakenness by God which is for our sakes, Jesus said, my God, my God which is a quotation from Ps 22 1 which is about the righteous sufferer who suffers in order to bring the kingdom and reign of God. That’s what Jesus was doing.

Jesus’ cry of dereliction / cry of abandonment

These are Jesus’ only recording words from the cross in Mk and therefore Jesus’ last audible words in Mk up through 15 before he dies on the cross. This was once called Jesus’ cry of dereliction but because the word dereliction has unfortunately been lost in much of our English vocabulary. Instead, it’s now often called the cry of abandonment. Notice the depth of Jesus’ dereliction. Mark stressed Jesus’ sufferings, his weaknesses, his abasement and his abandonment by his disciples, and Mark portrayed Jesus not only abandoned by human beings but even his seeming abandonment by God, his Father. God forsook Jesus.

Here the text says that Jesus cried out with a loud voice. It was not Simon as the Gnostic Basilides tried to contend with his faulty exegesis. We see that again in v 37. Jesus makes a last cry in v 37. We know that he actually said something there in v 37 because Mk uses the Greek word here in v 34 that means to make an articulate cry that said something. But Jesus did not just make an inaudible sound here because there is a different Greek word that means to make an unarticulate cry that just cries out. So, although Mk doesn’t tell us what it was, Jesus said something more.

Still, the last words Mk wanted to leave with us in Jesus passion are those striking words recorded here in v 34: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? To stress the importance of these words, Mark even left them in the original lingua franca of the day, Aramaic. Foreign or exotic words are common in Greco-Roman magical papyri but also as we see here in Mk such as at 5 41; 7 11, 34; 14 36; 15 22, 34. Jesus spoke in Aramaic but the narrator immediately translated it into the Greek. Mk is the only Gospel writer who preserves the original Aramaic. For example, we have in Mt 27 46 has this as Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? hli hli lema sabacqaniÈ
o[ evstin meqermhneuo,menon\o` qeo,j mou o` qeo,j mou
which means being interpreted God of me God of me

In echoing Ps 22 what theological truth was Mark trying to get across to the reader? Only if the Creator God is doing this can there be any hope for release from the captivity of evil and the defeat of evil. It has to be the Creator God acting. How can the Creator God help human beings who are infinitely distant from the Creator God and who are enmeshed in evil? The key is the other side of the Incarnation – Jesus’ humanity – in which you have this connection in which Jesus voluntarily becomes human within this larger narrative. He says in Jn the one who sent me and also in Mk. I have been sent. And he was sent as a human being to identify with human beings and to suffer on their behalf. Only as a human being can Jesus suffer. This is quite striking.

In fact, that Jesus could even say my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? was considered so shocking and scandalous by some early copyists of the Bible that they changed the wording. “Jesus would never say such a thing to the Father,” they contended. [But the earliest and best manuscripts have the echo of Ps 22.] The scribe of Codex Bezae removed the word abandoned and replaced it with reproached which made it sound a little more palatable. It was difficult for some pious ears to hear that Jesus himself, who in this narrative is none other than the Son of God, would have said my God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why have you forsaken me? Mark’s text is explicitly saying that Jesus had been forsaken by God. Again, what theological truth was Mark trying to teach the reader? Why did Mark use this very strong word in his text, so strong that some scribes would later change it because it “troubled” them? What was Mark expressing with this cry of abandonment, that Jesus had been forsaken by God? Why would Jesus have been forsaken by God?

Underlying these words is this crucial narratival theology in which Jesus is enduring the cup of God’s wrath that we discussed back in see Mk 14 32-37, and so Mark shows us this separation from God the Creator that humanity deserved but which Jesus took onto himself on the cross for humanity (what we call vicarious atonement). In other words, Jesus endured God’s wrath for all sin and evil. So we have not only the physical suffering of Jesus but also the spiritual suffering of having been separated from God.
The echo here in v 34 itself comes from Ps 22 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? This is an expression of perfect trust in the Creator God. This is the whole mystery of the Father and the Son that we have in Mk.

Thus, Mk portrays Jesus’ weakness, his abasement before the soldiers and his abandonment by all – including God himself – because Mk leaves us with the words Why have you forsaken me? Is that to be taken seriously? Again, why would the Creator God forsake the Son of God? Could this connect up with any other themes we’ve discussed? Notice what a mind-bending theological matter this is. If the gospel narratives do have this overall narrative in which the identity of Jesus is such as we have said, this would be all the more shocking. My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me? Why does Mark so emphasize Jesus’ forsakenness?

David in Ps 22 makes good sense because it’s the sinful, captive to evil, human being, king David who said my God, my God. Why have you forsaken me? We are not troubled by the fact that David was in a position in which it appeared as God had forsaken him.
But when Jesus says it in Mk 15 34 and Mt 27 46, what was the theology behind that in the gospels?

Finally, the answer! Mark doesn’t want us to think that Jesus was not really abandoned by God. Mark wants us to know that Jesus had been forsaken by God. Mark wants us to see that the Creator God’s judgment on evil (which we saw in “the Fall” and in the Exile) was now being poured out in full on Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus actually had been forsaken by God. Jesus had been abandoned by God. He had felt the whole cup of YHWH’s wrath. Remember, we had vicarious atonement going on here. Jesus was sent to be a substitute for humanity, to take on the wrath of God for the sin of humanity. The gospels are claiming that Jesus, who knew no evil, who was sinless, was now being treated by God as sinful. Jesus was taking on the wrath of God. This was the real wrath of the creator God against evil. Since it was real wrath and not “pretend” wrath, God really had to abandon the one on whom he poured out his wrath. Therefore, it makes good sense that “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” would be Jesus’ last recorded words. The text tells us he said one thing more but Mark doesn’t say what was.

We had the judgment of Ge 3 and the resultant separation from God when death entered the world. You also have this separation from God being expressed here. But here you seem to have this reversal of things going on in which the separation from the Creator God, his wrath against evil are somehow being absorbed by the Creator God to lead to the defeat of evil and the healing of the separation from God.

It’s also at the same time this expression of trust. See Ps 22 begins with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and ends with the mysterious sufferings of this figure which results in God’s salvation and his kingdom of God coming to all the nations. It may be that Jesus has the whole Ps in mind as he expresses it. So it’s both an expression of agony and of separation from God, but it’s also an expression of trust and hope that the Creator God will come through with his salvation after all. End of Mk 15 34 discussion. Ps 22 resumes.

Ps 22 carries the psalmist from the deepest suffering to the most joyful anticipation. As David pens the psalm, he is enduring some great, unknown trial. As we have said before, most of the psalms have been left as a kind of ‘youfillinthe blankswithyourownneed’ prayers. In other words, whatever our sorrow, whatever our distress, we can bring it to our Father. The psalms are the Holy Spirit’s gift to us, a vehicle by which we may do that. David trusts as we can as well – that he and the Messiah of God will gain the victory.

Vv 121 portray his and the Messiah’s humiliation. Vv 2231 portray the joyful anticipation of victory in God. David gives an amazingly accurate description of the suffering of the Messiah. Vv 1, 7, 8, 15, 17, and 18 touch on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in great detail. This psalm is especially fitting for the Messiah because there is no reference to sin as the cause of the psalmist’s problems. In other words, he, like the Messiah to come, suffers unjustly under the hand of evil.

The psalm begins with a haunting appeal, quoted by Jesus on the cross (v 1). These are not words of doubt, but an urgent question from one who trusts in the Lord and who expects Him to help. The seeming failure (v 2) of God to answer as David cries out day and night is answered in v 3 by faith in God’s power and in the mercy He has shown in the past (vv 45) to those who trusted in Him.

In despair (v 6), David laments the ridicule he endures (vv 78). His tormenters draw the logical conclusion that God could rescue David if He wanted to. Faith answers this taunt (vv 910) by reminding David that God’s love has been with Him from the beginning. God has taught him (v 9) to trust and has built a special relationship (v 10) with him over the years. Faith (v 11) ends the section by repeating the plea of v 1 that God come near to hear and help.

Who among us hasn’t experienced fears that attacked our faith? Christ Himself suffered the worst temptations to fear and despair hell could master. And, he endured all these for us. Now, when our circumstances drive us to the wall, we can lean on Him for help. When we fail, we can come to Him for forgiveness. He is our kind, good Savior!

David offers a vivid contrast between (vv 1218) the power of his enemies to hurt him and (vv 1921) God’s power and strength to save. He pictures the brutality of his enemies (vv 12, 13, 16) by comparing them to vicious animals that encircle him. For David, vv 1418 were a poetic way to describe distress. And in their fulfillment these cries of agony literally became true as Jesus hung on the cross. His bones were pulled out of joint; His strength did melt away; He did thirst; enemies did pierce His hands and feet; the position of the crucified did allow onlookers to see and count ribs and other bones; people did stare at our Lord’s naked body as soldiers gambled for His clothing. What is the chance, do you suppose, that all this detail would come true in one person’s life by chance? Zero. God foretold it all through His prophet David so we could be sure that Jesus was indeed the Messiah God had promised to send for our salvation! Typology.

Finally, the turning point of Ps 22 comes in v 22. In joyful anticipation of God’s coming victory and help, David vows to acknowledge publicly his dependence on God and calls (v 23) on others to praise God with him. He proclaims (v 24) the lovingkindness of God so that others (v 25) might know of God’s love.

Can you see how this also came to be fulfilled in Jesus? After His resurrection, He did proclaim the name and victory of God to His brothers. When Jesus arose, He proved that His death had the power to destroy sin. Now we are children of God, members of His very own family, brothers and sisters of Christ! When Christ cried out (v 24b), God heard! God accepted His cry ‘It is finished!’ Our debt had been paid in full!

Those who had low standing (actually, no standing at all because of their sin) now see the abundance (v 26) of God’s mercy. We praise God along with David. This circle of God’s grace (v 27) widens to include the whole earth. God’s kingdom will be allpowerful (v 28) and eternal (v 30).

David ends with the need (v 30) to tell future generations so that people (v 31) not yet born may know the wonder of our God and all that He has done.

The descriptions of Jesus in this psalm, of His saving work for us on the cross, are amazing. They bring to mind the question of how David could know these things about the Messiah.
First, let us never underestimate the inspiration of God; the plan of salvation was complete in the mind of God from before time began.
This concept that God’s salvific plan was laid out before Creation is implicit everywhere in Scripture (cf. Co 1 14-20). And it is explicit in a great number of passages, just a few of which are: Mt 13 35, 25 34; Ep 1 (practically the whole chapter), 1 Pe 1 18-21, and Ro 16 25-27. For those seeking additional relevant passages, see also the Synopsis of the Pauline Letters, Topics 36, The Mystery of God, Christ; and 69, The Chosen People of God.

Nothing that happened to Jesus was a mystery to God. He had it all in mind one thousand years earlier during the time of David. What Ps 22 says about David is later fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The fact that similar events could happen in the lives of two of God’s servants points to the struggle with evil. The servants of God continue to suffer at the hands of evildoers even today. God’s people will at times be surrounded by their enemies. Opposition may escalate into brutal attack. Yet, the power of God to rescue and to turn evil for good is stronger still. Our crucified and risen Savior will guard and keep us into all eternity.

intertextuality

No other psalm is quoted more frequently in the NT than is Ps 22. For instance, we see the following “intertextual” connections between the psalmist’s words and the events of Jesus’ crucifixion:

Ps 22

NT text

event

vv 1-2

Mt 27 46

Jesus’ prayer at the cross

vv 6-7

Mk 15 29

the scorn and mockery Jesus endured – note especially the head wagging

v 8

Mt 27 43

the words of mockery – Let God deliver him

v 15

Jn 19 28

Jesus’ thirst

v 16

Ac 2 23

the mechanical process of crucifixion itself – the piercing of hands and feet

v 18

Jn 19 24

the casting of lots for Jesus’ clothing

In vv 1-2 and 6-8 the psalmist asks questions that express his distress at his suffering. Despite his distress the psalmist remembers many truths about God as we read in vv 3-5 and 9-10 respectively. He remembers that God is the Holy One in v 3. He remembers the trust his fathers placed in God and that God had delivered them in v 4. The psalmist also remembers that he belongs to God and that God was the one who brought him into the world.

When we are suffering, especially as a result of people who have wronged us without cause, we may sometimes not feel God’s love and care. We may feel that God has left us. In times like these it is especially important that we, like the psalmist, remain grounded in the truths of God found all around us in God’s good Creation. God helps us remember all he has done for us, particularly in and through his only begotten Son, Jesus. Whether or not we feel God’s love and care for us at a particular time, we can be sure of it because his Word tells us he does indeed love and care for us. We can trust God to bring us through our suffering. We can be certain he will do so, for Jesus’ sake.

The climax comes in v 21 where this suffering one whose hands and feet have been pierced, who has suffered with derision and who now is at the point of death. He prays to God that God would save him from the mouth of the lion. And answer him from the horns of the wild oxen.
Suddenly in vv 21-22 we see this figure alive and well and glorified. It is the resurrection! So this wonderful Ps 22 predicts Christ’s passion, his resurrection, the salvation to the nations and the church.
Christ himself echoes this same v 22 in Jn 20 17-18 as does the author of He 2 12.
And the result is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant that we see in v 27. all the families of the nations (v 27) specifically recalls the Abrahamic covenant, part 4.

Vv 22-31 represent the turning point in Ps 22. Here the psalmist vows to praise God. When we read these vv through the lenses of Jesus, we see how they reflect the glory of Jesus after his resurrection. After having been raised from the dead, for forty days Jesus showed himself alive to his followers. And now, in our time, we are those followers, those brothers and sisters of Christ. Jesus has declared God’s name to us, and we are to respond by praising God and witnessing to his grace ourselves. All the ends of the earth (v 27) will hear this witness. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt 5 6) eat and [are] satisfied (Ps 22 26), and our hearts will live forever!

Most Christians hear the account of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection many times throughout their lives. However, most never fully appreciate the depth of feeling and understanding contained therein. Hopefully, now better understanding the depth of Ps 22 you will live a new perspective through the Holy Spirit concerning the Passover and victory of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Ps 23
a Ps of confidence

Ps 23 is a psalm of trust that expresses this very concept found in the covenant formula – I will be your God and you shall be my people. The psalmist is talking about a God who personally knows and loves him. The covenant God idea involves the idea of God’s love for each human being.

Ps 23 is a psalm of thanks in which a Christian heart praises and thanks God for teaching him and keeping him on the right way, comforting and protecting him in every danger through his holy word.

In vv 1-3 the Church is speaking about the Lord and in vv 4-6 to the Lord. In speaking about the Lord the Church (the sheep; see also Jn 10 1-5) identifies him as my Shepherd (v 1; see also Jn 10 14) thus indicating a close relationship with him.
In this relationship of Shepherd and sheep, the Church lacks nothing, for example, the green pastures of kingdom life (v 2; see also Jn 10 10); the still waters of baptism (v 2; see also Jn 35); and the conversion of the soul to the paths of righteousness (see also Jn 3 3, 4 and 7).
And in speaking to the Lord, the Church is grateful to him:
1. For deliverance from the fear of death (v 4; see also He 2 14, 15);
2. For the Eucharist (v 5; see also Lk 22 14-20) and
3. For a lifetime of mercy (v 6; see also Lk 1 50, 54.).

Ps 23 is unquestionably the most familiar of the 150 Psalms for many people. It gets used in countless occasions, especially at funerals. To really know this psalm one must understand the subjects of sheep and shepherds in the Bible.

In the ancient near east and in Israel the word shepherd was widely used as a synonym for the word king. For instance, see 2 Sam 5 2.
2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.'”
The work of a shepherd was similar to that of an effective king because both shepherds and kings were to lead their flocks / people. Those “sheep” looked to their shepherd or their king for guidance, protection and provision. For instance, we see in Jn 10 Jesus calling himself the good shepherd and in comparing that text with what we have here in Ps 23, we see Jesus all through the psalm itself.

Ps 23 gives the reader a picture of being enveloped in God’s protection, love and care. We regularly take God’s love for granted. While we may often cry out to God for help in times of trouble, we often, as well, forget to praise him for his goodness toward us. Here in Ps 23 the entire psalm makes it patently clear that our good shepherd is always thinking about us, always looking for ways to show his care. Anything that happens to us must first pass God’s scrutiny, and God’s eyes are the eyes of purest love.

sheep and shepherds in the OT

Shepherding was a common, but dangerous, occupation in the OT. Because most of the land was used for farming, the sheep were often herded into the more remote wilderness areas away from the villages and growing crops. These wilderness areas presented many dangers to sheep – such as wild animals who would prey on the sheep – so shepherds carried a rod and a staff. Shepherds counted their sheep regularly. Usually a shepherd tended from 30 to 40 sheep.

Shepherding required patience and gentleness. Domesticated sheep are not intelligent animals. They need help finding water and good grass. They are easily startled by loud noises. Knowing their shepherd’s voice was a source of comfort for the sheep. Shepherds would apply oil to the sheep’s head and nose to keep away irritating flies and parasites and to soothe the skin. At night the shepherd led the sheep to a sheep pen (a sheepfold or a cave) and as they entered he would call them by name. He would talk quietly and play gentle music to them. He always slept nearby in order to reassure the sheep of his protecting presence. The sheep’s lives depended on the shepherd’s care and protection. Shepherds were willing to die for their sheep.

The people of Israel understood that God himself was a shepherd and their caretaker. Ps 23 is just one place in Scripture to find sheep and shepherds. The Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) contains numerous references to sheep. Beginning with Abraham, various covenants between individuals were sealed with the exchange of sheep or other animals (Ge 21 27). Sheep were often listed among one’s possessions (Ge 12 16; Jb 1 3). Of course, sheep were used for sacrifice (Ex 12 56; Le 1 1011). When the temple was dedicated, Solomon sacrificed 120,000 sheep in addition to thousands of other animals (1 Ki 8 63)!

The Old Testament mentions shepherds near its beginning: Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, is described as a ‘keeper of sheep’ (Ge 4 2). Jacob’s sons, the brothers of Joseph, were also shepherds (Ge 47 3). Best known of all the shepherds, of course, is David, son of Jesse (1 Sam 16 11).

Elsewhere, the words sheep and shepherd are used figuratively. When God spoke to Moses about his eventual death, Moses said: ‘Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation … who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd’ (Nu 27 1617). By way of contrast, in the days of wicked King Ahab, the people were described as ‘sheep that have no shepherd’ (1 Ki 22 17; 2 Chr 18 16). The parallel with the crowds following Jesus is impossible to miss: ‘When [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (Mt 9 36; see Mk 6 34).

Time and again, the image of a shepherd and his sheep is used to describe the relationship of a leader to the people. David the shepherd was to be shepherd of God’s people (2 Sam 5 2; 1 Chr 11 2). The prophets, too, were to be shepherds for God’s people. Jeremiah and Ezekiel give much attention to this relationship. God condemned the prophets who were misleading the people: “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!’ declares the LORD’ (Jm 23 1). God would not tolerate false shepherds. In the midst of the many condemnations, however, Jeremiah also delivers God’s promises: ‘I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding’ (Jm 3 15); ‘I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more’ (Jm 23 4). Ezekiel also delivered a sharp denunciation of the false shepherds, concluding with this word of promise: “As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out My sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered’ (Ek 34 12).

New Testament scholar Kenneth Bailey spent four decades living and teaching in the Middle East. In his text, Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Lk 15 (CPH, 1992), Bailey provides insights into the relationship of sheep and shepherds that bear on the interpretation of Ps 23 and related texts.
One of his more interesting points concerns Jesus’ phrase about the shepherd laying the lost sheep on his shoulder to carry it home (Lk 15 5). When a sheep gets lost, Bailey explains, it becomes terrified. It sits down in the closest sheltered place, shaking and bleating. After it is found, it remains so nervous that it can’t stand, not even with the shepherd’s help. The shepherd must carry the sheep on his back, up to 70 pounds of animal! In a real sense, the shepherd risks his own neck to save the sheep.

In the early centuries of Christianity, while crucifixion was still being practiced, crosses were considered by some too horrifying for symbolic use in worship. Often, the alternate symbol was a shepherd carrying a large sheep. Of special interest are several sculptures from this period in which the sheep is as large as or even larger than the shepherd. The sculptors knew that such proportions were inaccurate. The distortion was intentional. Just as the cross eventually became the symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, so this symbol of the shepherd carrying the large sheep reminded early Christians of the great price paid for their redemption.

sheep and shepherds in the NT

Israel had had many false shepherds who had led the people into sin. We see these stories being told all through our OT. But Ezekiel – in Ek 34 – had promised that God would eventually send the true shepherd, the Messiah, to his people to gather them into one flock.

There are two primary places where Christ took up the sheep/shepherd relationship. The first is the parable of the lost sheep (Mt 18 1214; Lk 15 47). Here, our Lord’s emphasis is on the responsibility of the shepherd who, through some negligence of his own, has lost one of his flock. The shepherd turns it around, as it were, and risks all to return the sheep to the fold. He invites his neighbors to rejoice with him, showing the sheep’s value in his eyes.

The second place where sheep and shepherd stand front and center in the New Testament is in Jn 10. Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd (v 11) making it plain that He is the Lord and Shepherd of Ps 23. The relationship of sheep to shepherd is key, with the sheep following the familiar voice of the one who protects and cares for them. As in the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd puts his very life on the line. He lays it down for the sheep (Jn 10 11). Mission comes into focus as Jesus speaks of other sheep who are not of the fold, sheep He must also bring in (Jn 10 16).

We could examine many other biblical passages. Some utter strong words of condemnation, while others present Gospel comfort. For God’s children, there can be no greater comfort than knowing that the Lord is their reliable and true Shepherd. In Re, this image is set in heaven itself where, irony of ironies, the Lamb of God who takes away the world’s sin is also our Shepherd!
The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Re 7 17)

It would be hard to doubt that this was how David understood heaven when he wrote, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Ps 23 6). This all now said …

Ps 23 everyone needs a friend

Everyone needs a friend to guide and to help at some time in life. Even the most cheerful life has its dark times. As God’s people, we celebrate the fact that we have a friend, a shepherd, like no other.

The title of Ps 23 tells us that David was the author of this psalm. He had been a shepherd (Ps 78 7072) before God called him to rule or ‘shepherd’ His people. David knew by experience the tender care and affection that a good shepherd has for the flock. It was only natural that when David described the care and affection of our God, he would use a word picture he knew so well. This psalm does not fit the pattern shared by most thanksgiving psalms. Because of this, some have suggested that it may have been a part of a longer psalm.

David began by recalling the gracious acts of God, who provides everything we need (v 1). God sees to it that our physical needs are met, our needs for food, water, shelter (v 2). And He feeds us on the green pastures of His Word. He sets the direction for our lives as He guides us step by step on the path of life. We are right with God by faith in Jesus; and (v 3) we follow as He guides us along righteous paths each day of our lives. We may think that we will find more abundance or peace on some other hill, yet God knows where and how to best meet our needs. Those who follow where He leads will never be in want (v 1).

The scene shifts in v 4 as we leave the ‘green pastures’ of sunny days behind and enter ‘the valley of the shadow of death.’ This language of the valley of the shadow of death is particularly telling. Why is this valley not simply the valley of death? What was the psalmist’s point in calling it the valley of the shadow of death? Well, the psalmist was telling us that death was only a shadow. So if death was now a mere shadow, what had made it so for true believers? Death was only a shadow now because Jesus had received the punishment of death that we human beings had deserved because of our sin. We, on the other hand, received life.

That wasn’t a very fair trade but by God’s grace, Jesus had turned death from something too frightening to contemplate into a mere shadow. And he had done so through his resurrection. Resurrection. Resurrection. Resurrection. Those are the lenses through which the whole of the biblical story must be viewed. If you do, you’ll get it; if you don’t, you won’t.

It still will look frightening at times, but death no longer has power to harm those who belong to Christ. Our circumstances may look dark and fearsome, and yet we need fear no evil. Our Good Shepherd the one who walked into death in our place on the cross and who emerged victorious from it this Shepherd always walks beside us. His rod and staff guide and protect us.

The rod and staff of v 4 were indispensable tools for the shepherd. The rod actually looked more like a club and it was used by the shepherd to defend himself and his sheep. This rod could be thrown at attacking animals or it could be thrown ahead of a wandering sheep in order to startle it back from the brink of danger. The staff was used to guide the sheep.

Ek 20 37-38 mentions another use of the shepherd’s rod. V 37 tells us that as the sheep passed under the rod, the shepherd would carefully examine each sheep, count and separate his own sheep from those that belonged to other shepherds. According to Mt 25 31-33, Jesus, when he returns to earth on the Last Day – judgment day, will separate those who belong to him from those who do not. Those in faith can be confident that when they “pass under the rod” that in Christ, they have already been examined and found righteous. Those in faith share Christ’s own righteousness and need not fear the judgment. Because of Christ and him crucified and raised, the verdict is “Not Guilty!”

The shepherd’s staff was also used for the benefit of the sheep. For instance, the shepherd used the staff to draw the sheep back together. He would gently lay the tip of his staff on the side of a wandering sheep to guide it to where it needed to go, like a lamb back to its mother.
Jesus uses his “shepherd’s staff” for our benefit as well as we see in 2 Ti 3 16-17 and Ps 119 11. Holy Scriptures clearly point to the way of salvation, just as a shepherd’s staff guides the sheep down the correct path. The truths in God’s Word also give us guidance as we make life’s decisions. They warn us when we stray. As we meditate on the Word, God walks with us, talks to us and comforts us with his presence.

The scene shifts again in v 5 as we move from a sheepfold into the King’s banquet hall. God fills our lives with such a smorgasbord of blessings that our enemies cannot miss seeing them! Oriental kings welcomed their guests by providing fragrant oil for their heads. Perhaps we would compare this to rare and expensive perfume or cologne today. Because of all Jesus did on the cross, we are welcome truly welcome in God’s presence. He has given us a special place in His kingdom.

Like cups filled till the liquid flows over the top, our lives overflow with blessings into the lives of others. We are to ask ourselves what blessings from God can overflow from our lives into the lives of others today?
At first glance vv 5-6 may seem like a word picture of our heavenly home but we note that enemies are still present, something that won’t be when Jesus comes again to raise all the dead and to renew and restore all of Creation.

This table that Jesus has already prepared, even in the presence of our enemies, is that of the coming banquet in the kingdom of God that we know from Is 25 6-9. There we will feast with Jesus forever. Still, this hope is ours right now, even in the presence of our enemies because, right now, we can celebrate the feast of joy and confidence that our savior has already prepared for us. He did this when he inaugurated the new covenant on the night before his death. He did this in the Last Supper, the very same Passover meal that he made his own in the inaugural Lord’s Supper. In Holy Communion we enjoy a foretaste of that eternal banquet of God’s goodness.

Guests in oriental countries receive fragrant oil as a token of welcome to show the host’s hospitality. We know we are welcome in the Lord’s presence because God in Jesus has invited all peoples everywhere to come to him, to enjoy all his many blessings. God forgives our sins in Jesus and receives us with open arms as his righteous children. And he does so through nothing that we have done but through what Jesus has already done with his death and resurrection.

David began his song by affirming (v 1) ‘I shall not want’; now he shouts with joy that (v 6) God’s goodness and mercy will follow him all the days of his life. God’s goodness to us will never end. God’s goodness runs after us; it chases us down as we read here in v 6. This security is offered to all in faith as we dwell in the house of the LORD all our life long.

We’ve all experienced God’s love and goodness following us in our lives, times when everywhere we turned we saw evidence of God’s love and care. As close as our shadows, goodness and mercy follow us as long as we live on earth. Indeed, we bask in the warmth of our God’s love. We will dwell (v 6) ‘in [His] house’ very close to Him as His children and heirs throughout this life and on into the next.

v 1

Some Psalms are Psalms of lament in which the psalmist is in great distress and crying out to God. Other Psalms fall into the category of thanksgiving in which the psalmist thanks God for his grace and deliverance. Ps 23 is kind of in between because the psalmist is not completely apart from trouble and trials, and yet the troubles and trials are overwhelmed by this confidence and trust the psalmist has that God will guide, protect and lead through everything. The sense of thanksgiving overwhelms the whole psalm. So Ps 23 is considered a psalm of confidence or trust in God. That sums up the whole psalm very well. These Psalms are sort of a summary of the whole attitude of heart we should have toward Christ or God – this attitude of confidence and trust those in faith have. This confidence and trust in God comes from the psalmist’s understanding of a key characteristic of God and the relationship of the psalmist with God: God is the psalmist’s shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd.

shepherd from the Greek poimn

A shepherd is one who tends sheep. Sheep herding was a common, humble vocation.
The image of the shepherd is used throughout the Bible to describe God’s activities as we see in Ps 23; Is 40 11 and Ek 34.
It’s also used for Jesus as we see in Jn 10 11, 14 and elsewhere.
It’s also used equivalently with pastor as we see in Ep 4 11. Cf. 1 Pe 5 1-4.

Why is it that the psalmist described God as a shepherd? What qualities of God were at work here? Care, guidance, sustenance, protector. As a shepherd cares for all the needs of his flock, so also God cares for every human need whether emotional, physical or spiritual.
– – –
Note from He 13 20 class:

Here’s what the author of He would say about the book of Psalms. In He 13 20 Christ became the shepherd by being brought up from the dead.

Notice that our Lord Jesus is described as the shepherd here in He 13 20. There’s a mysterious problem / tension in the OT.
In the OT it’s always God who is described as the shepherd of God’s people. Ps 23 tells us 1 the LORD is my shepherd …
The other figure promised in the OT who is also described as the shepherd is the Messiah, the ultimate Davidic king. The ultimate Davidic king is in various passages, such as in Ek 37 24, described as the shepherd of God’s people.
24 My servant David will be their king. They will all have one shepherd. They will walk in my commands and keep my law and observe it.
The problem / tension point / mystery here in that God is to be the shepherd and yet this ultimate Davidic king is described as the shepherd.

This tension is related to another mystery / tension of the OT, that the reason the people of Israel don’t have a king until the time of Saul is because they were not supposed to have a king. They only had judges to this point because God was to be their king. That’s why Gideon said I will not be king over you. My son will not be king over you. The LORD alone is your king. (Jd 8 23) Therefore it’s sinful for the people to ask for a king. And yet, God gave them a king! Why did God give them a king? And then the king that YHWH gave the Israelites became a central part of God’s plan, in his economy of salvation, when we get this promise of an ultimate Davidic king, an everlasting human Davidic king (Is 11 1)! The reason why the people of Israel did not have a king in the first place is that God alone should be their king. Then, God and up and puts at the center of his plan this ultimate Davidic king who is a human king even though God alone should be their king. So we have this mystery, this tension, this problem.
Of course, in the NT that tension is resolved with the Incarnation. As it says in the Creed Christ (the Messiah) who for our sakes became man, who was God of God, light of light, very God of very God … So it’s no problem if the ultimate Davidic king is a king and God alone should be our king because the ultimate Davidic king is God in the flesh. The wonderful truth of the Incarnation solves that OT tension.

Therefore, it’s most appropriate that Christ is the shepherd. He’s the shepherd in both senses. He’s the Messiah who was promised to be the shepherd and he is our true shepherd because he’s God himself as the author of He has shown again and again. Jesus is not just Messiah; he is God.
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I shall not want is an expression from the older English in which to want something means to need it. This doesn’t mean that the psalmist will never want something that the psalmist cannot have like a spoiled child, for instance. Instead, the psalmist is saying I will never be in need; I will lack for nothing; I shall not be in want or need. I will always have sustenance. All of his needs will be met. A proper host supplies all the basics of food, drink and protection. God is “our proper host” in that sense. What we truly need, God provides.

v 2

The green pastures language is much stronger in the Hebrew where it means lush, richly green pastures. The biblical idea here is that the Lord is going to lead them into super lush pastures. Then there are these still waters from which they can drink.
This reminds us of Ps 1 in which we have the image of flourishing with the tree planted by streams of water.
Ps 1 3 and he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in it season, its leaves do not wither. And whatever he does he prospers.
Here in v 2 we have the sheep flourishing under the care of the shepherd.

still waters
Sheep cannot safely drink from swift streams; they need quiet pools. That is, God not only gives us what we need; God also gives it to us in the best possible way.

v 3
The word restores brings in the image of flourishing, of restoration, of renewal. It’s like the tree in Ps 1 in which he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water.
Soul here in Hebrew, and also the same word that was translated over into the ancient Greek, means soul or life. As such, another translation of v 3a is he restores my life. What is Christ’s resurrection all about? It’s not only about Christ being raised for himself but it’s Christ defeating death for us which also gives us resurrection life. He refreshes and restores my whole being.
Note: When the Bible uses the word soul, it never means the soul as a distinct part of the person that is separate from their whole life. It means he restores my whole person, my whole being.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake is this new covenant inaugurated through Jesus’ death and resurrection. It wasn’t just the Incarnation that brought the new covenant. You also had to have the death and resurrection of Christ. And now he leads me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake. It sounds just like He 13 21 that we read earlier because he’s the one who works what is well-pleasing to God within it.
21 may he perfect you in every good thing (work) to do his will, bringing about in you that which is well-pleasing before him through Jesus Christ to whom be the glory unto ages of ages, amen.
Even in this wonderful picture of the shepherd and his sheep, the psalmist reminds the hearer that the paths in which God leads us as shepherd are paths of righteousness – paths of goodness that follow his ways.

The word for paths here is striking and not the normal word for path. Paths can be narrow or they can be large enough so you can’t get lost. That’s the kind of path we have here. In the original Hebrew the word for paths is wagon tracks, the best kind of path in antiquity because it was huge, wide and easy to follow. That’s the word the psalmist is using here. This word also contains the understanding that God is not only leading but he’s doing so not along difficult, circuitous paths but these wide paths on which wagons would travel.

A different point, however, is being made here than in Mt 7 13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. Mt 7 13 is making the point about the choice we have to make, either to follow God and his ways or the easier ways of the world which lead us away from God. The point in Mt is that to follow God’s ways is the narrow path. Later it talks about what that path is actually like once you get on it. Then you have words from Christ like my yoke is easy [Mt 11 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”] and my burden is light. That’s what the psalmist is trying to say in Ps 23 3 where he leads us along wagon tracks of righteousness.

v 4
Beginning here in v 4 there is a huge syntactic structural change that takes place in the psalm in the way that the psalmist addresses God. In vv 1-3 the Church is speaking about the Lord and in vv 4-6 to the Lord. In other words, in vv 1-3 the Lord is “out there” but beginning with v 4 the psalmist addresses the Lord directly. Vv 1-3 are in the third person such as the Lord is my shepherd. Then, beginning in v 4 the psalmist changed to direct address to God such as with the personal pronoun for you are with me; … It’s precisely when the psalmist is afflicted, suffering, in sorrow and in trouble that he shifts and turns from talking about the Lord his shepherd in the third person and begins to talk in the second person. For you are with me.

Why the change by the psalmist?

There has been a change in the psalmist’s condition that’s contemplated. In vv 1-3 it’s this blessed way of the righteous but in v 4 you have these trials and sufferings and dangers and fears and the greatest fear, the fear of death. In the Hebrew the words for the valley of the shadow of death can be used just to mean a very deep, dark, scarey valley. But in the literal Hebrew, and in the Greek translation, it’s very literally here the valley of the shadow of death. So it’s thinking about all these trials, perhaps especially death itself. Notice that when the psalmist contemplates these trials and sufferings and fears, then there is an intensification of his relationship with the Lord. Now in v 4 the psalmist addresses the Lord no longer in the third person but in the second person. It goes from he to you.

There is this theme in Scripture that suffering can play a good role in our lives. In Ps 119 the psalmist says that it was good that he had been afflicted. Apparently the psalmist had undergone some affliction or suffering. It was good that I was afflicted that I might turn back to the Lord. It was good that I was afflicted that I might turn my heart to know your ways. We also have that dynamic going on here. When the psalmist contemplates this suffering and trials and afflictions, then he says for you are with me here in v 3. He knows God more intimately because of knowing God as the one who saves him, even in the midst of these trials and afflictions and sorrows. There is an intensification of his relationship because in his suffering he’s come to know God in a more full and personal way, and that is reflected in the change of address beginning in v 4.

Why then is that fear of death no longer there? There is a wonderful unity of Scripture here in which the psalmist extols God as shepherd. In fact, God’s “shepherd nature” reaches its fullest expression in the Incarnation when God himself comes in human flesh to save us. Like the shepherd protects his flock and gives his life for the sheep, so also God does the same, giving his life for the sheep. As the shepherd conquers all the sheep’s enemies so also God rises again to conquer all our enemies, even death itself.

v 4a only becomes fully true after the resurrection of Christ, when we have the full hope that even though we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, even though we go through death, we need fear no evil because Christ is with us. Christ has already gone through death and come out the other side. Christ has already been raised from the dead and he has already destroyed and defeated death for us. He has also already given us the promise and hope of resurrection.
Ps 23 reaches its fullest fulfillment when the shepherd himself becomes man to save us, and Ps 23 4 is only fully true after the resurrection of Christ.

rod and your staff
This is part of the imagery of the shepherd. These were the two main tools of the shepherd. The rod was a club about 2′ long used to fend off wild animals. The staff was a straight, walking stick used to guide the sheep and pull down leafy branches for them.
Therefore, your rod and your staff – they comfort me is a metaphor referring to how God will defend the psalmist from all harm and enemies. They comfort me because the psalmist knows of God’s power and might. Here we see how the biblical depiction and teaching of God is so different. Sometimes we’ll hear this idea that God may love us but God is not the all powerful. There was even a famous book written about this, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. The author’s conclusion was that God loves us but God cannot protect us from everything because God is not all powerful. His conclusion, wrong though it was, is very different from the picture we see biblically in which God is both loving and all powerful and that’s why we can trust in him to deliver you.

v 5
In v 5 the psalmist shifts from the image of God as shepherd to God as the gracious host of the feast, the Eucharist, in which he drinks from this cup which overflows.
Many of the church fathers interpret v 5 together with v 2 about being led besides the still waters of the sacraments of the church: baptism and the holy Eucharist. Looking at our relationship with God our shepherd as fulfilled in Christ and in our worship of Christ within the context of the people of God, they often interpret v 2 – you lead me beside the still waters – as of holy baptism. As to v 5 – you have anointed my head with oil – in the ancient church, and still today among the Orthodox, baptism would be accompanied by an anointing with oil known as chrismation.
Note: Chrism is the holy oil (traditionally olive oil mixed with perfume) used sacramentally in baptism, confirmation and ordination and at church dedications in Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches symbolizing the gifts and working of the Holy Spirit. Chrismation is the practice of anointing a newly baptized person with oil and the sign of the cross as the priest says, “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.” More generally, it’s anointing with the holy oil of chrism.

Therefore, many of the fathers have interpreted you have anointed my head with oil as of this chrismation that is received as part of the sacrament of holy baptism.
They interpret you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies and this cup in terms of the table of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, and the cup of Christ’s blood that we partake of in the Holy Eucharist. Within the Orthodox liturgy Ps 23 5 is one of the optional hymns sung before the Holy Eucharist. It plays a role in the Eucharistic liturgy of many faiths because that is where Christ feeds us and prepares a table for us.

Here we also see the two stages to the kingdom of God. We have the kingdom inaugurated through Jesus’ first coming. However, the kingdom will not be consummated until his second coming at which time Christ will put all his enemies under his feet, including death.

In the inaugurated kingdom we must walk by faith in the midst of enemies and trials. In light of that, here in v 5 we have this wonderful promise: you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. So God blesses and leads us on this way to this ultimate, consummated kingdom of God when he will destroy all enemies of the people of God.

The word enemies here means specifically those who trouble or afflict or cause harm. It does not mean those people I consider my enemies because, of course, we are to love our enemies. We are to pray for those who persecute us and so on. This text is particularly talking about those who afflict us. It’s a wonderful promise. We should pray for and love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but we also have God’s promise that he will protect us from those persecutors and from those enemies. So enemies here is in the active sense of those harass, persecute and afflict.

Notice the change of image in v 4b. We had a shepherd in vv 1-4, and now it has shifted to God preparing a great banquet for us. So it’s so natural that the Church through the centuries has recognized the great banquet of the Eucharist and so forth.

v 6
The Hebrew text here brings out two different aspects of the same word.
First, goodness is God’s overflowing goodness and grace toward us. It’s all the blessings that God gives and intends for us in Christ.
Secondly, the Hebrew word chesed usually gets translated as mercy but it means God’s covenant love which means God’s overflowing, unconditional love. It’s God’s unbreakable love. God has covenanted with us; we are in covenant with God, and God is faithful to that covenant. He will never break that love. The love of God is constant. It’s like the covenant love within marriage to be faithful to one another. It does not depend on feelings. When God first called Abraham, we see that covenant love at work in this promise to Abraham that he will be his God and Abraham’s descendants will be his people (the covenant formula). It’s God’s covenant love that results in God’s mercy for us.

follow me
Many see this as goodness and covenant love traipsing along behind us. But the Hebrew word for follow actually is a word that means to pursue. So this is a very strong statement the psalmist is making. It’s not that God’s covenant love will be there for us only. It’s that God’s covenant love will pursue us. We cannot get away from it. We are in covenant with God. The psalmist says I trust in you Lord; I know your covenant and you love will pursue me all the days of my life. You cannot get away from it.

I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
The word in Hebrew actually means I will return again and again. It contains this idea of returning to the house of God, living in the house of God. The house of God is your home in which you go in and out. I will return again and again is the idea here. It’s that intensive sense of I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

We’ve talked about how in this psalm of confidence and trust in God that the main image is that of God as a shepherd and everything that says about God and his love, guidance and power. It’s all of this wonderful imagery of God as shepherd says. God’s identity and character as a shepherd is expressed most fully in the central event of salvation history of the Incarnation. In the Incarnation we see God’s identity as shepherd reaching its fullest expression. We can now know God as shepherd in a way that even the first writer of the psalm could not because we now have experienced this event in which God himself in Christ has become flesh for us. See Jn 10 1- 16 where we see the words of Christ himself. See notes there.

v 6 is also only fully true after the resurrection of Christ. This promise of everlasting life in the presence of God is made true through the resurrection of Christ.
Ps 24

Ps 24 is a liturgical psalm which was probably written and used as part of a processional liturgy in ancient Israel when the people brought the Ark of the Covenant to the tabernacle (as is implied in 2 Sam 6 12-15). It called God’s people to worship, noting his Creation and glory. So they would proclaim ‘lift up your heads and look at the king of glory as he comes in (v 7).’

In the second and third verses it moves to a more personal kind of piety, the idea that we not only open the gates of the Temple but that we fling wide the portals of our heart and make it a temple set apart. It incorporates the idea of corporate worship – when we as a community gather and acknowledge the presence of the king in our midst and the way that that then makes demands of each of us as individuals also to open our hearts and allow the king to live within us.

By way of background, in the time of the old covenant before the coming of Jesus it was understood that it was in the Ark of the Covenant where God’s majestic, holy presence dwelled. There God dwelled among his people under the old covenant but not in a full and final way as it would be when God finally came to be with his people forever. In other words, God was with the people of God in the time of the old covenant in a way that foreshadowed the way in which God would one day be with them for ever in the time of the new covenant.

Additionally, in text after text in Scripture the idea of the coming of YHWH to Zion indicated that God would one day dwell among his people in a perfect and complete way. Then, the people of God would know God face-to-face in this time of the new covenant. So this psalm was used liturgically in the knowledge that God was present in the Ark where God’s majestic, holy presence dwelled. As such, when this psalm was used during the time of the old covenant, this would have been what theologians call the near fulfillment of this psalm. That’s what it’s purpose would have been during the time of the old covenant – to announce the presence of God with them.

However, this same liturgical psalm had a more important function in Scripture. This psalm always pointed to the time when YHWH would be in the full time presence of the people of God forever. It pointed to the time when YHWH, as promised, would come to be with his people forever. It pointed to this time when YHWH would actually be in Zion FOREVER! That’s why Ps 24 gets tied in with these other texts in the common lectionary that we used every Sunday: Is 7 10-17; Ro 1 1-7 and Mt 1 18-25. They all have to do with the Advent of our Lord.

Therefore, when Ps 24 gets used in the time of the new covenant – in which we, of course, now live – it is referencing YHWH who has now come to be with us. That is, it is talking about Jesus of Nazareth who fulfilled both streams of expectation, both that of the (human) Messiah and that of (divine) God himself as the ontological Son of God. So when we use Ps 24 in this time of the new covenant in which we now live, this is what theologians call the ultimate fulfillment of this psalm.

v 4
Those who worship the LORD need clean hands and a pure heart. Sinful human beings are neither prepared nor worthy to be in God’s presence or to worship him. Yet God forgives us, covers us with Christ’s righteousness and enables us to worship him. This is why our worship services begin with Confession of sins and Absolution. Then, by God’s grace we worship with clean hands and a purpose heart. As such, when we pray, we pray for mercy as we confess all our sins to God, trusting in God’s promises and asking for God’s forgiveness.

By joining an external part – the hands – with an internal part – the heart – David was asserting that both ritual and moral purity were important.
Of course, the OT ceremonial law was fulfilled by Christ and no longer binds us. Our only purity is given to us by Christ.

Ps 27

Look for him and wait for him. Those are the two key Lenten messages that come out of this Psalm. ‘Come on’, the Psalmist says to his own heart, ‘seek his face!’ Isn’t this strange? Isn’t God always available? Why do we have to work hard at looking for him?

God is gracious, and longs to be found by people of all sorts and at all times. But God does not put himself about as a mere item of curiosity, a show for the spiritual tourists, so that anyone can pop in and glance at him, shrug their shoulders and walk away. You have to want to go looking for him, so that when you find him and know you’re in his presence, it’s a thing of awe and joy and wonder, a demanding and challenging but also warming and healing presence that gives you the strength you need. And looking for him takes time. You have to wait as well as look.

I remember being told the story about the eager European explorer setting off into the African bush, followed by Africans carrying his baggage. After two or three days the followers refuse to go any further for a while. They aren’t tired, they explain. They are waiting for their souls to catch up.
Well, I think God is a bit like that. We want results now. An advertisement for a new mobile phone shouts that ‘Impatience is a Virtue!’ It isn’t. It’s a vice. A damaging one to human relationships, and still more damaging to our relationship with God.

Looking for God and waiting for God are important not least because we are surrounded by enemies. That may sound almost paranoid. We want to ask the Psalmist: ‘Who are these “enemies”? What’s the problem? Why don’t you thank God for your friends instead of worrying about people being out to get you?’

Part of the answer is that David, the original Psalmist, spent much of his life surrounded by all sorts of enemies Philistines, Saul and his followers, other foreign nations and then, darkly, enemies within his own family. But David’s experience acts as a signpost to the fact that anyone who wants to seek God and wait for him will face struggles of various kinds. Sometimes other people will resent what you’re doing and even criticize you. Even in our supposedly ‘free society’ some people so hate the Christian message that they make it impossible for Christians to hold down particular jobs.

Then there are the other enemies: the accusing and wheedling and mocking voices within our own heads and hearts. These often become just that bit louder when, in Lent and at similar times, we set ourselves to seek God and to wait for him. This is the Psalm you need when those voices start to become threatening, and you need to remind yourself where your real stronghold lies. So we pray that our Lord be our light and our salvation, today, this week, and for ever.

Ps 27 – the Lord is my light and my salvation / the Lord is my stronghold

Ps 27 is on of the seventy-three Psalms written by David. It fits the organizational pattern of a psalm of lament.
v 1 the invocation
vv 2-3 the expression of lament
vv 4-6 the confession of confidence in God
vv 7-12 a petition for help as also found in v 4
vv 13-14 praise to God

This psalm of lament also continues this same declaration of faith in our faithful God. As Ps 27 begins, enemies surround David, yet his thoughts are on the strength and blessings of God. The Lord is our light and salvation (v 1a). The Lord is also our security (v 1b), a security no army can take away. The strength of the Lord sustains His people and is our continual strength and joy.

David asked the Lord for several things in this psalm, and chief among them was that he might dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of his life. David could have asked for anything for instance, to conquer his enemies. But instead, he simply asks to be near the Lord all of his days. [the underlying theme of the coming of YHWH to Zion for which we all long] David expressed that desire (v 4) in a threefold way:
He wanted to continue to be close to the Lord and to have an intimate relationship with Him.
He also asked that he never lose sight of the Lord or of His ways.
Finally, David said that he desired to seek the Lord in prayer in such a way that he was never isolated from the Lord’s mercy and help.
David knew that if he was right with God, then he (v 5) needed fear no enemy nor any other danger. What David wanted was not the physical security of the temple walls but the security that comes from close fellowship with the Lord.

Of course, David’s duties as king did not allow him to literally live in the sanctuary – nor do our daily duties allow that either. God, however, fulfills that request for his children through his indwelling Holy Spirit in each of us that has made us his temple. We, the Church, are the “temple” to which the temple in Jerusalem always pointed. We are the new temple. The Holy Spirit lives in us, and, as such, we live in the Spirit’s presence in each and every moment of our lives. See also Ep 3 14-19 in which we pray for spiritual strength.

In vv 7-12 David asked God to deliver him from the evildoers, adversaries, army and war listed in vv 2-3. Those same evildoers, adversaries, army and war still serve as types in the Church today. They occur in events that threaten our physical safety and life as well as those events that threaten our spiritual well-being. Satan’s work in the world is ever in our face. Peter tells us your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pe 5 8b). See also Ga 5 16-17; Ja 4 4 and 1 Jn 4 1.

So while we still live in this world, we must contend with Satan and his schemes. The world today looks to money and power for security. We are to ask ourselves in what ways has this kind of security failed us or those we know? We are to ask ourselves how has God been the real security of your life?

David’s greatest fear (v 9) is that he could lose what he has received from the Lord. All who are sinners sense their own unworthiness before God. At times, we may fear that God will someday stop answering our prayers. Yet we, like David, can draw confidence (v 10) from God’s longsuffering nature. Because God is longsuffering, David confidently asks (vv 1112) two blessings from the Lord:
· Teach me, so that difficulties of life may never shake my faith.
· Protect me from my own sinful desires and from others who might take me from my God.
Each of us can ask ourselves what blessing would we ask from God so that we could remain close to Him?

Because of God’s goodness and mercy, David was confident that God would answer his prayers for continued closeness. David will fail, but God will never fail David (v 13).

In humility, David then calls others to remain close to the Lord as He works out His will for their lives. To us, here and now, David would say, “Wait patiently for the Lord and for His answers instead of trying to find your own solutions to your problems” (v 14).

Read also Jesus’ own prayer in Jn 17 15-16. We see that both Jesus’ prayer there in Jn 17 and David’s here in Ps 27 ask for God’s protection against those who would destroy God’s people. Jesus’ words always provide us comfort and hope as we face trials and temptations.

v 4
to dwell in the house of the LORD means David wants to enjoy God’s presence throughout his life. To enter God’s presence typically meant to visit the temple or tabernacle for worship.

beauty of the LORD
As sinners we cannot physically see God in worship but we recognize God’s goodness and character. God’s children who come in faith do not find a wrathful, terrifying God. God is beautiful to those who receive the gospel message.

To inquire/meditate on the law of the Lord means to seek the LORD’s face, dwelling in the house of the LORD all the days of my life and beholding the beauty of the LORD,
inquire (meditate) is the same word as in Ps 1 2 … meditates (ponders) day and night. To inquire is to seek God’s counsel by coming to the tabernacle. It can also be translated as meditate in which case David is restating his desire to worship.
Temple here means the tabernacle. The tabernacle or the heavenly temple is where God and human beings dwell together. The great temple was built by Solomon after his father David’s death.

Ps 30
Weeping Turned to Rejoicing

No one wants hardship or trouble. Yet we can learn things during times of trial that we cannot learn at any other time.

The background for Ps 30 is found in 1 Chr 21 1-8. David apparently wrote it as a psalm of dedication for the land on which the temple would one day stand. He possibly intended that the psalm would be used when the building itself was dedicated. There we see that David had disobeyed God by taking a census of Israel, a census which gave David a count of all the warriors available to him in case of war. In and of itself the census was not wrong because the Lord himself had commanded various censuses at different times in Israel’s history. This census, however, indicated the condition of David’s heart. Instead of relying of God for strength, David had looked to the size of his earthly army. Compare in this regard Ps 30 6 with Ps 44 6-8 and Ps 146 3.

As a punishment for David’s disobedience, God sent a plague that killed 70,000 Israelites. However, in mercy, the Lord stopped his angel from destroying Jerusalem as we see in 1 Chr 21 15. David used the following words in Ps 30 to describe God’s mercy and deliverance:
v 1 you have drawn me up
v 3a you have brought up my soul from Sheol
v 3b you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit
Then in vv 11-12 David used powerful and contrasting phrases to tell of his joy in receiving God’s mercy: God had turned David’ mourning into dancing, loosed his sackcloth, and clothed him with gladness. Therefore, his glory may sing … and not be silent.
Sackcloth was a course coat of goat’s hair worn by mourners such as at a loved one’s death, for personal distress, for national disaster and because of sorrow for personal sins.

David wrote Ps 30 to celebrate his joy at God’s deliverance (v 1). God had given him victory, despite enemies who had hoped he would die. God had answered his prayer (v 2) and had given him (v 3) his heart’s desire by saving him from certain death.

Such great joy begs to be shared. So, as David begins the next part of the psalm, he calls others (v 4) to praise the Lord with him. He asks them to praise the Lord for His purity (v 4) and mercy (v 5).

Verse 5 also mentions God’s anger. This kind of anger does not flame up to zap God’s people for their sins. If we thought that, we would only live in terror. Even a brief time of anger like that would destroy us. Rather, this is the anger of a parent who sees his child playing in the street. Yes, parents do explode in anger at times, but out of love and heartfelt concern for their children.

God punished Jesus in our place on Calvary’s cross. Our God does not seek vengeance. He does not look for ways to pay us back for our sins. His justice was satisfied when Jesus proclaimed from the cross, ‘it is finished.’ The anger David experienced came because the Lord saw the pain and danger to which David’s sins perhaps sins of pride had opened the door. Like David, we can rejoice (v 5) that while God’s anger lasts for only a short time, His mercy lasts forever.

David (v 6) was strong and prosperous. Yet, perhaps pride caused David to forget God, the source of his strength. A brush with death (vv 3, 5) challenged David’s perspective. No longer selfreliant, David pleaded (v 8) with the Lord to save his life. David mourned over his guilt (v 11) and prayed (v 10) for God’s mercy and help. Pride must take a fall so that we can see our true source of comfort and strength.

The physical, and especially the spiritual, danger now gone, God lifted a burden off David’s shoulders. David danced (vv 1112) with joy. Confident in God’s forgiveness, David did not ignore God’s mercy. His joy welled up in a dance of praise!

How does this apply to us? We’ve often taken our Lord and His strength for granted, and yet we know how much we need Him. Despite our sin, our Savior has continued to love us. Our Lord has never abandoned us in our sins, and He never will. That’s something to sing about!
Still, at times, even God’s people find themselves trusting in their own wisdom or power instead of depending on God’s strength and wisdom. Our own wisdom or power sometimes seems more trustworthy than God’s love and his promised help. That is, the things we trust appeal to us because we can see or touch them. This makes them appear more “real” or more certain, more reliable.

Always, these false gods will eventually fail, and usually immediately. In a sense, it’s a blessing that they fail sooner because it gives us an opportunity to repent sooner. Sometimes the earthly things on which we place our hopes do seem to work for a while. However, sooner or later, all false gods will fail us. Only our Lord, the one, true God, will never fail us nor forsake us.

Throughout Scripture God has repeatedly assured all those who turn to him in repentance and in faith. The Bible contains numerous -assurances from God that comfort the repentant. For instance, Dn 9 9 tells us the Lord has mercy and forgiveness [even though] we have rebelled against him. And the author of He also reminds us that God’s forgiveness is so thorough that he will remember our sins no more (He 8 12).

Ps 31
vv 9-16

There is nowhere no, not the darkest and loneliest place on the earth where the Psalmists have not been before us. Here, as in some other places like Psalms 22, 69 and 88, we find the writer in the pit of despair.

Some of us have been there, too. Others may not have been, but part of the point of praying the Psalms is that we can identify, in our prayers, with people who are passing through exactly that kind of trial right now. And, in particular, we come today to share in prayer in the final struggles and horrors faced by Jesus himself as he went on his lonely journey to the cross.

The honesty of the despairing complaint is allimportant. There is no point pretending that things really aren’t that bad when actually they are. Layer after layer of misery appears before our eyes. The writer is physically weak through overwhelming sadness (vv 9-10), a social outcast and, worse, forgotten altogether (vv 11-12); and, as if all else were not enough, he’s surrounded by whispering plots aimed at finishing him off completely.

We should not hurry on too quickly to the next three verses. Instead, we should pause and, in our prayer today – alongside the prayer of Jesus as he goes to the cross … we should in our prayer hold before our loving God all those around the world who are in one or more of these miseries right now. We see them on our television screens. We read about them in the newspapers. There is too much misery and we, voyeurs of other people’s distress, detached and unable to help physically, can at least pray.

As we stand with God’s people in church today, or walk with them in a Palm Sunday procession – the day appointed for reading this psalm, we can make room, in our minds, for the people who would love to be there but can’t, because they are too poor, or in prison, or in a desolate country where their very lives are at risk. We should remember those who daily go about their business not knowing if a bomb, or a knife, or shell, will be the end of them.

Only when we have gathered up in our hearts a large number of sufferers from around the world – and, yes, perhaps even from among our immediate family, friends and neighbors only then can we proceed to the last three verses, and make them a prayer not just for ourselves and our discomforts but for God’s people, for the whole human race, and indeed for the whole creation.

