Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Seeking the face of God when one is afflicted by wicked people - Psalm 9

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this Psalms exposition series, click here}

[To me, this psalm is about seeking the face of God when one is afflicted by wicked people. This is a supplication by David to God when he was faced with wicked enemies (this was most probably not the first time he had faced wicked enemies). Because the heading of the psalm had in it, direction to the music director pointing to the tune of “The Death of the Son”, some commentators said that it got to do with the death of his, David’s, first son with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12); but I could see no apparent link with the death of David’s son (the son was from the adulterous affair with Bathsheba). The death of the child was pronounced by God as a punishment for David’s triple breaking of the Ten Commandments. David was guilty of covetousness, followed by adultery, and finally murder.

So, let us just treat this psalm as such, David’s psalm in a time of facing enemies who were wicked.]

1I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonders.
[This is a psalm of King David. He opened this psalm with a reminder to himself, as well as to tell God that he would always do this one thing. And this one thing was to praise God. Praise is easy to understand – it implied singing, singing songs of praise, and worship, psalms, odes, etc. It can include other outward manifestations like clapping of hands and even dancing for the Lord. Another very important aspect of praise is to tell others how good and great God is, i.e. sing his praises, so to speak. Those were what David did – singing, and dancing and performing for the Lord, and he would do this with great exuberance (in fact with all his heart), as well as telling others of all of God’s wonders. David, ever since he was drafted into Saul service, from being a shepherd boy, was growing in influence. David used that which gave him influence, to spread the goodness and greatness of God.]
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
[David said he will be glad and rejoice in God. It was not that there were no occasions at all that David had moments of sadness, and filled with frustrations. It could be, and can be for us all, too. Why? Because we are all living in a fallen world with Satan hard at work, and we are also subject to chastisement (which are not always to our liking) from God for our growth. Yet, just as David had and did, we must know that we have an underlying peace and fullness of joy that comes from the Holy Spirit that lives in us (for David, possibly not in him but was often with him because of the devotion and time David spent before the Lord, of course the Holy Spirit could come into David from time to time but unlikely the Spirit was dwelling in him like He is doing in us all); and we must choose to be glad and rejoice in God, in recognition to that belief. Faith must be acted out – in this case like David, we are to sing praises to God; when we do that, we are saying to God that we have faith in God to see us through all our life afflictions.]
3 My enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.
4 For you have upheld my right and my cause;
you have sat on your throne, judging righteously.
5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
6 Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy,
you have uprooted their cities;
even the memory of them has perished.
[How can we get ourselves to praise God despite our sad and frustrating circumstances? How can we act out our faith in belief that God is good, righteous, and great? Remember and recount, that was what David did here. David used a mix of past and present (present continuous) tense to declare to himself that not only God did, God would continue to do for him, the turning back of his enemies, the stumbling of enemies, and the perishing of enemies. David reminded himself that God was and is a righteous God; He had judged righteously and had upheld his right and cause. He was and is great; He had rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked, even blotted the names of the wicked forever and ever. Endless ruin had overtaken God’s enemy, their cities God had uprooted; even the memory of them had perished – in the Book of Judges, there are recordings of such cities or places, one of them is Meroz (recorded in Judges 5 – Song of Deborah).]
7 The LORD reigns forever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
8 He will judge the world in righteousness;
he will govern the peoples with justice.
9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
12 For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted.
[When faith had arisen, David started to magnify the Lord. He declared the Lord reigns forever; He had established His throne of judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice (there is always justice with the Lord, not necessarily equality – the two is not the same). For the depressed, the Lord will be a refuge, and for those afflicted, the Lord will be the stronghold. For all who know God, and therefore have their trust in Him, when they seek the Lord, the Lord will never forsake them. So David was saying, with one who reigns forever, and judges righteously; one who is a refuge for the oppressed, stronghold for the troubled; and one who never forsake those who know Him and have placed their trusts in Him, and are seeking Him, as our Lord, we are to rejoice and sing praise to our God who is enthroned in Zion, the Holy Mountain, and proclaim His name among the nations – give testimonies to glorify the Lord. God is our avenger, and the marvelous thing is that He remembers, and he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted (cries against wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah, for e.g.; also the cries of Israelites in Book of Judges when oppressed wickedly by enemies in the Promised Land), Hallelujah.]
13 O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
[Psalm is in fact, also a prayer. We see here, as typical of a prayer, now David present his request before the Lord. He said, “O lord, see how my enemies persecute me!” It was as if David said, “Help, Lord, help”. Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death. We see here that actually at this moment David was in affliction, yet we saw in the earlier verses of the psalm how David still got himself to magnify the Lord despite his circumstances; that is the attitude of heart that we must assume, in whatever circumstances that we are struggling in, we must arouse our faith to rise up to praise and magnify God.]
14 that I may declare your praises
in the gates of the Daughter of Zion
and there rejoice in your salvation.
[It was as if David was telling God to do it again for him, “so that I may declare (yet another time) your praises (sing God’s praise) in the gates of the Daughter of Zion {possibly referring to Jerusalem}, and there, greatly rejoice (celebrate) in your saving of me.”]
15 The nations have fallen into the pit they {referring to the enemies in v13} have dug;
their {referring to the nations} feet are caught in the net they {referring to the enemies in v13} have hidden.
[David explained to the Lord that he was (again) up against wicked people. David knew the heart of God concerning wickedness; put it mildly, God does not like wicked people. I believe this is one of the reasons why David was said to a man after God’s heart. David went on to paint the picture of the wicked people and what they did: Wicked people are like people digging pit or setting net to snare others. David said that nations had fallen into the pit dug by these wicked people; they were caught in the net the wicked people set for them.

