March 7, 2008 § Leave a Comment
This psalm is a typical, almost formulaic, prayer for help. These sorts of prayers are a common theme in many of the psalms, and they all follow a sort of pattern. There is praise involved; it could also be called flattery. God is praised for being wonderful, and powerful, and helpful, and everything one would want Him to be, and then the request for help is put in.
At the risk of sounding rude, I could phrase it something like this:
“God, you’re amazing. You do all these things for me and for others, and everyone fears You. I fear you and obey Your commandments. Every one already adores You or will adore You. You’ve done a tremendous amount of stuff for me already. So, since You can do all these and are so amazing, why don’t you help me? I’m in trouble and it would be a piffling thing for You to help me. You wouldn’t need to move a muscle. You’d just will Your help into existence, and poof, my enemies will be put to shame.”
When you consider the whole thing from a distance, it looks cheap, doesn’t it? You’re resorting to outright flattery with an ulterior motive. It’s pretty distasteful, and it doesn’t befit us as Christians to engage in that sort of behavior.
Yet, it’s so easy to do, isn’t it? It’s so easy to fall into that mindset and let our fallen human natures take over our interaction with God. It’s so easy to think God needs our flattery, that He needs to be deceived and manipulated the way we deceive and manipulate other people in order to move Him to act on our behalf.
He can see right through that. You already knew that, didn’t you?
Don’t think I’m blaming the write of this psalm and pinning the blame on him. Not at all. We are all guilty of this. I’ve done it plenty of times, too. But it’s important to step back and realize that it’s wrong. It cheapens our relationship with God. It saddens Him to see that we’re not truthful with Him.
A simpler, more natural prayer for help would have gone something like this:
“Lord, I come before you to ask for your help. [Tell Him what's going on in a sentence or two.] I know you already know all of this, and you know how lonely and helpless I feel. You’re the only one I can turn to. Even though I don’t deserve it, as I don’t deserve any of the gifts you’ve given me, including that of eternal life through Jesus Christ, please come to my aid. I will wait for Your powerful Hand to protect me and carry me through this. Thank you for this and for all that you do for me. Amen.”
December 11, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This psalm praises God for the power He displays in battle with Israel’s enemies. Various military events are recounted, and God is given the credit for the wins. The futility of human anger is also set in contrast to the awesome power of God’s wrath: “You, you alone, strike terror! Who can hold his ground in your presence when your anger strikes?” The psalm is ended with an entreaty to all people to “make and fulfill [their] vows to Yahweh [their] God”.
The writer of the psalm is certainly correct in attributing Israel’s military victories to God. However, as we’ve seen with past psalms, Israel blamed God when their military pursuits failed, forgetting that in order to receive God’s much-needed help in battle, they needed to live their daily lives in accordance with His will. This was something they didn’t often do, and then they wondered why when God abandoned them. Perhaps this is what makes the entreaty in the last verses more poignant. There was a covenant between Israel and God, and that covenant had two parts: one which described what God was responsible for, and one which described what Israel was responsible for. As we examine the biblical record, we see how often Israel strayed away from the covenant, and every time they did so, they suffered for it. Did they learn their lesson? No. Single generations might have, but later generations managed to repeat their parents’ mistakes anew.
The futility, the powerlessness of human anger is another theme dealt with in this psalm. Nowadays, when we have all sorts of machines that amplify our anger and let us do damage, like guns, vehicles and bombs, it’s hard for us to see how impotent we really are. But during those times, when all people had were swords, lances and arrows, a single human being couldn’t do too much. I think it made them a little humbler, at least on the whole. What we need to learn these days is that none of our weapons, none of our anger can win us a war or affect God in any way. His power is what counts, and His anger is what destroys. With a single utterance or gesture, He can raze us from the face of the earth. Without Him on our side, we have nothing but “heroes”, “sleeping their last sleep”.
November 21, 2006 § Leave a Comment
The message of this psalm is very nicely summed up in verses 27-28: “Truly, those who abandon You will perish; You destroy those who adulterously desert you, whereas my happiness is to be near God. I have made the Lord Yahweh my refuge, to tell of all your works.” That’s not to say you shouldn’t read the other verses. They give the background behind the bold statement made in the two verses above.
