II. Book II (Psalms Psalms 42–72)
II. Book II (Psalms 42–72)
The titles of Psalms 42 and 44–49 indicate that they are psalms of the sons of Korah, who were active in Levitical worship (see 1 Chr 9:17, 19-21; 12:6). Psalm 43 is the only one in this batch without a title. Given this and the fact that the refrain of 42:5 and 11 is repeated in 43:5, it is likely that Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 were originally one.
42:1-3 The psalmist opens with an expression of his deep desire for God: As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you (42:1). In the same way that deer search for life-sustaining refreshment, this worshiper pants for God who sustains his life: I thirst for God (42:2). The problem, however, is that he remains thirsty. He feels disillusioned by the distance of God. He, therefore, has no appetite; instead, his tears were his food. Seeing his desperate condition, his enemies mockingly ask, Where is your God? (42:3). He is suffering spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
42:4-5 Sometimes, it feels like God has taken a long-distance trip and not informed us of when he’ll return. The first thing to do in such circumstances is to draw from past experiences with God. The psalmist recalls times when he joined the festive procession to Jerusalem for one of the annual festivals, singing and shouting for joy (42:4). The second thing the psalmist does is to counsel himself with the truth. He asks himself why he is so dejected and filled with turmoil (42:5). Then, he urges himself, in spite of the darkness, Put your hope in God (42:5).
When we walk through dark times, we must follow the psalmist’s example. Keep track of those times when God has come through for you. Store such experiences in your memory bank. It’s important to have a history with God so that during the bad times, you can remember the good times to help you persevere. In addition, when God seems absent and uninterested, remember what you know to be true about God. He is faithful and worth hoping in. To hope is to expectantly wait for God to act. Just because you can’t see God working doesn’t mean he’s inactive. Sometimes, like Abraham, you must hope against hope, trusting that God will do what he has promised (see Rom 4:17-21).
42:6-8 The psalmist shifts back to distress: I am deeply depressed (42:6). His life is like a seesaw; he’s up and then down. He fluctuates between songs and sobs, hope and despair, confidence and collapse, fear and faith. His trying circumstances are like the roar of waterfalls, like breakers and billows sweeping over him (42:7). He pictures himself being rocked by an enormous wave, only to be overrun by another as soon as it passes. But, again, he prays for and hopes in God’s faithful love. His song to the Lord would be his comfort in the night (42:8). Like a child frightened in the night by a thunderstorm, he longs for his Father’s presence—not to stop the thunder and lightning, but to remind him that he isn’t alone.
42:9 Why have you forgotten me? The truth is that God hadn’t forgotten the psalmist, but sometimes it does feel this way.
Importantly, the apostle Paul reminds us that “all things work together for the good of those who love God” (Rom 8:28). Notice he doesn’t say that all things are good, but that all things work together for good. Think of the way God puts the pieces of our situations together for a good end in terms of an automobile assembly plant where the various parts of the car are scattered about. Before the Lord is done taking us through his assembly line, what would seem to be only a confusing mass of pieces is brought together as a finished product. Right now, the pieces of your life may seem unrelated and purposeless. But, God is up to something: he’s conforming you “to the image of his Son” (see Rom 8:29).
42:10-11 Though his adversaries taunt him (42:10), the psalmist returns to his earlier refrain, repeating words that he needed to hear: Put your hope in God (42:11). Even in the dark, then, continue to hope in God. When he doesn’t change your situation, keep pursuing him. He is faithful. “Weeping may stay overnight, but there is joy in the morning” (30:5).
See introductory comments on Psalm 42.
43:1-2 The psalmist cries out to God for vindication and deliverance from his enemies—both corporate and individual. An unfaithful nation opposes him and a deceitful and unjust person seeks his life (43:1). But, he is despondent ultimately because, though God is his refuge, God seems to have rejected him because his cries go unanswered (43:2). What believer has not felt this way? We want immediate responses to our prayers of distress. When God delays in answering, we feel that he is indifferent toward us.
43:3-4 He calls on the Lord to send his light and truth—that is, divine understanding and revelation—to guide him back to God’s temple, his dwelling place on his holy mountain in Jerusalem (43:3). He longs to be back among God’s people, worshiping at the altar of God and joyously praising him (44:4). Not only does worship provide much needed nourishment and encouragement, but so does gathering in the presence of fellow worshipers who are trusting God to deliver them, as well.
43:5 The psalmist closes with the same refrain from 42:5 and 11. Though his soul is awash in dejection and turmoil, he urges himself, Put your hope in God. He was determined to continue to put his confidence in God, whom he believed would yet bring deliverance. Like the psalmist, we often have to talk to ourselves in the midst of our despair. We need to remind ourselves that God is worthy of our trust and that we should expect him to answer in a way that will give us a new reason to give him fresh praise.
44:1-3 The psalmist bears witness to what he and his fellow Israelites had heard from their ancestors about the work that God accomplished on their behalf long ago (44:1). He had displaced other nations and instead planted their family in the land he had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (44:2). None of this happened as a result of their own strength, but because God was favorable toward them and gave them victory by his right hand (44:3).
44:4-8 Because of what God had done in the past for their ancestors, the psalmist and those with him could trust their divine King to provide continuing victories for them (44:4). Though they would have to battle their enemies, the psalmist knew that success didn’t ultimately come from his bow or his sword (44:5-6). Victory comes from the Lord, in whom they could rightly boast and to whom they could offer praise (44:7-8).
44:9-16 The nation had experienced defeat at the hands of their enemies. Thus, they felt rejected by God (44:9). Just as victory is ultimately from the Lord, so is defeat. They recognized that everything that happened to them was from him: You make us retreat . . . You hand us over . . . You sell your people . . . You make us an object of reproach . . . You make us a joke (44:10-14). They had become a source of ridicule to their enemies; they were filled with disgrace and shame.
44:17-22 The psalmist and the people believe they had not forgotten the Lord or betrayed their covenant with him (44:17). Therefore, they didn’t feel their defeat was deserved. They had not turned from God to idols (44:20). Yet, they were counted as sheep to be slaughtered (44:22)—regularly facing the hostility of their enemies. Paul quotes this passage in Romans 8:36 to emphasize the fact that Christians can expect to face suffering and persecution.