Quite a few Bible commentators viewed verse 15 as David stating that wicked nation {Strong number used was 1471 which can mean “heathen”, but not necessarily wicked, but if the parties were taken to be self-referring, then wicked nations were implied, which was not necessarily the case} had fallen into the pit they themselves had dug, or that they were caught in the every net they themselves had set. The verse by itself can be interpreted as such, and if such was the interpretation, the next verse, v16, was just to reaffirm the same position; although some scholars chose to explain verse 16 as God in executing his justice, ensnared the wicked with the works of his (God’s) own hands.

However, I personally feel that firstly, verse 15 was a description of the modus operandi of the wicked, and secondly, it was to be a clarification of the nature of David’s enemies mentioned by David in verse 13, i.e. it was meant to give a description of the kind of enemies that David were facing. In other words, the “they” in verse 15 were referring to the enemies in verse 13, not necessarily referring to the “nations” in verse 15 itself. If one was reading verse 15 in isolation or by itself, of course, “their” could only be referring the “nations” in the same verse itself. You can take either interpretation, but I believe whichever interpretation we use, clearly the NIV translation of the next verse, v16, is correct, i.e. the wicked are ensnared by the works of their hands, not God’s hands. That, I believe, was why the special musical notation “Higgaion” was used here (see next verse).]
16 The LORD is known by his justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their {own} hands.
Higgaion {mediate on that}. Selah
17 The wicked return to the grave,
all the nations that forget God.
[David knew how God would deal with wicked people. God would and will use the wicked people’s very snare to punish them, i.e. God would/will cause wicked people to be ensnared by the works of their own hands! {Of course, it does not mean that God cannot execute his own form of punishment}. David said this was God’s known justice. Even in our times, under the New Testament times which many regarded as an era of grace and mercy (of God’s preference to be long-suffering, to be deferring judgment until the End, and to be giving people time and chances to repent), I believe God still does let the stubbornly wicked people get a taste of their own medicine even presently (present life). Wickedness and holiness are directly opposite. God is holiness, and you need holiness to see God. Where God is enthroned it is holy because He is holy. So, heaven is a holy place. God is holy and heaven is a holy place, and we want to go to heaven; the Scriptures exhort us to be holy as God is holy. If holiness gets to do with God, wickedness, Satan. If holy people get to heaven, wicked ones, Hell (or temporary, Sheol). So, in a figure of speech, it is correct to say holy ones come from heaven, wicked ones from the grave or Sheol (or even Hell). David said here, let the wicked return to the grave. What David was imploring God to do was to act presently concerning wicked people, send them to the grave; including all the nations that had forgotten the Lord. But why, you might ask, that nations that had forgotten the Lord be included? I believe nations that had forgotten the Lord had in them great numbers of wicked people, because nations that had forgotten the Lord, many depravities went unchecked, there were no voices to speak up against any form of wickedness. On the other hand, for nations that had not forgotten the Lord completely there will always be some voices speaking for the Lord, and calling for repentance.]
18 But the needy will not always be forgotten,
nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.
19 Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
20 Strike them with terror, O LORD;
let the nations know they are but men.
[While David was calling for action presently by God towards the wicked people, he was also imploring God to help those who need the help of God (the needy here are not necessarily limited to those in physical destitute, of lacking food and clothing, although these could be included), and fulfill the hope of the afflicted ones so that that hope would not die out.

