19:7--”The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”
51:6–”Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”
Imagine a scenario that plays out in your life. A new Christian is reading the Bible one morning and comes across Proverbs 3:13–15,where Solomon encourages his audience to acquire as much wisdom as he or she can, because it is more valuable than gold, silver, or rubies. This Christian has become your friend and knows that you have spent more years in the kingdom of God than they have. You see them at church, and, after church at the local diner, they ask you what they need to do to become wise.
I’ve had some of these kind of exchanges with new believers over the years and they haven’t always gone as well as I wanted. Sometimes the problem is you have so much to say that you really don’t know where to start. Another problem is that because you want to avoid clichés and formulaic approaches that often blow up later in the heat of the battle in the real world, you struggle to find words that don’t sound “canned.” A third problem may be that you have made so many mistakes in your life that you don’t feel qualified to weigh in as a wise man or woman.
If you don’t feel like a wise man or wise woman, perhaps it would be easier to start with an example of someone else. For example, in my years as a Christian, I’ve often encountered people in the Body of Christ who had very little formal education but turned out to be some of the wisest people I’ve ever met. They never went to college but had a doctorate in Wisdom. If you put all these people in one room and questioned them, you’d find that they had many things in common, but, because of the lack of space, I will only mention three.
First they have a profound fear or reverence of God and “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). They know that, if they are to navigate the tricky waters of this life, they must look to an authority higher than themselves for guidance. Radio talk show host and virtuoso thinker Dennis Prager is on–target when he says that he finds the secular world often to be long on knowledge and short on wisdom.
It’s difficult to accumulate wisdom if you don’t start with the fear of God. Prager said that this became abundantly clear to him when he attended the venerated Ivy League school, Columbia University. Early on, some of his professors asserted that, except for their sexual organs, there really was no difference between men and women. All the other differences were imaginary and socially constructed. Raised in Orthodox Judaism, Prager knew better and would go on to find more foolishness in the halls of academia.
A healthy fear of God will result in at least two things: (1) An immersion in the Word of God (Scripture); and (2) an intimacy with the Word of God (Christ). Both lead to greater wisdom.
Psalm 19:7 says that “the law of the Lord is perfect…making wise the simple”. This sentiment is echoed in the New Testament when the apostle Paul tells Timothy that he, Timothy, has known the holy Scriptures from his infancy that are able to make him wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Being transformed by the renewing of our minds through Scripture can deliver us from the folly that Prager found at Columbia University and many other things that are actively destroying Western civilization: consumerism, materialism, sexual immorality, the breakdown of the family, narcissism, and many other idols described in the Bible.
King David, after going through an intense and intimate experience with God over his sin of adultery described in Psalm 51:7, declared that God taught him wisdom in his innermost being. This truth is confirmed in I Corinthians 1:30 when the apostle Paul says that, for the believer, Christ has become for us wisdom. To partake of him as our “Daily Bread” is to partake of wisdom. He doesn’t have wisdom; he is wisdom. If he is being incarnated in you, that means Wisdom is also being incarnated in you and will help you with making prudential decisions in this life.
10″ Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
This may be one of the most profound verses in the Psalms, if not in the entire Bible. In it David is saying that he would rather have the most humble place in the house of God than the highest position among the godless. This proclamation is the exact opposite of what Satan said in John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” What makes this passage so weighty is that it encapsulates the greatest temptation of created beings from before the creation of the world to the present day.
What temptation would cause Satan, an exalted angel who dwelled in the presence of the glory of God for eons before his fall from grace, to rebel and inaugurate his own kingdom of darkness? What enticement would cause a significant number of angels (probably one–third; see Revelation 12:4), who also dwelt in the exquisite splendor of God, to follow him in this rebellion? What temptation would provoke Adam and Eve, who lived in Edenic paradise in unbroken communion with God, to disobey God’s clear command and go their own way? What enticement led the nation of Israel, who had amazing, supernatural provision and a special relationship with the Almighty, to reject their Creator and worship other gods?
Satan, the fallen angels, Adam and Eve, and the nation of Israel all succumbed to the same temptation. It goes by different names but I will, for lack of a better word, call it godship. Godship is rooted in pride, the root sin of all sins, and its nature is to make oneself God and to pursue an autonomous existence apart from God and his will. It means taking God off the throne of our hearts, and, in self–exaltation, putting ourselves on that throne.