44:23-26 The psalmist cries out to God to wake from his sleeping. In other words, he couldn’t imagine that God would intentionally reject them or delay in addressing their plight (44:23). He couldn’t believe he would ignore their misery. They had sunk down and reached their lowest point (44:25), yet they would continue to trust God to deliver them. Just as God had delivered their ancestors because of his strength, not theirs (44:3), so the psalmist pleads with God to redeem his people—not because of their worthiness—but because of his faithful love (44:26).
When you experience unjust suffering and it seems that God has abandoned you, don’t cease trusting him. Remember what he has done in the past, understand that suffering is part of the experience of God’s people on this fallen earth, and trust him to deliver you according to his faithfulness.
The heading describes this as a love song. It’s a wedding psalm celebrating the marriage of the king. But, it also applies to the Messiah and his marriage to his people.
45:1-5 The psalmist’s heart overflows with joy as he pens his song to the king, a handsome man, full of gracious speech, and blessed by God (45:1-2). The king was also a mighty warrior, ready to fight in God’s name for truth, humility, and justice (45:3-4). Nations fell before him as he went to battle with his enemies (45:5).
45:6-7 As God’s representative, the king would have a throne that would last forever and ever (45:6), which is an allusion to God’s covenant with David, which promised that he would never fail to have a descendent on his throne (see 2 Sam 7:11-16). The king was just in the administration of his kingdom, loving righteousness and hating wickedness (45:7). Hebrews 1:8-9 applies these verses to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He will rule in his millennial kingdom with perfect justice and righteousness. And, he fulfills God’s covenant with David. By virtue of his resurrection from the dead, he will ever live to sit on David’s throne.
45:8-12 The king was magnificently arrayed on his wedding day, scented with fragrances, and surrounded by joyful music (45:8). His bride was beside him, adorned with gold (45:9). She is urged to pay homage to the king, her lord, who honored her for her beauty (45:10-11). Glorious gifts would be bestowed on her (45:12).
45:13-17 The glorious bride is led into the king’s palace (45:13-15). The psalmist foretells the prosperity of their marriage—which would produce sons who would be princes throughout the land (45:16). The king would be honored by all generations, and the peoples will praise [him] forever (45:17). This will ultimately be fulfilled at the marriage of the Lamb when the great King, the Lord Jesus Christ, is united forever with his bride, the church (see Rev 19:6-9). In the meantime, like the bride who forsakes her family to be with the king, believers are to forsake the world now that we are promised to Christ (see Luke 14:26-33).
46:1-3 God is our refuge. He is a place of security for his people. He is never too busy but always available in times of trouble (46:1). The psalmist imagines the worst possible conditions on earth: earthquakes that topple mountains and cause tsunamis (46:2-3). Yet, even should those worst things happen, we will not be afraid, for God is still near to help (46:2).
46:4-7 When the Messiah returns to reign in Jerusalem, the city of God, the Creator will be intimately accessible to his people (46:4). God, in the person of the Messiah, will have his throne within her and will help her (46:5). It will be an Eden-like environment with a river in the midst of the city (46:4). No enemies, however strong, will harm her for the Lord of Armies is the stronghold of his people (46:6-7).
46:8-11 The psalmist encourages and comforts God’s people with the knowledge that he would fight their battles and defend them against their enemies (46:8-9). They did not need to worry or strive when faced with challenges or difficulties. The same is true for us. Remember that the Lord is with his people. He is our stronghold—our security and strength (46:11).
47:1-2 The psalmist calls all nations to rejoice in the worship of God, for he alone is King over the whole earth. He is the Most High, exalted over everything and everyone in his creation. He is to be feared—that is, taken seriously—by all and paid homage.
47:3-4 God is to be feared specifically because he had subdued nations under the feet of his people (47:3). He did this when he chose Israel as his special people (47:4), brought them into the promised land, and drove out Canaan’s inhabitants before them.
47:5-7 The psalmist exhorts the people to shout with joy and sing praise to God (47:5-6). He is worthy of all acclamation. As Creator of the whole earth, he is its King (47:7). Therefore, he deserves to be exalted by his creation and especially by the people to whom he has shown special favor.
47:8-9 All earthly leaders will submit to the Lord’s sovereign rule (47:9). As Paul testifies in Philippians 2:10-11, one day “every knee will bow . . . and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” God’s people are to put into practice now what will eventually be true worldwide: submission to God’s kingdom agenda, the visible manifestation of the comprehensive rule of God over every area of life. Those who do not bow voluntarily to Christ and his kingdom now will be forced to do so mandatorily later.
48:1-3 Mount Zion is a reference to Jerusalem—the city of our God . . . His holy mountain . . . the city of the great King (48:1-2). It was there where God dwelled among his people Israel, and in it Solomon constructed God’s temple. The city was holy because God was in their midst; it was mighty because God was their stronghold (48:3).
48:4-8 According to the psalmist, the enemies of God’s people were defeated, not because of the strength of Israel’s army, but because of the strength of Israel’s God. Their enemies froze with fear and their ships were wrecked (48:5, 7). The Lord of Armies of angels is their defender. Though God would allow Jerusalem to be decimated by Babylon as a result of Israel’s sins, he will establish it forever (48:8). The Lord Jesus will rule from Jerusalem during his millennial kingdom. Then, in the new creation, God will dwell with his people forever in the New Jerusalem (see Rev 21:1-27).
48:9-10 The psalmist praises God for his faithful love, that is, his loyal love toward those in covenant with him (48:9). Praise of God extends to the ends of the earth, as he demonstrates his faithfulness and justice (48:10).
48:11-14 God’s people are to be glad and rejoice by observing the security he provides for Jerusalem (48:11-13). The psalmist exhorts his audience to be confident that God . . . will always lead his people (48:14).
Indeed, we can have this same confidence. God keeps his promises. The same God who made those who first read this passage secure will eternally keep believers who trust him. Nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39).
49:1-4 The psalmist calls all peoples of the world to pay special attention to his words (49:1). Those who give ear to the wisdom he speaks in the form of a proverb or riddle will gain understanding (49:3-4).