Jesus himself went to the cross to draw all people to himself, and to break through the barrier of decay, despair and death, and so bring about the new purposes of the creator God for the whole of his world. We can trust this God, the God we know in this Jesus. We can trust that our times are in his hand. We are to pray that God’s face will shine upon us, and upon his whole world, with deliverance and rescuing power.

Ps 32
How Sweet Is God’s Forgiveness

Ps 32 is called a maskil of David. Maskils are thought to be psalms for meditation or teaching.
That description fits this psalm very well as David recounts a time when he missed God’s forgiveness and peace. Ps 32 expresses David’s joy in God’s forgiveness. It was most likely written following his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah that we read about in 2 Sam 11-12. The psalm expresses the blessings of repentance and of God’s pardon.

The parts of this psalm include an introduction (vv 12), an account of God’s help (vv 35), a call to praise (vv 67), and words of praise (vv11).

v 1
The psalmist considers those who have been forgiven blessed. We cannot take away the sting of our own sin or remove the burden of guilt we carry around on our backs. Only the Lord can cover our sins.

v 2
Only the Lord can repair the damage we have done to our relationship with Him. Only the Lord can cleanse us so that our guilt does not lead us into other sins, and so that our spirit the core of our being is again pure. We are truly blessed that God has done all of this and more for us in the suffering and death of Jesus.

v 3
We know this. Yet we sometimes find ourselves tempted to ignore our sin and to pretend the guilt doesn’t exist. When David refused to confess his sins, the weight of his guilt refused to go away. Even his body suffered. Many doctors will testify to the truth that sin saps our physical strength. Some of us in this group will attest to the fact that a guilty conscience can cause many sleepless nights.

vv 3-4
David mentioned the following physical effects of unrepented sin:
V 3 his bones wasted away and he groaned in pain
v 4 God’s hand was heavy on him and his strength was dried up

v 5
Finally, David confessed, and God in mercy forgave.
We, like the psalmist David, are able to confess our sins to God and receive his forgiveness because Jesus himself calls us to do so as we read in Lk 5 31-32.
31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
God’s kindness leads us to repentance as we read in Ro 2 4b.
4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
Think about how we might respond if we were unsure of our Lord’s answer to our confession. If we knew he might withhold his love or deny our request for pardon, how difficult, if not impossible, confession of sins might be. However, we know that in Christ’s cross that his word to us will always be a word of grace. Thank you Jesus.

v 6

David calls on everyone us as well to experience the joy of forgiveness. Sin can flood our lives to the point that we find ourselves awash in a sea of guilt. At times like that, God can seem so distant. Yet those who confess their sin will find themselves buoyed by our Lord above the flood of guilt.

v 7
God Himself will be our hiding place. Even if we must endure hardship as the natural consequence of our sin, our Lord will surround us with songs of joy until the times of trouble end.

v 8
In vv 8-11 we see the truths David wants others to know about repentance. David warned others not to hold onto their sins in the same way that he had. Instead, he admonished others to trust in God and to pray to God.
Having experienced the relief of God’s forgiveness, David promises to teach others so that they, too, can share in this relief. As we experience the great joy of God’s forgiveness, it is our privilege to share that joy with others with our own children and friends.

v 9
David rebukes those who are stubborn and who refuse to admit their guilt and confess their sin. They are not to be stubborn as horses and mules are but they are rather to be open to God’s will for them. How much better it is to come to God for His free forgiveness before life falls apart than to put it off until circumstances leave us no other options.

v 10
Such wickedness produces nothing but sorrow. But God’s steadfast love surrounds and relieves those who in faith reach out to Him for pardon. As God reminds us through his Word that he loves us, he also helps us to come to him to confess our sins and to receive his forgiveness. Therefore, we can be glad (v 11) and we can praise God for all that he does for us.

v 11
No wonder David calls us to rejoice in God’s righteousness! We have seen our sin forgiven by our God. We have seen Him relieve the pain guilt brings into our lives.

At one time or another we all experience physical, emotional and/or spiritual effects of some unrepented sin. God invites us to repent, not wanting us to wait to confess our sin to him.
We see in Ps 32 that the rhythm of relationship always includes thankfulness. We can rejoice in God’s forgiveness knowing that God has already covered our sin with Christ’s blood and that God no longer counts our sin against us. So we are to sing the praises of our God so that others may know His joy in their lives and seek that forgiveness for themselves. Joy should rush over us as we realize all the Lord has done for us. We can express our thankfulness by using the psalms of individual praise. We thank Him for what He has done, and we praise Him for who He is our kind, omnipotent, forgiving SaviorGod.

Forgiveness is, simply, the most powerful thing in the world. Most people unfortunately never realize that. In fact, there are many cultures in which forgiveness is seen as a sign of weakness, in which ‘compassion’ is regarded as just being wet and wishywashy. Many people live their whole lives by that rule. They don’t want to offer forgiveness and compassion to other people, and they certainly don’t want to admit that they need it themselves.

But when you’ve been forgiven, your life will change in a way that nothing else will achieve. A sense of freedom, of a new start, of fresh possibilities, of the dark and gloomy clouds rolling away and the sun coming out and bathing the whole landscape with glorious, pure light. It’s as though you’ve been trying to listen to some great music, but the electrical system is messed up and the speakers aren’t working properly. The whole thing is crackling and popping and then, suddenly, somebody fixes it, and the room is filled with a glorious sound. You had forgotten it could be like that.

Lent is a great time to do the spring cleaning, to go looking into the dark corners of the heart and mind and life, to see where the dust has been getting in, where spiders have left cobwebs, where items that should have been washed and cleaned and put away properly are lying around under the furniture. You may need some help with this, and that’s what our pastors and priests, or spiritual directors, are there for. But, in particular, we need the encouragement of scriptures like Ps 32, Scriptures that remind us that it’s worthwhile, that whatever grubby corners we come across can be cleaned up and made into places of beauty. Refusing to confess sin really does cramp our style, spiritually, psychologically and perhaps physically too (vv 34).

But there’s more. Once the room is swept and clean, we find it might be time to rearrange the furniture and use the room for new purposes. When God forgives, he does so not in order to bring us back from being ‘in the red’ merely to having a ‘zero’ balance. He does so in order to guide us into new tasks and callings he’s had in mind all along, but for which we weren’t ready then but are now.

Lent is about that, too, and the two things forgiveness and a new calling belong closely together. All work for God’s kingdom, not only the wellknown ‘ministries’ of the church but all kinds of vocations … all work flows directly from the forgiving and healing love of God. Without that, we would just be arrogant, imagining that we can sign up to work for God’s kingdom in our own power and goodness. But, likewise, all forgiveness flows directly into serving God, his people and his world.

So often we think of ‘confessing’ as a rather dreary, embarrassing thing, forgetting what a joy it is to know we are ‘ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven’. Each of us is to ask ourselves if there is something that we really need to put behind us once and for all, whether or not we’re in the season of Lent.

Ps 33

Ps 33 sings a new song about a new world that YHWH is now creating. Creation is misunderstood by many. There is creation in the sense that at some point God started with a blank slate. But there is also creation in an ongoing way. So when you see a tree bud, you see God’s powerful hand at work. You see God’s ongoing Creation. As we read this look for the affirmation that the psalmist that God is in charge and that the order of the world is proof to us that gives us every reason to trust God because God has done it for all of these generations. Therefore, we can trust and expect God to do it again, to continue to do it.

Ps 33 is a hymn of praise. These are like our Creation hymns but the hymns of praise are a little more general. They praise God not only as Creator but as Redeemer – for his providence and love as covenant God and so on. So Creation hymns focus on God as Creator and the Creation, and the hymns of praise focus more broadly on God for every sort of wonderful thing that God does.

structure of the hymns of praise

Hymns of praise always have a call to praise God – an exhortation to praise God – which we see here in vv 1-3.
Hymns of praise always have a warrant or reason for praising God which we see in vv 4-22 which focus on the mighty deeds and acts and love of God. In other words, you give reasons for praising God that come from God’s character, love, might and power.
There are different ways of giving the reason. You can give the reason using for or because. Or you can use the who clause. That is, give thanks to the Lord who does this or that. You’ll see this in the prayers of the Church, for instance, O Lord, you who are always ready to show mercy and so on and then you have the prayer or the praise.
The prayers in the Church’s liturgy are modeled after the hymns of praise in the Psalms. They almost always have some sort of ascription of praise or glorification to God or glory to God, and then there is the reason given.

Here the psalmist expresses faith and trust in the LORD. Ps 33 provides us with a biblical description / definition of what faith is all about, about what it means to trust in God.

v 1
So the call to praise God is found here in vv 1-3. Here is a neat part of the Psalms but which many find troubling or difficult or as a stumbling block.
First, this is a very important psalm verse. It’s actually used in the liturgy of the Church as one of the refrains at communion.
But notice the contrast being made here between the righteous and the wicked – the wicked by implication (although very obvious elsewhere). This contrast between the righteous and the wicked is made often in the Psalms.

Some find this troubling because it seems to conflict with other Scriptures, for instance, with other Psalms. There are those who are numbered among the righteous and the understood contrast would be those who are numbered among the wicked. That is, do we not know that everyone is sinful? Of course everyone is sinful. No one is righteous, not even one. Therefore, sometimes people think that passages like these in the Psalms involve self-righteousness – a belief that one can save oneself by one’s works. So some see passages like these as conflicting with other passages in the Bible. Some people will say this was in the time of the psalmist when the people of Israel believed in salvation by works, a time when they did not have as high a conception as we have in the NT because it contrasted the righteous and the wicked.

To show why some find this very difficult see Ps 143 1-2 where we see that no one is righteous. Do not enter into judgment with your servant (Ps 143 2) (See notes there.). This belies the notion that some have that in the time of the old covenant people were saved by works but now that we live in the time of the new covenant we are saved by grace. The psalmist knows he can only be saved by God’s grace and mercy. Do not enter into judgment with your servant for in your sight no living person is righteous. See also Ps 14.

So we see that all are sinful and can only be saved by God’s grace and mercy. So why then can the psalmist here in Ps 33 talk about the righteous? To some that seems to be a big contradiction in the Bible. How can the psalmist in Ps 33 1 talk about those who are upright? Have not another psalm (Ps 14) and Paul (Ro 3 9-20) – that we just reviewed – just told us that there is no one who is righteous? So there seems to be contradiction here. To see the seeming contradiction in another psalm, go to Ps 18 20-24. See notes there.

Returning now to Ps 33 we now know what the psalmist means by the righteous. The righteous are all those who are in Christ, both from the OT and the NT. All who are in Christ are the righteous, and praise is fit for them (v 1). They are exhorted to praise God in v 2 …

v 2
Notice how this trust and belief in God is accompanied by worship, this praise of God. Worship is something we have in the whole of the Bible and in the church today – these Psalms, these hymns of praise and worship of God and in the church, the praise and worship of the LORD.

v 4
Here we have the warrant for the call the praise the LORD. The focus of his trust is in the LORD, and his warrant is that the LORD is upright and faithful.

vv 1-5 express the psalmist’s trust in God.
Sometimes we get involved in this satanically-inspired game in which we are trying to figure out how much we trust. That can lead us astray. It’s not how great is our trust; it’s how great is the one we trust in. Do we trust in this one, true creator God? It’s the object of our trust that is important, not how perfect our trust is.
Notice that the Creed is given in the context of praise and worship. The people are singing to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, praising God, worshiping God. This faith is in the context of praise and worship. It’s not a simple, cold, intellectual thing of “I believe this or that.” Instead, it’s giving of your whole self to this God, worshiping and praising this God.

The Hebrew word transliterated as mishpat is an untranslatable word that gets translated as justice. Mishpat means God making all things right with God and people.
God is being praised here not as the Creator God but as the covenant God who’s faithful to his promises (steadfast, covenant love), loving righteousness and his just ways which bring about justice in our hearts and lives. The earth is full of the covenant love or the LORD. Sometimes that word is translated as loving kindness or mercy. The best translation is covenant love because it’s referring to God’s covenant love.

Here in vv 6-9 God is praised for Creation, for the Creator God bringing all things into existence. So we see that Ps 33 says just what we see in Ge 1 3 ff – that it’s through the Word of God that everything was made.

V 6, in which we see a foreshadowing of the NT revelation of the Trinity, is sung in the Church’s liturgy at Pentecost. The LORD is the Father. The Word is the Son {John is going to tell us that Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh (Jn 1 14)}. And the breath of his mouth is the Spirit. This is the same word used in the Hebrew for the Holy Spirit. So we see a foreshadowing of the Trinity which is why this v is sung at Pentecost within the Church’s liturgy as a foreshadowing of the Trinity. That fits right in with the theology of this passage. It’s talking about God as the Creator God, and we know that the work of Creation was the work of the Holy Trinity.
See another aspect of this truth in Ps 33 that is found in He 11 3.

v 9
Another concept here is that when God created, he created forever. Creation is forever. God created his Creation to endure. Otherwise, what kind of Creation would it have been had it not been created to be forever? Hence, Creation does not need to be destroyed but instead renewed. And Christ came to renew all things and the Creation. That’s the goal of the whole biblical story. This created work of God that began all things will be renewed at Christ’s second coming.

As we’re talking about faith, we go to the next clause of the creed I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

Creation is continuous even today and always. Bringing all things into existence is a past event as we know from In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. But Paul says all things are upheld by the word of his power (Co 1 17. Also in He 1 3). Therefore, Creation continues and is upheld only because the creative power of God [that providential power of God] is constantly at work upholding it.

In vv 10-11 we see God praised for his power, providence and wisdom. God will frustrate the plans of those nations who oppose God. His counsel will stand forever (v 11).
In contrast with the nations who here stand for the wicked who oppose God, see v 12.

v 12
These people are the people of Christ, the people of God, the Church – both OT and NT. This was Israel in the OT and now it’s this one people of God built on the foundation of the Jewish people. Believers since Christ are grafted into the Jewish nation so now the people of God is made up of all people – Jew and gentile – this one people of God, the people of Abraham – through Christ.

In that the nation’s God is the LORD, something else we see in this v is a reminder of the important covenant formula I will be your God and you will be my people.. These people have a God and this God has a people. And we have been made God’s people in Christ.
Finally we see what is at the heart of our relationship with God and at the heart of the covenant. From the LORD’s heavenly dwelling place he looks down from heaven at all the inhabitants of the earth and sees all the children. This sounds like Ps 14 which talked about how God looks out and sees that there is no one righteous. But now there is a twist which fits right in with Ps 14 and is even more wonderful v 15 ff.

In vv 13-19 we see what faith involves. Here we see the psalmist almost giving a definition of faith.

v 15
He understands their work. God is the Creator God. He knows the thoughts of all.
The psalmist says all these hopes (vv 16-17) are in vain.

v 18
Here we see what it means to be in the people of God and what LORD looks for. It’s those who fear and trust in God who belong.
We see again that faith is more than simply assent. Faith is trust. This trust involves believing that the Lord is a saving God, a God of power and mercy. It leads to hope in God.

v 22
Notice how Ps 33 is light years from a faith that is a mere intellectual assent. At the basis of our relationship with God is trust and hope in him. It’s trust; it’s hope; it’s fear of God but not in the sense of a craven fear as if God is a tyrant. Instead, it’s a fear to transgress against this holy, righteous, powerful, loving God. It’s trust in God, praise of God, hope in God. It’s a heart given to God in trust and hope.
Faith, hope and trust in God are at the center of the Bible, both in the old (in the Psalms) and new testaments. Apart from that trust and hope there is no forgiveness and we are on the path of darkness and dehumanization. When we put our trust in God, God is at work in us so that our faith bears the fruit of good works.

A big part of faith is hope. Our faith is what God has done in Christ and our hope is in what Christ is yet to do in Christ. That includes not only faith and trust in God’s love but also trust in God’s almighty power. There are both important and crucial. Trust and hope in God. The psalmist prays that your covenant love be upon us, O LORD, according as we have hoped in you (v 22).

Ps 35
a plea for justice

As we know from Jn 10 10 and Re 12 9, 12, the ultimate power behind all wickedness and evil is Satan and his demons. They directly instigate all of the evil in this world. They actually brought evil into God’s good Creation. Further, and contrary to much popular opinion, Satan is a very real, personal being who exercises great power – albeit limited by the Lord, such as we see in various places in Re.

David authored several of the imprecatory Psalms including Ps 35. Men close to David had developed a destructive disdain for him. The psalm is most likely set in Saul’s time (1 Sam 20; 23-26). Someone sought David’s life and slandered him. We know that his enemies were not simply spreading rumors about him. Instead, 1 Sam 19 8-17 and 2 Sam 21 15-17 tell us these attacks could legitimately be characterized as life-threatening. Still, David did not respond by seeking revenge but instead he responded with incredible restraint as we read in 1 Sam 24 2-13, 15 and 26 1-11 and in which David appealed to God as the righteous judge. David demonstrated respect for king Saul and left revenge for the Lord.

We have these two NT texts, each of which deals with those who want to harm us.

In Ro 12 17-21 Paul tells us that God calls us to live in peace with everyone insofar as it’s up to us. Those who consider us their enemies we are to treat with kindness and love, repaying evil with good and letting God judge and take revenge if and when justice is called for.

Then in 2 Th 1 6-10 Paul tells us that God, on the other hand, does promise to deal with our enemies. It’s a matter of justice (v 5) with him. Those who refuse to repent and come to him in faith for forgiveness of sins will be eternally condemned. God doesn’t take it as an inconsequential thing when someone hurts one of his children!!!

The psalm begins with a prayer in which David asks God to intervene on his behalf. We don’t know the specific situation for which David wrote this psalm although he does mention some specific attacks as the reason for his call for help:
Physical attacks in v 4; unjust perspective in v 7; slander in vv 11, 15 and 20; mockery in v 16 and hatred in v 19.

We are all God’ children. God takes it personally when someone attacks us as we see in Zc 2 8b. Remembering that God had chosen David to be the ancestor of the coming messianic savior, that makes the attack on David all the more significant. Had David not produced a son, God’s plan would have been frustrated. Perhaps that’s why Satan seems to have singled David out for so many vicious, ongoing attacks.

Throughout the psalm David contrasts his friendship with his enemies and their betrayal of him. We are all reminded of times when someone repaid us “evil for good.” Recall those feelings following the “attack” and how you dealt with your feelings and how the situation was eventually resolved. When we do this we see how God moved through people and circumstances to produce a resolution.

When we compare Ps 35 19 with Jn 15 23-25 we see how both David and Jesus suffered undeserved hatred. David’s attacks came from those whom he had befriended. Jesus truly suffered undeserved hatred as he showed nothing but love for his enemies.
As a result of this suffering we see in Ps 35 13, 14 and 23 and Lk 23 34 that both David and Jesus prayed for God’s help. David looked to God for justice but Jesus prayed for mercy. Neither took matters into their own hands.
From these examples of faith this tells us that, regarding our attitudes and actions toward those who hurt us … this tells us that our Lord always stands ready to hear and to help us. When we take our situations to our Lord, we can trust God to do what is right and what is best for us. We can rest in this assurance because of all he has already done for us in Christ Jesus.

As Ps 35 begins, David enters “heaven’s court of final appeals.” He finds himself trapped in a situation in which no one else will help or listen. We don’t know what this situation was. Perhaps the Holy Spirit keeps that information from us so we can ‘fill in the blank’ with our own need or pain.

David begins (vv 13) this psalm with a prayer for help, then moves into three cycles that each end with a vow to praise. The psalm is worded like a trial. David presents evidence against his enemies and asks God to judge and punish them.

The psalmist opens (vv 1-3) with six forceful statements asking that God come forward and wage war against those who seek his life Contend with them! Fight on my side! Take up Your weapons! Come to my help! Draw Your spear! Tell me You are my salvation!
These are not words of someone praying in an easy chair! David faces a terrible problem, one too big for him. He is fighting for his life, and he begs God to do so too.

The prayer is followed by the first cycle of requests (vv 48). All these ask that his enemies be completely defeated and discredited. When the Lord brings deliverance, David vows (vv 910) to sing praise to God and exclaim God’s praise to others. David closes the first cycle (v 10) with the reason for his hope: God is gracious and merciful to the poor and needy and will be their deliverer. When we encounter evil and injustice of this magnitude, we can be sure that our God has not changed. He still rescues the poor and weak, those who cannot fight for themselves.

The second cycle (vv 1118) lies at the heart of David’s complaint. People who were once his friends have repaid his friendship by treating him shamefully. David lays before the Lord the evidence of their wickedness in (v 11) words and (v 12) actions. He charges that (vv 1314) he has treated these enemies well in their time of need, but they (vv 1516) have gloated and mocked him in his time of troubles.

David’s plea (v 17) rises once again for God not to stand by in silence. David’s vow (v 18) crescendos as he pledges to praise God in the great congregation (assembly) so that all Israel may know what God has done. We, too, can praise God even before we see the answer to our prayers. He will act in line with His character and His promises. At just the right time and in just the right way, He will deliver His own. He gave His own Son over to death for us. He will not deny us anything that would be good for us.

In the emotional conclusion of the third cycle in the psalm (vv 1928), David sums up his appeal. (Vv 1920) He repeats the charges against his enemies and details their wickedness before God, the judge. (Vv 22 25) He calls again for God’s action with a cry that mirrors his opening prayer (vv 13). In justice, God must not remain a mere spectator (v 22), but He must rise to battle (vv 2627) for David’s defense and as a witness to those believers who have seen David’s struggle.

The psalm closes (v 28) as David vows to praise God not just once, but ‘all the day long’ for the deliverance he knows he will receive.

In Ps 35 David appealed to God almighty as divine warrior and righteous judge. He prayed that God would come to his defense and rescue him from those who were once close friends but who now accused, slandered and condemned him with malice.
The Lord forbids that we accuse an innocent person (eighth commandment), that anyone might be wrongly punished in body, property or reputation (See Pr 22 1). The Lord bids us to err on the side of the gospel in the case of our neighbor, unless guilt is clear as we read in Mt 18 15-18. As we endeavor to treat our neighbors fairly and with mercy, our merciful Lord justifies us according to his righteousness.
As such, we pray that Jesus would move us to shun lies and to speak well of our neighbor. We are to build a strong bulwark around our name, reputation and integrity so that we might be protected from malicious gossip and deceitful tongues through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Ps 38
God Is My Only Hope

In more powerful language than perhaps any of the other penitential Psalms Ps 38 describes the anguish sin causes. The psalm describes three areas of David’s life damaged by his sin.
vv 2-10 describe physical pain and sickness.
v 6 describe depression and emotional grief. And
vv 11-12 describe the pain of betrayal and abandonment by friends and family.

This psalm could have been penned by Job. It is full of grief and complaints about physical weakness, spiritual anguish, and betrayal. Yet this is a psalm of David in which he acknowledges that his sins (v 1) are the cause of his grief and that the Lord is his only hope. The title literally says “A psalm of David to bring to remembrance.” In this psalm, David pleads with God to remember His gracious promises and save David from the sins of his youth.

Famous for his courage before Goliath and in other battles, David cries out (v 1) when God contends with him for his sins by allowing illness to strike (vv 58). David does not claim innocence; (v 1) he only pleads for mercy. He knows he deserves to be punished (v 4).
The once mighty David (vv 23) has felt God’s anger at his sin and (vv 58) the effects of that sin on his own body. It hurts to know that this pain has come about not because of the attacks of an enemy but (v 5) because of his own foolishness. When we repent, God promises to forgive and deliver us, although He does not promise to undo all of sin’s consequences. Sometimes we carry the effects of our sin throughout all our lives. And yet, even then our Lord will in grace help us endure them.

The knowledge that God is aware of his sins ( v 9) and of his needs comforts David (v 10) under the terrible burden of guilt. David grows weak (v 10) and he feels great pain as loved ones avoid him and (v 12) enemies take advantage of his weakness. Yet, what can he say to God when he knows he is guilty? He is like a deaf and dumb man who cannot resort to replying with harsh words. We do not need to lash back in revenge or to justify ourselves. It is better to trust God to protect our reputations as we throw ourselves on His mercy.

The burden is heavy, but (v 15) David is confident God will deliver him in due time. David will not try to refute his enemies (v 16) but will bring his case before God (v 17). He pleads the intensity of his pain even as (v 18) he openly confesses his sin and his regrets. His hope lies in that (vv 1920) while others have deserted him. God is the friend who never fails (vv 21-22). In this psalm, we see how even true believers sin and may feel crushed by physical pain and spiritual anguish. But we have a God who will not fail to answer our cries for help.

Again, we read in v 4 that guilt is like a heavy burden … to heavy for me. In other words, when conscience accuses, our hearts feel very heavy indeed. Such guilt quickly drags our mood down and weighs on our minds. We can fall into the kind of depression and hopelessness David describes. Once again we see sin’s fallout into areas of our lives we might not have expected. Sometimes we think of sin only as a “heavenly demerit” or a mark in God’s book somewhere in heaven. But as we’ve seen in Psalms 6 and 38 sin produces pervasive and debilitating effects in our souls, bodies, emotions and relationships. Sin is painful and ultimately deadly.
Therefore, when we understand the power of sin to hurt us and the people around us, we will be all the more eager to get rid of it by confessing it and receiving God’s promised pardon and power.

This understanding of what sin really is and the truth of what we read in v 4 helps us better understand our Savior’s promise in Mt 11 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Jesus’ promise to take our burden and to give us rest provides much comfort if we remember that a major part of the burden we carry is the load of guilt.

God’s kindness leads us to repentance as Paul tells us in Ro 2 4b.
4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
That kindness and his promise to forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake lead us to thank and praise him. We can rely on God’s forgiveness even for those sins that cause us the deepest regret.

The Lord chastises his children in order to turn them from temptation and sin and to keep them safe and faithful to him. Sin that is not confessed becomes a burden on our bodies and souls and causes great despair. The law as a guide accuses us and shows us our sin as Paul tells us in Ro 3 20 and 7 7.
Here in Ps 38 we see that God’s divine will is ultimately for our good as believers. O Lord my salvation! (v 22) is the beautiful confession that through the healing balm of the Lord’s mercy, there is deliverance and Absolution.
We are to acknowledge that we are in God’s hands and that we are sinners and that we accept the truth of God’s Word. We are to quickly confess our sin, and we are to thank God for leading us to this confession through God’s law and promises. We ask that God would keep us alive in our faith for it is in God alone that we trust.

Ps 40

Ps 40 is from an earlier time in David’s life as an outlaw fleeing from Saul.
One who had fallen away from God now cried out for his fatherly kindness and mercy. As saint and sinner, we are unable to keep God’s law perfectly although he requires that we do so. By the power of his Word and Spirit and by faith, he instills in us a new desire. Our Lord Christ kept the law perfectly and died on our behalf that we might live with him in his kingdom.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the psalmist is writing this psalm as if Christ is speaking. This psalm is quoted in He 10.
Ps 40 is a psalm of David who is speaking prophetically of the Messiah to come, the Christ to come. So in He the author of He is saying these words in Ps 40 written by David are prophetically being spoken by Christ. Again, intertextuality, two-way traffic and typology are on display. These words are envisioned by the psalmist as having their prophetic application with Christ’s birth, the Incarnation. So these words are understood as prophetically applied to Christ.

This psalm is understood to prophesy the whole new covenant salvation plan of God. It says sacrifice and offering you did not delight in. The sacrifice and offering to which this refers is that of the temple sacrifices – the animal sacrifices. The sacrifice and offering of v 6 below were those God did not delight in. However, God desired the sacrifice of Christ because that was God’s will; that was the goal of the salvation plan.

This does not mean to say that the sacrifices of the temple – the law of Moses and all the rest – were not God’s will. Under the old covenant they were God’s will. But they always pointed forward to the new covenant. They were a part of God’s salvation plan but they are not God’s ultimate will. So in that sense the text from He 10 6 says you took no pleasure in these sacrifices and offerings.
We see in He 10 how the author of He is seeing the whole biblical story being foretold in Ps 40.

Ps 42-43
Longing to worship God

Most of us have experienced times when our feelings battled with our faith. We know God’s promises and His care for our lives. Yet, we can find ourselves filled with despair over disappointments and worries. In our study of Psalms 77 and 27 we see this simple progression: fears were overcome defeated by faith in our faithful God.

In Ps 42 and 43, fear continues to battle with faith. The resolution isn’t so simple or quick. Our lives can sometimes seem like a roller coaster as we struggle to face our troubles with confidence in God’s help. The psalmist expresses this roller coaster of ongoing emotion in Psalms 42 and 43.

Many scholars say that Ps 42 and 43 together form a single lament (prayer). The title describes this as a maskil; scholars think this may be a musical term or that it might denote a psalm written to bring wisdom or advice to the hearer.

These songs were written by the sons of Korah, a group of musicians from the tribe of Levi to whom king David assigned leadership in the music of temple worship. In these Psalms the author expresses his longing to return to worship God at the temple in Jerusalem. The psalmist (42 1) states his great desire to be near the Lord and to meet with Him. He has been cut off (42 4) from the house of God and from its worship. We don’t know why the psalmist has been denied participation in worship. For some reason, perhaps because he was taken hostage by the Syrians, the psalmist cannot do this. See 2 Ki 12 17-18.

So we know that he has been cut off and that he misses this most meaningful and important part of his life. Imagine the pain you would feel at not being able to take Holy Communion or sing praises with other believers for months or years. How sad that we often do not appreciate the opportunity to worship until we lose it.
The psalm moves quickly from the holy desires of 42 1 2 to a complaint about the terrible condition the psalmist now finds himself in (42 34). He cries (42 3) during meals so that his tears are mingled with his food. He remembers (42 4), with sorrow, times in the past when he himself would lead the procession to the house of the Lord. Now he doesn’t even have the privilege of joining that throng. Even so, his faith will not be silent. It asks (42 5), “Why are you cast down, O my soul?’
In OT times many important worship rituals could be celebrated only in the temple. That’s why the psalmist laments. He asks himself three times, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps 42 5, 11 and 43 5)

At times in life, we also need to let our faith inform our feelings. We may face distressing circumstances, and yet we can know the Lord is in control and is working for our good whether we feel it or not. We need not despair, for God is near.

The lament in this psalm includes a threefold refrain of hope that we read of in 42 5, 11 and 43 5. The lament follows this pattern: invocation (42 1), lament (42 2 4), refrain of hope (42 5), confession of confidence (42 68), lament returns (42 910), refrain of hope (42 11), petition (43 13), praise (43 4), and refrain of hope (43 5). The lament itself is a real roller coaster but it ends at the right place with hope in God!

But the psalmist’s emotions bring him down again just as faith buoys him up. His soul is downcast (42 6) even as faith pledges to remember God from the lowest valley to the highest height. He sees his troubles (42 7) rolling over him like waterfalls and ocean waves, yet the Lord (42 8) directs His love toward the psalmist day and night.

Once again, in 42 9 10, the psalmist renews his lament, expressing it directly to God. Even though he remains confident (42 9) in God as his rock, he complains about the oppression of his enemies. And once again, faith simply replies (42 11) with the refrain that God is our hope and our help. Perhaps a hymn refrain or a simple Bible verse brings you comfort in your times of deep distress. If not, consider using the refrain of this psalm. Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

The psalmist continues the direction of Ps 42 in Ps 43 with three requests.
First (43 1), he asks God to be his Redeemer and to judge between the wicked and himself.
Second (43 2), he asks God to be his strength and refuge in danger.
Third (43 3), he asks God to be his guide back to God’s holy hill. (Jerusalem and the temple were built on a hill, Mount Zion.)

We see many phrases from these Psalms showing the psalmist’s longing for God’s presence:
42 1 so pants my soul for you, O God
2 my soul thirsts for God
3 my tears have been my food day and night
9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have your forsaken me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

The psalmist also expresses excitement about the opportunity to worship God in the temple as follows:
42 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival
43 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God

One place in which we experience the joy of being with Jesus is in worship. As we worship in God’s house, God’s Word guides and empowers us. We also receive the sacraments, through which the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith. In public worship we witness to one another and encourage one another in our Christian faith.

In Ps 43 3 the psalmist asks God to send out your light and your truth. The psalmist still feels sorrow because God’s deliverance has not arrived, but (43 4) faith’s confidence shines through. The psalmist knows he will once again praise God at His altar. The psalm closes (43 5) with the refrain. We can always find hope and help in the love of our Lord.

When each of us finds ourselves in a dark hour, we have these truths about Jesus that light our way in the world (Jn 8 12). Those include what we read about in Jn 1 4-9 and Jn 16 19-28. In these verses we see that Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness of this world in order to show us the way to eternal salvation. Jesus promises to turn all our grief to joy in his presence. Jesus assures us that both he and the heavenly Father love us with infinite love and that he will always hear our prayers.

Ps 44
a plea for justice

Ps 44 is one of the community lament Psalms credited to the Sons of Korah. Interestingly, its themes are structured like the steps of a ziggurat. A ziggurat it an ancient Assyrian or Babylonian temple in the form of a pyramid with terraces on each level.). In other words, in the same way a ziggurat ascends step-by-step to its crown, Ps 44 builds theme-upon-theme with increasing intensity until it concludes with a prayer. This is the only psalm in the Psalter with this type of structure.

Ps 44 can be divided into four sections as follows::
vv 1-8 we praise God for his greatness
vv 9-16 we cry out in defeat and anguish
vv17- 22 we wonder why we suffer
vv 23-26 we bow before God and plead for his help

In Ps 44, a nation wearied by defeat pleads with God for help and victory. When the world is against us and the tide has turned, we may wonder about God’s love and devotion. Like Habakkuk (Hb 1 1-4), we wonder why evil seems to triumph so often. The psalmist turns to the Lord with his questions and proclaims in strong language the desperate need of the people.

The psalm moves from (vv 18) past victories to (vv 922) present distress to (vv 2326) future hope.

The past reminds the psalmist that God can and does bring victory to His people. God (vv 13) drove out the pagan nations of Canaan and gave their land to His people. The psalmist recalls (vv 48) that the people still have that same relationship with God. He is their King (v 4), the one who has pushed down their foes (v 5). They will trust (v 6) and boast (v 8) in no other god.

This approach by the psalmist gives us a clue for our own lives. When we begin to believe that God has let us down, we need only recall His help for others in the past. We can take confidence from His faithfulness to us all our life.

The psalmist moves on to the troubles that have tarnished Israel’s past victories and planted the seeds of doubt in the minds of God’s people. God seems (v 9) to have forgotten them. A once proud people are now in disgrace (v 15). ‘Why, Lord?’ is the question on their hearts.

Maybe you recognize that question. Maybe you’ve struggled with it yourself. It is a mistake to believe that suffering always means we have sinned, or that God has abandoned us. Suffering is often the badge we wear (v 22) as soldiers in God’s fight against evil as we await the time of His victory. God never promised that His people would be exempt from suffering, but He has promised to bring us through it victorious. He will strengthen and encourage us as we await His deliverance.

That’s the point of the petitions in vv 2326. The psalmist pleads with God to (v 23) wake up and (v 24) reveal Himself to His people in compassion (v 25) and mercy (v 26). The psalmist has not lost faith.

The psalmist closes (v 26) with a statement of trust in God’s love. In the midst of danger, the Lord teaches His servants trust, not duty. Duty expects results and blessings from faithful service. Trust clings to God in spite of trouble. It is based on God’s past blessings and on the present relationship of faith He has by grace established with us.

Ps 44 is a helpful prayer to pray today in any situation of seeming disaster such as a loss of a job, financial setback, a major illness, a trouble marriage or family, a natural disaster and so on.
Quite often, however, Christians who ask the kinds of questions raised in this psalm are scolded or shamed. For instance, some might say “it’s sinful to question God.” But the psalmist himself asked questions of the Lord and the Holy Spirit saw fit to include these questions in his book, specifically those of vv 23-24.
God lets the psalmist ask these questions and he lets the community struggle with the answers. We have probably all struggled similarly. For some of us such a struggle drove us closer to the Word of God and thus helped a faith that was more well-rooted and secure than it had been before.

We notice that the psalm did not answer the questions it raised. God will not always answer our questions either but he does reveal himself – his love and concern for us even in our dark times, especially in Christ and his cross. We will not know all the answers here on earth but we can learn to know our Lord better and better through his Word and as we watch him keep his promises to us. God reveals himself and his love, and we learn to trust him even when we do not in that very moment understand what he is doing in our lives.

Because of enemy attacks and defeats, God’s people experienced disgrace, shame and a sense of abandonment as we read in vv 9-16. We may experience these same feelings for any number of reasons such as natural disasters in our community, the serious illness of a child in our congregation or the persecution for the sake of Christ as we presently, as always, see going on all over the world. We as a community of believers face these times of suffering in corporate worship when we can encourage one another and witness to one another informally in the Body of Christ. In worship, together we confess our sins before God and receive his forgiveness. We hear God’s Word and receive the sacrament together as members of his family. As a group we are reminded of God’s many promises, especially his promise of eternal life for all believers. Clinging to the hope of heaven keeps us going as we weather the storms in this world. In corporate worship, we also pray for one another’s needs as well as for the needs of the whole Christian Church on earth.
Ps 45
a royal wedding

Ps 45 is a song of praise that can be interpreted on several levels. On one level it is a song of praise by the people to their king on his wedding day. Yet, on a second level, while this is a royal psalm describing a court event, the king in this psalm is Jesus Christ with the queen being his Church, the bride of Christ. In other words, the psalmist idealizes the ceremony and the groom so much so that its ultimate fulfillment can only be found in Christ and His Bride, the Church. Again, intertextuality, two-way traffic and typology.

V 1 serves as a preface to the psalm and confesses the greatness of the God who has provided such a noble king. Then the psalmist launches into a eulogy about the appearance and character of the groom. Vv 2-5 describe the majesty of our king, Jesus. The groom (v 2) is presented as being the best of men and blessed by heaven. While the author may have seen a physical majesty in the earthly king for whom he wrote, Is 53 2 describes the Messiah as the one who ‘had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.’ The excellence of the Messiah who fulfills this psalm will be in His person and work, not in physical beauty.

Various NT texts echo the vv of Ps 45.
v 2 grace is poured upon [the king’s] lips comes to us in Lk 4 22 with Jesus’ words gracious. God has given us the riches of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus, his son, whom he has anointed as our Savior and king. Jesus is God’s Word of grace to us.
v 3: The sword of the king in both v 3 and in Re 1 16 symbolizes divine judgment and authority. Ultimately, the sword is God’s Word. God has given Jesus his authority as well as the right and power to judge.
v 4: Along with Re 6 2 these two verses speak of the king riding victorious as a conqueror. Jesus is the one who conquered sin, death and Satan for us.
v 5: Along with Ro 15 12 these two verses speak of the king ruling over nations. God has exalted Jesus as king and ruler over all the earth.

Next, (vv 45) a plea is made for the king to be victorious. He 1 89 quotes vv 6-7 as proof both of the elevation of the Messiah above the angels and of the righteous character of the Messiah as judge of all.

V 6 contains one of the clearest references of the OT to Christ’s deity. The psalmist calls the king “God”. The v also says that the king’s reign is eternal and just.

Finally in vv 8-9, the psalmist turns to the splendor of the king’s court. This splendor will attract the world (v 9) so that they pay tribute to the king and present costly gifts to him. The apostle Paul wrote, ‘For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved’ (2 Cor 2 15). The beauty and fragrance of Christ is evident in those who belong to Him, in those who are His Bride, the Church. Our words and actions attract others as God uses us to draw all people to Himself in Christ.

The king’s bride is described in vv 10-15. At v 10, the psalm turns attention to the royal bride and to her relationship to the king. She is directed to forget her people and her father’s house and to be totally loyal to her husband, the king. She is to honor (vv 1011) the king as her only Lord.
The bride in this psalm foreshadows Christ’s bride – his Church. As members of Christ’s Church through faith in Jesus, v 10b tells us believers that we, too, are to honor Christ above all our other loyalties. This does not justify the practice of cults which required members to sever all outside ties, even family ties. Rather, it refers to placing loyalty and owing all allegiance to Christ alone as the ultimate authority. When God calls us to faith through the Gospel, we become part of the Church, the Bride of Christ. God’s call is a call to exclusive loyalty to the Lord a loyalty that takes precedence even over loyalty to our own earthly family (Mt 10 3739). Then in v 11a we see the one blessing we receive as a member of Christ’s Church – Jesus’ love and adoration. We are his precious bride. We are forgiven, pure and beautiful in his sight.

Great gifts (v 12) and esteem (v 13) come to the faithful bride as she shares in the honor and glory of her king. Think of it! Christ shares His glory, his honor with us, His Bride (Jn 17 22)!
22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:
Finally, the bride is led (v 14) into the king’s presence in a stately procession, and together (v 15) they enter the palace. Husband and wife celebrate the joy of their life together.

The psalm closes with two promises for the king and for those of us who are members of Christ’s Church. Generation after generation (v 16) of Solomon’s children will sit upon the throne. Ultimately, the Messiah will reign forever, the one from David’s line to whom God promised an everlasting throne – the ultimate Davidic king. The psalmist also vows that the name of the king will be remembered throughout all generations in all nations. Scripture does record the name and deeds of Solomon. Yet, it is the name of Jesus that will be proclaimed in all nations and throughout all generations. We, God’s people, praise Him for who He is and for making us a part of His Church, His Son’s Bride.

Vv 16-17 tell of another way that God blesses us as members of his Church through faith, especially when seen in juxtaposition with He 2 10-13. Through Jesus, our king, God makes us members of his royal family and brothers and sisters in order for Christ. Through the cross of Jesus we are made holy. As brothers and sisters with Jesus, we are one with him forever. God now sees us as he sees Jesus – holy and righteous eternally.

v 1

Ps 45 is another royal psalm about the coming messianic Davidic king. In its original context Ps 45 is connected with and addressed to King Solomon.
Solomon was a type / foreshadow, a biblical figure who was actually an historical figure in his own right, but in God’s plan of salvation Solomon always pointed forward to something greater, the antitype / the full reality. Solomon, the Davidic king, the son of David was a type or foreshadow of the Messiah. That is, within the OT these Psalms themselves – Ps 2, 45 – were addressed to the reigning, ruling Davidic king but that king was a type or foreshadow of another figure in the OT before we even know about Jesus. The Messiah was a figure promised to come. Messiah is a title. It’s important to understand that the NT authors, such as the author of He, are not just saying Solomon is a type of Jesus. The OT itself is presenting Solomon as a type or foreshadow of the Messiah. The Messiah was the ultimate Davidic king. The whole line of Davidic kings, especially the kings David and Solomon, pointed to and foreshadowed the ultimate Davidic king to come, the Messiah.

So when the people of Israel read these Psalms they would think of the Davidic king reigning and ruling in their own time, and in the case of Ps 45, they would have thought of Solomon. They would have thought of him as a figure looking forward to the ultimate Davidic king to come, the Messiah.

So there are some things in these royal Psalms that fit the ruling, reigning Davidic king just as much of this psalm would fit Solomon. It talks about his royal court and his throne but there are other things that only fit the ultimate Davidic king because he, Solomon, was only a type or foreshadow.
Notice, therefore, that it’s only the ultimate Davidic king who is the fairest of the sons of men v 2.

v 2

who has true grace poured upon his lips
Think here of the teaching of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer and so on.
This whole psalm talks about the glory and victory and reign of this coming ultimate Davidic king using Solomon as a type or foreshadow.
Therefore it’s most appropriate that the biblical author of He echoes this psalm when talking about Jesus at He 1 9 because the author is saying Jesus was the fulfillment of this ultimate Davidic king. Jesus was the ultimate Davidic king. The author of He was echoing in He 1 8-9 from vv 6-8 here below.

Ps 49
trust in God, not in wealth

In Ps 49, we see the psalmist address this lesson on wealth to all people, everyone in the world. Were one of us to title this psalm we’d probably call it “Riches vs. Wisdom” or “Riches Cannot Rescue Us from Death.” The psalm is actually a sermon that deals with the inevitability of death, and it warns people about the foolishness of trusting in riches. It sounds much like the Book of Ecclesiastes. Ps 49 differs from most other psalms in that it does not address God. As we have said, it’s a sermon, not a prayer. In fact, it mentions God only twice. Ps 49 is one of several psalms written by the Sons of Korah, who were gatekeepers (1 Chr 9 19) at the temple.

The psalmist begins (v 1) by demanding the attention of all people in the world. The message that he brings is not just for the people of God. He calls (v 2) both rich and poor to listen to his message. We see the audience the psalmist hopes to address here in vv 1-2. A fact of life here on earth is that all people experience physical death. Sooner or later, death swallows everyone, rich and poor alike. Most people tend to deny or overlook this fact. Even though we all know it intellectually, we fail to consider it in our own day-to-day lifestyle. Therefore, it’s healthy for us to be reminded, just as the psalmist does here.

Four words (vv 34) are used to describe the message that is proclaimed: wisdom, understanding, proverb and riddle. The four words together show the urgency and importance of the message. Even the psalmist (v 4) himself listens to the truth that he has learned and now prepares to pass on to others.

The psalmist now has our attention, and in v 5 introduces his topic money, possessions, wealth, and the value people place on material things. A more universal topic could not be found. Who among us doesn’t at times stew and fret about money? Some of us don’t have enough and we wonder how we’ll get by. Others among us have hard decisions to make about our money. Will we lose it all if we make a bad stock market decision? Will we live our retirement years in poverty? Why does the government take so much in taxes? How did my neighbors afford that vacation or that new car when I can’t even keep ahead of my credit card bills each month? Worry. Resentment. Envy. The temptation to these sins plagues us more often than we’d like to admit.

Like it or not, money and our attitude toward it has a powerful effect on our life and our happiness. The psalmist asks himself why he fears the wicked and their wealth (vv 5-6). To those who live without God, the answer is obvious: Wealth can give people a great advantage in earthly matters. The wealthy can hire better lawyers. The wealthy have more influence where it counts with the power brokers and the world. And yet, the worldly wisdom that would advise us to rely on worldly wealth will lead us astray if we let it guide our lives. Why? V 7 tells us. Wealth has no real power in the face of death. No matter how much material wealth a person manages to amass, no one who ever lived has had enough wealth to send the grim reaper packing. Rich and poor alike, we all face physical death (vv 7-8). No one can redeem the life of another or pay God the ransom owed. As v 8b says, no payment could ever suffice. We cannot buy freedom from guilt. Only Jesus, by offering his life as the payment, could redeem us from the eternal, spiritual death that sin and Satan bring.

Then what? Here’s where God’s wisdom is indispensable. Jesus Christ ransomed us (vv 8-9) and redeemed us from sin. Gold and silver weren’t a high enough price, so He shed His lifeblood for us instead. True, our bodies will die (v 9) and see decay but (v 15) ‘God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol.’

In vv 1013, the psalmist circles back around, explaining the problem faced by all who follow earthly wisdom when it comes to thinking about material possessions. All (v 10) will die and leave their wealth behind to others. As someone has said, “I never saw a Wells Fargo truck following a hearse.” When we dies physically, our earthly wealth is left to those still living. See especially v 17a which reads for when he dies he will carry nothing away. So the departed may name (v 11) their plantations after themselves in an attempt to gain immortality, yet their tombs will imprison them for endless generations. Physical death (v 12) here on earth is final; no amount of money will bring a dead person back to life on this earth. Putting too much emphasis on accumulating houses and land, farms and businesses and, we might add, titles and degrees is foolishness.

Those who trust in themselves (vv 1314) are no better than sheep destined for slaughter. In fact, they are worse off, for in addition to their bodies facing decay, they will face condemnation on the Last Day. The psalmist, however, proclaims (v 15) his confidence in God’s salvation for those who trust in the Lord.

V 15 offers one of the clearest confessions of the resurrection in the Old Testament. After establishing that we human beings and our riches do not endure, the psalmist cites and important truth in vv 14b-15. The psalmist declares that God will redeem (v 15) us from the grave so that He will take His people to Himself. Vv 14b-15 point to God’s promise of resurrection.
Further, resurrection is a reality for all people, both the righteous and the unrighteous. For the believer this promise means that out bodies and souls will be reunited on the last day, and we will live with our Savior in the life of the world to come forever. The bodies of unbelievers will also be raised (Dn 12). However, their destiny is an eternity in hell. The righteous will rule over them (v 14b). Those who rejected the true riches of righteousness which the Savior offered as a free gift will suffer in spiritual destitution forever. The double judgment. Scripture is rather straightforward on this matter.

Vv 1619, then, warn the godly, especially those who do not consider themselves wealthy. These vv warn them not to fall into envy. These verses summarize what the psalmist has learned. God warns us that earthly riches are essentially worthless. They seem great on earth but their importance is so very fleeting. Those who depend on earthly riches will be forever disappointed. Still, the allure of things can tempt us so strongly. We all have had times in our lives when we were tempted to trust the gifts of God rather than the giver of those gifts.

How do you deal with the wealth of others? Envy kills our joy, but even sins of envy have been washed away by the blood of Christ. Our Savior frees us to have thankful, trusting hearts. This is true wealth and godly wisdom.
As Christians we believe that our greatest riches are the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life God gives us because of our Savior, Jesus. Because we are his beloved children, God also gives us other good things right here on earth. We are to all ask of ourselves how can we maintain a balance between enjoying good things here on earth while at one and the same time still giving God first place in our lives.

Keeping the proper balance between earthly riches and the love of God can be done only by God’s grace. Satan is forever tempting us away from placing God first in our lives by using the material blessings that God himself gave to us or by using blessings we don’t have but think we should have. God’s Word provides the instruction and guidance we need to keep a proper, wise perspective on earthly wealth. The Holy Spirit helps us to remember that all we have comes from God. As we confess our idolatry and ask for strength to walk away from it, our Lord helps us to view the salvation we have through Jesus as our only true and enduring riches.

Ps 50

God comes as a judge to reprimand his people for the unbelief that hides behind careless ritualism and hypocritical religiosity. We mask our sin by hiding behind false piety or by merely “going through the motions” of Christian worship (confessing, hearing and communing), all the while ignoring the deadly seriousness of sin. Sin is not magically waved away. True repentance turns away from sin as the horror and poison that it is. True repentance clings to the perfect, once for all sacrifice of God’s Son dying on the cross.

v 13
Here in v 13 we seem to have a rejection of the idea of animal sacrifice to God. The obvious answer to the question is “No.”
So how does that fit with the fact that God commanded the animal sacrificial system in Le and so on? Why would God then say as he does here, Will I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?

There is a deep, rich truth here. Yes, the animal sacrifices were God’s will. He commanded them through Moses. Still, they were not God’s ultimate will. Remember that the author of He says that God takes away the animal sacrifices and brings in Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. God takes away the first to establish the second. That was the will of God. The animal sacrifices were not God’s ultimate will. God’s ultimate will was Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

Now all of this is sort of mysterious here. If you were an OT saint, a believer in the OT times, Joe Israelite, you would have said this is mysterious. God has commanded sacrifices and yet they don’t appear to be God’s ultimate will. All of that was made clear in Christ’s coming. That is, the sacrifices were God’s will but they were always meant to point forward to something greater, Christ’s sacrifice.

Therefore, any OT passage in which it seems to be condemning animal sacrifices is not really doing that. But it is saying that it’s not God’s ultimate will.
Notice that’s not what God is really interested in, that these Israelites offer him one sacrifice after another. Instead we see in v 16 …

Here in vv 13-15 you have what God wants – a heart attitude of praise and worship and faith. Call upon me in the day of affliction. Pay your vows to the most high. (V 14) Offer to God a sacrifice of praise. It’s this heart of praise and thanksgiving that is God’s real purpose and will. Notice how that all fits together when we see the fullness of God’s salvation come in Christ. The whole purpose of Christ’s sacrifice was to restore us and renew our hearts so that we might be united with God and offer to God a sacrifice of praise.

Ps 51

Mt 6 6 and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,
Remember that Solomon came about as the result of an adulterous relationship between David and Bathsheba. David had sent Uriah off, knowing that he would be killed in war so that he could get Bathsheba for himself. The subplots here include sin, infidelity, tragedy, repentance, forgiveness. Ps 51 grows out of this whole story.

Ps 58
a protest against injustice

Ps 58 is called a miktam in the title which means a “choice piece” or “gem”. Miktam is always used in the headings of Davidic Psalms intended to be prayed in times of great danger, for example, Ps 16, 56-60. Ps 58 asks God to judge the wicked rulers and to help the people who suffer because of corrupt government.

Although some versions use the word rulers in v 1, it literally translates as gods or heavenly beings. This definition and the two questions posed in v 1 reinforce the fact that OT judges and rulers were to speak and judge justly as God’s representatives here on earth. They were to protect and uphold the innocent – who were often the poor and powerless.
This definition suggests that the responsibilities of rulers and government today are set by God and that they are God’s servants. Rulers and government officials were established by God and they are his servants whether they realize it or not. When government officials are evil it is the poor and disenfranchised who suffer most under evil or corrupt governments. We can compare this to Is 10 where we read 1 Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, 2 to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

In Ps 58, David laments the lack of justice in the world and the corruption of many of those who were to administer justice. Down through history, some corrupt judges have perverted justice. Perhaps you know of cases in our own day. What then? Believers have a higher ‘court of appeals’ than any earthly court. Ps 58 is an appeal to that court. This gem of a psalm can be prayed by those who have been disappointed by earthly courts.

David lays two charges against the judges of his day. First, (vv 12) they have corrupted the administration of justice, and worse, (vv 35) their nature is corrupt from birth. No one should expect good from them. They are like lying, poisonous snakes who will not listen to the truth.

In vv 69, David unleashes a sevenfold curse. These blistering metaphors call down God’s judgment on the unjust judges. The saints (v 10) will rejoice as God’s honor is upheld. Ultimately, the Lord (v 11) will reward the righteous and bring justice to the earth. The last verse also hints at David’s desire for the repentance of his enemies so that they together with everyone else will recognize God’s justice and receive the rewards of righteousness.

We may find ourselves frustrated with the judicial system of our own day. Criminals may indeed go scotfree; the innocent may indeed be punished for no reason. And still, God is a God of justice. We can pray for the police, for judges, and for those who make our laws. And we can find comfort in the fact that God is a God of justice. All those who wait for Him will one day be blessed by seeing justice done.

Israel had experienced the damage done by corrupt rulers as we see in 1 Sam 8 1-3.
1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

Injustice. Bribery. The oppression of the poor and the weak. Eventually these will rot a nation from within. Many events today mirror the very corruption we see being mentioned here in this psalm. We had the Nazi and Communist governments of the last century. The Communists and whatever of this century. Apartheid in South Africa. Persecution of Christians everywhere especially in the Sudan and the Mideast. Widespread taking of Christian lives in Africa. Human rights violations in China. The segregation policies for certain racial groups. The marginalization of Christianity even in the United States of America. And so on. The list is endless.

In vv 6-9 the psalmist used strong images to appeal for help to God who is the supreme judge. These images further stress the wickedness of ungodly rulers. It also shows their total helplessness when the almighty God confronts them in judgment. In the end, God can and will call them to account.

We are to ask the question, “Can Christians rightfully experience the joy expressed in Ps 58 10-11?” Before answering we first read Re 19 1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

We see from these two texts that Christians today sometimes draw back from relying on God’s justice. Perhaps this comes from our culture’s idea that Christianity’s main teaching is being nice and tolerant. While it’s true that Christianity stresses God’s mercy in Christ toward repentant sinners, and while Scripture clearly and emphatically forbids personal vengeance , the Bible does present God also as a champion of justice. God’s children will not endure persecution forever. Satan and his allies will one day be defanged, declawed and dethroned. This can bring comfort and, yes, even joy to the hearts of suffering believers. Our joy will be complete when Jesus returns on Judgment Day, the Last Day, to put a total end to sin and Satan. At that time, the multitude in heaven – us included – will shout “Hallelujah!” God’s judgments will show to all that justice, mercy, salvation, glory and power belong to God and God alone.

So we see the David challenged the leaders of the people (judges and rulers) by condemning the unjust and dishonest. When one finds themself in a position of power over someone else, they are to treat that person as one precious to God, purchased by the blood of Christ. Jesus suffered unjustly before both the Jewish council – the Sanhedrin – and the Roman governor. The plans of both sets of judges came to nothing. Ultimate justice was served on the cross (with the condemnation of sin) and at the empty tomb (with the public vindication of Jesus as our Savior).
Ps 62

Ps 62 is a hymn of peace and confidence in God who alone provides security and hope. David does not identify the historical context but the wisdom embodied in the psalm and the hint of weakness in v 3 suggest a time late in David’s life (cf. 2 Sam 23 1-7).
Wealth deceives people by promising happiness. In the end wealth, power and fame turn out to be lies because they do not deliver what they seem to promise. Even when our lives fall apart, our center and foundation hold firm. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord as Paul tells us in Ro 8 38-39.

Ps 62 is so crucial and can transform your whole reading of the OT. People get this so wrong. They can be confused by the way in the Bible that the law of Moses is considered within the context of the covenant and God’s provision of mercy.
Notice the very climactic vv 11-12.

vv 11-12
Notice that God is both perfect love and perfect might. As difficult as that might seem to believe in both antiquity and modernity, both go together; God is both all mighty and all loving.
Power belongs to God and covenant love is yours, O Lord, for you recompense a person according to his work.
That would sound like self-righteousness wouldn’t it, but notice that recompensing people according to their work is in the context of the covenant, in the context of God’s covenant love.
The work there includes the idea of faith in God, trust in God.
It’s the distinction between those outside the covenant who rebel against God and those within the covenant who in love and trust turn to God.
So you can talk about that as works because it’s in the context of the covenant.
It has nothing to do with the psalmist thinking that he’s without sin or even close to that. It’s the idea that the law that you follow is in the context of the covenant. Those who reject the covenant are outside God’s grace and mercy; those who are within the covenant – even though their keeping the law is far from a 100% – they receive God’s grace and mercy.

