Book Ii: Psalms 42–72
BOOK II: PSALMS 42–72
1 Psalms 42 and 43 were almost certainly written as one psalm; it is not known how they came to be divided. According to the title, they are of (or “for”) the sons of Korah. A choir made up of the “sons of Korah” had been established by David to lead in the temple worship, and the author of these two psalms was evidently one of these Korahites.
As is true of many of the psalms, the stanzas of Psalms 42 and 43 alternate between discouragement and hope, between doubt and faith (see Psalms 10:1; 27:7–11 and comments). The psalmist has experienced some kind of distress; one possibility is that he has been taken into exile far from home and remains in the hands of enemies. In such a condition, he longs for God’s fellowship and God’s temple: his soul (his entire being) pants (longs) for God, even as a deer longs for water when it is being pursued by hunters.
How many of us long for God in this way? How many of us seek God with all our heart? (Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13). One of the first signs of trouble in our spiritual lives is a lessening of our desire for God—for God’s fellowship, for God’s word. We can appear outwardly faithful and fruitful, but if we have lost our love for God we have lost everything (see Deuteronomy 6:5; Revelation 2:2–5).
2–4 The psalmist asks: When can I go and meet with God? (verse 2). His current situation prevents him from going to the temple as he used to (verse 4); he misses God’s fellowship.104 He says that his tears have been his food (verse 3)—a poetic way of expressing great sorrow. People mock him by suggesting that his God has left him. All he can do is to remember his past experiences with God, experiences of joy and thanksgiving105 (verse 4).
5 This verse is repeated three times in Psalms 42 and 43, but it is much more than just a refrain. It gives a profound insight into the way believers should deal with depression. We all become downcast from time to time, and yet we know that this is not a state God wants us to remain in. If we are downcast, how can we follow Paul’s command to rejoice in the Lord always? (Philippians 4:4).
In this verse, the psalmist talks to his soul (himself). He basically asks himself: “What’s the matter with you? Have you forgotten God—forgotten His promises, His faithfulness, His love and mercy?” And then the psalmist tells himself what to do about it: Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him.
Whenever we are downcast or depressed, we need to start talking to ourselves; we need to shake ourselves. And then we must at once start thinking about God. The only way to get our eyes off ourselves is to get our eyes on God: Put your hope in God. And then we must begin to praise Him. One of the most effective ways to overcome depression is to praise God—even if we don’t “feel” like it. It has worked for countless Christians down through the ages.106
6–7 The psalmist is still downcast, in spite of talking to his soul (verse 5). Depression is not something that goes away easily; it is something to be wrestled with. But we are not alone in our wrestling; God is with us. The psalmist “remembers” God (verse6); he remembers that the sorrows sweeping over him are ultimately from God; God controls them and can make them subside.107
8–10 The psalmist now remembers God’s covenant love; day and night God’s love and God’s song comfort the psalmist (verse 8).
But then the psalmist begins to question God: “Why have you forgotten me?” (verse 9). “Why must I continue to mourn, to be oppressed?” Yet once again he is able to return to the hopeful refrain of verse 11. If our good thoughts don’t work for us the first time, it is well to think them again; they may work better the second time.
11 See verse 5 and comment.
1–4 This psalm is a continuation of Psalm 42; it is a prayer for deliverance from the ungodly nation where the psalmist has likely been exiled (verse 1). It is also a prayer for the psalmist’s restoration to God’s presence on His holy mountain, the site of the temple in Jerusalem (verse 3). The psalmist asks God to send His light and His truth (personified as a rescue party) to bring him back to the Jerusalem temple where he can once again enjoy God’s fellowship. Walking in God’s “light” and holding fast to His “truth” is the sure pathway through life’s difficulties (see John 8:12,31–32); it will lead us to God Himself (see John 14:6).
God’s “light” and “truth” are manifested both in God’s word and in God’s Son, the eternal Word (John 1:1). When we are “exiled” in an “ungodly nation”—that is, when we are in difficulty and God seems far away—then more than ever we need God’s “light and truth.” We don’t need answers to all our questions; we need only to be led back into God’s presence. God’s word—and the Spirit of Jesus Himself—will lead us back, and God once more will be our joy and delight (verse 4).
5 See Psalm 42:5 and comment.
1–3 As with Psalm 42, this psalm appears to have been written by one of the sons of Korah. But it could also have been written by David “for” the sons of Korah to sing. The psalm is not an individual lament but rather a national lament. The writer alternates between the first and third persons, “I” and “we.” In some verses the writer speaks for the nation; in other verses, he speaks for himself as an individual Israelite affected by the nation’s suffering. If David is the author, he would be speaking for himself as leader of his nation.
In these verses, the psalmist praises God for the way He drove out the nations from Canaan and planted the Israelites in the land (verse 2). Although the Israelites fought hard with their swords, it was really God’s arm (power) and the light of [His] face (favor) that gave them the victory. Yet God gives victory (blessing) to those who obey Him; He had commanded the Israelites to drive out the nations, and they had proceeded to do so. God expects us to actively cooperate with Him in the furthering of His purposes.108
4–8 The psalmist now speaks on behalf of Israel: You are my . . . God, who decrees victories for JACOB—Israel (verse 4). I do not trust in my bow (verse 6). When we, as God’s servants, stop trusting in ourselves and begin trusting in Him,then God is more free to use us as instruments of His will. Let us boast in the Lord (verse 8) and not in ourselves (1 Corinthians 1:31).
9–16 But now you have rejected . . . us (verse 9). Suddenly, after saying he will praise God forever (verse 8), the psalmist claims that God has forsaken and shamed His people. God had done so much for them in the past, but now God has allowed the Israelites to be defeated and scattered among the nations (verse 11). How can this be?
Our first thought is this: the Israelites must have disobeyed God’s covenant and therefore He has punished them (see Leviticus 26:14–39). However, in verses 17–22, the psalmist denies that this is so.
17–22 The psalmist denies that Israel has disobeyed or been unfaithful. This suggests that the national defeat and shame described in verses 9–16 may have taken place during the reign of one of the godly kings of Judah, the southern kingdom.109 Even though the people of Judah had been obedient to God, He was still allowing them to suffer this national disaster. The psalmist is perplexed; he and his people were suffering, in fact, because of their faith in God: for your sake (because of you) we face death all day long110 (verse 22).
When people feel forsaken by God they often turn away from Him, but in doing so they make a great mistake. Instead, when trials and perplexities come upon us, they should drive us toward God, not away from Him. God had promised the Israelites—and us—His unfailing love (Exodus 34:6–7). And in our hour of need, it is God’s love we must rely on.111
In verse 22, the psalmist says: . . . for your sake we face death. For a Christian, to suffer for Christ’s sake is the highest honor and privilege that one can have on earth. This is why, even in times of deepest suffering, it is still possible to give thanks and to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21).
23–26 In these final verses of the psalm, the psalmist does turn to God and cries out for help in his nation’s time of need: Awake, O Lord! (verse 23). Rise up . . . redeem112 us because of your unfailing love (verse 26).
