Whom Did They Hate without Cause?

Today’s reading is Psalm 35.

Without cause, they hid a net to trap the psalmist. Without cause, they dug a pit for the psalmist to fall in. Why? Because without cause, they hated the psalmist. But who is it they really hate without cause?

John 15:25 explains they really hate Jesus without cause. Once again, while this psalm is about David, it is ultimately about Jesus.

Did you notice the connection to Psalm 22, a psalm everyone agrees is about Jesus because He quotes it on the cross? In Psalm 22:21-22, the big shift in the psalm happens. The speaker is saved from the mouth of the lion. Then He will praise God in the midst of the congregation. In Psalm 35:17, He asks to be rescued from the lions. In vs. 18, He promises to thank God in the congregation.

Psalm 35 is not a foretelling of the Messiah, of Jesus. However, when Jesus is falsely accused and the enemies put Him on trial, threatening His life, we say, “Hmmmm…that sounds kind of like a guy who would pray, ‘Contend for those who contend with me.'” When we hear about Jesus facing traps, false accusers, malicious witnesses, folks who rejoice at His death, we say, “I think I’ve read about something like this before.” When we hear about people testifying to the things they saw from Jesus, but they are lies, we think about those who cry, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!” And, of course, did you read what I shared with your kids yesterday? When we hear specifically about a Jesus whose bones were unbroken, we can’t help but come back to this psalm and the previous to read of one whose bones are unbroken (Psalm 34:20) and those same bones rejoice (Psalm 35:9-10). When we witness Jesus praying three times in Gethsemane, we are reminded of the triple prayer of request for deliverance in Psalm 35.

As with other psalms, the point is not so much reading a foretelling prophecy and seeing its fulfillment in Jesus as if it is proof that Jesus really is the Messiah. Rather, its about recognizing that Jesus did more than fulfill foretelling prophecies. Rather, He reiterated David. He reiterated Israel. He fulfilled the entire Old Testament story, walking in the footsteps of so many of God’s servants, but doing so perfectly and without mistake.

After all, as we say again and again, David can only claim that there was no cause to hate him in a modified sense. For instance, I think Ahithophel had all kind of cause to hate David (see 2 Samuel 11:3; 23:34). But there was absolutely no reason to hate Jesus. Even Pilate knew he was innocent.

The psalm divides the world into two groups: those who deny the righteousness of Jesus and those who delight in the righteousness of Jesus. Let us be those who delight in it. Let us be those who shout for joy and are glad that the Lord delighted in the welfare of Jesus, His Servant, and delivered His soul from the grave.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 36.


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Rejoice! Rejoice! And Again, I Say, Rejoice!

Today’s reading is Psalm 35.

Psalm 35 is easily broken into three sections, three prayers if you will. The first section is vss. 1-10. The second vss. 11-18. The third vss. 19-28. Do you notice anything similar between the last verses of these sections?

Each section/prayer ends with rejoicing and praise.

This isn’t quite Psalm 33. Psalm 33 is in a time usually reserved for lament, but it is completely full of praise, rejoicing, and thanksgiving. In this week’s psalm, there is a good deal of lamenting. Yet, even the laments end with rejoicing, thanksgiving, and praise or the promise to do so when the requests are granted.

The first prayer ends with a promise of personal rejoicing and praise. The second ends with a promise to personally rejoice, praise, and give thanks among the congregation. The third invites the rest of the congregation to rejoice, praise, and give thanks along with the psalmist.

Paul tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18). David gives us an example of how to do just that. What can you thank God for today? What can you praise God for today? How can you rejoice today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 35.


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On Fear and Wisdom

Today’s reading is Psalm 34.