So here within v 12 you are concerned with the law within the context of the covenant because it includes God’s grace and mercy.
That’s why the psalmist can say that covenental love is God’s because he recompenses the person according to the work; he’s talking about the distinction between those who love and follow God and those who do not. It’s not that those who love and follow God are perfect but their transgressions are forgiven.
To express this strongly now go back to Ps 143.

Ps 63

Ps 63 reflects David’s faith in the Lord and his willing submission to God’s plans. Most likely the psalm refers to David’s flight from Absalom (2 Sam 15-17) into the wilderness of Judea, a time when the king fled Jerusalem and left his fate in the Lord’s hands (2 Sam 15 24-26).
David is on the run and cut off from God’s tabernacle and the capital city, Jerusalem. David turns to God in prayer and praise for his love and salvation. When were are in the ‘wilderness’ and God seems distant, we may find ourselves tempted to focus on our own troubles rather than turning to God in faith and confide3nce. David shows us the way to handle disaster and doubt: meditate on the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving (cf. Pp 4 4-7). Faith looks beyond the circumstances to the cross of Christ and sees God’s love, holding fast to his promises to his children.

vv 1-8
So, it’s getting tough now. Whatever one’s Lenten discipline, by this stage it should be starting to bite. This Psalm will help when that happens.

This Psalm brings us, in heart and mind, into God’s Temple, the ‘sanctuary’ in Jerusalem. That’s where the Psalmist remembers ‘looking upon God’ and ‘beholding his power and glory’. Wherever the pilgrim would go afterwards, he or she would carry with them the memory of that time, and the constant reminder of God’s majesty.

The Temple in the Old Testament comes into the New Testament wearing skin and having bones and flesh. Jesus himself was the true Temple, the place on earth where the living God dwelled with his people, revealing his power and glory. That was the message of the whole New Testament, particularly John’s gospel and certain passages in Paul. So when we read psalms like this we should get used to ‘translating’ them. Typology.

As such, references to the Temple are drawn towards Jesus, and references to the ‘sanctuary’ spring into new life when we think of the Word made Flesh, the personal presence of the living God. When we worship Jesus when we come into the presence of his power and glory in Word and Sacrament in prayer and in ministry to the poor that gaze is meant to sustain us in all the dry and dusty places we then have to experience.

But there is a second sense in which the Temple becomes human in the New Testament. By the Holy Spirit, we ourselves, who follow Jesus and recognize him as the human face of the living God, were called to be ‘a holy Temple in the Lord’’, ‘a dwelling place of God in the Spirit’ (Ep 2 2122).
The Church as Christ’s body is a living temple (1 Pe 2 5) and hence it grows. God gives it growth as we read in 1 Cor 3 7 and Co 2 19 as he adds new “stones” (people). God also gives it growth as the Church matures by learning the truth, rejecting error and loving one another.
God certainly dwells in individual believers as we read in 1 Cor 6 19 but here Paul emphasizes the corporate nature of the Church which together is God’s temple.

When we meet together as Christians and when, throughout the day and week, we are consciously living as part of the family of Jesus’ people, we are not simply offering mutual encouragement and support in the practice of our faith. We are being God’s Temple, the place that God fills with his presence in advance of the time when he will fill the whole world with his love and renewing, healing power (Ep 1 23).
his body is a key idea in Ep 2 16; 4 4, 12, 16; 5 23, 30. Through baptism there is a true, organic unity between all believers in Christ (1 Cor 12 13) which is nurtured by receiving his true body and blood in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 10 16-17).

These are the realities we need to go back to, in mind and heart, when things are difficult, like the pilgrim going through dry and dusty valleys.

‘Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you’ (v 3). ‘For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy’ (v 7).
Make these promises, these realities, your meditation, by day and in the small hours of the night (v 6). Cling on to them until you realize that, actually, it’s God’s right hand that is holding on to you.

Ps 68
God’s victorious march

Ps 68 praises God for his saving power and strength. This liturgical hymn we know as Ps 68 was written by David, perhaps for use as Israel brought the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem. This event is described in 2 Sam 6 1215. A lot led up to that worship service, but let’s just say for now that Israel celebrated with great exuberance. Every six steps the Levites took, the priests offered another sacrifice. King David lost himself in worship, dancing with such abandon that his wife Michal criticized him for being undignified. It must have been quite a scene! Shouting. Trumpets. Choirs. How wonderful it would have been to be there. The psalm tells the story of God’s victory march from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion. There He sits, enthroned to rule over the nations of the earth. The psalm covers past (vv 718), present (vv 1927), and future (vv 2835).

The hymn begins with words that would have been familiar in ancient Israel. V 1 quotes parts of Nu 10 35 which was a prayer or shout of God’s people under Moses during their wilderness wanderings. These words were a signal that the Levites had lifted the ark of the covenant onto their shoulders. This was a victory cry that resounded throughout the camp, one that reminded God’s people of past blessings and with which they began a new day’s journey.

The Lord’s coming, though, is a twoedged sword. Disaster awaits God’s enemies (v 2), but (v 3) His coming will bring blessings for His children. The psalmist calls for those assembled to praise God (v 4) for His greatness, (v 5) for His gracious mercy, and (v 6) for His just dealings with people.

vv 5-10 describe things that God both had done and was doing for his people as they traveled to Jerusalem for the festivals. They describe present blessings God’s people were enjoying. In v 5 we see that God loves and cares for orphans, considering himself to be their Father. God defends widows and others who have no one else to stand up for them. In v 6 God gives lonely people others on earth to care for them. He sets prisoners free. This includes not only freedom from physical bondage but also freedom from the bondage of our sins. In v 7 God led his people through the wilderness. In v 9 God sent rain to refresh his people on their wilderness journey, and in v 10 God provides for the poor.

Christ’s coming brings blessings into the lives of those He loves. How do you celebrate what He has done for you? How might such celebration bring blessings to you and those you love?

As if to prove his points about the blessings the Lord brings, the psalmist shows the Lord’s goodness throughout Israel’s history. The care of God in the wilderness demonstrates His (v 7) guidance, (v 8) power, and (vv 910) provision. In vv 1114 the psalmist proclaims the victory of God’s people over powerful enemies. The Lord protects His people.

In vv 15-18 the psalmist celebrated God’s ascent to Mt. Zion when the Ark of the Covenant was enshrined in Jerusalem.
As the ark of the covenant nears, the psalmist compares Mount Zion to Bashan and Sinai in vv 1516. While Bashan is higher, the beauty of Zion is greater because it is the dwelling place of God. Even Sinai’s days of glory have passed (v 17) since God now dwells at Zion (v 18). The section closes as the psalmist thinks of the ascension of the ark to the temple. Paul quotes v 18 of the psalm in Ep 4 8 (7-10) and compares this event to the ascension of Jesus, marking the completion of God’s conquest of the earth.
Lk 24 50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.

When the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the temple in Jerusalem, this action completed God’s conquest of the promised land for his people. Christ’s ascension into heaven completes God’s conquest of the earth and the powers of evil that held our planet hostage. Jesus defeated sin, death and Satan, and Jesus now reigns as king of all.

The chariots of God (v 17) represent the holy angels. Our God is the God of hosts, the commander of heaven’s angel army. The angel army of heaven provides comfort and encouragement to us as we come together with God’s people on earth to pray and praise him. We can trust our Lord’s love and power to meet every need we have. We worship in the company of angels, archangels and all the company of heaven as we praise God for his victories of love in our lives.

Even as God has performed acts of deliverance in the past, He (v 19) is the Savior who now bears our burdens (v 19), delivers us from death (v 20), and strikes our enemies (v 21). He is the Savior of His people who brings redemption and complete victory (vv 22-23).

Suddenly, the moment (v 24) has arrived, and the ark and its procession comes into view. Surrounding the ark are (v 25) musicians singing God’s praise and the (v 27) leaders of the tribes. They escort their King. It is noteworthy that this is not just the king but ‘my God, my King.’ Remember that the Mercy Seat that covered the ark of the covenant was considered God’s throne.
The mercy seat was a piece of pure gold placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25 17 ff) onto which the blood of the animal offered for atonement was sprinkled (Le 16 14-15), symbolizing God’s gracious forgiveness of sins.
This procession honors Him, not simply the ark of the covenant. Our worship, too, honors our King, the King who died for us and rose again. It lifts our praise to a higher level to remember that, as we gather to worship, our God sits enthroned among us, to bless, to heal, to help us.

God invites us to come into his presence and worship him. His power and strength over all nations and over the whole earth make him worthy of our praise. Vv 26-35 offer further praise of God’s almighty power.
As the ark enters the sanctuary (v 28), the psalmist calls upon God to bring future triumphs, just as He has brought past victories. Then, (vv 2931) nations will come and submit to the Lord, their King. God’s power and strength shown through Jesus’ death and resurrection will cause all kings to bring God gifts (v 29) and to sing praises to him (v 32) as they enter His presence and become citizens of His kingdom. God’s power will cause gentile nations to submit to him. The Gentiles will see His victories and humble themselves before His throne.

The psalmist, therefore, closes the psalm by inviting the Gentiles to come and praise God because of (v 34) His majesty and power and because of (v 35) the grace given in the sanctuary.

We are to take a moment to consider all God has done by His power and grace for us, especially in Jesus; and then thank God for it. We are to ask that God would keep us ever loyal to our King.

Paul tells us how all of this is accomplished in Ro 15 9-16. God works through the proclamation of the gospel to bring people from all nations to repentance and faith. The Spirit empowers and encourages us to share his message of salvation with others. In this way, the kingdom of grace, the Church, grows.

Each time we leave worship we are reminded that we are now to enter the mission field. While many of us never go through that door, we, at least, and whether we know it or not, are being sent to do just that. In our worship services God encourages and empowers us to be about his work. All of us have work to be doing in God’s mission field. We are all “sent” to tell others about Jesus. We should all ask of ourselves, “Just what is it that I’ve done to impact those my life touches?” In worship God touches us in Word and Sacrament in order to transform us more and more into the image of his Son. Progressive sanctification. People around us come to see Jesus in us. In words and acts of love we are to witness to the Savior. Are we doing that yet?

Ps 69
prayer for deliverance from persecution
suffering for God’s sake

David comes to pray in Ps 69 for help from the depths of his despair in the midst of attacks and suffering imposed on him by his enemies. He calls on the Lord to judge his persecutors. Since Jesus is the promised Son of David (2 Sam 7 8-16), David’s sufferings and afflictions in this psalm foreshadow the even greater sufferings and afflictions experienced by Jesus. Typology. The New Testament writers apply this psalm often to the ministry and suffering of Jesus. Ps 69 is one of the most frequently quoted Psalms in the NT. For example, we have:

Ps 69

in this NT text

v 12

foreshadowed David’s prophecy about the abandonment and mockery Jesus endured in

Mt 27 29-31

v 9a

addressed the zeal Jesus showed for his Father’s house in cleansing the temple in

Jn 2 17

v 8

addressed the disbelief of Jesus’ brothers in Jesus in

Jn 7 5

v 4

concerned the hatred of Jesus’ enemies as found in

Jn 15 25

v 21

spoke of the thirst of Christ on the cross and the vinegar the soldiers offered him in

Jn 19 28-30

Ps 69 was written about ten centuries before Jesus’ birth and we see in its various fulfillments that God faithfully kept his word. God knew what he would do to secure our salvation in Jesus, and he told his servants, the prophets, – including David – about it. Then, in God’s own time, he did as he promised. We, too, can trust God to keep his promises to us.

David begins by pouring out a vivid description of his plight. He complains about the weight (vv 12) and length (v 3) of his troubles which continue to overwhelm him. He complains (v 4) about the malice and number of his enemies who hate me without cause just as they later would hate our Lord (Jn 15 25). While David feels unjustly persecuted, he (v 5) makes no claim to be innocent before a God who knows his faults better than he does. His great desire (v 6) is that what has happened to him would not discourage others or open a door for their enemies to triumph over them.

David’s concern in vv 5-6 is still important for God’s people today. See this from 1 Cor 10 31-33.
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
To paraphrase the prophet here in vv 5-6, “You know, God, all my sins. Please don’t let my failings cause offense to other believers.” In other words, we want others to see God’s goodness, mercy and love. We want our thoughts and actions to bring glory to him. Above all, we do not want anything we do to cause another person to fall into sin or to keep someone from coming to faith in our Lord and his saving love.

David believes (v 7) that it is because of his loyalty and faithfulness to God he has endured such shame. Like Christ (Jn 7 5), he is a stranger (v 8) to his brothers. Yet, with the zeal of Christ Himself (Jn 2 17), he is consumed (v 9) in his love for God’s house, even though it has brought him only insults, scorn (v 10), and mocking (v 12).

V 9 describes David’s devotion to the Lord while vv 10-12 describe the mockery he experienced because of this devotion. Jesus, too, experienced this kind of ridicule. We are to remember this passage when we find ourselves standing alone for Christ or when we are tempted to “go along to get along” with those who ridicule the faith. It’s clear that Jesus did not go about life pleasing himself but instead suffered and died for us in devotion to his Father’s will. Jesus knew what it felt like to bear ridicule and shame for the sake of God’s kingdom. We can share all our feelings, all our hurts and frustrations with him. In doing so we’ll be comforted by his understanding, his empathy and his strength.

All of us were born enemies of God. That is, these curses of this psalm could rightly belong to each of us. But they don’t as we read in Ro 5 6-10.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Paul’s gospel message tells of how Jesus took our curse to the cross with him. In Jesus, therefore, we have become God’s friends and recipients of his blessings. This is the Good News we are to stress and to share. Thank you Jesus!

In vv 10-20 the psalmist tells of his disgrace, shame and his broken heart – all caused by the sins of his enemies. Instead of offering comfort in his time of need, they showed him only hatred. Their hatred of him, a person made righteous in God’s eyes by grace through faith, is also hatred of God himself. And so the psalmist will offer up an imprecatory prayer as we see just below.

In spite of these attacks (vv 10-12), he will (v 13) keep on crying out in even stronger appeal to God for rescue (v 14) and deliverance. Appealing (v 16) to God’s mercy, he prays that God answer (v 17) quickly and rescue (v 18) him.

David (vv 1921) then recounts the bitter treatment his enemies have heaped upon him. The unkindness of his friends and his disappointment in them reminds us of Jesus’ trial (Mt 27 24) before Pilate and the vinegar (Jn 19 2830) Jesus was given on the cross.
David closes the section with a vivid series of suggestions about ways God might choose to punish the evildoers. And so vv 22-28 constitute an imprecatory prayer being offered up by David.

The psalm ends with a vow to thank the Lord. David bases this vow on his certainty that God will act in justice.

We see in Mk 16 both God’s comforting plan to send a Savior and his justice.
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
The horrifying consequence to those who persist in unbelief and rebellion against God will be eternal condemnation in hell when Christ comes to judge all people.
We also see in the NT several imprecatory prayers not unlike those we’ve seen in these imprecatory Psalms.

The imprecatory prayer of:

asks God to:

Ga 1 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

Paul curses anyone who would tamper with the precious gospel, changing it into law.

2 Ti 4 14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.

Paul states his belief that God will judge Alexander, an enemy of the cross who caused Paul a great deal of unspecified harm.

Re 6 9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

Here the saints in heaven call on God to avenge their blood.

Christians might be caused to pray such a prayer today should someone they love be murdered or should they face financial ruin because of a false rumor or should they be persecuted because of their faith or should they be subjected to sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

Though afflicted we still confess our sins before God. We also turn to God in faith for deliverance from those who persecute us, asking for his strength and deliverance, lest we fail to remain faithful to him. We pray that God would save us, and we are to praise the name of God in song.

Ps 71
The Lament of a Senior Saint

Ps 71 is a prayer for God’s help in old age. Many people ask the Lord for a longer life, especially as they grow older. That same prayer fills the psalmist’s thoughts here as well. But look at his motives. The psalmist wants more time so he may (v 18) ‘proclaim [God’s] might to another generation.’

Although its author is unknown, because of the similarities in content with Ps 31 (a psalm of David), many think that David wrote this psalm. If so, perhaps he wrote it toward the end of his own life.

Here is the lament pattern in this psalm: invocation (vv 13), lament (vv 413), confession of confidence (vv 1416), petition (vv 1721), and words of praise (vv 2224).

The word refuge appears several times throughout the early part of this psalm in vv 1, 3 and 7. A refuge is a place of safety or a resource to which we can turn in difficult times. We see other images of safety and strength that God offers in:
v 3b with you are my rock and my fortress
v 5 with you … are my hope, my trust
v 19 with you … have done great things and
v 20 with you … will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again

We may not value our lives as we grow old, yet God sees great value in the lives and witness of His saints. Even so, with David (v 20) we look forward to the day when the Lord will free us from life on this earth and give us new life in heaven, and ultimately in the life of the world to come. Each of us can share stories of God’s power in our lives. As we recount our stories, we can give hope and courage to those who follow us in the faith.

The psalm closes in confident anticipation of God’s help. David takes comfort in God’s presence even before he sees that help come. We, too, can have the joy of anticipating God’s coming help. Our hope is certain, for our God is completely dependable.

v 8
This is to say that the “older” Christian, who feels justified in “retiring” from their Christian service is to think again. Until we breathe our last breath on earth, our task is to share God’s love in Christ with all people. All Christians “get to be” witnesses to the power of Jesus. This is not drudgery but a privilege. This is not a dreadful duty but we get to do work that not even the angels share! Further, God provides all the power we need!
And we get to do this in many ways: parents who teach their children to pray to God; Sunday school teachers who proclaim the truth that Jesus conquered sin and death for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection; employees who tell in words and actions that they honor and obey God and that they live their lives in service to him. The ways we are to do this is endless.

v 20
This psalm traces our life from birth in v 6 to resurrection here in v 20. When facing whatever – illness, disappointment, aging, natural disasters, physical death and all the other dark times of life – we can cling to the hope of Jesus’ resurrection victory over evil, sin, suffering and death for us. Despite the fact that the world around us may seem to spin out of control at times, we can trust our heavenly Father. God is in control. God has already carried out his plan to rescue us through his Son’s death and resurrection. The evils of the world are simply Satan’s last-gasp efforts to take people away from God’s love.
The psalmist also remembered God’s faithfulness throughout his lifetime, particularly as he faced old age and the inevitability of physical death. God remembers his people even into eternal life.

Ps 72
prayer for the king

This psalm is titled ‘Of Solomon,’ which in Hebrew can mean of, by, or for Solomon. In it we see God’s blueprint for the perfect king. If it is for Solomon, it could have been written by David (see v 20), expressing his hopes and aspirations for the young king, his son and successor. Like Ps 132, Ps 72 is cast in the overtones of 2 Sam 7 the event in which the Lord promised David that He would establish a house for him. As such, the promises in this psalm are too great for any human king to fulfill. Note that in reading the psalm how its complete fulfillment could only be found in Jesus. Only David’s greater Son, the Messiah, would bring the ultimate blessings of this psalm to God’s people.

The psalm begins with a plea for the two most important royal characteristics justice and righteousness (vv 1-2). The psalmist asks for God to give the king your [God’s] justice and your righteousness. It was the psalmist’s hope that by the giving of these gifts, the king would reflect the rule of God himself. In fact, God does give us kings and governments to provide order in our lives. However, because of sin, God’s justice and righteousness will never be executed perfectly by earthly governments and rulers. While attempts are made in governments throughout the world to preserve justice, God’s perfect justice can prevail only in heaven, and ultimately in the consummated kingdom of God with the renewal and restoration of all Creation, in the life of the world to come where Jesus will reign eternally.

The main characteristic of Jesus’ kingdom is justice. Christ’s justice is based on true righteousness. The righteousness of Christ’s rule is reflected in two ways as we see in Ac 13 38-39 and Mt 25 31-34, 41. The righteousness of Jesus’ rule is shown through the justice of the gospel. Jesus gave his people
forgiveness and eternal life. Because he paid for our sins in full on the cross, the forgiveness Jesus gave is just. The righteousness of Jesus’ rule is also shown by the justice of the law. In justice, Jesus will crush the enemies of his people. He will crush all who rebel against God. At judgment day, perfect justice will be done when believers are taken into the life of the world to come (Nicene Creed) and those who have rejected God’s rule are condemned to hell forever.

David is also concerned that the needy not bear a burden of oppression (vv 3-4). Vv 5-14 further describe the king, his kingdom and what the king does for his people. Two concepts, found in vv 5 and 7, summarize the quality of the king’s reign. The king’s reign will be enduring and prosperous. A just king will have a profoundly positive effect on the people of God (v 5). His faith will bring a fear of the Lord. Then spiritual blessings will rain down, and the land will experience (v 7) an abundance of peace and prosperity.

These blessings did come on Israel in Solomon’s time, but they lasted only a short time. It is only in Christ, who continues to watch over the poor and the needy, that God’s people would enjoy them forever. Think of how the history of Israel would have been changed and think of how the history of our own nation might be different if all the leaders who served in government had committed themselves to justice and righteousness. How different the history of race relations would have been. How different our treatment of the poor would be, and how our family policies would have been changed for the better. How necessary it is that we pray often for just and righteous rulers! Very!

We also see in vv 8-11 that the king’s domain will extend from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth. The nations mentioned in v 10 – Tarshish, Sheba and Seba – represented the extremities of the known world for the Israelites. As applied to Jesus as king, people of every nations will come to faith in him. On the last day, every living being, both those saved and those condemned, will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and king.

In vv 814 the psalmist now turns his thoughts to the size and peace of the kingdom. David left Solomon a large kingdom, stretching from the Euphrates River in the north to the border of Egypt in the south. God (v 11) enlarged this legacy by granting (1 Ki 3 9) Solomon such wisdom that rulers from around the world (1 Ki 4 34) sought him out so they might learn from him. The Queen of Sheba comes to mind in this regard. See v 10. Yet, the complete fulfillment of this prayer always awaited the reign of the Messiah in eternity. Right now, His kingdom (vv 811) has grown worldwide as the Gospel is proclaimed to all nations (Mt 24 14). The kings of the East (Mt 2 11) have and will bow down before Him and give Him gifts. He is and will be the Savior (v 12) of the needy as they cry out to Him. We who are spiritually destitute look to Him who alone can rescue us from death (v 13) and oppression (v 14). And now that He has done that, we have become the Messiah’s hands to those around us who need His forgiveness, His rescue, and His help.

As the fulfillment of this psalm, we see in vv 12-14 that Jesus, as our Savior, would have compassion on the weak and poor. He would heal the sick and raise people from the dead. Most importantly, Jesus delivered us, we who are spiritually poor and helpless because of our sin. Jesus delivered us from the bondage of sin and from spiritual and eternal death. Only Jesus, God’s Son and God’s anointed king, can give these blessings.

In vv 15-17 the psalmist continued with a prayer asking God to give the king a long life and an enduring legacy. Under such a king (v 16), the grain would grow so thick and strong that it would resemble the cedars of Lebanon for strength. This symbolized prosperity.

In v 17 we see echoes of God’s promise (Ge 12 3) to Abraham, that in his seed all the families of earth would be blessed. David prophesied that Solomon, as an ancestor of the Messiah, would be a channel for God’s blessings upon the earth too.

We pray that God’s people will honor King Jesus so that His blessing will be upon them and so that His kingdom will fill the earth. As we anticipate our Lord’s eternal rule in heaven, it fills our hearts with hope as well.

In vv 18-19 the psalm closes with a doxology praising God for all His marvelous deeds. This praise-filled doxology of the people concludes not only the psalm but also Book II (Ps 4272) of the Psalms.
So sure are God’s promises that the psalmist closes the psalm with praise for what has been requested even though it has not yet been accomplished. God will do (v 18) wondrous things in the life of the young King Solomon. And, because Solomon always pointed forward to Christ, God would do even greater things in and through the person and work of the Messiah. We all await further blessings in the ultimate fulfillment of God’s justice and righteousness in the rule of Christ Jesus.

v 20 is and editorial notation that concludes Book II and possibly Book I as well.

Ps 72 is the psalm that’s most used in the Church’s liturgy in the time of the nativity. It might even be called the nativity psalm or the Christmas psalm. The title of this psalm is of Solomon.
In our modern Bibles oftentimes they’ll put things in that are meant to help us like titles and such. Often they can be unhelpful because we think they are part of the Bible and they’re not. Give the king thy justice is the modern editors’ decision as to a good title for that psalm. It’s probably not a good decision to put a title there if they actually weren’t there in the original text of the psalm. So give the king thy justice was meant to be helpful but it’s not part of the psalm.
Still, there is an actual title for many of the Psalms. Many Psalms say a psalm of David or a psalm of Asaph and so on. The actual title in the actual biblical text of this psalm is a psalm of Solomon or a psalm to Solomon. It depends on how you want to translate it. The Hebrew could be translated either way. The Septuagint has it as to or for Solomon. That’s probably better because this psalm was not composed by Solomon; this psalm was composed about Solomon which we see in v 1. Clearly, this is a psalm in which Solomon is important. That does not mean he wrote it.

An important biblical concept is that God is king because he’s the creator God, but through Christ he has done and will do something even greater; he is the redeemer God who has redeemed and restored his creation. In the biblical framework that’s how God has shown himself to be our great king.

v 1
Notice what is going on here. Give your judgments, O God, to the king. That king would be David. David was the one who was the one to whom God gave the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7), God’s promise of an everlasting Davidic throne which would culminate in the prophets with the promise of one, everlasting Davidic king (Is 11 1-11), the ultimate Davidic king, who is the Christ, the Messiah, who would rule on that throne.

Give the king your judgments refers to David. And your righteousness to a king’s son refers to Solomon. Both the title and v 1 tells us that Solomon is important here in Ps 72. Still there’s more. We’ll learn this psalm is not just about Solomon; it’s about the Davidic covenant, the promise of an everlasting Davidic throne. Hence, this psalm is not really about Solomon but it’s about Solomon in a certain way. It’s about Solomon as a type of Christ. Typology. In other words, this psalm looks at the king’s son, Solomon, and then it looks even further ahead to the one to whom Solomon prefigured or foreshadowed, Christ, the ultimate Davidic king to come.

By way of reminder, theologians and fathers of the Church through the centuries understood there were these various “types” of Christ and of the salvation and of the kingdom of God to come. We see some very wonderful things about these various types of Christ in the OT.
For instance, David was a type of Christ. David was the one to whom the promise was given, and David himself as the Davidic king foreshadowed the ultimate Davidic king to come. That’s clear in Scripture.
So also was Solomon a type of Christ. Solomon foreshadowed Christ. That’s even clear in one of the great titles that was given to Christ in the Bible. When the two blind men wanted to receive their sight, they called out to Jesus saying have mercy on us, Son of David (Mk 10 46-52; Mt 20 29-34; Lk 18 35-43). In that title Son of David we see Jesus as the fulfillment pointed to by Solomon. Solomon was a type of Christ; he was the original son of David. Jesus was the Christ, the ultimate Son of David. Jesus, therefore, fulfilled not the type of David but also the type of Solomon.
So we see that one of the reasons the OT has so much to say about David and Solomon is that both are types of Christ. As we read in He 7 2-3 Solomon was a type of Christ known as the king of peace. Remember also the angels in the nativity who said glory to God in the highest and peace on earth and so on. Also, Ep 2 14 says he is our peace who has broken down the wall of partition and brought both Jews and gentiles together. While David was the man of war, Solomon was the king of peace, and in that way Solomon was a type of Christ who was and is the king of peace.
So we see that both Solomon and David were types of Christ, and Ps 72 is going to be all about Solomon as a type of Christ.

Remember that the book of Psalms was not put together until after the Exile had happened and after the Davidic kingship had ceased to be. Still, it was put together with these Psalms about the Davidic kingship at the center of the psalter. That was a way of saying that this hope of the Davidic kingship was Israel’s hope, and that hope was of this ultimate Davidic king yet to come. This was a hope that was not going away! So even in its OT context, this was what the psalm was about. It was about Solomon as a type of the ultimate Davidic king who was yet to come in Christ.

Our modern Bibles give us more and more helps but they often leave it unclear as to whether it’s their note or commentary or their title. And when it’s Scripture, often Bibles will include section headings. Section headings are, of course, NOT part of the original text. So these notes can provide a mixed blessing.

Vv 5-7 show us why this psalm is not only about Solomon but it’s about Solomon as a type of Christ. It says things were not fulfilled in Solomon and could only be fulfilled by the ultimate Davidic king and the everlasting Davidic throne.
Vv 5-7 have this concept of an everlasting reign of this king. This is not about a reign that will be long. It’s about a reign that will be everlasting. We see this in the parallelism of the psalm. For example, we see that in vv 3 and 4 which are saying the same thing but in a couple different ways. When you say the same thing in a couple different ways we call that synonymous parallelism.
Now in vv 5-7 we see the same thing. Notice how long they are to fear this king. According to v 5 they are to fear this king everlastingly.

v 7
The synonymous parallelism here is rather self-explanatory. The righteous are to flourish in his days.
By parallelism v 7 equates the flourishing of the righteous and the flourishing of an abundance of peace and then it equates when that takes place – in his days which is equivalent until the moon is no more. So in his days are forever. It’s everlasting.
The synonymous parallelism shows that in vv 5-7 it’s an everlasting reign of this king. So it was originally about Solomon but it was about Solomon as a type of this Christ who was to come of whom Solomon was but a foreshadow. Solomon was but a type. So this is about the ultimate Davidic king of whom Solomon was a type.

Most scholars believe that this psalm was written after the time of Solomon and that it was used on the accession of the Davidic king, when a new Davidic king would be enthroned. There was a long line of kings following David and Solomon. Most feel this psalm was read showing that it didn’t have in mind just Solomon but it had in mind the whole Davidic dynasty and it especially looked ahead to what was ultimately hoped for, this ultimate Davidic king to come.

Here in vv 8-11 we see an important OT hope having to do with the nations. It’s very emphatic that this ultimate Davidic king will rule over all the nations. We not only have this everlasting reign, we have the reign over the nations. You see this again and again of the ultimate Davidic king in other Psalms such as Ps 2 8 I will give the very ends of the earth as your possession. He will rule the nations with a rod of iron. And v 11 here has all nations will serve him.

The River here is the Euphrates River at the border of Israel. Here you’d expect the psalmist to mention another river but instead he says to the ends of the earth. So he will be Israel’s king reigning over all nations. Here we have this job description of the Messiah which is that he’s going to be the king, not only over Israel but also over all nations.

One reason Ps 72 is so much a part of the Church’s liturgy in the nativity season has to do with these verses which are echoed in the NT at Mt 2 1-11.

In vv 12-14 notice this wonderful activity of this king, his rescuing and delivering of the needy and the afflicted. One way in which God’s people were described in the OT is as the poor, the needy, the afflicted.
This involves both compassion on the part of this king and it involves power – he will rescue, he will deliver. He will redeem them from oppression and violence. So both love and power were needed.

v 14
Special here in v 14 is that he will redeem their life from oppression and violence. Redeem here is a special Hebrew word which means to redeem as kinsman redeemer.

We recall in the book of Ru that Ruth and Naomi had fallen into poverty because their husbands had died so they returned to Israel. But they found that Boaz, who eventually married Ruth, was their kinsman redeemer. The kinsman redeemer was a member of the larger family, a relation. The idea was that if you were a kinsman and you had a member of the larger extended family who had fallen into difficulty, you were responsible to save and rescue them as a kinsman redeemer. So it was a very important thing in ancient Israel. Ultimately what happened with Ruth was that Boaz came as the kinsman redeemer but in this case as the kinsman redeemer he was required to marry her. There was another kinsman redeemer who was a closer kinsman redeemer and so there was this drama. Boaz actually wants to marry her which eventually he does. So we have this concept of the kinsman redeemer.

You had not only the kinsman redeemer noun but also a verb that meant to act as kinsman redeemer. You would think that the one thing you could never have the ultimate Davidic king or God do is act as kinsman redeemer but actually you have this verb used right here in v 14. It’s not that he will just redeem; it means he will redeem as kinsman redeemer.

There is a wonderful way in which this was fulfilled in the NT. It might appear a little bit mysterious in the OT – especially since here it was used of the ultimate Davidic king. In other places it was used of God as kinsman redeemer. How is that wonderfully fulfilled in the NT in a way you might have never expected it? How could the ultimate Davidic king do that? How could God do that? Because in the fullness of time we have the Incarnation. Christ redeemed us because he truly was our brother; he was our kinsman redeemer. Through the Incarnation he became our kinsman; he became fully human; he became fully Jewish. He was the kinsman redeemer for the Jewish people. He was their Messiah. He was their representative. He was their kinsman redeemer. He redeemed the Jewish people. But he not only became fully Jewish but he also became fully human. So he was the kinsman redeemer not only of the Jews but also of the gentiles.
So this special verb gets used meaning to act as a kinsman redeemer and this wonderfully pointed forward to something greater – to Jesus, the kinsman Redeemer of the Jewish people. Again, typology.

v 15
If this were just about Solomon, v 15 would make good sense where it says let them pray for him continually because it makes good sense to pray for David, Solomon and the other Davidic kings. But when we realize this psalm is about Solomon as a type of Christ, it means something different. We don’t pray for Christ in that same way. So how does this psalm receive its fulfillment in our Christian life? It’s fulfilled when we pray for the advance of Christ’s kingdom when we pray you kingdom come. That’s how this is fulfilled – when we offer our prayers to the ultimate Davidic king.

v 16
There’s kind of a widening out here. We see that he is the king of Israel in vv 1-7. Then in vv 8-11 he’s the king of all nations. He’s their kinsman redeemer.
Now in v 16 the psalmist has moved from Israel to the nations to all Creation. Here we have again this concept of when this ultimate Davidic king comes, ultimately Creation itself will be renewed. We had a pointer to that in v 3 where it said let the mountains bring peace to the people and the hills in righteousness. You have this concept of now a peace and unity between people and Creation brought about by this figure. It reminds us of the second great messianic oracle in Is 11 6-9 in which we’ll see that this ultimate Davidic king will bring this renewal and restoration of all Creation. See notes there.

Here in Ps 72, especially in v 16, we have this idea of Creation renewed. V 16 is a miraculous picture. The heights of mountains don’t even have trees. The heights of mountains don’t even have grass. The heights of mountains have nothing but rocks, dirt and lichen. But here we have a picture of Creation overflowing, of Creation renewed in a miraculous way. This is a pointing forward to that renewal and restoration of all Creation. Just as you have this miraculous picture of Creation now in perfect harmony in the Is passage, so also here there is an abundance of grain in the earth even on the heights of the mountains. This is pointing forward to the renewal and restoration of all Creation.

v 17
may his name endure forever ties in with v 15 so may he live. Now we have his name enduring forever. This points forward to the fact that he will live and his name will endure forever. This, itself, points forward to the resurrection which, of course, within the larger biblical narrative is the beginning of the renewal and restoration of all Creation. That’s why it’s so appropriate that the resurrection, like “the Fall”, occurs in a garden, because the resurrection reverses “the Fall”. The resurrection is the beginning of the renewal and restoration of all Creation.

Let all the peoples be blessed by him recalls the Abrahamic covenant, part 4. When God gives his covenant to Abraham, it always concludes with the blessing to all nations, the inclusion of the nations. Here we see that the ultimate Davidic king is going to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant. The whole purpose of the Davidic covenant was to bring about the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. And it’s the ultimate Davidic king, in reigning over all nations, who will bring about the fulfillment of the blessing to all nations. It will be the ultimate Davidic king who will bring all nations to God. We saw that already in vv 8-11 in which you had the peoples of the earth coming and bowing down before this ultimate Davidic king. That’s what we see also in Mt 2 1-11 in which the magi come as types or foreshadows of the inclusion of the nations coming to know God. The fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant will be all nations being blessed through Abraham’s seed. You see, Abraham’s seed is Jesus. Abraham’s seed is the ultimate Davidic king. The ultimate Davidic king is the true Jewish seed of Abraham. We become members of the Jewish people, members of Israel, by being incorporated into Christ, by being united with Christ. So we enter into God’s people through this Davidic covenant, through this Davidic king, thus fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant. That’s what the magi pointed forward to. This is indicated in a wonderful hymn within the liturgy of the Church which talks about the wise men, the magi, who come as the first fruits of the gentiles you might say. Listen to how this hymn brings out how through this king Jesus the knowledge of God has come to the gentiles.
“APOLYTIKION OF THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST IN TONE FOUR
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath given rise to the light of knowledge in the world; for they that worshiped the stars [the magi] did learn therefrom [by the star that appeared and brought them to Christ] to worship Thee, O Sun of Justice, and to know that from the east of the Highest Thou didst come. O Lord, glory to Thee.”

Here we see that it’s through Jesus, through the Christ, that the gentiles will turn from their idols and false gods and come to know the one, true God. The Abrahamic covenant is fulfilled through the Davidic covenant.

Let’s now go to the final verses of the psalm which are not actually verses of the psalm proper, but they are verses because this psalm, being a messianic psalm, is put in a very prominent place. It’s the final, climactic psalm of Book Two of the psalter. At the end of each of the Books of the psalter we have a wonderful ascription of praise to God or a doxology. So vv 18-19 is a doxology.

v 18
This wonderful doxology in vv 18-19 not only concludes the second book of the psalter but notice how it wonderfully ties in with the theme of this psalm which is all about through the Christ God becoming known by the nations.
This doxology is echoed in the NT in Lk 1 67-79 (See notes there.), a text we often hear at Christmas time once again showing this is the nativity psalm.
Ps 77

Remembering God’s Mighty Works

The title of the psalm mentions Jeduthun (1 Chr 16 4142). Jeduthun was one of the choir leaders at the time of David. He was responsible for sounding the trumpets and other instruments. The title also mentions Asaph (1 Chr 16 5), the chief musician. Just a brief comment on titles. Not all psalms have titles. The titles appear in a different style of type in most Bibles, just below the psalm’s number. While not part of the inspired text, these still are trustworthy guides as to the historical and/or musical background of many psalms.

Asaph wrote this psalm. We know only that he led one of David’s choirs. According to Jeduthun suggests that Asaph intended that this psalm be played in the style of Jeduthun, or perhaps, that it be sung to a tune composed by Jeduthun.

In the invocation (vv 1-3), Asaph told of a time when he was caught in deep sorrow. He searched for the Lord (v 1) and vented his grief and pain, yet he found no comfort. His problems made God seem distant and out of reach. We should feel the pain and agony of the psalmist! He (v 2) stretched out His hands as if he could reach the Almighty from his bed, but his soul refused to be comforted. His spirit moaned (v 3) at the thought of God, and it grew faint when his mind would not switch off and allow him to sleep. We’ve all had nights like that before.
We see Asaph’s pain and distress in the words cry aloud, day of my trouble, refuses to be comforted, moan, faints and troubled.

As the lament part of the psalm begins in v 4, the psalmist accused the Lord of denying him sleep. As he continued to reason along these lines, the psalmist’s fears became terror. He began to wonder (vv 56) why God was not with His people now as He had been in the past.

Five questions (vv 79) came to the psalmist and would not go away. Each question focused on the judgment of God, rather than on His past mercy.
These questions tell us the psalmist felt God had rejected him and his people. He felt forsaken. He felt God had forgotten the promises he had made to protect his people.

Even today we experience distress like that of Asaph. We all encounter heartaches and troubles in life that might cause us to question or doubt God’s presence. Loss of a child. Divorce. Death. Financial problems and so on.

Ironically, the psalmist’s questions sparked the answer (v 10) to his sorrow. The questions turned his thoughts away from his fears and toward the Lord. And so beginning in v 10 the tone of the psalm turned from distress to hope. Recalling the mighty wonders of the Lord in the past brought hope for the psalmist – just as it does for us.

Despite his despair, the psalmist remembered and meditated on God’s goodness to Israel in the past (vv 10-12).
We human beings don’t ordinarily praise God in times of distress. Because of our sin we distrust and even fear God. But the Holy Spirit enabled the psalmist to remember those things that would comfort him, making it possible for us to praise God and trust in his mercy, even in the worst times of trouble. See also 2 Pe 1 12 and Jn 14 26.

The psalmist began to think (v 15) about the way the Lord liberated His people from Egypt. God (v 14) had worked great wonders. The people of Israel had waited four hundred years for freedom, and it had finally come. God’s help would come for the psalmist too.

God was with Israel, leading them to safety (v 16 ff). God continued to shepherd His flock through the difficult times even now. Asaph recalled God’s deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt at the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 14). Asaph pointed out the beautiful images of the Exodus (vv 16-18). Israel never saw His footprints in the Red Sea. And the psalmist reminded himself that he needed not be discouraged if He could not see God at work.

We, too, can have confidence that our God is working on our behalf even when we do not see Him. Both the character of God and the past actions of God testify to the fact that He will save His people. We, too, can take comfort in times of distress. We should always recall Jesus’ death and resurrection when God gave his only-begotten Son to the world as a perfect sacrifice to pay for the debt we all owe for our sins. Through Jesus’ rescue of us he secured for us unlimited access to God, God’s forgiveness and eternal life. We are reminded of Paul’s words in Ro 8 37-39. This battle cry gives us strength and courage in times of trouble. God has already gained the victory for us and therefore nothing can separate us from his love for us.

In vv 19-20 Asaph compared the Lord to a shepherd with the words you led your people like a flock. We know from Jn 10 11-18 that Jesus, the good shepherd, knows each one of us. Jesus laid down his life for us; he cares for us as no other. When we feel helpless, we can rest safely in our savior’s arms, knowing that he will protect and care for us just as a shepherd cares for his sheep.

Ps 78

Just as we have Psalms about Creation which tell the story about the Creator God and his Creation, we also have salvation history Psalms which tell the story of God and his people. Ps 78 is one such salvation history Psalm. And, Ps 78 is quite long because it tells of this whole salvation history of God.

That is to say, we in our own time in Christ have now seen the fulfillment of all the Scriptures. Still, behind that story of Christ which is the gospel, the good news, lies that other story, the story behind the Story, the story that leads up to the Story of Christ – the gospel, the good news – and that is the story of Israel, the same story that the salvation history Psalms tell.

Act I of the biblical story, Creation in Ge 1-2, was followed by Act II, “the Fall” of Ge 3 in which evil, sin, suffering and death entered into God’s good Creation, thereby undoing God’s good Creation. This was the context for the next great scene of the biblical narrative, something foundational for all the rest, God’s great covenant with his people, the covenant which was at the heart of the Abrahamic covenant beginning in Ge 12. See notes there in v 3. In other words, God’s response to “the Fall” was the Abrahamic covenant which undergirds all salvation history Psalms. The Abrahamic covenant set the foundation for the whole Bible, and it talked about a nation, a land and a covenant people, through whom, climactically, salvation would come to all nations.

These salvation history Psalms tell how the Abrahamic covenant was fulfilled by God. These Psalms tell us it wasn’t just one act of salvation but, instead, it was a salvation plan consisting of many scenes that God had put into place for us, the first of which was the Exodus and the conquest.
So Ps 78 tells the story of the Exodus, of God delivering his people. The Creator God is the delivering, saving God who brings his people into the land of promise.

We also see that part of the promise of nation and land in the Abrahamic covenant involved also that they would be rightly governed by their Davidic king. So the climax of the Exodus was when Israel was given its Davidic king by God. As such, Ps 78 climaxes with the Davidic kingship.

And the covenant relationship would be more than just some sort of head game with God. It would actually be a true relationship with God in which the Creator God, in a mysterious, sacramental but true and powerful way would dwell among his people in the temple. We see that important theme coming to the fore in Ps 78 – the dwelling of YHWH in Zion. God himself would dwell among his people.

So Ps 78 tells the story about that fulfillment of parts 1, 2 and 3 of the Abrahamic covenant but not part 4. We don’t see this covenant bringing blessing to all nations yet. That tells us that even if we were an Israelite back in those days reading this psalm, we would know that God’s plan and purposes had yet to be fully fulfilled. True, they had reached a certain stage of their fulfillment but not their full fulfillment because the blessing to all nations had not yet come.

vv 1-8 are an introduction to Ps 78. The psalm tells us what is to come. The psalmist in v 2 opened his mouth in a parable, dark sayings of old – the secret which is at the heart of the story of the people of God.
V 4 is all about the works of God in the salvation history of his people. Notice how that is described beginning v 5.
Notice how v 5 follows v 4 with to tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord and his strength and his wondrous works that he has done.

Notice here that word law here refers to the salvation history, God’s mighty acts and the call to faith and trust in those mighty acts and the proper response. This word law is in the Hebrew Torah which means God’s teaching, revelation, instruction, illumination, God’s gospel in the broad sense of the whole good news of what God has done and how he calls us to respond. When it here talks about the law, it’s talking about the salvation history of God. Therefore, when reading the word law in the OT, we should not think of legal prescriptions. That’s not what law means. Instead, law means the whole revelation of God, the whole gospel of God, the whole salvation history of God. True, it does include God’s commandments of how the people of Israel should live, how God’s people should live. But it also includes the whole salvation which God has brought. How we should live is to be our response to God’s salvation, not a way of earning God’s salvation. Law and testimony mean the same thing. It’s the whole story of God and his people. It’s what God has done for his people and how God’s people should respond.

Law here from the Hebrew Torah means the same thing as we have in the NT when we say gospel. The gospel of Christ in its broad sense is what Christ has done for us, the ultimate acts of God in Zion. The ultimate acts are those done by Christ, the incarnate Lord. And then how are we to respond? That’s the gospel in the broad sense. That’s what law means, and that’s what it means here. It’s all about salvation history.

v 7 might surprise those who have wrong understandings of the OT, who see the OT as legalisms coming from an angry God and somehow in conflict with the NT. Notice the message of this salvation history and of this law and of this testimony.
The right relationship with God comes about according to v 7 by putting their trust in God and then within that context you keep his commandments. The two go together. Of course, if you trust in God you are not going to flout God’s commandments. You are going to sin and need forgiveness but you’re going to follow God’s commandments. You put your trust in God and keep his commandments. Notice the stress on trust, confidence, belief, faith. Faith in God is the proper response to the mighty acts of God, to trust in him, to love him.

Related to what we read here is the false teaching about dispensationalism which says “God saved us one way and people in the time of the old covenant another way. We are saved by faith but they were saved by their works.” It’s as if it is an arbitrary thing. God can save us by our works or God can save us by our faith.
Dispensationalism is completely false to the story found in the Bible. Notice how in both the OT and in the NT – in the old covenant and in the new covenant, there is but one way to be saved and to come into right relationship with God. The one way to be saved according to Scripture is through trust, faith and hope in God. That’s always been the only way for salvation. As we are going to see, that is just as true in the OT as in the NT. We are all sinful. None of us can be saved by our works. We are saved only by God, and we get into a right relationship with God by trusting in God. Then, in the context of that faith, we will be led to follow the commandments of God.
Notice therefore that the stress in the OT – as in the NT – is in faith and trust in God. Dispensationalism is false.

v 8
The author of Ps 78 is going to show us many examples of this. The examples of how not to be are shown in those who did not trust in God, who did not have this personal relationship with God, that did not prepare their hearts to seek God. Now this psalm of salvation history is going to talk about these events in the time of promise – in the Exodus, the conquest, the Davidic kingdom and so on. We are reading them from the context of those who have seen now the fulfillment and know the fulfillment in Christ. So these Psalms have a special meaning for us. When we read about Israel and these past events and when we see these examples of faith, they are what theologians call types. They are not only examples but they are foreshadowings, partial realities, partial glimpses of the reality. So within these Psalms when we see David, David as we’re going to see is a type of Christ. When we see Israel redeemed in the Exodus, that’s a type of the new Exodus, the salvation brought by Christ, the ultimate redemption. So when we see those who respond with faith to God and those who respond in unbelief, they are types or examples for us to tell us here’s how we should believe, here’s how we should act; here’s how we should respond or not respond to God. We have both positive examples and negative examples.

We see how this works out in salvation history right away here in v 9.

vv 9-10 are about the children of Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This is talking about a point in Israel’s salvation history that will be the point that is talked about at the end of the psalm when the arc of God, because of Israel’s unbelief and lack of faith, was taken captive by the Philistines. Finally, Saul, the king from Ephraim of the Northern Kingdom was killed by the Philistines at the battle of Gilboa. And the writer says it was because they did not keep God’s covenant and refused to walk in his law. The law is the whole gospel, covenant of God.

Beginning in v 12 the psalm now focuses on events with which we are much more familiar when he brought wonders before their fathers in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.

v 12
This event concerns the Exodus. The psalmist is telling whole biblical story that unfolded from the Abrahamic covenant which itself promised nation, land, covenant relationship with God and the blessing to all nations. The first step in the drama following the Abrahamic covenant was God fulfilling that promise of land through the Exodus and the conquest of the promised land. So we see that these salvation history Psalms are an abridged version of the whole biblical story, of the whole story behind the Story. Here in Ps 78 we see something that takes more than a whole book – the book of Ex, Le, Nu and Dt – in the larger telling of the story. Here it’s told in just a few verses in this salvation history psalm. Here’s the event of the Exodus.

We see now these mighty acts of God.

vv 13-14
The crossing of the Red Sea.
After they crossed the Red Sea, God’s presence went before them with a cloud during the day and with a pillar of fire at night.

v 15
The people thirsted and through Moses God brought forth water from the rock.
So the psalmist is telling the whole story of the Exodus. So how does that serve as a type for us? The Exodus is actually a type of the full redemption to come which would come with Christ – the ultimate new Exodus, the full deliverance. So the people in the Exodus served as examples for us. Read vv 17-20.

v 18
We see here a negative example of response to the works and ways of God. What is negative about it? Notice again this emphasis in the OT on what is central: trust in God (v 22). They did not trust in God and did not believe in his salvation. One way they expressed their lack of faith in God, their lack of trust in God is found here in v 18 with the phrase they tested (tempted) God in their heart. They tempted God. They put God to the test. The psalmist here is giving us this negative example and is, therefore, warning us in our own lives against putting God to the test. To put God to the test would be to not trust God, to ask God to prove himself to you. “If you were real, you would do so-and-so.” To show faith would be to say “God, I know you are powerful; I know you are loving.” Instead, not trusting is to say “Prove that to me.” That is the opposite of faith.

Remember that in the wilderness Jesus said you should not put the Lord your God to the test. Putting God to the test is the opposite of faith. It’s asking that God prove himself before you will trust in God. That’s a slippery slope. Putting God to the test means you can never trust God under any circumstances because you always have to put God to the test one more time. Biblical faith, on the other hand, is very different. Biblical faith trusts in God’s goodness and in God’s power without needing proof.

Notice how this works in the gospels. The Lord does all sorts of miracles. One reason why God gives those miracles is to confirm our weak faith, to help us in our faith. That’s one reason why Jesus did miracles, to identify who he was, to confirm the truth of his message. Those miracles were given to those who were ready to trust in God. They were denied to those who put God to the test. What happens when the Pharisees came and said we want to see a sign for you from heaven? Jesus said they would never receive a sign from him. An evil and idolatrous generation demands a sign (Mt 16 4). That’s the same thing the psalmist was saying here. “Do not put God to the test.” Instead, trust in God.
Putting God to the test would be the opposite of faith and trust. So we see again the stress on faith and trust in God.

How is this negative example reinforced for us? By the results that take place, the divine judgment that happens. See v 23 ff.

v 25
This was the event of Ex 16, the sending of the manna.

v 31
We see the divine judgment that followed. They were yet to be God’s covenant people but they had put God to the test, and so divine judgment had to follow. We’ll see the reason for this divine judgment a little later in the psalm, and that will be so that the remnant might turn back to him (v 34 ff).

v 36
They did not turn with their whole heart. Here again was this negative example.

v 43
Notice again how we have these two opposites of faith and putting God to the test.
Notice also the two parts of faith with the psalmist. They trusted in the goodness or love of God. That’s part of faith. But notice the other stress of the psalmist which is equally even more strong. Faith also involves belief in the power of God, that God is powerful and almighty to keep his promises and to save. They failed to believe in the power of God. They demanded a sign before they could believe in the power of God. Paradoxically then, the power of God is shown forth but in judgment upon them!

Now the psalmist returns to the events of the Exodus in v 43. Zoan keeps getting mentioned because it was an important city in Egypt. So one way the psalmist refers to Egypt is with in the fields of Zoan. This is that parallelism again.
Now the psalmist goes back to what they don’t remember, God’s great wondrous works in Egypt.

v 48
The psalmist is retelling the events of Exodus, the ten plagues.
He presents them all in poetic form in a different order than we see in Ex.

v 53
Here we see God’s power shown forth in the plagues on Egypt, and here is one place where the salvation history psalms can help us with some of our own tendencies in our own culture. We have a tendency to say because God is love, there cannot be divine judgment. We have a tendency to say that a God of love cannot also be a God of judgment. Here we see the opposite of that understanding in Scripture. This God who is the God of love is also a just God and a God of judgment, and his judgment is shown on Egypt who rejected God and would not let God’s people be set free.

So in everything here up to v 53 we see the author in a variety of ways recounting the Exodus. In vv 11-16 he recounted the passing through the Red Sea and the events that followed. In vv 17-33 he recounted Israel rejecting God and rebelling against God and murmuring in the wilderness. And now here in vv ~ 40-53 he recounts again the events of the Exodus by focusing on the ten plagues. So the psalmist is recounting all these great events of salvation in which God acts both in mercy and in judgment – mercy for those who turn to him and judgment on those who reject him.
But there is even more to come of the biblical story.

v 55
We’ve just heard the story of the Exodus in which God delivered his people from Egypt, but that story is not complete until you have the land of promise (vv 54-55).
But now notice the negative example – the example we are not to follow.

v 56
yet they put God to the test
Notice how that is so important for the psalmist. We must not put God to the test because that’s the opposite of faith.
Notice how this wrong attitude toward God is spoken of as rebellion. It’s not sinning when one is weak or wishes to do differently. This is a heart attitude of refusing to trust in God and rebelling against God.

v 58
Here we see the important biblical prescription against idolatry which flows out of the whole biblical story of Creation. There is one, true creator God, and to worship something other than the one, true creator God as your God is to court your own death and the destruction of your own humanity. So we get this stern warning against this, and they are a negative example. And this recounts a whole slew of narratives in the Bible about the idolatry of the people of Israel once they entered the promised land and turned to the Canaanite gods, continuing to worship YHWH but only alongside these other gods. YHWH was just one more god alongside the others.

v 60
When they entered into the promised land, the arc of God, God’s dwelling place was at Shiloh in the beginning. 1-2 Sam tell us all about this including how the arc was taken captive by the Philistines. This goes back to the beginning of the psalm when it was talking about the same events, when it talked about the archers of Ephraim who turned back on the day of battle.

v 64
Here we have come back to the very beginning of the psalm where it talked about the archers of Ephraim, the people of the northern part of Israel turning back before the Philistines. Saul, the first king of Israel, was killed on Mt. Gilboa. That’s what these events are all about. But it’s in that most dark period of Israel’ history that a very important thing happens. See v 65.

v 69
He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim (v 67) but chose the tribe of Judah … (v 68). God chose the tribe of Judah whose chief city was Jerusalem, and Jerusalem sits on Mt. Zion. God chose Mt. Zion as the place to put his dwelling place, the temple.

A very important, often missed, theme in the Bible in our modern culture and setting is that somehow the language of “the end of the world” has entered into the vernacular. A lot of Christians have the very mistaken idea that the Bible contains language like “end of the world.” But the Bible never talks about the end of the world. Never!!! Creation was created to be forever. In fact, God’s whole purpose in the story of the Bible has God renewing and restoring his Creation.

Hence, here we see this important theme of Ps 78 that Creation is forever. God did not make his Creation only to destroy it, and God’s Creation will last forever. God’s Creation does not need destruction; it needs renewal and restoration because it’s filled with evil, sin, suffering and death. Christ has come to overcome Satan, to overcome sin, to overcome death through his resurrection. And the ultimate goal of the kingdom of God in its consummation is the renewal and restoration of all Creation.
You see here in v 69 and throughout the whole Bible that Creation is forever, like the earth which God founded is forever. The earth will never pass away because it’s destined for renewal and restoration at Christ’s second coming.

We now see a very important theme in the Bible, that the whole goal of this Exodus event, the whole goal of bringing people into the promised is that God might dwell among his people. The dwelling of the YHWH in Zion. That’s the goal of the whole Exodus event, that God might dwell in Jerusalem in the temple among his people. Notice again the stress on relationship with God, that what is at the heart and center of Israel was the presence of God among his people.

Something going with that which is very important in the biblical story we see in vv 70-1.

vv 70-71
So he shepherded them but according to the integrity of his heart, and he guided them with his skillful hands.
Here in the climax of this psalm we see another important aspect of the biblical story. It’s when you have the Davidic kingdom.
Now, on Mt. Zion, Jerusalem, you have God’s dwelling place among his people and you have God’s chosen human Davidic king to rule his people, David. This is a climax point in the story behind the Story, in the time of promise. The Exodus reaches it’s climax and fulfillment with the Davidic kingship and the dwelling of the Lord in Zion. This Davidic kingship is so important that it will involve another covenant, a covenant just as important as the Abrahamic covenant but one which most Christians know little or nothing concerning. It’s going to involve something of which many may not have heard, something that scholars call the Davidic covenant.

To find out about the Davidic covenant we are to look at a different kind of Ps. Ps 78 is a salvation history psalm. One other kind of psalm takes up from where Ps 78 left off – the royal Psalm. Why is the Davidic covenant so important? Why does the psalm climax with the Davidic kingdom? Because the Davidic kingdom involves the Davidic covenant. And we’ll learn about what the Davidic covenant is all about in another very important kind of psalm called the royal Psalm.

