Learning from Psalms 1-15
1:1-6 - As well as journeying through the Old and New Testaments, we will read a Psalm at fairly regular intervals. The first Psalm contrasts two ways - the way of the Word and the way of the world, the way of blessing and the way of judgment. Encouraging us to build upon the solid foundation of God’s Word, the opening Psalm sets the tone for what is to follow. To whet your appetite for the Psalms, here are some early lessons: stability in the Lord (1:1-2); service for the Lord (2:11); salvation of the Lord (3:8); sanctification from the Lord (4:4-5); singing to the Lord (8:4); strength in the Lord (9:9). These are some of the blessings promised to those who ‘delight in the law of the Lord’ (1-2). With a God like this - full of so much blessing for us - what else can we do but rejoice in Him?
2:1-12 - In this Psalm, we read of a conflict. On the one side, there is ‘the Lord and His Anointed’ (2). On the other there are those who ‘conspire and ...plot’ (1). The conspiracies and plots of men will come to nothing. The saving purpose of God will be fulfilled. This purpose will be accomplished in Christ, the One to whom God says, ‘You are My Son’ (7), the One to whom God says, ‘I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession’ (8). God calls us to worship Christ - ‘Kiss the Son’ (12). This call to worship Christ is accompanied by a warning against judgment and a promise of salvation. As sinners, we are under God’s judgment. Trusting in Christ, we are saved (12; John 3:36). We are to take delight in Christ. This is the thought conveyed by the phrase, ‘Kiss the Son’. We delight in God’s Son, and we delight in God’s Word which leads us to Him.
3:1-6 - This Psalm begins with the human situation - ‘O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him”’' (1-2). It ends with the divine provision - ‘From the Lord comes deliverance’ (8). How does the Psalmist rise above his deeply distressing circumstances? He takes his problem to the Lord. The Psalm’s opening words, ‘O Lord’, indicate the way toward its triumphant conclusion. Why is the Psalmist not overwhelmed by depression? - He is looking to the Lord. This is not a case of ‘positive thinking’ on the part of David. This is deliverance from the Lord. There is no simple ‘psychological’ explanation for David’s change of mood. He is delivered by the Lord. He is raised from his depressive mood by the Lord, ‘my Glorious One, who lifts up my head’ ( 3). What He’s done for others, He can do for you!
4:1-8 - There is a great message of the Gospel here. By ourselves, we are sinners, turning God’s glory to shame, loving delusions and seeking false gods (2). By grace, God has done something about this - ‘the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself’ (3). When we pray, ‘Answer me’ (1), we have this confidence: ‘the Lord will hear when I call to Him’ (3). The Lord hears the sinner’s prayer, ‘Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer’ (1). Jesus Christ is God’s Answer to this prayer. Christ brings relief (salvation). This salvation arises from the mercy of God. In Chriat, we have a ‘joy’ and ‘peace’ which the world can neither give nor take away (7-8). When the seeking sinner comes with question, ‘Who can show us any good?’ (6), the Gospel Answer is always the same - Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
5:1-12- This is a morning prayer: ‘morning by morning’, we are to come before the Lord ‘in expectation’of His blessing (3). The Psalmist prays with great earnestness. His prayer is a ‘sighing’ before God, a ‘cry for help’(1-2). He acknowledges the holiness of God: ‘You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil, with you the wicked cannot dwell’(4). The words of verse 9 apply to every one of us. Paul quotes this verse in support of the conclusion that ‘allhave sinned and fall short of the glory of God’(Romans 3:13, 23). There is, however, a way of coming to God. It is ‘by His mercy’(7). Each of us has been declared guilty by God (10; Romans 3:19-20). For the fallen, God has provided a way of forgiveness. For the guilty, He has provided a way to gladness (11; Luke 2:10-11). ‘Hallelujah! What a Saviour!’(Church Hymnary, 380).
6:1-10- What a pitiful picture: 'languishing ...troubled ...sorely troubled ...moaning ...tears ...weeping ...grief ...weak' (1-7). Transformation - Overwhelmed by evil becomes overcoming evil. ‘O Lord - how long?’becomes ‘The Lord hasheard the sound of my weeping. The Lord hasheard my supplication' (3, 8-9). We look at our circumstances. We ask, ‘How long must this continue?’. We look at Christ’s Cross. We say, ‘He haswon the victory’. His victory becomes ours, as we say, in faith, ‘the Lord accepts my prayer’(9). We look beyond our present circumstances to Christ’s Second Coming. When He returns, the tables will be turned. In a moment, there will be complete shame for His enemies (10; 1 Corinthians 15:25) and complete salvation for ‘those who are eagerly waiting for Him’(1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Hebrews 9:28).
