All Posts Tagged ‘Psalms


Evil is ruthlessly competitive

For God alone my soul waits in silence;from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
How long will all of you attack a man
to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
(Psalm 62:1–4 ESV)

Waiting in silence

David’s soul is still in God’s presence. He draws near in reverent obedience. This is an active stillness, there is intentionality and purpose involved. There is focus – a fixed confidence in God which stills all anxieties and drives out little nagging concerns. From God alone comes salvation.

Confidence that only partly relies on God is vain
(C.H. Spurgeon)

The attack of evil

Have you ever had a great ‘quiet time’ (or whatever you choose to call it) in the morning, only to begin the day and have everything turn to custard? Perhaps this is what happened to David. “In God alone my soul waits in silence”. Only to be told at breakfast that the butler has sold the sordid details of the Bathsheba incident to the tabloids.

In reading about verses 3–4, I came across this description:

Evil, being ruthlessly competitive, is attracted to weakness, to give a last push to whatever is leaning or tottering. It is also attracted to strength, the target of its envy and duplicity. It is in total contrast to the goodness which spares the bruised reed, is glad “when we are weak and you are strong”, and achieves its ends by “the open statement of the truth”.
Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)

It stands to reason that David, king of Israel, would be the target of duplicity and underhanded attempts to displace him from his position of power.

What about you?

For all who walk with God there will be ruthlessly competitive attacks of evil probing for our weaknesses and fully exploiting every vulnerability.

  • Where does your strength lie?
  • What are your weaknesses, vulnerabilities, hidden things that would be painful if exploited or exposed?
  • Who would like to see you fall or be taken down a peg or two?
  • Why?
  • How do they seek to take you down?

In what ways does evil, attracted by a hint of weakness, try to give you one last push and get you to fall?

Preach to yourself

Evil attacks and David reminds himself of where his hope needs to be fixed, he strengthens his heart in God. At the beginning of the psalm he boldly states that his soul waits for God alone. Now we get to the place I am more familiar with, telling my soul that this is what I should be doing. I have to tell myself (firmly, forcefully) that God is my only rock and my salvation, my fortress, I will not be shaken. If I pause to consider the evil trying to tear my down, I must then remind myself that on God rests my salvation, on God rests my glory. I have no glory of my own, evil cannot steal what I do not claim. My security, my refuge, is God.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
(Psalm 62:5–7 ESV)

Trust in Him at all times!

Remember that confidence that only partly relies on God is vain. It is no good stumbling around in the twilight dimness of semi-trust. Trust God whether life is going well or disastrously. When we do trust fully in God it is easier to do what is necessary to get to the place of silently waiting for Him; pouring out our heart to Him.

Image of crumbling wall: sk8geek


God made me dissatisfied

On Sunday I gave a brief overview of Psalm 119 and then read the entire psalm out loud to our church. As I read it, my overall sense was that the psalmist had a very strong and deep trust in God and the promises God has given in His word. He knew for sure that God would keep His word, that the promises are sure and unfailing. I do not have this sort of trust.
When I read from the Psalms, listen to them spoken and sung, and realize how shallow my prayers and communion are that I cannot experience the depths they speak of. I trust in many things, really I should simply trust in God. I seek comfort, contentment and satisfaction in many ways, often ignoring the way which the Bible constantly points to as the only reliable source of comfort – Jesus Christ.

Why? How come it seems so easy to seek comfort in the world and so pointless to seek it from God?

What is blocking me from knowing God as my hope in the way the psalmists did?

My soul longs for your salvation;
I hope in your word.
(Psalm 119:81 ESV)

These questions are the gift God has given to me – the goad to not be content with a shallow experience of Christ.

Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
(Psalm 42:7 ESV)

Gifts I have noticed this week:

597) Despite it’s hideous noise, the vacuum cleaner is a useful thing.
598) Peace in our nation, allowing me to even consider folding laundry.
599) Living in this place where ‘enough’ is in fact a lot.
600) Calm harbour with ripples from birds catching fish.
601) A sheep in the street (only in NZ!)
602) Local fertilizer factory replacing the glass in some of our windows.
603) Invitation to join 30 days of prayer for the Shan in October.
604) A pay rise!
605) The simplest sermon I have ever delivered.
606) Learning endurance through pain and discomfort.
607) Gastroscopy date drawing nearer.
608) Walking.
609) Rain.
610) Walking in the rain.
611) Old memories showing me that I have changed and grown.
612) Godly discontent with my shallow faith.
Photo of Milford Sound waterfalls by dmathies via iStock


5 Steps from wet-blanket to worship

Our preaching team is currently focusing on Psalms, here are some thoughts on Psalm 146 from my most recent sermon:
Have you ever stood in church, somewhat irritably, resenting that some bubbly, happy person up the front is telling you to praise God? Have you ever secretly thought, “If you, smiley person, had just endured my week you wouldn’t be nearly so happy about worshiping God”?

Have you ever wanted to praise God and just not felt like it? Sometimes the difficulties of life can make it hard to move our hearts beyond the mundane to praise God.

Is there any way to get from not feeling like praising God to rejoicing in the Lord without being a hypocrite?

Psalm 146 shows 5 steps to get there:

1) Resolve to praise

2) Relinquish idolatrous mistrust

3) Rely on God

4) Remind yourself why God can be trusted

5) Rejoice in the Lord

Leaving behind the wet-blanket

Praising God does not start with the emotions. While it may appear easier for the happy, bubbly, exuberant person to enter into praising God, they actually start from the same place as the dour, grumpy soul – an active resolve to praise, even telling my own soul to do so:

Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
(Psalm 146:1-2 ESV)

The will-choice to praise God is a lifelong committment, and then some. We are commanded to praise God as long as we live, after that we get to praise Him in heaven forever!

However, we can only sincerely praise what we are impressed with. Some folks are most impressed by talented sports people or high achievers in other fields. It could be a thing; the latest Apple gadget, a new car, a new house. It could even be an experience.

These can all bring happiness (blessedness), but we are fools to seek full happiness in them. They will all let us down – trusting in earthbound sources of happiness will end in grief. All men die, all people fail, things wear out, experiences fade into memories. They are idols if we give them the trust and praises rightfully due to God – let them go:

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
(Psalm 146:3–4 ESV)

I have to relinquish my hope in whatever else I trust in for happiness (blessedness) and transfer it to hoping in God. If I rely on God for my hope I will be truly blessed (happy).

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
(Psalm 146:5 ESV)

How do I move from ambivalence toward God to praise?

I need to remind myself of the reasons why God can be trusted: God is the Creator, He has sufficient power to save me. He is trustworthy, He keeps faith forever, He will remain true to Himself and His promises. God brings justice, He gives food, freedom, sight, relief and love. He protects the foreigners, fatherless and widows, but He will bring ruin upon the wicked.

who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
(Psalm 146:6-9 ESV)

There is a problem though – look around, do you really see all this happening?

Scientists say they can explain how the world created itself. All over the world justice is being corrupted, people die of hunger, millions are blind, the oppressed get no relief, innocent people are in prison, travelers are robbed, killed even. The weak are exploited while the wicked get fat and rich. Where is God?

Try looking for Jesus in  Psalm 146

Rather than giving in to unbelief, consider what we know God has already done:

  • Jesus created the world (John 1:3).
  • Jesus controls the sea (Matthew 8:24-27) and the fish in it (Luke 5:4–8).
  • Jesus did as God promised (Acts 3:18).
  • Jesus brought justice to the oppressed (Acts 10:38).
  • Jesus fed the hungry (Mark 6:41–44).
  • Jesus set free those bound by Satan (Luke 8:28–29).
  • Jesus lifted up those bowed down (Luke 13:10–13).
  • Jesus opened the eyes of the blind (Mark 10:51–52).
  • Jesus stood by travelers, widows and the fatherless (Matthew 8:20, Luke 21:1–4, Luke 7:12–15).