So we’ve looked at Creation Psalms, salvation history Psalms and now the royal Psalms to find out about this Davidic covenant. Go to Ps 132.

Ps 80
restore your people, Lord

Ps 80 is one of the eleven Psalms credited to Asaph. Covering nearly 750 years, it provides a mini-history of the people of Israel. It tells how God brought his people out of Egypt, transplanted them in Canaan, and enabled them to grow into a mighty nation. Then the psalm lamented the destruction brought about by enemy attacks and invasions. The imagery of Ps 80 attempts to communicate the jubilation of the nation of Israel as well as its anguish.

Ps 80 is a national lament. It was likely written in the days after the Northern Kingdom was destroyed (722 BC) and while the Southern Kingdom was being threatened by Assyria (701 BC). The fourfold refrain (vv 3, 7, 14, and 19) punctuates the psalm with a passionate plea.
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Israel (the Northern Kingdom) had been destroyed! Would Judah be next?

The psalmist uses repetition and imagery to highlight his main points.
For instance, in vv 3, 7 and 19 the psalmist repeated the words restore us, O God; let your face shine that we may be saved! These last words are from the priestly blessing God gave to Aaron in Nu 6 24-26 which includes the LORD make his face to shine upon you. These words are often spoken by the past as the benediction at the end of worship services.
However, vv 3, 7 and 19 are different in that each successive v addresses God in a more urgent way. That is v 3 says simply restore us, O God. Then v 7 says restore us O God of hosts [almighty]. Then v 19 says restore us, O LORD God of hosts. These differences point out the growing intensity throughout the psalm as Israel calls on God for help.

As he begins, the psalmist prays for the northern tribes. God has been the shepherd (v 1) of Israel (the Northern Kingdom, represented by ‘Joseph’), even though they have not been willing to follow Him. Even now, God is the almighty One (v 1b) seated on the cherubim who could save the northern tribes if He desired. The psalmist cries for God to stir up His might (v 2) and save Israel before it is too late. He pleads (v 3), ‘Restore us, O God; let Your face shine, that we may be saved!’ Still, repentance must come before restoration to fellowship with God. Israel will not humble itself. Her stubbornness seals her fate.

Pride still destroys people today. How has pride influenced people you know and perhaps kept some from experiencing the full love and grace of God?

The unthinkable is happening. God is destroying His people, Israel. He had punished His people before, but he had never destroyed them. How long (v 4) will God’s anger smolder? Israel’s sin was so great that God seemed not to answer their prayers. Instead of blessing, God had (v 5) fed them times of hardship and pain. They were (v 6) ridiculed by the nations around them. Out of the dust, the refrain was heard again. Restore us, Lord, and return Your favor (v 7). You alone can save us!

The pain of the psalmist grows even greater as he thinks of Israel’s past days of glory and her present disgrace. How far she had fallen! Israel was a vine (v 8) brought out of Egypt by a gracious God. We learn more about this vine in Is 5 1-6 where v 2 tells us how God planted his vineyard with choice vines. God also looked to gather a harvest from his vine but it yielded wild grapes (v 2) which were not good to eat. V 5 then told us how God took away its hedge and broke down its wall.

Their gracious God cleared (v 9) Palestine so that He could plant and nurture His people. Israel had grown (v 11) to cover a large area by conquering its neighbors. Yet the glory had faded and God Himself had destroyed (v 12) the nation. In v 12 the people asked God why then have you broken down its [the vineyards’s] walls so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
Israel’s sins brought God’s wrath down on the nation. God had every right to expect spiritual fruit but instead got only “sour grapes” so to speak (Is 5 2b).
We see in Ps 80 that God’s actions produced his intended effect. The fact that Israel was praying this psalm of confession and lamenting over their sins and failures shows that God was at work, drawing his people back to himself.
God had broken down Israel’s walls (v 12), and (v 13) foreigners plundered its beauty. The psalmist again pleaded for God’s favor (v 14a).

Has God ever seemed distant in our own lives? We can be sure the Lord has not moved or changed. He is as close as His Word, as near as His Table (the sacrament of the Altar). We are to run to Him in repentance and faith!

The plea of v 14 for the northern tribes merged with the psalmist’s concern for Judah. Will its people be next? God has planted a vine, (v 14b) now let Him watch over it. The psalmist thinks of the king whom God has planted and asks for God’s favor (v 17) so that Israel might not be destroyed. The psalmist pledges that the nation (v 18) will remain loyal to the Lord as He continues to ‘revive’ them, to renew their relationship with Himself as only He can do that. With repentance, restoration is possible.

The refrain (v 19) rings out one last time from a people who recognize God as their only source of salvation. This refrain assures us also that the God who commands all power in heaven and on earth smiles on us. His dearly loved children. He will save us. He will continually restore us to Himself, not because we are good but because He is!

Jn 15 5 makes it quite clear that Jesus became the true vine, producing the holy fruit ancient Israel did not produce. That is, the fulfillment of this psalm was realized in Jesus Christ. It was Christ who was the perfect vine. God has grafted us by faith into himself so that we are now the branches into that vine. God planted this vine and raised it up for Himself. Together in Christ’s Church we make up the True Vineyard of the Lord, the one described in Is 27 2-6. Because this is true – from Jesus, the true vine – we can ask and receive life, the ability to bear fruit (that is, to do good works in his name). And we can receive strength to grow and prosper even in times of sorrow.

Jesus Christ by His cross (v 19) restored God’s favor to those who humbly repent and seek His mercy.

Ps 84

The references to dwelling places (plural, v 1), courts (v 2) and altars (v 3) might suggest that this psalm was written fairly late, and the psalmist could be referencing God’s dwelling both in the Jerusalem temple and in the tabernacle that preceded it. This is the prayer of someone separated from the sanctuary, longing to stand within its precincts in God’s presence (v 2). The unknown reason for the separation makes the psalm more universal, aptly prayed by shut-instead, prisoners, travelers, Sunday workers and all who have been temporarily separated from congregational worship.

Someone who has been separated from the sanctuary, where God is rightly worshiped, now longs to return. Many homebound and shut-in Christians long for worship in God’s house, yearning for the days when they were strong enough to go. Meanwhile, many other Christians, especially those in the height of their strength, neglect the worship of the Lord to their own detriment. God gives strength to his people (vv 5-7) through the hearing of his Word, specifically through his gospel promises of salvation on account of Christ.

What the psalmist says here could be repeated a thousand times in the Psalms and elsewhere in the Bible.
These are people who say we have been set free by God. God has set us free to know this one, true God and to worship him. They delighted in all these instructions for their worship. The people delighted in their liturgical year that we see delineated in Le 23.
Here is the ancient Jewish understanding of God, this liberator God that they just love to worship.

v 1
The psalmist celebrates how God himself dwells among his people. We see this tender love for the temple, God’s dwelling place in Zion where he dwells among his people. God himself dwelling among his people is central in the whole OT including the Psalms. It’s this communion with God who dwells among his people. How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!

v 2
The psalmist’s soul and heart and flesh yearn for the living God – to dwell in the presence of God. The living God is the true God, not a false idol; he’s the living, creator God.

In fact, Ps 120-134 are known as the “Psalms of Ascents” because they were sung by the people of Israel as they made pilgrimage up to the temple in Jerusalem. All of these Psalms rejoice in going up to be in the presence of God at the temple. For example, see Ps 132 6-9, 13-14 where we’ll see again this theme of the dwelling of God.

v 3
This depicts God as a tender, creator God who even cares for the birds and they even find a place at his altar.

v 4
Now the Exodus has reached its climax and everything is in place. You have the covenant people of God, the Abrahamic family, ruled over by their Davidic king and God himself dwelling among them. But now the story takes a tragic turn with the Exile.

Ps 87
Ps 87 is a hymn of Zion.

v 3
These hymns of Zion extol Zion, the city of God, God’s dwelling place. Now in vv 4-6 something neat goes on in this psalm.

The overall meaning of vv 4-6 is clear. When you actually talk about Zion it’s amazing because you’d think that the biblical author would talk about all the Israelites who dwell there. Instead, the psalmist talks about all the enemies of Israel; he talks about the gentiles. Notice what he says of them. They are born in Zion. This one was born there.

v 5
born in mother Zion comes from the Septuagint but most scholars of the Psalms believe that the Septuagint reading as it sometimes does preserves the original reading from the Hebrew text that dropped out. So mother Zion is the original reading. Another reason to believe that is because Paul in Ga 4 25-26 appears clearly to be echoing it. So Paul is either taking that directly from the Septuagint or from the original Hebrew that the Septuagint reading reflects.

The Lord will count it out when he registers the peoples. This is the peoples, the nations, all of the people outside Israel. This one was born there, in Zion.
How could it be that people were born in Zion? That must have been a great mystery for the psalmist, for the prophetic author. 1 Pe tells us that the prophets and the psalmists themselves looked ahead to this coming salvation, predicting it through the power of the Spirit and divine inspiration but not understanding how it would all work.

But now in retrospect we see how it all has worked. Could you really have these people from all nations really be said to be Israelites born in Zion? How could that be? We see how in Christ it’s very clear. Notice that Israel’s God himself has come in Christ through the Incarnation. He has taken on our human flesh. And through baptism into Christ, through the Holy Eucharist we are united with Christ. We are united with the one, true faithful Israelite, Christ, the faithful Israelite that all the promises of God looked forward to, the one faithful human being, and we, through Christ, have become Jews. We through Christ have become the people of Israel. We through Christ have been united with God’s people. So when we enter into union with Christ and the Church, we are born again says the Scriptures.

And it’s not just a metaphor or something spiritual. It’s actually a real, concrete reality. We are actually united with Christ. So we actually are united with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets because we are now in union with Christ who is both God and man, a Jewish man. And we are united with God’s people.

This again was predicting this time when the kingdom and reign of God will come – the inclusion of the nations. We now see in Christ how it all happened. As gentiles we are not just included as second class citizens into the kingdom of God. We are full citizens of the kingdom of God because we are united to Christ. This also explains why the Church has always taught – as we have learned – that when we read the Psalms, how can we say with the psalmist ‘O Lord, I trust in you’ when we know our faith is so weak? How can we call on God and pray the Psalms as among the righteous? It’s because in Christ we are fully righteous. In Christ we are accepted before God. Christ is the one who speaks in the Psalms and we read and pray the Psalms in Christ.

of Zion it will be said, “Each one was born in her, …
In our best texts it reads as born in mother Zion and Paul echoes that in Ga 4 25-26. See notes there.

Here in this v we see how concrete this fulfillment is. The God of all Creation becomes incarnate through the physical body of a Jewish woman, Mary. In the holy Eucharist we actually partake of the body and blood of Christ. If you think about it, it’s really quite amazing. The DNA of that body and blood of Christ that we partake of in the Holy Eucharist is the DNA of Mary. It’s actually a physical thing going on. We are united with Christ the man, the human being, not only Christ as God but Christ as human being. It’s no wonder then that the Church has always venerated Mary as the one who was the birth-giver of God, who gave to our Lord his human nature. So this is another good application of mother Zion.

Ps 89

The Psalms have been called the Bible in miniature because all of the great themes of the Hebrew Bible coalesce within the Psalms. The psalter itself is a wonderfully constructed masterpiece made up of 5 books.

Ps 89 is one of the central royal Psalms of the psalter, and its theme is the Davidic covenant. It fully celebrates the Davidic covenant. This is the climactic Ps of the third book, and it’s all about the Davidic covenant, itself a crucial part of the Bible. An everlasting Davidic kingdom was the promise that the Davidic covenant celebrated throughout the whole Bible including the Psalms, worship and everywhere else.

Some of the elements of this very long poem probably come from the days of the kingship in Israel but its present form dates to the period of Babylonian exile in 587-538 BCE. Ps 89 was written after the destruction and Exile; it’s going to tell us about a new point in the story. Ps 89 is a prayer to God that mourns the downfall of the Davidic dynasty and pleads for restoration. The poem itself represents the strongest endorsement of the Davidic kingship found in all of the OT.

Vv 1-37 petitions God to uphold and protect David’s kingship.
Vv 38-51 is a plea that God reaffirm the covenant with David and restore the fortunes of Israel.

So how is it that Christ fulfills these promises?

In vv 1-2 the psalmist is talking about God’s faithful covenant love for Israel which is manifested in v 3.
The key theme in vv 1-4 is the Davidic covenant and it’s promise of an everlasting Davidic throne.
This is covenantal language about God’s covenant love and faithfulness, about commitment love.
This is the covenant name of God that he gives to Israel, the divine name, YHWH (LORD in all caps in the English translations).
These are the key attributes of this covenant God. He is not just a distant creator God; he’s a creator God who is a loving covenant God. He’s faithful and the psalmist is joyous because of this.

vv 3-4 speak of the everlasting Davidic throne. God himself speaks through the prophetic psalmist in vv 3-4. God’s covenant love is all about the Davidic covenant. This promise to David came through the mouth of Nathan as we read in 2 Sam 7. This promise was repeated for Solomon in 1 Chr 17 3-15 and was affirmed by prophetic words extending into the time of the Babylonian exile. Cf Is 7 7; 55 1-5.
This is all about God showing his faithfulness and covenant love to Israel in one particular way, with my chosen one.

And here’s the promise in v 4.

There you have it. vv 3- 4 are the oath and the covenant. This whole Ps is about this Davidic covenant, this promise of an everlasting Davidic throne. The psalmist knows that it’s going to be God’s way of bringing to pass the blessings promised in the Abrahamic covenant. It’s not in competition with the Abrahamic covenant but comes alongside it. God is going to do what he’s going to do for Israel and the world, and he’s going to do that through the Davidic covenant as another way of fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant.

a point of biblical tension

But this illuminates an apparent problem, an inherent point of tension with this Davidic covenant, with this Davidic king.

Notice the central place of the Davidic king within God’s plan. It’s even reflected in our Bibles. Following the Torah – the books of Moses – the Exodus, covenant and conquest books of Ge, Ex, Le, Nu, and Dt, we then have the book about the conquest, Js. That, in turn, is followed by the book of Judges because the people of Israel did not have a king. That is, when the people of Israel first entered the promised land after the Exodus, God set judges over them because God told them not to have a king.

But, of course, there was a reason for that. Any faithful Israelite would have been aware of and would have scratched their head because of this tension created by now having a Davidic king. Any faithful ancient Israelite would have rejoiced in this Davidic covenant but they would have also sensed a tension.
In fact, when they first asked for a king, it was sinful to do so because within the biblical theological context only God was to be their king. Listen to the faithful Israelite type response of Gideon in Jd 8 22-23 where the text addresses the question, “Who should be your king? your ruler? Some human king even as great as David?” No! God should be your king!

v 5
The key theme of vv 5-14 is Creation, God as the creator God. Notice how they all fit together.
Remember the twin focus we’ve previously seen where in Ge we have this focus on God as the creator God and then he’s the covenant God who makes the Abrahamic covenant. So you praise God for his mighty works of Creation. Then we have the Davidic covenant made by the Creator God to redeem his Creation. So you celebrate the Davidic covenant and Creation.

v 9
Mk 4 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Ps 89 9 You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. [This is talking about YHWH.] Jesus stills the storm, something which would have meant a lot more to the earliest participants in that event than we in our time might actually realize.
Ps 89 tells us that only YHWH can still the storm and then in Mk 4 we have Jesus stilling the storm, meaning Jesus is YHWH.
The disciples seem to get the point as we read in Mk 4 41 – this praxis of Jesus including the miracles and the nature miracles …
Notice that none of this really impacts you unless you know the story behind the story. Then it comes alive.
Watts argues that’s how Mk intended the gospel to be read, using this imagery and the whole story behind the Story in mind.

v 14
justice = mishpat
The key theme of vv 15-21 has shifted back to the Davidic covenant, just as it was with vv 1-4. The key theme of vv 5-14 was the creator God. The psalmist is switching back-and-forth with these two themes.

v 18 begins talking about the king again, and now we’re going to have a long portion talking about the Davidic covenant – vv 18-29.

v 29
vv 28-29 is again this promise of an everlasting Davidic throne. Notice how important this covenant is in the Bible. It’s ubiquitous in the Psalms and in the Bible.

When we’re at this point in the biblical story here in Ps 89 where we have these promises, when we’ve not yet gone on ahead to know the fulfillment, a question arises in the story. When the people of Israel entered the promised land, there were not to have a king. In fact, when they first decided they wanted a king, it was clearly sinful in God’s eyes. They chose Saul. The prophet Samuel said this was sinful and so on, but allowed them to have a king. Still, it was sinful for them to ask for one. The reason, of course, is that God alone was to be their king.

These two things go together in Ps 132 and here in Ps 89: the dwelling of YHWH in Zion and the Davidic king. But if you think about it, they might not go together too well. Why should the people of God whose only king was to be God, why should the people even have or need a human king? But in Ps 132 and Ps 89 they are side-by-side: the Davidic kingship and the dwelling of YHWH in Zion. When you think about that, it raises a potential problem. Why should you have a Davidic kingship? Another part of the problem with the Davidic kingship is that what if the Davidic king leads you the wrong way? What if the Davidic king is like some of our politicians: not at all godly? In fact, we know from the Bible that many of them were like that. Here it addresses that partly. Notice what it says v 30 ff.

vv 30-37 is very strong stuff.

v 32
Ie, God will judge these individual Davidic kings that do not follow him. They will fall under judgment.
But notice, it’s an unconditional covenant with David. It doesn’t mean that he’s going to take away this promise.

v 37
In vv 36-37 we get language about the sun and moon and Creation. When we talked about the Creation Psalms, we noted that when God created, he created forever. Creation is for ever. God will never do away with the Creation. In fact, the whole biblical story talks about God renewing all of Creation. It’s just assumed throughout the Bible that Creation will be forever. And, just like Creation is forever, the Davidic covenant and kingship will be forever.

But now tragedy comes. After this stage where the people were in the land fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant, and after God had given them the Davidic kingship and the Davidic covenant, and after God was dwelling among them in their temple, after all these things another stage of the biblical story came. The people of Israel began to turn away from God, led by of all people, Solomon himself! The prophets sought to call the people of Israel back to YHWH saying ‘turn back to the covenant with God. Believe in God; trust in God.’ That’s what the covenant was all about. ‘Trust in God and don’t turn to false gods.’

But the people of Israel didn’t listen so we had the tragic turn in the biblical story, the next turn of events, the Exile. It was a tragic turn in the biblical story not because God took it that direction but because his people with free will took it in that direction. And we don’t have any Psalms about this either but you do have it mentioned in a lot in the Psalms. Here we have the Exile and destruction of Jerusalem in 587. Jerusalem was destroyed; the people of Israel were taken into Exile; the temple was destroyed.

Notice that it did seem as though God’s promises had failed. God had promised an everlasting Davidic throne but the people of Israel had now gone into Exile. The Davidic kingship had been done away with. The Davidic throne was no more. Nebuchadnezzar had put the sons of the Davidic king Zedekiah to death before the king’s eyes so that there would be no Davidic kings to follow. Then, Nebuchadnezzar had then put out the eyes of the king (Zedekiah) himself and taken him in chains to Babylon.

Ps 89 was written after this tragedy of the Exile. Then we have the greatest contrast ever beginning in v 38. Destruction and Exile.

Notice again the promise being extolled in this Ps which is all about the Davidic covenant, this promise of an everlasting Davidic throne. David will have this everlasting Davidic throne.
The psalmist switches back-and-forth talking about God as Creator God and then this Davidic covenant. We are working with two big covenants that structure the biblical narrative: the Abrahamic covenant and the Davidic covenant. The Davidic covenant is understood as God’s way of bringing about the Abrahamic covenant. So there’s a synergistic relationship between the two; they work together.

So how might the Davidic covenant be related to Creation? How was Ge 12 related to Creation? Because God promised to restore Creation in the covenant. That explains why the psalmist here in Ps 89 goes back-and-forth between Creation and covenant. The covenant comes in Ge 12 after the tragedy of Ge 3. The covenant came in order to put back on track the good work of God in Ge 1-2 – to restore Creation. The covenant is all about restoring Creation. The nations who go astray from God are to be blessed through the fourth and climactic element of the Abrahamic covenant. The Davidic covenant enters into the picture with this throne of David that’s going to last forever. In some mysterious way it was going to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant.

Another reason why the psalmist goes back-and-forth between Creation and covenant may be because the covenant involves these incredible promises that God will bring about blessing to all nations through Abraham, that David’s throne was going to last forever. That was true of no throne that we can think of in human terms. Even the greatest empires that ever were never lasted forever. They all eventually crumbled into dust but this was a promise of an everlasting Davidic throne. It was a staggering promise.

The focus on Creation seems to work in another way, too. Just as the covenant was going to be the way God renewed and restored Creation, that God was the Creator God was sort of the foundation for trusting in these promises. That is, God has power to fulfill these things because, after all, he is the Creator God. He’s the one who brought all things into being. So the fact that God is the Creator God sort of undergirds the covenant. You can trust the promises of this Creator God even though they seemed impossible. You can trust this promise of an everlasting Davidic throne because after all he is the Creator God. And, the whole purpose of the covenant was to renew and restore the Creation.

So there’s a wonderful symmetry. That would seem to explain why the authors in the Bible, in Ps 89 and elsewhere, go back-and-forth between Creation and covenant. The Creator God is the covenant God and the covenant God is the Creator God. Back to 2 Sam 7 16.

Again, notice that the Davidic covenant seems to create an inherent point of tension, an apparent problem, a question in the biblical story having to do with who was to be king. Who, after all, was to be the family’s (of Abraham) king? God had called Abraham and his family to be his people. God called them to be exclusively devoted to God. God alone was to be their Lord, their king. That’s why, when the people of Israel first entered the land of promise after their wilderness wanderings, for many generations they were ruled not by a king but by judges. (Their first king didn’t happen until Saul and then ultimately David became the permanent king.)

In other words, they were ruled not by kings but by judges because the biblical understanding was that God alone was their king. The people of Israel were not to have a king like the nations who surrounded them did because they already had a king who was God himself. This is expressed in Jd itself at Jd 8 22-23. See notes there where we’ll see a great theme of biblical theology and why this Davidic covenant raises this tension point in the story.

Next, you might think that now with the coming of the Davidic kingship and the Davidic covenant that the new Exodus had reached its climax. But that would be incorrect thinking. One more event must occur which we see in 1 Ki 8 1-10-13, 27.

v 38
The psalmist is speaking to God. This is written after the Exile, after the Davidic king had been taken in chains to Babylon. His sons were killed before his eyes, and his eyes were then put out. The psalmist cries out to God that God was full of wrath against your anointed Davidic king. Destruction and Exile have happened, seeming to show that God’s promises have failed, those promises that he would dwell among his people forever and his promises of an everlasting Davidic throne. Everything about God’s promises seemed to have failed.

v 39
The psalmist is asking God, “I trust in you but how can you do this?! You seem to have broken your covenant.”

v 44
So in this searching mystery of the Exile it appears that God has broken his own promise and yet the Ps ends on a note of hope in v 52.

v 46
The psalmist remains faithful but you can see that it’s a searching faith in which he’s wondering about what God has done and not understanding why God has done what God has done. The psalmist in faith knows that God’s promises cannot fail, so he says how long, YHWH? Will you hide yourself forever? Will your wrath burn like fire? This psalm was perhaps even written by Jehoiachin who says in v 47 …

v 48
Notice in this destruction and Exile we have a little remembrance of “the Fall” in which evil, sin, suffering and death entered into the world. This is a reminder that even when the Abrahamic covenant was fulfilled through the Exodus and conquest and the Davidic covenant and the dwelling of YHWH in Zion, … this is a reminder that promise of blessing to all nations, that promise of a reversal of “the Fall”, that had not come true yet. We are reminded here that evil, sin, suffering and death were still very much in the world.

Notice how destruction and Exile mirrored “the Fall”. And they both happened for the same reasons. First, the serpent tempted Adam and Eve with has God really said. So you had this doubt of God, this mistrust of and rebellion against God. So also in the Exile there was this idolatry, this turning from God. The same human malady that had led to “the Fall” had also led to destruction and Exile.

But it seemed to have now done away with God’s promises and his salvation plan. Notice also that this was not only doing away with his promises to Israel but God’s promises to Israel were the basis for his salvation of the whole earth. So it seemed to be that God had been unfaithful to his whole salvation plan.

v 49
That is, the psalmist in his faith in YHWH is still crying out to God to be faithful to his covenant, to – in his wrath – remember mercy. Even though Israel has richly deserved destruction and exile, the psalmist is still imploring God to look with mercy on them and to fulfill his covenant. After all, how could this happen? The psalmist is saying I know you will be faithful to your promises. I don’t know where they could be; it seems your promises have failed but I know they haven’t.

And so the psalmist ends on a note of hope in v 52 that God will do this. It does not end with the psalmist saying so YHWH, your promises have failed. Instead, it ends on a note of faith and trust.

v 52
Even though you have this heart-wrenching cry because of the suffering of the righteous, the third book of the Psalms, Ps 89, ends with this note of hope, on an affirmation of faith and trust in YHWH only. The psalmist knows that God will be faithful to the covenant.

We are notice the faith of the psalmist here writing under the inspiration of God. Despite the fact that God’s promises seem to have completely failed, he trusted that God would yet fulfill his promises. It seemed impossible. It was at the darkest point of the biblical story. Destruction and Exile. How could God fulfill his promises when everything seemed to have completely failed? It seemed there was no way they could be fulfilled. Could God fulfill his promises, even physically, since the promises actually were physical promises? They were promises of a king, that God would dwell among his people.

For this answer we go to the counterpart of the royals Psalms (those about the everlasting Davidic king) in the royal (messianic) oracles of the prophet Isaiah. This royal psalm, Ps 89, had told the story of what seemed to be the end of the Davidic covenant. It told the story of what seemed to be God’s failure to fulfill the Davidic covenant. It seemed to be the end of the Davidic kingship. But the psalmist trusted in God, knowing God would not forsake his promises. We see how that would happen in the counterpart of the royal Psalms – in the royal oracles of Is. See Is 11.

theodicy

This raises this philosophical problem that Creach addresses in his Sacred story companion section. The righteous suffer but if God is good and all-powerful, the righteous should be blessed. This is the problem of theodicy which has to do with justifying the ways of God to people, which has to do with examining and holding to the righteousness and goodness of God in the face of counter evidence.
Theodicy refers to the justification of God’s justice and goodness in light of suffering and evil. It answers the questions, “Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people?”

Theodicy is the whole question of “Is God righteous or is he not?” In the Bible the righteous cry out to God, “Why don’t you help me and save me?” and yet there is always this theodicy in which God is holy and righteous and good. There is this conviction that no matter what it looks like now, God will bless and save the righteous and he will condemn the wicked because he’s righteous and holy and faithful and good.

Ps 89 is a Ps of faith because all the evidence seems to be saying that God is not all-powerful, that God is not all good and that the righteous are those who suffer and the wicked are the ones who prosper. It looks as if the people of Israel, their nation, their king and their covenants with their God had come to an end.

It was precisely at this darkest point in the biblical story, when it seemed as though the biblical story had ended in tragedy, destruction and Exile, and when it almost called into question whether or not God had kept his promises, … it was at this darkest point that God said something quite startling to the prophet Jeremiah in Jm 32 1-2 – the new Exodus .
Ps 90
The Past Shows God’s Mercy

Only five psalms have titles that indicate that they are prayers (Psalms 17, 86, 90, 102, 142). In Ps 90, we see that the terror and pain of God’s judgment has led Moses to plead for His mercy. This is the only psalm in the Psalter authored by Moses. Some scholars think this psalm was written after God had sentenced Israel to forty years of wandering for their disobedience and unfaithfulness (Nu 14). If that is so, one can imagine the fear and sadness of the people and their plea that God would not abandon them (v 13) or their children (v 16) for their sin.

Israel’s sin (Nu 14 11) was rooted in an unwillingness to trust God’s promise or acknowledge His power. Moses began the psalm with an admission (vv 12) of God’s greatness and consistency. Vv 1-2 describe God as eternal. He has always existed. He is also our dwelling place.

Vv 3, 5-6 and 10 describe people as mortal with a limited number of years to live on this earth. All people die (v 3) and will eventually return to dust, yet God lives on in eternity. This eternity is not endless time but is independence from time. Our God created time and stands outside it. He is the unchanging God, who continues to watch over His people in spite of their sin.

We are reminded here about Israel’s specific situation at the time Moses wrote this psalm. They had disobeyed God and refused to trust him. Nu 14 20-24 and 20 6-12 indicate that Moses’ entire generation – except for Joshua and Caleb – would die in the wilderness. So the whole community – Moses and all the Israelites – had reason to lament in this situation. In general, our own mortality fills our hearts with regret, as does the suffering we endure while here because of the sin in our world and in our own lives. But the Israelites in particular had much to regret. They would wander for forty years in the wilderness because of their own stubborn unbelief. They would watch their friends die, and they would not get to enjoy the land God had promised to give them. Their children would go in but they would be denied the joy of seeing God keep this particular promise.

We are moral but God is eternal. We see in v 4 God’s eternal nature in that God’s concept of time is vastly different from ours. As the verse says, a thousand years to God are like one day. God is not trapped in time. God created time and stands outside time. This is difficult or even impossible for us to understand because all of our human experience is grounded in time.
In fact, God’s sense of time is especially important for our redemption. Peter said somewhat the same thing when he quoted Ps 90 4 and then went on to say in 2 Pe 3 9 that God is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach redemption. God’s patience demonstrates his mercy and love for us. He does not want anyone to be lost, to pass into eternal death.

We can always hope, even in the face of death. We can hope partly because of the eternal nature of God who will never pass away. We can hope because God will continue to watch over His people for countless generations (v 5). He is and ever will be our ‘dwelling place’ (v 1), our home. And in the inauguration of the kingdom of God, in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we live, we find refuge from our sins, we hide from God’s wrath in the judgment.

The psalm continues (vv 712) with an admission of God’s justice in sentencing His people. Israel cannot hide (v 8) what she has done from God, but now she must face her sin. The people looked forward to long lives in the Promised Land, but now life would be short (v 10) and filled with the pain of wandering (v 10b). The time people would spend on this earth would be filled with toil and trouble. God’s wrath may seem excessive, yet Moses knows that God’s anger (v 11) could be worse. We may discount sin, but God in His justice cannot do so. God will not always exempt us from the earthly consequences of our sins, but He will help us bear them.

In v 12 Moses prayed that God would give him and his people a heart of wisdom. For what was he asking? The characteristics of a wise heart for which we must keep in mind the truths of Pr 1 7 and 1 Cor 1 18-26 and 30. This wisdom Moses asked for involved knowing God, particularly in the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. The people of the OT looked forward to the savior from sin whom God in his mercy would send. We know that, in Jesus, God has kept his promise to do just that. The wisdom of the cross looked like foolishness to the world. Still, it was indeed our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor 1 30).

Moses concludes Ps 90 (vv 1317) with a plea for mercy. The people wondered if God would be angry with them for forty years. Moses pleads for God to return (v 13) and have pity. He begs that God’s blessings on the people (v 14) in the coming years might be as great as His displeasure over their sin has been. And he prays (v 16) that God would continue to work miracles among His people and bring His glory on these children. Their great hope lies in God fulfilling His promises to their children. Think how awful it would be if God did not forgive our sins! Think how frightened we would be if He threatened to abandon us forever when we fail Him.

The final petition Moses prays (v 17) asks that God’s favor rest upon His people once again. We all want our life’s work to count for something. Ancient Israel was to have been blessed by entering the Promised Land, but sin had wrenched that dream away. And so they pray for a kind of ‘consolation prize’ in v 17 it’s a big prayer in and of itself! They ask that God establish them so that they leave a legacy to their children.

What should we want the Lord to teach us today so that we might leave a legacy like that to those who come behind us? Because of our sins we are mortal. Many people fear physical death. Others are absolutely terrified by death. Even for those who believe in Jesus, the thought of physical death can bring anxiety and anguish.
Even Christians may dread the process of dying and the physical suffering that often accompanies death. Because of our sinful nature, we fear the unknown. We fear God’s wrath and his punishment in death.
Still, the truths of Ps 90 1-2 comfort Christians who face such fears. God has already revealed to us a beautiful truth about himself. God is our dwelling place. In life we find a home in him. In death we enjoy that same security. God is our eternal God in life and in death – in the life after the life after death – in the renewed Creation that follows the life after death in the intermediate state, heaven. Of course, in the resurrection of Jesus, we receive even greater assurances of his power to rescue us from death and the grave.

v 3
It’s crucial to understand wisdom language when dealing with this pericope. Wisdom is a very important concept within the Hebrew Bible – in Proverbs such as Pr 8, in the Psalms – and outside the Bible – Wisdom of Solomon 7 – and elsewhere.

Wisdom functions in the OT as a way of talking about God’s own activity in his created world. It’s a way of talking about God but focusing on God’s activity within Creation to bring about Creation. So within the Bible wisdom is a way of poetically and creatively talking about God.

For example, we see that in Pr 8 25 where it talks about before the hills were brought forth, before there was ever the first dust of the world this wisdom was God’s agent in bringing all things into being.
You have the same language in Ps 90 where it says 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
So, when you compare these passages, you see quite clearly the wisdom is a way of poetically and wonderfully talking about God which is why this is so crucial, why the author in Co keeps up the wisdom language. It’s this incarnational theology, this trinitarian theology, this Christological monotheism in which Jesus of Nazareth is not merely God’s human agent; he is God come in the flesh.
Using wisdom language to talk about Jesus is an explosive, powerful thing because it’s another way of saying he truly is God come in the flesh.
Ps 91
vv 12, 916
Notice what this Psalm does not say.
It doesn’t say you won’t be in dangerous places.
It doesn’t say you won’t be faced with wild and threatening animals.
It doesn’t say you won’t find yourself in serious trouble.

Instead, it says that God will protect you against harm.
It says that you won’t need to be afraid of the wild animals, and that you’ll be able to trample them underfoot.
It says that God will be with you in trouble, and God will rescue you.
It is, in other words, a song with its feet on the ground, even while its heart is praising the living and rescuing God.

Ps 91 is a good Psalm for Lent because Lent is a journey that may take us to some difficult and awkward places
in our outward journey of work, family life, church commitments, and other responsibilities, and
in our inner journey of moral struggles and spiritual questionings, as we search for God and his ways more deeply than we had before.
All these journeys are potentially hard and dangerous, as was Jesus’ fortyday fast in the wilderness, with the wild beasts around him and the demons whispering in his ear.

It’s at this point that we discover just how dangerous the journey is. In fact, one of the things the devil whispered in Jesus’ ear was a quote from this very Psalm. Perhaps Jesus had memorized it ahead of time and was already using it as a prayer, day by day, to help him through the tough test he was facing. And the devil, seeing he wasn’t going to succeed by a direct assault on Jesus’ senses or appetites, tried a different tack:
‘If you really believed this Psalm, then wouldn’t you trust God so much that you could throw yourself off the Temple? Doesn’t it say he’ll send his angels to protect you? Perhaps you don’t believe it after all. Perhaps you’re just pretending …’ – a paraphrase from Mt 4 1-11

It was actually a bad verse for the devil to choose because the very next line (Ps 91 13) contains the promise that we shall trample the serpent underfoot which, ever since Ge 3, had been read as a promise about the coming Child of Eve who would crush the head of the devil himself. Often the right answer to a puzzle found in the scriptures, and to the difficulty of praying with them, is to read on, to pray into the wider context and setting, and watch the puzzles resolve and the difficulties recede.

Ps 91 is a good psalm for the Lenten journey. It’s a prayer that Jesus made his own, and that we can make our own as we in fear and trembling set off with him. Julian of Norwich once said,’Jesus did not say you will not be tempesttossed. But he did say, “You will not be overcome.” We don’t know what we’re going to face, but we do know that God’s sheltering care is assured. We are to place ourselves under his protection. There is no better place to be.
Ps 95

Ps 95 is a hymn to the LORD, and entrance liturgy psalm. An entrance liturgy always has two parts:
a call to enter God’s holy presence in worship
So there will be language of invitation such as we see in Ps 95: O come, enter in, worship, praise and so on.
the requirements of the covenant people to enter into God’s holy presence
So the entrance liturgies always have both a wonderful spirit of praise and worship but also a prophetic warning or exhortation about what this is to enter into God’s holy presence and what is required of one to do that.
In this psalm the psalmist is referring to a certain event within salvation history, the Exodus, which involved the old covenant people of God, the covenant made with Moses. So we’ll talk about them as the OT people of God.

vv 1-7a are an invitation to God’s covenant people, and that invitation is worship, praise and adoration.
vv 7b-11 are a prophetic warning about unfaithfulness to the covenant.
So the psalm will have both exhortation to worship and an exhortation of warning about the requirements of entering into God’s presence as God’s covenant people.

v 1
God is described as the rock of our salvation. Calling God a rock occurs hundreds of time sin Scripture. This imagery tells us God is solid, faithful, dependable, reliable, and sturdy. Unlike any other thing you might put your trust in, God you can always trust God to come through. God is the rock of our salvation.

v 2
As in many other Psalms we see also here this emphasis on joy, on rejoicing. This is unique to the Bible and to the Christian faith. Within most other religions and their various gods and goddesses, it’s a rather dour affair. But here in the Bible this worship of the one, true God is something that fills his worshipers with joy. The Hebrew here is a very strong verb meaning to be so joyful that you shout it out. And why do we do this? V 3.

v 3
He is worthy of worship because he’s the creator God. Whenever the Bible uses the language of gods or of the other deities in the ancient world or in the modern world, it uses that word sardonically or sarcastically. The Bible will use the word god of the pagan deities around it but it will always qualify the use of god in some way as it does in Ps 96 with are but nothingnesses. All of the [so-called] gods of the nations are idols; the LORD alone made the heavens (Ps 96 5). The Hebrew word belimah here translated as idols actually means nothingnesses. So it’s the ultimate sarcasm. These gods of the people are actually nothingnesses.
So the biblical idea here is that the LORD is a great God and a great king above all these false gods. It’s not that the LORD has a little more status and power than the other gods. It’s that these other gods are non-entities. He is a great king far above all these false gods.

v 4
The aspects of Creation mentioned here are the depths of the earth and the peaks of the mountains. The LORD is the God of all Creation which is all-encompassing. God has created them all. What else is there except besides the depths of the earth and the highest peaks? Nothing.

There’s a bit of a challenge here to other false gods. In the ancient world the mountains were thought of as the home of the gods so that, for instance, you have Zeus on Mt. Olympus. Ba’al was thought to reside on Mt. Zaphon. Here we have this slap in the face of these gods because the one, true God possesses the mountains where these false gods were thought to dwell. The LORD possesses all of Creation.

v 5

The aspects of Creation mentioned here are the sea … and the dry land. Again, this is all-encompassing. What else is there except sea and the dry land? Nothing. God has in his hands the depths of the earth and the highest peaks, the sea and the dry land. It’s all-encompassing. All of Creation is God’s. God is unlike these various deities which are supposed to have part of Creation over which they have some sort of rule. God is the ruler of all Creation because he made it.

The ancient understanding of the sea was as a very threatening place. The sea was associated with chaos and darkness and danger. So by saying that the sea belongs to God is to say that God even controls these forces of chaos. Even these dark, chaotic forces were controlled by God.

Notice the difference here between obvious modern worldviews in which you have so-called “chaos theory”. Chaos theory taken to its extreme says that all things have been produced by chaos, and chaos is the real master and Lord of everything. This psalm speaks to that because the psalmist says that God is the ruler of these chaotic forces.

v 6
Here the call to worship is renewed with Come, let us worship and bow down before the LORD; let us kneel before the LORD, or maker.
The biblical author here calls God, “Maker” rather than Creator. Why? The use of Maker brings out about a more personal picture about God’s created activity, something that the word Creator alone does not.
By using Maker it means that it involves attention and love and will and purpose. In theologies throughout the centuries it’s thought that the ultimate reality is something like a nonpersonal force from which you can talk about Creation, but it is Creation as everything emanating from this source. It’s not something that was willed and loved into existence like Creation as we think about in the Bible. The Maker word brings that out. God is not just Creator but he’s the Maker. He’s personally, volitionally, willfully involved. Creation was an act of love by God. God loved the Creation into existence just as a painter paints a painting or a sculptor sculpts a sculpture. Maker brings that out.

So far the psalm is celebrating God in this first part of this entrance liturgy. We have Creation and we are celebrating God as the Creator God. We’re praising and thanking God for his wonderful acts as Creator. Everything about this so far is about God’s work as Creator.
Now the psalmist is going to shift his focus and celebrate God as the covenant God who enters into a personal relationship of love with his people.

So how is Ps 95 used in the Western tradition? In John Chrysostom’s liturgy in v 6 we say come let us worship and fall down before Christ. We’ve talked about the significance of that.
But there’s another way to see this text. In light of the whole psalm, what’s going on when we sing that? Is it a merely mindless ascription of greatness to Christ? In light of the context of the entire psalm, there is a warning or a challenge also involved when we sing come let us worship and fall down before Christ. The prophetic warning here in v 6 is that I must trust fully trust in God, that I must live a life in which I walk in God’s ways and avoid evil. It’s actually a very strong challenge to me. It’s a call to living faith and a warning against dead faith. Because we sing v 6 from this very psalm, that warns God’s people that if they are to enter into the worship of God, they must do so with full living, true faith, with all their heart and soul, not with a false faith which claims to worship Christ but then lives like the devil.

It’s sort of the same thing you have in the beginning John Chrysostom’s liturgy. You say blessed is the kingdom of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s very powerful. Those are the very first words because whatever you bless is what you consider as of ultimate importance. It’s what you consider as supreme, as the ultimate value.
So we should always check ourselves before we say that in the liturgy because we now know we are not to say that lightly. If I say blessed is the kingdom of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I better mean that. I better be ready to give my whole life to God because that’s what I’m claiming to do when I say blessed is the kingdom. And this Ps 95 is a reminder of that. If we are going to enter into God’s presence, if we are going to worship Christ, it means that we must enter as God’s covenant people with a true living faith which follows God, and not with a false pretend faith which follows the false examples and types of the wilderness generation. When you say blessed is the kingdom of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are making a commitment. You are declaring your allegiance to God and his kingdom. It is not something to be done mindlessly or by rote. Sometimes we may catch ourselves doing that and we need to stop ourselves from doing that. We are giving our whole lives and heart to God when we say those words.

7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!
He is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the sheep of his hand. Today, if you would hear his voice,

He is our God and we are his people is the language of the covenant. Therefore, v 7a is another nice, poetic version of the covenant formula of I will be your God and you will be my people which we see in Ge 12 3 ff.
With the phrase For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand., the psalmist is praising God because the creator God is also the covenant God who enters into this personal relationship of love with his people,
the covenant God who saves and redeems his people,
the covenant God who is not only the God of Creation but the God of Redemption,
the covenant God who not only creates as Creator God but who saves as the God of Redemption,
not a distant Creator God but a loving, covenant God with whom you can be in covenant and know.
So in this call to worship we are not simply worshiping the Creator God but we’re also worshiping the Redeemer God. We’re worshiping the covenant God who is in a relationship of love with his people that he has brought about by his own redemptive work.

vv 1-7a is sung today in the Church’s liturgy in both the East and the West. We sing it now in our own day and age in a far fuller and richer way than they did in antiquity because we know the fullness of God’s promises that have now been fulfilled in the one who is God incarnate, Jesus Christ. Hence, as with all the other Psalms, it was written in the time of promise but we sing it in a richer, fuller way in this time of fulfillment.

One way in which this psalm has been brought into the Church’s liturgy is seen in the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, in particular. V 6, for instance, gets used in the liturgy but the word Christ is used where the LORD gets used in the psalm. The Church has therefore shown how this psalm is to be understood and read in worship. This is the third resurrection antiphon in the liturgy in which the congregation sings come let us worship and fall down before which is a direct quote of v 6. And then, instead of saying before the LORD the Church now says before Christ because we’re singing as those who know that God had become incarnate in Christ. That is, the ultimate revelation of God has taken place in Christ.

So Christians who have entered into the kingdom of God, therefore, sing come let us worship and fall down before Christ. This is a wonderful way in which we show how we’re reading this psalm as kingdom people, fulfillment time people, those who have seen the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ. So we have this wonderful continuity. We use the same words, the same exhortation, but now in the time of fulfillment it involves Christ.
Ps 95 is found in the Lutheran liturgy in the Order of Matins, pp 220-1, in v 3. You sing the whole psalm in Matins and then at the end of the psalm in v 5 you sing glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and will be forever. Amen. This shows us that we now are singing the psalm as those who have seen the fulfillment of God’s promises and the true and full revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So whether in the East or the West, this Ps 95 is now a Christian Scripture. It’s a Scripture that was always about Christ but which has now been revealed now that Christ has come.

7b Today, if you would hear his voice,

vv 7b-11 are a wonderful window into how we are called as Christians to read the OT as Christian Scripture and how that all works itself out in salvation history.

Now beginning in v 7b with the word today the Ps takes a big turn but it’s not so new after all.
We hear this language of today at various places in scripture. For instance, in Js 24 the people renew the covenant at Shechem and Joshua says to them “Choose this day whom you will serve.”
15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” In other words, choose this day, “today,” whom you will serve.
The word today occurs over and over in Dt as the people were about to enter into the promised land and enter into covenant with their God.

So the psalmist in v 7b is looking back to the covenant language of v 7a. Thus the language of today in v 7b is also the language of the covenant. Joshua uses that language in Js 24 because they were renewing the covenant so he said choose this day whom you will serve. It’s the language of entry into the covenant. Today you take the LORD as your God. Today you enter into the covenant with God. So this is the language of the covenant, and the covenant must constantly be renewed.

What is the literary and historical context of Ps 95 in the OT?

It talks about the testing of Moses in the wilderness but this Ps was written many generations after their time in the wilderness and after the Exile itself. In other words, after the people of Israel wandered for forty years in the wilderness, they were brought into the land of promise where they turned from God to other gods. [They tried to worship God alongside these other deities; in other words, they turned to idolatry.] The prophets warned them repeatedly but the people of Israel would not listen. Finally, God’s judgment fell on the people, and Jerusalem was razed to the ground, and the people were taken into Exile.

In fact, the author of Ps 95 is doing something greater and more important than many modern day scholars assume. Some modern day scholars assume the psalmist was only talking about the Exodus. However, that doesn’t make any sense because the psalmist wrote Ps 95 after the Exile had begun, while it was still happening, after the people of Israel who were brought into the promised land and had entered into God’s rest but who had now been thrust out of the land into Exile.
The book of Psalms was put together during this time after the Exile when the people of God were awaiting God’s promised salvation.

We’ve seen throughout the biblical story God warning the people of Israel that Exile and judgment would come. But we also had these promises that beyond this judgment God would bring about salvation for the faithful remnant.

So when the author says “Today, if you will hear his voice,” in v 7 above he was talking about something far greater that the old Exodus and something new. He was looking back on the Exodus event as a type, a foreshadow as the fathers said and as the theologians call it: a type or foreshadow of the new and greater events to come. The people of Israel knew that the Exile would not end until the new Exodus took place.

So what were those new and greater events to come? In fact, when the author says today if you hear his voice here in v 7, that’s the language of the new Exodus and its covenant – the heart-transforming new covenant. The psalmist was referring back to the Exodus in the old covenant and the OT people of God as a type, and he was looking forward to the new Exodus to come which would involve a new covenant – a heart-transforming new covenant – which would be made with the NT people of God.

All of these promises focused on this coming kingdom of God that God had promised his people would dawn. With that in mind read again v 7 hook in again with the discussion of the word today just above.

So the Exile was ongoing and awaiting God’s promised salvation, the new Exodus and a new covenant in the kingdom of God. Within that historical context what covenant were the readers being encouraged to enter into? They were being encouraged to enter into the new and final covenant. It would not have been the old covenant made in the time of Moses that the people were being exhorted to enter into. Not at all. That covenant had long passed. It’s now after the Exile and the people were awaiting this new Exodus event along with its new covenant.
So even in its original context when the people of Israel read this in Exile would have understood it as a call to enter into this new event and new covenant that was about to dawn.

What is the literary and historical context of Ps 95 in the NT?

The NT quotes Ps 95 often. Not only is it in the liturgy, it’s found all through the NT.

This new covenant will be the antitype or the fulfillment of the type. And that fulfillment came with Jesus Christ. Notice, therefore, how in He 3 this psalm was giving us a plan, a guidebook, a map for reading the whole Bible. Everything that happened in the OT is a type or foreshadow of what is going to happen in the time of fulfillment. Here, the Exodus was a foreshadow of the greater new Exodus event to come. We’ll see in He 4 one way among the many ways it is greater.
So the old covenant foreshadowed the new and greater new covenant. The OT people looked forward to the NT people of God. In being called into this new event the psalmist recalled the old Exodus. V 8 do not harden your hearts as at Meribah in the day of testing (temptation) in the wilderness. The people were looking back to those previous events in wilderness under the old covenant, and they were being called to enter into the event that was about to dawn of the new Exodus. That’s why we have the old Exodus imagery and example. V 8 was echoing Ex 17 1 ff.
Notice how cool the Psalms are. They bring together the whole biblical story which we now read in this new, fuller way as having been fulfilled in Christ, and it brings together all of the old biblical story as well. And we’ll see how we are to read Ex 17. See notes there.

So Ps 95 recounted the events of Ex 17. 7b Today, if you would hear his voice, meaning today, if you enter into the new covenant …

Next, according to Ps 95, how should the people in Ex 17 function for the person reading and worshiping with the words of the psalm. How do they function for the reader of the psalm? Those (the people from Ex 17) who didn’t believe God in the wilderness generation served as a negative example for the NT people of God. The Bible has all sorts of positive examples which show us what faithful, godly life looks like, and it also has loads of negative examples, as well, of what faithful, godly life does not look like. Do not be like those people (v 7b-11). Implicit in the Ex 17 1-7 text is that we are not to be like these people while it’s explicit here in Ps 95.

Next, we are to understand that the reader was being encouraged to enter into this new Exodus and new covenant that were about to dawn, and we are to understand how that is to work for us. We’re in an analogous situation. In Christ the new Exodus had come. In Christ the new covenant had come. And in this psalm we had been called to enter into it fully.

But notice that there was also a warning because it was possible not to enter it fully. It was possible for one to follow these negative examples. So we see here this typological and theological connection between the time of the old Exodus to the time of the ultimate new Exodus. The whole Exodus event served as a type of what we know as the fullness that has come in Christ. But these people functioned as negative models for us because we are in the same sort of position. They were on their way into the promised land. For us the kingdom of God was inaugurated in Christ through his Incarnation, death and resurrection but it has not yet been fully consummated. And the call of Christ to the Church in the meantime is to take up your cross and to follow Jesus. The call to the Church is to be faithful, to trust and follow God, to follow the commands of God and of Christ.
They were in the time of promise waiting for the inaugurated kingdom of God. We have seen the inauguration of the kingdom but we are waiting for the consummated kingdom of God. So that’s how the exhortations can apply to us just as much as to them and even more so. And how does it apply more so? They shall never enter my rest (v 11). See notes below and then return.

The NT clears shows all of this such as in He 3 7 – 4 13 where we see Ps 95 being quoted and interpreted at great length. The author of He is discussing Ps 95 and teaching us how we are to understand Ps 95 as believers in Christ. As Christians these Psalms speak directly to us. All of this is a type of the fulfillment to come as we see in He 3. Notice that all of this is true within Ps 95. Sometimes modern scholars will look at He 3 and take Ps 95 in relationship to the new covenant and say the author of He is taking Ps 95 out-of-context. In fact, the author to He is not taking Ps 95 out-of-context because Ps 95 is talking about the new Exodus and the new covenant to come. The only difference is that He 3 is talking about how this new Exodus and new covenant had already come. So we have this wonderful congruity. He 3 actually gives us a very good, solid, flawless exegesis of Ps 95 in its original OT context; only now Christ has come and all of this has been fulfilled.

So this psalm was written after the people had been taken into Exile and after they had the promises of the prophets. They were awaiting this coming time of salvation that God would bring. It’s in that context that in looking ahead to that salvation and in using the language of the covenant, the psalmist says today if you would hear his voice (v 7). Of course, the covenant to which the psalmist is referring to is the new covenant – the heart-transforming new covenant foretold and promised in Jm 31 (and also in Ek 36).
31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Think about the whole biblical story and the span of salvation history and the literary context of this psalm.
We had Creation and the “Fall” in which humanity turned from God, ruining God’s good Creation. Then we had God’s salvation plan centering around the Abrahamic covenant made with Abraham many generations before. In the Abrahamic covenant we had the four part promise of nation, land of promise, a covenant relationship with God (I will be your God and you will be my people.) and the promise of blessing to all nations.
Then we had the Mosaic covenant, the law, through Moses, which called for exclusive devotion to God by keeping his commandments. The people of Israel then broke that covenant. The Mosaic covenant which was meant to work out the Abrahamic covenant in their lives – the people of Israel broke that Mosaic covenant by turning from God to other gods. They broke the very first commandment: I am YHWH your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt; you shall have no other gods but me (Ex 20 2-3).

So we then had the Exile. But there was this promise of yet one more covenant to come. This Mosaic covenant did not bring the Abrahamic covenant to realization. There was another covenant promised by the prophets which would bring the Abrahamic covenant to realization.

The problem with the Mosaic covenant was not God but that the people who had a hardness of heart and who turned from God. What possible covenant could there ever be that would solve that problem? You cannot solve the problem, as some might think, by saying that people just don’t need to have a heart turned to God. That would destroy the whole purpose of our Creation. We would be in everlasting misery and death apart from a relationship with God. Yet, our hearts were hardened as we see with the people of Israel. What possible covenant could there be that would solve that problem? It would have to be a heart-changing covenant, a heart-transforming covenant. That’s why our NT is called the New Testament. NT means new covenant.

This new covenant was promised to come in this messianic time when the Messiah came. This new covenant did not do away with the Abrahamic covenant. Instead, it was the ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant! The way that the blessings came to Israel and to the nations promised in the Abrahamic covenant was through this heart-transforming new covenant. So we have in salvation history: Creation and “the Fall”. Abrahamic covenant. Mosaic covenant. The Exile. The Mosaic covenant got short-circuited because of the hardening of Israel’s hearts. The promise of the new covenant, the heart-transforming new covenant. The new covenant looked forward to the coming time of salvation when the new covenant would come.

Therefore, in the context of Ps 95 the people of Israel were in Exile awaiting the coming time of salvation. When the psalmist says today if you would hear his voice, he was using the language of the covenant, and the psalmist had to be looking forward to the heart-transforming new covenant. So, just like the other Psalms do, Ps 95 looks forward prophetically and proleptically to this new covenant to come and says today. So it’s the new covenant.

However, if the psalmist was looking ahead to the new covenant, why then did he begin to talk about the old covenant with Abraham and about the 40 years of wandering in vv 8-11? How did they function in the psalm? We see now that he was not thinking of the old covenant of Moses. He was thinking of this new covenant but now he talks about the old covenant people, the wilderness generation. How did the “wilderness” people function for the implied reader here who today was entering into this new covenant with God? The “wilderness” people were a negative example for the new covenant people. They were examples for the new covenant people not to do what the old covenant people did. The new covenant people were not to tempt God in the many ways we can do that. Now back to He 3 7 to see how the author to He applies Ps 95.

v 8
This is echoing Ex 17. See notes there. Do not be like those people.

v 11
Within the Exodus event given in the old covenant at Mt. Sinai, the rest that the OT people of God were promised was the promised land. Since none of that generation believed God, since the Exodus people grumbled and tested God and failed to trust in God, none of them entered into the promised land. Thus, the rest in the type was the promised land.
This is addressed to us as believers in Christ in the time of the new covenant and new Exodus. This promised land served as a type of the ultimate fulfillment of our rest. This promised land was a type of rest which is the renewed Creation.
They had one particular piece of land but it truly was a type of the fulfillment because the fulfillment of all things would be when Christ came again to renew and restore the whole created order. The Bible says that as believers who follow Christ we are coheirs with Christ of the whole created order (Ro 8 17). Just as the people of Israel became heirs of the promised land, we, too, are heirs of this coming renewed Creation, just as the Nicene Creed puts it with I eagerly await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
So the psalm speaks directly to us believers in Christ who are in this place of the inaugurated kingdom of God which has not yet been consummated. The NT clears shows all of this such as in He 3 7 – 4 13 where we see Ps 95 being quoted and interpreted at great length. The author of He is discussing Ps 95 and teaching us how we are to understand Ps 95 as believers in Christ. See notes above.

He 3 talked about the old covenant people of God as a type for us NT people of God. Those who didn’t believe God in the wilderness generation served as a negative example for the NT people of God.
He 4 will talk about what the rest is for us. In other words, the rest within the old covenant was the promised land. The rest for us in the fulfillment is … See He 4 for our answer.

Ps 96
praise to God who comes in judgment
the royal judge

Ps 96 is an enthronement hymn (psalm) which talks about the coming kingdom and reign of God. The enthronement hymns are all about God being enthroned as king, about God ruling and reigning in his Creation as God must rule and reign in order for all people to be blessed, for evil to be defeated and for goodness to reign. Enthronement hymns are about God retaking his Creation back from the evil, sin, suffering and death which had entered as intruders into God’s good Creation through the “Fall”.

All of the biblical themes wonderfully cluster together here in Ps 96 – especially the inclusion of the nations. The psalmist in Ps 96 envisions and is looking forward to God’s promises in his coming kingdom and reign when the nations will turn and come to worship YHWH.
Ps 96’s companion passage is Is 40 1-11, hence Ps 96 is called the Isaian psalm.