49:5-9 The wicked trust in their wealth; they boast in their riches (49:6). But, though earthly treasure can buy great material possessions, it cannot buy redemption of one’s soul from death. Riches cannot redeem a person or pay his ransom to God (49:7). Wealth cannot acquire salvation. The cost is too high (49:8). Only one thing can redeem sinful humanity so that [we] may live forever and not see death (49:9): the precious blood of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
49:10-15 Whether one is wise or foolish, all people die. And whether one acquires much or little, his wealth will be left to others (49:10). It is foolish, then, to think that the possessions and property we amass in this life will cause our names or reputations to endure (49:11-12). In the end, the grave (Sheol) is coming for us all (49:14). Yet, for those who trust in God, there is hope. Though we cannot save ourselves, God is mighty to save. God will redeem me from the power of Sheol, for he will take me (49:15). In other words, the righteous have the hope of resurrection.
49:16-20 It is foolish to fear or be jealous of the ungodly who gain wealth in this life (49:16). When he dies, he will take nothing at all (49:17). No matter how much money they accumulate, those who lack spiritual understanding will be like the animals that perish (49:18-20). This is both a reminder and an encouragement to pursue righteousness above riches. Your life will soon end. The riches you have deposited in heaven will prove far more important in the long run than whatever riches you deposited on earth (see Matt 6:19-21). Prioritize the spiritual over the material.
50:1-6 The psalmist, Asaph, sets forth God’s credentials as the Creator. From the rising of the sun to its setting, he rules the world with strength (50:1). He is an all-powerful judge (50:3-4). Therefore, his covenant people are to listen to him and heed his words (50:5-6).
50:7-15 The Lord warns his people not to let their worship consist of merely outward religious actions—making sacrifices and burnt offerings (50:8). He owns the cattle on a thousand hills; therefore, he doesn’t need his people to provide them to him (50:9-12). What God desires more than anything in his followers is inward devotion that is reflected in expressing thanks to God and paying vows to him (50:14). He urges people to call on [him] in a day of trouble, with the result that he would rescue them and they would honor him with praise (50:15). Such genuine acts of worship and obedience bring God the greatest glory.
50:16-21 The wicked, past and present, are condemned for their hypocrisy. They make a pretense of reciting God’s statutes and covenant, but they don’t truly care (50:16). Instead, they fling [his] words behind [them] (50:17). Though they assemble with those who love the Lord, they don’t take his word into their hearts. They make friends with evil people and use their tongues for deceit and slander (50:18-20). They mistake God’s patience for his approval. When he keeps silent and doesn’t immediately bring retribution, they think he is just like them (50:21). They will one day learn the error of their ways.
50:22-23 Hypocrites are admonished to change their actions before it’s too late (50:22). They need to re-examine themselves and understand that God withholds his judgment to allow repentance. He thus urges them to approach him with thanksgiving and to adjust their conduct. If they do, they will experience his salvation from judgment (50:23). Indeed, those who repent of their sins and turn to God in faith can have hope because he abundantly pardons.
The heading for this psalm of David indicates that he composed it after the prophet Nathan confronted him concerning his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband (see 2 Sam 12:1-15), prompting David’s repentance.
51:1-3 David appeals to God for forgiving grace and spiritual cleansing based on God’s character and compassion. He wants God to blot out his sin from his memory (51:1). Of course, God can’t forget, but David wants his sin erased in the sense that God would not relate to him based on his rebellious actions. The king longs for the Lord’s supernatural cleansing because he is unable to wash himself and escape the guilt of his wickedness (51:2). He is tormented by the remembrance of what he had done (51:3)—an indication of his heart’s sensitivity toward God.
51:4-6 Though David had clearly wronged Bathsheba and Uriah, he understands that, ultimately, he had sinned against God alone (51:4). He recognizes that God is the perfect righteous standard by which our actions are judged; therefore, all sin violates his character. All evaluations of right and wrong must be consistent with the standards that he himself has revealed. David knows that he was born, like all humans, with a sin nature: I was sinful when my mother conceived me (51:5). This acknowledgement, however, could also suggest that he was the offspring of an illegitimate relationship—a theory supported by the fact that his father Jesse knowingly excluded him from consideration when Samuel asked him to call his sons before him (see 1 Sam 16:1-11). In any case, David needed a radical transformation of his inner self so that he might learn wisdom and adopt God’s perspective on all things (51:6). We need the same.
51:7-9 David pleads for mercy and protection from the legitimate consequences of his sin—he’d earned the death penalty for committing both adultery and murder. Only God could purify him, so he requests cleansing with hyssop (51:7). This plant had been dipped into the Passover lamb’s blood when it was applied to the Israelites’ doorframes (see Exod 12:21-23). He longs for God to remove the weight of his guilt, which brought him both physical and spiritual grief, and to blot it out (51:8-9).
51:10-13 When David requests that God give him a clean heart and not take away the Holy Spirit from him (51:10-11), the king was not concerned about losing salvation. He was not speaking of the indwelling of the Spirit because the Spirit did not indwell Old Testament believers as he does New Testament believers. At issue here is David’s desire to fulfill the royal calling God had placed on his life. When he was anointed as king, “the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on David from that day forward” (1 Sam 16:13). He did not want to lose God’s calling and empowerment like his predecessor Saul had (see 1 Sam 16:14). He thus asks God to return to him the joy of [his] salvation so that he would be energized to turn other sinners to the Lord in repentance, faith, and obedience (51:12-13).
51:14-19 If God would deliver him from the guilt of his sin, David commits to give God abundant, public praise (51:14). He knew that God doesn’t want mere external worship and sacrifice; he wants a humbled heart that is broken over personal sin (51:16-17). A casual relationship with sin, in fact, means no authentic worship of God. True worship requires that we give ourselves wholly to God without reserve (see Rom 12:1). When God’s people come to him in true repentance, then he will show them favor and accept their worship (51:18-19).
Psalm 52 was written by David after Doeg the Edomite told Saul that David had visited and received assistance from Ahimelech the priest. Doeg’s actions resulted in the execution of Ahimelech, as well as many other priests and their families (see 1 Sam 21:1-9; 22:9-23).
