Following the first half of Psalm 37, is the obvious promise of preservation of God’s people. Also repeated, it says that the wicked will be cut off (in other words, NOT preserved). Their path leads to destruction.
After commanding that the righteous trust the Lord no matter what happens or how prosperous the wicked are NOW, the second half repeatedly assures the righteous that (and here’s the point of contact for us):
23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; 24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand. – Psalm 37:23-24
There are pitfalls in the path but the Lord holds your hand. If the Lord holds your hand then you will not fall in the pit. This psalm doesn’t answer the questions: why the pitfalls? If you, Lord, have established my steps then why are there holes in the path?
What it does say is that no matter what befalls you, He will not forsake you but he is gracious to you. “They are preserved forever” (28).
It also warns that the wicked will pass away and be no more. Though… “I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree. But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found.” – Psalm 37:35-36
This tree has the appearance of luxurious prosperity but its end is eternally fatal. But that is not so for one who walks with the Lord.
39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. 40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. – Psalm 37:39-40
In Psalm 31, David has taken refuge in Yahweh. He asked the Lord that he never be ashamed of his need to take refuge in Him. David cannot deliver himself, rescue himself, he isn’t strong, and he needs to be led and guided. Those are things the world is unwilling to admit.
Yet, even though David takes refuge in Yahweh, his enemies are allowed to set a net secretly for David AND catch him! Indeed, was the Lord not leading him? But David’s certainty is that Yahweh will pull him out of the net!
As the Psalm continues, though David takes refuge IN the Lord he is IN distress and pleads for grace. People flee from him in the street because his enemies have made him a reproach. He is slandered and forgotten. Terror is on every side!
Do not believe for one second that those who trust in the Lord are excluded from affliction and troubles of the soul. It’s a lie!
Yet, it is temporary! In your alarm you may feel, think and say, “I am cut off from before the Lord” but dear godly ones, He has heard your voice and cries.
Hear how the Psalm ends:
Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart *take courage, all you who *wait for the LORD! – Psalm 31:23-24
Psalm 30 begins with David saying he will lift (extol) the Name of the Lord because Yahweh had lifted him up. So, the rest of the Psalm is the extolling of Yahweh.
It’s first personal (singular “I”) then moves to corporate commands to join him in praising Yahweh. Then it moves back to personal with David extolling the Name!
I think we should follow this pattern. We might often say let’s live our lives for God’s glory but never flesh that out. How do we live for his glory? It must move past the obvious fact of the matter to actually doing something.
While David extolled the Name of the Lord in this Psalm, he greatly encouraged me…brought me into his own story and praise. Can you not relate when he says, “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” – Psalm 30:5
Why is this so encouraging? Because for people like us, His anger should be more than a moment. Ponder that word and image! His anger is only for a moment!
Now, hear the contrast…His grace for a lifetime! Compare the duration of a moment and a lifetime! Yeah! That’s marvelous! One day the darkness will give way to eternal light! Dear saints of the Lord, joy comes with the morning…mornings that are full of new mercies! And Yahweh will turn our *mourning into dancing!
I read Psalm 27, this morning. Commenting on verses 7-12, Kidner writes, “David gets back to the ‘one thing’ he has set his heart on (4a), and holds on to the fact that the first move, after all, has come from God. *He will not ask for our love (8a) and then withhold his own (9a).”
This *statement jolted me! I’m not sure entirely why. It’s so simple. I guess it reveals in me how I view myself as unloveable. I too easily forget that His heart isn’t fickle like mine. Indeed, He has steadfast love! He is the Initiator!
When you fear, what is the one thing you want?
You can’t fight darkness (evil) with darkness. It must be with light (God! and truth). Just remember what is true of your enemies, “they have stumbled and fell” (past tense!)
2 O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. 3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame – Psalm 25:2-3
We need various images of what trusting the Lord looks like. In this psalm, trusting is waiting. David’s issue is that his enemies are making his trust in the Lord look shameful. Yet, the Lord does not answer but for reasons unknown to David, God delays. Nevertheless, David trusts/waits. He is certain that in the end his trust/waiting will not bring shame upon himself or the Lord in whom he trusts.
Do you trust the Lord? If trust is defined in terms of waiting are you waiting on the Lord?
Kidner defines waiting: “to wait is to accept his time and therefore his wisdom.”
From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who *wait for him. – Isaiah 64:4
Kidner on Psalm 6: “The psalm gives words to those who scarcely have the heart to pray, and brings them within sight of victory.”
1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. 2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. 3 My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD-how long? 4 Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. 5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? 6 I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. 7 My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. 8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. 9 The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment. – Psalms 6
The picture idea came from Derek Kidner’s title for Psalm 5: Clouded Dawn. It brings together that David is praying in the morning because his foes are against him (clouded). I would wholeheartedly urge you to get Kidner’s commentaries on the Psalms. They are brief but rich!