This wonderful event foretold by the psalmist had already happened.
We know the kingdom and reign of God comes in two stages. The kingdom of God has already come because Jesus is the king on both senses – he’s the king, the Christ, the Messiah – he’s the king, the God of all. The kingdom of God has come.
But, the kingdom came in two stages, the first being the inaugurated kingdom of God which has come about through Jesus’ Incarnation. Jesus is God with us Mt says. Further, through the Incarnation we who belong to Christ have God with us in every way. We have this indwelling of the Holy Spirit in those who believe through the work of Christ. You have Christ present in the Holy Eucharist. So in this inaugurated kingdom of God, God is with us and at work in us though the process of sanctification or theosis or whatever you want to call it. God is at work in us to transform us into the image of Christ.
We as gentiles have been brought to know the one, true God. We have been brought into this kingdom of God. This promise foretold by the prophetic psalmist has happened and yet there are still many things yet to take place. The kingdom has not yet been consummated which will only happen at Christ’s second coming.
Christ has defeated death through his resurrection but the resurrection of all God’s people has not yet taken place.
Christ has brought about the renewal and restoration of all Creation through his body being raised from the dead but Creation will not actually be renewed and restored until Christ’s second coming.
It’s a process still in progress.

So when we look at these enthronement hymns, we see and know that they talk about when God comes. -We now know in the fulfillment things that the psalmist could only see darkly a mirror as he looked ahead prophetically. We know that when this kingdom of God has come, one person had fulfilled both expectations of Messiah and God – the coming of the Messiah and the coming of God, and we also know that it’s come in two stages. We’re in the in between stage in which we must fight the good fight of faith; we must continue on this journey of faith as the incarnate Lord through his grace and through his sacraments and through the body of Christ builds us up on the one, true faith so that we might persevere and stand before the Lord at his second coming.
So when we read these enthronement hymns, sometimes they are talking about things that have already happened for us – the inaugurated kingdom of God – and sometimes they’re talking about things yet to come – the consummated kingdom of God.
So we’ve looked in Ps 96 as some things that have happened; the gentiles have been brought in. Let’s look at something that looks at both the first and second comings of Christ, vv 10-13.

prophetic perfect verb tense

In the prophets when talking about the coming kingdom and reign of God, they oftentimes used the perfect tense. The most common expression of that is the prophetic perfect. The perfect tense in the Hebrew is the past tense. Most of our prophetic oracles about the coming kingdom and reign of God are in the prophetic perfect tense. In other words, the prophet is so certain in vision of what is to come that he describes the event in the Hebrew past tense, what scholars call the prophetic perfect tense. Some of our English translations don’t bring that out. Instead, they’ll translate texts from the Hebrew prophetic perfect tense using the English future tense because that’s the meaning it has; it is something that is yet to come but in the original text it was put into the Hebrew perfect tense – which is the past tense – because it’s the prophetic perfect. So sometimes, for example, it’s found in the future tense in our English translations – Behold my servant will act wisely. – and at other times it will be translated in the past tense as he was treated harshly and afflicted. It’s the same prophetic vision of this suffering servant figure but the tense changes because sometimes you use the future tense which is the perfect tense in the Hebrew and other times you use the prophetic perfect because the prophet was so certain he could envision them as happening or as having happened.

This Ps is being addressed as if it’s a command to the hearers, as if all of this has already happened right now as the psalmist is writing. However, the setting of this psalm is a command given in this prophetic vision of this time when the reign of God will come. Literarily this is the prophetic perfect tense. It’s not something in the psalmist’s own time; it’s something the psalmist is envisioning as a prophetic author, as a prophet. We see this right in v 1.

The prophetic perfect tense is the literary technique which refers to future events in the past tense, known as deictic center shift. Deictic in grammar means pointing out, demonstrative. In the Hebrew and Aramaic idiom in which the Bible was written, when something was absolutely going to happen in the future, it is often spoken of as if it had already occurred in the past. Hebrew scholars are familiar with this idiom and refer to it as “the prophetic perfect.” In the prophetic perfect the past tense is used instead of the future tense when the speaker views the action as being as good as done.

Oftentimes when the prophets are prophesying these wonderful things of God to come they will say the LORD has done such and such – the LORD has bared his mighty arm and shown his strength. But they are speaking of the future so they use the perfect tense or the past tense because what is going to happen is so certain to happen that they can talk about it as something already having been fulfilled. Therefore, there are times when reading the Bible when some can get confused thinking they are talking of something in the past, when instead the prophets were talking about these great acts of salvation of God yet to come, things which have not really happened yet, even though it’s so certain that they will happen that the prophet puts it in the past tense (into the prophetic perfect tense). The perfect or past tense is used in Hebrew to describe things that have already happened, but the prophets and the psalmists constantly use them to describe things that are yet to come, and they do so because these things were promised by God and God always does what God says he will do. Therefore, the prophets are so certain these things will happen that they talk about them as if they have already come to pass. So the psalmist is looking ahead to this coming kingdom and reign of God, describing it as if it’s already here because he’s envisioning it when it will come. This is all prophetic for what’s to come when God reigns. As the psalmist writes this, Israel is actually in Exile. He’s envisioning what God is going to do for Israel and through Israel for all the world.

So Ps 96 is actually a prophetic Ps (in which the psalmist is looking forward to the new Exodus). Ps 96 has so many thematic and imagery connections with Is – especially in Is 40-66 – that it’s said to be one of our Isaianic Psalms. Therefore, some scholars even believe the author of Ps 40-66 also wrote the Isaian Psalms. Others believe it was written by a psalmist who loved Is.
Either way 2-3 Is and these Isaian Psalms serve as companion pieces sharing the same themes with much of the same imagery. Hence, Ps 96 is Isaianic in its theology and phraseology. It envisions this coming redemption that Isaiah envisions as coming, this coming time when God will be the king of all and when the kingdom and reign of God will come – this renewal of all things as we’ve discussed in the story behind the Story. So that’s what you are envisioning when you say in v 1 sing to YHWH a new song … v 1 is actually Exodus language envisioning the new Exodus.

Ps 96 is a hymn celebrating the LORD’s enthronement as king, one we’ve heard over and over.
It’s a beautiful poem that uses ‘staircase parallelism’ vv 1-2 and 7-8. In three short stanzas the psalm declares God’s rule over the universe:
as savior and deliverer; as sovereign of all peoples; as creator of the universe and as righteous judge of all.
Ps 96 is quoted in its entirety in 1 Chr 16 23-33 and much of it’s text is drawn from other Psalms 9 8; 29 1-2; 33 3a; 48 1; 95 3; 98 1a, 7a, 9 and from Is 40-55.

In Ps 96 we will see another part of this promise that we’ve touched upon again and again. Ps 96 is prophetically envisioning the coming reign of God to come; it’s prophetically envisioning all that is to come. What exactly is Ps 96 envisioning and how would you connect it up with these various themes of the climax we’ve seen thus far? The inclusion of the nations.

promise 7 – the inclusion of the nations into Israel
[See “God’s promises” section in NT lecture file.]

All of this “story behind the Story” is not just for Israel because the nations are also to be included into God’s plan for salvation (the Abrahamic covenant of Ge 12-22). We saw that in Is 10 and 25, this fulfillment of the fourth and climactic element of the Abrahamic covenant – the inclusion of the nations into Israel, the inclusion of the nations into God’s plan for salvation. Although we’ve seen that part of the promise before, Ps 96 sort of crystallizes the expectation we’ve been seeing elsewhere, bringing together various passages.

All Creation is rejoicing because it’s awaiting its renewal. This promise has cosmic scope; it’s for all Creation, not just for humanity. In the biblical framework all Creation was affected by the fall of humanity. Evil, sin, suffering and death entered the world. When God fulfills his promises for his people, he will fulfill his promises for not only all the nations, for all humanity, but also for all Creation. Behind this creational imagery is the renewal and restoration of all Creation.

v 1

Implied here is that YHWH has come so you can now come to worship him. The psalmist is exhorting the people (all the earth) to do what every good Israelite does; they sing to the LORD. They bless God’s name; they proclaim his salvation; they tell of his glory. The prophetic psalmist is envisioning this coming inclusion of the nations. The psalmist is talking about things as if they are present but it’s because the prophetic psalmist is envisioning the future as if it were already present. This is vision of time to come. The psalmist is envisioning the coming climax and fulfillment of God’s reign. The psalmist uses the prophetic perfect verb tense in which the prophet is so certain that something is going to happen that he talks about it as if it were already here.

This is an eschatological psalm envisioning the fulfillment of time. The psalmist is not saying to Praise the LORD because this world of evil, suffering and death – in which only the remnant within Israel know this one, true God – … the psalmist is not saying this world is wonderful and that’s the way things are always going to be. That is not what the psalmist is saying here. No, the psalmist is actually envisioning a time to come when a new song will be sung, this time in the future, this time in the eschaton (in the end at the conclusion of history. Not the end of time but the end of the present evil age as Paul calls it in Ga 1 4.).

Language of new song in the Bible means that God has done something new. You are no longer singing about the past things God has done – Creation, the Exodus and so on – but you’re singing this new event that God has done that the author is prophetically looking forward to, these events of salvation being foretold in Hebrew scriptures.
Hence, here, the psalmist saying sing to the Lord a new song is Bible code for the new Exodus. sing to YHWH a new song is an echo of, an allusion to the Exodus, in the time of God’s salvation and deliverance in Ex 15. There the people sang a new song to YHWH after they have been brought through the Red Sea.

So when you use this language of a new song, that’s an allusion to the Exodus and to this coming new Exodus that is central for our understanding of Scripture. It’s a new song because God is doing his new work which brings about this new Exodus and his salvation for all. The psalmist is prophetically using actual Exodus language, looking ahead to and envisioning the new Exodus.

all the earth: the inclusion of the nations

Sing to YHWH a new song, sing to YHWH all the earth. all the earth means all the nations. At the heart of this Ps is that this creator God is going to act so that Israel and all the earth can sing a new song. With all the earth the biblical author is prophetically envisioning this time of fulfillment when all the nations will be included in God’s plans. All people (all nations) will be singing and worshiping YHWH, not just Israel. all the earth will sing this new song.
This is the hope of the blessing to all nations we know from part four of the Abrahamic covenant. The whole biblical narrative is structured by the Abrahamic covenant: the promise of nation, land, and covenant relationship with YHWH (which is fulfilled in Ex, Le, Nu, Dt and so on) and then the fourth element of the Abrahamic covenant, the inclusion of the nations – something to which the biblical text is constantly looking forward.
Here it’s prophetically envisioned so we know it’s the time of fulfillment that the author is envisioning, this time when all the earth will sing to the LORD. As such, when this salvation comes it’s going to be judgment for the wicked and salvation for the righteous – not only for Israel but for all nations.

So this is Exodus language; it’s envisioning this time to come when God will do this. As a part of that expectation, this new event is going to be a new Exodus that will be even greater than the old Exodus. One thing that makes this new Exodus greater than the old – which we see throughout the prophets and Psalms and so on – is that it’s going to involve not just Israel but all the peoples of the earth.

This is envisioning that coming time when God will reign which is punctuated in v 3 tell of his glory among the nations, his wondrous miracles among all the peoples

v 3
Again, God’s glory is to be told among the nations. All the nations are to sing this new song.
These are wonders that God will do, the wonders that will accompany and be expressed in the new Exodus as well as all the events of salvation that will occur. That’s why a major theme of Is is this new song. God says through the prophet do not think of and look to the things of the past. Behold, I am doing something new (Is 43 18-19) – this new Exodus, this ultimate salvation.

v 4
So the psalmist is saying there are other gods. It may sound as though the psalmist is saying that there are many gods; it’s just that the LORD is the greatest of them all. V 5 clears it up even further.

v 5

We see Creation in v 5. At the root of the divine title “God” belonging to God alone is this biblical creational monotheism found here in v 5. The divine title in Ex 20 is “God”, a title that only belongs to the one, true God of Israel. The Bible will use the word god of the pagan deities around it but it will always qualify the use of god in some way as it does in Ps 96 with are but nothingnesses. The Hebrew word belimah here translated as idols actually means nothingnesses. So it’s the ultimate sarcasm. These gods of the people are actually nothingnesses.
This envisions the idolatry we saw introduced in Ge 3. Remember that idolatry grows out of creational monotheism and is unique to the Bible. The core sin of Adam and Eve and of humanity was worshiping something other than the one, true creator God as your God. The Hebrew word for idol is the biblical and prophetic way of expressing that these gods are nothingnesses. They are nothing at all because there is only one, true God.
So the divine title ‘God’ belongs to God alone, and the Bible only uses it for the one, true God. For the ancient Israelites, God’s title was holy.

v 6
So God is the Creator God. At the heart of this Ps is that this creator God is going to act so that Israel and all the earth can sing a new song. Notice in v 7 who is to sing this new song.

vv 7-9 prophetically envision the fulfillment of the fourth and climactic element of the Abrahamic covenant, the conversion of peoples from all nations as they come to know the one, true God.
Notice the psalmist exhorts the people to:
7 … to give glory and strength to the Lord,
8 to in faith give glory to God, to bring an offering and come into the courts of the temple,
9 to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, to tremble with faithful fear before him.
The psalmist is calling all the nations to do that, to worship YHWH and they come into his presence in vv 7-9.

v 7
This language of ascribe to YHWH O you families of the peoples is specific language from the Abrahamic covenant. It’s through Abraham’s seed that all the families of the peoples will be blessed. Here we have that exact phrase being invoked again. The peoples are exhorted to praise YHWH, to attribute glory and strength to the Lord. When God acts for Israel, it’s all the nations who are to sing this new song.

So while this text clearly envisions the inclusion of the nations, it’s also envisioning the fulfillment of Abrahamic covenant out of which comes God’s original promise regarding the blessing to all nations. When we first heard of the Abrahamic covenant in Ge 15 and 22, it was left mysterious. Then as the story moved along we saw that the inclusion of the nations involved the fulfillment of the fourth and climactic element of the Abrahamic covenant, the blessing to all nations. With the Exile the Abrahamic covenant seemed to be at its end, however the prophet promised that YHWH would still gloriously fulfill that. This Ps is not describing things happening in the psalmist’s own day. The psalmist is envisioning these things to come. Notice how beautifully the psalmist predicts the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. This is a promise of blessing for all nations which will reverse the tragedy of Ge 3 and put back on track God’s good plan for his created order and all peoples we had in Ge 1-2.

No longer will it be only one nation who knows the one, true God. People from all nations will be able to come to worship God. People from all nations never worshiped the one, true God in the prophet’s (the psalmist’s) day. This is not the forced inclusion of all; you always have the biblical concept that for those who turn to him, God’s salvation will be available to all nations, but those who rebel against God, whether Jew or gentile, they will undergo judgment (the double judgment). So this is an inclusion of all from the nations who will turn to God.

He is saying this inclusion is going to happen which is why he says in v 10 …

vv 8-9
These families of the peoples (v 7, ie, again the nations) are going to come into his courts (v 8) and worship YHWH (v 9). They are coming into the very presence of God.
We have here this call to worship the LORD. Through the new Exodus the people have come to God’s land and now they have come to the holy temple of God. They are worshiping the LORD and bringing in an offering (v 8). They are worshiping the LORD in the beauty of holiness (v 9). Those envisioned as doing this are all the earth (v 9) and O families of the peoples (v 7).
tremble here means with Godly fear

vv 10-12
These vv link up with Is 11 1-9.
Notice that now at least through this activity of God, this creation is renewed and restored and put on its firm foundation. Indeed, the Creation is established forever. It will never be removed v 10.

v 10

We see what is at the heart of this psalm here in v10: the LORD is king. Where? Among the nations. At the heart of this enthronement hymn is this coming kingdom of God, God himself coming to us. One might say, “of course the LORD is and always has been king.” But these Psalms looked forward to a coming kingdom of God which would overturn the evil effects of “the Fall” and which would overturn evil, sin, suffering and death itself so that God would be truly king over a Creation now renewed and restored. So they looked forward to a wonderful promise when God would become king.

This is prophetic psalm; the psalmist is looking ahead to the time of this coming kingdom and reign of God – when the God of Israel will become the God of all the earth. This is the hope of the inclusion of the nations which we see as the climactic element of the Abrahamic covenant. We see people exhorted to sing to the LORD in worship.

the coming of YHWH to Zion / the kingdom of God

The psalmist in v 10 is envisioning the coming kingdom and reign when God is king and is reigning over all Creation because he has now put down his enemies – evil, sin, suffering and death. [Note: When later authors, such as the author of He in He 2 5, echo this text, of course, the kingdom of God will have already come; it will have already been inaugurated through Christ. As such, the inaugurated kingdom of God will be a past event. However, here in the time of promise it was before the kingdom of God had come, and the biblical author was envisioning the coming kingdom of God. He was envisioning both the inaugurated and consummated kingdom of God altogether, the whole kingdom of God which would come, culminating in the second advent of Christ.]

In other words, these families of the peoples v 7 are going to come into his courts v 8 and worship YHWH v 9 and that’s because he’s going to act to bring his kingdom. This is talking about the coming fulfillment time of the Abrahamic covenant. This is this idea of this coming kingdom and reign of God coming to consummation when YHWH is king, when YHWH reigns.

Now, that was not to say that YHWH isn’t always king; it’s not a timeless thing. This was not to say that YHWH was not always king because he was the creator God and he always was king! As creator God he was king and always had been and always would be king. But here the psalmist was telling us that God had begun his reign, and that at some point in the future God was going to take up his reign and rule in a new manner, in a manner unlike the manner in which he was ruling now. God would become king in this new way, not just by creating but now by redeeming and saving and transforming his people and his creation. That is, when this fulfillment time came, YHWH would be king as YHWH should be king. So here in this Ps the psalmist was talking about the time when the kingdom of God would come in its fullness in the time of final consummation.

When reading our biblical texts, we must always remember that Creation had gone astray in the “Fall” of Ge 3. Because of human rebellion God’s good Creation was out-of-whack, and humanity was given over into death. YHWH was not being worshiped as he should be worshiped. The creator God, however, would bring the kingdom and reign of God; he would bring redemption to his people. He would set things right and he would do this in history. Then, when he defeated evil, sin, suffering and death, YHWH would be king as he should be.

So the psalmist is not talking about the LORD reigning from day one to forever; this is an actual statement of what God is going to do when the LORD has become king. That is, when the kingdom and reign of God comes, God will have taken his throne and reigned the way that God must reign if all Creation is to be renewed and restored.

Notice what is now envisioned in v 10. At least through this activity of God, this Creation is renewed and restored and put on its firm foundation. Indeed, the Creation is established forever. the world is now firmly established and it will never be moved (v 10). Always also remember that God is not about doing away with his original good Creation as some popularists, as well as theologians who misunderstand the Jewish context of the OT, think. God is all about restoring his good Creation. God set that plan in motion before time began and it’s been God’s project in process ever since!

All of the promises of God brought together are known in the Bible as the kingdom of God – the coming time when God will reign in a way he’s not reigning now. Then he will fully fulfill his promises to Israel and to all nations and will be known among all nations. It will be then that the kingdom of God will have fully come. Here in v 10 the psalmist is talking about a coming kingdom and reign of God in the kingdom of God in which the Creation will now be put on a firm footing – renewed and restored for everlasting life.

Kingdom of God is a cipher, shorthand talk, a code for all these promises that will consummate the story behind the Story. See longitudinal kingdom of God chart. The kingdom of God includes the new Exodus, the new covenant, the Davidic kingship, the renewal and restoration of all Creation, the resurrection of the body, the inclusion of the nations and the coming of YHWH to Zion. The kingdom of God comes to consummation when God does all these things. And that’s why the psalmist sums it all up here in v 10 and proclaims loudly among the nations, YHWH is king!!! Notice then that the whole Creation will rejoice vv 11 ff.

The word judge here has a negative connotation, just as does the word law. But the word judge is often used in the Bible with a positive connotation as it is here. He’s going to judge the peoples with his truth. It’s not that he’s going to condemn them. Instead, he’s going to bring his saving justice to them judging with equity. We’ll see more and more of that in Is which comes later in our discussion.

v 12
the renewal and restoration of all Creation

In v 10 we have this promise of a renewed and restored earth which will come with God’s coming kingdom and reign. And we have the heavens being glad and the earth rejoicing and the sea roaring (v 11) and the field exulting and everything in it and the trees of the forest singing for joy (v 12). All of the created order is depicted as rejoicing. That is why poetically the biblical writers throughout Is and the Isaian Psalms constantly depict the whole Creation – human and nonhuman – as if waiting on tiptoe, anxiously anticipating and singing for joy as we see in this wonderful poetic imagery of vv 11-12. The psalmist prophetically envisions all these parts of Creation exulting and rejoicing in expectation, reminding us of the renewal and restoration and transformation of all Creation that will be when YHWH becomes king.

When YHWH becomes king, all of Creation will share in this restoration, and so the whole Creation is exhorted to rejoice and to sing the praises of the new king. The whole of Creation includes the heavens, the earth, the sea and the field and everything in them as it awaits this great event. Even the trees of the forest sing for joy. The whole of Creation is about to be renewed and restored. Just as Creation was for all of creation, though human beings were the pinnacle of God’s good Creation made in the image of God, so also this promise of the kingdom of God is a promise of the renewal and restoration of all Creation. It’s not just for humanity; it’s for the whole created order. So the whole created order is depicting as exulting and anxiously awaiting this renewed Creation.

The psalmist depicts the whole Creation singing because of the promise of the coming renewal and restoration of all Creation. The psalmist’s depiction is not so much a plea as it is an exhortation. The psalmist is looking ahead to this day to come and saying that because of this, “Creation, rejoice! Creation, exalt because God is coming!” So it’s something future for the psalmist, but he’s looking ahead and he’s so certain for him that he’s saying, “Creation, rejoice because God is coming!”
And, of course, God has come for us, and yet he’s also yet to come in the consummated way. So we Christians live in the inaugurated kingdom as we await the consummated kingdom.

When humanity rebelled against God, when idolatry marred everything for humanity, it also marred everything for Creation as well. So this problem involved all of humanity – both Israel as well as all peoples – but it also involved all of Creation. From the “Fall” of Ge 3 we have 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. So when humanity would be fully restored, Creation, as well, would be fully restored. Hence, all of Creation was eagerly awaiting in expectation this event to come, this time of renewal of the whole created order just as in the Ge narrative. This was the ultimate plan of the Creator God within the biblical framework.

Coming next is the heart of the promise – the ultimate consummation of all these hopes in v 13. The whole of Creation is depicted as though on tiptoe, awaiting God and especially rejoicing because God himself was coming to his people in order to renew and restore his Creation. for he is coming, he is coming to bring this saving justice (righteousness) to the earth. (v 13). God himself coming is the central hope that unites all the hopes.

v 13
The reason for all the promises we’ve been discussing is found here in v 13: for he is coming.

the coming of YHWH to Zion

This central biblical theme is the climactic promise of this entire poem, the coming of YHWH to Zion – the core of all these promises. YHWH is coming to renew all things. God is going to come to his Creation in some glorious way and dwell among his people. We later learn that YHWH comes as that incarnate Son, Jesus of Nazareth, wonderfully, and unexpectedly, fulfilling both streams of expectation – that of the (human) messianic Davidic king and that of the coming of (the divine) YHWH to Zion. As such, Jesus is not only the Creator God but he’s also the Redeemer God. This is at the center of this poem and at the center of so many other Psalms within the psalter. [Back to the hymn to Christ in Co 1.]

for he is coming

This psalm, of course, prophetically envisions the coming of YHWH to Zion, or we could even say the coming of YHWH to his Creation. YHWH himself is coming into his Creation in order to renew and restore it. Notice also the important role the nations play. The whole focus of the psalmist is also on this salvation and truth coming not just for Israel but also for the nations.

Remember that we have two different hopes here: the coming of the human Davidic messianic and the coming of YHWH himself to Zion. While both of these promises are important, the coming of YHWH to Zion is the ultimate promise. All other hopes and promises in Scripture cluster around this core, central promise of the coming of YHWH to Zion. YHWH is personally going to come and dwell among all his people in a way we can’t imagine or predict. This promise of YHWH’s coming dwarfs the promise of the Davidic Messiah. Hence, here in Ps 96 you can sometimes leave out the Davidic Messiah promise but you can never leave out the promise of the coming of YHWH to Zion which comes last and most importantly and climactically because it is thee core promise. That may sound surprising to many Christians who wonder how the promise of the Christ, the Davidic Messiah, can take a back seat. Still, and as important as the human Davidic Messiah is, within the Bible text itself, thee core promise is always the coming of YHWH to Zion.

And now we see that part of that has happened through the Incarnation. God himself has entered into his Creation. Through the Incarnation God’s own presence and Spirit is at work in us. It’s because of the Incarnation that Christ can truly be present with us in this mysterious way in the Holy Eucharist and that God is a work in us and in his Church. Therefore, we are made new creations in Christ but the whole Creation will not be remade into a new Creation until the second coming of Christ.

Now we want to focus on one more key passage, Is 45.
Notice how this whole picture is very eschatological, theocentric, apocalyptic and world-transforming. It’s going to bring about the renewal and restoration of all Creation – a stunning expectation completely unique to the Bible. No where else in the ancient or modern world do you have anything like this, that humanity and all Creation are going to be renewed and restored by this true, creator God. Nowhere!

Notice how in the manner of Ps 1 this will be the ultimate hope and blessing for the righteous who love YHWH. And yet, this will be the ultimate curse for the wicked who don’t want anything to do with the presence of YHWH. This is going to bring judgment for the wicked and salvation for the righteous when YHWH comes to Zion. The double judgment.

to judge the earth uses the Hebrew word shaphat sh fte´ which does not mean to judge only in the bad sense; it also means to bring justice and righteousness. It does involve bringing judgment on those who turn from God, but it also involves putting all things right with God and people – God saving his people and God judging those who continue in evil. The idea in the Hebrew is that God is coming to put everything right in the earth. This will be the centerpiece of this kingdom of God.

With this background we’re now in a position to grasp the beauty and power of the biblical passage with which 2 Is opens at Is 40 1-11.
But first, let’s look at another place – Ps 100 – where Israel is dealt with as the means by which God brings those from all nations to know him.

Note:

It was only after the resurrection that the disciples put the two streams of expectation together. Before the resurrection there were no intimations on the part of the disciples that they understood Jesus to be the fulfillment of both streams of expectation. We see in all the gospels that the resurrection is what flips the switch and they understand.

The reason the resurrection flips the switch and that they understand is that they were good Jews. The Jewish people knew that the great enemy of humankind was physical death. They wouldn’t have any time for the kind of things that sometimes in our culture we talk about and that Plato talked about as if it’s OK if the body dies as long as the soul goes to heaven or something like that. No! Not at all! The hope of the Jewish Scriptures and of the OT and of Jewish people was the resurrection of the dead. They believed that was going to come about because there was one God, the Creator God, who, when his coming kingdom and reign came, was going to show he was the true Creator God by doing something only the Creator God could do – he was going to defeat death. The Creator God was going to have victory over even death itself.

Then, when Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples realized that this Jesus had just defeated death; this Jesus had just had victory over death. They realized that the only one who could do that was God, YHWH, the God of Israel. Therefore, Jesus had to be not just the Messiah as Peter confessed him at Caesarea Philippi but God come in the flesh. That’s why it’s after the resurrection when Jesus comes before Thomas and says to put his hand his side and wrist that Thomas said my Lord and my God. Thomas realized through the resurrection who Jesus really was. He was God himself in the flesh.

Ps 97

Ps 97 joins Psalms 93; 95; 96; 98 and 99 in joyfully proclaiming the power and majesty of God’s rule over all Creation. However, in this psalm we glimpse a fearsome side to God’s rule as he comes with destructive power against those who worship false gods.

Ps 97 is another enthronement hymn. The psalmist is envisioning the coming kingdom and reign of God. The great hope of the OT is what theologians and biblical scholars call the coming of YHWH to Zion.
But this enthronement hymn is different. This one talks about a coming of God which is for salvation but is also for judgment on God’s enemies. We know that the Lord himself said that I did not come into the world to judge but that the world through me might be saved (Jn 3 17). Now is the time for following Christ. Now is the time we must make the greatest decision any human being must make, whether to love and follow Christ to love and know God or to reject God.

And as the Church has always taught, and as Scriptures have always taught, the second coming of Christ will be the time of the final, last judgment when our decision for or against God is finally brought out into the open. Thus, while Ps 96 seems to speak prophetically of both Christ’s first and second coming, Ps 97, on the other hand, actually speaks prophetically of Christ’s second coming.
Another reason for believing that point is that the Hebrew scriptures indicate that as well. For instance, when the author of He quotes Ps 97, he quotes it with respect to the second coming and not the first. Also, the Church in its teaching on this psalm has always taught that it refers to Christ’s second coming. So we’ll take for granted that it refers to Christ’s second coming.

v 1
The theme in this enthronement hymn is again the LORD is king. This is prophetically looking forward to the coming kingdom and reign of God. This is a way of saying the whole world will be caught up in this. It isn’t something for Israel alone. It’s something that’s going to be a salvation for all nations.
Notice that this is not going to be a coming like the first coming, in the lowliness and meekness of the Incarnation. Instead, this is a coming in power and glory, in judgment for the wicked and salvation for the righteous.

Interestingly the psalmist could look forward to these things, to the kingdom of God yet to come when it wasn’t yet there. On the other hand, we are looking back in one sense knowing that the kingdom of God has already been inaugurated. But in another sense we, too, are still looking forward to that second coming yet to come, bolstered in our faith in seeing how the prophetic psalmist through the power of the Spirit predicted all these things centuries ago.

V 2
mishpat (justice) is an untranslatable word that means making all things right with God and with people.

V 3
Notice also that this is a coming in judgment. Fire goes before him and burns up his enemies roundabout.
This is God coming with power to right all things, to judge the wicked and to save the righteous.

Here in vv 5-6 the mighty presence of God is coming for judgment.
You see the idea that the earth shakes because the holy presence of God is there.
heavens declare his righteousness and all the people see (have seen) his glory.

v 6
This is describing not the coming of the Messiah but the greater coming of YHWH to Zion.

v 7
Now when God comes, all those who worship idols, who turn from God, are put to shame. Let all those be ashamed who turn from the true God to worship whatever idols they may choose – either the idols of ancient times or the idols of the various worships across the globe or the cultural idols that we may have. They are to be ashamed to turn from the true God to these idols.

There is something very neat here about the biblical teaching and the church’s teaching which focuses on the second coming and the last judgment and the renewal of all things. This is something we really miss in our piety that misplaces the second coming and only focuses on our soul going to heaven. Many think of it as “well, if my soul is in heaven with God, it doesn’t matter if God’s name is cursed in the world.” They think it doesn’t matter if evil and horrible injustice reign and that it doesn’t matter if God’s people are persecuted, even to the point of death.

But is does matter. In the biblical picture the hope is of this second coming of Christ. That will be the last judgment which will put all things right. Evil is judged definitively. Evil does not have the last word. God has the last word. There is this public, cosmic character to the last judgment. It’s something that all will see. V 6. The heavens declare his righteousness. All the peoples see his glory.

Another possible rendering of v 7b is all you gods worship him. That’s a way of saying sardonically, “These gods are no gods at all. Let all these false gods worship the true God.” It’s that exhortation again.

Another thing Ps 97 may be saying – and this is the way the author to He takes it and the way it’s translated in the Septuagint – is that you can speak of the angels as Elohim. So this would then be rightly translated as let all the angels worship him. So we also have in He 1 6 … Let all God’s angels worship him. See notes there. Those who boast of idols are to be ashamed; the true God alone is to be worshiped.
But notice here that you have the coming of YHWH and all the angels worship him … This is a wonderful OT depiction of the coming of YHWH to Zion.

v 9
The truth of God is vindicated. All those who turn from God and all false teachings and all false religions and all those who turn from God and all their belief systems are shown to be false.

This is that time the church always looks forward to but also with great holy fear, not fear in the sense of craven fear but holy fear of God knowing that we must stand before the judgment seat of Christ as all the world must stand.

v 12
Seeing how the psalm ends, what is to be our response during this period in the inaugurated kingdom of God while awaiting the consummated kingdom of God? We are to hate evil (v 10), we who love the LORD.
Because, the reason is, God is going to come and put all things right. He is going to judge the wicked and save his people. The coming of YHWH to Zion.

That’s what this Ps is all about. Notice that in Ps 97 we have nothing about the messianic king which is, nevertheless, still an important hope in the OT. But this coming of YHWH to Zion is the far greater hope and therefore this whole Ps is about the coming of YHWH to Zion.

In fact the holy writers of the NT teach how to read this psalm. To see how this psalm is echoed in the NT, go to He 1. Back now to He 1 6.

In this time of the inaugurated kingdom of God, God calls a people to know and love him but God’s enemies remained powerful. In this time of the inaugurated kingdom of God, Christ has not yet put all his enemies under his feet. Ps 97 talks about the time in the consummated kingdom of God when he will do that, when he will, once and of all, put all his enemies under his feet.
So now God is calling a people out of this world which is opposed to God to be a people united with him. We call that people who are united to Christ the Church. The Church are those people called out from among all nations, both Jews and gentiles, to know God, to know Christ and to follow him.
Neatly, these enthronement hymns talk about the coming kingdom of God to form a people for himself. And we have a whole type of psalm that talks about the people of God, that talks about the Church, that talks about the people of God as the true Israel. Whether Jew or gentile, those who follow Christ are the true Israel. They follow the true Messiah and the true God of Israel. These Psalms are called the hymns of Zion.

So we see that when people stand before God to be judged, only two responses are possible: terrified humiliation or joyful thanksgiving. Which will it be for each of us? The cross was where God’s justice was served and his anger appeased on our behalf. The empty tomb was the assurance that we are preserved for eternal life. We are to rejoice because his judgment is that we are his saints, the upright in heart, by grace through faith. We are to ask that God would help to smash the idols we are tempted to revere so that we might worship only God and God alone.
Ps 98

Ps 98 is a prophetic psalm in which the psalmist prophetically looks forward to things to come, just as does Ps 96, envisioning and describing this larger biblical narrative of the coming kingdom and reign of God that has been fulfilled in Christ and which will be fulfilled ultimately in Christ’s second coming when the kingdom of God consummates and God becomes king over all the earth and reigns as God is to reign.

Ps 98 envisions the revelation of the coming of God’s righteousness. Ps 98 tells us what God’s righteousness is all about. Ps 98 is the climax of the biblical story in miniature – not the whole kingdom of God story, but in it you will see almost every theme of the climax (the hope of the new Exodus, the inclusion of the nations, the renewal and restoration of all Creation, the coming of YHWH to Zion). The psalmist looks forward to this coming as if it’s already here (that is, in the prophetic perfect tense).

Ps 98 is an enthronement hymn which talks about that coming time when God will truly reign. It’s all about this coming human reign of God that we’ve learned the whole OT was all about. Ps 98 is a kingdom of God psalm which talks about the wonderful things that God is going to do. This is something you often have in the prophets, especially in Is. It’s one of the so-called Isaian Psalms because they have so much imagery and thought from the book of Is. They sound so much like Is. In fact, many scholars believe Ps 98 was written by Isaiah.

Paul in Ro describes people already praising God for this coming of YHWH to Zion because it’s now come. Paul also echoes Ps 98 in Ro 1 16-17 and in Ro 3 21 where he talks about the righteousness of God. Although they debate over the meaning of the righteousness of God, all scholars are agreed that this concept righteousness of God comes from and is a big concept in the OT. We will find that righteousness of God means something entirely different than we could ever have expected it to mean when we actually read it in the OT.

v 1
The psalmist was actually talking about the coming kingdom and reign of God. Although it’s talking about these events as if in the past, we shouldn’t think that the psalmist is talking about events that have happened.
This Ps is sometimes in present tense, sometimes in past tense. Scholars call this the prophetic perfect verb tense (the prophetic past tense) in Hebrew because you are envisioning these things that will happen in the future as if they have already happened. It’s describing “in the past tense” events as if they have happened, events that are going to happen. In other words, just like in Is and like many other prophets, we have the prophetic perfect where you use the Hebrew perfect tense which much of the time refers to past time but the prophetic psalmist is looking forward “in vision” to the coming kingdom and reign of God, and it’s looking forward to that kingdom and reign of God as if it’s now happened. The prophet or the psalmist is looking ahead to God’s coming kingdom and reign and is so sure that it’s coming that they will express it in vision as if it’s already here. So it’s prophetically looking forward to something that is yet to happen.
For example: You say, “The LORD has begun his reign.” He’s envisioning when this will happen; it isn’t happening now. He’s going to work salvation – although it hasn’t happened yet. He’s going to do wonderful things – although they haven’t happened yet, but he’s going to do them. So certain are they that “in vision” the prophet sees them as already having been accomplished.

From main glossary:
The Exodus event, commemorated annually in Passover and other Jewish festivals, gave the Israelites not only a powerful memory of what had made them a people, but also a particular shape and content to their faith in YHWH as not only the Creator God but also the Redeemer God. The old Exodus was the center of the old covenant, and when the promises of God would be fulfilled, the understanding of the people of God was that there would be a new Exodus. Therefore, in subsequent enslavements, particularly in the Exile, the Jewish people looked for a further redemption which would be, in effect, a new Exodus. So the Passover is about the old Exodus but it’s especially about the new Exodus. It’s about what will be the ultimate saving act of God.
Some scholars use the phrase “second Exodus” but new Exodus is clearly superior because it’s not just a second Exodus like it is the Exodus all over again. Passage after passage makes clear that new Exodus will be like the old Exodus but so much infinitely greater. Therefore, the old Exodus is to be understood as the foreshadow or type of the new Exodus. The new Exodus will be the ultimate saving activity of God.

the new Exodus

sing a new song here in Ps 98 is actually echoing a previous event where a song was sung – the Exodus passage in which they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground through the midst of the wall of waters that drown the Egyptians in Ex 13-14 and after which they sang the song of Moses and of Miriam in Ex 15 1.
1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: “I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.

When God had done that miracle and they were on the other side, they sang a new song to the Lord. The psalmist was echoing this great Exodus event but now he was envisioning a future event when God would again act and when again everyone was going to sing this new song. So this Ps exhorted the hearers to sing a new song as God displayed his mighty power. God had now done miraculous, marvelous things. He had brought his salvation.
So whether it was in future tense or past tense, it doesn’t matter because the prophet was prophetically envisioning what was to come.

In that the psalmist was now many centuries later here in Ps 98 echoing the Exodus, it’s crucial in our understanding of the Bible that we know that the psalmist was here prophetically looking forward to the new Exodus that we’ve learned the people of Israel had been awaiting in their story behind the Story. So we have this concept of the new Exodus.

Here you have the general form, the God ‘who’ …

have won (worked) salvation for him is to say that the Creator God is also the Redeemer God.

v 2
Here now in this v the psalmist was envisioning the future when God would make known his salvation.
Remember Books 1-3 (Ps 3-89) showcase the tragic drama of the suffering of the righteous at the hands of the wicked. The wicked seem to be in control, and God seems to be no where around. Why has God forsaken them? In light of the tragic drama of Ps 3-89 in which God’s righteousness and faithfulness are called into question, why would these events reveal God’s righteousness and faithfulness? Weren’t they revealed already?

Of course, we know that these enthronement hymns were fulfilled in the coming of Christ, in the Incarnation. In this inexpressibly wonderful way this ultimate Davidic king, Jesus, who was the Christ, the Messiah, was also the LORD himself, God come in the flesh to his people, to his Creation. The Incarnation of Christ fulfilled this. And the kingdom was inaugurated through Jesus’ first coming and his resurrection. It will be fully consummated at his second coming when we are being transformed through the Holy Spirit – sanctification, theosis, or whatever you want to call it – so that we may be transforming agents of God for others. That’s what being a saint is all about – being transformed by God so that you can be God’s agent and servant in order to spread God’s transformation and God’s message. We are doing this in the inaugurated kingdom of God as we look forward to the consummation of the kingdom when Christ comes again to renew the whole created order. He’s going to give that ultimate life that the psalmist talked about in which he will even raise our bodies from the dead. There will be the resurrection of the body and the renewal and restoration of the whole Creation.

So this is the great promise of God that the Psalms looked forward to in the enthronement hymns. [Remember the enthronement hymns are all about God being enthroned as king, about God ruling and reigning in his Creation as God must rule and reign in order for all people to be blessed, for evil to be defeated and for goodness to reign. Enthronement hymns are about God retaking his Creation back from the evil, sin, suffering and death which had entered as intruders into God’s good Creation through the “Fall”.]

Notice how the psalm described that. When this happened according Ps 98 2, what was God going to make known? 2 YHWH has made known his salvation; he has revealed (made known) his righteousness before (in the sight of) all the nations. That is, God would make known his salvation. God was saving us. God was saving our souls through sanctification, through transforming us. God is at work in our souls and bodies, and he will save our bodies from everlasting death at the second coming. It’s this salvation of the whole person, and it was described here in v 2 as God making his salvation known.

God has now brought this salvation that’s going to be this everlasting salvation for the righteous. Remember, within the biblical framework, it’s going to involve the resurrection of the dead in which for the righteous – evil, sin, suffering and death will be defeated. Remember the vision of Is 25 where God will wipe away every tear. So salvation will have come is the biblical idea here in this psalm.

And then we have the second half of the verse: the righteousness of God.

“righteousness” of Ps 98

But when that salvation comes, what will that reveal about God? God’s righteousness. So what is God’s righteousness in this psalm? In fact, we don’t even have a definition for it in the English. The definition of righteousness is so big and so “God” that we don’t have anything like this outside Scripture. The psalmist says he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. Notice how he’s using that. God is so righteous that when he reveals his righteousness, it’s not a righteousness that only God has. God is fully righteous. But God is doing something more. His righteousness is saving people; it’s renewing people; it’s transforming people; it’s transforming the whole Creation. God’s righteousness is something that’s so great that it spills over. It saves. It renews. It makes people righteous.
Return now to Ps 143 to see how the psalmist is using the word righteousness in the same way. Notice that in Ps 143 he wants God to save him beginning in v 1 …

In Ps 89 we read where are you Lord? Why do the wicked prosper? Why do you stand afar off in times of trouble? Why have you allowed these things to happen to your people? Why do the righteous suffer? This revealing of God’s righteousness will be the ultimate answer to those questions when God will vindicate, redeem and save the righteous, and God will judge the wicked. That’s going to good news for the righteous but bad news for the wicked, and it will reveal that God is this righteous, faithful God which the people of Israel believed he was all the time. It will fully reveal that to all peoples, both the righteous and the wicked. When God brings this ultimate salvation, it will reveal who’s in control and who is righteous. It will reveal that God does give this good destiny for the righteous who know and follow him, and it will reveal that he does judge the wicked.

So, in the context of Ps 98, what kind of righteousness is this here and what does it mean? In fact, this righteousness of Ps 98 is a good example of what the righteousness of God means throughout the OT. Here in v 2 God has revealed his righteousness to the nations which does not mean, however, that this is bad news for the nations from the point of view that they now know how righteous God is and how sinful they are. No, it’s a righteousness that is this active, saving, delivering righteousness.

So whose righteousness is this that is being revealed? Is this righteousness God’s own righteousness or a righteousness given to human beings?
All of this can be described and summed up in Ps 98 2 as the display of God’s righteousness. The phrase has revealed his righteousness would say that Wright has it correct here, that this righteousness of God is God’s own righteousness. He has revealed his righteousness …
It’s God’s own righteousness here in Ps 98 because it centers on God’s faithfulness to the covenant and his promises. God is righteous because he’s made these wonderful promises, and now he is fulfilling them. He’s righteous because he’s made promises, and he’s not only willing and loving to fulfill these promises, but he has the power to fulfill them.

So we should therefore notice how naturally v 3 follows from v 2. v 3 He has revealed his covenant love and faithfulness to Israel. … In other words, in vv 2-3 this righteousness is related to God’s faithfulness to the covenant and his promises.

When we read of righteousness in the Bible, very often it’s used to mean God’s saving activity. It’s God being faithful to his promises. It’s not calling on people to do anything. It’s what God is going to do. And then, of course, you have the response to that, human righteousness. And that’s all about humanity’s faithfulness to God and the covenant relationship.
Righteousness is all relational in the Bible, whether in the vertical relationship between God and human beings or in the horizontal relationship between human beings in the sight of God. That’s the covenental idea. That’s where you get the twofold love command: You shall love the Lord your God and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

God was fulfilling his promises to Israel – the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, the Davidic covenant, the new Exodus, the new covenant and all the rest. This was the revelation of God’s righteousness and it was something for the nations. That is, it was through God’s righteousness that the nations were coming to know God. So this prophetically looked forward to the inclusion of the nations – the climactic element of the Abrahamic covenant when God would save Israel. God was fulfilling his promises to his people Israel; he was renewing all of Creation; he was coming. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God (v 3).

v 3
He has remembered doesn’t mean as though God had forgotten something. Instead, it means that God has now put it into concrete action. God (v 2) has revealed his righteousness. How so? He has remembered his covenant love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel, and the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God (v 3). he has remembered always has an active sense of the Bible; when God remembers, God is acting to fulfill his promises. God made a covenant – the Abrahamic – and a promise and now he’s fulfilling them.

When God reveals his righteousness, it’s his righteousness; it belongs to him; it’s his faithfulness to the covenant. When God does this, precisely because God is who God is, he makes known his salvation. When God reveals his own righteousness, all these wonderful things happen. The nations are brought in; Creation is renewed; YHWH himself comes to dwell among his people. This righteousness belonging to God is nevertheless an active thing.

So what kind of righteousness is this? Is it a stand-pat righteousness that just judges the wicked and rewards the faithful, or is it a salvation-creating righteousness? This righteousness of God is not an inert thing but an active, powerful, transforming, delivering, redeeming and saving righteousness. This righteousness of God does all these things in this psalm. Thus, it’s a salvation-creating righteousness. It belongs to God. It’s God’s own righteousness that creates salvation, that creates this transformation, that creates this redemption. It’s saving, redeeming, transforming, delivering and renewing. In vv 1-3 God is bringing salvation! That’s how he’s revealing his righteousness. God brings salvation. See Ro 3 21 notes. God is saving all people who will turn to him. He’s saving the faithful among the people of Israel and he’s saving all the gentiles – all the ends of the earth (v 3) will see the salvation of our God. God is coming to save. So the whole idea of Ps 98 is that God’s salvation is a powerful salvation-creating thing, something we see Paul addressing in his thematic statement for Ro in Ro 1 16-17.
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

In fact, some of our translations translate this literally and some don’t.
For example, in v 2 the actual Hebrew word used is righteousness so there in v 2 he is revealing his righteousness to the nations – his faithful covenant love to Israel. This is the revelation of God’s righteousness.

Notice also in vv 2-3 how at the same time when God is revealing (bringing) his salvation for the nations, God is also revealing his covenental faithfulness to Israel. How so and with which covenant? All of this kingdom and reign of God is an outworking of the Abrahamic covenant.

First, steadfast love and faithfulness are covenant words. The word translated as unbreakable love / unconditional love / steadfast love for his people comes from the Hebrew word chesed, meaning covenant love (as we saw in Am). God is in covenant with his people. God is not going to break it. It’s like a marriage; God is not going to be unfaithful. God is not going to let Israel go because he’s promised to be faithful and love Israel. God is going to be faithful to the covenant which he made with his people. However, the problem, of course, is, as we’ve seen throughout Israel’s history, … the problem is that it’s always Israel who is unfaithful, and just like a marriage, a covenant takes two. That’s why you had the Exile. But in this new Exodus when God remarries his people, it will be everlasting because he’s going to bring about this new covenant in which he transforms their hearts.

Next, because of God’s faithfulness to his covenant notice that when he fulfills his promises for Israel, all the ends of the earth see the salvation of our God (v 3). The whole world is going to be saved. There is this wonderful thought within the biblical story that as soon as God fulfills his promises for Israel, it will be blessing and salvation for all the nations as well which goes all the way back to the Abrahamic covenant – the promise of nation, land, the promise that he’ll be their God – that he would save and redeem his people – and that they (Israel) will be a blessing to all nations. So here the psalmist is prophetically saying that God is going to do this. God is going to fulfill the promise he made to Abraham to be a blessing to all nations. The psalmist is foreseeing this. All of this is the outworking of God’s covenant love in the Abrahamic covenant.

Therefore, the psalmist is envisioning the climax and fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant brings salvation for Israel and then brings God’s salvation to all the nations because the climactic promise of the Abrahamic covenant was this inclusion of the nations, that is, God’s blessing to all nations. So this was the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant leading to inclusion of the nations thereby fulfilling all of God’s faithful promises to Israel. As such, the psalmist was envisioning the fulfillment of all of the promises of God, of this whole biblical story.
Therefore, God’s righteousness is revealed to all the nations. This is the climax of the Abrahamic covenant. That’s what this covenant language is all about. God has remembered his covenant love and his faithfulness means that he has fulfilled this Abrahamic covenant once for all.

And then in vv 4-6 we see that all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

v 4
Since God is coming to save in vv 1-3, since God is the saving and redeeming God, in vv 4-6 we in response have this wonderful depiction of the worship of YHWH only breaking out everywhere. All the earth is depicted as singing and worshiping YHWH. They are not worshiping false gods; they are worshiping YHWH. This is a wonderful, dramatic way of depicting all of humanity who will turn to the LORD – the inclusion of the nations – just as the psalmist in Ps 143 turned to the LORD. Other Psalms tell us that those who turn from God, however, will come under judgment.

Strikingly, the inclusion of the nations is stressed even more powerfully in vv 4-6 where all the earth (the nations) is exhorted to worship YHWH. The prophet is envisioning all peoples now worshiping God. They are singing praises to YHWH with the lyre v 5 and so on. Because God has brought salvation to the nations, all the ends of the earth v 3 and all the earth v 4 are envisioned as singing (shouting) for joy to the Lord in this song. YHWH has brought salvation to the nations as well as Israel. This psalm is prophetically envisioning all the nations worshiping YHWH, becoming part of Israel, worshiping Israel’s God. Thus, again, it’s this theme of the inclusion of the nations – the climactic theme within the Abrahamic covenant itself. This will happen when the new Exodus occurs. That is, when God reveals his righteousness; the new Exodus happens. He’s faithful and the Abrahamic covenant is fulfilled which means the nations are transformed to turn to God – the inclusion of the nations. We see these themes cascading here one upon another. They are all part of the biblical expectation.

What other great biblical hope is being envisioned as being fulfilled here? YHWH has become king.

v 6
YHWH has now become king. Of course, in the Bible YHWH is always king but because the world had fallen into chaos through “the Fall” and because God’s people Israel were in Exile, Israel and all peoples were, therefore, in need of deliverance. When this deliverance and restoration of all things would come about, when evil was defeated by the Creator God and justice would reign and God’s people were saved and all Creation was renewed and restored, then God would be king as God must be and should be and will be king.
So we have this idea of this coming reign of God when God is going to be king as God must and should be king.

The Bible does not play down the problem of suffering and evil which afflicts the whole of the cosmos including humanity. The Bible neither plays that down nor seeks to avert one’s gaze from it. Instead, the Bible claims that because of that reign of evil and suffering, God is not now fully king as he will become fully king when his kingdom and reign comes after evil has been judged and dealt with.

v 7
The psalmist now shifts from the gentiles (the nations) praising YHWH to the depiction of all Creation worshiping YHWH. This is a coming of God that is going to liberate and renew all of Creation, so all of Creation is poetically depicted as joyfully awaiting this reign of God.

v 8
vv 7-8 tell us that not only will all of this involve all of humanity which were learned in vv 1-6 but that it will also include the whole created order.

the hope of the renewal and restoration of all Creation

Notice that now the whole Creation – not only humanity but the nonhuman Creation as well – is exhorted to rejoice in these coming events. The psalmist prophetically envisions this salvation to come involving not only all the nations as well as Israel but also the whole Creation – human and non-human alike. All of Creation is in expectation. We have this beautiful, poetic Isaiah-like imagery of all Creation on tip-toe anxiously awaiting this great event of the renewal of Creation singing together for joy because YHWH is coming. Creation, too, is awaiting all of this because part of this salvation of YHWH is going to be the renewal of all things. The “Fall” of Ge 3 had cosmic effects on all Creation, bringing with it evil, sin, suffering and death into the world. All of that will be renewed and restored with the coming renewal and restoration of all Creation.

Thus, the promise, the hope that the psalmist is talking about concerning the whole Creation – singing praises, with lyre and trumpets and horn, the joyful noise, the roaring sea, the floods clapping their hands and the hills singing for joy and so on the hope is the promise of the new Creation, the renewal and restoration of all Creation – of all the earth and of all the universe.

Note: Popular thought so much misses this whole biblical concept. Popular thought turns the biblical hope of salvation into this escape from the world or a removal from Creation and envisioning that as the biblical hope. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s this hope that God will conquer his enemies which debase his good Creation and bring about a renewal of the whole created order. So all Creation is on tip-toes, waiting for this.

We’ll also see that when the gospels tell the story of Jesus, they have in mind the hope of the renewal and restoration of all Creation. Here we see that Creation is eagerly awaiting God’s coming kingdom and reign.

And, all of this will happen because in the climax of the psalm in v 9 we see that God himself will come. The coming of YHWH to Zion!

v 9
And finally, we see that they are specifically awaiting …

the coming of YHWH to Zion

All of Creation is rejoicing because the whole of the created order is about to be renewed, at the core of which is that YHWH himself will come to be with his people forever. Everything is cascading because something is about happen in the climax of the psalm in v 9. Just as it almost always does, the biblical author of Ps 98 climaxes with the most important and central promise and hope of all – the coming of YHWH to Zion, the very same promise we are told of in Is 40 and in Ek 37. That is, in this prophetic oracle, you have all of these hopes and expectations cascading together, and the hope and promise at the heart of them all is the coming of YHWH to Zion. God will come to judge and bring righteousness the earth and God will dwell among his people in power and glory. Once again, this is the climactic key hope of all of God’s promises.

We need to properly understand the use of judgment here in its biblical context. The Hebrew verb shofet sh ph which gets translated here as judge is used not only negatively, as we tend to use the word, but it’s also used positively meaning to bring justice and righteousness and all things good, making everything right with God and people. It’s use here means God’s judging is going to set everything right. He’s going to set the world to rights. He’s going to judge evil and save the oppressed and judge the wicked. He’s going to rid the world of evil because he himself is coming in person to do it. As an analogy here, when the playwright steps on the stage, the play has come to its climax. As such, when the creator God comes in person to deal with evil, he’s going to climactically save his people and all those among the nations who turn to him.

Notice the parallelism, that they are thought of together.
He has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has shown his faithful covenant love to Israel – God’s faithfulness to the covenental promises to Abraham and to Israel .
Notice that this is not only God’s own righteousness. Now you can see why someone like N. T. Wright will talk about this righteousness of God as God’s faithfulness to his covenant with Israel. That seems to be a big part of the picture here.

In other words, within the context of Ps 98 we have the language about the righteousness of God paired together with language about his faithfulness. He has revealed his righteousness; he has revealed his covenant faithfulness. This righteousness is God’s faithfulness to the covenant. It’s this righteousness that God promised and he’s not going to fail; he’s going to do it. This covenant with Abraham will be fulfilled even though it seems like it won’t. God is faithful to his covenant and his promises.

We don’t use righteousness that way but in the Bible that’s the special use it has. This is a different concept than we even think of. That is, this biblical term righteousness is used in a different sense than we usually use the word righteousness. When we think of righteousness we think of maybe God measuring or determining how righteous someone might be. However, this is a whole different context being employed here.

When the Hebrews said righteousness Tzedakah they meant God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises. He is righteous because he’s this true, faithful God who makes promises and keeps them. Notice that in the context of the psalm – precisely because God is who God is – in the context of the psalm seems to be the idea that this is not a passive righteousness in which God is righteous and so he then condemns and judges the world.
This is a revolutionary concept. God’s righteousness is not a static thing. It’s not just that God is righteous and faithful and that he fulfilled his covenant. Instead, this is an active righteousness. When God fulfills his covenant, humanity and all Creation get renewed, saved and restored. This righteousness that belongs to God is nevertheless this powerfully active, saving righteousness, delivering righteousness, transforming righteousness, redeeming righteousness. God’s righteousness makes the sinful righteous, taking those outside the covenant and bringing them in. All heck breaks lose. All this salvation takes place. It’s God’s own righteousness but as it’s depicted here in Ps 98 and elsewhere, it’s a salvation-creating righteousness. So it’s God’s faithfulness to the covenant that brings salvation. Now you see why Käsemann looks at the biblical evidence concerning at all the uses of the word righteousness and says it’s a salvation-creating righteousness.

That is a powerful theological concept. This biblical revelation of God goes so far beyond what we might do in all of our theologizing about what God is about to do. We often think of God’s righteousness as something where either God might be faithful – we might consider that – or he’ll save the righteous and punish the guilty and so on. But this is something that goes far beyond that. Because God is God, when he reveals his righteousness, he creates salvation where there wasn’t salvation before. He creates righteousness where there wasn’t righteousness before. It renews the whole earth. It turns darkness into light. It turns people who hate God into those who love God. It’s a salvation-creating righteousness. So here it appears to be that Wright’s view is correct. This appears to be God’s own righteousness but because it’s God’s righteousness, it reaches out and transforms the whole Creation.

