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Summaries, Psalms 47-51

Monday, June 03, 2019

 

Psalm 47 is a simple song of rejoicing before God.  It invites all of Israel to praise Him because He is great and has defeated their enemies.  Because He has been exalted, they should sing praises to Him.  Now, as He reigns on His throne, the leaders of His people are gathering to worship Him.

Psalm 48 is about God’s defense of Jerusalem.  He has made her His holy mountain, set His throne within her, and made Himself known as her protector.  When enemy kings attacked Jerusalem, God’s presence frightened and defeated them.  From this, God’s people conclude that He always will protect her.  They rejoice in His steadfastness and goodness.  They urge everyone to consider how well fortified Jerusalem is, as well as the implications of God’s presence within her.

Psalm 49 is a reflection on the impermanence of wickedness.  The psalmist announces to everyone that he has something wise to say.  He asks, rhetorically, why he should fear the evil people who trust in their wealth.  No amount of money can buy off God, and they, along with everyone else, will end up in the grave.  They foolishly rely on themselves, but death will be their end.  Only those who rely on God can hope for anything better.  As a result, the righteous should not be afraid of the rich, no matter how impressive they may appear.  They’ll die like everyone else.

Psalm 50 is about God coming as a righteous judge.  He comes to judge in dramatic fashion, demanding that His people appear before Him.  He applauds their faithfulness in offering sacrifices to Him, but He points out that He doesn’t need them.  He owns everything anyway, and He doesn’t eat sacrificial animals.  Instead, sacrifices are useful for the righteous because they ensure God will help them when they need it.  

On the other hand, God condemns the wicked who talk a good game but don’t obey and who associate with thieves and adulterers.  They spoke evil things, and they thought they were going to get away with it, but now God has come to rebuke them.  If they continue their wickedness, they will be destroyed, and only if they praise and obey Him will they be saved.

Psalm 51 is David’s famous plea for pardon after his sin with Bathsheba.  He begs God to have mercy on him and cleanse him from his sin.  He thinks about that sin constantly, and he admits that he has wronged God.  God is perfect, but he is so imperfect that he feels he may as well have been born in sin. 

God delights in truth, so he begs God to cleanse him and take away the consequences of God’s righteous punishment.  He pleads for a clean heart, for God not to reject him.  If God will do these things, he promises to lead others to God and to praise Him.  He won’t offer God any sacrifices for himself because he knows that what God really wants is his contrition.  However, if God will defend Jerusalem, the sacrifices from His people will continue.

Summaries, Job 25-26, Psalms 44-46

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

 

Job 25 is the shortest chapter in the book.  In it, Bildad the Shuhite emphasizes the wisdom and power of God.  Given those things, he argues that it’s impossible for man to be righteous in the sight of One who is so perfect.  This argument is certainly correct, but it misses the point.  If everybody is unrighteous before God, why is Job being singled out for punishment?

Job 26 begins Job’s longest speech in the book.  Once again, he resorts to sarcasm.  Bildad believes that he has been helpful and wise, but his wisdom is nothing before God’s wisdom.  God can see into even the abode of the dead.  He supports the earth, orders the heaven, controls the seas, and defeats His enemies.  However, even these things, as impressive as they are, cannot begin to reveal the extent of His power.

In many ways, Psalm 44 is similar to the book of Job.  It opens by remembering God’s help for the Israelites in conquering the land of Canaan.  Even today, God’s people look to Him and trust in Him. 

However, there’s a problem.  Rather than blessing His people, God has humiliated them.  They have been defeated in battle, sold into slavery, and made a laughingstock for the people around them.  The psalmist asserts that this is not due to their sin.  They have been faithful to God, and God knows that they have been faithful, but He has allowed them to be slaughtered anyway.  The psalm concludes with a plea to God to rise up and rescue them from their plight.

Psalm 45 was written on the occasion of the marriage of one of the kings.  It opens by praising the king.  He is blessed by God and mighty and victorious in battle.  Because he is righteous, God will continue to bless him and uphold his throne forever.  Note that vss. 6-7 appear to be addressed to God about the ways that God will bless Him.  This is a Messianic prophecy quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9 and a hint that one day God would be King.