1 This psalm is a song of praise for the king on his wedding day. It was probably written for one specific king—a descendant of David—and then was used for other royal weddings as well. The picture of the king in this psalm is idealized, indeed superhuman. The kings of Israel were representatives of God; the kingdom of Israel was meant to be an earthly version of God’s heavenly kingdom. The king pictured in this psalm—like David himself—was a forerunner of the eventual Son of David who would truly fulfill the royal ideal described here. Indeed, the writer to the Hebrews specifically applies verses 6 and 7 of this psalm to Christ (Hebrews 1:8–9).
In figurative terms, the writer of this psalm depicts his tongue—with which he will sing this song—as the pen of a skillful writer. His intent is to perpetuate the memory of the king throughout all generations and thereby to awaken the nations to praise him for ever and ever (verse 17). Underlying this psalm is the promise God made to David that his kingdom would endure forever (2 Samuel 7:16). That promise was fulfilled by Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6–7; Luke 1:30–33).
2–9 Though the description given in these verses applies specifically to kings of Israel, we can see that in spiritual terms it applies to Jesus as well. Jesus’ sword (verse 3) is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17; Revelation 19:15). He rides forth on behalf of truth, humility and righteousness (verse 4); He is gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29), and yet (verse 5) He will put the ungodly nations beneath His feet (1 Corinthians 15:25). Jesus will rule with the scepter of justice (verse 6)—the symbol of His royal authority (see Genesis 49:10). He has been set above all His companions (verse 7)—above all other human beings. And at His right hand is the royal bride (verse 9)—His church (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25–27; Revelation 19:7–8). So clearly did the writer to the Hebrews identify the king in this psalm with Jesus that he even applied the words O God in verse 6 directly to Jesus Himself (Hebrews 1:8).
10–15 These verses are addressed to the king’s bride. She is a foreigner, called upon to leave her people and join herself to the king her lord (verses 10–11). The Daughter of Tyre—the personification of the wealthy city of Tyre and, by extension, all the wealthy nations on earth—will bring gifts to the king’s bride (verse 12). She too has companions who follow her and who are brought to you—that is, to the king (verse 14). The whole wedding is characterized by joy and gladness (verse 15).
What the psalmist says to the bride, he says also to us, the Church. Forget all others and cleave to Christ alone (verse 10); honor him, for He is your Lord (verse 11). And if you do this, you will dwell with the King in joy and gladness forever (verses 13–15).
16–17 Here the psalmist again addresses the king: Your sons will take your place and the place of your fathers before you (verse 16). In this way God’s promise to David would be fulfilled, and with the coming of Jesus there would be a King to sit on David’s throne forever (see 2 Samuel 7:12–17 and comment).
1–3 This psalm celebrates God’s protection of Jerusalem, the city where He had chosen to put His Name (Deuteronomy 12:5) and where He had chosen to dwell symbolically among His people (Psalm 132:13). Jerusalem (Zion) was the center of God’s earthly rule over the nations; it symbolized His kingdom on earth.113 This psalm expresses the Israelites’ confidence that God their King will defend them and overcome their enemies. Even if the whole created world collapses—a figurative way of describing the attacks of Israel’s enemies—the people will not fear (verses 2–3).
4–7 The psalmist mentions a river in the city of God (Jerusalem) which makes the city glad. This “river” is a metaphor for the outflowing of God’s blessings upon His city (see Revelation 22:1–5). But more important, God is within her (verse 5); God Himself is in the city with His people. The LORD Almighty is with us, says the psalmist (verse 7); therefore, Jerusalem will not fall (verse 5).
The glory of the Old Testament Jerusalem was great; the essence of its glory was that God was there with His people. The glory of Zion could be summed up in the phrase,“God with us.”114 But a much greater glory was yet to come: instead of God’s presence being manifested symbolically as a cloud within the temple (1 Kings 8:1013), His presence would one day be manifested in the flesh as a man—the Son of God (see John 1:14).
Thus the Old Testament “city of God” points forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, who is able to save us not only from earthly enemies but from spiritual enemies as well. He is the One who has come to sit on the throne of David and who will reign forever115 (2 Samuel 7:16; Luke 1:30–33).
8–11 Here the psalmist depicts God as victorious over Israel’s enemies; the attacks on Jerusalem have come to an end and God reigns over the nations in peace. His mighty acts cause Him to be exalted among the nations (verse 10).
These verses look forward to the New Testament era. God’s mightiest act was sending His Son into the world and then raising Him from the dead (Ephesians 1:19–21). In doing this, God exalted him to the highest place . . . that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow (Philippians 2:9–11).
1–4 This psalm celebrates the universal reign of Israel’s God, the great King over all the earth (verse 2). The psalmist calls for all you nations to praise Him (verse 1)—in anticipation of the day when all nations will acknowledge the rule of God. On that day, the kingdom of God will truly be established on the earth.
In verse 4, the psalmist says: God chose our inheritance for us; by “inheritance” the psalmist means the promised land of Canaan (Genesis 12:7; 17:8). But there is an even greater meaning to be found here: God has chosen an “inheritance” for each one of us. For those of us who believe, it is a good inheritance; every circumstance in our life has been ordained by God for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28). Even in times of trouble we need to see God’s hand working out our “inheritance” for us. And at the end of our earthly life, we can be assured of an inheritance in heaven that will never perish (1 Peter 1:4).
5–9 These verses picture God ascending to the temple, accompanied by joyful shouting and the sounding of trumpets (verse 5). God sits on His holy throne (verse 8)—symbolized by the ark located in the inner room of the temple (Exodus 25:10–22). God’s real throne, however, is in heaven, and the earth is merely His footstool (Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:49).
In verse 9, the psalmist says that the nations, represented by their nobles, assemble as the people of the God of Abraham. This anticipates the time when believers from all the GENTILE nations will be incorporated into God’s family, thus fulfilling God’s original promise to ABRAHAM that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1–3; Galatians 3:7–9). Whether or not the Gentiles receive God’s blessing will depend upon their faith; but even if they refuse to believe, they will still be subject to God’s rule. The kings of the earth—whether they like it or not—belong to God (verse 9).
1–3 This psalm celebrates the greatness of God as He dwells in His city, His holy mountain (verse1)—that is, Mount Zion116 (verse 2). Jerusalem was located on a small mountain, and because God dwelled there it was a “holy mountain,” beautiful in its loftiness117 (verse 2). Jerusalem’s defenses were not in her citadels (verse 3), her towers and ramparts (verses 12–13). Rather, Jerusalem’s defense was God Himself; God was her fortress (verse 3).
4–8 In the past, God’s presence struck terror in the hearts of those trying to attack Jerusalem (verses 4–5). God destroyed them like ships of Tarshish; these ships were the strongest in the ancient world, but a strong wind could easily destroy them. The people had heard about these great works of God, but now they have seen them with their own eyes; through these works God makes Jerusalem secure forever (verse 8).
9–14 In these verses, the psalmist continues his praise of God. He invites people to look at the mighty city so that they can describe it to the next generation (verses 12–13). But the strength of the city comes from the presence of God, not from its fortifications; God will be the people’s guide and protector, even to the end—even to death (verse 9).