I understand why we do it, but I sometimes wonder if the modern attempt to classify psalms doesn’t miss the boat. “This psalm is a communal lament.” “That psalm is an individual praise.” “This other psalm is a Messianic psalm.” “That one is a wisdom psalm.” It is amazing to me the number of times the commentators have to say, “This psalm is hard to classify. It has some qualities of this kind of psalm, but also some qualities of that kind of psalm.” Honestly, it’s almost like they have forgotten that the Psalms didn’t come with a guide book explaining the various kinds of psalms and all their characteristics. From beginning to end all those systems of classifications are man made. They don’t tell us so much about the psalm we are studying as they tell us about our modern penchant to need to organize, classify, systematize, and order. If we are not careful, we may end up reading the psalms through our modern eyes and missing what the original authors intended.

This is another one of those psalms we classifiers struggle with. Is it a praise psalm or is it a wisdom psalm? David praises God, he calls all of his readers to praise God with him. It’s a praise psalm, right? But wait, based on the praise he teaches his audience how to live. It’s a wisdom psalm, right? Maybe it’s both. Or maybe, we just have to realize God didn’t label these psalms, and we don’t have to either.

I’ll tell you what we can see in this psalm no matter what we label it. David says, “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (vs. 11, ESV). In our modern day, we struggle with being taught to fear the Lord. However, ancient wisdom said we should fear the Lord, and we need to be taught how. Apparently, despite our modern conceptions of fear, it isn’t a natural reaction to the power of God, it is a learned response to the truth of God. Proverbs 15:33 says the fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom. Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, and Proverbs 9:10 all claim the fear of the Lord is the beginning of the wisdom.

What does fearing the Lord look like? I can tell you this: it doesn’t look like cowering in your closet, hoping the Lord will ignore you or forget you are hiding there. It looks like keeping your tongue from evil and deceit, turning away from evil, doing good, seeking peace and pursuing it. For more on this, you might want to read the New Testament letter from James.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 34.


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Worship the Lord!

Today’s reading is Psalm 33.

Shout for joy! Praise! Give thanks! Sing!

Psalm 33 begins with an amazing call. In fact, you may notice that Psalm 33 begins where Psalm 32 ended. It seem Psalm 33 answers the call of Psalm 32. Yahweh is worthy of worship. Even before He brings the victory. Even before He calms the storm. Even before He provides the deliverance. God is worthy of worship.

In fact, I love the second statement in the psalms: “Praise befits the upright.” That is, not only is God worthy of worship, but worship is worth it for us.

By worship, I don’t mean “going to church.” Though certainly, when the church gathers together it worships. I don’t mean Sunday mornings from 10-11AM. Though surely, when the church assembles on the Lord’s day, it worships. And admittedly, this psalm is actually talking about the assembled, congregational worship of Israel at the temple (see “A Word for Our Kids” to dig into this).

However, in applying it to us, I want to speak about worship in general, whether congregational, familial, or individual. In any and all of these circumstances there are three principles found in Psalm 33:1-3 we should keep in mind (Hat tip to Derek Kidner’s comments on this psalm for bringing these three principles to my attention).

Principle #1: Worship should be fresh. It should be new. Okay, so this doesn’t mean we can’t ever sing old songs. However, God is so profound and amazing, our worship must never be offered merely by rote. We should be consistently coming up with new messages, words, phrases of praise. Yes, that does mean that while we don’t give up the old songs, we do write and learn new ones.

Principle #2: Worship should be skilled. No, I’m not saying we should withhold worship until we are professionals at it. But we should give it our best. Additionally, we need to recognize worship is not just giving God what comes naturally. It is a skill. Therefore, we should be growing and improving in it.

Principle #3: Worship should be fervent. “With loud shouts.” Granted, not everyone is as characteristically boisterous as others. There is a time for subdued worshipful reverence. But even if my voice in singing is not with fervor, at least my thoughts, attitudes, and heart should be. And surely, even the most restrained and solemn among us would have to admit that if a touchdown from our favorite football team deserves a shout of joy, surely our God does every now and then as well.

God deserves worship. We need to worship. Let’s work at it. God is worth it. Worship is worth it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 33.