52:1-4 David calls Doeg the Edomite a hero sarcastically because Doeg boasts about evil (52:1). He contrasts Doeg’s character with the Lord’s. Whereas the Lord demonstrates faithful love, this wicked man only loves evil and words that destroy (52:1, 3-4). By means of his treachery and lying (52:2-3), he caused many innocent people to die.
52:5-7 David is certain that God would judge the wicked, including Doeg, with eternal damnation. He would bring the man down forever (52:5). His wickedness, then, was only temporary. Because he made his destructive behavior his refuge instead of God (52:7), Doeg’s acts would come crashing down on his own head.
52:8 Not only will God execute justice against the wicked, but he will also vindicate the righteous. David is like a flourishing olive tree in the tabernacle in the presence of his God. Why? Because he [trusts] in God’s faithful love—the one thing in the universe that is “constant” (see 52:1). When you face the wickedness of the world, keep looking to God. Though he permits evil for a time, God will accomplish his purposes, and unrepentant sinners will face his eternal judgment. You, like David, can be firmly rooted in his truth, thriving in spite of the wicked.
52:9 In light of God’s faithful love, righteous character, and unfailing justice, David offers praise . . . in the presence of [God’s] faithful people. Don’t fail to thank God, giving public testimony to what he has done so that others may be encouraged to put their hope in him.
This psalm is almost the same as Psalm 14.
53:1-3 Many people declare, There’s no God. But, David insists that such a conclusion arises only from the heart of a fool (53:1). The reason people believe this lie is because they are corrupt and commit vile deeds. By disbelieving in God and his standards of righteousness, they assume they have absolved themselves of accountability for their actions. Such people do not seek God, so they feel free to become corrupt (53:2-3). Nevertheless, God is well aware of their sin; the omniscient Creator sees everything (53:2).
The apostle Paul quotes from these verses in his letter to the Romans as he argues for the universal sinfulness of humanity (see Rom 3:10-12). Apart from God, then, we are all fools. That’s why we need to be “declared righteous by faith,” so that we can have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).
53:4-6 These evildoers are naïve. They don’t understand (53:4). They assume they can harm God’s people, work against God’s program, and prosper in the end. But, God will fill them with dread and shame when he brings his judgment upon them (53:5). He will also bring his deliverance to his people, restoring their fortunes during the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that day, Israel will be glad (53:6).
The heading of this psalm refers to the time when David was hiding in the Judean wilderness of Ziph. Some of the Ziphites reported this to Saul and sought to hand him over to the king (see 1 Sam 23:15-29).
54:1-3 David pleads with God for deliverance from the Ziphites, the strangers and violent men who sought to kill him without provocation (54:3). God’s name (54:1) represents his character and reputation. David thus appeals to God’s attributes of righteousness and faithfulness for protection from those who hated him. Though those who oppose him do not let God guide them (54:3), David firmly trusts in God.
54:4-5 David expresses his confidence that the Lord is his helper and source of life (54:4). He knew that God would bring recompense to his adversaries. They would not escape unscathed. Their evil deeds against God’s anointed one would lead to their annihilation (54:5).
54:6-7 David concludes the psalm by affirming his commitment to praise his God who rescued [him] from every trouble. He knew the goodness of God by experience, so he vows to worship God and was confident that God would vindicate him. Though we can be certain that we will know hardships in this life, we can also be confident in the God who is able to deliver us from them all.
55:1-5 David cries out to God with a plea for help (55:1). Once again, an enemy threatened him (55:3) so that David was distraught. The descriptions of his suffering emphasize the anxiety he was experiencing. He is restless and in turmoil; his heart shudders; he is overwhelmed by horror (55:2, 4-5). Should you ever feel consumed with dread and find yourself reeling from negative emotions, follow David’s example. Cry out to God, for he hears.
55:6-8 He longs to have wings like a dove—a bird that knows how to find obscure places in which to nest. He wants to fly away somewhere inaccessible to those who threatened his life (55:6). Just as we do when living in a state of worry, David desires a shelter that would provide him with safety and rest (55:6, 8).
55:9-11 David asks the Lord to interfere with his enemies’ ability to communicate with one another (55:9), just as the Lord had confused the speech of those building the tower in Babylon (see Gen 11:1-9). David pleads for this because his enemies were full of violence . . . strife . . . oppression, and deceit (55:9, 11).
55:12-15 It’s bad enough when harm comes from an enemy. But, betrayal at the hands of a good friend was more than David could bear (55:12-13). Being unjustly hurt by friends or family, in fact, is one of the worst kinds of pain. David and this companion had shared close fellowship (55:13-14), yet, at this point, the betrayer sought his life. So, David prays for God’s judgment against those who would do evil (55:15). Notice, though, that David does not seek revenge himself; he asks that God would bring about his own justice.
55:16-17 David pleads with God for deliverance, crying out to him around the clock, confident that God hears [his] voice (55:17). He doesn’t utter a calm, respectable prayer; instead, he complains and groans (55:17), being emotionally honest with God. Fear God—take him seriously—but be authentic with him when your life is in turmoil. He already knows your thoughts and anxieties, so there’s no point trying to hide them from him.
55:18-21 David comforts himself with the knowledge that no matter how many opposed him, God was enthroned as King and would humiliate them (55:18-19). The Lord knew about David’s friend who broke covenant with him (55:20). Such actions do not go unnoticed by the God who is always faithful to his own covenant.
55:22-23 Having made his requests known to God, David urges those who read his words to cast [their] burden on the Lord. If you do that, in fact, you can trust in the promise that he will sustain you (55:22; see 1 Pet 5:7). Place on God’s shoulders that which is weighing you down as you wait for him to intervene in your circumstances. Pray to him concerning the treachery of the wicked and trust him to act on your behalf in accordance with his kingdom program (55:23).
According to the heading, David wrote this psalm with reference to the occasion when the Philistines seized him in Gath when he was fleeing from Saul. David pretended to be crazy to prevent the Philistine king from killing him (see 1 Sam 21:1-15; Ps 3).
56:1-4 David calls on God to be gracious in light of his adversaries who trample [him] all day (56:1-2). In the midst of his fears, David utters a prayer that all of God’s children would do well to remember: When I am afraid, I will trust in you . . . What can mere mortals do to me? (56:3-4). He realized the importance of having a divine perspective. When fear consumed him, he compared the size of his enemies to the size of his trustworthy God. And doing that changed the equation. Adopting such a perspective, in fact, will transform how you face negative circumstances.