The psalmist didn’t know it, but soon those great fortifications would be cast down, and Jerusalem would fall (2 Kings 25:1–21). But God has promised us a new Jerusalem that will never fall and where God will reign forever (Revelation 21:1–4).
1–4 This psalm highlights the foolishness of those who trust in their riches, and it encourages the godly—the wise—to trust in God, who is the only One who can redeem a person’s life from the grave (verse 15).
5–9 The godly need not fear the rich and powerful; the rich may exploit the poor while they are alive, but their wealth cannot save them from death. No human being has enough money to redeem or ransom his own or someone else’s life from death118 (verses 7–9).
10–12 Here the psalmist appeals to common observation; all humans die, whether they are wise or foolish and . . . senseless119 (verse 10). And no one can take his wealth with him (see Luke 12:13–21).
13–15 All alike die, but there is a difference between the death of the wise (the righteous, the upright) and the death of the foolish (the self-confident, the wicked): the former die with hope of ultimate REDEMPTION and fellowship with God (verse 15); but the foolish die without hope, like sheep destined for the grave where death will feed on them120 (verse 14). Furthermore, the upright will rule over the foolish, over the wealthy who put their trust in riches; they will rule over them in the morning (verse 14)—that is, in the afterlife, on awakening after death.121
Verse 15 provides one of the clearest affirmations in the Old Testament concerning life after death. God will redeem my life (my soul) from the grave; not only that, He will take me to himself.122 How does God redeem us? Not with money, not with perishable things such as silver or gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18–19). Christ did for us what all the money in the world could never do: He paid the price for our sins; He redeemed us by dying on the cross. He did not have to die for His own sins—He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15); for this reason, His death was accepted by His Father as payment for the sins of others—for our sins. This is the great hope for all of us who believe, a hope that is foreshadowed in verse 15 of this psalm.
16–20 Here the psalmist gives some final comments on the fate of the rich who do not trust in God. They will never see the light of life123 (verse 19)—that is, they will never see salvation, eternal life with God.
1–6 This psalm124 presents a prophetic picture of God’s final judgment of mankind and, in particular, of His own people—His consecrated ones125 (verse 5). All of us, believers and non-believers alike, will one day appear before the judgment seat of Christ (God) to receive what is due us for the things we have done in this life (2 Corinthians 5:10). But judgment will begin with the family of God (1 Peter 4:17). As we study this psalm, let us examine ourselves and reflect on what God might say to us as we stand before His throne on Judgment Day.
God’s judgment will be awesome; He will be accompanied by fire and tempest (verse 3), just as He appeared to the Israelites on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16–18). He will call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against His people (verse 4). They had made a covenant with God, sealed by sacrifice (see Exodus 24:4–8), but they had not fully kept their part of the covenant (see Exodus 19:1–6; Psalm 16:5–8 and comments). Therefore, God Himself will be their judge (verse 6).
7–15 Here God divides His people into two groups: first, those who carry out the ritual sacrifices, but without understanding or proper motivation (verses 7–15); and second, those who recite God’s law with their lips, but do not obey it (verses 16–21).
Those in the first group have misunderstood the purpose behind the sacrifices: they think they are doing God a favor by sacrificing animals to Him—as if He would go hungry otherwise! (This was a common belief among pagan peoples.) But the sacrifices, the burnt offerings (verse 8), were for the people’s sake; they were the means by which the people could atone for their sins126 and continue in their covenant relationship with God (see Leviticus 1:1–4 and comment).
What God wanted was not their sacrifices but their hearts—their love, their obedience, their thanksgiving (see 1 Samuel 15:22). They should have sacrificed thank offerings127 to God, and they should also have fulfilled the covenant vows they had made to Him (verse 14)—vows to obey what He had commanded (Exodus 24:7). These were the offerings God wanted—the offerings of thanks and obedience. He wanted His people to call upon Him, to trust Him, and to honor Him (verse 15).
But instead, the people in the first group had not worshiped God from their hearts; they had contented themselves with formal rituals. Sadly, this is the state of many Christians today; outwardly they have kept God’s law, but inwardly they have forgotten God (verse 22). Let us examine ourselves; judgment [begins] with the family of God (1 Peter 4:17).
16–21 The second group of God’s people are called the wicked (verse 16); the first group (verses 7–15) had at least followed God’s law outwardly; this second group, however, has hated God’s instruction and cast His words behind them (verses 16–17). The people in the second group have “honored” God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him (Isaiah 29:13). In verses 18–20, God describes some of the sins of these people: stealing, adultery, false witness, and slander—speaking against your brother (verse 20). So far God has kept silent, and they have interpreted His silence as approval or indifference (verse 21). How mistaken they have been—and how mistaken we are when we do likewise! God will not remain silent forever. “I will rebuke you,” says the Lord.
22–23 In these verses God gives His people a final warning. Judgment has not yet fallen; there is still time to repent and return to God. Those who continue to forget God will be treated as people who are outside God’s covenant (verse 22). But those who turn back to Him with thanksgiving and true devotion will be shown the salvation of God—eternal fellowship with Him (verse 23). Thus this psalm, which begins with a call to judgment, now ends with God’s gracious offer of salvation.
1–2 According to the title, David wrote Psalm 51 after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and the prophet Nathan had come to him with word of God’s judgment (see 2 Samuel 11:1–27; 12:1–20). Here we see David stricken with guilt; he has broken God’s covenant and, worst of all, he has done this as God’s anointed king. He has been cut off from God’s favor; he has committed deliberate sins for which there is no cleansing sacrifice (Numbers 15:30–31). His only hope is to appeal to God for mercy,128 and he bases his appeal on God’s unfailing love (verse 1). God had said that He would forgive sins, and David is clinging to that promise (see Exodus 34:6–7).
But in order to receive God’s forgiveness, David must confess his sin, and he does so in these first two verses. Confession opens the door to God’s forgiveness (see Psalm 32:1–11 and comment). Forgiveness is an act of God’s grace whereby sin is “blotted out” and “washed away.” Together with the forgiving of sin (the canceling of sin’s penalty) God also cleanses (purifies) the sinner (1 John 1:9) and restores him to fellowship with Himself. In this way both the sin and its effects are removed; this is what David is praying for here.
3–6 David’s sin (like all sin) was primarily against God; it was God’s covenant David had broken (verse 4). But of course he had also sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah (see Luke 15:18)—especially the latter, whose death he had ordered (2 Samuel 11:14–15). Because of David’s sin, God was right—justified—when He rebuked David through the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12:7–12).
But David acknowledges here an even deeper problem: it wasn’t only his sin with Bathsheba he was guilty of; his basic nature was sinful. He had been sinful from the time his mother conceived him (verse 5). Here David reflects on a fundamental truth: since the original sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1–6), human beings have been born with a sinful nature (Romans 3:10–11; 7:18; Ephesians 2:1–5). Thus David’s “big sin” with Bathsheba grew out of a natural tendency to rebel against God’s law. How was he going to be cleansed of that? Surely God wanted David’s inner parts, his inmost place—his very being—transformed by truth and wisdom (verse 6). But how was it going to happen?
