1. An urgent plea (1-4 BHS, 1-3ESV).
- The opening pattern is similar to those of Ps 3 and 4 but this sounds more intense in a different way: give ear, give attention followed by addressing God as King and God. Verse 2 – my words, give ear, hear O Lord, cf. Ps 3:5 BHS, my voice, to the Lord I call. What’s the difference? In the latter, David wants the Lord to be aware of his situation by the loudness of his call, the urgency of his condition, being surrounded by multitudes of his enemies. This is a cry for help. The content is nothing but SOS – Save our souls. In the former, David wants the Lord to focus more on the content. Consider my meditation – is a call for the Lord to examine David’s thought. This is a habitual activity rather than sporadic like what we observe in Psalm 3. How do we know this? The next verse gives a clue: in the morning.
- In the morning you hear my voice. the word morning is mentioned twice in verse 4 (3 ESV). David has a habit of faithfully, thoughtfully and fervently praying in the morning. I will order my prayers to you and look forward (MM), I will prepare sacrifice and watch (ESV) – which one is a better translation? What does arakh and tzapah mean? I think MM is more literal, order my prayer, thinking carefully what to present before the Lord. ESV seems to be off-the-mark by translating arakh as preparing sacrifice. But when we consider that the prayers of the saints are a form of sacrifice to the Lord (cf. Ps 141:2, Rev 8:4), ESV is correct as well. So my conclusion is both are legitimate views of what David is trying to say here. MM is more central to what David is doing but ESV expands the meaning of prayer. It is not simply communication with God, but it is also an offering to him which is something that David has in mind as well in the original context. If we consider that prayer is something we offer to God, we would do well to examine the content of our prayer, the level of reverence, humility, submission, faith, repentance, expectation, fervency of it. Are we content to offer God cold, monotonous, thoughtless prayers? Is this the right and respectful thing to do? Jesus not only teaches us the content of prayer (ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication) but also a pattern of prayer. One may argue that Jesus follows David’s pattern of morning devotion. I argue the opposite. Jesus as the second Adam, the head, the first-fruit of a new humanity provides us a pattern of a devoted life that begins with what we do as we begin the day, which I think is a representative of what we do, our attitude for the rest of the day. So instead of Jesus following the pattern of David, it is David following the pattern of devotion of Jesus who was to come. Prayer signifies dependence on the Lord. The godly begins the day with prayer. Mark 1:35 early in the morning Jesus got up and went to an isolated place to pray. Scripture tells us the timing of Jesus’ prayer, his priority of the day, how he began the day and a resolution on how he would spend the day, namely in dependence on God, following him closely, instructed by his commands and divine wisdom. But it also tells us the manner by which his prayers are offered in Heb 5:7 with fervent cries, tears and reverence which reminds us of the David’s manner of prayer as well. The timing of Jesus’ prayer suggests discipline and faithfulness. The manner of Jesus’ prayer suggests humility, holy fervency and sincerity. Furthermore, the content of prayer that Jesus teaches us in Mat 6:9-13 suggests comprehensiveness of prayer. May your will be done, namely God’s revealed will is one comprehensive plea. May your will be done in my life, in my family’s life, in the church, in my workplace, in my neighborhood, in my country and in the world: on earth, as it is in heaven. Do all these characterize our prayers? How are we doing in prayers? What is the level of our discipline, faithfulness, humility, fervency, sincerity?
- We have just discussed the meaning of arakh, what about tzapah? Here ESV is more literal, watch. Tzapah is the word used to describe the main job for a watchman stationed at the wall of the city to keep monitoring the vicinity of the city particularly whether a hostile army is approaching to mount an assault on the city. MM’s translation, "look forward" gives us an impression more of an anticipation of what the Lord will do in response to David’s prayers. In the end I think both are legitimate as well. God’s people are to watch vigilantly at all times. Prayerfulness often goes together with watchfulness (cf. Col 4:2). There is an element of anticipation of what the Lord would do in response to our prayers. God hears prayer, so we look forward to his providence in reverence and humility, with faith and expectation that he would be glorified every day. David prays to God (v.3). In the morning he carefully orders his thoughts what he is about to bring up before the Lord with the confidence that God will hear. On this basis, he looks forward, he will keep watch on what God has in store for him, for his people and for the world and in doing so, he also prepares himself that he may respond well to whatever God’s providence of the day is. This is the point of watchfulness. If something happens, we will be able to respond appropriately. Regardless of which translation is better, we see that morning prayer for David is not a casual, cold, monotonous, boring routine like uttering prayers without meaning it by merely “heaping empty phrases” (cf. Mat 6:7), but a reverential thoughtful priority of the day. Do I have the same attitude as David when it comes to beginning the day with a humble fellowship with God by taking the time to be in his presence through thoughtful prayers? Then look at David’s expectation on what the Lord will do in response to his morning prayers. God will hear and do something in response to the daily morning sacrifice that David offers.