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David’s Song

Today’s reading is Psalm 28.

I love the idea that I read somewhere about Psalm 28:7-9. In vs. 7, David says, “my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him” (ESV). Then in vss. 8-9, we actually see him exulting and praising God. In a very real sense, David says he will sing about the Lord, then he does. What if we read vss. 8-9 as David’s song of exultation and thanksgiving? What is the song? The song is not that the Lord’s people are strong. The song is not that the Lord’s people save themselves. The song says the Lord is the strength and salvation. And then it calls on the Lord to save His people, his heritage. And then it says, “Be their shepherd and carry them forever” (ESV). Hmmm. That kind of sounds like Psalm 23, doesn’t it? Ultimately, isn’t this exactly how God saved His people? Didn’t He send His one Shepherd? Aren’t the saved, those who jump into the arms of Jesus? Aren’t the saved those who understand that the only possible strength they can have is in Jesus? David started this whole series of psalms by proclaiming how amazing his Shepherd is. Now we get to this wonderful place where David’s song is that God will shepherd not only him, but all of his people. It teaches us an amazing lesson. They only way to salvation is to follow the Good Shepherd. Are you following Him?

Next week’s reading is Psalm 29.


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The Lord is My Shepherd

Today’s reading is Psalm 23.

It has become, perhaps, the most beloved word picture in all of Scripture. Yahweh is my Shepherd. Because He is my Shepherd, I will not want. That is, I lack nothing. Not that I get everything I ever wanted, but I discover all the Lord provides is all I need. He provides me with comfort, contentment, peace, sustenance. He provides the safety that allows me to lie down, though I’m naturally skittish and characteristically frightful. Though I would typically drink down any muddy, parasite-infested gulp of water I can find, He leads me to quiet, still, refreshing waters. He gives guidance down good paths because it glorifies His name to do so. This is not to say that it is all sunshine and daisies or rainbows and buttercups with my Shepherd. Sometimes I wander, become downcast, get myself caught in the brambles and bushes, get bogged down in the headbutting order with my fellow sheep. It isn’t pretty. But, my Shepherd gently refreshes, renews, and restores me. Other times, He walks through the valley of the shadow of death. Death’s shadow is really, really dark and gloomy. Predators lurk everywhere. It is scary. I don’t always understand why He has led me that way. But I have learned He is still with me in the dark. His rod and staff protect me and discipline me, but it is always for my good. The Lord is my Shepherd. I’m a blessed sheep. Hallelujah!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 23.


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Today’s reading is Psalm 22.

The entire tenor of the psalm changes at Psalm 22:22. It started as an extreme lament; so dismal we can hardly find a time to actually place it in David’s life. It becomes an extreme praise and thanksgiving; so exuberant it asserts praise not only from the psalmist, not only from the congregation of God’s people, but from the entire world. It is so intense and amazing, we can hardly imagine anyone whose deliverance and salvation would warrant such reaction from the whole world. What produced such an extreme swing? Read vs. 21b: “Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!” (ESV). Though that conveys the excitement and reality that would produce such a shift, it actually clouds the really important point David was making. Consider the NKJV: “Save me from the lion’s mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered me” (NKJV). I know “rescued” sounds so much more exciting than “answered,” but “answered” is intended to connect us back to vs 2 in which David was receiving no answer. What is the shift? Psalm 22:1-21a is the dismal lament of the one whose request has not been granted though it has been made over and over again, day and night. Psalm 22:22-31 is the exuberant praise and thanksgiving of the one whose requests have been granted. In a very real sense, Psalm 22 mirrors Psalms 20 and 21. Psalm 20 is the prayer for requested blessing on the king as he goes out to battle. Psalm 22:1-21a is the prayer of the king himself in the midst of the battle, but it isn’t going his way. Psalm 22:22-31 is the king’s prayer of thanksgiving and praise when the battle finally turns his way by the grace of God. Psalm 21 is the prayer of thanksgiving offered by the people when the king comes back victorious. Honestly, we likely go back and forth between the two halves of the psalm. Remember, the same God rules in both halves. If you want to be able to offer the praises of the second half of Psalm 22, you have to hang on to God and await His answers while living through the first half of Psalm 22. Yes, He may wait to grant your request until the dogs circle, the mouth of the lion closes, the horns of the oxen vault you in the air. But He will answer. He will deliver. You are not forsaken. You are answered! Hang on!!!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 22.