Notice that this breaks out of the bounds of what we usually think of with righteousness. This is a great example of how the Bible can use language such as righteousness differently than we think it’s being used. We think we know what it means and yet the Bible doesn’t use righteousness in the same way we do. This is the wonderful biblical view of God in which his righteousness spills over to create righteousness and to bring salvation, to renew, redeem and deliver. It’s a righteousness we would have never expected; it’s a righteousness that creates salvation. It’s a righteousness which God has and it’s God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises. But when he fulfills those covenant promises, it’s a righteousness that doesn’t stop with God but that he somehow infects the whole Creation. It’s life-giving; it creates salvation; it’s transforming. It’s like God’s life-giving creative power by which he created the world. His righteousness is creative and powerful like that. That’s the idea.

To see more about these promises see Ps 2.

Ps 100
the LORD is good

There is one more type of psalm that focuses on the presence of God – those called the entrance liturgies within the Psalms. These likewise focus on the presence of God but they focus on the actual entry into God’s presence in worship.
This psalm is depicting entering into the presence of God (vv 2, 4).

v 1
It is all the earth – all the nations – who are here depicted as entering into covenant with YHWH, as coming into YHWH’s presence and worshiping and serving the LORD in vv 1-2.
Because its prophetic vision envisions this coming inclusion of the nations, scholars have called Ps 100 the cement and theological high point of this whole section of the psalter.
Notice – from this Ps and in many other places – how the OT is astoundingly concerned – not with Israel per se – but with Israel as the means by which God brings people from all nations to know him. Hence, we have here in this Ps this outlook that involves the whole Creation, all nations. And that is more thoroughly fleshed out in Is 2 2-5. See notes there + introduction.

Notice the emphasis on joy and thanksgiving in this psalm. V 1 has shout with joy. V 2 has worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him with joy and singing with joy. V 4 has enter his gates with thanksgiving. This is one the great themes of the Psalms, this focus on the joy of entering into God’s presence, this focus on rejoicing in God.
Some contend this theme is common to all religions. However, apart from the biblical faith, if you look at other religions you’ll see this emphasis on joy is unique to the Bible. This focus on the joy of entering into God’s presence is a uniquely biblical, a uniquely Christian concept.

The biblical picture provides us with meaning and with significance and the proper context for things like joy and relationship and so forth. Those who don’t see life through this biblical lens say you have to make your own meaning. It is a fact that the writings of the most perceptive writers who come from that perspective are not accompanied by anything but a great deal of angst and sense of loss. These writers desperately, yet futilely, search for some sort of meaning and significance apart from the biblical picture. But they will find none because as human beings we were created by God, and so we were hard wired from the get go to be in relationship with God. If we go contrary to that hard wiring, we cannot do that without getting injured. We cannot do that without becoming dehumanized. If we go contrary to that hard wiring, we lose our humanity.

Outside this whole biblical picture of man sometimes you have this idea that it’s this arbitrary sort of thing. To those outside the biblical understanding God is this arbitrary figure who comes up with arbitrary commands and then is wrathful against people who break them. Whereas within the biblical worldview the reason why God gives us commands is because following those commands is what will lead to our flourishing as human beings. In fact, why does God say there is no God except me (our first commandment in Ex 20 3) and call for our praise and worship? One reason is because God knows we can only flourish as human beings in relationship with God as worshipers of God.

So we see that the commands of God are structural; they relate to the very structure of our humanity. That’s why the Proverbs speak of the wisdom that comes from God. The Church says this was ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Christ says in the book of Proverbs all who hate me love death (Pr 8 36). In other words, the Creator God is the only source of life and all who try to turn from this Creator God who made us are ultimately in love with death and are courting their own death. Therefore, it’s a structural thing. So when we separate ourselves from God who is our source of life, we cannot have life and we have therefore committed spiritual and human suicide because our humanity is created in such a way that it “runs on God”. In other words, in Creation we were hard wired to be in connection with God. Therefore, when we disconnect ourselves from God our humanity self-destructs and we become dehumanized. When we separate ourselves from God, we lose our humanity.

Some people have this incorrect idea that when you become a Christian you become something different from human. That is not the biblical worldview at all. In fact, the more we grow in our relationship with God, the more human we become, the more our real humanity is able to flourish. And, on the other hand, the more we distance ourselves from God, or disconnect ourselves from God altogether, we dehumanize ourselves and our humanity self-destructs. This is all structural. We were created by God to be in communion with God. The whole divine, biblical story is about how the Creator God through Jesus in the Incarnation had come to reconnect us with God. So you have people on both sides of the issue with the vast majority in the middle who seem to remain clueless about these matters, those who are entertained and who don’t feel the need to think. That’s why as priests of God we who know and understand these matters are to go out and re-evangelize the culture. It is our Christian vocation, or at least one of our Christian vocations, to do this (Mt 28; Lk 24).

This is something we sometimes miss in the Eucharistic liturgy of both the East and the West. Whatever language we might use for the Eucharist, we miss this because we divide it up into various parts. But in both the East and the West, the Eucharistic liturgy is one long prayer but with many parts, and it’s all a prayer of thanksgiving. The Eucharistic liturgy is one long prayer of thanksgiving. It’s thanksgiving after thanksgiving after thanksgiving. It’s all about that because that is what God is all about. It’s this joy of forgiveness, of God as Creator and of God as Redeemer. Hence, we are to notice this overwhelming stress of joy in the Psalms.

So who is depicted here in v 1 as entering into God’s presence? All the nations from all the earth v 1. This was written during the time of promise, before the kingdom of God came for all nations. This psalm is looking ahead prophetically. The Psalms were not only Israel’s prayer book but they were also part of the prophetic Scriptures. We’ve seen that before in the enthronement hymns which look forward prophetically to the coming time when God will come and dwell among his people. Ps 100 looks forward prophetically to this time when people from all nations will come to know the LORD. And this is a prophetic depiction and vision of that time. That’s why the psalmist says shout with joy all the earth. It’s a prophecy of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant which is at the heart of the Bible. The Abrahamic covenant is foundational for the whole biblical story, and the climactic promise of the Abrahamic covenant is the blessing to all nations. And here we have the psalmist prophetically envisioning that. This is a prophetic vision of the time of the coming fulfillment of God’s kingdom and reign when people from all nations will enter into the kingdom of God. The Jewish people would have understood this as prophetically envisioning this coming kingdom of God which they had been long awaiting.

This is in the prophetic perfect verb tense just as we saw in Ps 96 and elsewhere which said the LORD has come (v 9) meaning the LORD is going to come. Often the Hebrew perfect tense refers to past time but prophetic psalmist is looking forward “in vision” to the coming kingdom and reign of God, and it’s looking forward to that kingdom and reign of God as if it’s now happened. When using the prophetic perfect tense, the prophet or the psalmist is looking ahead to God’s coming kingdom and reign and is so sure that it’s coming that they will express it in vision as if it’s already here. So it’s prophetically looking forward to something that is yet to happen.

Now, when we read or pray this psalm in worship, what are you doing? Ps 100 is this prophetic vision of the time when people from all nations will come to worship God. Of course, there are some things that have already been fulfilled in the inaugurated kingdom by Christ’s first coming, and other things are yet to be fulfilled in the consummated kingdom. For instance, we have the resurrection of the dead. Christ has been raised from the dead and has defeated death. But the resurrection of God’s people from the dead is yet to come. Others things like the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all flesh has taken place through Christ. That was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.

So certain things are fulfilled in the inaugurated kingdom and we no longer have to wait for them to occur in the consummated kingdom of God. For instance, one thing already fulfilled in this inaugurated kingdom that has come through Christ’s Incarnation was the opening up of the kingdom to all nations. Think of the Church which was spread throughout all nations. That’s this promise of the presence of God opened to all nations that is prophetically envisioned in this psalm. So when you read or pray this psalm, you are envisioning the presence of God having been already opened up to all nations. That day has come. All nations have the presence of God available to them.

Reading and praying Ps 100 prophetically envisions the time when people from all nations will come to know God. Of course, whenever you have this prophetic vision of people from all nations coming to know God, it has this two sided character to it. The double judgment! On the one hand, it’s this salvation available for those who will turn to God and, on the other hand, it’s this judgment for those who rebel. All the earth can enter into God’s presence. Ps 100 prophetically envisions that time when people from all nations will worship God.

So when you read and pray Ps 100 you are fulfilling this psalm! You are fulfilling that Scripture. Ps 100 is part of the church’s worship and when it’s read in worship by people of all nations, of all languages, the people are actually worshiping and praying a psalm that is a prophetic vision of the time when people from all nations will worship and pray to God. So whenever we read or pray Ps 100, we are fulfilling that Scripture.

In vv 3-5 it’s the nations who are speaking. There are a couple of neat ideas being expressed here. Two foci from which this joy is radiating out include: Creation and the covenant formula.

Notice this theme of Creation but in a new key. Creation it not just found in the Creation Psalms. It’s all over the place. We’ve seen creational monotheism from the very beginning of the story; God is the creator of the ends of the earth. The LORD himself is God. It is he who made us. So the LORD is our Creator.
Now we see that God has at last become king in that not only does Israel know him but also do these people here in v 3 who are now in covenant with the creator God. They have entered into this covenantal relationship with God. The nations now understand creational monotheism, that YHWH is their Creator God.

But even more we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Of course, this is another version of the famous covenant formula [I will be their God and they will be my people.] of the third part of the Abrahamic covenant.
It’s the whole earth (v 1) who is saying the covenant formula here in v 3. It’s people of all nations who speak. This is the fulfillment of the promise of the inclusion of the nations which is, in turn, the fulfillment of the promise of the Abrahamic covenant. It’s celebrating this covenental relationship with God, this relational covenental knowing of God. It’s celebrating both our Creation and our Redemption. We were not only made by him but we are now through God’s redemptive work his people and the sheep of his pasture. We were not only created by God but we are now God’s family. We are not only God’s Creation but we are God’s children. We not only recognize God as Creator but we know God as our covenant God.
So we see these great themes of Creation and covenant. God not only created but he also redeemed us. So we have this personal, covenental relationship with God.

Some traditions talk about “a personal relationship with God” and then you’ll hear others coming from a more traditional background who will question talking about a personal relationship with God. Those traditionalists don’t know their Bible or their traditional theology because traditional Christian theology is all about a personal relationship with the loving Creator God and entering into this covenental relationship with him. So it’s very appropriate to talk about a personal relationship with God because the Bible focuses on that. That is what the covenant is all about.

v 5
So we’ve seen enthronement hymns, the hymns of Zion, pilgrimage songs, entrance liturgies filled with joy and focusing on entering into the very presence of God in Christ. We’ve seen how we can now sing and worship and pray these Psalms in a more full way than could the people of Israel because Christ is now among us. Christ is God with us.

This may not be what is going on in Ps 100 but it’s very true what we were talking about with the second coming and the consummated kingdom. We are still looking forward to something more, to something even greater, and we see that as we read these entrance liturgies and pray these pilgrimage songs and so on because as we’ve talked about, the kingdom is inaugurated in Christ but it’s not yet fully consummated.

Because of that there is a reality that is not emphasized in these Psalms. Here we emphasize entering into the joyous presence of the holy LORD of all the earth. But because the kingdom of God has not been consummated, the resurrection of our bodies never to die again has not yet taken place. The whole Creation groaning with suffering and travail has not been renewed as it will be at Christ’s second coming. Therefore, we live in the midst of sufferings. Alongside the joy of entering into Christ’s presence are the sorrows and afflictions with which we live. We live with great temptations. We sometimes fall prey to temptation and sin. We live in a fallen world in which we have tribulations. We struggle with sin. We have sorrows, difficulties and trials.

That’s something that’s not directly addressed by these Psalms, is it. But it is directly addressed by another type of psalm. We live in a fallen world that is filled with sorrows, temptations and trials. Psalms that address us directly in that point of our need are the Psalms of lament – the penitential Psalms. These Psalms directly address the reality that we live in a fallen world, that this kingdom of God has come in great power but also in this mysterious way, in this way in which we enter into this joy of God’s presence but we do so in the midst of a world that is hostile to God. So we enter into this joy of God’s presence but we do so in the midst of a world in which we ourselves are only in the process of being transformed into the image of Christ in which we struggle with sin, in which we face opposition, personal sorrows and difficulties.

These Psalms are the most common type of psalm that address us in our sorrows, difficulties and temptations. These two different kinds of Psalms do this in two different ways, though they blend together. Therefore, sometimes scholars dispute whether we should call one psalm “A” or one psalm “B”. These are the Psalms that are called the laments. So lamentation does have a role in the Christian life. Oftentimes in the language of the church they are also called the penitential Psalms.

And then you have the other Psalms that grow out of great difficult and sorrow but focus on the hope that is to come. Those are called very poetically and comfortingly the Psalms of trust. In the Psalms of trust the psalmist cries out in sorrow, pain and heartache to God. These Psalms resulted in times of great difficulty. The psalmist says nevertheless I trust in you LORD and so on. See Ps 143.

Ps 102
Pouring Our Hearts Out to God

Like other penitential Psalms Ps 102 also describes the pain caused by sin.
Particularly striking aspects of the psalmist’s suffering are seen in vv 3-11 with bodies burning and emaciated due to sin. The birds mentioned in v 6 are often translated as owl but it actually translates as pelican from the Hebrew. Both birds were ritually unclean according to the OT Levitical law, and both frequented desert areas and ruins. V 9 says I eat ashes like bread. This phrase compares to the psalmist’s anguish to mourning because it was a custom in that time to cover oneself in ashes when mourning the death of a loved one.

Here is a psalm to put into the hands of those who are hurting. The title is a vivid description of an unnamed author pouring out his heart to God. While the psalm is classified traditionally as a penitential psalm, its main focus is the shortness of man’s life compared to the eternity of God.
The psalmist begins in v 1 with a plea for restoration.

He is ill, and God seems unwilling to listen (v 2). The psalmist wonders whether God even cares. As in Ps 6, the psalmist is desperate and needs (v 9) an immediate answer.

How this is like us when trouble strikes! Prayer and worship, long delayed, come pouring out when we must face the reality of sin’s consequences. The psalmist lays out his condition in a cascade of descriptive pictures (vv 3-5), focusing on the shortness of life and the pain of illness. He then describes how like a desert owl (v 6), he pores over his troubles and (v 7) lies sleepless at night while (v 8) his enemies taunt him by day. Yet, none of that matters when compared to the thought of God’s indignation (v 10). The Lord seems to have angrily tossed the psalmist aside (v 11). He sees his life as fleeting, as temporary and worthless as withering grass.

V 12 marks the turning point of the psalm. V 12 contrasts sharply with the verses that precede it in that the psalmist’s focus shifts from his own sin to God’s holiness, goodness and power. When we compare vv 12 and 24b-27 with vv 1-11, we see the psalmist making a contrast between God and his human creatures. That is,
God is eternal, constant, enthroned forever and will remain even after his Creation is gone. God’s years will never end.
Man, on the other hand, is limited, fleeting, sinful and condemned without Jesus.
The psalm pictures God and human beings as total opposites. God is the Creator and humanity is his creatures.

While our lives are transitory (v 11), God endures (v 12) forever and that truth brings hope. The psalmist may pass away, but God’s care and compassion (v 13) for Zion, for His people, His Church, will never fade away.

In vv 12-17 the psalmist describes his certainty that God will restore Zion – his city and his kingdom. This expression refers to the Holy Christian Church, that is, the people of God in every time and place. At the time the psalmist wrote, the Church on earth was evidently troubled, perhaps because of disobedience and sin. All of us at one time or another have seen events occur in our own congregations, divisive events that resulted from gossip, unfaithfulness and hatred. Because we are one body of Christ, the things that damage and hurt one person hurt everyone.

Further, painful events in the Church as a whole that have pained all of us would include compromises in doctrine, unfaithfulness and neglect of God’s Word, racial prejudice, exclusion of age groups or ethnic groups within a church body and an unwillingness to give, to volunteer and to help those in need. When a believer sees church members straying from God’s will as described in his Word, great pain will ensue.

God’s continuing love for Zion (v 14) and His faithful mercy (v 17) upon ‘the destitute’ those who have no true spiritual wealth of their own bring hope to the psalmist. The Lord will look down (v 19) upon His penitent people and release them (v 20) from their prison of guilt or shame or fear so that all may praise Him (vv 2122). The psalmist knows that while there is no earthly reason to believe that God will help or hear, God’s people can trust in His character and His desire to act in love on their behalf.

The psalmist’s life is so intertwined with that of God’s people that hope for Zion has become his own hope. In light of this, (vv 2324) he renews his appeal. He prays that God spare him so (v 24) that he may continue to serve. God’s eternal (v 26) and unchanging nature (v 27) provide hope that extends far beyond the psalmist’s current problem. They look all the way forward in time to the Messiah. In fact, vv 2527 are quoted in He 1 10 12, where the writer to the Hebrews applies them to Christ. In Christ’s Easter victory lies our great hope. Because Jesus lives forever, all of us, all of Zion’s children, have the hope of eternal life and the promise of a God (v 28) who can help our children and their descendants. God will never abandon us, not even in death!

Importantly, Jesus’ eternalness points to the fact that all three persons of the Trinity are eternal. All have existed forever as we read in, for example, Jn 1 1-2. Because Jesus will never change, we can depend fully on him to save us. He will not abandon us to the judgment. Further, He 6 16-20 says that our hope of salvation in Jesus is the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (v 19). In Jesus we are securely anchored in life and in death. Jesus will not let the winds and waves of sin, eternal death and Satan pull us away from him.

Someone in the Church once said “When we try to live in the church on earth as if it were the Church in heaven, we’ll be discouraged.” While we live here on earth, divisions and problems will occur. But the Church in heaven will know no such division, selfishness or sin. While we struggle with our own sin and troubles in the Church brought about by the sins of others, we long for the rest that will given to those found in faith on the Last Day.

vv 23-28
This text is echoed in He 1 10-12. The person who is saying these words is praying to God.
In the context vv 10-12 talk about Jesus by quoting Ps 102 which is all about the creative activity of God. Ps 102 ascribes glory to YHWH as Creator, but here the sacred writer applies it to the Lord Jesus, showing us that Jesus is fully God. Jesus was the creator God who has come which is why he is absolutely unique.

v 24
Then, in the context of that prayer, he addresses these words you who founded the earth …

V 25
These words are addressed to God. In v 24 it’s my God. Elsewhere in the psalm it’s the name of God, YHWH, the LORD.
So you have these wonderful words that are addressed to the Lord: you are everlasting; you founded the heavens; and so on. You will endure forever. You are the same and your years will never end.

We see here the neat them of Creation’s renewal. We see the Creation in v 25.

v 26
The present state of the world with all its suffering, evil and darkness is going to perish. It’s going to wear out like a garment but not so that it may perish entirely. Like clothing you will change them, and they will be changed and renewed, this idea of transformation. We have this idea of the renewal and restoration of all Creation here.
Back now to He 1 10-12 where the author of He quotes this passage. It’s not about the perishing of Creation but about the transformation of Creation. And this becomes all the more clear in He 2 5.

Ps 103
vv 1-3
Reading this v in its context of vv 1-2 we see that it’s YHWH in vv 1-2 who forgives your sins here in v 3.
The idea here in the Psalms and throughout the whole of the OT is that only God can do this; it’s YHWH who forgives sins

Ps 103 illumines Mk 2 5-7 in its Jewish context. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
This passage echoes Ps 103 which says 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

We see that it’s YHWH in Ps 103 who forgives sins and that it’s Jesus in Mk 2 who does the same.
Therefore, Watts would argue that it’s Jesus coming as YHWH to the world who forgives sins.

Notice that it did cause an uproar in Mk 2. Then Jesus, to add insult to injury, does a miracle to show them he can forgive sins and so on.
So Watts is arguing here that Jesus in his praxis is showing his identity.

Remember the importance of praxis in the Bible, for example, as with John the Baptist.
Even before Jn spoke a word, he was telling everyone that he was the fulfillment-time Elijah because of his 1. clothing, 2. wilderness appearance – the place of the new exodus, 3. baptizing in the Jordan River – recalling the old Exodus to say this is the new exodus. And on and on and on …

Watts therefore argues that Jesus by his praxis is arguing who he is.
Jesus doesn’t have to say anything; he’s just making sense.
It’s this YHWH praxis, this praxis that no one should do – forgive sins – except YHWH himself because it was be blasphemy as the scribes say but amazingly Jesus does forgive sins.

Ps 106
Israel fails

The emphasis of Ps 105 falls on God’s love and guidance during Israel’s history. In turn, Ps 106 is a communal confession of sin and a plea for divine forgiveness which completes the thought of Ps 105.
Ps 106 is another one of climactic Psalms that comes at the conclusion of Book IV of the psalter. Most Bibles will note that Book Five begins with Ps 107. As each of the five books within the Psalms do, Ps 106 ends with a benediction in vv 47-48.

Ps 106 is one of the historical psalms which reflects on the history of Israel’s relationship with God as it wonderfully retells the whole biblical story all the way up until the exile.
Many of the Psalms go back prior to the Exile – very early in Israel’s history – but the final structure of the book was gathered together after Israel had been taken into Exile.
This one reflects in pretty much a negative way how the people had turned aside from the very beginning.
It tells of the people’s faithlessness in responding to God and acknowledges that God had ample reason for bringing on the Babylonian exile as punishment for Israel’s sin.

The Ps begins its account of Israel’s sin at the Red Sea where the community displayed lack of trust in God to deliver them from the Egyptian army, despite all the miracles done in Egypt. This lack of trust continued and God rescued them over and over again.
However, Israel never seemed to understand just what the capacities and the purposes of God were.
One of the dangers of these biblical descriptions of Israel’s faithlessness to God is that readers in later times have often taken them as factual accounts of Israel’s conduct. The result has been Christians, for example, have incorrectly interpreted the Bible’s account of Israel’s failures as the explanation for God’s having “rejected” the Jews in favor of the Christians. That’s just not the case. In fact, such prophetic pictures of Israel’s sins are theological statements calling later generations to mend their ways and to prove themselves more faithful that their ancestors. It is highly improbable that the Israelites were any less faithful to the covenant with God than Christians have been or are. Highly!!!

Ps 106 closes with a plea for God to demonstrate divine love and forgiveness once more by leading the exiles back to the land promised their ancestors.
So in that context the psalmist here in Ps 106 is saying in v 47 … See notes there.

v 47
The Psalter is wonderfully structured into five books of Psalms, and v 47 climaxes Book IV with a plea for God to return all Israel to the promised homeland. The prophet longs for and is praying to God that the great event – the new Exodus – will come. The new Exodus is at the heart of this benediction and at the heart of the hopes of the people of Israel. Vv 47-48 clearly refer to the new Exodus – this crucial promise of God that the psalmist is awaiting. So Book 4 climaxes with the new Exodus, the promise which literally pervades the whole Psalter.

The Exodus was this central event of the Bible – God’s great, miraculous act of deliverance of his people. The Exodus gave the Israelites not only a powerful memory of what had made them a people, but also a particular shape and content to their faith in YHWH as not only Creator God but also Redeemer God. The event being talked about here is like the old Exodus because of gather us from the lands to come and be God’s covenant people. However, it’s a new event being promised for the future.

Still, the new Exodus – as the OT tells us in passage after passage – is going to be infinitely greater than the old Exodus. The new Exodus is not only about Israel being gathered into the land. It’s more importantly about the people reestablishing their relationship with YHWH, that YHWH may once again dwell within them, that we may glory in your praise. To see this greater expression of the old Exodus we return to Jm 16 14-15.

v 48
Israel longs for the new exodus.

Ps 110
the victory of the Lord

This psalm is pure Gospel. It tells about the Messiah and the joy of His mighty reign. Even Jesus’ Jewish detractors (Mt 22 4146 about whose Son is the Christ?) believed that this psalm spoke of the Messiah. They could not explain the mystery that David’s son would be David’s Lord. Let’s look at a few of the details.

Ps 110 describes Jesus as both king and priest. The psalm points to Jesus’ ascension into heaven to reign forever with God. In this psalm, David spoke about the Messiah – who was to be Jesus – as his Lord. In Mt 22 44 Jesus quoted the words of Ps 110 1 in a discussion with the Pharisees regarding his identity.
44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘
Mt 22 41-45 and Ps 110 1 are saying that Jesus is David’s Lord. V 1 states that Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God and shares authority with God. While Jesus was David’s descendant, Jesus is Lord and he is also the Lord over all the earth.

God Himself speaks as the psalm begins (vv 1-4). His message is worthy of such a delivery. He gives the Messiah the highest honor of sitting in the place of authority and favor at the Father’s right hand. His enemies will be made His ‘footstool.’ This refers to the custom that a conqueror would put his feet on the neck of the vanquished in a display of triumph.

Paul echoed Ps 110 1 in Ep 1 22. There in Ep Paul talked about Jesus’ power as earthly ruler. Paul also echoed this v 1 in 1 Cor 15 24-28. What’s going on with this language about putting all his enemies under his [Jesus’] feet and this language of until I [God] make your enemies your footstool?
First, under his feet was a figure of speech from the OT that described complete conquest. The footstool was the lower part of the king’s throne. God made Christ’s enemies his footstool. This, in turn, meant that God placed the king (in this case, Jesus) over all his enemies, including death. Vv 1-2 point out that Jesus is king and ruler over all.
Second, God invited David to sit at my right hand, a place of honor beside the king. The king’s mighty power and protection extend to those who sit at his right hand, something that provides comfort to believers as they face hardships in life. This is similar to Jesus’ invitation to all who are burdened to come to him (Mt 11 28-30) so that he might give them rest.

The Messiah (v 2) will rule the nations. His troops (v 3) His people, you and I – go forward willingly into battle spiritual battle to extend the rule and kingdom of the gracious King by our witness. So vv 3-6 picture a battle scene. Carrying this forward to its fulfillment the Lord Jesus is the commander of the troops who are us. V 3 describes Jesus’ troops as willing to be living sacrifices for him. By his grace and mercy we dedicate our lives to him in love and service, and we declare God’s praises to others. By sharing and showing his love and the message of salvation, we offer ourselves to Jesus in humble service to him. See also Ro 12 1-2 and 1 Pe 2 9b.
No one has to force us to follow Him, for His rule over His people is as gracious as His conquest over His enemies is total.

The solemnity of the second oracle (vv 47) is emphasized by the fact that this is an oath sworn by God Himself. The Messiah (v 4) will be an eternal priest, because His work His offering of Himself on the cross and His continual intercession for us before God’s throne … his work will fully and eternally satisfy all of our needs.

That this messianic figure of the psalm would be not only be a king but also a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek was surprising for the OT people because the offices of king and priest were strictly separated. With few exceptions kings came from David’s family, the family of Judah, and priests came from Aaron’s family, the tribe of Levi.
Still, v 4 describes the uniqueness of the messianic figure by comparing him to Melchizedek who was a king of Salem (Jerusalem) and a priest of God (Ge 14 18-20). Besides the fact that he was a priest appointed by God, we know little else about him. The name Melchizedek means king of righteousness.

The comparison to Melchizedek, the priestking of Salem (Ge 14 18) is echoed in He 6 20 7 24. Both are priests outside the line of Levi, by God’s divine appointment. Like Melchizedek, Jesus was made a priest not by his ancestry but by God’s special appointment. See also Ps 2.

When we look to the OT priests, especially concerning the offering of sacrifices, we see that Jesus was set apart as our eternal high priest.
In other words, the OT priests were far from perfect. Because they were sinners, they had to offer sacrifices for their own sins before they could offer sacrifices for anyone else. They didn’t continue in office forever because they were subject to physical death. Then, too, the sacrifices they offered were only temporary coverings for sin. But Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God, because he lives forever as our permanent priest. As our eternal high priest, Jesus intercedes for us to God. Because Jesus is holy, perfect and pure, he needed to offer only one sacrifice for all our sins. Jesus did this when he gave his life for us on the cross. Through his death and resurrection Jesus has defeated Satan and has gained for us the victory over all our enemies. See also He 7 15-17; 23-28.

In v 5, the scene changes to the battlefield, as we see the Messiah conquer His enemies. The Lord is at your right hand sets the stage for the vv that follow. Because the Lord is at your right hand, no one and no nation will be able to harm you. God is in control. Providential monotheism.

On the Last Day, the day of God’s wrath, the Messiah will bring total victory, judging the nations. V 7 also could be translated “The One who grants succession will give Him authority.” Our Savior, God’s Messiah, will be exalted as He is seen by all men to be the Anointed of God.
Knowing that the Lord is at your right hand is encouraging because that means that God is providing the promise that no one can defeat you. Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ro 8 39).

Ps 110 is one of the most quoted Psalms in the OT. When the first Christians were trying to figure out who Christ was, when they were working out their Christology for the very first time, they went to various OT passages, and Ps 110 was one of their most important go-to passages. Ps 110 spoke about this messianic figure, this ruling, reigning Davidic king to come. It’s a psalm of David.
Ps 110 is a royal (messianic) psalm. Messianic Psalms are about the coming messianic king, the coming Davidic king who would rule and reign over God’s people.
This is not haphazard. The king is seated at God’s right hand. Part of the ceremony was sitting him on the throne and telling God’s decree, etc. We see this in the first lines of v 1.

v 1
This v is the most quoted and echoed single verse in the NT. For instance, we see it at Mk 12 35-37; Mt 22 44; Ac 2 34; 1 Cor 15 25; Ep 1 20; He 1 3, 13. [The most quoted single passage in the OT is Is 53.]

Here “LORD” is YHWH, and “lord” is the coming messianic Davidic king. Everything in these vv is YHWH speaking to the ultimate Davidic king.

Here it’s very clear that he is enthroned as king over all things just as we see in He 1 3 who, being the outshining (radiance) of his glory and the exact expression of God’s nature and upholding all things by the word of his power after he had made purification for our sins sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high. See notes there.
at his right hand means the symbolic place of highest honor and authority. See Ro 8 34 notes regarding right hand of God.

v 2
This is a wonderful prophetic picture of the inaugurated kingdom of God. All the enemies of God will be judged at the second advent. Now, they are free to act against God and to seek to harm his people and ruin his Creation, and yet Christ is still ruling as king, whether or not they know it, in the midst of his enemies. Still, in the consummated kingdom of God all the enemies of God will be put down.

This is talking about the coming Messiah, the messianic king. The LORD says … Rule (Reign) in the midst of your enemies.” “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool of your feet.” v 1

v 3
This is a wonderful prophetic picture of the resurrection. Christ has risen to everlasting life. He has the dew of his life. He’s risen to life.

v 4
the LORD has sworn and will not change his mind means the LORD has made an oath. This is one place in scripture where God seals his promise with an oath, the other being the Abrahamic covenant.
Therefore, the two places in scripture where God seals his promise with an oath are in the case of
the Abrahamic covenant of Ge 12 and 22 and

the messianic high priest of Ps 110 4
And, lo and behold, the messianic high priest is the one who fulfills the Abrahamic covenant. So it all fits together.

As we’ll also see in the book of He, here in this psalm we see that this ultimate Davidic king was not going to be just king but he was also being depicted as a priest forever. But he was not being depicted a priest according to the order of Aaron (which was the Levitical priesthood in the time of promise, the OT priests, the whole system of priesthood, sacrifice and covenant). Instead, he was being depicted according to this new order, according to the order of Melchizedek.
You almost get the sense that the Levitical priesthood through Aaron was something temporary / provisional by God because the ultimate priest was going to be different than the order of Aaron. In other words, the Messiah was instead going to be a priest according to the order of Melchizedek – this mysterious, cameo figure we see in the OT only at Ge 14.

So here in this important royal psalm was the second place in the OT where we hear about Melchizedek, the first being in Ge 14 17-20. The coming Davidic king would be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. So this royal psalm was saying that this coming Davidic king – which the OT called the Messiah – was not only going to be a king but also a priest. In other words, like all early Israelite kings the new king will have the privileges of a priest. Cf 2 Sam 8 18 and 1 Ki 3 4. So the Messiah was going to be both a priest and a king.

So Melchizedek was not like Aaron. Aaron was the first in the line of a priesthood that functioned in ancient Israel to do the sacrifices, to teach the people the law and to carry out the priesthood of the old covenant. Through intertextuality Ps 110 had echoed Ge 14. Melchizedek was this cameo figure who appeared in Ge 14. However, by saying here that the Messiah in Ps 110 was going to be according to the order of Melchizedek, it was saying that this important Melchizedek figure somehow pointed forward to the Messiah. In other words, because the psalmist brought Melchizedek into this messianic psalm, Melchizedek somehow prefigured / foreshadowed the Messiah. Melchizedek became a type of the coming ultimate Davidic king.

Ps 110 itself looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises, to this messianic king to come. So we see in the OT itself that Melchizedek was a type (a foreshadow, a pre-figurement) of the Messiah to come. Just as the temple was a type of the coming of YHWH to Zion when God would dwell among his people in his fullness, Melchizedek was a type of the Messiah to come.
As another example of typology we know that David as king was also a type of the ultimate Davidic king.

Here, again, in calling the Messiah who was going to bring in the time of fulfillment of God’s promises, … in calling a Messiah according to the order of Melchizedek, the OT was thereby pointing to Melchizedek as a type and in saying being a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek was different from the Aaronic priesthood. The OT itself was saying that the Mosaic covenant including all its Levitical priests and sacrifices, that old covenant was something provisional that was going to make way for something greater in the time of fulfillment.

Thus, it was not just the NT that said the OT was superceded by the fulfillment. The OT itself looked forward to a time of fulfillment in which you would have these Levitical priests and their sacrifices and their covenant give way to a greater fulfillment of which Melchizedek was the type. That was what was going on here. Melchizedek was serving as a type of the Messiah to come. Typology.

So in looking closely at the Melchizedek passage in Ge 14 and seeing here in Ps 110 that Melchizedek was a type, Ps 110 implied what kind of Messiah the Messiah was going to be. What kind of priest was he? He was going to be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. So who was Melchizedek? What kind of priest was the Messiah going to be? We need to look at Melchizedek and learn what this passage according to the order of Melchizedek means.

For that answer we need to go back to Ge 14 but we need to do that with the guidance of He 7 where we’ll see that was exactly how the author of He was going to approach this. In fact, Melchizedek would be a major theme of the book of He, the theme that this messianic Davidic king who was Christ was not only the Christ but he was going to be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

That is a very comforting part of He where we’ll learn about Christ’s role as high priest in our own lives. Now summarizing, the author of He in He 7 will look closely at Melchizedek in Ge 14, led to it by Ps 110, in order to explore this figure of Melchizedek as a type because the author of He knows Melchizedek is a type of the Messiah to come. The author of He will do this in order to better understand truths about the fulfillment who was Christ.
Now let’s see all the truths about this coming new priest that the author of He is going to draw from Ge 14. The author will give us the full meaning that’s there in Melchizedek as a type. Go to He 7 1-3.

He excursus:

He 7 is introduced by He 6 20 in which the author of He says, in essence, “I’m going to talk about Jesus, high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Then he says in v 1 … Therefore, here in He 7 we find this whole discussion of Jesus and this new figure, Melchizedek.

We have in the OT the Aaronic priests, the Levitical priests. The author of He will show how they were a good thing ordained by God – just as everything in the OT was. But these Levitical priests were always pointing forward to the fact that the OT priesthood was provisional and pointing to something greater. Typology.

The Priesthood: Earthly and Eternal
A major theme of He is the contrast between the earthly, or Levitical, priesthood and the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek which is fulfilled in Christ.
The Levitical priesthood, established by Aaron of the tribe of Levi, is limited simply because those who fill it are ordinary human beings. The Levitical priests carry out God’s instructions and assist people in their worship, but they cannot ultimately reconcile people to God.
On the other hand, the mysterious figure of Melchizedek represents an entirely different kind of priesthood. Melchizedek appears in Ge 14 18-20 – long before the establishment of the Levitical priesthood. Melchizedek was given no genealogy and nothing was said about his death. He received tithes from Abraham, implying in some sense that he was superior to Abraham in rank – and by extension, superior to Abraham’s descendants, the Levites. Melchizedek was not only a priest but a king as well.

In this dual office Melchizedek was able to reconcile the justice of God (the business of a king) with his mercy (the business of a priest). His name Melchizedek means King of Righteousness, and his title King of Salem means King of Peace. Some propose that Melchizedek was a theophany – a preincarnate appearance of Christ. Whatever the case, at the very least he is a type of Christ just as the author of He will explain in detail.

There are several specific points of contrast between the Levitical priesthood and the priesthood of Melchizedek which is fulfilled in Christ.

The priesthood of Levi

The priesthood of Melchizedek

genealogical requirement

The Levitical priesthood was limited to one tribe. It could not transform mortal and corrupt humanity because it consisted of mere men.

As Melchizedek was without earthly genealogy so was Christ by virtue of his virgin birth. He was and is God incarnate, immortal and without sin. Therefore, his priesthood was and is able to transform humanity.

ordination

The power given at ordination was incomplete. The Levitical priesthood was weak, its sacrifices had to be repeated and it could not perfect the worshipers. It could not reconcile people to God nor give them the inner power to obey. The ordination was without direct confirmation from God.

The power given at ordination was strong and effective. The power of Christ’s priesthood was perfect and drew us near to God. His sacrifice was offered once for all. The Father himself ordained the Son.

term of office

The Levitical priesthood was temporary. Since it was composed of mortal men, it required many members.

Since Christ is immortal, the priesthood of Melchizedek needs only one, eternal priest. It would last forever.

moral and spiritual requirements

These had to be less than perfection because the Levitical priests were all created beings subject to sin.

The requirement of perfect holiness was met in Christ, the only sinless one. He was and is more than mere man – He is the Son of God.

Just as is everything else in He and the NT, the understand and the reality of Christ as our high priest according to the order of Melchizedek is all based on Christ’s fulfillment of the OT promises.

We now further illumine Christ as our high priest. First, however, the author had to interject this important digression of He 5 11 – 6 20 in order to remind us how crucial it is that we hear and comprehend the Word of God. It’s all the difference between a sluggish faith moving in the wrong direction, and a healthy, growing faith moving in the right direction – toward Christ and toward our hope and toward salvation.

First, at the center of He 7 is the passage we read in Ge 14 17-20 and Ps 110 1-4. See notes there and return.

Thus, in looking closely at the Melchizedek passage in Ge 14, and by then seeing in Ps 110 that Melchizedek was a type, Ps 110 implied what kind of Messiah the Messiah was going to be. What kind of priest was he? He was going to be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. So who was Melchizedek? What kind of priest was the Messiah going to be? We need to look at Melchizedek. So what does this passage according to the order of Melchizedek mean?
To answer that we need to go back to Ge 14 but we need to do that with the guidance of He 7 where we’ll see that was exactly how the author of He was going to approach this. In fact, Melchizedek will be a major theme of the book of He. That theme will show us that this messianic Davidic king who was Christ was not only the Christ but he was a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. That is a very comforting part of He where we’ll learn about Christ’s role as high priest in our lives.

Thus, the author of He in He 7 will look closely at Melchizedek in Ge 14, as led to it by Ps 110, in order to explore this figure of Melchizedek as a type because the author knew that Melchizedek was a type of the Messiah to come. The author of He will do this to see truths about the fulfillment who was Christ, to see all the truths about this coming new priest that the author of He was going to draw from Ge 14. The author will give us the full meaning that’s there in Melchizedek as a type.

He 7 is introduced by He 6 20 where on behalf of us Jesus has entered in, having become forever a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. There in v 20 the author of He says, in essence, “I’m now going to talk about Jesus, high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” So the author of He will now treat Melchizedek as a type or foreshadow of Christ. The author will bring out features of this mysterious figure that will connect up with Christ and show Melchizedek as a type of Christ, the antitype.

Then he said in v 1 …

v 1
In order to understand the priesthood of the ultimate Davidic king, the Messiah, who is Christ, we have to understand the type. To do so the author of He in vv 1-3 goes back to Ge 14 in order to pull out all of the significance of this type. What is going on when you have this type? It’s God; it’s the Holy Spirit – showing through types and foreshadows – what this coming Messiah, what this coming kingdom will be all about. So we’ll be going back-and-forth between here and Ge 14 in order to understand what the author of He is doing here.

So beginning here in v 1 the author first takes us back to Ge 14 17-20; he introduces the type; he talks about Melchizedek and the context of the passage in which he’s the king of Salem who came to meet Abraham after a slaughter of the kings and he blessed him and Abraham gave a tenth (v 2). So he’s this king figure. He’s both king of Salem, which means peace; so he’s king of peace. The author of He is here alluding to various messianic oracles that talk about the prince of peace and so on.

Then, beginning in v 2b the author digs into the interpretation, the meaning of the passage. Of particular significance is Melchizedek’s holding both offices, that of king and priest, one of the ways in which Melchizedek prefigured Christ.
He said, first, by translation, he is king of righteousness (v 2). The first thing we see about this Melchizedek, this type of the coming Messiah, the first thing the author says is that the name, Melchizedek, in Hebrew means king of righteousness. [melchi means king and zedek means righteousness.] Melchizedek means in Hebrew king of righteousness.

So, in seeking to know Christ better, the author of He looks at the type. The author of He is sophisticatedly reading the text not only in its Greek translation but in its Hebrew translation, and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he’s pointing out that the very name Melchizedek, who Ps 110 tells us is the type of the coming Messiah and his priesthood, … the author is pointing out that Melchizedek is not only a priest, but he’s also a king. He’s not just a priest but he’s a priest-king. And, of course, the text says he is the king of Salem. And, the king of Salem means king of peace (v 2) because Salem or Shalom in Hebrew means peace. So Melchizedek is actually the king of Shalom which in Hebrew means peace.

So Melchizedek is a priest-king who is the king of righteousness and he is the king of peace. What does that tell us about the coming priesthood of the Messiah? That he’s going to be a king! Christ is the king of righteousness; Christ is the king of peace. That makes perfect sense because he is the Messiah, the messianic king. So Melchizedek is showing us that the coming Messiah – as predicted in the OT and as fulfilled in Christ – that Melchizedek is a priest and a king in one person. He rules as king but he is also the true priest.

Further, the king of peace reminds us of Is 9 6 – the first messianic oracle in Is – where we read about the prince of peace.

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
So we see this Melchizedek is foretelling that this Messiah will be a king and a priest.

Further, prince of peace means ruler of peace because Christ is of the highest stature; he’s the true king. So prince of peace and king of peace are for the most part equivalent. The author here is thinking of the virgin birth. A child will be born to us, a son will be given to us. Notice that it’s a son that comes from God. And he’s thinking of him as the newborn king, and so the young king is a prince. But we understand theologically that it’s the same as king.

v 3
Here, and even though almost everyone in the OT had a genealogy, the author of He points out that Melchizedek had no genealogy.
So Melchizedek is without father, without mother, without genealogy. How does the author know this? Does this Melchizedek of Ge 14 really have no father or no mother? Remember that back in He 6 the author said we’ll be going beyond the foundational things so some of this may be hard to grasp.

Remember, Melchizedek was a type, a real person or figure in the OT like David or Solomon, for example, that really existed and which were types or foreshadows of Christ. They were not the Christ who was to come. For instance, David as king was a type or foreshadow of the true king, Christ but David was not Christ.
So Melchizedek was a type of Christ who was to come, and Melchizedek was a real historical figure who foreshadowed Christ.
Again, what did it mean that Melchizedek was without father and without mother? Why did the author of He put it this way?

The Holy Spirit inspired the author of Ge 14 to set forth Melchizedek as a type of Christ who was to come. Of course, just about everybody in Ge 14 had a genealogy, for instance, of Adam, of Noah and so on. Melchizedek, however, was the one exception to this genealogy “rule” we’ve seen in the OT. Melchizedek was purposely given no genealogy in Ge 14. That, of course, did not mean he had no father or mother. It just meant he had no genealogy! So, by presenting no genealogy for Melchizedek, the Holy Spirit (through the author of Ge) was presenting Melchizedek without father and without mother – without genealogy as it says here in v 3. That is, Melchizedek was presented as having neither beginning of days nor end of life.
However, Melchizedek had beginning of days because he was a real human being. He also had and end of life but for God’s purposes in typology, Melchizedek as a figure in Scriptures was put here to point forward to someone who truly did have no beginning of days nor end of life.
Notice, therefore, what v 3 says. Made like to the Son of God, he abides a priest forever. So just like Melchizedek was a type of the fact that Christ would be both king and priest, king of righteousness and king of peace, so also the text shows that Melchizedek was a type of the fact that this priest to come, this Christ to come that we knew had now come, was everlasting. He was eternal. But Melchizedek was not everlasting and eternal. However, as a type of Christ he always pointed forward to the fact that the coming Messiah would be everlasting and eternal. This type (Melchizedek) always pointed forward to the fact that this coming priest-king would be an everlasting eternal king (the ultimate Davidic king, the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth) who would actually be the Son of God.

The author of He was showing his readers how this passage in Ge 14 was itself looking forward to Christ who was to come and showing how Christ was the true fulfillment of the story behind the Story. Remember that what was being said about Melchizedek was not about who Melchizedek was but about who Melchizedek always pointed forward to as a type – to Christ. It all nicely fits together!
End of He excursus.

Ps 112
the life of the righteous

This wisdom psalm begins with hallelujah (‘Praise the LORD’) and is built as an alphabetic acrostic. In other words, the first line begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the second line with the second letter, and so on. Were we to title this wisdom psalm we might call it “The Blessings of the Righteous.” We see in vv 2-9 that the righteous have light and hope even in times of darkness and trouble. They have a firm and steady heart, a giving spirit and a concern for justice. We should note that the qualities of the righteous are patterned after the character of Jesus himself.

God has made us righteous by faith in Jesus Christ. Think about the lifestyle of God’s wise and righteous people as that lifestyle is described in this psalm. The Lord in his grace is working blessings and character traits in us as we speak. God has richly blessed us spiritually and in material ways. There have times for us when, despite hardships, we were still secure in God’s love and care. Quite often we’re unaware of the ways we reflect Jesus love but the Holy Spirit is always at work in us by his grace. And, of course, all honor belongs to God!

After praising (v 1) the LORD, the psalmist turns to the blessings that follow one who fears the Lord. In words reminiscent of Ps 1, the psalmist proclaims (v 1) that the one who reverences the Lord delights in God’s Word. The great respect that the faithful have for the Lord extends also to His Word and to the direction God gives His people for their lives. The children (v 2) of the faithful are heirs of God’s blessings, as they, too, learn to walk in reverent regard for God’s truth.

Children today are bombarded with earthly “wisdom” coming from all sorts of the wrong sources – the media, their peers, the government, TV and so on. These earthly influences are powerful indeed, and rest assured, Satan does use them for his purposes to confuse and betray all who will be swayed. With the Holy Spirit’s help, Christian parents share Jesus and the message of his salvation with their children in order to teach them the ways of God. As the psalmist says, the children of the righteous will be blessed (v 2). Children and young people who have been instructed in God’s wisdom from an early age possess behavior and decision-making skills that allow them to resist temptations from peers and so on, and they do so by remembering God’s Word and his love for them. Others of us have noticed the calm optimism and trust in God that many Christian people show when facing serious illness or family problems. Others of us have noticed the prayerful attitude of Christian children and young people as they are faced with decisions at school and in other areas of their lives. All these attitudes are given and nurtured by the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word.

As God’s people love and obey Him they will (v 3) prosper. This prosperity includes both material blessings and the eternal riches of spiritual blessings from God. Several psalms we have studied include God’s promises of wealth, prosperity, and/or riches. By these words, the Holy Spirit does not intend to lead us to expect all God’s people will be millionaires before age 30. But we cannot in faithfulness to the texts consign all these promises to ‘spiritual blessings’ alone, either.

Old Testament believers saw themselves as integrated beings. Their physical health, social relationships, spiritual strength, and financial security, along with their nation’s wellbeing, all combined to produce a state of peace (or a lack of the same). No one element functioned independently of any other. God cares about every aspect of our lives our money too!

As we think about the blessing of wealth and prosperity, we need to ask ourselves, ‘How much is enough?’ If our answer is ‘just a little more’, we’re not prosperous, because we have no peace. But if our answer is ‘Enough by God’s grace to meet my needs today,’ and if we truly do rely on His love for us to meet our needs tomorrow, we are at peace and truly prosperous. These are the ‘wealth and riches’ of v 3.

As the description of the godly continues in v 4, we see that not every circumstance is bright. We, too, will pass through dark days. But even in the dark times of trouble, our Lord brings us His light of hope.

Those who reverence God can handle money (v 5) wisely, not fearing its loss. Money isn’t our god; it’s not our source of security. So we need not abuse others to gain wealth. Instead, we can lend. We can even give gladly. Our love for the Lord will help us look at money as our servant, as a way to help others in need.

The psalmist goes on listing the blessings that belong to the righteous children of God. We (vv 67) need not fear bad news, but we can trust in the Lord to watch over us and protect us. The righteous have a permanence and stability that the wicked cannot know.

As the psalm moves toward its conclusion in v 9, it’s hard to tell whether succeeding verses describe the Lord or us, His people. Perhaps this is by design, because as we get to know Him better and better, we become by His grace more and more like Him in generous love, in righteous actions, and in strength. The Lord is the rock of our lives. Knowing Him, especially in the cross of His Son, is our true wealth. We are indeed prosperous and secure in knowing Him and being able to rely on His love for us.

In 2 Cor 9 9 Paul quotes Ps 112 9. God’s righteous children know that material wealth comes from God. We thank him for it and use his gifts wisely as good stewards. We also willingly share these gifts with those in need as a response to the love and goodness God has shown us. God has blessed all of us with material wealth – especially when we compare our lives to the lives of those living elsewhere in the world.

As we read 2 Cor 9 8-13 we should note the words all and every in the text. As God’s people share with others the gifts God has given us, God makes the riches of his grace increase in their lives even more. Through the generosity of the righteous, more honor and thanksgiving are given to God, and more people come to know Christ. This gives us great joy! We cannot “out-give” our Lord.

Ps 113
supreme, but caring

Ps 113 was originally composed for the temple liturgy and it came to be used at the great religious festivals of God’s OT people, including the festival of Passover – also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. At the beginning of the Passover meal Psalms 113 and 114 were sung.

The Hallel psalms – which are Ps 113118 – were traditionally sung at the Passover meal. They are also called the Egyptian Hallel (or the Passover Hallel) because they began in Egypt during the Passover. The Hebrew word hallel means praise. The Hallel is a term used for Psalms 113-118 and more generally to other groups in Psalms 104-150. These were sung during major Jewish festivals as expressions of praise to God. The term hallelujah – praise God – occurs throughout these Psalms. For additional information see Mk 14 26.
They are so named because of the repeated use of the word Hallelujah (Praise the LORD). The Hallel psalms rehearse the greatness and uniqueness of our God. They marvel that such a great God would care about His people.

Hallelujah (Alleluia) is a religious cry of praise, joy and gladness to God prominent in early Christian liturgies. The Greek version comes from a`llhloui/a, alllouia and the Latin from alleluia. It’s found only in Psalms 104-150, 3 Maccabees 7 13 and Re 19 1-6. Hallelujah (alleluia) is one of the best-loved words in the Christian vocabulary, and it’s also perhaps the most spoken and sung.
There is no mystery as to what it means: Praise the LORD! The Hebrew halelu is the imperative “Praise!,” and the final syllable jah is a shortened form of God’s sacred name Yahweh (translated as Jehovah in the KJV).
From the time of the early Church Christianity has refrained from using Alleluia during Lent in order to distinguish the penitential nature of the season from the exuberance of the Easter season that follows.

‘God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food.’ Maybe you recognize this familiar table prayer. These words aptly describe the theme of Ps 113, the first Hallel psalm. This psalm pivots around the question in v 5, ‘Who is like the LORD our God?’ The answer is given in two parts. The first four verses lead up to the question with a call to praise God for His greatness. The last four verses answer the question by praising God for His goodness to those of humble circumstances.

The psalmist begins with a call for praise in vv 1-3. The psalm opens (v 1) with an emphatic triple appeal to the people of God to praise Him. God’s name is more than just a label by which we address Him. His name represents His character and the acts of grace and justice that demonstrate His power (vv 23).

The psalmist then uses seven verbs in vv 4-9 that describe the actions of God:
Our Lord is high above; is seated on high; looks far down; raises; lifts; makes them sit and gives.

‘Who is like the LORD?’ (v 5) is the fundamental question of the psalm. The answer is simple, but surprising. God is the exalted one (v 4) who (v 6) looks down to care about the lowly. God’s greatness arches over all the nations and even above the sky itself. Yet, the Lord looks down to watch over His people. In this simple contrast, the psalmist captures a great wonder: The God who is so great would care so much about creatures so small.

The psalmist now elaborates on God’s humble service on behalf of His people.
Three groups are cited as representative of the generosity of God. (V 7) The poor and needy are lifted up by God and (v 8) given the dignity of royalty. (V 9) At the time the psalmist wrote, childlessness was considered a terrible curse. For one thing a childless woman could not be an ancestor of the coming Messiah. Even in our society today, childless couples often suffer and are stigmatized. The psalmist uses the picture in v 9 of a barren woman to illustrate the joy God gives His people in His presence. He takes our pain, our hurts, our lowliness, our shame and guilt, and gives us a home – the status of being His royal sons and daughters.

Who is like our God? No one. None of our false gods even come close. No position, no honor, no possessions, no pleasure nothing can equal our Lord in bringing goodness into our lives. In Christ’s cross, He lifts us out of the ash heap of our sins. Praise Him!

As human beings we remain poor and needy, mired in the dust and ash heap of our sins.

But God has raised and lifted us out of the dust of sin and the pit of guilt by his saving actions for us in Jesus Christ as we read in Co 1 21-22 and 2 Cor 5 21. Jesus left his exalted throne in heaven to be sin for us; he made himself lowly, totally despised by God – because he was sin whom God abhorred – so that we could be restored to full fellowship with the Father. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, God sees us as his forgiven children now made righteous – right with him – again.
We all have our own personal reasons to praise and worship our Lord. God is so far above us that he does not have to help or care about us. But how marvelous it is that out of his limitless love, he does indeed care for each of us. He does indeed come to help us. Our God is not some impersonal, uncaring force somewhere “out there”. God is at work constantly on our behalf. He reaches out to rescue us and to bring us back to him when we sin. He cares for us. He protects us. He works what is best for us in every situation. He raises us up in Christ Jesus to live with him forever. God knows our every need. He shares all our sorrow and pain. For all these reasons, we worship God and God even enables that!

Ps 115
glory to the real God

Ps 115 provides a clear example of how the liturgical Psalms involved an exchange between the people and the temple personnel. We see that as follows: in vv 1-8 The people are speaking.
in vv 9-11 the Levitical choir leader is speaking.
in vv 12-13 the people are speaking.
in vv 14-15 the priests are speaking.
in vv 16-18 the people are speaking.

Ps 115, is a liturgical psalm, a hymn of praise centered on the great glory of God (v 1) and the irony that (v 2) the surrounding nations refuse to see it. The psalm was traditionally used at the conclusion of the Passover meal as the worshipers prepared to return home. The psalmist realizes that Israel’s identity as the people of God could lead to ungodly pride, to a kind of spiritual oneupmanship in which they would begin to take credit for their relationship with their Lord. The psalmist (v 1) puts a damper on such thoughts. He reminds God’s people to give God alone the glory for all He has done. As Christians, our relationship with God is one that is based on His mercy and love, not on any worth in us apart from Him. He alone is worthy of glory.

V 1 emphasizes that God alone deserves the glory for the blessings and triumphs in our lives. When we worship, we worship God alone. Our weekly worship as Christians can be a witness to those who do not know God because our worship shows others that we give God an important place in our lives. As we worship, our spoken responses, our hymns of praise and our prayers are verbal witnesses of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. We are witnessing all the good things God does for us as his people. Our worship also empowers us for words and deeds of love and service – which is our witness outside the worship service.

V 2 raises a question that unbelievers always ask to taunt Christians and God himself. Unbelievers raise this question especially when Christians face hardships and troubles. When faced with the question, “Where is your God”, and based on vv 3 and 9-13, we Christians can reply that our God is in heaven, in God’s space. There God lives and acts for us. Our God is in control of all the universe. Our God is also beside us as we face any difficulty. He is our help and our shield. We can be confident that he will act for us in the way that is best for us. After all, he sent his only Son, Jesus, to suffer and die to save us from our sins. He will not withhold from us any other good thing.

Having seen so much evidence of God’s (vv 23) glory, love, and power surrounding them, the Passover worshipers wondered why the nations refused to worship the true God. The gods of the heathen (vv 47) are lifeless creatures who can do and accomplish nothing. What a contrast to Yahweh, the Lord who is (vv 911) our ‘help” and “shield!’
vv 4-8 warn those who worship idols of a grave danger, that those who make and trust in idols will become like the idols themselves, spiritually blind, deaf, unable to speak, smell, feel or walk. Idolaters will endure a living death.

In fact, we’ve all known people becoming like the gods they worship. Those who live for the gods of pleasure, possessions, power or popularity will discover sooner or later that their idolatry smothers their hearts. A life lived like that ends in emptiness and joylessness. And it results in life apart from the true God, the source of joy and love forever.

v 8 contains a great truth. People tend to become like their gods. Those who idolize the rich, the powerhungry, the arrogant of the earth will become more greedy, more controlling, more arrogant themselves. That road leads to death, eternal death. One day, all idolaters will awaken to find themselves as senseless and as spiritually dead as their idols. But as we, by grace, worship Christ Jesus, He transforms us more and more into His image, His character. What a possibility. What a hope! What a Savior!