56:5-7 Having acknowledged that wicked humans are nothing in comparison to God, David lays their wicked deeds before the Lord, knowing that they would not escape. God would bring down the nations who oppose David (55:7).
56:8-9 David was confident that God knew about all of the emotional turmoil he was experiencing. Not only would the wicked not escape God’s judgment (56:7), but also David’s tears would not escape God’s notice. He describes God with beautiful and comforting imagery: He put David’s tears in a bottle (55:8). Your God is aware of the details of your suffering. And, in the person of his Son, he took on humanity and suffered for you. Thus, believers can know for certain: God is for [you] (56:9).
56:10-13 David again expresses praise and trust in God, knowing that mere humans cannot overrule God’s plans for him (56:10-11). David looks forward to deliverance when he would walk before God in the light of life—experiencing the full reality and presence of God—both in time and in eternity (56:13).
David wrote this psalm in remembrance of the time he fled before Saul into the cave (see 1 Sam 24:1-22).
57:1-3 David prays for God’s gracious intervention, as if he were a baby bird being protected from danger under the wings of its mother (57:1). He knows that God has a purpose for him and trusts him to fulfill it (57:2). His faithful love and truth guides David’s steps and defends him (57:3).
57:4-6 His circumstances were akin to being surrounded by lions that wanted to devour him (57:4). This is likely a reference to his being pursued by Saul, who desperately wanted to strike him down. But, in spite of the trap laid for him, David’s enemies fell into it (57:6) Therefore, David was determined to exalt God because he had displayed his glory in David’s trying circumstances (57:5).
57:7-11 David remains steadfast and confident in God (57:7), so he can’t help but sing praises—not only among his own people, but also among the nations (57:9). He is in awe of the Lord’s faithful love and faithfulness, which he compares to the grandeur of creation (57:10). David asks that God would be exalted above the heavens and that his glory would be over the whole earth (57:11). Having experienced God’s deliverance in the past and looking expectantly for his deliverance in the future, David was dominated by a desire to glorify God. This is the disposition we should cultivate within our own hearts. Whatever trying circumstances have come our way, we ought to seek to magnify God in them and through them.
58:1-5 David challenges certain mighty ones (that is, unrighteous justices), asking if they speak righteously and judge people fairly (58:1). Human leaders are supposed to act as God’s intermediaries, ruling on his behalf and expressing his own attributes of righteousness and justice. But, these leaders had failed in their accountability before God. David thus compares them to venomous snakes (58:4-5). They were guilty of injustice and violence, having demonstrated depravity from birth (58:2-3).
58:6-8 He pleads with God to execute divine judgment on such evil people, rendering them powerless like defanged lions (58:6). The imagery continues: He prays they would vanish in the ground like water, miss the targets at which they aim, and fail to see the sun (58:7-8).
58:9-11 The execution of divine justice would be like a whirlwind sweeping away the wicked and bringing great rejoicing to God’s people (58:9-10). The judgment of God against evil is a reward for the righteous (58:11). The day will finally come when the Lord will set all things right. All sin will be punished, either in the cross of Christ, or at the final judgment.
David wrote Psalm 59 with reference to the time when Saul sent agents to watch [David’s] house and kill him (see 1 Sam 19:11-18).
59:1-8 David implores God to rescue him from his enemies (59:1), who had come to execute him on behalf of King Saul. They waited to ambush him, but not because he was guilty of any rebellion (59:3). There was, in fact, no fault in David (59:4). He was in danger solely because Saul was consumed by jealousy. So, David calls on the Lord God of Armies to help him (59:4-5). Anyone who opposed David, God’s anointed, was opposing God. Therefore, David had confidence that the Lord would laugh at their attempts (59:8).
59:9-13 God was David’s impregnable fortress, his stronghold (59:9). Though his enemies outnumbered him, David was kept safe by divine protection. He asks God to defeat the wicked men (59:11-13)—not merely so that he would be delivered—but so that people will know throughout the earth that God rules over Jacob (59:13). He wanted God’s glory to be acknowledged everywhere.
It’s easy to be consumed with fear and anxiety when confronted with dreadful circumstances. To whom will you look when you are faced with a problem that’s too powerful for you? Look to the omnipotent “Lord God of Armies” (59:5). He alone can override your negative circumstances so that “all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purposes” (Rom 8:28).
59:14-17 Though his enemies circle him, snarling like dogs (59:14), David was determined to joyfully proclaim [God’s] faithful love every morning (59:16). This is a good way to begin your day—looking to God’s faithful love to provide you with strength to make it through the next twenty-four hours. The faithful God is your strength (59:17).
Psalm 60 is a reflection on some of King David’s battles, points at which he prayed for divine aid to receive victory (see 2 Sam 8).
60:1-5 David prays for a reprieve from some hardship that God had brought on his people when he was angry with them (60:1, 3). Because God was responsible for the damage, only he could restore the nation from its brokenness (60:1). He had called his people to walk under his banner, but then he allowed them to flee and experience defeat (60:4). So, David pleads with God to save his people from their enemies using his mighty right hand (60:5).
60:6-8 From his sanctuary, the tabernacle, God answered. All the land is his—from the territory given to his people, to that of their enemies. He gives land to whomever he will. Judah is David’s tribe, and the Lord calls it his scepter (60:7). In other words, it is the tribe from which future kings would come. God affirms that David would triumph. Moab, Edom, and Philistia were neighboring lands with which Israel was regularly contending. To throw a sandal at someone is to treat them with contempt. God would defeat Israel’s enemies and shout in triumph over them (60:8).
60:9-12 David acknowledges that both victory and defeat come from the hand of God. So, he again appeals to God for aid against the foe, for human help is worthless (60:11). Only the Lord can provide deliverance. Without him, we cannot succeed; with him, we cannot fail.
61:1-2 Overwhelmed, David prays for divine security. Though David is without strength, his God is a rock . . . high above (61:2). David recognized both his own limitations and God’s unconquerable might. Pray for the humility to be able to do the same.