I am focusing on growing in prayer in 2021. So, my eyes and ears are attentive to the mention of prayer these days. Psalm 5 explicitly makes mention of prayer though all the psalms are prayers themselves. Anyway, I perked up when I read this amazing song this morning. My thoughts are few but do go read Kidner.
My own title of this post reflects what I noticed about the occasion of prayer. If we do not have any foes then we may be standing in the way of sinners instead delighting in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1). In this psalm, David’s enemies have voiced their demands and ways which are contrary to God’s. David knows this as easy as knowing that one should not lie or murder or steal. Whatever it is, it’s that obvious.
The psalm literally begins with “My words hear.” This is a bold but necessary demand to Yahweh (and yes, David uses God’s personal name in the text). This demand comes from what is rumbling in his soul–(Ps. 5:1) “consider my inmost thoughts” which are not words but troubled thoughts and uneasy feelings. These groanings burst forth into words, though. We must assume that God’s truth, which David knows, is in contrast with his foes’ demands and that has caused these sighings.
Prayer is fueled by knowing good from evil. What has come from the mouth of David’s opponents is evil much like that of the serpent in the Garden. The serpent is still speaking and deceiving through such people. Eve should have used her words to call for God instead of toying with the enemy. She allowed his words to enter her ears and she looked at what the serpent suggested with her eyes which led to her touching the fruit with her hand and finally tasting with her mouth. The senses should be on guard because they are avenues to our mind and heart.
The same has happened here. David’s senses have taken in the evil of these sinners but instead of joining them he calls upon his King and God! I love the next line–Psalm 5:4 “ADONAI, in the morning you will hear my voice; in the morning I lay my needs before you and wait expectantly.” Ask and watch! Wow. That’s what faith looks like.
David banks on the character of God. The enemies propagate evil and David knows God hates evil. This is quite simple to remember and make use of. God hates wickedness…when you see or hear evil…pray to the Lord against it for God takes no pleasure in it. Kidner points out a striking image of how evil has no place with God–(Ps. 5:4) “no sinner (evil) can be your guest.”
In addition to this, David’s prayer in not banking on his own righteousness and perfect character but fully on the chesed of the Lord–(Ps. 5:7) “But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house.” He seeks God’s guidance in righteous because of his enemies. David longs for the righteous ways of God to be known and prevail in this situation and beyond.
Walking in God’s ways lead to life. Walking in the ways of evil lead to the grave. As the image is supposed to do, the mouth of the wicked is an open grave “waiting for its occupant.” I doubt that anyone has marked off this open grave with caution tape. It is for us to be aware of these pitfalls by knowing the truth.
And finally, though this psalm began in the singular, it ends with plural. This prayer isn’t simply for David’s rescue and most certainly not for David’s praise. But, it is for all to take refuge in the Lord and for the praise of His great Name! Why? (Ps. 5:12) “It is you who bless the upright, Yahweh, you surround them with favour as with a shield.” Because He blesses what is right and good with His favor to protect us like a shield!
First, know good from evil
When your soul groans because of evil and enemies, beseech the Lord
Then watch expectantly
Trust the character of God…”evil is vulnerable to the truth.”
Join those who by God’s lovingkindness can enter His presence with exuberant praise!
A brief reflection on the parable of the ten virgins: This story follow the instructions of ch. 24 which tell us not to be misled, learn the parable of the fig tree (know when he is near), and be on alert because you don’t know the exact hour he will come though you will know he is near. This parable teaches us what it looks like to be on alert. You might think it’s a bit unfair. All ten had kept themselves pure as they awaited the bridegroom. Yet five were foolish; five were not alert. Purity without prudence is loveless. To know the right thing to do and not do it is foolish. Why be pure at all then…and they most certainly should have. Love is what causes the five to do all they can to be ready to meet the bridegroom. The delaying of the bridegroom reveals those who really long for him. And why would they (we) not love the One who made us pure? Why would we not anticipate his coming and long to go home unless we love this world and the things in it? How are you doing? Are you eager for for him? Do you have single devotion for him? Even if you reframe from any particular outward acts that would say you love the world but your heart lusts for them then you have committed spiritual adultery. What does the evidence of you life say? I hope you love Jesus! This Christmas, I hope your anticipation and love for him is renewed! Wherever you find yourself—lacking or longing—Jesus has mercy and grace for us. I honestly feel distracted and lacking. May the Lord renew my heart because I can’t do this without him.
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:4
We are more dependent than we often know. And Jesus insisted that these independent-thinking, great disciples humble themselves in order to be great! That’s a hard move. They carry a lot of baggage from years of independence. It’s a miracle that any of us humble ourselves. Amazing grace!
And isn’t it very compelling for believing that God truly exists in that he loves and cares for children, that he warns those who would cause them to stumble, that it is his nature to go after straying sheep by way of other sheep (and the gathered sheep) in church discipline, and that he demands forgiveness.
Chapter 18 in Matthew is nearly a complete picture of what the Christian life looks like!
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. – Psalms 23