2. The Holiness of God with respect to sin and sinners (5-7BHS, 4-6ESV):
- His relationship to sin: We praise God not only explicitly when we give him thanks for what he has done. This is the normal pattern of thanksgiving Psalms, e.g., Ps 107, 118. But we praise God also when we speak of him, describe him truthfully according to what his Word says like what David does here. The deliverance has not come yet. There is no expression of praise from deliverance such as for example in Psalm 107 where the Psalmist speaks of God rescuing his people from various adversities. But here David still praises God that he is holy. The holiness of God is highlighted when contrasted to sin and sinners. Unlike sinners who enjoy sinning, God doesn’t delight in sin. The opposite of delight is hatred, repulsion. Indeed, one purpose God ordains sin is to magnify his holiness by exposing how wicked, odious, unholy, unrighteous sin is in light of God’s righteousness and holiness. Evil may not dwell with you – the second part of verse 5 (4 ESV). Literally: evil will not sojourn with you. Sojourn is a temporary stay. The use of the word here is emphatic in support of the prior section. There is no slightest chance that God would do evil. Unlike fallen men, even Christians that still sin, of which we may say that sometimes evil sojourns with us when we give in to temptations. But it is not the case with God. God does not do evil. He doesn’t tempt, nor can he be tempted (Jam 1:13). In other words, evil or sin has no chance of succeeding with God in their attempt to cause him to sin.
- His relationship to the wicked: the boastful shall not stand before him. He hates evildoers (note well). The root word used to describe the boastful arrogant in verse 6 (5 ESV) is the same as the word praise halal. In verse 6 David uses the plural participle of halal, holelim, the praisers. Obviously the praisers referred to here are not the praisers of God but the praisers of idols, those who boast of their idols including themselves. When one brags about how much money he has or how successful or famous she is, although this is a hint of the idolization of wealth and fame, but these point to self, how much one has accomplished in order to draw the praise of man. I believe this is the sense of holelim, the praisers, those who brag about themselves, their accomplishments as evidenced by the amount of money they make, their social status, their title or education. How are these praisers-of-self doing in God’s presence? The word stand yatzav implies challenge and defiance. The praisers challenge God as if they could compete with him to determine who is more supreme. David says, they have no chance. Recall in Psalm 2:1 the people plot in vain – riq. Sinners, the boasters of self work so hard to steal God’s glory and claim it for themselves. It is their aspiration to ascribe at least a portion of his glory to themselves one of which ways is that they plot against him… in vain. Regardless of how seemingly brilliant their schemes are, in the end they will all fail. So the praisers, the boasters of self will not get what they want, the exaltation of self in the place of God although they seemingly accomplish their desire, but sooner or later God will vindicate himself once for all that these boasters will be exposed as to who they really are and be put to shame forever. When you hate someone or something you don’t want that object of your hatred to be around you. The holiness of God naturally requires that he hates evil. He can’t stand evil. He must purge evil and cast it out from his presence. This is a frightening prospect considering the fallen condition of humanity deserves this very casting out from his presence away from all his goodness, away from all his benefits but most importantly deprived from the greatest blessing that one ever experiences, namely being in the presence of God, enjoying his fellowship, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple (Ps 27:4). God hates all doers of evil. We have heard that God hates sin but loves sinners, but this verse says God hates all doers of evil. Even those whom he saved in times, such as Saul, and in fact every Christian, before we were converted Eph 2:3 says that we were children of wrath consistent with what David says here. It is true that they were elect before the foundation of the world, but there were times when they were still children of wrath and at the appointed time, God in his goodness according to his purpose exercised his mercy by irresistibly conquering their sinful nature, granting them faith, repentance and obedience (Ezek 36:26).