61:3-4 God alone is a strong tower in the face of the enemy (61:3). Therefore, David wanted to remain in his presence. God is like a mother hen providing refuge under the shelter of [his] wings (61:4). The only wise position from which to operate in life, then, is under the divine covering—an unassailable place of safety from elements and enemies.
61:5-8 David expresses confidence that God heard his prayer. To those who fear [his] name, those who take him seriously, God gives a heritage, a promised inheritance (61:5). The specific heritage he had promised to David was a royal dynasty. So, David prays that he might prolong his life and let his sons remain enthroned before God forever (61:6-7) in accordance with God’s covenant promise to him (see 2 Sam 7:11-16). Ultimately, God will fulfill this prayer in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David who will reign on David’s throne forever.
David asks that God’s faithful love and truth would guard him (61:7)—protecting him from his enemies and circumstances and from his own sinfulness. He concludes with a commitment to continually sing the Lord’s praises and to daily fulfill his vows he had made (61:8). In other words, if God would deliver him, David would ensure that God receives the glory for it.
62:1-2 Given what he was facing, David confesses that his sole focus was on the God of his salvation. Only such an undistracted, divine focus could give him rest, for God alone provides David with a stronghold—a sure defense against those who attacked him.
62:3-4 David marvels at the attempt of his enemies to oppose him in light of his confidence in God. Did they really think that the king who had God as his stronghold would be as easy to topple as a tottering fence? (62:3). They were wicked men who only wanted to bring [David] down from his throne. Outwardly they bless, but they curse inwardly (62:4). The righteous God would take note of such duplicitous scheming against his anointed king.
62:5-8 David repeats his confident words with which he began the psalm (62:1-2). He exhorts his soul that God alone is his defense and security. With God as his hope, David could not be shaken (62:5-6). David’s kingdom was dependent on God. Without God’s covering of protection, there would be no salvation for David, no glory (62:7). Therefore, he encourages fellow saints to pour out [their] hearts before him, as he was himself doing. Believers have every reason to trust God as their ever-present refuge (62:8).
62:9-10 Life is transitory. We are less than a vapor (62:9). Therefore, David tells us not to put our trust in sinful actions (oppression and robbery) as a means of providing ourselves with security. For riches are as transitory as life itself. Wealth cannot deliver you. Don’t set your heart on it (62:10). Don’t look to the material to do what only the spiritual can do.
62:11-12 God declares that strength and faithful love belong to him. Because of his faithful love, he has compassion on his people. And because of his strength, he has the power to demonstrate that compassion to them. So, all people should take heed: God will repay each according to his works (62:12). Let the believer have confidence; let the unbeliever beware.
This psalm of David reflects his experience in the Wilderness of Judah while he was king (see 63:11)—most likely when he fled Jerusalem during Absalom’s rebellion.
63:1-2 His experience in the dry, desolate wilderness without water prompts David to consider his thirst—that of his soul. What he truly thirsts for is not water but God (63:1). This thirst had been satisfied when he was able to gaze on the glory of God in his sanctuary, the tabernacle (63:2). But, in the wilderness, David longs for God’s glory.
63:3-5 Even in the wilderness, David finds satisfaction, joy, and comfort in praising God. Better than life itself is the faithful love that God demonstrates toward those who fear him (63:3). When you, like David, realize that God’s faithfulness is more important than life-sustaining necessities such as food and water, you, too, will praise [him] with joyful lips (63:5). Such genuine worship will sustain you in your own wilderness experiences.
63:6-8 As he lay awake at night, David could have been consumed by his troubles. Instead, he disciplines himself to meditate on God, because he is his helper (63:6-7). God’s right hand—a metaphor for his sovereign power—supports David (63:8). David’s musings should make you ask where you focus during your times of suffering. To whom do you first turn for help?
63:9-11 Even though David is in the wilderness, chased from his throne and hunted like an animal, he is certain that his enemies would be defeated (63:9-10). This was not self-confidence but God-confidence. In spite of the fact that a rebellion had taken his crown, David believes that the state of affairs was temporary. He is still the king. Thus, he would rejoice in God, knowing that the liars who oppose him would not succeed (63:11). No matter the negative circumstances you face, put your confidence in the one whose love for you is “better than life” (63:3).
64:1-4 David cries out to God in anguish so that he might protect him from the scheming of wicked people (64:1-2). These evildoers attack the blameless, those innocent of wrongdoing. Their words are like swords and arrows. They tell lies, lay plans, and ruin reputations (64:3-4). All this they did without being afraid of repercussions (63:4).
64:5-6 The wicked encourage one another in their plans to carry out injustice. They are convinced that no one could see the traps they’d laid (64:5). No one knows the secret plan they had perfected (64:6).
64:7-8 David predicts divine intervention against his enemies. Though they aim their words like arrows at the innocent (64:4), God himself would launch his own arrows and cause their tongues to work against them (64:7-8). Their evil deeds would return like a boomerang; the destruction they planned for others would cause their own downfall.
64:9-10 Such a visible manifestation of God’s work would cause everyone to fear him and give testimony to his glorious deeds (64:9). What does the righteous person do when he sees the deliverance of God? He rejoices in God, takes refuge under his covering, and offers him praise (64:10). That was David’s hope for the people of God in his day. Likewise, it should be our hope for the people of God today.
65:1-4 David celebrates the joy of atonement for sin. He knew that only [God] can atone for our rebellions (65:3). When God provides covering for our iniquities and forgives our transgressions, it opens the door for praise and prayer from his people (65:1-3). How happy are those who are able to draw near to him once God has removed the barrier of sin (65:4).
If David experienced the joy of forgiven sins, even though he had to continue to offer the required sacrifices every year, how much more joy can we experience through Jesus Christ? The sacrifices offered by priests in the temple could not atone for sins once and for all. But, when Jesus offered himself as the one perfect sacrifice for sins, he brought eternal forgiveness and sanctification to those who trust in him (see Heb 10:11-18).
65:5-8 David expresses confidence that God would answer the prayers of his people with awe-inspiring works—in light of the salvation he provides and the hope they have placed in him (65:5). The Lord’s power and strength are demonstrated in his sovereignty over creation. Mountains and seas bow to his will (65:6-7). His supernatural activity causes people to fear, rejoice, and enter fellowship with him (65:8).