In vv 9 11, the psalmist addresses a threefold appeal to Israel not to be like the heathen. God’s people are to trust in him as their help and their shield. This triple repetition is a common feature in liturgical Psalms. See, for instance, Ps 96 1-3 and Ps 135 19-20.
The (v 9) nation, its (v 10) priests, and all Godfearers even Gentiles are urged to trust in the Lord and not to let their confidence be shaken by the insults of the heathen.
In light of the vv that preceded the triple repetition, God’s people needed to hear these truths repeated – that we are to trust in the LORD – because of the idolatry going on all around them – and all around us as well. Obviously, many instances are recorded in the OT of God’s people succumbing to idol worship themselves. Just as with God’s OT people, we, too, need to hear these truths repeated. The last time I looked we’re still being surrounded by false gods of every sort.
Mt 7 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
We are also being constantly bombarded with messages to turn to things other than God for security, strength and eternal life. Satan tempts us to put our faith in the things of this world. In his Word, however, God invites us to turn to him for all help. God is our true hope.

God (v 12) has been and continues to be mindful of His people and will continue to bless the nation, the priests and (v 13) all who fear Him. The psalmist (v 14) blesses the people of God and prays (v 15) for their continual blessing.
We see that in vv 12-15 alone the psalmist uses bless or blessed five times. This tells us that God’s plan for us centers on his giving. That’s God’s nature – to want to bring true joy and lasting pleasures into his people’s lives. God is good and greatly to be praised!

God has (v 16) given human beings the earth and the (v 17) ability to praise Him. And regarding the Lord’s nature v 16b tells us that God has entrusted the earth to the care of his human creatures. He’s not only a giver but he’s also a good Father who wants to see us grow in responsibility, in understanding, in knowledge and in trustworthiness.
This gift brings wonderful privileges and responsibilities in our lives. These include any areas of caretaking, discovery, creativity, exploration and service we take part in for God’s purposes. We, therefore, want to make full use of the time God has given us to praise Him so that His deeds may be seen by those around us (v 18).

Ps 118

Ps 118 may have been written for celebrations at the time of David or for the celebrations of of the second temple. As the last song of the Hallel, it was used as thanksgiving for national deliverance. However, it was destined to find greater fulfillment when sung at the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (v 26 as echoed in Jn 12 13) and when Jesus himself referred to it regarding his death and resurrection as we see in vv 22-23 as echoed in Mt 21 42-44.

Luther: “This is my own beloved psalm. Although the entire Psalter and all of Holy Scriptures are dear to me as my only comfort and source of life, I fell in love with this psalm especially. Therefore, I call it my own” (AE 14:45).

Ps 118 is another messianic Ps about this coming kingdom and reign of God.
Ps 118 praises God for deliverance from enemies. This psalm is rich in familiar verses (for instance, v 1 and 29) and verse parts, some of which are found in other places in Scripture (v 14 in Ex 15 2, v 22 in Is 28 16; Mt 21 42; Mk 12 10; Lk 20 17; Ac 4 11 and 1 Pe 2 7).
Bible commentators offer varying circumstances surrounding this psalm. It may have been written following God’s victory on behalf of king Jehoshaphat in 2 Chr 20 20-28. Or it could have been used as a festival psalm when the second temple was dedicated following Israel’s Babylonian Exile (Ez 6 16).

While vv 19-21 do not mention our Lord Jesus by name, they speak volumes about what he has done for us. In Jesus God became our salvation. Because Jesus gave his life for us, we now enjoy eternal life. We now have hope no matter what our circumstances. We have certain and sure hope of life after our earthly life ends (the life after the life after death). The gate of righteousness stands open wide to us. By faith we share the right standing with God that Jesus himself enjoys. In fact, Jesus himself is the one and only gate of righteousness. We enter into God’s presence in peace in Jesus and only in Jesus, our savior.

All through Ps 118 the psalmist refers to the things the Lord has done for us such as in vv 6, 7, 10-16. Vv 22-23 tell of yet another thing the Lord has done: the Lord made the stone that the builders rejected … the cornerstone. The cornerstone was, of course, very important in ancient buildings. The entire building was set in place in relationship to the cornerstone because the proper placement of the cornerstone further ensured the building’s stability.

Of course, our gospels remind us that Jesus was the stone that the builders rejected that has become the cornerstone (Mt 21 42; Mk 12 10 and Lk 20 17). The building the gospel writers referred to was, of course, Jesus Christ and his Holy Christian Church as we see in Ep 2 19-22.

And then in Ac 4 5-11 we see that the builders who rejected Jesus were none other than the leaders of the Jews – the priests and the Pharisees. The very people who should have recognized Jesus from the OT Scriptures instead rejected him and his claim to be their Messiah.

And as we read in 1 Pe 2 4-10 for each of us who believe in Jesus, God has made a member of his household. We are chosen and precious, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession (v 9). When we compare Ps 118 21 with 1 Pe 2 9, and as people who trust by grace in Jesus, the chief cornerstone, we are to proclaim his excellencies (v 9).

Ps 118 God’s Everlasting Kindness

We can give thanks that God is good, not just for a time or for a season, but forever. What if God were good only occasionally? How hopeless our lives would be! Yet, God’s kindness and love never fade. In Ps 118, the psalmist praises God for His eternal kindness. That kindness caused God to send His own Son into our world to save us, and that kindness reaches down to help us still today, whatever our need.

Here is the pattern for this psalm: The announcement of the reason for praise (v 1a); call to praise (vv 1b 4); account of help (vv 518); and words of praise (v 1929).

Many Christians use the first verse of Ps 118 as a table prayer. Yet, one can imagine the psalmist gathering some friends or neighbors around him to hear the marvelous things that have happened to him. When something special happens to us, we usually want others to share in our joy. The psalmist calls out (v 2) to all in Israel, (v 3) to the priests, and finally (v 4) to all those who worship God. We can imagine him almost shouting. He wants the world to hear what God has done for him!

The story of the psalmist centers on (v 5) answered prayer and (vv 89) a lesson learned. The psalmist found himself deep in danger (vv 1112), surrounded by his enemies and close to losing his life. The psalm never identifies these enemies. (V 18) God has allowed these difficult days for the psalmist, but in the end (vv 14, 17) has delivered him. Driven to the Lord by his troubles, the psalmist finds God to be (v 20) the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.

Jesus will claim that title for Himself in Jn 10 9. Through Him, our Good Shepherd who died for us, … through him we become righteous in God’s sight. We enter God’s presence without fear. This leads us, as it led the psalmist (v 21), to burst out in a hymn of praise to God, who has become our salvation. Yet, the Lord disciplines (v 18) so that we might learn (vv 89) to trust in God instead of in human strength and wisdom. God lets His people experience troubles, and then He works through His Word during those times of trouble so that great insight and spiritual growth can come out of the crucible of our sufferings. Through pain and deliverance, David learns the loyalty (v 7) and character (v 14) of God in a way he will never forget!

We see God’s eternal kindness most clearly in the kindness He has shown us in the Messiah. (V 22) People will reject the one whom God sends, but God (vv 22 23) will make Jesus the cornerstone of the Church. The Messiah will be rejected by sinners but victorious in completing God’s purpose (vv 11 24).

Like the psalmist (v 28), we can rejoice that the Lord is our God and that we never have to live (v 29) without His kindness.

v 22
Mark echoes this at Mk 11 9. Ps 118 is another messianic Ps. The stone of v 22 is this messianic stone rejected by the kings of the earth, but this king of Israel is God’s king who will become the chief cornerstone.

v 25
save us or O save now comes from the Hebrew word hosiana that gets translated into the Greek ~wsanna, and comes to us in English as hosanna. Hence, hosanna comes from the Greek form of the Jewish cry used in the procession of the Festival of Booths in Ps 118 25-26. In the NT hosanna is associated with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as we see in Mk 11 9; Mt 21 9; and Jn 12 13.

Ps 119
the glories of God’s law

Ps 119 is a Torah psalm; it’s all about the law but as Torah and it’s full meaning as God’s revelation, God’s illumination, God’s instruction, God’s teaching, God’s gospel and so on. All of Ps 119 is about loving and extolling the Word of God and loving the teaching of God. It has an incredible structure just like so many things in the Bible. It is the longest psalm in the psalter and is arranged acrostically in groups of 8 verses. Each section extols the teaching of the Lord and tells of how wonderful God’s law is. This is Ps 118 in the Orthodox Bible.

Every line of the first 8 verses begin with the Hebrew letter aleph, the second 8 verses begin with the Hebrew letter beth, then gimel and so on through out the 22 letters. [See Lutheran Study Bible’s headings for these 22 sections which list the Hebrew at the beginning of each section.] So you have 22 sections of 8 verses apiece all dealing with the Torah.

Further, within each 8 verses you have 8 different synonyms used for God’s Torah such as God’s law, statutes, testimonies, word, commandments, rules, precepts, ways and you use a different one in each of the verses in different orders. These synonyms show that it doesn’t mean law and it doesn’t mean obedience. It shows that the word law really does have the meaning of the gospel in the broad sense (discussed above in Ps 1 2). We see all of these different synonyms that involve teaching, instruction. Some of them involve statutes, something you obey but many of them not. It’s the whole teaching of God. The psalmist just goes on and on about the truth of God because it’s not just the law or the precepts or what we should do. It’s the whole story of what God has already done for us as well.

Ps 119 comes from the post-exilic period and probably a little bit later. It is a whole collection of poetry but this one concentrates on that aspect.
We Lutherans look on the Law and Gospel. The law is supposed to be bad and a burden while the gospel is supposed to be good. For most of the time the Torah is looked on as a gift from God; it is a joy to study and live by its precepts. So it does not start out by being a burden. All of Ps 119 reflects this as does the other literature that comes from this time. Ps 119 is the wisdom psalm par excellence.

v 1
Some would read this as rejoicing in God’s commands and how God tells us to live. The psalmist is focusing on God’s law in that sense but that’s not true at all because each of these synonyms are like the word Torah – they all refer to the whole of God’s revelation, not just the law. So every time you read the word law in your translations, if you would substitute for that teaching or instruction or revelation or even gospel, you would be a lot closer to the truth than translating it as law which has this legalistic tinge in our thought that it does not have in the original Hebrew.

v 97
“Oh, how I love your law!” exclaims the psalmist in Ps 119 97 – also in vv 113, 163 and 165. While only the seriously neurotic could become so enraptured with a modern law code, this psalmist was well-balanced. When he says he loves God’s torah, he is using a term closer to our English words instruction, revelation and guidance than to our words code, statutes or rule book. The torah is God’s whole word, God’s whole revelation to humanity. It focuses on the story of what God has done for Israel and what God will do for all humanity, and within that is God’s guidance for how you should live your life. Then it makes perfect sense why the psalmist loves the torah ; he loves God’s teaching, God’s word, God’s story.

In Ps 119 we see that God’s Word is our beloved guide to life. It reveals God’s trustworthy promises and eternal mercy.
The gospel radiates through this psalm as the psalmist describes God’s promises which save his people (for example at vv 41 and 58). God’s Word is loved because of its message of steadfast love as in vv 76, 88 and 159. God is merciful and this mercy brings life as we read, for example, in v 156.

Psalms 120-134

Ps 120-134 are known as the “Psalms of Ascents” (Songs of Ascents) because they were sung by the people of Israel as they made pilgrimage up to the temple in Jerusalem for festivals. Songs of Ascents literally meant songs of going up. They are also often called the ‘pilgrim psalms’ because they were sung by pilgrims who journeyed to the temple in Jerusalem for one of the annual feasts. (See handout.) Because Jerusalem was built on a hill higher than the surrounding countryside, people commonly spoke of “going up to Jerusalem”.
The Psalms of Ascents may have also been sung by the priests as they were ascending the steps of the temple for the worship service.

All of these Psalms rejoice in going up to be in the presence of God at the temple. For example, see Ps 132 6-9, 13-14 where we’ll see again this theme of the dwelling of God.

Ps 121

Ps 121 is one of the Psalms of Ascents that was written for a pilgrim viewing Jerusalem’s hills or by a psalmist when feeling overwhelmed. He finds that God who created all things is his helper.
We are all pilgrims on a journey to our home with God in the renewed Creation as we read in Pp 3 20 But our citizenship is in the heavens (in the heavenly realms). And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (NIV corrected). In the original Greek text ouvranoi/j (heavens) is in the plural as I’ve highlighted in the text above.
This Philippian text is an often misunderstood text so allow me to say a few words by way of clarification.

Pp 3 20-21 (partial) note:

our citizenship is in the heaven s

in the heavens is often misunderstood by those who, thinking the goal is heaven, don’t understand the true Christian hope which is the hope of
the resurrection of the dead and
the renewal and restoration of all Creation.
Whenever the Bible talks about heaven, people most often take the Platonic world view and think the Bible is talking about heaven as the ultimate goal of believers. Scripture, however, is quite clear on this point. Heaven is definitely not the ultimate Christian hope!

Instead, here in this text, Paul is talking about the current location of our citizenship as Christians. The Church is at present a colony of heaven charged with the responsibility, just as we say in the Lord’s Prayer, for bringing the life and rule of heaven to bear here on earth (your will be done on earth as it is in heaven).

Therefore, our citizenship is in the heavens means that Christ is in heaven, reigning over the new Jerusalem. That’s where we get our marching orders from – our country, our state, our citizenship which is in the heavens where our king, Christ, reigns at the right hand of God. While our allegiance is to Christ who is in the heavens, that, however, is not where we expect to go with the resurrection of our bodies at Christ’s second coming. Because Paul says our citizenship is in the heavens, that becomes our goal as the place to be in the sense of this citizenship which we have with Christ who is currently reigning in the heavens.
In other words, Scripture here is talking about where our citizenship is but those operating our of a Platonic worldview, as many Christians unfortunately do, see Scripture here as talking about where we end up in the general resurrection to come at Christ’s return. So it’s important to understand that these are two different things on the table. Instead, heaven is where we are awaiting Christ to come from as we clearly see being stated here in v 20. It’s from the heavens that we eagerly await a savior.

Even today many Christians think of heaven as their eventual home. These people (very mistakenly) think that the goal of our Christian lives is to dwell with God apart from our bodies in some sort of heavenly existence – an understanding which is right in line with Platonic thinking but which is most contrary to and just the opposite of what Scripture actually says. Hence, at the popular level, some people, even some so-called theologians, take v 20 out of context and decide this v means Paul is saying that our true, eventual home is in heaven (in the heavens). And only to make matters worse, this misinterpretation is a terribly incorrect exegetical move that leads to all sorts of other “bad theology” down the road. That’s why we have to be adamantly single-minded about clearing this understanding up with believers of every Christian denomination.

Folks, Paul’s point is NOT that our ultimate goal is to be with God forever in heaven!!! Instead, the new Jerusalem (that we read of in Re 3, 21) or the heavenly Jerusalem (that we read of in Ga 4 26; He 12 22) or in the heavens (that we read about here in Pp 3 20-21) is currently there in heaven with Jesus because that’s where Jesus is – at the right hand of God. Currently! So that’s where our citizenship is CURRENTLY! That is going to change, as v 20 clearly states, because it’s from this current heavenly abode from where Christ will come down to us at his second Advent to be with us here on earth forever (Re 21). No where does Scripture ever talk about going to heaven to be with Jesus forever. No where! When Scripture does speak of the ultimate goal, however, it always speaks of the ultimate goal as being the resurrection of the body and the renewal and restoration of all Creation. That is, it speaks of what the Nicene fathers summarized with the phrase and I look for to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

So we now see that Paul used this citizenship is in the heavens language to mean that’s from where we get our rules and guidance, from our Lord in heaven. Therefore, the biblical idea here is that it’s our citizenship in this heavenly Jerusalem which determines our conduct here in the inaugurated kingdom of God. That is, in this earthly dimension in which we now live in God’s inaugurated kingdom, we are to conduct ourselves according to what our citizenship in the heavens tells us to do.

As such, Paul is telling the Philippians that they (we) are citizens of this country here on earth only in a secondary sense. We do not follow the ways of the world. We may be citizens of this or that nation, but our ultimate loyalty is with Christ – who is currently in the heavens. Therefore, and instead, as people of faith we are already citizens of God’s kingdom (our citizenship is in the heavens) and our conduct is, therefore, and must be ruled by Christ’s word that speaks from the right hand of God in the heavens. Further, our citizenship is in the heavens not because we’re going to go there in the resurrected body but because it’s from there we await our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is there in the heavens where the spirits of those who have fallen asleep in faith currently reside with Christ. And when the Father tells him to do so, Christ is going to come down to us – the second advent – Christ’s second coming. And we all anxiously await his coming in the hope that empowers our Christian lives in the present – eagerly awaiting the coming of the Lord so that we might again be renewed in the flesh and be in God’s presence eternally. It truly is a wonderful hope that awaits all of us who have faith.

intermediate state See fullest discussion of intermediate state at Ro 8 24.

Paul is making this clear distinction here between the intermediate state – heaven (an interim state, not the full hope) and the resurrection of the body (the ultimate Christian goal along with the renewal and restoration of all Creation). In fact, the Bible goes into very little detail about the intermediate state because the intermediate state is not the ultimate hope. In other words, the Bible doesn’t say much about the intermediate state BECAUSE IT’S NOT THE ULTIMATE GOAL!!! Instead, the ultimate hope is the resurrection of the body along with the renewal and restoration of all Creation. Paul is telling the Philippians that in this intermediate state their souls are with God in some indescribable way. For instance, Paul says that if he should be killed by Nero that night he would be eager to depart and be with the Lord [Pp 1 23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better;]. Theologically we say that the souls / spirits of the departed are with God / Jesus. Further, it’s in this intermediate state that their souls / spirits await the great event when at his second coming Christ returns to resurrect their bodies to live with him forever. In other words, as always, the ultimate goal is the resurrection of the body in which the whole person is raised to life in the context of whole renewed Creation. This is the outworking of the resurrection itself.

Everything happening here is a creational hope that corresponds within the story behind the Story. The whole biblical story begins with the creation of all things by one, good, transcendent creator God. So the goal of the story is that all things created would be eventually and ultimately made right and renewed. Then, within the biblical perspective, the people are freed from their ultimate enemy death through the resurrection of the body and the renewal and restoration of all Creation. So Creation serves as bookends here. In the beginning God created God’s good Creation. Then, when God comes to consummate the kingdom of God, God will come to renew and restore Creation including the whole cosmos. Everything will be renewed! All things will be made new (in the renewed sense)!!!

What Paul is not saying here is that heaven is our true country because we’re going to go there everlastingly. He’s not saying that at all. Instead, the idea here in this v is that heaven is where Jesus is at the right hand of God and from where a savior – Christ is going to come to consummate his kingdom his second advent / coming. Then, when he comes from heaven, he’s not coming just to go back up into heaven. Instead, Christ will come to stay, to renew the whole created order as we see in Re 3 and 21 and in other biblical texts.

There’s more we could say about what is going on in these two verses but we must move on.

Back now to Ps 121.
The psalm reminds us to focus on the Lord who oversees our journey. We are not to allow the moon or the sun, or anything else in Creation, frighten us because our God is eternally alert and going above and before us. We are to trust in our God’s vigilant love and that God will protect and preserve us and ultimately bring us home to him in the renewed Creation.

v 1
Some translations (such as the NRSV, NKJV, ESV, NIV) very incorrectly render this as a question which makes no sense. Why would you life up your eyes to the mountains because your help should come from God?
The KJV presents it as a declarative statement – which it is – from whence cometh my help.
So it should be translated as I lift up my eyes to the mountains from where my help comes. It’s a declarative statement, not a question!!!

In reality, the reason you lift up your eyes to the mountains is that you are ascending up to Jerusalem and to the temple, God’s dwelling place. For instance, pilgrims could have been approaching from maybe the Jordan valley, looking up towards the temple.
From where my help comes is not a question but a statement. The psalmist was not asking if his help came from the hills. The psalmist was saying he was ascending up to Jerusalem, there where the holy dwelling place of God was on Mt. Zion. That’s why he lifts his eyes to the hills because that’s from where his help does come which we see in v 2.

When we read this in the time of fulfillment, it’s quite striking. These Psalms of Ascents were part of the ancient Eucharistic liturgies of the church. They are used in the liturgy of the presanctified gifts. In the course of the Eucharistic service focused on Holy Communion, all the Psalms of Ascents are read from Ps 120 through Ps 134.
The Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is an Eastern Orthodox liturgical service on the weekdays of Great Lent wherein communion is received from Gifts (the Body and Blood of Christ) that are sanctified (consecrated) in advance, hence its name; this Divine Liturgy has no anaphora (eucharistic prayer).

Psalms 120-134 are read in the Eucharistic liturgy because when they are used in the Eucharistic liturgy, we’re celebrating the presence of Christ among us. So it’s very appropriate that the church uses these Psalms of Ascents in this context. So we see this organic connection between
the original context as Israel’s prayer book in which it was focused on the dwelling place of God and
the current context as the Christian prayer book in which it is focused on something greater: God has come in person, incarnate, in flesh in Jesus Christ. That’s why these Psalms are read by the church within the Eucharistic liturgy.

We should not forget that this wonderful promise of God dwelling among us has been fulfilled in Christ. Of course, although that kingdom of God has been inaugurated, it’s not yet been fully consummated. We look forward to the fullness of Christ dwelling among us at his second coming, just like the people of Israel were celebrating God’s promise even though they knew something was coming that was greater, something which we see in the enthronement hymns. Now the kingdom of God has come and Christ has come and so we also are awaiting the fullness of that when Christ returns. The Eucharist is a foretaste of that return which is why the church usually talks about it as a foretaste of the great banquet to come. At least, we should always understand and talk about it in that fashion because, sadly, many current worshipers do not know these things.

v 2
So he’s the LORD who made heaven and earth. But notice he has this tender love and concern for the psalmist as we see in v 3 ff.

Note: Ps 121 is kind of like Ps 23 because it is frequently used for funerals.
I had a very pointed experience with this Ps because of this couple I knew in Louisville. The husband was dying and his wife couldn’t sleep because she was listening for his breathing. So I read Ps 121 to her. The one who is watching over you will neither slumber nor sleep. So I asked her to please sleep and let God be the one who watched over her husband. The next night she was sleeping and the cat came in and woke her up. She went into the next room where her husband was and he had breathed his last breath. It was almost like this cat was the messenger. We tend to forget that God is watching over us as this psalm tells us he is.

Ps 122
What a city?!

Each psalm within the Psalms of Ascents is like another step along the journey. Ps 120122 describe the ‘journey to Jerusalem, while Ps 123134 include the prayers and voice the confident hope held by the pilgrims as they move toward the temple. These psalms anticipate being in God’s presence for worship. They convey a sense of wonder, of awe in the privilege of coming close to such a majestic and powerful God. So these Psalms were sung at the “going up” of God’s people for the festivals in Jerusalem but also at the priests “going up” the steps of the temple for worship.

Ps 122 is the third psalm of ascent, and this psalm builds upon what has come before in the previous Psalms of Ascents. Ps 120 was a plea for help during the trip. In Ps 121, the pilgrims scanned the horizon for their first glimpse of the temple on Mount Zion in the holy city.

As the pilgrims arrive in Jerusalem (v 1), they rejoice at the opportunity to worship. As he arrived in Jerusalem David’s feelings come through. He rejoiced to be in Jerusalem. Not doubt the privilege of meeting the Lord in worship accounted for much of it. Being with other believers added to it as well. The festivals were a time to enjoy family, friends, God’s love together and the faith they all shared.

Perhaps each of us has experienced similar times when coming to worship God. It may have been a time of special commemoration or at Christmas or at Easter or at the baptism of one’s children or their confirmation. Some experience an eagerness and anticipation as they come to worship. This would be evidence of the love for God and the yearning to be near God and to know him, something which the Holy Spirit plants in the hearts of all believers.

We see that the phrase the house of the LORD both begins and ends the psalm in vv 1 and 9. House of the LORD tells us that the temple was the place where God had promised to dwell on earth. It was the place where God’s people thought on his steadfast love (Ps 48 9). For those who loved and honored the Lord, the temple was better than any other place on earth.
People will often call their place of worship “God’s house”. Once Christ was crucified and risen, the Holy Spirit was poured out into the hearts of God’s people. As Paul tells us in 1 Cor 3 16 and 2 Cor 6 16, the Spirit now indwells each of us.

Now their joy is complete as they (v 2) stand at the gates of the temple. Perhaps this sounds a bit overstated. Can anyone be that happy to worship? If we’re honest, we must admit that our own attitude toward worship is often lukewarm. Being in God’s presence doesn’t always thrill us. But that coldness is symptomatic of our sin, of a love for our SaviorGod that doesn’t at all begin to match His infinite love for us. We really need the forgiveness Jesus won for us at the cross! And we need the Holy Spirit to fill us with a deeper love for our Savior, a more fervent desire to be with Him in His house and to worship Him ‘in spirit and in truth’ (Jn 4 4)!

While Jerusalem at the time of David was undoubtedly impressive, the real beauty of the city did not lie in its architecture but in what happened there. Through the pilgrim’s eyes, David paints a picture of a city of (v 3) unity, (v 4) worship, and (v 5) justice. In Jerusalem, God touches His worshiping people and teaches them His ways.

David continues with an exhortation to pray for Jerusalem and its security in v 6. As Jerusalem goes, so goes the nation and its worship of the Lord. Bible scholars have noted that the name Jerusalem is probably connected to the Hebrew word shalom which means peace. David prayed for peace and security for Jerusalem. God’s OT people journeyed to Jerusalem to be with God in the peace and security of his house. Each week when we join in worship together with other believers, it can be said that we, too, have journeyed to Jerusalem.

The various aspects of our worship service all focus on Jesus and convey to us his peace. In fact, all that is done in the worship service should focus on Christ Jesus. Because Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross, we can live with peaceful hearts, knowing that we are saved through faith in him. The Confession of Sins and the Absolution convey God’s pardon for all we have done wrong. The Scripture readings, the sermon, the hymns we sing, and the prayers we pray all focus on Jesus, our Savior, in one way or another. Even the architecture and the furnishings remind us that it is because of what Jesus has done for us that we now have a right relationship with God. It is because of him that we can come to God in worship and praise. Of course, the sacraments touch each of us in a personal way with Christ’s love, presence and forgiveness. This gives us peace.

In v 7, the psalmist breaks into a prayer of his own, asking God to continue to bring peace, prosperity, and protection to the city. He asks (v 8) a special blessing for the city because of its unique place in the lives of so many people he knows and loves. He concludes (v 9) with a pledge to continue to pray for the city because it is the home of God’s house.

We can seek what is good for Christ’s kingdom by living in love and unity with our brothers and sisters in the faith. We can encourage and build one another up in the Word, avoiding foolish arguments and trivial disputes. We can pray for peace as the psalmist did, and we can work and give so as to extend Christ’s kingdom into the lives of others.

Throughout Scripture, the holy writers often use ‘Jerusalem’ as a kind of shorthand when they mean ‘the people of God.’ As we read Ps 122, we remember to pray for our nation, certainly. But most of all, we pray for our congregation and for the Holy Christian Church throughout the world. We thank God for the beauty of his people – the Bride of Christ! We pray for unity and zeal. We pray for peace and prosperity, especially that all God’s people would be rich in the knowledge of God and in good works.

Ps 124
the Lord, our deliverer

Psalms 120–134 are the Songs of Ascents. In Ps 124 all Israel praises God for delivering the nations from its enemies. Several of them, including 124, were written in such a way that successive vv pick up and develop the thoughts of earlier verses. This causes the thoughts themselves to “ascend” through the psalm. We see, for example, the following ideas being picked up and developed in the following verses.
The thought in v 1, if it had not been the LORD who was on our side is repeated in v 2 and developed further with the added words when people rose up against us.
The thought in v 3, they would have swallowed us up alive is further developed in v 4a with the flood would have swept us away.
The thought in v 4b, the torrent would have gone over us (which is also a continuation of v 4a) is further expanded on in v 5 with over us would have gone the raging waters.
And the thought in v 7a, we have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers is further developed in v 7b with the snare is broken and we have escaped.

Ps 124 rounds out our psalms of community lament and praise. It is a psalm of praise included in the 11 songs of ascents’ sung as God’s people traveled ‘up to Jerusalem’ for national festivals. As the people put one foot in front of another on the trip, they united their voices in praise of their God. Dangers surrounded them, yet God’s Word calmed their fears.

Ps 124 is a psalm of David. A mighty warrior, David could have taken credit for his many and awesome victories, yet he gives God all the credit for them. Emphatically he proclaims (v 1) and repeats (v 2) the source of his successes: the Lord. David knew what would have happened if God had not been on his side. He describes that alternative in a parade of horrors that rapidly rise to a frenzied peak.

‘If it had not been the LORD who was on our side,’ he says, (v 2) ‘[men] would have swallowed us up alive’; (v 3) ‘the flood would have swept us away’; (v 4) ‘over us would have gone the raging waters’ (v 5).

We could paint a similar scenario in our own lives. If Jesus had not died for us, then we would be overcome by Satan. We would be overwhelmed by sin and guilt and swept away by eternal damnation. Like ancient Israel, we shudder to think of what would happen to us without our Lord, our Savior, our hope.

David gives credit for victory where it is due: ‘Blessed be the LORD’ (v 6). Like a lamb (v 6) snatched from the jaws of a beast or like a bird (v 7) escaping a net thrown by someone trying to capture it, we have narrowly missed disaster. David reminds us (v 8) where our true help is found. God is the one ‘who made heaven and earth’ (v 8b). He has all power to save.

God lets us come together to worship him each week as he comes down to us through his Word and Sacraments. Each week we respond as we go up to praise him as we gather for worship in our various churches. This is quite a privilege! When we come together as community, we ought to be looking forward to meeting the Lord in public worship. We are coming together to celebrate his resurrection, his going up from the grave. We are to rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection because his resurrection has won for us eternal life. In the consummation of the present evil age we too will be raised up as Jesus was raised up, and we will be found in mercy in God’s renewed Creation. On that Last Day we, too, will experience our bodily resurrection, a physical going up. Going up for worship also involves a going up for Holy Communion. We can rejoice as well that because of Jesus, our prayers can “ascend” to God to be heard an answered by him.

We read in Ps 124 8 our help is in the name of the LORD who made heaven and earth. Because God has the kind of awesome power that could create our universe, we know he has the power to help us with our problems too. God uses his power in love for his own. In Ps 44 the nations lamented defeat. But the LORD had not abandoned them. If he had (Ps 124), they would have been swept away completely. Ps 124 is really a prayer of praise that could be used after the disasters of Ps 44 have reached a resolution. Neither psalm answers all our questions about “the problem of evil.” But together they both point to the One who hears our questions and who comforts us with his continual love for us in Christ Jesus.

Ps 126

Imagine yourself a small child, peacefully at home with your parents and siblings, when suddenly the soldiers come. Rough hands, arrogant voices. ‘Everybody out! No time to pack. Line up! Hurry up!’ We’re out of here. A few men try to resist; swords flash, women scream. Unburied bodies are left in the city’s streets.

Then there was the long, dusty journey across the desert. You can still remember, seventy years later, the daytime heat and the chilly nights. At last, you reach a great city where you’re treated as curiosities: ‘Oh, they finally caught up with you silly Judaeans, did they? Well, you’re going to have fun singing your fancy songs here!’

Eventually the little clusters of families find somewhere to live. They do their best to remember, to tell the stories, to keep the commandments, to forge strong bonds, as you only really do when life’s like that. And, yes, to sing the songs, even though they taste bitter in the mouth when you think of Jerusalem in ruins.

You remember now the years that followed: praying, fasting, studying, growing up, marrying, having children. Everything still tastes bitter and you wonder why you bother going on hoping. Everybody knows that exiles don’t return. The dream is over. Better just get used to being in a new place. Forget your old culture: you’ve got to go on, not back. All peoples think they’re special, and then discover that it’s just a grandiose fantasy. But still you, and quite a few others, go on praying and remembering. And singing.

And then … it hardly seems possible, but now at last, in your midseventies, it’s happened. A new king with a new policy. The Judaeans are to go home! They must rebuild their Temple! This is amazing! The Lord has visited his people!

Now it’s time for a new song: ‘When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream: laughter in our mouths, songs of joy on our tongues, and everybody looking on and saying “Their God has done great things for them.”’

Restoration. Forgiveness. New starts. These are the greatest moments in the world, even if you have to wait a lifetime for them to come.

But then the Psalm turns a corner and looks at projects still unfinished, sorrows still unhealed. ‘Do it again, gracious Lord: you brought us back. It was impossible but you did it; now turn things around again for us.’ Once again we’re sowing in tears, but may we reap with shouts of joy. From exile and return to seedtime and harvest, but it’s the same picture.

This is a picture we can make our own as we go through Lent, just as Jesus made it his own as he went through his own Lent, speaking of seeds being strangely and sadly sown so that a great harvest might come up.

We are to ask ourselves if there have been moments in our lives when suddenly everything turned round for us or for somebody else? Have there been moments when tears or a long time of difficulty gave way to shouts of joy? If there have, then today could be a good day to remember them and thank God for them.

Ps 130
my soul waits for the LORD

Ps 130 is the sixth of the seven penitential Psalms of the Church. They are sometimes called the lamentations. The Church has chosen seven of the penitential Psalms for special use in the Church’s liturgy – called the Church’s penitential Psalms.

The context of Ps 130 is the psalmist longing to the new Exodus when God will free and redeem Israel from all inequity, which was all about hoping for and waiting and expecting. When would God redeem his people Israel from all their inequities? in the new Exodus. So it’s bringing in the hope of the new Exodus again.

One of Luther’s hymns (LSB 607) which gives poignant expression to his early pain and struggle as a monk includes the following lyrics:
From depths of woe I cry to you.
O Lord, my voice is trying
to reach your heart and, Lord, break through
With these my cries and sighing.
If you keep record of our sin
And hold against us what we’ve been,
Who then can stand before you?

This hymn comes directly from Ps 130. The psalmist tells us in vv 1-3 that we humans deserve eternal death for our sin. Then, vv 4-8 reveal the good news that God forgives our sin. Law and Gospel!

v 1
The psalmist is in a time of great sorrow, despair and difficulty. He is crying to God out of those depths.

v 3
Again we see that in the sight of God no one is righteous by their works. All are condemned.

v 7
The word Israel is being used here, as it is elsewhere in the Bible, in a special way as talking about God’s people. It does not mean all the people who were descended from Abraham. It, instead, refers to the faithful among the people of Israel, those who truly bear the name of Israel, who trust in God and his covenant. So here Israel is a way of talking about those who are righteous. However, they are not righteous in such a way as to say they don’t need forgiveness.

So here in Ps 130 we see once again that there is no one righteous, not even one (Ps 14 3). Instead, we access righteousness through God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness.
Notice also that even though the psalmist has the sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins, the psalmist sees that this redemption event when God would act to redeem Israel from their iniquities and sin is something yet to come. And the LORD will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

v 8
This is echoed in Tt 2 14 where it says that in Christ this new Exodus has come.

This is also echoed in a passage used during Advent season, Mt 1 20-21 when the angel speaks to Joseph.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” See notes there.
So again, it’s clear from Scripture that we cannot be saved by our works. We need God’s grace and mercy of the covenant which came to us in Jesus Christ.

Overwhelmed with misery and guilt, the psalmist is in a state of emotional desolation. Yet, as he realizes God hears his pleas and grants him full forgiveness, his darkness slowly gives way to light and the hope of plentiful redemption (v 7).
If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit the depths of our own sinfulness. When we are overwhelmed, God hears our pleas for mercy. He does not remember our sins but rather grants us free forgiveness through the work of Christ who gives us hope. Christ himself plunges into our depths to raise us to salvation.
We are to acknowledge that in our happy times we often forget God but in our suffering we turn to God, and in our weakness we find our strength. We are to ask God to speak to us the word of his promise.

Ps 132
Lord, remember David

Ps 132 is also classified as a “Song of Ascents”. It may have been originally written for the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem during the reign of Solomon. Or it may have been used later, in the coronation ceremonies of kings. In this prayer, the psalmist mentioned two promises – David’s promise to God and God’s greater promise to David.

The Psalms of Ascent focus on the temple and the traveler’s journey to worship God there. Ps 132 connects that theme with the promise of God to build a dynasty for David. The two ideas seem to have little in common until we remember the events of 2 Sam 7 1-3. There, David proposed building a temple, a house ‘God’s House’ we would say. Instead, God promised to build a ‘house’ a dynasty for David. Thus, Ps 132 is both a royal psalm and one of the psalms of ascent. You see what I mean about categories within the Psalms!

The psalm begins by referring back to David’s zeal concerning construction of the temple (vv 1-5). Having brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6), David became uneasy. He rested in comfort while the ark was sheltered by a mere tent (vv 3-5).
Then in v 3 the psalmist referred to David’s oath to God. David vowed not to sleep till a suitable place was found (v 5) for the house of the Lord. He vowed to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, and he also vowed to find a place for the LORD (v 5). It was David’s plan to build a permanent temple for God in Jerusalem during his reign as king.

We see from David’s oath that the focus of his regime would be serving God and bringing the ark to Jerusalem. It was important to David that the Ark of the Covenant have a permanent home. Since the time of Samuel, the ark had been in the house of Abinadad at Kirjath-jearim as we know from 1 Sam 7 1.

The Lord disrupted David’s plans, though. Through the prophet Nathan, God declared that it would be the yet unborn Solomon who would construct the Lord’s house on the plot of land David eventually purchased (2 Sam 24).

What zeal David showed for the Lord and for His honor! God worked this zeal in David’s heart, and He wants to work it in us too. How powerful our witness could be if we could focus totally on God’s honor and on the spread of His kingdom on earth! We are to pray that God would grant it to us for Jesus’ sake!

Vv 69 retell more history from David’s era. For twenty years, the ark of the covenant had been in the village of Kiriathjearim, about ten miles outside Jerusalem. David gathered 30,000 men to go with him to bring the ark to his new capital, Jerusalem. Perhaps you recognize the words of v 8. We know from Ps 68 that this was the call that went up in Israel’s camp during the wilderness wanderings each time the priests got ready to move the ark forward. (See also Nu 10 35.) The prayer in the hearts of David and his people (vv 89) was that the Lord would one day take up residence in the temple that Solomon had built and that He would bless (v 9) those who served and those who worshiped in this new temple. Their prayer concluded (v 10) with a plea that God not leave Israel but continue to show favor to each of David’s descendants.

The remainder of the psalm speaks of the fact that God had chosen David (vv 1112) and Mount Zion (vv 1318) as His own. God had sworn (v 11) that one of David’s own children will follow him on the throne. God promised David (v 12) a continual dynasty if the sons of David remained faithful to the covenant.
Thus, vv 11-12 tell us of God’s great promise to David. This oath is found in its entirety in 2 Sam 7 8-16. God made many promises to David as follows:
God would plant his people in Israel where they would grow and flourish.
God would protect his people from their enemies, stop the oppression of the wicked and provide his people rest from their enemies.
God would establish a “house” – a dynasty – for David.
David’s descendants would succeed him on the throne and ultimately this promise would come to fulfillment in Christ Jesus which we see in a comparison of 2 Sam 7 14 and He 1 5.
God promised to establish David’s throne for eternity through Jesus, the Messiah.

The descendants of David, of course, did not remain faithful, and the line of kings stopped – temporarily – at the Babylonian exile. Still, God did give David a Son who would rule forever the Lord Jesus, our eternal King, who eventually came from David’s line.

In v 13, the psalmist declared that the Lord has chosen Zion as His home and His eternal (v 14) resting place. This is, of course, the Church. Here, the Lord has chosen to live in His people and here He may be found in the world – in his people the Church. The Lord promises abundant blessings for His people. He (v 16) promises to clothe His priests with salvation. We, as Christ’s royal priests wear the robe of His righteousness, the right standing with God that brings salvation. The ‘horn’ of v 17 symbolizes strength. Thus, the psalm closes in vv 17-18 with a promise of strength for the house of David and protection from his enemies.

epilogue

No nation on earth today can claim to be “God’s nation” in the same sense Israel of old could. The kingdom of Christ today is not a national kingdom. Instead, Christ reigns in three realms: the kingdoms of power, grace and glory.

The kingdom of power – Ps 66 7 and Co 1 15 – speaks to Christ’s rule over the earth for the good of his Church. Nothing happens on earth that does not first pass through his throne room for his permission.
The kingdom of grace – Ep 5 23-24 and Co 1 18 – refers to Christ’s gracious rule over his Church here on earth. We believers live right now in both the kingdom of power and the kingdom of grace.
The kingdom of glory is that kingdom in which Christ now and forever rules – now in heaven and forever in the new heavens and earth to come, the new Jerusalem to come as foretold in Re 21.

And in vv 13-18 we have this assurance that the earlier petitions of the psalmist would be granted. As the psalm was originally used, these words may have been spoken by a priest or a Levite. When we compare Ps 132 16-17 with Lk 1 69-71, we see the word horn (which symbolizes strength) being used in these texts as being especially descriptive of Jesus because, as God, Jesus had the strength to resist temptation and to live a perfect life to be the perfect sacrifice God required for our sins. Jesus had the strength to bear our sins and to suffer for them on the cross. Then Jesus had the power to come alive again to proclaim his victory for us over sin, death and Satan forever.

Lastly, vv 16-17 apply inasmuch as we are Christ’s priests and, as such, we are clothed with his splendid righteousness. We saints of Christ sing for joy in his love. Christ is our strength and our light. Christ is the one who has defeated sin and death and who now reigns, shining in glory over us.

So we’ve looked at Creation Psalms, salvation history Psalms and a couple others but now we look to the royal Psalms to find out about this Davidic covenant and the Davidic kingship. These Psalms looked forward to God’s coming kingdom and reign – but they especially focused on the coming ultimate Davidic king, the one who would fulfill the promises to David of an everlasting Davidic throne. The Davidic covenant was the promise God made to David of an everlasting Davidic throne. That was a promise so crucial in the Bible because that would be ultimately fulfilled by the one ultimate Davidic king who was Jesus of Nazareth. He would fulfill both the Abrahamic covenant and the Davidic covenant. So when we look back at the Davidic covenant and these royal Psalms, we are looking forward to the coming of Christ who fulfills the Davidic covenant. They tell us important things about the nature of Christ and his kingdom.

Ps 120-134 are known as the “Psalms of Ascents” because they were sung by the people of Israel as they made pilgrimage up to the temple in Jerusalem. All of these Psalms rejoice in going up to be in the presence of God at the temple. For example, see Ps 132 6-9, 13-14 where we’ll see again this theme of the dwelling of God.

The whole of Ps 132 recounts the dwelling of YHWH among his people in the Temple in Zion. This psalm tells the story of the ark coming up into the temple but it’s told in the context of worship and celebration of the presence of YHWH now come to dwell in a special way among his people. God is really present with and among his people which is at the heart and center of it all. Ps 132 wonderfully brings together both the Davidic covenant and the coming of YHWH to Zion.

In vv 1-9 we hear this psalm celebrating, praising, glorying, delighting in the presence of God dwelling among them, the climax of the Exodus. In a way, these vv tell us what the Exodus was all about.

v 1
When the people of God first entered the promised land, God dwelt in the tabernacle. Even from the beginning of the Exodus, God was always with them. That’s what the Exodus was all about, God being with them. Remember Moses praying LORD, if you do not go up with us, do not bring us out of Egypt into the land. The dwelling of God with the people was at the center and heart of what Israel was all about in their relationship with their God.

David took an oath that he would find a dwelling place for the mighty one of Jacob.

David had become king in Jerusalem and had decided that they must build a temple for the LORD because at the heart of everything for David was God dwelling with his people – God was with them. God was everything so they had to build a temple. That’s why David said I will not give slumber to my eyelids (v 4) until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob (v 5).

v 5
Jacob is looked to as a great saint of God, as this great person to model oneself after. He, too, was sinful like Abraham. In fact, Jacob did some things that would have made Abraham blush. But he always repented and turned back to God. He loved God with all his heart which is why he’s remembered. He loved God and wanted God’s dwelling place to be with his people.

Vv 6-9 recount how they went to get the Ark of the Covenant – the place where God’s presence dwelled – which was dwelling in the tent which went from place-to-place. Now it was being brought into the Temple in Jerusalem. This is recalling 1 Ki 8 1-11.
Here again in vv 6-9 we see the whole center of Israel’s life and worship and all things is the holy presence of God dwelling among them.
The Ark of the Covenant was brought by David up into Jerusalem. There it was still a tabernacle but now the prophets have told that Jerusalem was where God would dwell among his people. Then his son, Solomon, will build the temple.

vv 7-9 talk about going into the very presence of God and worshiping God in his presence. It’s celebrating what was at the heart of everything in the Hebrew scriptures, in the story up to this point, the dwelling of YHWH in Zion – the dwelling of the LORD in the temple among his people.
This is at the heart of this story behind the Story. This is what the salvation history and royal Psalms are, in part, telling us about the story behind the Story. They are also pointing forward to the fulfillment of the story but they are telling the story of God dwelling in Zion.

vv 10-12 repeats the Davidic covenant. This is the psalmist speaking to God.
Remember that Ps 78 had concluded with the Davidic kingship. Now we’re going to find out about another great, equally important covenant of the OT.
Now begins the Davidic covenant v 11 ff.

v 12
This is the very important Davidic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant had its content; this Davidic covenant has its content. The Abrahamic covenant was the promise of nation, land, covenant relationship and the blessing to all nations. The Davidic covenant comes after the Abrahamic covenant and provides a way in which God is going to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant.

Notice, there is a conditional part to the Davidic covenant: you have to love and follow God. If you do, you have this promise of an everlasting Davidic throne. The Davidic covenant promises that David’s throne will last forever, that David’s kingship will last forever, that the Davidic kingdom will last forever.
Don’t think that ancient people knew any less than we do that even the greatest empires do not last forever. David is actually given this promise in 2 Sam 7 where we see the narrative of when God first gave him this promise. There David asks Is this the way it is with the sons of humanity, O LORD? David knows that kings, kingdoms and empires rise and fall. But this was something different he was being told, this astounding promise that David’s kingship would never fall. This was a promise of an everlasting Davidic throne, an everlasting Davidic kingdom.

Again, this was conditional based on whether or not they would keep God’s testimony which I teach them. In other words, if they followed the LORD, if they would worship the LORD, the your sons will set on your throne forever. When we look at other royal Psalms, we’ll see that this is sort of a short hand version. The full version says ‘yes, they must follow my law and covenant. And if you sons will not do that, they will be judged.’ We’ll see that play itself out with the various kings of Israel following David: Solomon; Rehoboam and others who did not fully follow God and thereby fell under divine judgment.
Still, even if they don’t follow the LORD, the promise of God is unconditional. God would still somehow bring about an everlasting Davidic kingdom.

vv 13-18 now bring together these two main themes: the dwelling of YHWH in Zion and an everlasting Davidic throne.

v 13
YHWH has chosen Zion. This is why Jerusalem is called Zion. In the Bible the psalmists and the prophets only use the word Zion about Jerusalem when they are referring to it as the dwelling place of YHWH, that is, when YHWH is present there. Zion is the dwelling place of God. This made Israel a unique people because God himself dwelled among them.

Excursus: Zion

Whenever we use the word Zion, it refers to the city of David, and the city of David is Jerusalem. Zion refers to Jerusalem. Zion = city of David = Jerusalem, however, each comes with a different connotation.
When you want to refer to the fact that it’s the city, Jerusalem, the spot, you use Jerusalem.
When you want to call attention to the fact that it’s the throne of the Davidic king and of the Davidic dynasty, you call it the city of David.
When you use the word Zion, you are always calling attention to something else greater than this as we see in 1 Ki 8 3-8. Zion is the special, holy term for Jerusalem as the place of God’s dwelling. Zion is Jerusalem when Jerusalem is God’s dwelling place. Zion is God’s earthly dwelling among his people. In the Bible the psalmists and the prophets only use the word Zion about Jerusalem when they are referring to it as the dwelling place of YHWH.

Zion symbolically calls attention to God’s kingdom and to the new heavenly Jerusalem (Re 21 1-4) yet to come, the dwelling place of YHWH. Zion is only a foreshadow of this full dwelling in Christ which is fulfilled through Christ dwelling with us through the Incarnation and then dwelling with us in an ultimate consummated way at his second coming when he will dwell with us forever, no longer taken from us through the ascension but now returned. Then his presence and glory will fill and be the feature of all Creation. And that will be all Creation made Zion. Zion is all about God dwelling with his people.
End of excursus.

As we know God dwelled in the Holy of Holies in the temple. This would seem to be the whole reversal of the banishment of humanity from the Garden of Eden, God himself dwelling among his people. What is there in the very tabernacle itself that tells us that this is not the full fulfillment of the story, that the temple and its Holy of Holies is only a pointer to the fulfillment of the story? The curtain. First they had the tabernacle and then later the temple into which the people of Israel entered to worship the LORD. However, only the priests could enter into the Holy Place where the sacrifices were made. Further, only the chief priest could enter the Most Holy Place where God himself dwelled, and the chief priest could do so only once each year on the Day of Atonement in order to perform the sacrifices and anoint the Most Holy Place with the blood of the sacrifices.

The author of He rightly says that the Holy Spirit by this was telling us that the way into God’s presence had not been fully made known while the tabernacle was still standing. The way God designed things from the beginning was to say that this was not the fulfillment; that this was not the full reversal of “the Fall”. God dwelled among his people but he was not yet fully with them. Then, because the people turned from God, God abandoned his people. God allowed his temple to be destroyed, and God no longer dwelled among the people. It was at this stage of the Exile in the biblical story, and even before that, that the prophets began to tell about something that was at the center of the biblical hopes and promises. We see that at Is 40 – the central hope of the coming of YHWH to Zion.

It seemed as though the biblical story was at an end with the Exile because YHWH no longer dwelled among his people, even in the limited way in which he did in the Most Holy Place in the temple where none of them could enter. Because the people had turned from God, we had the divorce of the Exile. The marriage relationship of God with his people was at an end. But then the prophets promised something wonderful related to the dwelling of God in Zion in the temple. Just as the dwelling of God with his people was at the center of the old Exodus and at the center of the old covenant, so also at the center of the fulfillment of God’s promises would be the coming of YHWH to Zion.

So in the OT at the center of Israel’s life was the dwelling of YHWH in Zion. As we know, YHWH’s dwelling in Zion was always just meant to be partial and temporary. It always looked forward to a greater fulfillment. The prophets told of this OT promise that not only would there be a restoration of God’s dwelling among his people, but it was also the fulfillment toward which that pointed as a type. The OT promise was the coming of YHWH to Zion – coming to dwell with them in a more full way than in the time of the first temple. We see that promise in Is 40 3-5, 9-11.

v14
This Ps celebrates the dwelling of YHWH in Zion.

v 17
Here we recall the Creation psalm Ps 148 which concluded with the covenant story and told about how God has raised up a horn for his people, which referred to this Davidic kingship. There will be an everlasting Davidic kingship. [The two main aspects to the Davidic covenant are that the throne is going to be everlasting and that there will come the time of the one, ultimate Davidic king.] Notice that the everlasting Davidic throne is important because what is so important for the people of Israel is God dwelling among them. This Ps celebrates the dwelling of YHWH in Zion.

So you now had God’s people in God’s land, under God’s king with God himself dwelling among them.
Here we see the two big themes of Ps 78 are here again:
the promise of an everlasting Davidic kingship – the Davidic covenant – and
God dwelling among his people for ever.
The two go together. This is fulfilling the covenant relationship of Israel with her God. God’s nation and God’s land, this covenant relationship. God is king over them and God is dwelling among them.

The lamp reference means that if that if the Davidic kingship were to fail, you could refer to it as the lamp of the Davidic line going out. But God would never allow the lamp to go out. The lamp will always shine. The Davidic throne will never fail.

v 18
We seem to now have everything in place with the dwelling of YHWH in Zion and, so, the Abrahamic covenant appears to have been completely fulfilled. You have God’s people as nation in God’s land in covenantal relationship with God under their Davidic king with God dwelling among them. It would seem that the Abrahamic covenant had been completely fulfilled but it has not because there has not yet been the blessing to all nations. So the story behind the Story is still a story in progress. The “project” is still on.

Return now to the wonderful prayer of Solomon in 1 Ki 8 which concludes with the benediction in v 54-60.

In the worship and liturgy of the church Ps 132 has been very important through the centuries. It’s used within the liturgy of Holy Communion. In the Orthodox rite you have something from the very early centuries of the church known as the pre-sanctified liturgy, a liturgy that’s celebrated of Holy Communion during Lent when communion has been consecrated the Sunday before and elements are kept over and used for the pre-sanctified liturgy on Wednesdays during Lent. It goes back to very ancient times. In that liturgy, and in other places of celebration of Holy Communion, Ps 132 plays an important role in that.

We’ve been telling this salvation story of God and when we get to Ps 132 we have not yet reached the fulfillment. However, looking back from knowing the fulfillment, the church uses Ps 132 in its liturgy for Holy Communion. Why? Because Ps 132 talks about the Davidic kingship, Davidic covenant. Because we, the Church, see that the story has been fulfilled in Christ. Because Ps 132 tells of YHWH coming to be with his people and in the Holy Communion that’s what happened in Christ. YHWH has come to his people in the Incarnation, and through Jesus’ Incarnation he now gives us in the mystery of the Eucharist his body and blood.

God is fully present among us in Christ. All of these promises have been fulfilled in Christ. So in connection with the Eucharist the Church always reads Ps 132 during Holy Communion – this promise of the coming of YHWH to Zion and this promise of Davidic covenant and its fulfillment because Christ has fulfilled both. Christ was both the messianic king and YHWH come to Zion, all in one person. He’s the Christ in person and he’s the Lord God in person. So, even though Ps 132 only talked about David and the dwelling of YHWH in Zion, the Church reads these things in connection with the fulfillment because the Davidic king and the dwelling of YHWH in Zion were both types of the reality which has now been fulfilled in Christ. Christ was the ultimate Davidic king pointed to by David as a type or partial reality of that. Further, a partial reality of what we know in the presence of Christ in the Church, especially in the Eucharist, was when God dwelled among his temple. That was only a partial reality of the full reality. They were only types pointing forward to the reality. That’s why the church reads those now as types fulfilled in Christ. But there is still more to be fulfilled even for us. We look forward in hope to Christ’s second coming when he will renew all Creation and God will dwell among us in a fullness even greater than we now know.
So we look back on this as a story in progress.

When we look back from the vantage point of the fulfillment of the story that we now know in Christ, we see figures like David as types (partial realities) of Christ. We see the temple where God dwells is also a type of Christ who is the true temple of God because he’s God incarnate, God come in human flesh, the real presence of God among us, of which the temple was only a partial reality or foreshadow.
How does the story get from the story behind the Story to the fulfillment of the story? Some (mistaken) people believe that when we say that David was a type of Christ, or that the temple was a type of Christ, we’re just forcing that back on the OT text, even though the story does not actually lead up to Christ. On the other hand, the NT is correct in saying that David is a type of Christ and that the temple is a type of Christ. How then do they relate? For that we go to two more passages: Ps 89 and Is 11. See notes there to see how they relate.

Ps 134

This is the final psalm of ascent. When one entered the temple, this Ps was sung to the servants who stood there and ministered and took care of the table of showbread and lighting the lamps and so on. So this Ps focused on a particular group of people within the temple, those who serve by night in the house of the LORD (v 1).

1 Behold. Bless the LORD all you servants of the LORD, you who stand by night in the house of the LORD!

Those standing by night were the priests and the Levites who served in the temple. It was a wonderful thing to be a priest or a Levite because there were all sorts of courts and gates in the temple. Within the larger structure of the temple was the sanctuary proper in front of which the Levites would gather and even serve at the doorway. The priests alone would be able to enter into the Holy Place. The people were outside. Even the priests could not enter into the Most Holy Place. Only the Christ’s high priest could enter the Most Holy Place and then only once each year on the Day of Atonement.

Note: Yom Kippur (Hebrew: , IPA: jom kipur], or ), also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. The Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.

Yom means “day” in Hebrew and Kippur comes from a root that means “to atone”. Thus Yom Kippur has come to mean “day of atonement”. Some say there is a link to kapporet, the “mercy seat” or covering of the Ark of the Covenant. Since the blood of the Yom Kippur sacrifice was sprinkled in the direction of the mercy seat, it was the symbol of propitiation (appeasement or atoning for sin or wrongdoing).

Yom Kippur is “the tenth day of [the] seventh month” (Tishrei) and also regarded as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”. Rosh Hashanah (referred to in the Torah as Yom Teruah) is the first day of that month according to the Hebrew calendar. They also ask God for the forgiveness of their sins.
Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”) that commences with Rosh Hashanah.

According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God (bein adam leMakom) and against other human beings (bein adam lechavero). The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Vidui). At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.

Remember that the author of He told us that this whole temple arrangement was the Holy Spirit showing forth that the fulfillment was yet to come because although you had these people of Israel who had God dwelling among them, they could not fully enter into God’s dwelling place. They were separated from the Most Holy Place by the veil.

Remember also that the gospels tell us that when Christ breathed his last, when his atoning work was done, when he finished the passion and he died hanging on the cross, the temple veil was torn asunder from top to bottom, opening up the presence of God to everyone, fulfilling what the enthronement hymns talked about, God’s holy presence among us, and, not only for the people of Israel, but for all nations. In Christ this veil was taken away. Hence, we enter into the Most Holy Place through Christ. We partake of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within us as Paul told us in 1 Cor 3 16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

So it’s again quite significant that the Church in its Eucharistic liturgy uses Ps 134 to now apply to all Christians. Intertextuality. Two-way traffic. Typology. We are now the priests of God. In fact, the Church has its priests and its ministers but as the great theologian Alexander Schmemann reminded us, the Church has its priests (which, of course, includes pastors) to remind us that all Christians are priests, that every Christian has a vocation to be a priest of God. As such, we have now entered into the Most Holy Place and we are to take forth that light unto the world as priests for the nations. Hence, it’s most appropriate and significant that the Church uses this psalm of the whole people of God – which was originally only applied to priests and Levites – because the whole people of God are now the priests of God, and the holy presence of God is now available to all.
We don’t have priests in the same way that they had priests under the old covenant. Even our word priest in English is really the shorthand for the word presbyter which means elder or a pastor type figure. The whole Church of God are priests, and we have priests to remind us of that. At least, that’s part of what they are to be reminding us.