7:1-17- Scripture speaks to us of both judgment and salvation (6,10; Hebrews 9:27-28). The Gospel brings salvation, - ‘God sent the Son... that the world might be saved...’. There is also a warning - ‘he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God’(John 3:17-18). The Lord does not wish ‘that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’. Nevertheless, there will be ‘the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men’(2 Peter 3:9,7). What is happening here on earth? - ‘the wicked man...makes a pit...and falls into the hole which he has made’(14-15). What does God say about this? - ‘If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword...’(12), ‘God... commands all men everywhere to repent’(Acts 17:30). God calls for ‘repentance’and ‘faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’- ‘Repent and believe the Gospel’(Acts 20:21; Mark 1:15).
8:1-9- The Lord is ‘majestic’(1,9). He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. He show us His greatness, the greatness of His love. We feel forgotten. He remembers us. We feel unloved. He cares for us (4). We are tempted. He will ‘still the enemy’(2). We look beyond our creation (5-8) to our salvation - ‘we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone...that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil’(Hebrews 2:8-9,14). This is ‘Majesty’- ‘Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings’. The Name of the Lord is majestic ‘in all the earth’(1, 9). To God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - we pray, ‘Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise. 454,142).
9:1-20- ‘I will give thanks to the Lord...’(1-2). The enemy is defeated (3-6). ‘The Lord sits enthroned for ever’(7). ‘The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble’(9). What an encouraging Psalm this is: We have the victory in Christ. Nevertheless, it is not easy when we face determined opposition from the enemies of Christ and His Gospel: ‘Behold what I suffer from those that hate me’(13). In this situation, we must call upon the Lord: ‘Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail’(19). Though the conflict is raging all around, we must - taking our stand in Christ - declare God’s praises and rejoice in His salvation (14). ‘The Lord dwells in Zion’(11): ‘Blest inhabitants of Zion, Washed in the Redeemer’s blood’, may we always say, ‘Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy Name’(Church Hymnary,421).
10:1-18- Wickedness seems to be so prevalent. Many ‘renounce the Lord’, saying ‘There is no God’(3-4). It seems that the wicked ‘prosper at all times’, while the innocent victims of oppression feel that ‘God has forgotten’ (5-11). When it appears that God ‘has hidden His face’, when we feel that He has forgotten us, we must remember this: ‘The Lord is King for ever and ever’(11,16). Do not judge by appearances. Do not trust your feelings. Everything changes. Nothing remains the same. Everything changes - except God. He is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable in His faithful love for us. We rejoice in this: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’(Hebrews 13:5). Whatever circumstances and feelings may suggest, never forget this: ‘He loved us from the first of time, He loves us to the last’(Church Hymnary, 293).
11:1-13:6- 'The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven': We 'take refuge' in Him (11:4,1). We are to seek His face, confident that 'when He appears...we shall see Him as He is' (11:7; 27:8; 1 John 3:2). Seeking God's face, we learn to rest in His promises, we are protected, we are kept (12:6-7). We may face difficult circumstances (13:1-4). We can still trust in the Lord's 'steadfast love'. We can still 'rejoice' in His 'salvation'. We can still say with the Psalmist, 'I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me' - 'God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (13:5-6; 2 Corinthians 9:8).
14:1-15:5- Life can be testing and trying. In all of this, God makes Himself real to us. This is our assurance of faith: ‘The Lord restores the fortunes of His people’. He makes us ‘glad’- In Him, we ‘rejoice’(7). God Himself is the Sure Foundation for our lives: Build on Him, and you ‘shall never be moved’(15:5). We long for God’s blessing, ‘O that salvation...would come...’(7). He will not disappoint us. Do not be ‘the fool’ who ‘says in his heart, “There is no God”’(14:1). ‘Fear the Lord’- ‘and give Him glory’(15:4; Revelation 14:7). We are to ‘act wisely’- ‘seeking after God’, ‘calling upon the Lord’(14:2,4). Do you want to ‘dwell on God’s holy hill’(15:1)? - ‘There is a way for man to rise to that sublime abode...’(Church Hymnary, 357): Christ is the Way to God and Heaven (John 14:2-6).