65:9-13 David is reminded of the goodness of God as he provides his blessings on the earth. By sending rain showers and granting growth, his people received a harvest of grain (65:9-10, 13). Creation itself is robed with joy and shouts in triumph at his works (65:12-13).
And, just as creation displays fruitfulness when it receives God’s blessings, the same is true for us. When we turn to God in repentance and faith—whether as a new believer or as one who has stepped out of fellowship with God because of sin—we can know the blessing of Christ’s atoning work and live a life of fruitfulness (see 1 John 1:9).
66:1-4 The psalmist calls on all peoples of the earth to praise God in song because of his greatness (66:1-2). Our worship should be suitable to the one whom we worship. A great God deserves great praise. The psalmist foretells a day when the whole earth will worship [God] (66:4). This is indeed true (see Phil 2:10-11).
66:5-9 The psalmist rehearses the wonders of God sovereignly demonstrated when he turned the sea into dry land for his people (66:5-6)—both at the Red Sea during the exodus (see Exod 14:15-31) and at the Jordan River as they entered the promised land (see Josh 3:1-17). The rebellious—like Pharaoh who spurned God’s commands—should not exalt themselves (66:7). Even as God supernaturally used the waters to deliver his people, he also used them to vanquish Pharaoh’s army. All peoples should praise the Lord because he will preserve his own (66:8-9).
66:10-12 God also let his people experience hardship and oppression. In all such things, though, our sovereign God works “for the good of those who love” him (see Rom 8:28). He tests us so that we may be refined as silver (66:10). He will permit you to encounter negative circumstances so that he can reveal to you his comfort and power.
66:13-15 The psalmist intends to fulfill his vows to God in his time of distress. He had apparently made his commitment before his troubles began, but he wouldn’t let that prevent him from honoring what he had promised (66:13-14). His offerings and sacrifice would continue, as he trusted God to provide for him (66:15).
66:16-20 Come and listen (66:16). He concludes by sharing his praise with the congregation for God’s answer to his prayer. The psalmist confesses that this deliverance would not have happened if he had clung to sin in his heart (66:18). The principle is clear: honesty and openness before God are essential. Confession and repentance are necessary if our prayers are not to be hindered (see 1 Pet 3:7). But, when we address our personal sin, we open the door to experiencing the faithful love of God (66:20).
67:1-2 The writer of the psalm prays that God would be gracious to his people and bless them (67:1). But, what is the reason for this request? Is it so that they could enjoy material prosperity? Is it so that they might have glory and power? No, the author has a missional reason. He desires the Lord’s favor so that [his] way may be known on the earth and [his] salvation among the nations (67:2). When God delivers his people and showers them with blessings, his goal is that he would receive glory and that other people would experience salvation and discipleship.
God wants all people everywhere to know him, and this should be our desire, as well. He does not bless you merely for your own sake. He blesses you so that you may be a blessing to others, leading them to put their faith in Jesus Christ, to glorify God, and to live their lives in joyful obedience to him.
67:3-5 He prays that all nations would praise . . . rejoice . . . shout for joy over the greatness of God and the justice he establishes. Praise leads to blessing, which results in more praise, which leads to salvation of the lost, which ignites further praise. This circular process ensures that God is exalted more and more.
67:6-7 The psalmist acknowledges how God has blessed them with a bountiful harvest (66:7). And once again, he proclaims the purpose of this rich blessing: so that all the ends of the earth will fear God (66:7).
God does not bless you so that you can kick back, enjoy your blessings, and be self-absorbed. He blesses you so that you will make his priorities your own. He blesses you so that you will give him public praise and use his blessings in such a way that others will see him for who he is and be compelled to take him seriously.
68:1-3 David observes what happens when God arises. When the sovereign Lord goes into action, his enemies scatter (68:1). Like smoke, they are blown away. Like wax, they melt (68:2). But, these same actions cause the righteous to rejoice. When God executes justice on the earth, his people celebrate (68:3).
68:4-6 He calls the people to praise God who rides on the clouds. He is worthy of worship because he is a champion of orphans, widows, and the oppressed (68:5-6). Simultaneously, he rains down judgment on the rebellious (68:6).
68:7-14 David reminds the people of how the Lord led their ancestors in the desert after the exodus from Egypt (68:7). At Sinai, he gave them his law, and he refreshed them in the wilderness (68:8-9). When they entered the promised land, God gave them victory. The kings of the armies fled and were scattered (68:12, 14). Then, he blessed them with the spoil taken from their defeated enemies (68:12-13).
68:15-18 The nations of the world looked with envy on Jerusalem, the city on the mountain that God desired for his abode (68:16). There, he was surrounded by thousands of chariots (68:17)—emphasizing the fact that he is “the Lord of Armies” (46:7; 59:5). He ascended in triumph like a mighty conqueror receiving tribute from those whom he’d defeated (68:18). Paul quotes this verse in Ephesians 4:7-8, emphasizing that when Christ victoriously rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, he rescued those who were captive to Satan and gave them spiritual gifts so that they could serve him and others in his church.
68:19-27 David praises God because he bears our burdens. He provides salvation for his people and defeats their enemies (68:20-23). David describes a victory parade as the Lord, the King, triumphantly entered his sanctuary with singers and musicians (68:24-25). This perhaps describes a procession in which the ark of the covenant was carried into the tabernacle. All the tribes of Israel are called to bless the Lord their God (68:26-27).
68:28-35 He asks God to give a fresh demonstration of his power by subduing all peoples so that kings from foreign lands would pay tribute to him and pay homage (68:28-31). David concludes by exhorting the kingdoms of the earth to praise God for his power and majesty (68:32-34). In light of what he has done among his people, and in light of our great need for him in the future, let us cry out along with David, Blessed be God! (66:35).
The New Testament quotes Psalm 69 numerous times. Its references to the wicked are applied to unbelieving Israel (see Rom 11:9-10 [Ps 69:22-23]) and to Judas (see Acts 1:20 [Ps 69:25]). On most occasions, though, the psalm is quoted with reference to Jesus Christ. Like David, Jesus was consumed with zeal for God’s house, demonstrating this when he cleansed the temple (see John 2:17 [69:9]). In his passion, Christ fulfilled the psalm, showing that he was the perfect righteous sufferer (see John 15:25 [Ps 69:4]; Rom 15:3 [Ps 69:9]).