Satan and the fallen angels did this, and, in the spirit of Milton’s poem, essentially said, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” Adam and Eve made their proclamation of godship when they ate the forbidden food because they thought they would become like God, knowing good and evil. Israel’s sin of godship is vividly revealed in Judges 21:25, a passage that describes their entire history:
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”
David’s proclamation in Psalm 84:10 is a watershed moment because he is gazing into the face of the history of fallen creation and is saying, ” I will not join the Rebellion; I will not commit the sin of godship; I would rather have the lowest place in the house of God than rule in the tents of the ungodly.” David would go on to commit egregious sins in his life (adultery, murder, etc.), but he was still a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), and would not commit the most egregious sin of all: godship.
One reason Roman Catholics venerate Mary is because she also submitted herself to the will of God. She was told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to the Savior and said, “I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.”
After fasting for forty days and forty nights, the devil tempted Jesus to commit the sin of godship and live a life autonomous from God and his will. Jesus also stared into the face of the history of fallen creation and said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Matthew 4:11). He did this again during his Passion when he said to the Father, “Not my will but your will be done.”
Dear reader, by the grace of God, we can all follow in the footsteps of David, Mary, and especially our Lord. We can get up each morning, look into the mirror, and start our day by saying, ” Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of another day of life. By your grace I choose to be a doorkeeper in your house instead of taking my fate upon myself. I reject the deception of godship and choose to be your servant.”
- Today in 1667, the 59 year old blind and impoverished John Milton sold the copyright of his biblical epic Paradise Lost for £5. Now WE know em (nowweknowem.com)
- Satan Wants You Unhappy and Longing Forever (secretstolife.com)
- Luther Quote: “What Is it to you, Satan?” (iamnotafraidblog.com)
- Satan’s Doom – Op-Ed (promisebook.net)
- Satan Exists (peopleoftheword.wordpress.com)
A few years ago a friend of mine told me about a man in his town who had been arrested for embezzling both from his workplace and at his church. If turning back in the day of battle is defined as a breakdown of character in a time of adversity, then this man would be Exhibit A in any discussion on that topic. I don’t know all the details and can only use my imagination. Perhaps his personal finances were in shambles and this created fertile soil for a temptation to skim off the top and hope no one would notice.
Throughout the Psalms, David talks about the importance of trusting in God’s unfailing love (e.g., Ps. 13:5). Years ago I heard a Christian minister who God used in facilitating emotional and physical healing in people’s lives say, “More and more I run into Christians who believe that God can heal them but are not sure that he wants to heal them. They doubt God’s love for them for whatever reason.”
This reminds me when Moses told the children of Israel that they rebelled against the command of the Lord and grumbled in their tents and said, “The Lord hates us so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us” (Deut.1:27). Perhaps the man who did all the embezzling, like the children of Israel, doubted God’s unfailing love and decided to take things into his own hands.
A second reason (and there are many) people turn back in the day of battle is because they have too narrow a definition of God’s unfailing love. In Daniel 3 Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. It’s evident from 3:16–18 that they knew that if God decided to deliver them, then his love was unfailing; and they also knew that if he didn’t decide to deliver them, his love was also unfailing.
Many Christians understand the former but not the latter. God may not heal our child who has a terminal disease, save our floundering marriage, or rescue our drowning finances, but his love is still unfailing. Many Christians go through something traumatic, doubt God’s unfailing love, become offended at God, and then turn back in the day of battle. They expected life to be “X”, and when it turned out to be “Y”, they became scandalized and decided to take things into their own hands. God give us a trusting heart like Job who said, “Though he [God] slay me, yet will I hope in him…” (Job 13:15).
14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Both Psalms 32 and 51 are about David’s sorrow and repentance because of his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite, who David purposely placed on the front lines of military battle, where he would surely die. In verses 14 and 15 he asks God for forgiveness for the murder (“bloodguilt”) so that he can sing of God’s righteousness and offer him praise. Derek Kidner, in his commentary on the Psalms, is helpful here in suggesting that David wants to extol God for his righteousness because he (David) sees God’s crowning achievement being making an egregious sinner like David righteous!