7–12 David knows that he is powerless to transform his inward nature; so again he calls out to God to cleanse him129 (verse 7). Then he asks God: Create in me a pure heart (verse 10). David needs a “new heart”; only by a new creation can David be transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God transforms us through His Holy Spirit; this is why David says to God: Do not . . . take your Holy Spirit from me130 (verse 11). Without God’s Spirit, our own spirits cannot be renewed; without God’s Spirit, we have no power to overcome sin, we have no power to put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22–24). Ultimately, without the Holy Spirit, we cannot experience the joy of [God’s] salvation (verse 12), which comes from a restored relationship with God, a relationship of peace (Romans 5:12). Indeed, the Holy Spirit not only creates us anew (John 3:3–8) but He also sustains us and empowers us every day of our lives. Apart from the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Christ—we can do nothing (John 15:5).
The Old Testament believers knew about the need for forgiveness and the need for spiritual renewal; but for them forgiveness and renewal were mediated by the sacrificial system. They never had the full assurance of forgiveness and renewal that believers today have received through Jesus Christ, the ultimate and final Sacrifice for sin. The Old Testament saints lived under the old covenant, but we today live under the new covenant which is written in our hearts and sealed by the blood of Jesus131 (Jeremiah 31:31–34; Hebrews 8:8–13; 9:14; 10:1–4,10–18).
13–15 David says that when he is forgiven and restored, he will be able to teach others (verse 13); he will sing of [God’s] righteousness,132 he will declare [God’s] praise (verses 14–15). His spiritual power will be restored, his testimony will again be strong. How similar David’s experience is to our own: when we have sinned, we cannot “teach,” “sing,” or “declare”; we remain silent and ashamed. We are useless to the kingdom of God—until we confess and receive forgiveness.133
16–17 Then David says to God: You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it (verse 16). David is not speaking against the sacrificial system here; after all, in verse 17 he talks about sacrifices and burnt offerings that will delight God. His meaning is this: what particularly delights God is not the sacrifice itself but the spirit in which it is offered. What God looks for in the worshiper is a spirit of obedience, thanksgiving and trust (see Psalms 40:6–8; 50:7–15 and comments)—and in addition, a spirit of humility, a broken spirit, a contrite heart (verse 17). These are the sacrifices God delights in. Without these “sacrifices,” spiritual renewal cannot take place.
18–19 David ends this very personal psalm by thinking of his people, his city. He asks God to prosper Zion (Jerusalem); then righteous sacrifices will be offered—that is, sacrifices that will be pleasing and acceptable to God (see verses 16–17). The sacrifices will be, above all, offerings of thanks to God for answering David’s prayer for the city.
1–4 In this psalm, David expresses confidence in God even when being opposed by an evil and powerful enemy. According to the title, the mighty man David had in mind when he wrote this psalm was Doeg the Edomite, who had reported to King Saul that Ahimelech the priest was helping David flee from the king (1 Samuel 22:9–10). Saul then ordered Doeg to kill Ahimelech and his entire family (1 Samuel 22:18–23).
For the modern reader of this psalm, however, the “mighty man” can represent any powerful enemy—whether it be a single person or a group of people. We, too, who take refuge in God, can stand and face our enemies.
Notice in verses 2–4 that the evil of this “mighty man” is found primarily in his speech. It is interesting that Doeg did not actually speak falsehood when he went to King Saul (verse 3), but the partial truth he told was designed to be harmful (verse 4). This is the way with people who use their tongue to hurt others; they speak the truth to the extent it serves their purpose. Any word—true or false—that is spoken against a person behind his back falls under the category of slander or backbiting (see Psalms 12:1–4; 27:12 and comments).
5–7 The righteous can be assured that God will bring the evildoer to justice; indeed, God will uproot him from the land (verse 5). The righteous person will laugh at him (verse 6)—not mockingly but joyfully—because the righteous person has made God his stronghold and the evildoers cannot harm him (verse 7). Justice will prevail: the righteous will be vindicated and the evildoer will be punished (see 2 Thessalonians 1:5–10).
8–9 In contrast to the uprooted tree (verse 5), the righteous person will be like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God (verse 8). An olive tree lives for hundreds of years and bears valuable fruit. The righteous will flourish and bear fruit, for they live in God’s “house”—in God’s presence (see Psalm 1:3).
1–6 See Psalm 14:1–7 and comment.
1–4 According to its title, Psalm 54 refers to an episode in David’s life when he was betrayed by the Ziphites (see 1 Samuel 23:19–20). But the psalm is a suitable prayer for any believer who is being pursued and slandered by enemies.134
5 Here David says: Let evil recoil on those who slander me. David is not thinking of taking revenge here; he is simply acknowledging the fact that evil usually returns—“recoils”—and strikes its perpetrator. In this sense, evil is like a boomerang; David is saying: “Let evil follow its own course.” David also calls on God to destroy the evildoers; he is not being vindictive here but rather is trusting in God’s justice, God’s faithfulness in punishing the wicked.135
6–7 Anticipating God’s favorable response to his prayer, David promises to sacrifice a freewill offering (verse 6), a type of fellowship offering presented to God to express special devotion and thanksgiving (Leviticus 3:1–17; 7:16). David also promises to praise God for delivering him from his foes (verse 7).
1–5 This psalm reveals David in a situation of great danger; he is in anguish, and beset with fear and trembling (verses 4–5). He is desperate; he has “reached the end of his rope.” And what does he do? He turns to God in prayer.
6–8 David expresses the wish to fly away to a place of shelter—to escape his troubles (verses 6,8). And indeed, God sometimes “solves” our problems that way. But usually the solution to our problems is not to run away from them but to invite God to help us deal with them. If we run, the problems will almost always follow us—particularly if we are running from relationship problems; the same problems are likely to resurface wherever we go.
9–14 Here we learn what David’s problems are: a conspiracy has arisen in the city (verses 9–11), led by a former close friend (verse 13). The city was probably Jerusalem, and the conspiracy was possibly the one led by David’s son Absalom (2 Samuel Chapters 15–17). But as with all the psalms, the specific location or event that gave rise to this psalm could represent any trial that ordinary believers might face. The “city” could be our neighborhood, our workplace; the “conspiracy” could be the opposition of those who have turned against us.
Again, in verses 12–14, we note the particular pain caused by a friend who betrays us. We are most hurt by those we love most. Jesus Himself knew what David had suffered (Hebrews 2:17–18); He too was betrayed by a friend—Judas, one of the Twelve136 (Mark 14:43–45).
15 Here David calls upon God to punish his enemies: let them go down alive to the grave—that is, let them die in full vigor, in the prime of life (see Psalms 3:7; 10:15 and comments).
16–21 In verses 16–19, David expresses confidence that God has heard his prayer. He also expresses some serious criticism of the friend who has betrayed him: the friend’s words may soothe like oil, but in fact they are drawn swords (verses 20–21).