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We Will Sing and Praise Your Power

Today’s reading is Psalm 21.

Psalm 21 begins and ends with the strength of the Lord. It begins with the king exulting in the Lord’s strength. It ends with the people of the king exalting the Lord and His strength in song and praise. The Lord’s response to our praying deserves, in fact demands, a response from us in praise. We asked Him for victory and He gave it. He deserves praise. The Lord’s supremacy over the powers that assail us deserves, in fact demands, a response in praise. And we, more than any of the ancient Israelites who prayed Psalm 20 and witnessed the victory of Psalm 21, have reason to praise. How can we not when the victory of our King was the victory over sin and the grave? C. Hassell Bullock in his comments on this psalm reminds of a hymn written by Robert Lowry: “How Can I Keep from Singing?”

My life flows on in endless song, above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the clear, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die? I know my Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round? Songs in the night he giveth.
Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing!
All things are mine since I am his! How can I keep from singing?

Robert Lowry
“How Can I Keep from Singing?”
Quoted (though rearranged) from C. Hassell Bullock, Teach the Text Commentaries, Psalms vol 1, p 155

Isn’t the psalmist really saying exactly that? We see Your power, Your response, Your victory, Lord; how can we keep from singing?

Next week’s reading is Psalm 22.


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The Trustworthy God

Today’s reading is Psalm 18.

Let’s face it. I can actually place myself in the shoes of a skeptic and view the Psalms as a hot mess. Back in Psalm 2 God promised His anointed one, His king, that while the enemies would plot, they did so in vain. They were going to be judged, and so they need to quickly reconcile with the king. But then psalm after psalm after psalm shows David begging for God to go ahead and do what He promised. Many of the psalms show the psalmist in that interim place between the promise being given and the promise being fulfilled. After a while, a reader begins to wonder if the promise ever does get fulfilled. Oh sure, the psalmist always believes it will. The psalmists consistently demonstrated their faith by continuing to call out to and rely on God. But does God ever actually fulfill His promises? Psalm 18 answers with a resounding YES!!! The Lord is in His holy temple; He does hear; He does respond. Remember in Psalm 11 when David refused to follow the counselors who said he needed to flee like a bird to his own mountain, relying on his own strength? David claimed one of the foundations that would not be shaken is God’s residence in His holy temple. He is testing the sons of men. He will rain coals on the wicked. He will deliver the upright. And now in Psalm 18, David’s trust and perseverance is rewarded. God is exactly what David thought Him to be. God is trustworthy. Yes, He works on His time table. Yes, there are moments when it looks like He is going to lose. Yes, sometimes the wicked counselors seem to have a point. But Psalm 18 is a thrilling reminder God really is in His holy temple in the heavens, has us under His watchful eye, and when the time is best, He does keep His Word, fulfill His promises, and shines forth like the sun. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 18.

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The God of “And”

Today’s reading is Psalm 18.

How great is our God, Yahweh? The graces and greatnesses add and multiply one on top of another. He is our strength AND He is our rock AND He is our fortress AND He is our deliverer AND He is our refuge AND He is our shield AND He is the horn of our salvation AND He is our stronghold AND He is worthy to be praised AND He saves us from our enemies. Yahweh is the God of AND! AND we have every reason to praise Him today. Thank You, Lord God for being who You are and for letting us be Your people!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 18.

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