In verses 16 and 17 it’s obvious that King David has learned from his predecessor King Saul’s mistakes. This insight is often overlooked in sermons and commentaries. Saul was given clear instructions by God through the prophet Samuel to utterly destroy the Amalekites and he disobeyed these instructions. He spared Agag, king of the Amalekites, and the best of the livestock so he could offer sacrifices to the Lord. Samuel’s rebuke of Saul essentially said, “Don’t think these sacrifices impress God. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Your disobedience is similar to witchcraft and idolatry. Sacrifice is good but it means nothing if your heart isn’t right.”
The parallels to our present age are legion. Anytime someone is involved in religious activities–i.e. “sacrifices”–but their heart is wrong, they are following in the footsteps of Saul. One thinks of the Pharisees, both in the time of Jesus and now, who were/are more engaged in religious activities than anyone, but their hearts were full of pride and self–righteousness.
As a Roman Catholic, I often hear complaints from fellow parishioners about “cradle Catholics,” who were born into the faith, and do many of the right Catholic things–”sacrifices”–but their hearts are not humble and contrite and they are far from an intimate relationship with Christ. This is a kind of empty “cultural Christianity” that exists in every denomination.
Movements come and go within Christendom. Some local churches emerge to ride the next big thing. They become the most fashionable place to be involved. Sometimes the reason some of the members give their time, talent and treasure–”sacrifices”–to these churches is not to advance the kingdom of God; no, it’s because their involvement makes them feel hip and a part of a special group in comparison to all those boring, generic suburban Christians. And they get to rebel against their un–hip parents, who they are angry with, as part of a package deal!
What does David mean in verse 17 by saying that God wants a broken and contrite heart? Because Christ is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride (Matthew 25:1–13), sometimes it helps to understand biblical principles through the marriage relationship. When a husband has sinned against his wife and knows it, often he will engage in a flurry of activities–”sacrifices”– in order to extricate himself from the doghouse. Suddenly he’s bringing home flowers and candy and is doing home–improvement projects that she wanted done several months ago. However, what she really wants is not a whirlwind of goodwill gestures; no, what she really wants is an apology marked by humility and sorrow for what he did. She needs to know that he is truly sorry, not because his carelessness put him in the doghouse, but because what he did hurt, and was a sin against, her.
It’s never too late for the Pharisee, the “cultural Christian” or the “Christian hipster.” Or me, for that matter. We can still offer sacrifices that God will delight in if we come to him with a broken and contrite heart for the many ways we have offended him. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
- Psalm 15: The True Israelite, # 2 (psalmslife.com)
- Psalm 51 (chesedhproject.wordpress.com)
- Psalms 51 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit (graceofourlord.com)
A psalm of David, regarding the time David fled from his son Absalom.
1 O LORD, I have so many enemies;
so many are against me.
2 So many are saying,
“God will never rescue him!”
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
4 I cried out to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy mountain.
5 I lay down and slept,
yet I woke up in safety,
for the LORD was watching over me.
6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
who surround me on every side.
7 Arise, O LORD!
Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
8 Victory comes from you, O LORD.
May you bless your people.
8 Victory comes from you, O LORD.
Psalm 3:2 Hebrew Selah. The meaning of this word is uncertain, though it is probably a musical or literary term. It is rendered Interlude throughout the Psalms.
At the end though, the God of David does triumph. And since David trails so close behind, he too will understand victory. But none of this is easy, it certainly is not a “given.” David has to work through this “patch” of awful darkness, in order to get into the light.
V. 1, remember this, King David is being truly persecuted, and he isn’t paranoid. He understands being ostracized, and mocked as he walked down the street. There is as well, an idea of being hated by a whole lot of people. The word “many” is mentioned 3x in two verses. David is realizing the scope of all that he must endure. The slander, and mockery are intense. He seems to have become the ‘Richard Nixon’ of 1000 B.C.
V. 2, The people felt that David was beyond salvation. That he had simply sinned too much, and Absalom’s rebellion was just a reaping of what David had sown. He didn’t belong anymore in the “covenant of faith.” He was outside God’s love. This what the majority of people thought.
V. 3, 4, Pressed to the wall by this deep resentment, David makes his faith known. He declares that it is God who protects him, like a “shield.” He also pronounces that God is responsive to him; that God listens, and reacts to him. It seems that King David, who is mocked and villified by everyone, still has God’s ear!