See Is 56 for something that connects up with Ps 134. See notes there.

We next go to another type of psalm that focuses on the presence of God: the entrance liturgies.
Many Psalms focus on the presence of God for example, the enthronement hymns tell about the coming of God and they focus on the coming kingdom of God and God’s enthronement as king, but the highlight of that is always God coming to us, God with us.
Also, the hymns of Zion focus on God’s dwelling place.
The pilgrimage Psalms focus on going up to the presence of God.

Now we’ll look at another type of psalm that focuses on the same thing.
There are many Psalms that focus on God’s holy presence which tells us something we most often miss. Some talk about the forgiveness of sins as though it were an end in itself. In other words, that salvation is all about forgiveness of sins and nothing else. However, if we look at what the Psalms focus on, we see that forgiveness of sins, while crucial and important, is not the end. The forgiveness of sins is the means to the end. The whole goal and end is to enter into the presence of God. Forgiveness allows us to enter into the presence of God; forgiveness is a means, not an end. Therefore, some Psalms will celebrate God’s forgiveness but you’ll have numerous Psalms in many types celebrating entering into the presence of God. It’s entering into that relationship with God, that relational presence of God with us that is the whole goal of our faith and of the whole biblical story.
There is one more type of psalm that focuses on the presence of God – those called the entrance liturgies within the Psalms. These likewise focus on the presence of God but they focus on the actual entry into God’s presence in worship. Go now to Ps 100.

2 Lift up your hands to the sanctuary and bless the LORD.
3 May the LORD bless you out of Zion, the LORD who made heaven and earth.

Notice the conception here that this creator God who made all the ends of the earth has chosen in grace and mercy to dwell among his chosen people in Zion. That’s why it’s called Zion. Zion means Jerusalem when you want to access the fact that Jerusalem is special because Jerusalem is where the temple is and that’s where God dwells.

Ps 137
remember and bring justice

Ps 137 is an imprecatory psalm set in Babylon. God’s people find themselves in Exile as a result of their own sins. Jerusalem had been leveled. Years of captivity in Babylon and the sorrows of the Exile provided the background for Ps 137.

The psalmist expresses longing for Zion (Jerusalem) by beginning with the heartbreak (v 1) of captivity. The psalmist said that God’s exiled people sat down and wept. Then in v 2 he described them hanging up their lyres (harps).

Vv 3-4 tell how the Babylonians mocked God’s people. The songs the Babylonians requested for their own entertainment were sacred songs reserved for the Lord’s praise at the temple in Jerusalem. But they were not able to travel to Jerusalem for their festivals, and the temple had been already leveled anyway. God’s people had no desire to sing. Still, their captors (v 3) demanded ‘songs of Zion,’ either in tactless ignorance or in sarcastic mocking of the meaning behind the songs of Zion. Yet, merely singing ‘the songs of Zion’ reminded the Jews that they could no longer worship at the temple. They could no longer celebrate the festivals in Jerusalem. In defiance, (v 2) the Jews hung their harps on trees and refused to play when asked. They refused to sing God’s hymns (v 4) simply to amuse others. The psalmist would rather lose (vv 56) his skills of music and singing than forget the holiness of Jerusalem and his God.

We are to imagine what joys we would miss were we in our own times kept from worshiping God as the exiles were in Babylon. First and foremost, we’d miss hearing the gospel and receiving the sacraments. We’d miss the singing of our praises, the gathering with other Christians for encouragement and love, praising God and praying to him with other believers.

The psalmist singles out Edom for special judgment in v 7. The Edomites were descendants of Jacob’s brother, Esau. These people should have defended Judah. Instead, they cheered her demise. The psalmist calls on God to remember this sin and to repay both Edom and the Babylonians (v 8) for their sins.

The violence of v 9 sounds so foreign to the spirit of the New Testament! Yet, violence was common in the Old Testament world (what theologians call justified violence but that’s another story) just as it is in ours. God had prophesied about His judgment on Babylon (e.g., Is 13 16). The psalmist calls God to punish not in vengeance, but with a zeal for His glory and honor both of these nations that have forgotten.

Again, as we think about the harshness of these curses, we need to keep in mind the context of the times and the character of our holy God. Imagine an invading army entering your town, burning your home and your church to the ground, raping and murdering your children, and taking you to live in a foreign land far from home. Imagine them taunting you, “Go ahead. Sing ‘How Great Thou Art’; sing ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’. Sing your ‘God songs’. Go ahead. Sing about your God now!”

Can you see that you would want God to bring you relief? Can you see yourself praying for your captors’ salvation? Can you also see yourself asking God to bring justice to those who refuse to repent?

Eventually God will judge all the enemies of his people. Vengeance will be God’s and God will repay. We read in Re 18:
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. 6 Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. 7 Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’ 8 Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.

As we read Re 18 4-8 and think about Ps 137 we can take comfort in knowing God as both our Savior and our judge. We can be confident he will defend us. We can count of God to punish those who unjustly accuse and harm us. Even though we see evil flourishing in this world, we can be certain that God will ultimately destroy Satan and his power. Re 18 5 assures us that God remembers all the crimes Satan and his evildoers have committed against us. God promises “she [Babylon – the evil world system] will be burned up with fire, for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her” (Re 18 8). As those who believe in Jesus, our Savior, we need not fear God’s judgment. God sees us as his righteous, holy people in Christ Jesus. In his mercy he will protect us now and take us to heaven forever someday. In his justice, he will condemn all those who do not believe in him.

Ps 143
A Plea for God’s Presence

The pain is terrible, yet just removing the problem will not satisfy the psalmist. Problems will come and go throughout life. David, the psalmist, knows the real answer lies in having continuing fellowship with God. He needs a constant source of help with this problem, to be sure, but also with the ones that will come in the future.

Vv 1-2
He cries out to God for mercy, appealing to God’s faithful and righteous character rather than anything worthy or good in himself . No one can stand before a holy God based on personal merit. No one! In v 2 we see the condition of the psalmist and all human beings – of all humanity – as unrighteous, as lacking right-standing before God.

Yet, God’s holiness is the basis of the psalmist’s appeal. David is not terrorized by God’s perfection. Rather, he is comforted by his knowledge that God will act in line with His character. God is faithful and righteous. He will do what He has promised. And He has promised to forgive. God’s character can comfort us too. Our feelings may change, but His faithful love never will change.

Having prayed for pardon, David seeks help with his problem. An enemy (v 3) we might read this as thee enemy, Satan an enemy pursues David and defeats him. The enemy’s constant attacks (v 3b) have caused David to live with dark thoughts and fears that rob him of joy. David is overwhelmed (v 4). Still, the memory of God’s victories bursts through with hope (v 5). As the shadows of despair threaten to cover David, he meditates (v 5b) on God’s works in the past. God has always helped His people.

So in his present distress David stretches his hands out to plead with God for help now (v 6). Despite the psalmist’s unrighteousness he confidently comes to God in prayer to ask for God’s forgiveness and help, expecting to receive it. He does so because he knows that God is faithful and righteous (v 1), that God has worked good for him before (v 5) and that God loves him without fail (v 8). He longs for fellowship with God once again. David knows that if God is near, nothing will destroy him.

We, too, can have this same confidence as the psalmist because we have been redeemed through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. Christ’s sacrifice of atonement (read Ro 3 23-25a) satisfied the righteous wrath of God and made us at one again with God. We, too, can confidently come to God in repentance because Jesus opened the way for us through his death and resurrection. We can be confident of God’s forgiveness because he who promised is faithful (read He 10 19-23).

The more we meditate on the power and love of our God, the less we will fear the forces of evil whether of Satan or of his human agents. How wonderful it is to have a God who will help us remember His works (v 5) and reach out in prayer (v 6) to Him for help when we feel overwhelmed.

Like us, David doesn’t want to wait for help (v 7).

In vv 712 his pleas crescendo in rapid succession. Answer me … hide not Your face. . . (v 7). let me hear of Your love … make me know the way I should go … (v 8). deliver me … (v 9). teach me … (v 10). preserve me … (v 11). destroy my enemies (v 12). David wants a relationship with God that will regulate his whole life. Besides rescue from his enemies the psalmist also asks God to guide his whole life. He asks God teach him to do his will. The psalmist does not confess his sins as a quick fix for his immediate problems. Instead, he wants God to work in him so that he can live in a God-pleasing way, doing what God wants for him.

The psalmist’s request is so important because we cannot change ourselves. Our unrighteous nature would keep it from happening. True repentance is God’s gift. It involves God working in our hearts to turn us away from our selfish and sinful desires and to turn us to him and his will.

As we read vv 810, we see this truth clearly. God is not a fire extinguisher we can pull out in an emergency. God is our constant companion in life whose presence gives comfort, whose wisdom gives guidance, and whose power brings hope.

In what areas do you need God’s guidance right now so that you stand strong against temptation in Him? As you think about that, Ps 143 would be a good psalm to pray.
Some may find themselves skidding down a steep slope because of a particular sin they have committed. We are reminded that God invites us in love to come to him with all our sins. That’s who we’re to go to stop the skid. God wants to relieve us of the guilt and terror sin brings. We can trust in God and in his help because he sent his only Son, Jesus, to give his life on the cross for us. In his Word, God invites us all to come to him – casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you (1 Pe 5 7). And this includes the anxiety brought on by sin.

Ps 143 calls on us to think about what God’s forgiveness in Christ Jesus means to each of us. God’s grace revives our souls. Without God’s love for us that led God to sacrifice his Son, Jesus, we would be lost in our sins. God helped us not because we deserved it but purely out of his love and mercy.

Very differently than the Psalms we’ve studied so far, Ps 143 celebrates the inbreaking of the kingdom of God into human reality and into the world. It focuses on the kingdom of God, on God’s grace, on God’s glory, on God’s presence with us.
Still, the kingdom of God has come to us in this surprising two stage manner:
the kingdom was inaugurated in Jesus’ first advent and will be consummated in his second advent.

Therefore, we walk in the midst of a still fallen, sinful and evil world looking ahead to the great consummation of God’s kingdom to come. So this type of psalm is very appropriate. The Church calls this a penitential psalm and sometimes scholars call them the lamentations.
In these penitential Psalms the psalmist cries out to God for help, forgiveness, protection, aid, salvation from enemies. While there are no Psalms that celebrate “the Fall”, these are Psalms that certainly recognize that we live in a fallen world. Further, these penitential Psalms are the most common type of psalm in the book itself.

Ps 143 is the last of the 6 Psalms (Ps 3, 38, 63, 88, 103 and 143) that are read or chanted at the Orthros service (the morning service).
In the Eastern Christian Churches, Orthros (Greek or;qroj meaning “early dawn” or “daybreak”) is the last of the four night offices, which also include Vespers, Compline, and Midnight Office. In traditional monasteries it is celebrated daily so as to end at sunrise. In parishes it is normally served only on Sundays and feast days. It is sometimes called Matins after the liturgy it most nearly corresponds to in Western Christian Churches. Parts of Ps 143 are also chanted at vespers.
Ps 143 is very important in the Church’s worship in which we see that that Church’s worship recognizes the fallen character of the world in which we live as we struggle as the Church militant looking forward to the Church triumphant.

As Christians we know are saved by God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy that came to all through Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. So how were the saints of the OT – the old covenant – saved? We know we were saved by God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness. But how were the saints of the OT made right with God? The same way as in the NT, through grace and mercy and forgiveness, through faith by God’s grace, by the righteousness of Christ.
This is a very important question for us. One could question that since we are saved by God’s grace, what does it matter how they were saved? If people were saved one way at one time by God, and in another way at another time by God, it would not appear to be necessary that we’re saved by God’s grace. We could be saved by works if God had chosen or if we had lived at the right time. On the other hand, when we say we were saved by grace at all times and in all places, it says something about the core nature of the relationship between human beings and God.

The right answer to this question in the Bible, an answer we can see in the Psalms, is that the saints of the old covenant, of the OT, … in fact, everyone who has ever lived or will ever live has been saved by God’s grace, by God’s mercy, by the forgiveness which has come through Christ just as we have been saved.
There is actually a wrong view to this question called dispensationalism, a view which contends that God has different dispensations, and in each dispensation God saves people in different ways. At first, that might sound attractive because we know there are things that are different when Christ will come. It is a “new economy” as the fathers of the Church liked to say. It is the fulfillment of everything promised in the OT.
But the dispensationalist view is false. One problem with dispensationalism is that if God just arbitrarily chooses to say by works at one time or by grace at another time, then what does that say about the sacrifice of Christ? It says ‘it wasn’t really necessary”. That incorrect dispensationalist view would then be saying that God just arbitrarily says we are saved by grace in one period and by works in another. But, as we’ll see, we are saved by grace and can only be saved by grace, and the way we are saved by grace, whether OT or NT, is through the sacrifice of Christ.

Another question we’ll want to dig into is ‘what does it mean to be a true Christian? What does it mean to be a saint of God.’
This, too, is an important question which we need to flesh out. The Bible talks about faith. The NT talks about living by the grace of God. It talks about living lives of faith. What does that really look like? What does it really mean to live lives of faith? What does it mean to be a saint of God?
For these answers there’s no better place to go than to the Psalms. That’s why Psalms play such an important role in the Church’s worship. The Psalms are the God-given pattern for how we should relate to God.
So we’ll now dig into Ps 143 to see how people were saved in the OT, to see what it means to be a saint of God, to see what it means to be one whose life is right with God.

covenantal theology of the OT, of ancient Judaism

Ps 143 is one of many, classic texts regarding OT / Jewish covenantal theology. Others include Dn 9 4-19 and Is 59 1-13. This thought pervades the OT and so there are numerous texts in the Bible that attest to this OT / Jewish covenantal theology. It’s called covenantal theology because the covenant with the God of Israel is at the center of the thought, and these vv tell us how covenantal theology works. Covenant theology simply means that the law belongs in the context of God’s covenant. It’s not how you are saved but what you do in response to your salvation.

You can trace it through the whole Bible. You will never have someone trusting in their works in the whole Bible; they are always trusting in the grace of God. It’s passages like these – Ps 143; Dn 9 4-19 and Is 59 1-13 – which have led the majority of scholars to say, as disorienting as it is, that Sanders was correct about ancient Judaism. Ps 143 shows how correct Sanders was when he postulated that within ancient Judaism when Paul obeyed the law prior to his conversion, the law instead functioned within the gracious framework of the covenant and the covenant’s provision for mercy through repentance and sacrifice. That is, the sacrifices of Le, Dt and all the way through the Bible were ways that God had provided so that through his mercy and grace, his people would find forgiveness.

In Ps 143 the psalmist is in great distress and trouble (hence, the penitential Psalms), seeking help and deliverance from God, yearning for God’s salvation, protection, and help. In almost all of the penitential Psalms, the psalmist is in great distress and trouble. The psalmist is living in the midst of this fallen, evil world, and he’s in great sorrow and anguish.

However, on what basis does the psalmist appeal to God? because he’s righteous and has kept the law perfectly? or on some other basis? When he asks for God’s help and deliverance, what is the reason he gives that God should help and deliver him? because of God’s faithfulness and God’s righteousness (v 1). Still, there are actually several ways in which he’s going to express this. See v 1 notes. Here we will see within the context of works-righteousness that one would appeal to one’s own righteousness. Instead, here he appeals to God’s righteousness

Notice that in vv 1 and 11 the psalmist is talking about God’s righteousness which saves and redeems because of the covenantal relationship with any servant, psalmist or any believer.

1 Here my prayer, O YHWH. Give ear to my prayer (supplications, requests). In your faithfulness (righteousness) answer me in your righteousness.

The psalmist is a member of the faithful remnant. He prays to God to hear him in his time of need but he does not do this on the basis of his own righteousness as we read in v 2.

hear me and answer me means by delivering me.

Here it may seem that we’re getting into a doctrine of salvation by works because he’s talking about God’s righteousness. How is God’s righteousness functioning here? Why does the psalmist mention God’s righteousness and what is God’s righteousness doing here?

Here, God’s righteousness is a covenantal term, this cool OT idea that is only found in the Bible. While this is God’s righteousness, it’s not God’s righteousness as you might think it is. We tend to think of God’s righteousness as the righteousness whereby God in his holy righteous character judges and punishes evil and the wicked and upholds what is right. While that is an important aspect of God’s character in the OT, here God’s righteousness is a different kind of righteousness.

In fact, we know that this is not the righteousness whereby God rewards the righteous and judges the sinful because in v 2 the psalmist says Do not enter into judgment with your servant for in your sight no living person is righteous. In other words, in v 2 the psalmist is saying he’s unrighteous. What then is the basis on which the psalmist asks for God’s help and deliverance? That is, this has to be a different righteousness than righteousness as we normally tend to understand righteousness (a righteousness that judges, punishes and upholds as noted just above). In fact, the righteousness he’s calling on here is the covenantal faithfulness of God.

Notice also how it is combined with answer me in your righteousness … in your faithfulness. This righteousness is a covenantal faithfulness by which God saves and delivers; it’s an active, saving, redeeming righteousness. It’s such a wonderful thought because God shows he is righteous not by giving the psalmist what the psalmist deserves but in grace and mercy God delivers the psalmist because the psalmist trusts in him. God’s righteousness is a whole different thing than we would ever think of. God’s righteousness is this covenantal faithfulness which saves and delivers the psalmist even though he’s unrighteous.

Then, in the last section of the psalm in v 11 we have For the sake of your name, LORD, restore me to (preserve my) life. In your righteousness bring my soul out of distress. So we have this reference to God’s righteousness in v 1 and then at the end of the psalm in v 11 in that last section of the psalm (They didn’t have verse numbers originally in the text.) we have mention of God’s righteousness again. This is an inclusio, a bracketing brought about through the use of the word righteousness. This inclusio frames the whole psalm. So we have the same theme both at the start of and the close of the psalm, and that theme is God’s righteousness.

Returning now from Ps 98 to see how the psalmist here in Ps 143 is using the word righteousness in the same way as it was used in Ps 98. Notice that in Ps 143 he wants God to save him beginning in v 1 … Hear my prayer. Give ear to my supplications. Answer me in your faithfulness, in your righteousness. We see this saving, redeeming, renewing righteousness, this righteousness that transforms, that makes people righteous. God’s righteousness is not a righteousness that only God has or that is a righteousness that only condemns or judges. God is so good and so loving that his righteousness overflows and it saves; it renews and makes people righteous. It makes the unrighteous righteous.

We need that because we see in v 2 God that cannot enter into judgment with any of us for in his presence no living being is righteous. We’re not righteous so there! We would say that all these things that sound so much like the NT are found in the OT. God has always saved his people through one way: faith, through trust in him. There is no other way. Because we are sinful, we cannot stand in the presence of God. But God’s righteousness enables us to do that because God’s righteousness is a righteousness that doesn’t condemn our unrighteousness, but instead takes our unrighteousness and makes us righteous. That not only forgives our sins but it also transforms us so that God’s righteousness is actually active and bubbling up within us so that we are transformed by the power of the Spirit and of Christ.
Therefore, the Bible is not this crazy quilt thing by which people in the OT were saved in one way and the people in the NT are saved in another way. It’s God working the same way, and it’s all through the OT. Go to Is 6 3-6.

2 Do not enter into judgment with your servant for in your presence (sight) no living person (being, creature) is righteous.

Notice there is something different here in v 2. No one living is righteous. No person is righteous. No flesh is righteous. This belies the notion that some have that in the time of the old covenant people were saved by works but now in the time of the new covenant we are saved by grace. The psalmist knows he can only be saved by God’s grace and mercy. Do not enter into judgment with your servant for in your sight no living person is righteous. See also Ps 14.

You have the context here that the law apart from God’s covenental mercy and love and forgiveness would mean that there is no righteousness at all. It’s a way of stressing that you need God’s covenental love, mercy and forgiveness. That’s your whole hope; it’s in God’s covenental love.
This is the covenantal framework of understanding both righteous and wicked. The righteous are those who trust and believe in God and are in the covenant, even though they are sinful. The wicked are those who don’t believe in God and who forsake the covenant.
Additional notes below in v 11.

Now, the covenantal framework might seem to be abandoned; no one is righteous. So what is going on here in Ps 143 2 and in many other places within the Bible? We’ve discussed that people are righteous only within the context of the covenant, and that’s how you can talk about judgment by works in the Bible. It’s not people being judged by being perfect. Instead, it’s taking this covenantal relationship of faith. One who is in a covenantal relationship of faith is judged righteous; one who rejects God and his covenant is judged wicked, even though the one who is in the righteous category needs forgiveness constantly to be in that covenantal relationship.

But here in this v there is a different thing going on because here the psalmist is considering his righteousness apart from the covenant and its provision and promise of mercy. Why is he doing that? Because he’s denying God and his covenant? No, he’s doing that to make the point all the more stronger. In other words, apart from God’s covenantal love and mercy and grace, the psalmist is lost; he has no chance. The psalmist makes that point here in v 2 by momentarily considering his righteousness before God apart from the context of the covenant. That’s what he’s talking about here in v 2 when he quails (shrinks back) in terror saying Do not enter into judgment with your servant [I know I’m sinful; I know I need your grace.] for in your sight no living person is righteous.
In other words, the psalmist considers his righteousness apart from the covenant and its promise of mercy in order to stress all the more the need for God’s covenant and grace. As a part of the covenantal grace picture, he considers righteousness apart from the covenant but that’s impossible as he acknowledges with the phrase no one can be saved apart from the covenant.

Notice what the psalmist does here. Who else does the exact same thing as the psalmist does here in v 2?
First of all, many psalmists within the Psalms and the author of Dt, Is and Jm all do this where you can consider your righteousness apart from the covenant and its promise of mercy and all these also say it’s impossible. No one can be saved that way. You do that not to deny God’s covenant but to stress all the more the need for God’s covenant and grace. This is the place where covenant theology is at its supreme expression when you ask “What would I be apart from your covenantal mercy and grace?” I would be lost. That’s Jewish covenantal theology.

Now, notice you can talk about righteousness and the law in two different contexts.
1. You can talk about the law in the context of the covenant. There you are not seeking your own righteousness; you’re doing God’s law in faithfulness to God and in thanksgiving for the grace he gives you through the covenant.
or
2. to make that covenantal point you can momentarily talk about the law apart from the covenant and its provision of mercy, and you can do that to say that no one is righteous then. You do that to make the point that you need this covenantal relationship of faith in YHWH in order to be saved and righteous.

Although this text comes from the OT, someone hearing this text might think it comes from the NT. People were saved in the OT in the same way as they are in the NT. Do not enter into judgment with your servant for in your sight no living person is righteous. Again, we cannot be saved by works. We cannot be saved apart from God. There is no life apart from God. The psalmist is failing; the psalmist has no life; the psalmist’s spirit is fainting because he knows all life and all righteousness is in God. So we get v 2. Here we see that concept in which we are saved by God’s mercy, by God’s grace.

So why does the psalmist call on God’s righteousness in vv 1 and 11? In your righteousness answer me. In your faithfulness answer me. It’s because in the Bible God’s righteousness is more wonderful than we can imagine. Here we come to core biblical teaching and a core teaching of the Church. To understand and illumine this we go to Ps 98.

Again, who else does this same thing as the psalmist does here in v 2 aside from the other psalmists, Isaiah, Jeremiah and the author of Dt? Paul does this! in Ga 3 10. This is an aspect of covenantal theology Sanders missed. He didn’t see this aspect. This aspect is found all through Jewish literature, not only in the Bible but in Jewish literature after the Bible which reflected on the Bible, where you talk about the law apart from the covenant and its provision of mercy.
Paul also talks about the law apart from the covenant and its provision of mercy in order to make the point that apart from God’s covenant and mercy and grace that no one can be saved. That’s exactly what Paul is doing in Ga 3 10; that’s the solution to the problem.

In the midst of this psalm celebrating God’s covenental mercy and love the psalmist says something that seems contrary to it. He says, Do not enter into judgment with your servant for in your presence no living being is righteous. The psalmist is considering his righteousness, his works, his keeping of the law outside the context of the covenant, and then he’s says, “Lord, I’m not righteous.” You can consider your works outside the context of the covenant as we’ve been saying. In fact, Ps 143 2 is echoed in Paul’s letters at Ro 3 20 which was the very climax of that passage. Back now to Ro 3 20.
He describes his predicament in vv 3-4 and therefore his heart is overwhelmed within him, is crushed within him. v 4.

3 For the enemy has pursued me, crushing my life to the ground, making me sit in darkness like those long dead.

The psalmist continues to pray to God in this desperate situation in vv 3-4 in which the enemy is persecuting him, crushing his life to the ground. His heart is struck black within him.

4 Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.

So where does he turn for comfort? V 5 …

5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all your acts; I meditate on the works of your hands.

The psalmist is thinking of the great salvation history of God’s people, of how God is the savior, of how God saved them out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. That’s his trust and hope in this time of great despair and lackness.

6 I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

In vv 7-12 the psalmist makes his petitions (requests) and give the basis for those petitions. The basis on which he asks for all these petitions is God’s own righteousness. v 8-9

7 Make haste to answer me, O LORD. My spirit is failing. Do not hide your face from me lest I become like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let me hear your steadfast (unfailing, unconditional, everlasting, mercy) love (God’s covenant love) in the morning, for I trust in you (for in you I put my trust). Teach me the way (make me know the way) in which I should walk, for to you I lift up my soul (heart).

The psalmist is being saved through faith. It’s not just the NT but it’s all the way through the OT. The only way to be right with this God who is our Creator God and Redeemer God is to trust and hope in him.
Here in v 8 the psalmist requests of God that God teach him God’s will and purposes. In this time of great distress and sorrow, the psalmist’s request is to make me know the way in which I should walk.

We see the psalmist’s request but we also see the basis for the request. That is, he has the petition and then he has the warrant – why God should do this. That is, the psalmist says ‘Here’s what I want you to do God, and here’s why I want you to do it.’

So why then should God even hear him? What is the whole basis why the psalmist even claims to have a hearing before God almighty? We should understand something about God’s righteousness here in vv 8-10. The basis for his appeal is the Lord’s faithfulness and kindness, not the psalmist’s faithfulness. The psalmist never uses as a warrant “save me because I’ve kept your law and ways perfectly and I’m so righteous.” Instead it’s entirely on the basis of God’s grace and mercy and the Lord’s faithfulness and covenant love that is the basis for his appeal.

We’ve seen this picture about how a saint of God relates to God knowing God is the source of all life and all truth. There is total dependence on God. Now the psalmist tells God why God should hear the psalmist’s request, why God should help him and save him.
The reasons are found in the for clauses of vv 8-12. For I have put my trust in you, for to you I lift up my soul (v 8). For I hide myself in you (v 9). For you are my God (v 10). For your name’s sake (v 11). And for I am your servant (v 12).

The whole vocabulary of the OT is filled with words that cannot be translated. For example, chesed k´ sd is sometimes translated as unfailing love, mercy, everlasting love but it means God’s covenant love – love that will never give the psalmist up. It should be translated as God’s covenant love because that’s why it’s everlasting and unconditional.
It’s this unconditional love, this undying, faithful love, covenant love, this love of promise and covenant, this marriage-type love or the kind of love one has for their children. There is firmness there and there may be consequences but there is always covenant love. So it is with YHWH. He may bring trials on his servant in order to bring him back to the right way but he’ll never forsake his servant.

So the psalmist is appealing not on the basis of his own righteousness but on the basis of God’s covenental love. That’s where all this language of God’s faithfulness comes in. You see that it is God’s faithfulness to be always loving; it is God’s faithfulness to the covenant, God’s faithfulness that he will never turn away from the psalmist. Included in chesed covenant love is the idea of God’s overflowing mercy and forgiveness.

How does he appeal? Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning … Why? for in you I put my trust. That’s why he asks God to show him his covenental love; he trusts in God. He doesn’t say “save me because I’ve kept your law perfectly and I’m so righteous.” That is what the covenant is all about. You trust in God. “I trust in you.”

Teach me the way in which I should walk.
Notice here that the law is not an intolerable burden with all of its commands.
He wants to know how to love, follow and serve God. Teach me the way in which I should walk.
He’s talking about learning better the law of Moses.
Why should God teach him? for to you I lift up my soul
I cry to you; I pray to you; I call on you.

9 Deliver me, O LORD, from my enemies; I take refuge in you.

Here in v 9 the psalmist requests of God that God Save me, O YHWH, from my enemies. Evil people are afflicting and seeking to destroy the psalmist who is the saint of God.

10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.

Here again as in v 8 the psalmist requests of God that God teach him God’s will and purposes.
It’s in this context that we hear teach me to do your will. Why? for you are my God. ‘You and I, Lord, are in this personal covenental relationship in which I am you servant and you are my God (the covenant formula).’ You see that it’s this relationship of personal love and trust between YHWH and the psalmist, between the psalmist and his God.
for you are my God is actually a short version of the covenant formula that we see in the Abrahamic covenant of Ge 12-22, which is so central in the Bible … I will be your God and you will be my people. This is a loving relationship between God and his people.
When the psalmist says you are my God here in v 10, he’s echoing the covenantal formula with a short version because YHWH is the psalmist’s God because the psalmist trusts in him as we read in v 8.

This fellow is simple as all get out. He doesn’t want God to enter into judgment with him at all. Here’s where people get so confused. When you talk in the OT about the righteous and the wicked, people assume that they are talking about something works-oriented in which the righteous are the people who have perfectly kept God’s law and the wicked are those who have not kept it perfectly. Maybe someone kept 9 out of 10 of God’s laws but since they only kept 9 they are wicked.

However, this has nothing to do with works because when you actually read passages like Ps 143 and you actually have the psalmist consider himself one of the righteous, you find out what that means. You find out that the righteous are those who are in covenant relationship with God and who have faith and trust in YHWH only. The righteous trust in the Lord, and that trust involves following the Lord with all their heart. Even though they fall and stumble and sin, they still follow the Lord with all their heart. The wicked are those who reject the covenant, who turn away from YHWH, who worship other gods, and who don’t trust in YHWH only. It’s a covenantal relationship of faith; it has nothing to do with works.
Righteous, therefore, is another word for those who trust in God and his covenant. The wicked are those who don’t trust in God. It’s all about trust and faith.

So you can see here that justification by faith is not something that does not appear until the NT. In fact, you have justification by faith all through the Bible. You have it here; it’s expressed here; it’s all about this covenantal relationship. I trust in you; I believe in you. You can see then with v 11 …

11 For the sake of your name, LORD, restore me to (preserve my) life. In your righteousness bring my soul out of distress.

Notice also, why should God give him life and bring him out of trouble? for the sake of his name.
Notice also how the psalmist can call on God’s righteousness, and here it’s God’s righteousness – not a judging, condemning righteousness but an active, saving, forgiving, redeeming righteousness whereby he delivers the unrighteous from all things. God is righteous because God is faithful to his covenant. Most often in the Psalms and in the OT righteousness means God’s faithfulness to his promises.
So in your righteousness you promised to deliver me; in your righteousness do that.

When the psalmist calls on God’s righteousness, he’s not afraid as if God will say, “Well, you are not 100% righteous.” He already knows that he’s not righteous. Part of God’s righteousness is that God is involved in this relationship of covenental love in which he forgives the psalmist’s sins; he passes over the psalmist’s transgressions.

Notice that the psalmist knows all about his transgressions because he says I want to know how to serve you better in v 8. In v 10 we get teach me to do your will. ‘I have not done it 100%.’ Teach me to do your will. But he knows that his transgressions are covered by God’s covenental love. That’s why you can have what we see in Ps 62 11-12. See notes there.

To express strongly what we saw in Ps 62 – to express this covenental idea in which the law is understood in the context of the covenant – you can see that this Ps 143 is just a textbook example of OT covenental theology which is understood as God’s grace and mercy in which the law is considered in the context of the covenant to express the fact that you are so dependent on God’s grace and mercy that you need God’s forgiveness.
You can step out of the usual way of talking about the law in the context of God’s covenant … (You see, that’s what’s going on in Ps 62 where people think, ‘oh, salvation by works?’ No. It’s in the law and the context of the covenant.)
You can step outside of that and consider the law apart from the context of God’s covenant and its provision for mercy.

Where would you be then, the psalmist asks?
If you were keeping the law apart from the covenant and God’s provision of grace and mercy, the psalmist talks about that in v 2 where he says, ‘Do not enter into judgment with your servant for in your presence no living person is righteous.’
What’s going on with that?

In Ps 62 and throughout the Psalms and throughout the OT you have this distinction between the righteous and the wicked. This distinction is precisely related to the covenant: the righteous are those who love and trust in YHWH only, and their lives reflect it, and the wicked are those who rebel against YHWH. So we have this clear distinction between the righteous and the wicked.
Many scholars hate that in the OT, how self-righteous this distinction between the righteous and the wicked couldn’t be farther from the truth.
It’s this distinction between those who know and love YHWH and those who do not.
You are constantly distinguishing between the righteous and the wicked.

But now notice what you can do to make the point about God’s grace and mercy and here, to use the context of the covenant, you can consider your righteousness outside the context of the covenant.
In that context none are righteous. v 2 above says Do not enter into judgment with your servant for in your sight no living person is righteous. No one living is righteous. No person is righteous. No flesh is righteous. You see you have the context here that the law apart from God’s covenental mercy and love and forgiveness would mean that there is no righteousness at all. This is a way of stressing that you need God’s covenental love, mercy and forgiveness; that’s your whole hope; it’s in God’s covenental love.
Notice that when the psalmist does this, normally you consider righteousness and the law in the context of the covenant. You can step outside of it and consider the law and your righteousness outside the context of the covenant in which case you have no righteousness at all.
Notice that those are two equally Jewish things to do, two equally biblical things to do.

Now does v 2 ring a bell to you? 2 JW: Do not enter into judgment with your servant for in your sight no living person is righteous.
This passage is echoed in Ro 3 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
This passage is also echoed in Ga 2 16 yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.
These two passages are at the heart of Paul’s theology of the law, and they are so difficult for people to understand.
Sanders says they are thoroughly unJewish but they are drawn from this passage in Jewish scriptures in Ps 143 2!!!

So what is Paul doing in Ro 3 20 and in Ga 2 16? He’s doing the very Jewish thing of considering the law apart from God’s covenental love and mercy.
The whole answer to this perplexing problem of Paul’s letters raised by the new perspective lies in the Jewish context of Paul’s thought.

The psalmist is a saint of God speaking to God. The psalmist is a model of Christian faith and piety from the OT. What do we learn from these various requests about being a saint of God? What do we learn about his relationship with God? All of the Psalms are prayers, and the psalmist doesn’t turn elsewhere; he doesn’t turn to anything or to anyone else but to God. In the psalmist’s time of great sorrow and trouble, he turned to God. The psalmist shows total dependence on God.

All of the things the psalmist talks about relate to life failing, to the absence of life. His spirit is failing (v 7). His heart is desolate within him (v 4). And then we have restore me to life (v 11). We see that the psalmist knows that life comes from God. He is completely dependent on God. He knows that God is the source of all life.

Notice also the desire to be taught by God. Make me know the way in which I should walk (v 8). Teach me to do your will (v 10).
So the saint of God – the psalmist – wants to do God’s will. The psalmist wants to be taught in God’s ways. He wants God to make him know his ways. So we see this commitment to God, this knowing that God is the source of life and knowing that God is the source of truth. The psalmist wants to walk in God’s ways.

12 and in your covenant love (chesed) cut off (silence) my enemies, and destroy all my adversaries, for I am your servant.

So we have here this Jewish covenantal theology which we can trace through Ps 143 and through the whole of the Bible, and in the whole of the Bible you will never have someone trusting in their works. Instead, they are always trusting in the grace of God. It’s passages like these – Ps 143; Dn 9 4-19 and Is 59 1-13 – which have led the majority of scholars to say, as disorienting as it is, that Sanders was correct about ancient Judaism. Ps 143 shows how correct Sanders was when he postulated that within ancient Judaism, when Paul obeyed the law prior to his conversion, the law instead functioned within the gracious framework of the covenant and the covenant’s provision for mercy through repentance and sacrifice. That is, the sacrifices of Le, Dt and all the way through the Bible were ways that God had provided so that through his mercy and grace, his people would find forgiveness.

Still, some scholars have tried to argue that “OK, you have that in the Bible, but by the time Paul was writing letters, Paul would have come from the ‘old’ perspective of the law. Daniel was a ‘new’ perspective kind of Jew but Saul before his conversion would have been an ‘old’ perspective kind of Jew.” That argument, however, has generally been rejected by most scholars of ancient Judaism.
Sanders argues, and the general consensus now is, that Paul would not have believed this ‘old’ perspective of the law before his conversion but he would have believed the ‘new’ perspective on the law.

That now makes the problem all the more acute. Paul seems to be arguing as if the Judaism he knew before his conversion was the ‘old’ perspective and what he says does not seem to fully accord with the ‘New’ Perspective on the Law and Paul. That’s why E. P. Sanders says he’s just inconsistent. He’s arguing from solution to plight. That’s why Pauline scholarship is in an uproar. This is a ‘new’ perspective on Paul which means we must read Paul’s letters in a new way. Sanders said it just shows that Paul’s letters make no sense. The ‘new’ perspective on Paul in the way it’s usually used is a proposed solution to that dilemma. There’s a new solution that says Paul’s letters still are consistent and make perfect theological sense and are right on target because we have to read them in a new way. This is presented on the older handout as new perspective II – which becomes on the newest 2013 handout the ‘New’ Perspective on the Law and Paul of Dunn and Wright.
When Sanders first published, his position was called the new perspective but then eventually scholars began talking about Sanders’ work as a problem that he raised. Now the new perspective is a proposed solution to the problem. The proposed solution is listed on the works of the law handout as the new perspective II of Dunn and Wright. See works of the law in old and new perspectives discussion.

for I am you servant is another version of the covenant formula.

Ps 146

Ps 146 is the first of the five hallelujah Psalms that conclude the Psalter, Psalms that are known as the final Hallel (See Ps 113.). Hallelujah, of course, means Praise the LORD! (Praise God!) and it occurs throughout these Psalms.
Hallelujah (Alleluia) is a religious cry of praise, joy and gladness to God prominent in early Christian liturgies. The Greek version comes from a`llhloui/a, alllouia and the Latin from alleluia.
The Hebrew halelu is the imperative “Praise!,” and the final syllable jah is a shortened form of God’s sacred name Yahweh (translated as Jehovah in the KJV).
Ps 146 is an acrostic poem with each line beginning with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

We learn in Ps 146 that we are not to put our faith in human beings such as politicians, social elites, the media, sports figures, Hollywood types, individuals and so on because none of them can save us and all of them will die. Rather, we are to put our trust in God alone as we recall from Ex 20 3. Our Lord is Christ, the Son of Man in whom there is salvation, already, and who on earth fed the hungry, healed the blind and ministered to everyone in need. We were, in fact, buried with him in our baptisms (Ro 6 4; Co 2 12) so that we can share in Christ’s new life and claim all of his many promises.

We must ever pray for help from God to not put our trust in people (in this sense) but in the LORD alone. We must strive to not mistreat or otherwise look down on others different from ourselves. We are to thank God for keeping his promises through Christ for us for Christ’s sake.

Ps 148

Ps 148 is the third of the five hallelujah Psalms. Notations in the LXX (Septuagint) associate it with the postexilic prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The psalm itself, moving from the heavens to the earth, catalogs the whole range of the created order – from angels to children, from stars to snowflakes. This praise of Creation culminates with praise for God’s own redeemed people.

So far we’ve studied Ps 1, a wisdom psalm, and Ps 23, a psalm of trust in God.

Ps 148 is one of the great Creation Psalms (Creation hymns of which there are many (for instance, Ps 8, Ps 103 and others) in the Psalter which praise God for his work in Creation. It calls on all the created order to praise God. Ps 148 celebrates the beauty and wonder of Creation and is all about God’s rule over Creation. We have this whole idea of the restoration of all things that is coming, and then in Ps 148 we have one more key thought – the foreverness of Creation.

In the Creation Psalms we praise God as the Creator of all, as the Creator of the beauty and wonder of God’s good Creation. Creation Psalms tell the story of God, his truth and his Creation just like Ge 1-2 do. This truth of Creation that we see in these Creation Psalms is foundational for the whole Christian life, and for all wholeness and truth, so that we can know we are creatures of the one, true creator God.

The Creation Psalms do this in a unique way. Unlike Ge 1-2, in Ps 148 we enter into that truth. We experience the truth of God as Creator by actually engaging in worship of God, in praising God as Creator. In Ge 1-2 we hear about God as Creator but in the Creation Psalms like Ps 148 we worship and praise God as Creator. So the Psalms have this element in which we actually enter into this worship and praise of God as Creator. So the Creation Psalms tell the first part of the biblical story, the story of Creation.

Ps 148-150 play a very important part within the liturgy of the church. As hallelujah Psalms (recall Ps 146 introduction) they exude praise of God and so they are called “the praises”. And so in the historic liturgy of the church, both East and West, these three Psalms always play an important role. Within the Orthodox tradition to this day every morning in the Orthros (service) these three Psalms are sung. They play an important role in the western liturgy as well. Ps 148 plays a key role and is often sung right before receiving and as a preparation for Holy Communion. So this Creation hymn is very important and beloved within the church.
Matins (also spelled Mattins, from the Latin, matutinae, “morning”), also called Orthros (from Greek, meaning “morning”, “dawn” or “day break”), is the longest and most complex of the daily cycle services. Matins is celebrated in the morning, unless it is celebrated as part of a vigil in the evening.

v 1
from the heavens.
We have this description of the heavens – all the wonders contained within the heavens – angels, hosts, sun and moon, stars of light and so on. You have both the celestial heavens of God and angels and the cosmological heavens that give us clouds and sun and rain and so on. Vv 1-6, in other words, focus on the heavens. Then, vv 7 ff focus on the earth. So we have the heavens and all they contain and we have the earth and all it contains.
So the structure to the psalm is the heavens and the earth. What else is there but the heavens and the earth. You are praising God as Creator by praising everything created by God – the heavens and the earth. So we have here the whole of all non God reality which God has brought into being and as we say in the Creed, both visible and invisible, both angels and those celestial heavenly beings and so on as well as the visible parts of the cosmos that we can see. So we have the heavens and the earth.

In this heavens section in vv 1-2 we have synonymous parallelism again. See synonymous discussion in the Psalms introduction. The parallelism is meant to better bring out the fullness of the reality.

v 2
Here we learn that God’s hosts are equivalent to God’s angels.

hosts literally army

In Hebrew this means heavenly armies (of angels) or powers. In fact, in the Septuagint it’s translated as his powers. The angels are God’s messengers which is what the word behind angel means both in Hebrew malach (also malakh and malaak) and in Greek angelos. An angel is a supernatural messenger. The idea of God’s hosts here brings out this idea that they are given God’s penitentiary (used for punishment or reform) power to carry out God’s will.

v 3
Again we have parallelism because it’s talking about the celestial bodies. It’s a way of talking about the totality. You have the sun and moon and you have the shining stars. Those are the heavenly bodies. The Hebrew says stars of light and the Septuagint says stars and light. So in the Septuagint you have 4 things: sun, moon, stars and light which comes from all of them. So we have this totality accomplished through parallelism but here the parallelism is a little bit different because they are not synonymous nor are they antithetical.

Notice that v 3b adds to the thought of v 3a so it’s called synthetic parallelism [I think it would best be called additive parallelism.] such as you are bringing two things together. But it’s still a parallelism in which you describe the whole. It’s also this way in v 4 in which you praise …

V 4
you highest heavens in Hebrew is heavens of heavens. Here you think of the heavens as the firmament, this open space above the earth in which the birds fly and the clouds go through. We can see the waters when we look at pictures of the earth from outer space. We can see this atmosphere that surrounds the earth and the waters come from the upper portions of that.

v 5
Here in vv 5-6 we see a couple aspects of biblical truth and theology. All the heavens are exhorted to praise the name of YHWH for he commanded and they were created. This is an important biblical concept to understand regarding God and God as Creator – creatio ex nihilo. The idea here is that all of these wonderful created things – the heavens, the sun and moon, the stars of light – are to praise the name of YHWH for he commanded and they were created. Again we see here creatio ex nihilo. He commanded v 5 and they were created by the word of the Lord.

Note about Jesus: The glory of who Jesus is will shine out to us in ways that it could not unless we follow the story step-by-step because there will be many surprises coming. One must understand and see that which is going on step-by-step in the story behind the story in order to most fully understand and see the wonder of the climax of the story in Jesus.

v 6
The theme that Creation is forever because it’s the work of the one, true creator God is a constant in the OT which we see wonderfully fulfilled in the NT. In fact, Creation is decreed by God to last forever and ever. This concept of the permanence of Creation is found over and over in the Bible especially in the Psalms. God did not make his Creation to pass away. God did not create in order to one day destroy. Creation is forever. he set (established) them in place forever and ever. He made a decree which will never pass away. We see this also in Ps 96 10 The earth (world) is now firmly established and will not be moved.

Far too many have this incorrect understanding of Creation which includes “the end of the world.” Some think our goal as Christians as found in the Bible is that we leave Creation to go to some heavenly realm and somehow Creation is just dropped by the wayside or God does away with Creation. That could not be further from the truth as we see all through Scripture. Part of Creation’s goodness is that God made Creation to be forever. We will find that the climax of the story has nothing to do with God doing away with his Creation or giving us away to escape the Creation. Instead, at the climax of the story we will find God renewing and restoring the whole created order which had been marred and destroyed by human rebellion and sin in the “Fall” of Ge 3. God has promised that he will not destroy Creation. The whole biblical story is about God redeeming and restoring his Creation – not doing away with it.

This is one more thing that the Creed is talking about – this Creation that God brought into being. Our God is the all living, almighty Creator God. He did not bring Creation into being so that it would just be destroyed. Within the biblical framework Creation is forever – one of the many Christian things one can say. The created order will never pass away. God did not make a mistake when he made the world; he made it to last forever and ever. We’re looking at it here in one Ps but we could look at it in dozens of other Psalms, in the prophets and in the NT.

That Creation is forever is an important part of the whole biblical framework, theology and story because as we move through the Psalms we’ll find they talk not only about God as Creator but God as Redeemer. The Psalms also talk about the enthronement of God and the important biblical theme of the renewal and restoration of all Creation which together with the resurrection of the dead is the true Christian hope we have in Scripture. The problem with God’s good Creation is that evil, sin, suffering and death have entered in, and that’s what Christ’s redemptive work is all about. Christ’s redemptive work as Redeemer God has reversed the effects of the “Fall”, a reversal which will come to consummation with Christ’s second coming.

The Bible tells us that when the great day of the LORD comes – the Last Day that the Creed talks about, in this day of both resurrection to judgment and resurrection to salvation, there will be a great renewal and transformation of the universe that will occur. 2 Pe 3 12 ff says it will come with cataclysmic events, with the elements melting with intense heat. Peter, as does Re, says the end will be a new heavens and a new earth (2 Pe 3 13) not meaning the old heavens and earth ceasing to exist and a new heavens and earth coming into being but the old heavens and earth transformed and renewed.

The whole concept here is that Creation is everlasting. We’re going to see that the whole goal of Christ’s salvific work is not to destroy the Creation and take us to heaven but to save us, bringing us resurrected life in our resurrected physical flesh and bones body in a renewed and restored Creation. Creation is forever and the goal of the whole biblical story and of Christ’s saving work is a renewed and restored Creation which fits in with a belief in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth in the Creed. He is the one who made heaven and earth (Creator God), and as we are going to see in the rest of the Creed, he’s the one who through Christ will remake heaven and earth (Redeemer God). The heavens and earth have already been remade through Christ’s resurrection and that work will be finished at Christ’s second coming when he raises all from the dead and renews and restores the whole Creation.

So one day with Christ’s second coming the created order as it is now with evil, sin, suffering and death will be done away with and the Creation will be renewed and restored and reach its full fulfillment. God’s good Creation will have become exactly what God meant it to be – and everything good and beautiful about it will be brought to fulfillment in the renewal and restoration of all Creation. So as He 1 10-12 says the earth and the heavens … will be changed.
The author of He is showing how Jesus truly is fully God, and he does that by echoing all sorts of passages in Scripture that looked forward to the coming of the Lord and how they were fulfilled in Jesus. Hence, in the context vv 10-12 talk about Jesus by quoting Ps 102 which is all about the creative activity of God. Ps 102 ascribes glory to YHWH as Creator, but here in He the sacred writer applies it to the Lord Jesus, showing us that Jesus is fully God. Jesus was the creator God who has come which is why he is absolutely unique.

Notice also something that ties in with what we learn in He 11 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. Everything is created by the Word of God.
And, as we have here in Ps 148 He commanded and they were created (v 5). He established them forever and ever. He made a decree which will never pass away (v 6).

Next, beginning with v 7 we turn to the earth and praising the LORD from the earth.

v 7
Here we have Praise the LORD from the earth which comes to us in conjunction with Praise the LORD from the heavens of v 1.
So we have both heavens and earth so it’s all things as we see in the hymn to Christ of Co 1 15-20 where the author tells us that by him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, all things were created by him and for him.

In vv 7-12 we get this fulsome list of things in the earth. Here again we have synthetic parallelism in which you are adding things up.
The pattern we have here is A and B, C and D. Four different things. We see this pattern in vv 8-12, giving us this sense not of chaos but of order.
The psalmist wrote it this way to give the hearer this sense of fulsomeness and order and beauty in God’s good Creation. We get this same sense in Ge 1 where we have this very ordered, stately, measured presentation with day one, day two and so on. It’s a way of expressing the orderly richness and fulness of Creation which is not chaotic because it was made by the ultimate mind and reason of God himself.

Something else that is similar to Ge 1 is where we here reach the pinnacle in this list of fulsome things in Creation – in v 12.

v 12

Humanity is the pinnacle here in v 12 just as humanity was the pinnacle of Creation in Ge 1 where we have the 6 days of Creation with the sixth and final day of creation bringing humanity into existence. Not only was the creation of humanity the final, climactic event in Creation but in each of the first five days of creation God said it was good. Then, after the creation of humanity, God said it was very good. So here, too, human beings are the climax and pinnacle of the God’s good Creation. And here it’s meant to be every class and kind of people, from the highest kings of the earth to the lowest. Notice how consistent that is throughout the Bible.

v 13
let them praise the name of the LORD corresponds to v 5 where we see the very same phrase. All the heavenly things are to praise the name of the LORD in v 5 for the reasons given in vv 5-6 – for the fullness of heaven and earth which is the glory of God as Creator. That’s why it’s called a Creation hymn.
And here in v 13 all the things of the earth, especially human beings, are to praise the name of the LORD. And the reason why praise is to be given is “for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above the earth and heaven.”

v 13 wonderfully sums up the poem, this poem about heaven (v 1) and earth (v7) which is now concluding with earth and heaven (v 13).
Although the normal word order for these two words is heavens and earth, here the psalmist reverses them with earth and heaven. The psalmist does this in order to provide the chiastic structure (A, B, B’, A’) of the psalm – similar to what we see in Co 1 15-20. First you have praise God for his Creation of the heavens v 1 and then you praise him for his creation of the earth v 7. Therefore, vv 1-6 describe heavens and vv 7-12 describe the earth.
Then here in v 13 the psalmist has reversed the order with his glory is above the earth and the heaven. So the structure we have is:
heavens / earth / earth / heaven from vv 1-6 / vv 7-12 / v 13 / v 13
This chiasm stresses the universality of it all. He is Lord of heaven and earth.

A heaven vv 1-6
B earth vv 7-12
B’ earth v 13a
A’ heaven v 13b

v 14
One might have thought the psalm could well have ended as a Creation hymn with v 13 but a v is added, something true of almost all Creation hymns – because the Creator God is more than the Creator God. The Creator God has to be more than the Creator God because evil, sin, suffering and death have entered into God’s good Creation through “the Fall”. Therefore, v 14 reflects this larger biblical story of the Creator God beginning in Ge 1-2. We’ve seen how Ps 148 reflects the same story of Ge 1-2 – God as Creator. Of course, something follows in the biblical story, something that explains why this world enriched with good is yet pulsating with evil. It’s because through “the Fall” of humanity, evil, sin, suffering and death entered into the human realm and into the whole cosmos. That, in turn, set the stage for the whole biblical story to follow which is about how this Creator God became the covenant and Redeemer God in order to redeem humanity and his Creation.

As such, immediately following “the Fall” we have the Creator God revealing himself as the covenant God in Ge 12 and God did so through the vehicle of the Abrahamic covenant. God made this covenant with one person, Abraham, and his family, the people of Israel. The purpose of that covenant always expressed that through Abraham – and through Israel who would come from Abraham – there would come this blessing to all nations in which the Creator God would undo the tragedy of “the Fall” to put the Creation of Ge 1-2 back on track and to renew his Creation.

Now, alongside this Abrahamic covenant was another covenant that God made with his people, the Davidic covenant, which further specified how God was going to bring about this blessing to all nations, through this everlasting Davidic throne. Then, as the progressive revelation of the Bible proceeded we see that the everlasting Davidic throne would be fulfilled in one, everlasting Davidic king, the ultimate Davidic king, the Messiah. To us a child is born; to us a son is given; and the kingdom will rest on his shoulders (Is 9 6). The ultimate Davidic king. The Messiah.

And in many of the prophets and in many of the Psalms this Messiah is called the horn of Israel. Ps 22 and other Psalms, such as Ps 18 2, Ps 112 9, and here in Ps 148, speak of God raising up a horn for his people. See also Lk 1 69. Horn is a symbol of power and might. Horned animals, in Israelite thought, with their heads held high, symbolized strength and triumph. Horn was a way of referring to the ultimate Davidic king, the Messiah. Here, this praise of God as Creator comes in the climax of this larger biblical story in which God is redeeming his Creation through this messianic king who will fulfill the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.

So when an ancient Israelite heard this, they would say this is our Creator God who is our Redeemer God but we are waiting for his full redemption through our Messiah to come. While they looked forward to this, we look back to it. This is a promise of God’s coming Messiah which was fulfilled in Christ (Lk 1 69). Calling Jesus the Christ is calling him the Messiah. Christ = Messiah. Here the horn of Israel is expressing the hope of this coming of Christ. He will raise up a horn for his people.

Some translations put this in the past tense. He has exalted the horn of his people. That’s the prophetic perfect in which the prophet or the psalmist uses the past or perfect tense because they envision it in time to come. But they envision it with such a total certainty that it will happen, so much so that they envision it as already having happened. The prophetic perfect.

One more thing is being expressed in a very veiled, mysterious way. We should never think that the people of Israel knew this openly and easily. It was something that would only be revealed when the event actually happened. There is something about this Messiah that went beyond what the people of Israel expected. They understood this text was about the Messiah, that he would raise up a horn for his people. But then, referring to this Messiah as the horn, the psalmist says the praise of all his saints. This echoes many passages such as Dt 10 21 and Jm 17 14 in which you say things like this.
21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.
14 Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.
Saying something is the praise of Israel was a way of referring to God.

So in a very hidden, mysterious and veiled way, there was this hidden message that would only be clear in retrospect. It would have been very mysterious for the people of Israel. There was this hidden, veiled message that this Messiah would be even more than the Messiah. This Messiah was going to be God himself come in the flesh. The Messiah was going to be the God of Israel in person.

Therefore, just as we saw the shepherd aspect of God’s character fulfilled in the Incarnation, so also we see a reference here, looking ahead, mysteriously foretelling the Incarnation of God in Christ. This Messiah who would come from the line of David would be the praise of all his saints. He, in fact, would be God come in the flesh. He would be the ultimate fulfillment of the hopes of this children of Israel who were a people near to God. They were a people near to God because they were the covenant people but their purpose as the covenant people was that this horn might come from them, this Messiah, this one who would be God in the flesh to fulfill these Abrahamic and Davidic covenants in order to bring blessing to all nations. That’s the purpose of Israel in the divine plan – to bring forth the Christ who, in fact, was Israel’s God in the flesh and who has now come and is the center of our faith and worship. We see that whole story being foretold here in Ps 148.

So v 14, in making this connection with the horn and the praise for all saints and praise YHWH, the psalmist is, in a very veiled way, saying that the horn who is the Messiah is YHWH. We probably can’t see this apart from knowing about the reality having come in Christ. So we can now look back and see it. We have this two way traffic in the Bible. One cannot fully appreciate, understand and enjoy the NT apart from an understanding of the story behind the Story. But it’s also true that the coming of Christ revealed the mysteries that were there in the OT that we never could have known before the fulfillment came. So there is this traffic going from the fulfillment of Christ in the NT that illumines the OT for us. We see that here. Now we can see in Christ that this was a veiled, mysteriously foreshadowing that this Messiah would, in fact, be God come in the flesh.

Our insensibility to God’s goodness and glory is a sign of how far we have fallen. In all of his manifold Creation, God has raised up a horn for his people (v 14). This is a prophecy of Christ, as evident in the words of Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father (Lk 1 68-69). Through Christ, God has gathered together his own people into the Church. God has declared them to be his saints and God dwells near them with his very presence in Word and Sacrament.