Indeed, the verses that precede these last two are too juicy to pass up. I was reading an article that summed up some of the richest people currently living in London yesterday evening. It was on Forbes. Having recently passed the age of 30, I’ve started thinking about what I’ve really done thus far. How have I provided for my old age (given that the world will last that long)? What have I done to ensure that I can provide for my wife? Can I truly help others with the resources I currently have? Truth is, if I needed to help my family or relatives out with money, I probably wouldn’t be able to make too much of a difference. And when I read about these rich people, I can’t help feeling a little envious, especially since they’re pretty young. There was another article I read recently, about the richest people in Asia, also on Forbes. The majority of those were either in their 20s or 30s. I couldn’t help feeling inadequate. But then you read about how some of these rich people of the world made their money, and it turns out most made them through various shady deals that were either unethical or immoral or outright illegal in civilized countries. However, since they weren’t making that money in civilized countries, but in developing countries, they got away with it.
And then I read this psalm, and it’s talking about the very same things: “My feet were on the point of stumbling, a little more and I had slipped, envying the arrogant as I did, and seeing the prosperity of the wicked.” This goes on through verse 8, where the author of the psalm writes: “Cynically they advocate evil, loftily they advocate force. Their mouth claims heaven for themselves, and their tongue is never still on earth. That is why my people turn to them, and enjoy the waters of plenty, saying, ‘How can God know? What knowledge can the Most High have?’ That is what the wicked are like, piling up wealth without any worries.”
Then the author asks the very same question I ask myself, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this: “Was it useless, then, to have kept my own heart clean, to have washed my hands in innocence?” Well, was it? Don’t we wonder this as we ponder our current states? Is it really worth it to try and live a righteous life, a good life, to live according to God’s law?
Yes, it is, but all knew that in our hearts already, didn’t we? And just to enforce that belief, read on to see what happens to the wicked: “You place them on a slippery slope and drive them down into chaos. How sudden their hideous destruction! They are swept away, annihilated by terror! Like a dream upon waking, Lord, when you awake, you dismiss their image.” These rich people with guilty consciences may enjoy their money and wealth in the here and now, but they, along with their money, will soon be gone, and in the end, they’ll receive what’s coming to them. I’m not saying this to make any of them feel bad, because I doubt they care about what I have to say. I say this to remind those of us who are asking the questions I posed above what will happen if we don’t stay close to God and deal justly and ethically with everyone.
I’m not saying Christians aren’t meant to be rich. I’m sure there are rich Christians. But our goal shouldn’t be to be rich. Our paramount goal should be to stay close to God. If He thinks we can handle being rich, and will use our wealth for good, Godly purposes, then He’ll make us rich. But let’s let Him worry about that, and focus on our relationship with Him instead!
We know God will take care of us, no matter what our financial state is. “You grasped me by the right hand; You will guide me with advice, and will draw me in the wake of Your glory.” What’s more, do we really lack anything we need here on earth, even though we’re not rich? “And, with you, I lack nothing on earth.” Is it any wonder we feel this deep need to stay close to God? “My heart and my flesh are pining away: my heart’s rock, my portion, God for ever!”
I know God has always provided for me. There were times when I was extremely limited in my resources, and wasn’t sure whether I’d have enough for food/mortgage, but He’s always provided. Somehow the money always lasted, even though when I’d add it up, it shouldn’t have. God works miracles in our lives, every day. We just have to stop and realize what He does for us, then thank Him. He truly is an amazing God, the only God, the greatest God! We’d do well to stay close to Him! “I have made the Lord Yahweh my refuge, to tell of all Your works.” Amen!
November 14, 2006 § Leave a Comment
Apparently addressed to Solomon, this psalm sounds more like it’s written about the Messiah. Since its official interpretation isn’t sure, I’ll address both possible meanings.