V. 5, 6 There is peace, something special which is working through David’s life. This example of “sleeping” while people (10,000 enemies) encircle him is remarkable. Many of us would lose sleep if just one person is offended by us. But the masses David faced could have incapacitated him.
“I am not afraid.” This is an incredible declaration in the light of so much intense hatred. It is something bold, and confident, and perhaps a tad outrageous. But that is what grace is like to a watching world.
V. 7, 8, I suppose that this is a desire for justice. We agree that there is a right and a wrong. When we are “sinned against” we deep down want things to be restored. No one wants to live being hated and mocked. There is a profound sense, (it’s deep down ) and something innate. On several occasions I have experienced unjust situations, and am very much bothered to this day by those issues that have not been resolved.
In part one of our meditation on Psalm 15 we concluded by asking the question, ” Why does God’s heart grieve so greatly when His children do harm to one another?”
Part two simply states: The answer to this question is probably related to the truth that people are made in the image and likeness of God; they have incalculable dignity and worth. Because they are ‘God-like,’ to harm them with our words and deeds is in a sense to harm or offend God. Any parent knows that when their child has been slandered or cheated, they themselves feel slandered and cheated.
The Apostle John goes so far to say that “…anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, who he has not seen” (I Jn. 4:20b). This is why Christ said, “If you do it to the least of these, you do it to me,” and why Mother Teresa of Calcutta was utterly convinced that her ministry to the poorest of the poor was really a ministry to Christ Himself.
Here’s how all this relates to Psalm 15— If someone harms their brother or sister in word or deed, they offend the entire Trinity– “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” In doing so, they alienate themselves from God’s presence and will need confession and repentance of their sins in order to acquire forgiveness and re-enter that presence. David was familiar with these truths, and that’s why, in the aftermath of his adultery and committing murder, he said to God, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps. 51:4).
Finally, I can now understand how many Christians, including myself, can be intimidated by Psalm 15. I can imagine a brother in Christ telling me, “Jonathan, I came from a very messed-up family. I’m not making excuses but I have a lot of unresolved anger because of what my parents said and did to me. Because of this, in the heat of the moment, I’ve said hurtful things to my wife that I can’t take back. I feel terrible about how I’ve hurt her and wonder if I’m forever separated from God’s presence. I certainly feel separated from hers.”
I would respond, “No, you’re not forever separated from the presence of God. The Psalms say, ‘His mercies endure forever.’ There’s a common teaching among practicing Catholics that God’s mercy is his greatest attribute and simply overwhelms all his other attributes (e.g., justice) just like the Pacific Ocean overwhelms a sea bass. I John 1:9 says, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ “ It’s good that you feel sorry about what you said, but let this sorrow lead to repentance and a real reconciliation with your wife. Please, dear one, make amends and always remember, His mercies are tender, unfathomable and inexhaustible. Put your trust in His unfailing love.”
David concludes the Psalm by saying that the person “who does these things will never be shaken.” The true Israelite will be at peace. This kind of believer will sleep well at night and can look himself in the mirror. He has evidenced his love for God by loving his brother. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment” (I Jn. 4:18). If we’re living right with God and our neighbor–i.e loving them, then what do we have to fear? The true Israelite has an inheritance in the kingdom of God that “is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened[b]—
burnt offerings and sin offerings[c] you did not require.
7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.[d]
Psalm 40:6, NIV
I am hard of hearing. I find I am constantly asking for people to speak up. At times I admit I just shake my head, and pretend I heard what was just said to me. I’ve been tested and I have significant hearing loss. Perhaps the years of rock concerts have taken there toll on my poor ear drums. And if the background noise is fairly loud I find myself in an auditory nightmare. But I am highly resistant to being fitted with a hearing aid.
David is writing about his hearing. Or, more precisely, his new found ability to hear. It would seem that the Father has given David the very real and significant ability to hear His voice. “My ears you have opened.” A work has been done in David’s life. He now has the supernatural ability to hear and listen to what the Lord is saying. I suggest that this is mot a casual or ordinary capability to the average person. This seems like a case when God has given David a special ability to hear what God is saying.