- He destroys those who speak lies. Lit: He causes to perish the speakers of falsehood (kazav is the same word used in Ps 4:3-BHS, 4:2 ESV). The word destroy (ESV) is the same word usually translated as perish abad (with aleph, to be distinguished from the same pronunciation except the a is ayin in which case the word means to serve). It is curious why David uses the Piel form of abad (cf. the Qal form in Ps 1:6, the way of the ungodly will perish). I venture to argue that David intends the word to convey soft causation, namely God causes those who speak lies to be destroyed. To elaborate more, the liars do not perish right away. They gradually perish like those who die of cancer without realizing that there is something dangerous eating them up from the inside as they continue in the course of lying. Question for reflection: do we have a habit of speaking lies? – consciously or unconsciously? If we are Christians God is working in our hearts to change this. Perhaps there is a need for a more earnest prayer that the Holy Spirit help us to speak and conduct ourselves in truth.
- He abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. Man of blood and the treacherous one (man of blood and of deceit – MM, similar translation in ESV). What is a man of blood? The nuance is not necessarily outward murderers but those who are consumed with hatred. An intense hatred desires the demise of the hatred. Jesus and John issue this warning in 1 Jn 3:15 and Mat 5:21 against hating fellow Christians. The question is now whether it is legitimate to hate those who are blatantly evil, e.g., Hitler? It is if our desire is for public good, for God’s justice to be upheld. Imprecatory psalms are not accompanied by prayers for the salvation of the wicked, but if God chooses to save them, then Christians are to rejoice. Saul was responsible for the persecution of Christians and the death of Stephen. It wouldn’t be surprising if Christians prayed that God would at least thwart his aspiration to wipe Christianity out. Ananias’s prayer in Acts 9:13 alludes to this. To paraphrase, “Lord, should I believe this man even though he is praying considering how much evil he has done to Christians?” The treacherous one is more specific than those who speak lie in the first half of the verse. The treacherous or deceitful person has an intention to manipulate others to their harm for his or her own benefit. Judas received financial benefit by delivering Jesus to the Pharisees. Saul gave his daughter to marriage to David in order that he might kill David. In the second half of verses 6 and 7 (5-6 ESV) the word translated “hate” is used twice (sane and taev) showing us the character of individuals that God hate. So negatively, God hates liars, traitors, manipulators and haters. What about positively? What kind of character does God love? Honesty, sincerity, transparency and patience although we may argue that in some cases there is no need to be transparent to the enemies of God (e.g., those who lied to the Nazi when asked whether there were Jews hiding in their homes or see 1 Sam 16:2).
3. God’s relationship with his people (8 BHS, 7 ESV):
- He allows David to enter his house. In contrast with the wicked – but I, vav here is better translated as “but” instead of “and” to contrast God’s relationship with the wicked and his people, having been purified by the blood of Christ, God’s people can enter his presence at any time. This is David’s singular passion, the longing of his heart, to be in his presence all the days of his life (Ps 27:4). Being in fellowship with God is a privilege, not a right, a privilege procured by Christ (see Heb 10:19). The OT sacrificial system that the high-priest needs to offer tells us that there is a problem of sin. Why can’t men and women enter in to God’s Holy of Holies to worship him but it has to be done by a mediator, namely the priest and that with rigorous purification ritual? Because fallen humanity is stained by sin. We have highlighted God’s holiness above that necessitates his utter hatred and complete separation from sin because there is nothing so contrary to his nature than sin. The privilege to enter into a fellowship with God doesn’t owe to anything distinctive or meritorious from believers’ side but all from God’s side – but I, in the abundance of your faithfulness, I will enter your house. The reason given here why David can, and will enter God’s house is because of God’s abundant faithfulness to him, and his people. I can’t think of a greater privilege than to interact – with reverence, to know deeply through this interaction, the God, who is the sovereign Lord, Creator and Ruler of all. David understands this. May we not take this privilege for granted and labor to be in his presence much in our pilgrimage here below (Heb 4:16), looking forward to an eternal never-interrupted blessed fellowship with the Holy Trinity, to serve and praise him all the days of our lives.