69:1-4 David laments his circumstances and calls out to God for salvation. He was overwhelmed, like a man sinking in a miry bog. He couldn’t get free and the water was about to cover his head (69:1-2). Unable to help himself, he was looking for [his] God (69:3). His enemies were more numerous than he could count, and they had no legitimate cause for persecuting him (69:4).
69:5-12 Although David recognizes he is a sinful man (69:5), he knows that personal sin was not the cause of his plight. He had endured insults because of [the Lord] (69:7). He was suffering for righteous reasons, which is the only kind of suffering God wants us to undergo. “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Pet 3:17). His enemies included his own family members, judges at the city gate, and drunkards (69:8, 12). Thus, he was assailed from every direction, causing him to mourn, fast, and wear sackcloth (69:10-11).
69:13-18 David pleads for God’s favor in accordance with his faithful love (69:13, 16). Again, David pictured himself sinking in mud with floodwaters swallowing him (69:14-15). Such helpless feelings are common to the human experience—regardless of the specific circumstances. So, when you are suffering and don’t know what to pray, let David’s prayer here be your own.
69:19-21 David knows that his omniscient God was fully aware of the insults he had endured (69:19), so he needs his compassion. The reproach David suffered had broken [his] heart, and no one extended sympathy or comfort (69:20). Instead, they spitefully offer him bitter food and drink (69:21). This was fulfilled when Jesus was offered vinegar to quench his thirst on the cross (see Matt 27:34; Luke 23:26; John 19:28-30).
69:22-28 David repeatedly prays that the wickedness of his enemies would turn against them. Notice, however, that David does not seek to avenge himself against his enemies but leaves vengeance to God. Because they have sinned against God, David asks that his burning anger would overtake them (69:24). He prays that they would be punished both in history (69:22-23, 25) and in eternity (69:28).
69:29-33 In contrast to those who hated him, David was poor and in pain (69:29). Anticipating God’s delivering hand, David vows to give praise and thanksgiving, which was more pleasing to God than an abundance of sacrifices (69:30-31). He expresses confidence that God hears his own—especially those who are needy and imprisoned (69:33).
69:34-36 David calls for the universal praise of God by all creation, in light of his forthcoming deliverance of his people (69:34-35). This would result in security for God’s people in the land (69:35-36). Thus, David desires not only short-term rescue but also long-term divine covering.
70:1-3 David petitions God to hurry and provide a rapid rescue from those who wish [him] harm (70:1-2). He asks that his enemies would be humiliated and retreat in shame (70:2-3). Our sovereign God is able to cause malice directed at you to return on your adversary’s head.
70:4-5 David wasn’t concerned about himself alone. Rather, he wants all who seek the Lord and love [his] salvation to magnify him. Even in the midst of trouble, David cares about God’s glorification and the saints’ edification. Those who know and have experienced the greatness of God should declare, God is great! (70:4). He concludes with another urgent request for rescue. He acknowledges himself as oppressed and needy, desperately in need of the one and only deliverer (70:5).
71:1-8 The psalmist looks to God as his refuge, his rock and his fortress (71:1, 3) because of the power of the wicked (71:4). Despite their threats, he continues to hope in God, which he had done from [his] youth (71:5). Never underestimate the “staying power” of faith when children are taught to know and love the Lord from an early age. The psalmist’s mouth is full of praise (71:8).
71:9-16 He asks that God would continue to sustain him in his old age (71:9). Growing physically weak, he requests that the Lord protect him from those who sought to take advantage of him as the years pass (71:10-11). The psalmist prays for God’s intervention (71:12-13) and, at the same time, vows that he would continue to hope in God and offer praise to God all day long (71:14-15).
71:17-24 The psalmist emphasizes the longevity of his discipleship. He had learned from God in his youth and was still proclaiming his wondrous works (71:17). Therefore, he prays that God would not abandon him when he was old and gray. He longs to see another generation know and serve the Lord (71:18). Though God had brought many troubles and misfortunes into the psalmist’s life to strengthen, correct, and develop him (see Jas 1:1-12; Heb 12:4-11), he was confident that God would restore him once again (71:20-21). Therefore, his mouth would be filled with praise as he anticipated the disgrace of those who meant him harm (71:22-24). We can look to God with this same confidence regarding the trials he brings into our lives.
This is the first of two psalms ascribed to King Solomon (see also Ps 127).
72:1-4 Solomon requests that God would grant justice and righteousness to the king (and his son after him), so that he would judge with equity for all the people (72:1-2). The result would be peace in the land and relief for the afflicted (72:3-4).
72:5-7 Solomon longs to have a kingdom in which the people fear God forever, to be a king who brings life to the earth, and to cause the righteous to flourish under his rule. Thus, he anticipated the reign of the Messiah, for these things will only be true when the Son of God reigns eternally—beginning with his millennial kingdom.
72:8-11 Solomon desires to see his kingdom stretch to the ends of the earth, as his enemies lick the dust (72:8-9). This is an allusion to the curse on the serpent; it would “eat dust” all of its days (see Gen 3:14). Those who follow the devil’s ways share his fate. Meanwhile, the kings of the world will bring tribute and bow in homage to the king (72:10-11). This is a prophecy that will be fulfilled in the future reign of Christ when “the kings of the earth will bring their glory” into the new Jerusalem (Rev 21:24).
72:12-17 The Messiah’s universal reign will be characterized by justice for the poor and afflicted, as he rescues them from oppression and violence (72:12-14). Solomon prays that this King and the people of his kingdom would be blessed and flourish (72:15-16). He also prays that all nations would be blessed by him (72:17). God had promised Abraham that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed through him (Gen 12:3). And indeed, through the “seed of Abraham,” Jesus Christ, all those who put faith in him are blessed with justification from sin (see Gal 3:7-9, 16).
72:18-20 Solomon concludes with a doxology of praise, blessing the Lord God and praying that the whole earth would be filled with his glory (72:18-19). Thus ends the second book of the Psalter.