The rest of the psalm is addressed to the king’s bride.  It encourages her to leave behind her father’s house and devote herself entirely to her husband.  It praises the beauty of her attire.  If she is willing to submit to her husband, she will be blessed with many sons and remembered.

Psalm 46 celebrates the protection of God.  Even in the middle of an earthquake, His people still can be unafraid.  God will continue to safeguard His holy city even when all others are opposed to it.  His people see the evidence of His care in His previous actions.  He has devastated the earth and destroyed armies.  Everyone must acknowledge that He is God, and He will be a refuge for Israel.

Summaries, Psalms 39-43

Monday, May 13, 2019

 

Psalm 39 describes David’s struggle with human wickedness.  He begins so concerned about his own sinful speech that he resolves not to speak at all in the presence of the wicked.  However, it’s so painful holding his thoughts in that he ends up speaking anyway, not to the wicked, but to God.  He urges God to help him understand his own mortality and comparative impermanence.  All of mankind is equally impermanent.  As a result, he puts his trust in God to rescue him from sin rather than continuing to punish him.  If God does not deliver him soon, it will be too late.

Psalm 40 expresses David’s rejoicing in God’s deliverance.  He waited, God rescued him, put him in a safe place, and gave him reason to praise Him.  Anyone who trusts in God is blessed because God regards people like that.  As a result, David offered himself to God and glorified Him.  Now, he is confident that despite his desperate situation, God still will deliver him.  He looks forward to seeing God disappoint those who want to see him suffer, but he expects that God will give those who seek Him reason to rejoice.

Psalm 41 explains the importance of generosity.  God will protect those who are gracious to the poor, even when they are ill.  This is particularly important to David, because his enemies are expecting him to die and gossiping about him.  David’s illness has led even his close friends to turn against him.  However, David knows that God will deliver him and show His delight in him.

Psalms 42-43 were originally the same psalm, but for some reason were divided up when the book of Psalms was organized.  However, even now, their original unity is obvious.  The original psalm was structured like one of our gospel hymns, with verses and a chorus.  Psalm 42:1-4 is the first verse, 42:5a is the chorus, 42:5b-10 is the second verse, 42:11 is the chorus again, 43:1-4 is the third verse, and 43:5 is the final repetition of the chorus.

Content-wise, the combined psalm is about the psalmist’s suffering and hope for deliverance.  He longs for God like a deer pants for water (Our hymn “As the Deer” is taken from this psalm, though it’s much more optimistic in tone than the original).  He’s suffering and lonely, and he yearns for God’s deliverance.  However, he tells his soul not to be miserable because he knows that God will rescue him eventually.

The second verse adds more information about the suffering of the psalmist.  His situation is so bad that he feels like he’s drowning, he feels like God has forgotten him, and his enemies are mocking him because God hasn’t rescued him.  However, he continues to counsel his soul to peace.

The concluding verse of the original, in Psalm 43, asks God to rescue the psalmist from his enemies and wants to know why he continues to suffer.  He pleads with God to bring him to His temple so he can praise Him.  Once again, though, he urges his soul to be still because he trusts in God.

Summaries, Psalms 35-38

Monday, May 06, 2019

 

Psalm 35 contains David’s plea for God’s help against his enemies.  He asks God to frustrate their attempts to destroy them and to hinder them in everything they do.  They hate him without good reason for doing so.  Even though he has always been concerned for their welfare when they are in trouble, when they see him in trouble, they plot against him.  David asks God to rescue him and not allow them to rejoice in his downfall.  Instead, David hopes that God will give those who love him cause to rejoice.

Psalm 36 contrasts the wicked with God.  It begins with a description of the wicked, particularly the devious wicked.  They plot evil and believe that they won’t be discovered.  God, on the other hand, is so good that His goodness can only be compared to the magnificence of nature.  His love provides nourishment and light to all people.  The psalm concludes with an appeal to God to continue his steadfast love to those who know Him, especially by protecting David from the wicked and defeating them.

Psalm 37 is commonly called “the psalm for the fretful”.  It begins with an appeal to, rather than fretting about the apparent prosperity of evildoers, to trust in God instead.  He will bless the righteous and those who wait for Him.  The wicked, on the other hand, will vanish. 

Even though the wicked are plotting against the righteous, God sees through their designs and will frustrate them.  Ultimately, God’s protection is more valuable than the riches of the wicked.  He will protect them, but the wicked will vanish.  Even though the righteous may struggle, God will protect them from complete ruin.  In all of David’s long life, he has never seen the righteous nor their descendants be reduced to begging.

David’s advice, then, is to do good, which ensures God’s blessing and averts His wrath.  The righteous are surefooted even when the wicked are looking to destroy them, so anybody who wants to prosper should look to God.  They’ll see the downfall of the wicked, who spring up suddenly and then are destroyed.  By contrast, the blameless are able to establish themselves and their future.  All of this is because of the help of God, who is sure to rescue the righteous from the wicked.

Psalm 38 pleads with God to turn aside His anger from David.  He acknowledges that he has done wrong, but he is oppressed with the severity of God’s righteous wrath.  Everything in his life is going wrong.  He’s guilty, miserable, sick, and lonely.  Indeed, his enemies have seized the opportunity to plot against him. 

David, though, isn’t paying attention to their plots.  Instead, his attention is entirely on God, whom he trusts to rescue him from the wicked.  He admits that he has done wrong, but he doesn’t think it’s right for God to deliver him into the hands of those who hate him for his righteousness.  He begs God to help him because only God can.

Summaries, Ecclesiates 11-12, Psalms 32-34

Monday, April 29, 2019

 

Ecclesiastes 11 opens with advice about how to deal with an uncertain future.  Prepare for success by using several different strategies that may pay off down the road.  Recognize that nothing can be done about disasters that already have occurred.  At the same time, don’t be so paralyzed by fear of disaster that you do nothing.  Don’t expect to understand what God has purposed.  Instead, control what you can control by working hard.  The chapter concludes with an encouragement to enjoy life while remembering that hard times, death, and judgment are coming.

Ecclesiastes 12 considers the inevitable end of life.  The first 8 verses describe the effects of aging and death in various poetic ways.  Because all of these things are inevitable, we should remember God now.  The final part of the chapter, and indeed of the book, describes the work of the Preacher.  He commends proverbs and wisdom while warning against excessive devotion to other kinds of study.  The summation of all wisdom is to fear God, obey Him, and remember His judgment.

Psalm 32 contrasts the experience of sinfulness and forgiveness.  It describes the forgiven man as blessed, then reverts to David’s personal experience.  When he refused to acknowledge his sin, he suffered, but God blessed him when he repented.  Because of that experience, he urges everyone to seek God so that He will protect them like He protects David.  Vs. 8-9 are spoken from God’s perspective, and they explain the necessity of His corrective discipline.  The final verses present the conclusion that the wicked will suffer, but the righteous will rejoice in God’s protection.

Psalm 33 praises God for His wonderful works.  It opens by calling His people to praise Him in song because of His righteous word and works.  Everyone should fear and honor Him because He is the Creator.  Even now, His work continues.  He defeats the plans of the enemies of Israel while prospering His people.  Against His will, no human strength or ability can be effective.  He always remembers those who serve Him, and He protects them.  Thus, we should hope in Him.

Psalm 34 expresses David’s rejoicing at escaping Abimelech.  Its first verses express David’s determination to praise God and call others to join him.  He wants to praise God because God rescued him, as God always rescues His people.  Even when young lions go hungry, God makes sure that the righteous want for nothing.  Anybody who wants to enjoy the blessings of the Lord must turn from evil and seek good.  He listens to their prayers while destroying the wicked.  Even when things don’t seem to be going well for them, God will still deliver and protect them.  Their enemies will be defeated, while everyone who trusts God will be justified.

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