22–23 Finally, in verse 22, David has some encouraging words for all who remain faithful to God: Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you (see 1 Peter 5:7). Note that this is not a promise to remove the difficulty but to sustain a person in the difficulty (see verses 6–8 and comment). God may delay in punishing the wicked; but in the meantime, He will never let the righteous fall (verse 22).
David—still in the midst of his difficulties—ends the psalm by affirming his trust in the Lord.
1–2 As David writes this psalm, he is again under attack; the title informs us that the attacks have come at a time when David was being held by the Philistines137 (1 Samuel 21:10–15). As is true in many psalms, the attackers’ chief weapon is slander (verse 2).
3–4 When I am afraid (verse3) . . . I will not be afraid (verse 4). Even courageous people like David can be afraid. When David was a young man, he killed a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:34–37), and then went on to kill the giant Goliath with a slingshot (1 Samuel 17:48–50). Yet here he is afraid. Fear and courage struggle with each other in the hearts of all of us. Just being afraid does not prove we are cowards; it does not prove we are failing to put our trust in God. Indeed, fear in its earliest stages is a protective emotion; it helps us escape danger and, above all, it causes us to turn to God, our true Protector.
How does David overcome his fear? First, he prays; praying is the first stage of trusting. Second, he tells God: I will trust in you (verse 3). Trust isn’t simply a feeling that things will turn out all right; it is a conviction that God will do as He has promised. Trusting is an act of the will, just like loving, obeying and praising are acts of the will. These are things we can “will” to do. And when we “will” to trust God, we can then say with David: I will not be afraid (verse 4). The key that allows us to pass from fear to fearlessness is trust.138
Trust, however, is not an automatic or magical thing. First, it is a gift of God’s grace. Second, it must be exercised. Third, it is never total; mixed in with it are elements of doubt. Just as fear and courage coexist in our hearts, so do trust and doubt, belief and unbelief (Mark 9:21–24). Thus when we are assailed by fears and doubts (Ephesians 6:16), we can be encouraged by the fact that David too was assailed—and not only David but also Jesus, who was tempted in every way, just as we are (Hebrews 4:15).
5–11 In these verses David talks about his enemies and asks God to deal with them. He also asks God to record his lament, to “list his tears” on His scroll (verse 8). God keeps “records” one very human; He records our sorrows and trials, and He will repay those who have afflicted us (Romans 12:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:6). In addition, God has promised that those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy (Psalm 126:5).
12–13 Here David anticipates God’s favorable response to his prayer; David has made vows to present thank offerings to God for having delivered him (see Psalm 50:14). Here, as in many other psalms, it seems as though David has been “bargaining” with God: “If you deliver me, I will offer you praise and thanks.” But this is not so. David is saying that when God delivers him, he will all the more seek to please God and to grow spiritually. Indeed, that is God’s purpose in delivering us—that we might walk before God in the light of life (verse 13), that is, in the fullness of life and in fellowship with Him (see Psalms 36:9; 49:19).
1 Have mercy upon me. David is again beset by enemies—ravenous beasts (verse 4); this time he is hiding in a cave trying to escape from King Saul and his men (see 1 Samuel 22:1). He calls out to God for mercy—God’s unmerited favor (see Psalm 51:1). David’s refuge is not really the cave. He says to God: . . . in you my soul139 takes refuge.
2–3 David has confidence that God will save him, for he knows that God’s purpose in anointing him king cannot be thwarted (1 Samuel 16:1,12–13; 2 Samuel 7:16; Philippians 1:6). Note that God’s saving work has two aspects: God delivers us “from” sin, enemies and death; and He delivers us “into” blessing, love and life.140
4–6 Here David thinks of his enemies (verse 4), but then at once he lifts his eyes to God (verse 5). He has seen his enemies fall into the very pit (verse 6) they had dug for him! (see Psalm 54:5 and comment).
7–11 David ends on a note of praise. His deliverance is like the dawning of a new day; in poetic terms, he likens his praise to “awakening the dawn” (verse 8). He will praise God not only within Israel but also among the nations (verse 9), and thus bring closer to fulfillment God’s promise to Abraham that through him all peoples on earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3; Psalm 9:1–2).
1–5 This psalm is a prayer to God, the heavenly Judge, to put an end to the injustices of wicked rulers (verses 6–8), and to vindicate and reward the righteous who have suffered at their hands (verse 11). In verses 1–5, David describes the wickedness of these human rulers; in verse 3, he says they have been wicked from birth (see Psalm 51:5).
6–8 David prays that these wicked rulers might be “defanged” (verse 6) and purged from the land—just as we might ask God to destroy the power of ungodly dictators and terrorists in our own day (see Psalms 3:7; 10:15 and comments).
9–11 Here David expresses the assurance that God will deal with these wicked rulers—and more quickly than they expect.141 Then the righteous will be glad . . . when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked (verse 10). Here David uses an image of war; the victorious king returns from victory with his clothes and feet stained by the blood of his enemies (Isaiah 63:1–6; Revelation 14:19–20; 19:13–14). The righteous are glad not because they are bloodthirsty but because they rejoice in justice. Then all people will know that the heavenly Judge will uphold the cause of the righteous (verse 11); indeed, the righteous will be rewarded (see Matthew 5:11–12; 2 Timothy 4:8).
1–5 This psalm is a prayer for deliverance,142 written by David at a time when Saul’s men were planning to ambush him in his home (see 1 Samuel 19:11–12). Saul was seeking to kill David, even though David had done him no wrong143 (verses 3–4). Saul and his men justified their attacks on David by slander and lies (verses 10,12); David calls on God to show them no mercy144 (verse 5).
6–13 In these verses, David describes his enemies further and expresses confidence that God will let him gloat over them145 (verse 10). David asks God to not kill them at once but rather to let them wander about for a time, so that the Israelites will not immediately forget God’s actions on their behalf (verse 11). Eventually, however, David expects God to bring his enemies to an end: consume them till they are no more (verse 13). When the nations of the earth see how God has once again saved His people, they will know that God indeed rules over Jacob—Israel (see Psalm 58:11).
14–17 In spite of his enemies, who are like snarling . . . dogs (verse 14), David will continue to sing praises to God, his Strength (verses 16–17).
1–3 According to the title,146 Psalm 60 relates to a period of military activity carried out under David’s leadership. The historical background for this psalm is found in 2 Samuel Chapter 8, a chapter in which David’s victories are described. From the psalm, however, we gain the knowledge that along with the victories there were also some earlier defeats, during which the Israelites felt as if God had rejected them (verse 1). This psalm, then, is a prayer for help after suffering one such defeat, possibly at the hands of Edom (verse 9).
The military defeat described figuratively in verses 1–3 is interpreted by David as a sign of God’s anger, though no reason for the anger is given. In any event, God’s “rejection” of His people is only temporary; the covenant between God and Israel has not been broken. In the end, the psalmist can say: With God we will gain the victory (verse 12).
4–8 God has not rejected His people—those who fear Him; instead, He has raised a banner for them to fight under (verse 4). This “banner,” a symbol of David’s rule, will protect the people against the bow of the enemy.