- to worship in order to behold his glory (cf. Ps 27:4), to bow down in fear – lit: let me worship (I will worship) in the temple of your holiness in your fear. The goal of coming to God’s house is to know him in his worship. We come to a corporate worship every Lord’s Day but Rom 12:1 and 1 Cor 6:19-20 say that believers’ bodies are God’s temple where his Holy Spirit reigns. Therefore worship is not limited to Lord’s Day corporate worship but every day, every action is to reflect worship (Rom 12:1 offer your bodies a living sacrifice). As long as we live, worship goes on. A natural question for reflection would be, do we often consider this truth, whether all we do with our bodies, our brains, our hearts, our hands reflect our worship, allegiance, filial fear to God, the Lord who owns us (note 1 Cor 6:19b – you are not your own). Do we savor beholding God’s glory in worship, not just during corporate gathering but in personal devotion? Does David’s attitude that he comes to God’s house to worship (MM translates eshtachaveh – shachah as bow down which tells us more about the right posture / attitude, bodily as well as the attitude of our hearts when we come to God’s presence) resonate with ours? Do we savor deeply, derive sweetness and joy out of our fellowship with the Lord (Ps 27:4 – to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord)?
4. Prayer (9 BHS, 8 ESV):
- God leads him in righteousness – a prayer: Lord, lead me in righteousness the word translated as lead (ESV, guide MM) is nachan. It is used for example in similar context in Ps 23:3 (for your name’s sake) and 27 (lead me in a straight path). The similarity between v.9 (8 ESV) with 23:3 is the use of in-your righteousness (betzidqatekha). The similarity with Ps 27:11 (10 ESV) is the use of lemaan shoreray - because-of my enemies ESV, MM: those who lay wait on me). What does David’s prayer that God lead him in his righteousness mean? It means that God would guide him to do the right thing, whether as a lifestyle, or in a particular situation where the enemies are watching in order to find fault with David or to attack during his moments of weaknesses, the moments of lack of vigilance. Indeed Christians are called to be vigilant at all times, because the enemy, the diabolos, the devil prowls around like a lion always seeking someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8). The prayer for God’s guidance in his righteousness implies willingness on David’s side to follow closely, a commitment to obey, although this doesn’t imply a guarantee of perfect performance. But it does imply allegiance to cling to the Lord at all times. It is pointless to ask God to lead him without a commitment from David’s side. The same is true for Christians. As believers in whom the Holy Spirit reigns, they are enabled to obey by faith, which is the right motive, not to earn merit, but out of love, gratitude and desire to see God’s name honored in all of life. We too, like David, ask God to lead us in his righteousness while at the same time that he would enable us to follow him with all earnestness, to fight sin and the remaining corruption in our hearts with all our might.
- In order – because of my enemies. ESV translates shorer as enemy. It is interesting that David doesn’t use other words that mean the same: oyev and tzar. Shorer may be linked to shor (to leap or spring), so shorer more literally means watcher. From this point of view Mechon Mamre is correct when it translates shoreray as those who wait on David. Why wait? In order to harm him. So lemaan shoreray, because-of-my-enemies means that the God would show himself victorious over his enemies and David’s enemies despite the enemies’ expectation of his demise and scheme to attack him as they watch like prowling lions ready to devour David when he lets his guard down. Therefore, this context refers to the specific situation where the enemies watch David carefully in order to ambush him. It may suggest that they watch for David’s conduct to see if there is anything they can use as a ground for accusation. So David asks God to lead him in his righteousness to maintain his integrity and thus frustrate the enemies’ scheme.
- Make your way straight before me (lit: my face). The request is based on the root word yashar in hiphil which suggests strong causation. I venture to interpret this to mean that David asks God not only to make it clear to him what to do, how to conduct himself, but also do everything necessary in order for David to follow him in a straight path. Why? Because David is aware of his own sin. There is still sinful inclination in our hearts despite the radical change that happened during our conversion. There will no perfection in this life, in this fallen world. The sinful inclination is still there internally until Christians arrive at the state of glorification. This is a sobering reflection. Do we have the courage to ask God to do everything necessary for our sanctification? To conquer the besetting sins that we are struggling with? To bring about a greater conformity to Christ (cf. Phil 3:10-11)? In order to serve him in a greater capacity, to honor him in a greater way? Do we have the courage to part with everything that hinders holiness? That prevents us from going straight in the path that the Lord has laid before us as he guides us?