It was only for three years. It was two thousand years ago.

But He did leave His Church, filled with His Spirit, commanded to continue His work.

God is working, He is in control and He will reign forever!

Rejoice in the Lord!

The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!

(Psalm 146:10 ESV)

Part of reminding myself of why God is worthy of praise includes thanking Him for His unending gifts.

Gifts I have noticed this week:

458) Music soothing my soul (1 Samuel 16:23).
459) Seeing danger for what it is.
460) The painful cleansing of confession (1 John 1:9).
461) Toddler sleeping all night in his own bed.
462) Someone to love me when I am not able to.
463) Reminder from a friend to stop and smell the roses.
464) Dinner at a family restaurant.
465) Exploring lifestyle changes, considering alternatives.
466) Parents coming for dinner.
467) Kids showing off for Grandma and Grandad.
468) A very tired girl after her friend’s birthday party and sleepover.
469) Fumbling through hard conversations.
470) Beginning to see that something is not right and could be better.
471) Small improvements giving hope.
472) Three hours of useful time through mis-reading my roster!

Image of world on fingertip: iStockphoto


Fighting through to silence

Desperately holding on

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
(Psalm 62:5 ESV)

This is the difficult work of faith – to wait in silence for God alone. Not a wussy, passive silence but rather an active, aggressive laying hold of God while holding down a flighty, fearful heart. An obsessed doggedness to attain the soul’s singular ambition – to be saved through the only option it will accept: I will be saved through faith in Jesus Christ or not at all!

By stubborn choice I cling to Christ, refusing alternative offers of comfort, irrationally trusting the God-man who hung on the tree for what appears impossible (Matthew 19:26). A desperate trust, laying it all on the line with pathetically small odds of making it to the finish line intact – such faith is either complete insanity or utter necessity (Philippians 3:12-14).

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
(Psalm 62:5 ESV)

This silence, fighting to wait for God alone, is not simply a lack of audible noise. The true silence penetrates deep, to my soul. All of the panicky soul noise must be quietened, fears quelled, a purposeful resisting of anxiety to wait in active stillness for my Savior.

My silence is not to be the anxious falling asleep of a weary disciple (Mark 14:37–40). I can so easily exhaust myself worrying about how I will get through, should I be doing more, what if… For such anxieties Jesus would rebuke me (Matthew 6:27). It seems like the hardest thing in the world to quieten my soul and wait for God alone, I suppose this is why I do not have the spiritual strength of David – I don’t strengthen myself in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6).

“In repentance and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
(Isaiah 30:15 ESV)

Image of rock climber: iStockphoto


Strengthened in the Lord

The Psalmist David: Repentance

And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.(1 Samuel 30:6 ESV)

When everything was against him, David strengthened himself in the LORD and was able to go on despite the odds stacked against him. Such a tantalizing phrase… “strengthened himself in the LORD.”

How did he go about this? How does a man not only pick himself up from a crushing blow, but then lead the very men who are talking of killing him off on a rescue mission against forces much stronger than they? David clearly gained the strength he needed, I want to know how he met with God and was strengthened by Him.
A similar phrase occurs in 1 Samuel 23:16-17. Oh to have friends who will do this for us – leading us to God above all else:

And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this. (1 Samuel 23:16-17 ESV)

No empty encouragements to ‘be strong’ or offering painkillers to numb the hurt, Jonathan strengthens David in God. A bit of worldly strength is helpful when things are slightly hard or we are a little weak, but when we are on the verge of being crushed or know ourselves to be completely weak and defenceless then only God’s strength will suffice. Jonathan reminds David of God’s past promises to him (though unfortunately he was wrong about being next to David when he became king). It would seem that at least part of strengthening ourselves in God involves reflecting and remembering God’s past promises and gifts to us.

I think an even more fruitful place to look for insight into how David strengthened himself in God is to meditate upon the psalms he wrote. These reflect David’s heart process as he prayed, lamented and worshiped God. Particularly  Psalms 55 through to 63 show David pour out his heart in complaint to God and then, while being realistic about his circumstances, he finds hope in God. If I want to strengthen myself in God, these psalms are good examples to learn from.


