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Measure for Measure

C. Jason Walker
Savoring the Psalter  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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It takes faith to trust God and look ahead to the future destruction of the wicked. But true faith wins that victory.

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“The first quality for a commander-in-chief is a cool head to receive a correct impression of things,” said Napoleon I. “He should not allow himself to be confused by either good or bad news.” [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Worshipful, 1st ed., “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries, 2004), 215.]
The title is simple. The Psalm is for the Chief Musician, the Master of Song, and it is a Psalm of David. The Chief Musician carried a heavy responsibility, but it was a great privilege to be the Leader of the songs and Director of the worship of the people of God. The picture portrayed in this Psalm is a familiar one in the Psalter, and is found in so many of the Psalms of David. The opening words call it a "complaint", but the Psalmist's difficult circumstances are lightened, as they usually are, by the knowledge that God will judge his enemies, to the eventual joy of the righteous. These dual themes, the wicked machinations of evil men and the certainty of divine judgment, are, respectively, the subjects of the two parts of the Psalm. [J. M. Flanigan, What the Bible Teaches: Psalms, What the Bible Teaches Commentary Series (John Ritchie LTD Christian Publications, 2001), 274.]
Main Thought: The evil may win, but God will judge them [J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, electronic ed., vol. 2 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 781.]
Sub-intro: Note -
The BKC outlined this Psalm accordingly: A. The Prayer for Protection (vv. 1-2); B. The Problem of Malicious Schemes (vv. 3-6); C. The Prophecy of Divine Judgment (vv. 7-10).
John Phillips outlined it as: 1. David’s Detractors (vv. 1-6); 2. David’s Defender (vv. 7-10).
F. B. Meyer outlined as: Prayer for Preservation (vv. 1-6); Assurance of Divine Vindication (vv. 7-10).
Scroggie divides as: Complaint (vv. 1-6); and Consolation (vv. 7-10).
Flanigan as: The Malice and Mischief of the Wicked (vv. 1-6); The Righteous Judgment of God (vv. 7-10).
Wiersbe as: Seek the Lord’s Protection (vv. 1-2); Ask for the Lord’s Wisdom (vv. 3-6); Trust the Lord for Victory (vv. 7-8); Give Glory to the Lord (vv. 9-10).
Wilmington as: I. Protect Me! (vv. 1-6); II. Punish Them! (vv. 7-8); III. Praise God! (vv. 9-10).
Constable as: 1. A Plea for Protection (vv. 1-2); 2. The Ploys of Persecutors (vv. 3-6); 3. A Prediction of Punishment (vv. 7-10).
Steveson as: 1. The Cry of David (vv. 1-6); The Confidence of David (vv. 7-10).
This psalm also has a historical background in the life of David, although we can’t locate it exactly. Prophetically, it looks yonder in the future to the day when Israel will be in Great Tribulation and the godly remnant will use this psalm. Someone might say, “My, there certainly are a lot of psalms for the Day of Jacob’s Trouble.” Yes, there are, and the people are going to need every one of them. Also, this is a very fine psalm for you and me. ...As I look at the world today, I have come to the conclusion that our hope is no longer in statesmen or politicians; our hope is no longer in science or education—they are all more or less failures. We are going to have to do what David did and what Israel will do in the future—start looking up. God is our only hope today. [McGee, 781.]
Measure for measure | While Psalm 63 was focused on God, with the enemy on the edges of the picture, here the composition is reversed, although the outcome is the same. In fact the brevity of God’s counter-measures, after the elaborate scheming of the wicked, tells its own decisive tale. [Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 245.]

The Wounded Heart -

A. Wicked Plots (Psalm 64:5-6).

1. Encouraging Evil (Ps. 64:5).

Psalm 64:5 KJV 1900
They encourage themselves in an evil matter: They commune of laying snares privily; They say, Who shall see them?
Dark Communion...

2. Investigating Iniquities (Ps. 64:6).

Psalm 64:6 KJV 1900
They search out iniquities; They accomplish a diligent search: Both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep.
Deep Corruption...
These foes of David plan their wickedness. They “encourage themselves in” (or “strengthen for themselves”) the evil they plot. They secretly devise the trap that they lay for him. This “evil matter” refers to the false accusations of vv. 3–4. They plot to lay “snares” (môqešîm, see 18:5) for David. Because of their secrecy, they are confident that no one will catch them. They “encourage themselves” (ḥazaq, see 27:14) in their wickedness, v. 5. They “search out [ḥapaś, or ‘devise’] iniquities [ʿawlâ, see 7:3],” their wicked plans. They carry out a “diligent [ḥapaś] search [ḥepeś].” The word ḥapaś refers to searching or planning. The threefold repetition in the verse emphasizes the plotting against the king. These thoughts are “deep” (or “unsearchable”), v. 6. [Peter A. Steveson, Psalms (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2007), 242.]

B. Sudden Sniping (Psalm 64:4, 7).

1. The Wicked Shoot Suddenly (Ps. 64:4).

Psalm 64:4 KJV 1900
That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: Suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not.
No Fear...
By this point in the Psalter we have read lament after lament, and one more lament seems wearying to the soul. But life is just like that at times. One difficulty follows on the heels of another. Another trouble arises as soon as one abates. Just when order is emerging, chaos caves in on you. The Psalter brings the realities of life to expression. [Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 216.]