5. Description of the wicked (10 BHS, 9 ESV)
- Verse 10 contains a description of what the wicked do. The imprecatory section straddles verse 10 and continues in verse 11. No truth in their mouth. David does not use emet for the word ESV translates as ‘truth’ (cf. Prov 3:3), but nekornah that MM translates as sincerity. Does that mean when the wicked do good such as when they obey their parents, tell the truth, these actions are still insincere? Yes according to verse 9, but how can this be? To answer, I’d bring up Romans 4:23 whatever that doesn’t come from faith is sin. It may be true that by God’s common grace the wicked do good and honorable things, but these actions are still not sincere, not good and are sin in the sight of God because they are done without the right motive. So sincerity here implies motive. The right motive according to Rom 4:23 is to honor God out of faith in all we do (cf. 1 Cor 10:31). We are sincerely devoted to the Lord. He is the reason why Christians honor their parents, avoid lying and covetousness etc. The wicked do good things insincerely because their motive is not to honor God, the true God. I venture to say that their motive is idolatry. Instead of the glory of God, the right motive that God considers sincere, their motive is either their own glory or the object of their good work. Atheists and Secular-humanists often reject the moral argument of the existence of God by saying that we do good for goodness sake or for our fellow-men and women’s sake for the greater good of the world. Here is insincerity. Here is idolatry. All things are created to expose, to highlight the glory of God including human actions. The wicked refuse to be sincere by acknowledging that the right motive why they do good ought to be for God’s sake. Instead, they set up idols in place of God whether they be themselves or the world at large.
- The inmost-self is destruction. Qirbam havuot. Qarab the inner part. Havuot is derived from havah that literally means chasm, abyss, often associated with hell and destruction. So what does the term qirbam havuot mean – their inner part is an abyss or hell? I think a good way to explain what this means is to use a suicide bomber as an illustration. His lifestyle is conformed in such a way that he is deeply entrenched in this Islamic ideology, that if he dies killing the infidels, he will go to paradise. This conviction rooted deeply in his whole personality acts like an abyss that swallows him, that consumes him, something that he identifies fully with, that drives him wholeheartedly into fulfilling it, plunging himself straight to destruction, sending his soul straight to hell. So it is with the unrepentant wicked. They are so sure, so convinced that their way of life is the way to go, the right way that they devote their entire life pursuing it with passion and in this way they plunge themselves into the abyss of hell, the point of no return, sooner or later.
- Their throat is open grave. They flatter with their tongue. These two expressions are quoted in Rom 3:13. They suggest the manner of their conversation. We have heard the expression “you are what you eat,” or “you are what you love.” The latter is closer to what David is talking about here. David is saying here that you can tell what a person is, his character, his worldview from the manner of his or her conversation. It may not be obvious when you meet that person for the first time during a casual exchange of greetings. But as you get to know them more and as the interaction goes deeper beyond small talks, you will have a better idea about who this person really is, his aspiration, his worldview, his belief, his character. ESV and MM’s translation of qever pathuach (the adjective of patach) geronam are similar – their throats is an open grave. Why does David associate one’s throat with an open grave? Grave can be associated with sheol which reminds us with the term havuot above, abyss or hell. The conversation of the wicked reveals who he is. When he interacts with others, he inevitably shares his worldview and whether this is something he consciously does or not, he may influence others to embrace what he believes. In this way they are corrupted by the false worldview propagated by the wicked. Their throats , their conversations act like a grave ready to swallow those who are attracted and influenced by the false beliefs they sow abroad. Paul warns Christians in 1 Corinthians 15:33 to pay attention to who we associate with – bad company corrupts good character. We may then paraphrase what David is saying here, not merely “you reveal yourself – sooner or later – by what you say,” but also, “you are who you hang out with – you are who your close friends are – you are who your heroes are.” You love your heroes because their character, their aspirations align well with yours. We may not know what the person is right away if he hides his identity, his true color based on what he says alone. MM gives us more insight on the next part of the verse: they make smooth their tongue (leshonam yachaliqun – their tongue, they make smooth). Yachaliqun is the hiphil form of the adjective chalaq (smooth) which means to smoothen. Here is another example of Hiphil that suggests strong causation. The wicked work so hard to smoothen their tonques, a metaphor for flattery. This may refer to blatant flattery, smooth political talk to gain favoritism. But it may also refer to their attempt to mask who they really are for fear of negative repercussion if they are discovered or in attempt to deceive others, namely to prey after other people, to manipulate them, to draw them into embracing their worldview. In other words, there is a nuance of selfishness which I believe is linked to the lack of nekornah, lack of sincerity in the conversation and conduct of the wicked. Can we say that someone is sincere, someone is not smoothening his tongue when he doesn’t point to God directly or indirectly through his conduct and conversation? For Christians, a question for reflection is, do we strive to honor God in all we say and do? Does 1 Cor 10:31 resonate with our passion, to point others to God, to the Lord Jesus Christ who redeemed us to be his own in all our interactions, public and personal conducts, in our prayers and worship?
