We encounter yet another Psalm filled with gloom and despair. The references to Joseph, Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin indicate that this Psalm belongs to an earlier period than the last few, a time when Judah witnessed the destruction of her northern neighbor Israel at the hands of the Assyrians. Darkness had enveloped the land of the people of God for a nation that had its roots in the Kingdom of God has been uprooted and destroyed by His enemies. Yet the Lord still reigned in His holy tabernacle even though it appeared that His will had been thwarted. The Psalmist pleaded with the Lord to shed the light of His glory once again and dispel the sadness of the people of Judah.
Sometimes things go so awry in our lives that we are filled with gloom and dark despair. Nationally and globally we in the 21st Century seem to be in that kind of state. All around us the world is filled with turmoil and terror. Innocent people are oppressed and slaughtered. Wickedness is tolerated, promoted and legalized. The wicked seem to get away with unjust and sinful ways. Not only are they not stopped by the Lord, they actually seem to prosper. Christians are assaulted and persecuted even in our land. The government protects the civil rights of sinners while the righteous who voice a different opinion are accused of bias and discrimination. Like the Psalmist we cry out for the glory of the Lord to shine, but though it seems as evil has the upper hand, God is still in control. Let us as Christians stand boldly for the truth of God’s word against the philosophies of the world.
Once again the Psalmist cried out to the Lord in outrage and consternation. He has witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem, the desecration of the Lord’s Temple and the slaughter of God’s people. He is sad and also angry, but not at God, but at the nation which has carried out such terrible deeds. The Psalm calls to the Lord to take action against those who have so despitefully used His people. The Psalmist does admit that the people of Judah were far from faultless and that the chastisement of the Lord was deserved. But even though Judah had been unfaithful to God’s covenant, the Lord must remain true to His word. He must avenge His name upon those who so wickedly attacked Him and His chosen ones.
In the Christian life there is much tribulation, some of which is merited. We Christians are not without fault since we continue to sin even after we are saved. We continually ignore the counsel of the scripture and do not heed the ways of the Lord. We find it more profitable and expedient to follow the wisdom of the world as well as the dictates of the flesh. When we do so we often reap the emotional, spiritual and physical consequences that result from our sin. Then we expect that the Lord will step in and help us out of our mess. Then we will pray for His hand of deliverance even though we so consciously flouted His word.
Though we do not deserve God’s healing and deliverance for any of those messes we get ourselves into, sometimes He will deliver us. More often will nurture and shape us through the experiences and trials that He allows us to endure.
Here is a Psalm by a man who had almost gone astray and deserted the Lord. He realized that he took his eyes off the Lord and what He desired. Instead he compared his life to the wicked. The wicked seemed to prosper for they had everything they needed: riches, power, health and fame while he lacked such things. It seemed as if his loyal service to God counted for nothing. All he had was heartache and suffering as he struggled just to survive. But he realized the error of such faulty thinking when he went into worship the Lord. Then he realized that he was in right relationship to God. The wicked had their reward now but it was only temporary as were the woes of the righteous. In eternity the wicked would suffer while the righteous would receive glory and blessings.
Too often we Americans, including many Christians look at the rest of the world and desire what the rich and famous have. They have power, wealth, fame, health and live lives of luxury and self-indulgence. We Christians think we should enjoy what they have. The reality is that such a path usually leads us into many troubles: psychological, spiritual, physical and financial.
Consequently, the Christian is called not to look at the world, at the prosperity of the wicked or desire them. We are called to look at God for in Him we find all that we need to survive. The rich and the worldly may scoff at God and at the righteous, but they do so to their peril. Self-indulgence is its own reward and its own punishment as well. In the world to come, the wicked will suffer eternal separation from the God of all comfort and love. We Christians are not meant to live a life of ease and comfort in this world. We are not supposed to enjoy rich lives like the wealthy and the celebrities. Rather the blessings we receive come as we put our trust in God and work to advance His Kingdom.
This is a Psalm apparently penned by King Solomon. Although it gives praise to the Lord it is actually a prayer for God’s blessing on the king. Perhaps it was sung at his coronation or at an annual feast to confirm the king as God’s anointed. It asks the Lord to ensure that the King rule with wisdom and justice and that He not neglect the needs of the poor and oppressed. As long as He rules with fairness and mercy then he and the nation shall be blessed. The Psalm is also Messianic for it bears upon the one true King who will reign over all the nations with righteousness forever.