In verses 6–8, God speaks from His heavenly sanctuary and repeats the promise He had given to Abraham and Moses concerning the land of Canaan, the “promised land.” The land is God’s to give; He will parcel it out; He will measure it off; He will defend it in triumph147 (verse 6).
9–12 David asks the rhetorical question: Who will lead me to (fight against) Edom? (verse 9). The answer is: God. He will aid Israel; there is no use in turning to the help of man—to political alliances (verse 11). It is God alone who will trample down Israel’s enemies148 (verse 12).
God said: “Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine” (verse 7). The Israelites could also say that, because God had given the land to them. And God, who owns everything in the universe, has given something to us as well—something much greater than land. For in Christ, He has given us every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3): forgiveness, peace, grace, eternal life. Each of us can say: In Christ these things are mine. Paul tells us: All things are yours, whether . . . the world or life . . . the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God (1 Corinthians 3:21–23).
1–3 This psalm is a prayer for restoration to God’s presence. David feels as though he is calling to God from the ends of the earth (verse 2)—from despair, from death’s door, from a great spiritual distance. He asks God to lead him to the rock that is higher than I—the “rock” he can’t reach on his own, the Rock of God.
4–5 David longs to dwell in God’s tent (verse 4)—God’s tabernacle, God’s symbolic dwelling place; there he longs to enjoy God’s fellowship forever. David hopes for God’s fellowship on the grounds that he has made vows to God—vows to thank Him, praise Him, obey Him—and also on the grounds that God has given him a heritage, a place among His covenant people, together with all the blessings that implies (verse 5).
6–8 David asks for long life for himself (verse 6); he asks that he be enthroned in God’s presence forever and that God’s love and faithfulness (personified) be appointed to protect him (verse 7). David had good grounds for such a request: God had promised him that his throne would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16). David didn’t expect to live forever himself, but he surely expected his descendants would continue on his throne forever. And indeed that expectation was fulfilled more wonderfully than David could have ever imagined: God did place a truly eternal King on David’s throne, a King who would indeed reign forever—Jesus Christ (Luke 1:3033; Ephesians 3:20–21).
In verse 8, David says to God: Then (when you have answered my requests) I will ever sing praise to your name. As we have mentioned before, David is not bargaining with God when he says this; he is simply affirming that he will continue to praise and obey God and thank Him day by day as long as he lives (see Psalm 56:1213 and comment).
1–4 David begins this psalm by affirming that his salvation149 comes from God and that God, in effect, is his salvation (verses 1–2). Then, in verses 3–4, he addresses the attackers who wish to drive him from his throne. According to verse 3, it appears David may have been old and weak at this time, and that his enemies were trying to take advantage of his frailty.
5–8 In verse 5, David speaks to his soul (himself) and tells his soul to trust in God alone (see Psalm 42:5–7 and comment). Then David speaks to the people, telling them to pour out their hearts to God in prayer when they are in distress (see Philippians 4:6). Our faith in God is the ultimate antidote to fear and despair, and David affirms that truth in this psalm.
9–12 Only God is permanent and reliable; men—both “lowborn” and “highborn”—are but a breath (verse 9). Men may gain riches by evil means—and even by good means—but they shouldn’t set their hearts on them (see Mark 10:2122; 1 Timothy 6:17).
David ends by calling God both strong and loving150 (verses 11–12). God is “strong”—able to deliver—and He delivers because He is “loving.” God is fully able to do all that He has promised, and that includes rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked. God will reward each person according to what he has done (see Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6).
David was a man beset by many enemies, many crises, many stresses; but in this psalm (and others) he shares his secret for dealing with stress: rest in God (verses 1,5). In time of trouble, let us remember four things: God allowed the trouble to happen (we can rest in that), He will give us grace to deal with it (we can rest in that), He is using it for our ultimate good (we can rest in that), and He will bring us out of it at the right time (we can rest in that). Find rest, O my soul, in God alone (verse 5). . . . pour out your hearts to him (verse 8). And the peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
1 According to its title, Psalm 63 relates to a time when David was in the Desert of Judah. His physical weariness and thirst remind him of his spiritual thirst for God; he longs for God like a thirsty man longs for water (see Psalm 42:1 and comment).
2–8 David recalls how he had seen God in the sanctuary—how he had experienced God’s presence in the temple (verse 2). But now in the desert he is far from the sanctuary. Yet he is still able to experience God’s love and to enjoy the richest of foods—the richest of spiritual blessings (verses 3,5). David says to God: My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me (verse 8). James expresses this in different words: Come near to God and he will come near to you (James 4:8). We can draw near to God just as easily in a desert as in a temple.
9–11 David, as usual, ends his psalm on a note of confidence, rejoicing, and praise.
This psalm shows how much David sought intimacy with God—and why David was therefore a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). David calls God “my God” (verse 1); he values God’s love more than life itself (verse 3). He writes: My soul thirsts for you (verse 1); my soul clings to you (verse 8). This is the picture of a man longing for intimacy, for the closest possible fellowship with God. This same longing should be ours as well.
1–6 In this psalm David voices a complaint to God (verse 1). David is not “complaining”; he is simply telling God about a problem that he is experiencing: the wicked are causing trouble and they seem to be getting away with it. They have no fear (verse 4) and they are sure they won’t get caught (verse 5). As usual, the main weapons of the wicked are their tongues (verses 3–4).
7–10 But God. . . (verse 7). When things are going wrong, when injustice is on the rise, we can always say, “But God. . .” But God will bring justice, He will deliver the righteous. He will also punish the wicked; indeed, He will turn their own tongues against them (verse 8). The evil of evildoers will recoil upon themselves (see Psalm 54:5 and comment).
The wicked are proud and powerful. But God will bring retribution upon them at the time of His choosing, and all mankind will fear . . . and ponder what he has done (verse 9). And the righteous will rejoice in the Lord and praise Him (verse 10).
1–4 This psalm is a hymn of praise to God for all His blessings to His people. The people offer praise and fulfill their vows to show their gratitude to God; praise and vows (gifts, sacrifices, obedience) are forms of thanksgiving.
In verse 2, David says that all men will come to God. The “all” can refer to all God’s chosen people (all believers), or it can refer to all mankind. If the latter, it means that one day all people will come to God to acknowledge His lordship—whether they want to or not (see Philippians 2:9–11). But the blessings—the good things (verse 4)—will go only to those who put their trust in God, and whose transgressions are forgiven (verse 3); those are the ones God has chosen to live in [His] courts—in His fellowship (verse 4). Though the blessings of salvation are available to all people—to the ends of the earth (verse 5)—only those who have faith will actually receive them (Ephesians 2:8).
5–8 In these verses, David describes God’s awesome deeds in creation and in stilling the turmoil of the nations (verse 7). Because of these deeds, God’s people can live in security and enjoy His covenant blessings (verse 5). All people—even those living far away—will be able to see God’s saving acts; those who believe will live in hope (verse 5), and those who do not will live in fear (verse 8).
9–13 Here David describes God’s ongoing blessings on the land: water, fruitfulness, abundance. So great are these blessings that even the hills and valleys (in poetic terms) shout for joy and sing (verses 12–13).