6. Imprecation – Prayer against the wicked (11 BHS, 10 ESV):
- What David asks God to do. Make them bear their guilt (ESV), hold them guilty (MM). MM is simpler. The root noun asham (guilt) is turned into a hiphil verb. David asks God not to let the wicked get away. Do not let them think that there is no God and therefore their sinful actions have no consequence whatsoever (Ps 73:11). When extrapolated to today’s use, does it mean that we ought to pray for sinners to be judged instead of being saved? No. David’s prayer doesn’t necessarily imply a desire for the wicked to perish but God’s justice to be upheld, for God to vindicate his righteousness. To do this, he can either execute his judgment upon sinners or pardon them through a substitute. Nowhere is this concept of a substitute clearer than Rom 3:25-26. This is what penal-substitutionary atonement (PSA) is about. Jesus Christ the righteous is the propitiation of sinners (1 John 2:2b). The commonality is God must punish sinners. The difference is whether the sinners themselves bear his wrath or a substitute does. The OT illustrates the concept of PSA through the sacrificial animals that were sacrificed on behalf of sinners. Heb 10:1-10 expounds the meaning behind the symbolism more that those sacrifices represent Christ who was punished on behalf of sinners who trust in God’s promise of provision of the atonement of their sins. So whether the wicked will eventually repent or perish is a something that no one knows but God alone. One can be wicked today and be radically changed tomorrow like what happened to Saul of Tarsus. In his prayer, David’s priority is God’s justice. It is true that David desires the wicked to be declared guilty. He wants them to own up their sins, but not necessarily perish in their sins.
- In order to bring the wicked to their senses, it may be necessary for God to execute temporal judgment, although it is possible for him to execute eternal judgment which is the most horrific prospect, the last thing that one wants or provokes God to do. The OT is full of examples of God bringing his people to repentance through temporal punishments (see the book of Judges, the fall of Samaria and Jerusalem). We don’t sense our need of good when things go well, when everything works smoothly. Hence David’s next prayer: let them fall by their own counsel (MM, and ESV’s translations are identical). What is implied here as more explicitly spoken of such as in Ps 35:8, (Ps 37:15 and 73:18 seem to have a similar theme). is that there is no need to fret about the schemes of the wicked when they appear to prevail. God would cause their own schemes to backfire. Those who either don’t sense the weight of their sins and the need for God’s forgiveness in the end will sooner or later have to bear the consequence the punishment of their own sins. Yiplu mi-moatzotey-hem. Yiplu can either be the imperfect (they will fall) or jussive (let them fall) of nafal (to fall), but considering that the verb is sandwiched between two petitionary imperatives (haashimem, hadichemo, both imperatives are in hiphil), it is more likely that yiplu is jussive, namely that God would cause their counsels (etzah, cf. the counsel of the ungodly in Ps 1;1) to be the means of their demise, just like what God does to Haman. The next phrase is a parallel form, “in the abundance of their transgressions, cast them down” At the height of the execution of their scheme, as they go on with their lifestyle, David asks God to bring about a rude awakening, a harsh rebuke to their actions, just like God “cast” Saul down from his high horse on the way to Damascus. The last section gives the reason behind David’s imprecatory prayers, namely they rebel “in you”. The wicked’s schemes are devised out of their rebellious souls against God. They challenge his supremacy, his rules, his law as if there were no such things and therefore they imply that they are their own Lord, they are gods. This lustful tendency to be our own Lord instead of submitting to the lordship of God and Christ is common to fallen humanity. While David’s desire is for God to frustrate the rebellious schemes of the wicked, it is appropriate to examine ourselves as Christians whether our counsels, plans, desires and aspirations reflect the lordship of Christ or our own lordship. It is necessary to be vigilant, to be aware of the remaining corruption in our hearts and pray for its further and greater mortification by the Spirit (Rom 8;13).
