26th November 2006
Psalm 9: The judgement of God.
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Death of the Son.” A Psalm of David.
Praise to God.
I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously. You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name forever and ever. Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy, you have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished.
Hope in God.
The LORD reigns forever: he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Praise to God.
Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done. For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted. O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death that I may declare your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation.
The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden. The LORD is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God. But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.
Hope in God.
Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, O LORD; let the nations know they are but men.
This is an acrostic Psalm. Each stanza begins with the next successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet except that D is missing. The Psalm goes as far as the first 11 letters; that is A through to K. Psalm 10 also written by David begins where this Psalm finishes in the alphabet giving rise to the view that the two Psalms were originally one. Psalm 10 is the cry to God by an individual who is concerned about the prosperity of the wicked. Whereas Psalm 9 is more of a corporate cry to God! This Psalm is a lament or a cry for God’s help. David is the author; it is intended for the director of music and is set to the tune of “the death of a son.”
The occasion of David writing this Psalm is unknown but some believe that it was penned after the death of Goliath. The thing that is certain is that it was written at a time when David was certain of God’s righteous judgement upon his enemies. It is therefore helpful to us when we are tempted to ask the age long question: “why do the wicked prosper?” The world that we live in is full of examples of those who are ungodly seeming to prosper in every way. How do we answer the critics when they ask us “where is God in all of this?” If this Psalm was written after the victory over Goliath and the Philistines then we have much to learn from our study of it.
We so often find ourselves, (either individually or corporately,) seeing great injustices around us. The perpetrators of which seemingly prosper from their wicked ways. The wicked often appear to go unchecked and without any justice. This would have been the situation for the Israelite nation at the time when Saul was king and the Philistine army taunted and threatened the people of God by throwing insults at them and their God. The Philistines were so powerful and sure of themselves that they put their whole confidence in one giant of a man called Goliath. The whole of the Israelite nation were terrified of Goliath and cowered in his shadow.
“WHERE WAS GOD IN ALL OF THIS?”
It is from this sort of background that David writes this Psalm. He has seen that God was angry at the taunts, the pride and the arrogance of the Philistines. He has also experienced the truth that even though he was small in comparison and that his own people did not really have too much faith in his ability; when God is with you then you are more powerful than even the giant enemy! This being the background to the psalm it is no wonder that it is interlaced with praise to God.
Praise to God
There are 2 sections of the Psalm that are devoted to the praise of God; firstly from David’s personal viewpoint and then secondly from a corporate or national perspective. We will briefly consider them both:
Individual praise to God: We note from the first 2 verses of the Psalm that David makes clear promises to God. “I will” is declared 4 times.
1. I will praise you!
2. I will tell of you!
3. I will rejoice in you!
4. I will sing of you!
These are the natural reaction of anybody that has experienced the sort of help that David had on that day when he faced Goliath. He knew that God was his helper and that it was only by God’s favour that the victory had been secured and so it was natural that David should praise God in such a way. It would be easy to lay the foundation that David’s praise was all due to “cause and effect.” In other words God delivered on this occasion and so the effect is David’s praise of Him. The argument might continue that things would have been very different if David had been defeated. This argument does not hold water when you know the background of the story. David even as a young man had been promised the kingship of Israel, he loved God and was concerned for His reputation and that of Israel and here was this fellow shouting out blasphemies against God. David was incensed by all of this and called upon his God and his own personal skill. He confidently defeated Goliath and therefore single handedly won the war!
As individuals we can discern God’s purpose just as David did and we can then enter the battle knowing that God is pleased to fight for truth and for His own reputation in this world. All is not lost in our current world; just because our modern Goliath’s seem to be winning does not mean that God is not quietly using little David types to conquer the might of the enemy!
Where is God in all that is happening in our world?
He is just as angry as He was in David’s day and He is also just as active. He is working through modern day David’s to battle against the enemy of the world! But are we like David who was angry at the way that wicked man taunted God and His people? Are we as sure of ourselves that we are God’s special people and that we have a purpose and a future asa David was?
Corporate praise to God: In verses 11-14 David calls the nation to praise God. He declares firstly that God is in their midst. He dwells in Zion: that is Jerusalem the very heart of the nation. David is reminding them of their special relationship with God. He was the very heart of everything and so the responsibility of the people was to corporately praise God. As Christians our relationship is as David’s was: both personal and corporate. Our nation is not one of privilege by birth but by grace. We belong to the church, which is the fulfilment of the nation of Israel. God is in her midst and is working out His purposes for her. He is always concerned for His name and for His people and even though at times He may seem to be distant in the affairs of man He is nonetheless active. He is fighting His cause just as in David’s day!
He is not interested in His people being triumphalistic in the fact that they belong to Him, verse 11 tells us that it is our privilege and responsibility to tell of the hope that we have. We are on the victory side so therefore tell others; David says. God has defeated His enemies and will continue to do so. He will have compassion on all who cry out to Him but He will avenge those who are persecuted!
Lesson: We are to be a people of praise even in days of uncertainty, when the enemy seems to have the upper hand. We must believe that God is in control and that He will one day finally avenge those who are persecuted.