The Watching Heart -

2. God Shoots the Wicked Suddenly (Ps. 64:7).

Psalm 64:7 KJV 1900
But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; Suddenly shall they be wounded.
God Hits His Mark EVERY Time...
A greater archer than they are will take sure aim at their hearts. [C. H. Spurgeon, Psalms, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 260.]
The key word in Psalm 64 is suddenly, meaning “unexpectedly” or “without warning.” It is used in the two main sections of the psalm: first, of the unexpected attacks of the wicked on the righteous (“they shoot at him suddenly, without fear,” v. 4) and, second, of the unexpected judgment of the wicked (“But God will shoot them with arrows; suddenly they will be struck down,” v. 7). The parallel image, shooting with arrows, helps to enhance the contrast. Together the two shootings strike a note of poetic justice, which carries throughout the psalm. The wicked are done in by their own weapons. [James Montgomery Boice, Psalms 42–106: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 523–524.]

C. Confounded Tongues (Psalm 64:3, 8).

1. The Wicked Whet Their Tongue (Ps. 64:3).

Psalm 64:3 KJV 1900
Who whet their tongue like a sword, And bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words:
Sticks & Stones...
We have all heard that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” And if we have stopped to think about that rhyme, we have realized just how false it is. We have all experienced the destructive power of words. We know how long it takes for the soul to mend when it has been pierced by lies, gossip, and slander. We know the dread felt when others are devising “the perfect plan” against us. Our all-knowing God knows what is going on before we pray, yet he invites us to describe to him the nature of the distress we are experiencing. He desires our honest communication in prayer. And through this communion we experience deliverance. [Futato, 216.]

2. The Tongue of the Wicked Confounds Them (Ps. 64:8).

Psalm 64:8 KJV 1900
So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: All that see them shall flee away.
And now another word about the tongue. Gay says,
"I hate the man who builds his name
On ruins of another's fame."
And Juvenal,
"There's a lust in man no charm can tame
Of loudly publishing our neighbour's shame;
On eagles' wings immortal scandals fly.
While virtuous actions are but born to die."
And Jerrold, "If slander be a snake, it is a winged one, it flies as well as creeps." And Pollok, "slander, the foulest whelp of sin." And Shakespeare, "Be as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny."
And Cowper,
"Assail'd by scandal and the tongue of strife,
His only answer was a blameless life."
It is infinitely better that we be slandered than that we be slanderers, that we be evil-sufferers than evildoers.
Thought: He is a great soldier who has conquered his tongue
[W. Graham Scroggie, The Guide to the Psalms, A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms, vol. 2, The Scroggie Studies of the Psalms and the Gospels Library (Kregel Publications, 2014), 79.]
Law of the Boomerang...
1 Thessalonians 5:3 KJV 1900
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
Illustration - The Story of Esther, Mordecai & Haman...

The Worshipping Heart -

D. Prayers & Praises (Psalm 64:1-2, 9-10).

1. Prayer for Deliverance from Fear of the Enemy (Ps. 64:1-2).

a. Thesis: God Hears Prayer; Synthesis: God Protects His People (v. 1).

Psalm 64:1 KJV 1900
Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
David asked God to protect him from such dread rather than from the enemies themselves. [Futato, 215.]

b. Beware the Counsels of Men and the Insurrections of the Workers of Iniquity (v. 2).

Psalm 64:2 KJV 1900
Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; From the insurrection of the workers of iniquity:
Like David we at times struggle not only with opposition from without but also with problems from within. As in other psalms, David here prayed for protection from his enemies who were plotting against him and scheming to do evil. But in addition to this external threat, David struggled within himself. The inner quietness that characterized him in Psalm 62 is not found in this opening strophe. David was plagued by a sense of dread. He dreaded what others might do to him. We too, at times, are engaged in an external battle and a war within. David freely brought both to God in prayer. Acknowledging both, he sought relief from both. [Futato, 216.]

2. All Righteous Men Fear and Praise God (Ps. 64:9-10).

a. Thesis: Reverence God; Synthesis: See Him Work, and Tell of His Doings (i.e. give Him glory) (v. 9).

Psalm 64:9 KJV 1900
And all men shall fear, And shall declare the work of God; For they shall wisely consider of his doing.

b. Gladly Trust & Boast in God If You Walk Uprightly in Him (v. 10).

Psalm 64:10 KJV 1900
The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in him; And all the upright in heart shall glory.


The last two and a half verses of the psalm sketch three lessons to be drawn.
First, the wicked will be exposed, so that those who are watching from the sidelines will “shake their heads in scorn” (v. 8).
Second, people will be directed to “fear” God and “ponder what he has done” (v. 9). This tends to happen when some particularly wicked person or nation is brought down.
Third, the righteous will “rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him” (v. 10).
In Psalm 64 the judgment of these evil people is still in the future, but God’s people are told to rejoice even now, because the eventual, sudden judgment of the wicked is so certain.
It takes faith to trust God and look ahead to the future destruction of the wicked. But true faith wins that victory. [Boice, 528.]
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