7. Prayer for the righteous (12-13 BHS, 11-12 ESV):
- That they may rejoice in God as they take refuge in him. Yismechu can either mean “they shall rejoice” (imperfect / future) or jussive “let them rejoice” where “them” refers to kol-chosey bakh (all who take refuge in you). The entire Psalm is a prayer characterized by requests in imperative forms (note imperatives here are not commands but petitions). So the last section of the Psalm consists of a petition on behalf of God’s people, namely those who take refuge in him, who acknowledge they are powerless without him, that they are fully dependent on God for everything, creation, provision and redemption. A natural response of those who have tasted that the Lord is good is that they rejoice in knowing this mighty and powerful yet gracious God, not merely intellectually but by experiences, experiences of his grace, goodness, faithfulness and fatherly care and love including his fatherly discipline. An outward expression of this joy is the saints sing “to eternity” le-olam. In their pilgrimage here below, God’s people go through much hardship and adversity. It is strange then that they still sing since we tend to think that singing is an expression of joy. This is true but there can still be joy in our hearts despite the contrary outward circumstances that we are going through. In other words, in the lives of the saints, God’s joy conquers all, as God is their all-in-all. Revelation tells us that one chief activity in heaven is singing praises to God (e.g., 5:9-10, 15:3-4). The next expression vetasekh aleymo can also be either a jussive, which implies a prayer (may you shelter them, spread your protection over them – ESV) or imperfect / future (you will shelter them). Both MM and ESV go with the future option – You will shelter them. I’m not convinced since all the imperfect verbs in this verse are best translated as jussive so there is nothing wrong to translate tasekh as jussive. The reason behind the future translation is perhaps the petition to God is usually expressed in imperative form (see v.2-3;9, 1-2;8 ESV). If translated as jussive then tasekh is a petition. If translated as future, tasekh expresses God’s promise to shelter, protect his people. David reiterates that promise. The saints here are called the lovers of God’s name – Lit: let the lovers of your name exult in you. God’s people love his name. God’s names reveal his attributes. Adonai nisiy – the Lord my banner, Adonai tsevaot – the Lord of host, literally: the Lord of the army, Elyon – the Most High, Shaday – Almighty (see Ps 91:1). There is a link here between God’s name and the praise of his people. God’s attributes give us a glimpse of his glory. Adonai Tsevaot – the Lord of the armies. God is the supreme commander of not just the heavenly army but ultimately all the armies of the world. He controls all of them, although he does not necessarily exercise a direct control. When God’s glory is manifested to his people, they respond with joyful praise. Hence David puts the two together. God’s people, the people who love his name, exult in him as a proper response to the revelation of who God is to them.
- For you bless the righteous, like a shield (MM, tzinah instead of magen) you cover him with favor. Note here the imperfect tebarekh and ta-asar are not jussives but present, showing facts. There is a more compelling reason to translate these two imperfect verbs in this manner since there is atah – you - at the beginning of the verse. So David brings up two more of God’s promises, that he blesses his people, not necessarily with material blessings, but his presence sufficient to procure for them all their needs (cf. Phil 4:19). The subject is still the same, God’s people except here it is in singular (tzadiq) instead of plural in the previous verse (kol-chosey bakh). The imagery of God that David wants to convey to the readers in these last two verses is first, God is his people’s protection from danger and second, He is their sovereign provider. There is no more fitting response to the knowledge of who God is to his people, his promises than a grateful acknowledgment of his goodness and faithfulness through a joyful praise. In this Psalm, David overcomes his plight, like he usually does, by a contemplation of who God is, particularly in relation with his people and the wicked – those who don’t know him, and acting on the outcome of this exercise. The outcome of the knowledge of God is the praise of his people expressed in songs of joy. We may not feel like singing to God. There may be no reason outwardly that we ought to sing but as believers Jesus reminds us that no one can take our joy away (Jn 16:22b). So regardless of our circumstances, what Matt Redman says rings true. It resonates deeply with our hearts with which I will close my reflection on this Psalm,
The sun comes up
It's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes...
Bless the Lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I'll worship Your Holy name...