Open ears improve our service, and gives us wisdom, and a solid assurance. Many of us try hard to serve the Lord, but if we are spiritually deaf, we will constantly falter in this. Hearing as a sense is way too crucial to fake. Sometimes, I think the Holy Spirit has to resort to “sign” language to communicate to us. If we can not hear Him, how are we going to serve Him?
“My ears you have opened.” This suggests a true work of the Father. I once saw a poignant sequence of photos, which were taken of a boy whose hearing had been surgically restored. His face lit up, when he heard the voice of his father for the very first time. Somehow, I have to believe that this takes place when we hear Him spiritually for the first time.
Far too often, our hearing is blocked by the steady drone of background noise. There is too much noise, much is media driven. Temptation and sin create a bubble that filters out the Father’s voice. We are deafened by our own wrong choices and desires. Our spiritual hearing is compromised.
“Father, help us to hear you. Help us to do all that is necessary to tune your voice in. May our hearts receive your voice, that we may follow you even closer than we now do. In Jesus’ name.” Amen.
- Deafness and Hearing loss-Insights, Prevention, way forward (kobbyblay.wordpress.com)
- Five Common Myths about your Hearing (healthyhearing.com)
- 5 Unexpected Ways to Lose Your Hearing (healthyhearing.com)
- Psalm 40: Gratitude and Prayer for Help (daddyslittlebrat.wordpress.com)
6 I hate those who worship worthless idols.
I trust in the Lord.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not handed me over to my enemies
but have set me in a safe place.
Psalm 31:6-8, NLT
God’s promises are like watching a sunrise. It is beautiful, and they somehow work inside of us. Wise and patient eyes realize they are seeing something amazing, and it’s good. These three verses overlay each other. When I was a boy, I was fascinated by books that had transparent plastic pages. These pages would fold over on each other. I remember seeing the human body. You see the bones, but if you flip one of these pages– you could see the circulatory system imposed over the bones, and you can add the nervous system and see that as well. Pretty heady stuff for an eight year old boy. This was old school anatomy.
David wrote these verses, and they belong together. ”I hate those who worship worthless idols. I trust in the Lord.” This verse deals with the subject of discernment. The ability to distinguish between certain things, is not always seen as a positive. I cannot remove the stigma of this word– “hate.” In the NT we’re anchored to this idea of love. But in Ps. 139:22,
“Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
for your enemies are my enemies.”
Hatred is a dangerous emotion. It’s has a handle, just like a suitcase. It can be controlled by the Holy Spirit, or manipulated by Satan. As believers, we should be aware of this possibility. Hatred has a place. Romans 12:9 is a ready verse, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” We must walk a tightrope here; it will require wisdom and awareness. But I’m also very confident in the Holy Spirit’s ability to assist you in this matter.
The next verse carries with it an intense blessing. It is also a verse that folds into “our picture book.”
“I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.”
Being truly glad is the waiting room for believers. It is an active state of a humbled heart. David is thrilled. He is quite aware of having God’s focus– he knows that he is incredibly loved. God has taken on the trials and burdens of David. David’s personal anguishes are taken up by the Lord.
“You have not handed me over to my enemies
but have set me in a safe place.”
David truly believes this. He thinks that this is a truly blessed state to be in. The deep realities of “what could have been” are factored into this awareness. God could have easily sent David to his doom. David is aware of what might have been.
These three verses, (vv. 6-8) snuggle together, like those “Russian nestling dolls.” One inside of the other, inside another. Or like our original metaphor– multiple transparencies coming together to give us a clear view of David’s real truth.
“Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.”
Psalm 51:8, KJV
“Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
let the bones you crushed be happy again.”
Psalm 51:8, NCV
When I was five years old, I made a grand effort to fly. Jumping off the top bunk, I went one direction– down! Landing on my arm, it really hurt. Going to the E.R. they did a x-ray, and they couldn’t find anything wrong. The doctor told us that it was just bruised.
After a miserable three days, with my mom “exercising” my arm like the doctor suggested, it got worse. Back to the E.R. and after another x-ray, the doctor returned to tell us that the arm was indeed broken. Evidently it wasn’t spotted until then. I got a plaster cast, and a sling.
King David spoke about broken bones. For him, they were not physical. It was much worse. It was spiritual. He essentially collapsed with the torturous Bathsheba decision. The bones were snapped, and it left him in considerable pain. The whole affair came within inches of completely destroying him.