If this is indeed meant for Solomon, as the byline indicates, it’s blasphemous. It endows an earthly ruler with Godly qualities. A mere man cannot “endure, age after age” (verse 5). Nor can “in him [...] be blessed every race in the world…” (verse 17). No one should have the right to be called by those attributes but God. If I am to choose this interpretation, I am reminded of Psalm 45, another misguided attempt to flatter an earthly ruler. Then again, it wouldn’t be surprising to see people do that. That was the reason God refused to provide a king for the nation of Israel, but relented after they kept complaining. He provided them with a dire warning that something like this might happen, that they would end up deifying the king and looking to him instead of looking up to the rightful King, to God Himself. Suffice it to say that I prefer to focus on the second interpretation, and that’s just what I’m going to do below.
If this psalm is meant to foretell the coming of the Messiah, it does a fine job! Besides pointing out certain Messiah-like qualities, there are certain prophetic elements as well. Here’s what I found:
- Justice/Judgement (verses 1-4): clearly only God can provide a final judgment, so this is prophetic, in view of the end times.
- Peace (verse 3): we’ve all been looking forward to everlasting peace, through all ages, haven’t we? Prophetic once more.
- Everlasting (verse 5): clearly prophetic, this refers to God’s rule after the final judgment. The new earth, re-made, will stand forever.
- Blessings and abundance (verses 6-7, 17-18): only God can bless like this, and in other psalms, like Psalm 65 and Psalm 67, we see how people entreat Him to bless the earth in this manner.
- All-encompassing kingdom (verse 8): clearly only God can do this. People have tried to do it since the world began, but no one has ever managed to rule over every nation and peoples on earth. Once again, prophetic, in view of God’s reign in the earth made new.
- Rescuer/Redeemer (verses 12-15): who else but the Messiah, Jesus Christ, can possibly do these things, unless this is untrue flattery meant for a human? Who else but God can save the needy from death? Who else but God can rescue anyone needy who calls to Him, and the poor who has no one to help? Can any one single human do this? The answer is no. God only can “reedem [...] lives”, and is the only one worthy of our blessings, for all good things come from Him. At the time of this psalm, this was prophetic, since it referred to a Messiah that was still to come. We as Christians now know this particular prophecy was fulfilled with the coming of Jesus.
While mixing certain human elements together with the Godly, this psalm can be safely interpreted to refer to the Messiah. Besides, at the time, the Israelites were confused about the nature of the Son of God, and expected that He would come in the form of an earthly king, who would literally rule over Israel, and help subjugate all other kingdoms under His rule. That helps explain the language of this psalm. This confusion was still prevalent when Jesus came. Most Jews scorned Him because of his lowly origins, since they fully expected Him to be a king. But what they overlooked is His direct descendence from David, both on His earthly mother’s and His earthly father’s side. That’s where Bible prophecy was fulfilled to a tee. The Bible never said He would be born as king, only that He would descend from Jesse and David’s line, and be a king. As the Son of God, He is the King of the Universe, and He does and will rule for ever. His rule will be made much more evident at the final judgment, when all doubt about His origin and nature will be removed, as the heavens part and He descends in full heavenly glory to receive all true believers unto Him.
November 9, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This psalm is a marked improvement on the prayer in psalm 70. It’s interesting to find pretty much the same phrases in verse 13 of this psalm as in verses 2 and 3 of psalm 70. Having encountered them in other psalms, I can venture to say they’re probably formulaic.
It appears that this psalm is the prayer of an old man who finds himself persecuted. Or, as the NJB footnotes suggest, there are certain references in the text, like in verse 18, that could suggest the subject of the psalm is the nation of Israel itself. If the latter is the case, I find the language hypocritical. The author of the psalm states that he’s been completely faithful since his birth (see verse 6), and the entire psalm is littered with such references to his steadfast faith, but we know that wasn’t the case with the nation of Israel. Verse 18 is also a sham. Although Israel was supposed to proclaim God to the nations around themselves, they did not. Rather, they were an example of unfaithfulness to God during most times in their history, jealously guarded their faith, did not spread the Word of God, and their rabbis put undue burdens (through ridiculous rules made up about everything) not only on the Israelites themselves, but also on those who wished to convert from other faiths. If you don’t believe me, read the Bible, from cover to cover. It’s full of evidence that points out the nature of the nation of Israel, in both the Old and the New Testament.
In order to avoid negative interpretations, this psalm is better looked at literally, as the prayer of an old man who believes he’s been faithful to God all his life (with no evidence to the contrary presented here). If we do that, this psalm becomes a bitter-sweet celebration of faith in spite of adversities. It becomes inspirational, Job-like. Personally, I think this is the more plausible interpretation, not the alternate one presented in the paragraph above. Here’s this man, who’s had a hard life but has stuck by God and trusted in Him for deliverance. Although God has allowed him to suffer, and his suffering caused surprise to others given the man’s faith, God has delivered him and brought him this far, so there’s no reason to think He won’t carry the man through this time as well.
Of course, we can’t help asking why this man suffers, but we don’t know and can’t speculate. God often allows things that don’t make sense to us. Perhaps we’re meant to be examples for others, like Job was. Also left to ponder is the possibility that “misery” and “hardship” mean different things to different people. Some have a higher tolerance for them, and yet others complain at the first sign of trouble. Since we don’t know the specific circumstances under which this psalm was written, it’s hard to comment on the relative nature of this man’s troubles. For all we know, they may have been big. Whatever the case may be, the fact that he chooses to praise God and what’s more, to thank Him for a deliverance that’s yet to come (see verse 23) makes this psalm all the more worthwhile to read and ponder. This is a right attitude with God, like the one Paul had while in prison, as I mentioned in Psalm 70. It’s important to do this, because it’s the right thing to do. We don’t know God’s plan for our lives. We don’t know why we find ourselves in trouble. But we do know that others are watching, and they’ll be watching more closely when we’re in trouble. If we don’t choose to praise God when it really matters, what’s the point of calling ourselves Christians?
November 7, 2006 § 1 Comment
This short psalm records a self-professed “poor and needy” man’s cry to God. From the looks of it, he appears to be in a serious situation, where others may demand his life. And yet others mock him for his “misfortunes”. It’s interesting how many of the psalms, including this one, demand retribution for the behavior of other people. Not only does the author of this psalm want deliverance from his situation, but he also wants those who went after him or made fun of him to pay for what they’ve done, in one way or another. About a third of the psalm is dedicated to this.
The counter argument is also presented, where the righteous are praised, and the righteous include the author of the psalm, of course: “But joy and happiness in you to all who seek you. Let them ceaselessly cry, ‘God is great’, who love your saving power.” The author, however, doesn’t cry this same cry, although he considers himself part of this group. Instead, he cries for help, and he wants it now: “… God, come quickly to me! … do not delay!” What he’s implying is, “God, I’ll praise you after you deliver me. Now hurry up and do it…”
This psalm underlines the difficulties we have when praying under duress or extraordinary circumstances. We assume we’re being persecuted, we assume we’re in the right, we associate ourselves with those who are in the right, we know we should be praising God but we don’t. Instead, we moan and groan, asking for immediate help out of our misery. And oh yes, we also find the time to wish for revenge, as if we haven’t got enough on our plates. It’s really tough for us to keep our backbone straight sometimes, isn’t it? If we’re right, shouldn’t we rejoice? God deserves better behavior than this! I’m reminded of the apostle Paul’s behavior while in prison, after being beaten and bound. He started singing and praising God. Did he complain? Did he moan and groan? He had no time for any of that. He was happy to praise God. And what happened? God delivered him out of prison. An earthquake shook the place. Angels entered the prison. His chains and bonds fell apart, as did those of the other prisoners. The prison keeper became a believer, as did his family. Although it’s a really tough act to emulate, that’s what we should be doing when in trouble. We should praise God! It’s easy to praise Him when we’re doing great and everything’s fine, but the only way to show Him that we really mean it is to do it while things aren’t going well.
November 6, 2006 § 2 Comments
The prayer of a down and out man is recorded in this psalm. It is a lament, where the author recounts the injustices done to him because of his steadfast belief in God, and asks God for divine rescue, as well as retribution against his enemies. The NJB calls this a Messianic psalm, but I disagree. There are Messianic references indeed, but this psalm falls short of qualifying as a prophetic, Messianic message.
A first reading of this psalm points out why it can’t be called Messianic. The following verses stand out:
- “God, you know how foolish I am, my offences are not hidden from you.” (verse 5)
- “I mortify myself with fasting, and find myself insulted for it, I dress myself in sackcloth and become their laughing-stock…” (verses 10-12)
- “Rescue me from the mire before I sink in; so I shall be saved from those who hate me, from the watery depths.” (verse 14)
- “May their own table prove a trap for them, and their abundance a snare; may their eyes grow so dim that they cannot see, all their muscles lose their strength. Vent your fury on them, let your burning anger overtake them… Charge them with crime after crime…” (verses 22-28)
Need I go on? The language here differs greatly from real Messianic psalms, where one can almost associate the voice of the author with the voice of God. A psalm prophesying about the Son of God would not talk in the words quoted above. No, that’s nothing more than human babble, incoherent to the ages, and disliked by God.
What verses can make people think this is a prophetic psalm? They’re listed below:
- “Those who hope in you must not be made fools of, Yahweh Sabaoth, because of me! Those who seek you must not be disgraced, God of Israel, because of me!” (verse 6)
- “To eat they gave me poison, to drink, vinegar when I was thirsty.” (verse 21)
Verse 6 could almost imply that the speaker is Messiah, because other people believe in him. It’s much more likely that he was in a public position, and other believers looked up to him as he was persecuted for trying to stay faithful to God, as the rest of the verses in this psalm show. Verse 21 could be called a clincher, except you can’t build your faith on one verse. The rest of the psalm is weighty evidence against this. Yes, the vinegar mentioned above is a pretty strong reference to Jesus’ experience on the cross, but given the rest of the psalm, it’s very likely, if not certain, that this was just a metaphor, a figure of speech that expressed the author’s lament. It has prophetic undertones, yes, but nothing more.
Now, as for the glimpses of divinity mentioned in the title of this post, they’re to be found in the following verses:
- “… Yahweh Sabaoth, because of me!” (verse 6)
- “I will praise God’s name in song, I will extol Him by thanksgiving, for this will please Yahweh more than an ox, than a bullock horned and hoofed.” (verses 30-31)
Given the overwhelming evidence present throughout the Bible that Saturday is the Sabbath, or God’s day or rest, I’m surprised that other Christians still insist on Sunday. By not obeying the Sabbath, they’re willfully disobeying God’s fourth commandment. Verse 6 in this psalm adds to the stack of evidence for the Sabbath, because it addresses God as Lord of the Sabbath, or Lord of Rest. If this was a common name for God during those times (and it was, because it’s mentioned in plenty of other places), what makes us think nowadays (given God’s unchanging, steadfast nature) that He has somehow changed His mind on this subject?
A verse like verse 31 isn’t often found in the Old Testament, so it’s worthwhile to mention. It’s not often that an Israelite would say that thanksgiving pleases God more than animal sacrifice, but it’s true. It was a lot easier during those times to bring an animal to the temple and be done with it. It was, and it still is a lot harder, to really thank God for what He is doing for us, and spend time with him in prayer, asking for forgiveness. Animal sacrifices were never meant to be a substitute for a real relationship with God. They were meant to be a constant lesson of the price of sin, but people tended to rely solely on them.
In much the same way, people rely on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross today as a substitute for a real relationship with God, and think that they can go on sinning because His divine sacrifice has saved them. When they sin, they say, “Jesus died for me, I’m forgiven.” Or, they say, “Jesus nailed the commandments to the cross, I don’t have to obey them anymore.” Is it really so? They’re sorely mistaken if they believe that. God’s Law is at the very core of our beliefs. The Bible was literally built upon them, they’re woven into the very fabric of its foundation. You find God’s Law everywhere, in every chapter of the Bible. What makes you think you have license to disobey it? Aren’t you presuming too much?
October 28, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This psalm showcases the amazing variety you’ll find in the Book of Psalms. Like no other book in the Bible, the Psalms are written by many different authors, and when we examine them, we get to hear these different voices, and see the way they prayed to God. Sure, we may not agree with their prayers all the time, but those psalms make for interesting reads at least.
This particular one is so full of arcane references, that anyone would have a hard time understanding it without footnotes. Thankfully my NJB provides ample footnotes, so I was able to make a little sense of it.
To begin with, this is clearly a prayer or a song of thanksgiving. It’s praising God for delivering Israel from its enemies for empowering their nation to defeat them as well. The starting verses declare God’s power in astonishing words, one would even say eschatological: “You disperse them like smoke; as wax melts in the presence of a fire, so the wicked melt at the presence of God.” Verses 3 and 4 continue this end times picture.
Verses 5 through 10 recount the coming of Israel to the promised land, and the scattering of the pagan nations to make way for them. Verses 11 through 18 are not comprehensible to me. Perhaps their context was lost, but I don’t think that they’re that important. They probably recount specific events, that might come to life for me if I’d be privy to more historic details about Israel. Verse 19 begins a third section of the psalm, which continues to the end, and is full of praises for God, dropping hints of specific events or people here and there.
Verses 21 through 23 are particularly violent, and perhaps they’re a reflection of the times, or just of the author’s tastes: “God smashes the head of His enemies, the long-haired skull of the prowling criminal… so that you may bathe your feet in blood, and the tongues of your dogs feast on your enemies.” This is disgusting, there’s no other way to put it. This verse, like some in the Psalms, is out of step with the rest of the Bible. God does not engage in despicable acts like these. People do. Anywhere where we see God acting directly on people to punish them, He acts swiftly and decisively. There are no violent beatings, no blood baths. Think of Sodoma and Gomorra. God rained fire on them from heaven. Think of the end times, and the final battle between God and the devil plus his minions and wicked people. God will rain fire from heaven and consume all of them utterly. God doesn’t revel in violence. It pains Him to destroy the very beings He created and loved, but there are times when He deems it necessary. So these verses, again, are simply not representative of God’s character and behavior.
Verse 34 is food for thought: “Over Israel His splendour, in the clouds His power. Awesome is God in the sanctuary.” It must have been truly amazing to have God’s presence so close to them during those times. Can you imagine, being that near to God? Having His cloud, shrouding His glory and Holy Spirit, traveling before you and guiding you through the desert? Or knowing that His presence, the One Living God, filled the temple? That you could truly converse with Him, the Creator, in close physical proximity? Wow, how amazing that must have been!
Verse 35 is a fitting ending for a psalm: “He, the God of Israel, gives strength and power to His people. Blessed be God.” Amen!
October 13, 2006 § 1 Comment
This psalm is rightly called a “harvest song”. It is a prayer of thanks, that once again calls our attention to the complete dependence of Israel’s agrarian society and economy upon God. More on this in my comments on Psalm 65. But here, in Psalm 67, we see the results of those pre-harvest prayers: “The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God has blessed us.”
I have to be a little cynical, I can’t help it. The message of the psalm is, paraphrased: crop target achieved and exceeed, God has blessed us. I wonder what would have happened if the crop had been sub-standard that year. Would this psalm still have been written? Or would we have seen yet another whiny psalm about how downtrodden the people are, and how God has forsaken them?
Thankfully, the crop was good, and the people were happy. They wanted to praise God. I would even go so far as to say they were a little over-flattering: “…You judge the world with justice, You judge the peoples with fairness…” What does this have to do with crops? So the crop was good, that means God was fair? Hey, let’s get overexcited, and heap praises onto God just because we’re happy… What if the crop was bad? Then God is bad? Sounds crude, but it’s true. That’s how people react, it’s human nature. I’m not saying it’s right at all, but that’s how we are if we don’t keep ourselves in check.
The basic purpose of the Jewish nation of that time (and the purpose of God’s people in this time) is also brought out in this psalm, albeit unwittingly, in verses 2 and 7: “Then the earth will acknowledge Your ways, and all nations Your power to save” and “May God continue to bless us, and be revered by the whole wide world.” That was the mission of the Israelites, wasn’t it? They needed to be a lamp to the darkness around them, and to spread God’s Word and Commandments to the nations. They were to be an effective witness, and help bring others to God.
History gives a bleak account of the success of that witness, but the burden is on us to spread God’s light nowadays. Might I add, history has so far given an even bleaker account of Christianity’s witness to the rest of the world. I’m tempted to put Christianity in quotes, because the witness of the Catholic church during the Dark Ages, with its repression of God’s Word, and the torture and killing of others in the name of Christ, is anything but an effective witness of God’s grace, forgiveness, kindness and salvation.
We’ve also been doing poorly in recent times, haven’t we? In large part, many Christian denominations are misguided in their doctrine. They accept only parts of the Bible, and reject others. In some denominations, pagan elements (whether old or new) have crept in, and are corrupting God’s message. We’re in a sorry state overall, and need to get back to the basics, to God’s Word, the Holy Bible, the entire Bible, in order to get ourselves aright.
October 6, 2006 § Leave a Comment
To me, this psalm is a clear-cut demonstration of the way Israelites worshipped God. To others, it’s a resurrection psalm, and I disagree. Let me go through the arguments and show you each side. Then you’ll be able to decide for yourselves.
When we look at the plot of the psalm, it goes like this: A Jewish leader praises God for what looks like deliverance from captivity. Furthermore, he looks at this deliverance as God’s answer to his prayers. He now glorifies God, “who has not turned away my prayer,” and fulfills his vows, “that I pronounced when I was in trouble”, by sacrificing burnt offerings: “I bring burnt offerings to your house, I fulfil to you my vows…”
Those of you who’ve been following my commentaries on the Psalms know that I’m inclined to find parallels to end-time prophecies and eschatological references (when they’re there). That’s why I’m suprised I find none in this psalm, while others do. The footnotes in my Bible (NJB), refer to verse 9 as the reason this psalm is called a “Resurrection Psalm”. Plus, verses 10 through 12 could be interpreted as eschatological, and I suppose that’s what some people do, but to me, that’s too much of a stretch.
Why is it a stretch? Simply because the overall message of this psalm is too old-style. The writer talks about making sacrifices to God, and names them specifically: “burning rams”, “bullocks and goats”. Animal sacrifices were done away with when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made Himself the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The tone is also that of a leader speaking to his subjects, not that of a newly resurrected Christian, expressing praise to God. What also tips me off to the nature of this psalm is the author’s understanding of prayer, which is, once again, old-style: “To him I cried aloud, high praise was on my tongue. Had I been aware of guilt in my heart, the Lord would not have listened, but in fact God did listen, attentive to the sound of my prayer.” To me, this looks like the prayer of a Pharisee. We don’t pray like this nowadays. We don’t cry out loud, with high praise on our tongues. Our prayer is private, quiet. We pray on our knees, we are humble, and we are submitting ourselves to God. While we do praise Him, we don’t bring attention to that element of our prayer, as if God expects our praise. He’s not an earthly ruler whose ego must be stoked. He’s God, the creator and ruler of the universe. Any praise we give Him should flow naturally from our hearts, from the love we bear Him and His laws.
Furthermore, I doubt verse 9 refers to a resurrection. It’s much more likely that this is a metaphor, expressing the joy of the Israelites at being out of captivity, and when you look at it like that, verses 10 through 12 make much more sense, because they clarify how God worked to free them and bring them back to their own country. Do you see now why this isn’t a resurrection psalm?
This psalm offers a wonderful glimpse into the way people used to worship God. Even though the way they did it is not the way we do it any more, it’s still an insightful composition, one that teaches us a lot about God’s deliverance, and persistence in prayer. I hope you enjoyed reading it with me.