David, knowing God’s heart concerning wickedness, also hated people setting themselves up against God or were proud, having no regard for God (and God opposes the proud, said the Scriptures), so he called on God to arise, not to let man triumph; he asked that God judge presently the nations (wicked nations or nations that had forgotten God), and display his wrath [a display of wrath like that on the wicked place of Sodom and Gomorrah would surely strike great terror) so that the nations would know they were but men.]

Points to note/learn:

This psalm gave us a good model to follow when we want God’s help when facing wicked people.

1. Despite our circumstances, (and I can tell from first-hand experience that it is very demoralizing, and depressing, and outright frustrating when you are up against wicked people), we must remind ourselves, and even tell it to God, that we will always praise God, with all our heart. Very difficult, at times, but we must, if we profess that our trust is in the Lord.

2. Remember that praises include both singing (and dancing ,etc) praises to God, and singing his praises (testifying His goodness and greatness)

3. We must choose to be glad and rejoice in God. We must firstly know and believe by faith that we do have an underlying peace and fullness of joy that can come from the Holy Spirit. We must choose to act out our faith by singing praises to the Lord. The Apostle Paul was imprisoned yet he chose to be glad and rejoice in the Lord by singing praises to God. What happened after that? The prison shook and prison doors opened.

4. Still find it difficult, use David’s approach – recount God’s goodness and greatness. In the past, how have God delivered you? If you did not have much to go by, hang onto those of others, testimonies you have heard of. If even that, was lacking, look to the Word, many had been afflicted in the Bible; what God did for them, God can do for you too; claim them for yourselves.

5. And when your faith has arisen, even magnify the Lord. Are singing praises (v2) to God and magnifying God the same? Not necessarily, just in matter of degree or shades, we go from singing praises to magnifying. From a choice, and recounting of the past, you push your faith into action, to sing, to sing praises, more of referring the past in giving of your exaltation to God. Magnifying calls for moving into declaration, into making things bigger so to speak (you can never over-stretch God), of attributing greater importance (to the role of God, for example), of injecting greater expectation and excitement into your circumstances, of letting your faith to call forth the reality of God into your future, as opposed to referring to the past when you started off in singing praises. It is not hyping; it is speaking of the true perspective – God is gigantic, and your problem or enemy is tiny, God can fix it.

6. Tell God your problem or enemies; in this case, the problem is with wicked people, the enemy is wicked. Tell God to judge for you because you cannot likewise be wicked, go tick for tack. If indeed, your enemy is wicked, God knows how to turn your enemy’s wicked scheme back on him, the enemy, and turn your situation around. Please understand that we cannot be wicked just because someone is wicked towards us. If you turn wicked as well, you may lose the hands of protection/blessing of the Lord.

7. And when you secured your victory, do not forget to sing God’s praises, and give thanksgiving unto God (v14).

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - Lord, deliver me from my wicked enemy.

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