Though we should always pray for the coming of God’s reign on earth, there is always a place for prayers to be offered for the rulers of our nation, no matter what party they belong to. Perhaps since we do not trust politicians nor do we like a lot of the things they do, we do not pray for them other than that they will be removed from office. This is not right. Solomon here gives us a wonderful example of how we should pray for those in authority over us. We should ask that the Lord grant them His wisdom. We should ask that the rulers ensure justice for all, as we recite in The Pledge of Allegiance, but especially for the oppressed and the poor.
In our country it seems that the largest class of oppressed people are the unborn. Yet hundreds of them are being killed every day in the name of justice and human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. So when we pray we must pray that our leaders would wake up and end the national sin of abortion. And we should pray for the Lord’s wisdom and discernment so that our leaders will seek justice and truth and not money and popularity.
This Psalm is another that David prays when he is being threatened by enemies. This time he describes his feeling of despair to being in the desert. He feels spiritual weariness, hunger and thirst because the word of the Lord is missing. It has dried up like a stream in the desert heat. He desires that the Lord replenish him, slake his thirst and give him guidance and encouragement. Certainly we can all identify with this imagery for we too have often been in the spiritual desert, that is, if we are honest enough to admit it. At such times we do not hear the Lord and his relief seems far away. We cry out to God however, because though we cannot hear Him He hears us.
Often in the middle of the night we are awake because there are so many concerns plaguing our minds. At such times we must call out to the Lord because when we do we can begin to experience a measure of comfort and peace. We realize that God is there willing to listen to our complaints no matter how long, deep, angry or troubling they are. That is one of the great things about our God: He never tires of hearing our grumblings. Our fellow Christians and our relatives often do. They get to a point where they just get so frustrated with us that they tell us to cut it out and get on with it. They think we should not have such troubles. Others cope, why can’t we? I know this well as I have experienced it myself, many times, in churches from Christians and in my family.
In effect such people want only to hear good things not pain and sorrow. They cut us off in the midst of our despair without offering any real help. God may tell us to get on with life but as He does He comes alongside us and carries us through. He provides constructive guidance and solace as well as the strength and ability to carry out His counsel. And that helps us feel and act better.
This Psalm seems quite similar to the previous one but David is not concerned here with a serious illness. He appears to be assailed by people who have launched a conspiracy against him, perhaps the family of Saul or else his own son Absalom. The conspirators have fabricated and spread lies about him. They alleged that they are stronger than he for he lacks the strength and courage to stand against them. David knows better for he realizes that true power belongs to the Lord, not to any man.
Often we are assailed by people who say bad things about us or slander us with lies. We may want to retaliate for such is the way of the world. We shouldn’t. Instead, at such times we must look to the Lord as our source of strength, the rock of our salvation on whom we can stand without being unnerved by the lies and invective that sweep against us like a flood. Then we realize then we do not have to respond for God is in control. Those who trust in things other than Him, such as riches, prosperity, fame, or power think they can say all they want against us. What they have and own or their fame and celebrity defines who they are and they think it makes them better or more worthy then we poor Christians. All such human ideas of what is noteworthy and strong will fall apart. All deeds done for self or for the applause of men will never stand in heaven. Only those things which are done for the Lord will stand for eternity. Everything else is trash.
David’s cry for help appears to have occurred in a time of serious illness. He called out to God from the ends of the earth which seems to be a metaphor for feeling close to death. He feels that he is in a pit of quicksand being drawn under. He calls out for he needs God’s saving hand to reach out and place him on a rock where he cannot fall. That place is a stronghold under the shelter of the love and kindness of the Almighty God. He is protected from the onslaught of the enemy who in this case is the illness or rather Satan who has used the illness as a way of shaking David’s confidence in the Lord.
Though David experiences pain and despair in this illness, he still holds on to God’s covenant promises. God has promised him that he will sit on the throne of the Kingdom of Israel as His chosen servant. So although he feels thoroughly impotent and helpless, he knows that his life will be restored.
We can learn from David’s faith when we are in the midst of despair during some illness, crisis or trial. Even a severe cold can have us feeling as if we were at death’s door. But we must recall that we are in God’s hand. He will protect us. If we are busy doing His work and that work is not yet finished, He will allow us to continue. If He does not, if we die, we will not regret the unfinished work, for we will be in heaven. Thus He can enable us to endure the pain knowing that we have the sure promise of salvation and the certain hope of eternal life not by our works but by God’s faithfulness to His word.