1–12 This is a psalm of praise to God for protecting His people and for hearing their prayers. It was probably written by a king, though it is not certain which one. These first twelve verses are a general call to praise God for all He has done.
God’s most famous act of deliverance was parting the waters of the Red Sea (verse 6) and allowing the Israelites to escape from the Egyptians (Exodus Chapter 14). But one of God’s good works on behalf of the Israelites was to test them; in verse 10, the psalmist says that God refined [them] like silver151 (see 1 Peter 1:6–7). God did this by bringing the Israelites into prison in EGYPT where He laid burdens on [their] backs (verse 11)—the burden of slavery and forced labor (Exodus 1:1–14). The Egyptian slave masters “rode over their heads”—they oppressed them, crushed them; the Israelites went through fire and water (verse 12)—metaphors for severe trials. But in the end, God brought them to a place of abundance, the promised land.
Through these trials, God tested the faith of the Israelites. People of other nations could see their faith, and were led to praise God. Indeed, when God sends us trials we have the opportunity to be His witnesses to the nations. When people see that we hold on to God even through severe suffering, they will know that we consider Him more precious than life itself.
13–15 Now the king speaks: he will bring to God burnt offerings (see Leviticus 1:1–17) and fulfill the vows he made when he was in trouble (verses 13–14). These were vows to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving—rams, bulls and goats (verse 15). The king is thus expressing his personal gratitude to God for his own deliverance and for the deliverance of his people as well.
16–20 The king now invites the people to listen to his testimony concerning God’s love and faithfulness: God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer (verse 19). But in the preceding verse, the king (the psalmist) says something else: If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (verse 18). This is one of the most important statements in the Old Testament. Whenever we feel that God is “not listening” to our prayers, the first thing we must do is to examine our hearts. If there is unconfessed sin there, if we are holding on to some sin—“cherishing” it—and are refusing to let it go, then God will not listen to our prayers.
However, the psalmist had not cherished sin in his heart and God had heard his prayer; and so the king is able to end his psalm as he began it: Praise be to God! (verse 20). As someone has said: “What we win by prayer we must wear with praise.”
1 In this short but beautiful psalm, the psalmist envisions the blessings of God coming down not only on Israel but also on the whole world. The psalmist starts by paraphrasing the priestly blessing with which Aaron and his descendants were to bless the Israelites (see Numbers 6:22–26).
2 But God never intended that His blessings be limited to Israel; through Israel, He intended to bless all nations (see Genesis 12:2–3 and comment). The peoples of the earth would see the happiness, prosperity and faith of the Israelites, and thus be attracted to their God.
3–5 May the nations be glad (verse 4). Here we see the heart of the psalmist—and of his God. From the beginning, God desired to extend His great blessings to all mankind. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, mankind became wicked and God’s plan was delayed. Then, at the right time, He chose a people (Israel) who would be His witnesses on earth, a light shining in the darkness. However, because of continuing disobedience on the part of Israel, that light did not shine brightly. But God finally brought forth out of Israel the true Light, who would be a light to all peoples and thus fulfill God’s covenant promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 9:1–2; Matthew 4:1216; John 1:9; 8:12). Therefore, says the psalmist, may all the peoples praise God (verses 3,5).
How will the psalmist’s prayer come true? By God’s people going out into the world and telling others about the Light, the Savior Jesus Christ. People can only come to God through Christ (John 14:6). Today the roles of Israel and the Church of Christ have been reversed: Israel by and large has rejected the Messiah and has become like other unbelieving nations of the world. It should be the desire of every Christian that Israel—the Jews of today—might return to faith and share in the blessings offered to every man and woman through Jesus Christ.
6–7 In these verses, the psalmist anticipates the Messianic age when Jews and Gentiles alike will experience fellowship with God together (Romans 10:12–13; 11:25–32; Galatians 3:26–29). Then the land will yield its harvest (verse 6). The “harvest” stands for the covenant blessings (Leviticus 26:3–13) to be enjoyed by both Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 3:6). But more than that, the “harvest” is a metaphor for the great in gathering of souls that is taking place even now (John 4:34–36). And we ourselves have been called forth to be workers in that harvest (Matthew 9:37–38)—to all the ends of the earth (verse 7).
1–3 This psalm celebrates God’s dealings with the Israelites from the time of the Exodus from Egypt to the establishment of His earthly dwelling place in Jerusalem. The psalm is filled with historical references and figurative expressions, some of which are difficult to interpret.
4–6 The psalmist (David) praises God both for His greatness—He rides on the clouds (verse 4)—and also for His mercy to the lonely and to the prisoners (verses 5–6). The “prisoners” represent the Israelites, who had been “imprisoned” in Egypt.
7–10 In these verses, David recalls how God led the Israelites from Mount Sinai152 through the desert to the promised land. God refreshed [His] weary inheritance, the Israelites (verse 9), and after they had settled in the promised land He provided for them (verse 10).
11–14 Here David recalls God’s victories over the kings of Canaan. God had announced the word before hand that He would drive the Canaanites out of the promised land (verse 11); so in these verses David describes how the Canaanite kings and their armies fled, leaving the Israelites to divide the plunder (verse 12). Even when the Israelites were sleeping among the campfires, God was “sheathing” His dove (Israel) with the Canaanites’ silver and gold (verse 13). David’s point is that God was the One doing the “real” fighting; Israel’s victories were won by Him.
15–18 These verses celebrate God’s ascent to Mount Zion (Jerusalem), where He had chosen to establish His earthly (symbolic) dwelling. There were other higher mountains God could have chosen, such as the mountains of Bashan in the northeastern part of Israel. Here David figuratively describes the mountains of Bashan as being “envious” of Mount Zion, because the Lord had chosen Zion to be the location of His earthly throne.
In verses 17–18, David describes in poetic terms the arrival of the Lord (the Lord’s ark) in Jerusalem (see 2 Samuel 6:12–19). God’s chariots—His heavenly army of angels—are innumerable. As God ascended on high (to His sanctuary), He led the captives (the Canaanites) in His procession; those who had surrendered brought Him gifts (tribute); even the rebellious were forced to acknowledge Him as Lord153 (verse 18).
19–23 Here David expresses confidence that God will continue to defeat His enemies—the enemies of His people. From Bashan (east of Canaan) to the sea (the Mediterranean Sea west of Canaan), all of God’s enemies will be defeated (verses 22–23).
24–27 Here God’s procession approaches His sanctuary in Jerusalem (verse 24). All the tribes of Israel are present, from the two southernmost tribes—Benjamin and Judah—to the two northernmost tribes—Zebulun and Naphtali (verse 27).
28–31 Here David prays that God will continue to overcome the enemies that threaten Israel.154
32–35 David ends his psalm with a call to all kingdoms to praise the God of Israel, who reigns in heaven and whose earthly throne is in Jerusalem.
1–5 This psalm of David reflects another of the many crisis periods in David’s life: he is being unjustly attacked by conspirators seeking to destroy him. On this occasion he may have been falsely accused of financial misdeeds (verse 4); however, the exact circumstances surrounding this psalm are unknown.