Psalm 40

Sermon delivered Sunday 3 April 2011 at Roslyn Baptist Church

Psalm 40 can be viewed as a multi-layered masterpiece or a stained glass window in which each layer is a work of art in itself but together they carry far greater meaning. In this psalm I see two layers of truth overlaid with a layer of human frailty.

The first layer is the words of David, his situation, his thanksgiving and his prayer.  Yet there are elements in the psalm which don’t really fit if all we consider is the man, David son of Jesse. Even as David king of Israel, verse 7 is a bit odd:

Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
(Psalm 40:7 ESV)

The next layer of the psalm is prophecy, speaking of Christ the son of David. In the case of Jesus, it is clear that he knew himself to be the One spoken of in scripture (Luke 4:17–21, Luke 24:44-45). The New Testament confirms that Christ is the subject of this psalm in  Hebrews 10:5–10.

Then we reach a layer of ordinary Christians such as you and I, trusting in Christ and seeing our own experiences reflected in the words of David. This is how I come to Psalm 40, from the muck of the world, a sinner myself, attempting to live a sanctified life. I am surrounded by  sinners – some of whom would like to push me back down into the mire. Although we tend to approach the psalm from the perspective of how it relates to where we are at today, we need to see the other two layers in order for it to speak meaningfully.

David’s situation

Nobody knows what historical situation David was in when he wrote Psalm 40. Keep in mind that not every event of his life is documented in the Bible – it is unwise to force each Davidic psalm into a specific biblical situation. However, there are some historical events which do appear to have some influence:

  • David would have been well aware of the events of 1 Samuel 13 and 1 Samuel 15, along with Samuel’s comment which is recorded in 1 Samuel 15:22–23.
  • He surely also had ingrained in his heart the words of Deuteronomy 17:18–19.
  • David must have also known of God’s word to Samuel when he was annointed king (1 Samuel 16:7).
  • Then there is Samuel’s words to Saul (1 Samuel 13:14)
  • The ‘new song’ of  Psalm 40:3 echoes the new song of Moses after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1–2).

Outward obedience covering inward rebellion is rejected by David, he delights to do God’s will and joyfully tells of God’s deliverance from troubles. He is confident of God’s mercy toward him.

But David is only a man, a sinful man. He may love to obey God but does not always have the ability to follow through. As one who delights in the law of God and walking in obedience he is acutely aware of how he fails to do so. David names sin for the evil it is, recognizing that his sins pile up beyond number.

While he is crushed by the burden of sin, David’s enemies plot his fall. He knows God is merciful but asks Him to judge his enemies.

As the psalm began- with expectant waiting – so too it finishes. Confident in God’s deliverance, waiting yet for it to arrive.

Jesus in Psalm 40

Viewing this as a song of David  about expectantly trusting in God for deliverance is richly rewarding. However, we cannot ignore the dissonance of verses 6-8 in the mouth of David, especially verse 7:

Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
(Psalm 40:7-8 ESV)

If we scroll forward through the Old Testament we see clearly that:

  • God was not at all impressed with the sacrifices and offerings of the Israelites coming from hearts that were distant from Him (Isaiah 1:13 and Isaiah 1:16–17).
  • A new covenant is coming in which God will remove the stony hearts and replace them with hearts inclined to do His will (Ezekiel 11:19–20).
  • God would do this through His Servant who opened his ear to God and was obedient, giving his back to those who strike and not hiding his face from disgrace and spitting.

From our vantage point we can see that Jesus fits the picture of one who was predicted in the scriptures, delighted to do God’s will (John 4:34) and achieved in full what animal sacrifices could only symbolise – the cleansing of sin and guilt from human hearts.

And then we have the glory of Hebrews 10, where we have it made plain that the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins, they were a graphic reminder of God’s holiness and human sinfulness but to actually take away sin a better sacrifice is necessary (Hebrews 10:1-4). It then explicitly quotes verses 6-8 of Psalm 40 as being fulfilled in Jesus.