The chastening hand of God often settles on us. Rarely is the pain physical, it is worse. We seldom cope with this kind of discipline.
“We do not enjoy being disciplined. It is painful at the time, but later, after we have learned from it, we have peace, because we start living in the right way.”
Hebrews 12:11, NCV
Pretty much the entirety of Hebrews 12 will press us into a deeper understanding of truth. I encourage you to read it. Perhaps though, the most important thing is to realize that His love is always behind His discipline. Yes, He breaks bones. But He also mends those bones that have been broken.
“We may feel God’s hand as a Father upon us when He strikes us as well as when He strokes us. We often learn more of God under the rod that strikes us than under the staff that comforts us.”
For the choir director: A psalm of David.
1 Only fools say in their hearts,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
not one of them does good!
2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
if anyone seeks God.
3 But no, all have turned away;
all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
not a single one!
Psalm 14:1-3, NLT
I remember it clearly. I was a student at Alaska Bible Institute, and got enmeshed in one of those “bull sessions” that periodically arise when there is far too much time, pizza and root beer.
The conversation rolled and we got on the subject of the depravity of man. Essentially, it is the doctrine that states that we are at best, evil and fallen into a sinful state. We are living in darkness and iniquity without hope. Only Jesus’ death and resurrection can save us and deliver us.
V. 1, “Only fools say in their hearts,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
not one of them does good!”
David is speaking directly to people who claim they are “atheists.” Within this belief system, there is an aggressive disbelief in any faith in an unseen God. There are also “agnostics” who are not sure that God can be known or understood.
This psalm states that all who state their unbelief are “fools.” There’s no ‘soft’ take here. A verse this bold gives us no real room for any compromise. Deep down we want to be pleasant, and make allowances– but that simply isn’t possible.
“The atheist can’t find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a police officer.”
In Mathematics there is something called “the lowest common denominator.” What it is is the smallest positive integer that is a multiple of the denominators. According to David, the atheist is a complete fool at his core level.
There is a moral and spiritual decay that results in this foolishness. They are “corrupt,” and “evil,” and no good.
V. 2, “The Lord looks down from heaven
on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
if anyone seeks God.”
I believe that we are in a constant state of evaluation. The entire 7 billion humans alive today go under the microscope. This close examination is not intrusive or invasive. God simply knows. He is completely aware of His created beings.
The Lord is seeking wisdom in the hearts of people. Wisdom, in my thinking is completely underrated. We think something else will substitute. I see wisdom as a mix of discernment, and comprehension, with a smattering of foresight and balance.
But– there is no one! This is where the doctrine of the depravity of man makes its entrance.
V. 3, “ But no, all have turned away;
all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
not a single one!”
The verdict isn’t good. We are slaves to sin, serving Satan with wild abandon. Most likely, we are not conscious of this arrangement. And even if we were it would change us very little. Sin is what we want, but it is certainly not what we need.
The good news is that He loves us. Jesus Christ lived, died and was raised from the dead. The Old Testament ingrained the deep sense of what is holy. But it also instilled an awareness of the sacrificial. Lambs died for the sins of people. And Jesus “the Lamb of God” substituted Himself in our place.
- I Must Have Mercy! Psalms 6 (psalmslife.com)
- How Dark Could it Possibly Get? Psalm 88 (psalmslife.com)
- O Lord, The Battle is Far Too Fierce: Psalm 70 (psalmslife.com)
- King David Discusses the State of Mankind in His Psalms (myviewandopinion.wordpress.com)
For the director of music. A psalm of David. To help people remember.
“1 God, come quickly and save me.
LORD, hurry to help me.
2 Let those who are trying to kill me
be ashamed and disgraced.
Let those who want to hurt me
run away in disgrace.
3 Let those who make fun of me
stop because of their shame.
4 But let all those who worship you
rejoice and be glad.
Let those who love your salvation
always say, “Praise the greatness of God.”
5 I am poor and helpless;
God, hurry to me.
You help me and save me.”
Lord, do not wait.
Psalm 70:1-5, NCV
“As in all warfare, the two essential elements in victory are knowing your enemy and knowing your resources.”