As with many of the psalms, Psalm 69 can be applied to any person who is experiencing great trouble and suffering. The writers of the New Testament applied this psalm to Christ, quoting it more often than any other psalm except for Psalm 22.
In verses 1–4, David cries out to God to save him from his enemies, who hate him without reason (see Psalm 35:19). David admits that he is not without guilt (verse 5), but he is not guilty of the sins his enemies accuse him of. The Apostle John, quoting verse 4, noted that Jesus’ enemies also hated Him without reason (John 15:25).
6–12 David, as king, is concerned that the disgrace he is suffering may cause other godly people to be put to shame (verse 6). As for David, he is suffering for [God’s] sake155 (verse 7); according to verse 8, even his own friends and family have distanced themselves from him (see Psalm 31:11–12; Mark 14:50; John 1:11; 7:5). All this has happened because of David’s zeal for God’s house, God’s temple;156 his enemies are not so much attacking David as they are attacking God. David says to God: . . . the insults of those who insult you fall on me157 (verse 9).
13–18 In these verses, David again calls out to God asking to be rescued; he bases his prayer on God’s great love, which will be revealed in the time of [God’s] favor (verses 13–14). David feels the pit (death) closing its mouth over him (verse 15).
Jesus didn’t just “feel” as if death was closing over Him, but He actually experienced it; He experienced total rejection by God (Mark 15:34; Hebrews 2:9). Therefore, Jesus is able to sympathize with all those who suffer disgrace and rejection for God’s sake, because He suffered it Himself (see Hebrews 2:17–18; 4:15).
19–21 Here David describes the effect his enemies have had on him. They have made him eat and drink gall and vinegar (verse 21)—metaphors for the bitter scorn they have shown him.
22–29 In these verses, David asks God to afflict his enemies with the same suffering they have inflicted on him; this is the punishment they deserve (Deuteronomy 19:19). David is not seeking personal revenge here; he is only asking that God’s justice be upheld (see Psalms 3:7; 10:15 and comments). The Apostle Paul applied verses 22–23 to the New Testament Jews who rejected Christ (Romans 11:9–10).
In verse 26, David suggests that his enemies are taking advantage of him; God had “wounded” (disciplined) him, probably for the sin alluded to in verse 5, and now his human enemies are attacking him “while he is down.” In verse 28, he asks that his enemies be blotted out of the book of life, God’s record of the righteous who will receive eternal life158 (Exodus 32:32; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5).
30–36 In verses 30–33, David vows to praise God in anticipation of God’s favorable answer to his prayer. David knows that his praise and thanksgiving are more pleasing to the Lord than the sacrifice of animals (verse 31).
Then, in verses 34–36, David issues a general call to praise; he is already assured that God will save Zion (Jerusalem) and deliver Judah and its people (verse 35). When David’s enemies attack him, they are attacking God’s kingdom on earth (Exodus 19:6), and David knows that God will come to the aid of His covenant people.
1–5 See Psalm 40:13–17 and comment.
1–8 This psalm is a prayer for God’s help in old age (verse 9). The psalmist is beset by evil and cruel men who are taking advantage of his weakness (verse 4). The psalmist says that all his life he has put his hope in God (verses 5–6), and he continues to praise God all day long (verse 8). But he is concerned that he has become a portent—a sign of trouble—to many (verse 7); people look on him as an example of someone under God’s punishment. Yet he still considers God to be his refuge.
9–13 Here we learn that the psalmist is an old man (verse 9). He prays for God’s continuing help against his enemies. In particular, he prays that God will bring judgment upon his accusers (verse 13).
14–18 The psalmist vows to continue praising God, in whom he has placed his hope. Notice that the psalmist is repeatedly going to God for refuge (verse 3), he is repeatedly placing his hope in God, repeatedly praising Him. Spiritual fellowship with God is not a one-time experience; it is something we must nurture and renew day by day—even to our last day. There is no sign here that the psalmist is “retiring” from his devotion to God; even when he is old and gray, he intends to go on declaring God’s marvelous deeds and power to the next generation (verses 17–18). Might the elderly among God’s servants today be inspired to follow the psalmist’s example! As someone has said, there is no “retirement” from the Christian life.
19–24 The psalmist again renews his trust and hope in God. Even though the psalmist has experienced troubles, many and bitter—indeed, he has been brought down to the depths of the earth159 (verse 20)—he still has confidence that God will “bring him up.” Anticipating that God will indeed save him, the psalmist ends his psalm by repeating his vow to praise God all day long (verses 22–24).
1–4 According to its title, Psalm 72 was written either “by” Solomon or “for” Solomon; the word “of” can mean both. The psalm describes a godly king, a royal son of David, who will rule with justice and righteousness (verse 1). Though the psalm refers specifically to Solomon, it looks forward to a greater Son of David, the Messiah, who would truly fulfill the universal kingship described here.
The anointed king of Israel was God’s representative on earth; he was the instrument of God’s blessings to His people. Such a king needed to follow God’s standard of justice and righteousness, because his rule on earth was meant to reflect God’s rule in heaven. For this reason, each king was given a copy of God’s law at his coronation, and he was expected to follow it (see Deuteronomy 17:18–20). Only then would God bless the nation with prosperity (verse 3)—that is, total well-being and peace with God (see Leviticus 26:3–5). God’s justice was especially manifested in the king’s care of the afflicted and needy, who relied on him for protection from the oppressor (verse 4).
5–11 Here the psalmist portrays the glory of the Israelite king. He will endure as long as the sun160 (verse 5). His authority will extend from sea to sea, from the (Euphrates) River to the ends of the earth (verse 8); that is, his rule will cover the entire world and all nations will serve him (verse 11). This prophecy was fulfilled not by Solomon but by Jesus Christ, who said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. . .” (Matthew 28:18–19). It was Jesus who said of Himself: “. . . one greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42).
12–14 Throughout the Bible, God always shows special concern for the needy, the afflicted, and the weak; therefore, God’s anointed king must do like wise (seeverse4).
15–17 These verses serve as a concluding prayer for the king. The blessings requested include long life and gold from Sheba (verse 15); the latter was certainly granted during Solomon’s lifetime161 (1 Kings 10:12). The psalmist prays that the king’s name might endure forever (verse 17); this request was in accordance with God’s promise to David that the throne of his son would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:12–13).
Then, in the latter part of verse 17, the psalmist repeats God’s original promise to Abraham: All nations will be blessed through him—that is, through Solomon and his descendants, and ultimately through Jesus Christ, the son of David and Son of God (see Genesis 12:2–3; 22:17–18; Luke 1:30–33).
18–20 The psalmist ends his psalm with praise for God. In many psalms so far, we have seen the psalmist end with praise. The psalmist may have been in great trouble, great sorrow; he may have been near death, with hope almost gone. Yet he ends with praise. Why? Because of God’s promises; because the psalmist knows that God’s promises will be fulfilled. We too, like the psalmist, can thank God for each word He has spoken, because we know it will be fulfilled—even if we have not yet seen its fulfillment.