So we can certainly read Psalm 40 as applying to Jesus and obviously he is the perfection of what David spoke. He waited with perfect patience, as a man he needed God to bend down to hear his cry, as we do. Christ’s pit of destruction was infinitely more horrifying than David’s, yet he is now seated at the right hand of God. Saying that many will see and fear and put their trust in God as a result of the deliverance of Jesus from the pit seems something of an understatement.

Psalm 40:4 reminds me of the temptation of Jesus be Satan which he resisted perfectly (Luke 4:1-13). The Jesus himself multiplied the wonderful deeds of God and manifested God’s thoughts towards us. He did proclaim God’s deeds and tell of them.

Psalm 40:6 looks different:

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
(Psalm 40:6 ESV)

Than in Hebrews 10:15

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
(Hebrews 10:5 ESV)

The quotation in Hebrews is from the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament. One proposed explanation of this difference is that through ears being opened the whole person is prepared to do the will of God and perhaps this interpretation influenced the  ancient translators.

When we look at  Psalm 40:9-10, the telling of the glad news began with Jesus and continues to this day (and beyond) through his Church. We are part of the great congregation who have been told of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
For evils have encompassed me
beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
(Psalm 40:11-12 ESV)

In verses 11–12 we encounter statements that do not appear to fully apply to Jesus – God did withhold mercy from Jesus on the cross, because of this we know that His mercy has not been withheld from us. Jesus had no sin, so he could not say “my iniquities have overtaken me“. However, our sins were totally placed upon him and so on the cross it indeed became his sin, Jesus was killed for sin that he owned and accepted as his own. Yet these were sins I committed (2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 53:6). Jesus has taken full ownership of all my sins and has borne the wrath and fury of God for it.

Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me!
O LORD, make haste to help me!
(Psalm 40:13 ESV)

As David pleaded with God to hurry and save him, so Jesus on the cross cried out to God and committed his spirit into God’s hands (Luke 23:46).

Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”
(Psalm 40:14-15 ESV)

The fulfillment of verses 14 and 15 is astonishing: the shame and dishonour of those who condemned and crucified Jesus has been magnified with each generation for the last 2,000 years!

But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the LORD!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!
(Psalm 40:16-17 ESV)

Jesus became the very way for us to seek God, because of his obedience we do say, “great is the Lord!”

Now read through Psalm 40 yourself, consider yourself and your own situation with the depth of what this psalm contains as the foundation under it.

Image of stained glass window: iStockphoto


The logic of a downcast soul


My soul is downcast within me,
therefore I will remember You

(Psalm 42:5 ESV)

It is common to think of emotions and logic as being somewhat opposed – there are logical types of people and feeling types. Mathematics is logical, emotion does not affect the outcome of an equation. Happiness is an emotion, logical analysis tends to ruin it. But this psalmist sees no such dichotomy, he uses logic to help his own emotional response.

The emotion

My soul is downcast within me,

Downcast is another way of saying despondent, despairing, disheartened, depressed. In other words, I feel like crap inside, I am broken, abandoned. I’m impressed by how the psalmist reacts to his internal state of being downcast – he makes a rational, logical decision to do something quite different to what comes most naturally. I’ve seen my own reactions to being downcast often enough to know that remembering God is not a natural instinct. My default behaviour is to become selfish, sulky and sinful. I try to make myself feel better. This psalmist seeks God. I react more like the writer of Psalm 73:2-5 &  Psalm 73:21-22.

The logic

therefore I remember You.

When I cannot control my soul, when it is downcast and I cannot do anything about it, this is when I most need to remember God. In remembering God I need to exert some stubborn trust, to hope in God, for I will again praise Him (Psalm 42:11). It is the realization that I have no hope of true satisfaction, joy or comfort on earth or in heaven apart from God, which drives me to resolve to remember God when feeling downcast.

My soul is downcast within me,
therefore I will remember You.
(Psalm 42:5 ESV)