As with our responsibility to praise God, David addresses the matter of God’s judgement from 2 different aspects: firstly from a personal viewpoint and secondly from a corporate or national viewpoint.
David’s view of God’s judgement: In verses 3-6 David speaks of his enemies turning away from him. He recognises that they stumble because of God and not himself. It is God that is in control and it is He who has rebuked the enemy and destroyed them. They are gone forever. When we read of the various enemies of David there are few if any that have any lasting power. What David claims in verse 6 is true; their memory has gone forever. Archaeologists cannot find any evidence of some nations; e.g. the Hivites and conclude that they never existed but are biblical fiction. But David declares that their memory has perished; the evidence is clear before us.
David was concerned for justice to be dealt out to his enemies and so he prayed to God about them and in his day he observed that God would deal with them.
The national view of God’s judgement: Verses 15-18 speaks not merely of individual kings but of whole nations of people. The focal point is found in verse 16 where David tells of God’s reputation: “He is known by His justice!” Judges throughout history have had various reputations. Some have been known as hanging judges due to their readiness to have guilty people hanged for their crimes. Others have had the reputation of being corrupt by being open to bribes. Others are known for their acts of cowardice, as was Pontius Pilate who committed an innocent man to death simply to appease the crowd. Others are known for lenience, fairness etc. David tells us that God’s reputation is due to His justice. This simply put means that He always judges rightly, there is no court of appeal necessary because all; including those being judged know that His verdict is absolutely fair and just.
With this in mind we do not need to worry about the details that are before us; the outcome is fair. It is fair that nations are ensnared; it is in some ways ironic that it is at their own hands. God does not have to entrap the wicked they are quite capable of trapping themselves and thus declaring themselves guilty! They have forgotten God, a deliberate act of going against Him and so they perish before His hand of judgement!
Look at verse 18 all of this talk of judgement is tempered by God’s acts of Grace and Mercy! The needy will not ALWAYS be forgotten. It might at times seem as if the “needy” have been forgotten by God. It is often said; “just look at our current world the “needy” and the “afflicted” are seemingly forgotten by our God Of Love!” David tells us that this is not the case, there is however some controversy concerning who the “needy and the afflicted” are. The reality is that God will never forget them nor will they perish. At this point it is acceptable to go to the favourite verse of many Christians; John 3:16 which tells us of God’s love for the world and his desire that people should not perish. It tells us that there is a price that has been paid in order that those to whom David refers in this Psalm might not perish. To mankind the greatest need is often seen as hunger or oppression of varying kinds. These are important to God and so should be important enough to us for us to be concerned for the “underdogs” of society. We should care for them as God has ordained, this is our God given responsibility, it is what He desires BUT His personal work is of a higher order. It is a work that no man on earth can achieve. God is concerned for the eternal destiny of all people. He does not wish that any should perish under His judgement but that all might be saved. This is why He sent His Son Jesus Christ to rescue all who are oppressed by sin. David in his Psalm points us not to a God who delights in punishing the wicked but to Yahweh who remembers the needy!
Lesson: God at creation ordered mankind to care for creation; that is to care for all that God made including all people! We are to be like God to the needy of the world. We are to be like God to the lawbreakers, fair in our judgement BUT it is only God who can rescue sinners from Satan’s oppression and therefore we are to declare Him to all including our enemies even when we judge them for their wrongdoing. We are to be in society not only ambassadors over nature but we are also ambassadors that negotiate with a sinful world their need of God’s salvation!
Hope in God
Verses 7-10 and 19-20 speak of the hope that firstly David or the individual has in God and then secondly that the nation has in God.
David’s hope in God: He is convinced of Yahweh’s attributes. He reigns forever: He is sovereign! He rules and judges rightly. He is gracious and merciful, a refuge for the oppressed. He is mighty and trustworthy. He is knowable to all who will seek Him. There is no wonder that David goes on to sing praises to Him!
Our corporate hope in God: David on behalf of his people summons up God to act amongst the nations. He asks God to judge them for their evil ways and to put fear into them and to remind them that they are merely men and as men they are in need of all that has gone before. They are individually required to know God’s mercy for themselves and then they will make a difference in society!
Lesson: David prayed for the nations that God might remind them that He is God and that they are only men. Do we have a similar concern for the nations and the leaders, especially those who we would count as enemies of the church? Do we pray that they might turn from man’s thoughts, ideals and religions and recognise God in heaven who loves them and has given all that is necessary for them to come into relationship with him. This would make all of the difference in the world. A saved despot becomes a man of God who influences his people for good and not for bad! It is not wrong to pray as David did because he was a man after God’s own heart and as such he was concerned for the good not only of Israel but also of the world. Is our mindset like David’s?
WHERE IS GOD IN ALL OF THIS?
He is quietly working out His sovereign purpose, He is patiently waiting until such a time, as all who belong to Him will be saved and then He will judge the world rightly. Until such a time He has commissioned His friends to be His ambassadors. That is you and I if we belong to Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ!