Seeing God Through the Psalms
Today’s Psalm is a song of love, a royal song dedicated to the king and his bride. When you read v. 11-15 it’s as if we’re reading the description of a wedding. Verses 1-9 are addressed to the king, verses 10-17 are addressed to the queen.
Who is the king addressed in this psalm? The king had praises coming out of ivory palaces (v. 8) – king Ahab built a house of ivory (1 Kings 22:39). The queen is a foreigner (v. 10) – king Ahab married Jezebel, the daughter of the king of the Sidonians (1 Kings 16:31). Solomon also married pharaoh’s daughter, and perhaps other foreigners (1 Kings 11:1). Historically it’s not clear who this song could be sung/written about.
However v. 6 helps identify who this King truly represents. This verse is quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9. The writer of Hebrews is illustrating how Jesus is greater than the angels, even those who brought forth the words of God. Without a doubt the king in this psalm is pointing to Jesus. The King:
- Rides on victoriously for the cause of truth, righteousness and meekness (v. 4) – meekness seems to be a strange characteristic for a king’s pursuit, and yet Jesus is described as meek and lowly (Matt. 11:29). He came to earth as a human, as a child (Phil. 2:5-10), and offered Himself as a servant of others (Matt. 20:28).
- His throne is forever and ever (v. 6) – prophesied of David’s descendant (2 Sam. 7:13, 16 – see Rev. 11:15).
- He was anointed, with garments of sweet fragrance (v. 7-8) – Those anointed were the kings of God (1 Sam. 16:13). The word for “anointed one” in Hebrew is “Messiah”, translated in Greek it is “Christ.” The special fragrance he is wearing is seen elsewhere. The High Priest was anointed with this very oil (Exodus 30:22-31). Jesus our King is also our High Priest. We also see this same fragrance used for Jesus after His death (John 19:39).
If Jesus is the King, then we – His people – are the bride (Rev. 21:2; Eph. 5:32). Notice how the bride is described:
- Forget your people, your father’s house (v. 10) – it is a call to forsake where she came from, certainly pointing to an aspect of marriage, of leaving and cleaving (Gen. 2:24). There’s also a connection to Deut. 21:10-13 – Christ has left His ivory palace and come to a destitute land and saw us, not as beautiful princess, but as slaves to sin (John 8:24, Rom. 6:17). Yet He pursues us in marriage, to bring us back to His place of royalty. This certainly points to a practical application – to pursue Christ one must leave the world behind (Luke 9:61-62, 2 Cor. 6:17, Eph. 4:17).
- The Queen is glorious (v. 13) – this is what we find described in Eph. 5:25-27. Christ is the One who cleanses us, washes away our sin, to present the bride in all her glory. We become more and more like our King, and leave the world we came from behind.
We sing the song in our hymn book, “Out of the ivory palaces….” That’s our King. That’s our Jesus. He left Heaven for us. He gave His life for us. He pursues us to be His bride, until the day He welcomes us home. What a glorious day that will be!
King of Kings, what an amazing thought that You left the comforts and brilliance of Heaven to come to Earth for me. You took on flesh, suffered and endured great pain, even willingly faced the cross, for me. You are the King, and we – Your church – are Your bride. Help us each day to become more and more like You, less and less like the world. We long for the day to be united with You in glory.
The Cry Of The One Who Is Contrite
Psalm 51 is David’s cry for help as a result of his tremendous sin with Bathsheba. This is written after Nathan comes to him and confronts him concerning his sin with her. It is a moving Psalm from a man who is described to be after God’s own heart. It reminds me of the cry from Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me from this body of death?”
What does David do following his sin?
He asks God for mercy (vs. 1). There was only one thing for him to do. He had no basis to stand before God. He can only cry for mercy.
He admitted his sin (vs. 2-4). At this point in his life, there was nothing to hide. There was no need to try and offer excuse. There was no need to blame others. He admits his guilt and accepts all that he has done is sin and evil.
He tells the truth (vs. 6). He had lied and gave consent to the murder of Uriah. Lie upon lie left him so wretched. David was tired of lying to himself and to God.
He had to clean up his act (vs. 7). He was unclean. His guilt was real and only God could cleanse that guilty conscience.
He sang the song of cleansing (vs. 12). As long as David hid, his song was only about mourning and grief. He can only sing again when his is clean. Sin stops songs. Cleansing brings back the song in his heart.
He offered a broken and contrite spirit (vs. 16-17). At this point, there was no need to offer more sacrifices. More sacrifices were not going to change his heart. He had to come broken. He needs not to just feel sorry but feel godly sorrow that would lead him to repent.
He stands as an example to others that we can learn from (vs. 13-15). Sin hurts. Sin is destructive. Sin is self-inflicted. But it does not have to be the final word. Not only did he come broken, but now he wants to teach others to learn from what he did. He wants to tell others what he did and what God has done for him.
As horrendous the sin of David was, he was forgiven. There should be encouragement in that for us. When we sin, we need to have the heart of David to find joy again. There can be a fulfilling life after sin.
I believe only the broken heart is big enough for God to dwell in. David and Nehemiah model for us the importance of coming before God in our brokenness. Because, you see, only when we’re broken will we face the truth about ourselves. I’m sure that David felt twinges of guilt for months after his adultery with Bathsheba, and his murder of Uriah must have brought him a great deal of remorse. But take note that there is a difference between feeling guilty and being broken. I’m sure there have been times in our life where we’ve felt bad about some things we’ve done. I have. But that is so much different than being broken about my sins, of having a contrite (Middle English meaning- crush or to grind) heart. I’m sure David had twinges of guilt, but he was not broken until he was confronted by the prophet Nathan’s rebuke. And then, for the first time, he had to face the cancer that was deep in his soul. Only when David was broken by the truth, did he face the fact that he had an impure heart. You don’t face the truth about yourself until you’re broken.
- Sin that is ignored never gets better. It is better to repent and be restored.
- Sin and guilt will eat the heart out of our soul. A contrite heart turns to God.
- No matter the magnitude of the sin, God forgives. Seek His forgiveness and be whole.
There’s a painful truth to life – you will encounter difficult people on your journey from Earth to Home. You’ll encounter people who are rude, mean, disrespectful, hurtful – it will happen. It could be coworkers, family members, even brethren.
For David it was the king. King Saul was overcome with intense jealousy and suspicion against David. The large part of 1 Samuel is focused on Saul’s attempt to kill David. David went from being the hero – the giant slayer, to the nations #1 most wanted. Saul sought him every day (1 Samuel 23:14) – no rest – running, hiding, sleeping with one eye open. This all comes to a head in 1 Samuel 24. David and his men are hiding in a cave in Engedi, and by coincidence Saul enters that same cave for a moment of rest. David had everything he needed to seek revenge against Saul, to end this senseless manhunt. He had the opportunity to kill Saul. Instead he cuts off a piece of his robe, knowing that it was not his place to kill the Lord’s anointed.
Psalm 57 was written during this event in the cave. In this psalm we find 4 things to remember when facing difficult people (Saul’s) in your life:
Seek God’s protection (v. 1). David found his refuge from the storm in the wings of God. There is comfort in knowing that God’s love never fails (v. 3, 10). Though others will fail me, disappoint me, turn against me – God’s love will not. His love endures. When I remember how God sees me (reading passages like Psalm 8, Romans 5, 1 Peter 2), the feelings of insecurity and anger will melt away.
Seek God’s Will (v. 2). “God who fulfills His purpose for me.” When I face a difficult person, I should consider “perhaps our paths crossed on purpose.” Maybe I can help them. Through David’s patience and instruction, he not only spared the king but brought him to repentance (for a moment). Maybe the difficult people in our lives are there for us to help. When most would write them off or sling evil back, in us they find someone who returns good for evil, and curses for blessings (1 Pet. 3:9). And thus maybe God is allowing this person in my life, not just for me to help them, but for this person to help me grow to become more and more like Christ – more merciful, more peaceful, more loving and gracious.
Seek God’s Justice (v. 3). Yes, God has established governments in the nations, purposed to upholding what is right and preserving justice, but the ultimate judge, the ultimate source of judgment is God. When you’ve been hurt by another, don’t operate on their level. Don’t hurt in return. Don’t further evil. Don’t do Satan’s work. We overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). Don’t take justice into your own hands. Let God be God and trust in His timing.
Seek God’s Glory (v. 4-5). Ask this question, ‘In this harm, in this situation, how can God be glorified? How can I respond in a way tat will not dishonor my God – rather how can I suffer in a way that glorifies Him? Don’t let Saul’s steal your song (v. 6-7). Don’t quit on God because others have treated you wrong. Even in hardships – I’ll praise the Lord. Even in pain – I’ll praise the Lord. Because even in hardships God is good. Even in difficulties I have much to give thanks for.
A lesser man would have killed the king without hesitation. But not David. He sought what was best for his enemy, a man who was ruining his life. And God calls David a man after His own heart. That’s the heart we ought to aim for – a heart like David’s – a heart like Christ’s.
Holy Lord, merciful God, there are times I’ve been hurt by the words and actions of another. I know I am not alone in facing such situations, but the pain is real. Help me to respond like Your servant David. Help me to respond like Christ. Help me to place my trust in You. Help me not to become jaded towards others, but to love my neighbors, and to love even my enemies. Help me to return curses with blessings, to return harm with healing. Help me to seek what is good for others. Let me learn through these moments. Let me grow to be more like Christ – let my heart be soft and teachable. I’ll never turn my back on You. You are always with me. In good or in pain, in peace or in strife, Father my aim is glorify You. Use my life to show the world how truly great You are.
When Trouble Comes, God Is There
Psalms 46 assures God is in charge. We might think we control the world, but we do not. Yes, things seem to be spinning out of control at times. It is not just the world, but our world that seems to get out of control. Psalms 46 tells us, “The Lord of hosts is with us… He is a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.”
One thing that is helpful in the present is to remember what God has done in the past. God protected His people. He gave them great victories. On one such occasion, Sennacherib and the Assyrians surrounded Jerusalem. Hezekiah prayed to God and God responded with an angel who slew 185,000 troops. God is in control. God is victorious. He protected His people. As a result, His people would not live in fear. God who created the world is in control of His world.
There are three fundamental truths to encourage us. One, “I will not fear” (vs. 1-3). Whatever the trouble, God is with us. The word trouble means “tied up, cramped.” The word refuge means “a fortress for protection.” When we are pressed down hard, God is our refuge. He takes care of us. When Jerusalem was surrounded by 185,000 enemy troops, it seemed as though they were encompassed by the sea. Though the mountains shake, God remains in control.
Truth number two is “I will not be moved” (vs. 4-7). God delivered Jerusalem from the Assyrians. He was immovable against their mighty troops. Hezekiah dug a tunnel under the city wall during the Assyrian assault in order to keep water flowing into Jerusalem (2 Kings 20:20). Sennacherib could not understand why the attack was not working. Jerusalem was saved. The God of Hezekiah is God. He was in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the city where God had recorded His name. It was the city where the people came each year to offer sacrifice. It was the location of the temple. God would not allow her to be defeated and destroyed.
Truth number three, “I will exalt God” (vs. 8-11). “Come, behold the works of the Lord…” There are 185,000 Assyrian troops that are defeated. What remained looked as if God had broken every bow and spear and burned every chariot. Therefore, “Be still and know I am God. I will be exalted among the nations I will be exalted in the earth” (vs. 10). There is nothing God cannot handle. We must never doubt His power. Selah, pause and think about that!
- When fear overwhelms, remember God is in control.
- Remember God has always protected His people.
- Look at what God has done in your life and see what He is doing today.
Suffering in Love
The third theme of note found in Psalm 119 is suffering. This repentant and rule-loving psalmist also faces grief (v. 28), struggles with covetousness (v. 37), endures afflictions (vv. 50, 141, 143), mocking (v. 51), threats and danger (vv. 61, 85, 87, 95, 110), and slander (vv. 69, 78, 86). In fact, that’s the exact reason for his love poem. The psalmist fully and lovingly depends on God’s words, especially in repentance and hardship. “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (v. 50). The psalmist is deeply aware of God’s promises (vv. 38, 41, 50, 58, 76, 82, 116, 123, 133, 140, 148, 154). He knows God’s covenant love (vv. 64, 76, 88, 124, 149, 159).
Most importantly, the psalmist knows he needs life (vv. 37, 40, 50, 88, 93, 107, 149, 154, 156, 159), and that life only comes from God according to his Word. He writes, “Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules” (v. 156), and “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” (v. 25).
The psalmist knows that God’s speech does not just condemn sinners. God also redeems them through speech. While the words of God—his rules and commandments and statues—tirelessly remind us of our sin, they also reveal God’s promise to fully redeem his people from sin.
That is why the psalmist can’t stop writing. He knows that by the same speech of God he is both condemned and redeemed. Affliction under the law and love for the law operate on the same principle: God’s faithfulness to his own Word. God is unshakably faithful to himself, and therefore unshakably faithful to his people.
Thank God that He is a consistent and merciful God.