Sinclair B. Ferguson
Welcome to the war! It’s very seldom that a new convert realizes what we are all up against. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you have become a target for hell to shoot their arrows at. What was never an issue before, now becomes an universal adjudication.
There is a nasty viciousness about Satan’s attacks. We look into his kingdom and see such hostility and spite that it takes your breath away. David saw it also. He was able to write cogently and forcefully about what he had experienced. What we have here in Psalm 70 is nothing less then a “first person” account of a war that’s going on for David’s very soul.
V. 1, there is a plea of desperate alacrity in this verse. There is a deep earnestness to David’s words. Figuratively, he has been pinned down by the enemy, and is making an urgent call for help. It’s typical for a soldier under a withering assault will cry out to be saved.
V. 2, Sometimes we start viewing the darkness as a kind of foggy philosophy of ‘anti-god’ protoplasm. But David won’t do that. His enemies are real, and they possess solid identities. They can be forced to be backed down. And yet David can’t push these bullies away, and so we see him on the radio to HQ for divine intervention.
V. 3, I can just imagine God hearing these words from David. I can see the hint of a smile that the Father has for such audacity and zeal. I can hear Him say, “Now that’s my boy!” The Father releases His power on those who are desperate.
V. 4, Now David doesn’t remain in this same place. We see him getting up and advancing directly into worship. (I always wanted to get a tattoo, “Born to Worship.”) David finds his footing enough to exhort and encourage his brothers and sisters. Warfare does that to you, David understood where everything was leading to.
V. 5, This verse always struck me as being out of sequence. V. 4 after all seems to be the pinnacle. This arrangement though creates a real sense of the cyclical nature of spiritual warfare. In a certain sense we will never see a final battle in our lifetimes. There will always be high places to tear down, and towering giants to kill. But our Helper is just a prayer away. Thank God.
- God, Come Quickly: Psalms 70 (psalmslife.com)
- Lord, Please Hurry!! (mrsknack.wordpress.com)
- Psalm 28:3 Draw me not away with the wicked and with the workers of iniquity, (calvinistview.com)
- Restore the Sparkle: Psalm 13, NLT (brokenbelievers.com)
- Psalm Chapter 70 (pofw.wordpress.com)
- Psalms (vannettachapman.com)
My life is full of troubles, and I am nearly dead. They think I am on the way to my grave. I am like a man with no strength.”
Ps. 88:3-4, NCV
A Study of Psalm 88
As I read Psalm 88, I suddenly realized the dark depths it took. It is bleak and grim. I believe it to be the only psalm there is without a reference to praise. Not a single “hallelujah” graces this portion of scripture. It is the “black hole” of the Psalms.
But why? And why has God chosen to leave it where just anybody can read it? This psalm is a masterpiece, but it has been exclusively painted with hues of black. A word chosen by it’s author is the word, “darkness.” Is it appropriate? Time after time, I’ve read this, looking for just a glimmer of light.
“Heman the Ezrahite, the apparent composer, was seriously depressed. Maybe he was also chronically ill. Or maybe, like many, he battled almost constantly against a relentless darkness. We honestly don’t know.
But he said he had been this way since his youth (v. 15). He felt abandoned by God (v. 14), his beloved (v. 18), and companions (v. 8). He was desperate and his prayers seemed to be going unanswered (vv. 13-14). He was so overwhelmed that he felt close to death (vv. 3, 15).”
So! Why has God decided to include this in the canon of scripture? Obviously, writing psalms was probably a fashionable and a religious exercise, and we can safely conclude that hundreds of Psalms never made it into this book we call the Bible. Undoubtedly, most of these ‘rejects’ were sincere, and heart-felt. The deep instinct of a spiritual man or woman is to reflect and share their pilgrimage.
Saturated with despair, and then glazed with desperation, we must extend the human condition and just accept that things are not always what they should be. We must conclude that this darkness is within our capability and experience. It could happen to you, or anyone! You are vulnerable. We all could slide into the dark.
The darkest psalm is really a ‘nightlight.’ It exists to give us hope. There is a broad range of conditions the human heart will encounter. Psalm 88 is within the realm of possibility for those who are of the Faith. We probably will need to expand our ideas of what is possible, and not what is accepted. Those of us who know deep down the “blackness of darkness” have just started to savor the light.
“…even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you”