The BOOK OF PSALMS Volume 1: Psalm 1–25 Anne O’BrieN A Bible Study on The book of Psalms. We encourage you to pray before you begin reading that the Lord would open your heart and mind to be receptive and responsive to God’s message contained within this study. There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview,
God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds.
Psalm 1 It is generally believed that this Psalm was especially composed as an introduction to all of the Psalms. It summarizes not just the message of the Psalms but the message of the Old Testament too. In the same way – also with the word, Blessed - Jesus commenced the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, which summarized the message of the New Testament. Verse 1 Blessed translates as happy or blissful. Happy is the man or woman who makes the right choices, but this verse talks about choices we make that can lead us the wrong way. It talks about three aspects of departure from God’s ways. Notice the subtle progress: accepting ungodly counsel or advice ... keeping the wrong company ... mocking what is right. Step one is to avoid those things. Q. Could some TV programmes be considered to be “the counsel of the wicked”? Verse 2 Step two to happiness is to put God first. “Meditate” on the Law of the Lord – i.e. God’s instruction or direction and God’s Word. Let God fill our thoughts, rather than what other people are telling us; because our inner peace and our actions all result from what is happening in our mind. Notice that this should be a way of life – day and night. Q. What is the best way to meditate on the Law of the Lord? Verse 3 This person who heeds the advice will be like a tree planted by water – always provided for, always growing and fruitful. The tree by water will still be subject to the seasons and the effects of the weather; their purpose is to strengthen the tree. But quietly underpinning the tree is the life-giving supply of water. So that in due course it will fulfill its purpose and provide fruit. Q. What does the tree have to do to be successful? Verses 4 & 5 In stark contrast we read of the consequences for those who make the wrong choice. They are not fruitful, they are like chaff (straw and husks as opposed to the seed/fruit) which in the time of sifting or judgment will be blown away and condemned. Verse 6 Those who have made the right choice are called the righteous, and it is wonderful to know that the Lord is watching over us. Other translations also say: God charts the road you take (The Message); The Lord knows the way (NEB); The righteous are guided and protected by the Lord (Good News); The Lord watches over all the plans and paths of godly men (Living Bible); The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous (King James). The Psalm finishes by presenting us with a choice: righteousness and life or wickedness and death. “Therefore choose life” – Deut 30v19 – a summary of the Bible message.
Psalm 2 Ascribed to David, and referred to as the coronation Psalm, this Psalm can be meant for: the past – King David’s time the present – the Messianic age the future – The Day of the Lord, the end times But, unlike Psalm 1, it is addressed to the nations rather than the individual. (Psalm 1 starts - Blessed is the man; Psalm 2 ends – Blessed are all who take refuge in him.) Read verses 1-3 WHY? is the opening word. How many times do we see the news on TV and ask the same question? We look at the north African nations and all the nations in the middle East. We see the hatred and turmoil and ask, WHY? “Anointed One/one” (v.2) can refer to David, Israel, Jesus, Church. So this is talking about nations who are opposed to God’s people, and by extension, God himself. Read Acts 4v25-28 Luke writes that this verse from Psalm 2 was a prediction of Calvary. Herod, Pilate and the Jewish leaders conspired to kill Jesus. Read verses 4-6 Read Revelation 11v18 – here it concurs and picks up this theme for the End Times. When nations oppose God it brings forth his wrath. Like a man being challenged by an ant, God will laugh, scoff at and react against such opposition. God’s ‘coup de grace’, his final solution, is Jesus – the one enthroned, the one on his Holy hill, prophesied way back in 2 Samuel 7v13&16. Read also Rev. 14v1 Jesus is the destined world ruler.
Read verses 7-9 Here we read God’s words to David/Jesus. Read 2 Peter 1v17&18 The nations may oppose them but they will remain steadfast, ruling victoriously. See Rev 19v15&16 Jesus himself picked up the thought of making the nations his inheritance at the Great Commission in Matthew 28. Read verses 10-12 Grace is extended to those who will listen to the warning and submit to Christ. God will not force the nations into submission for a peaceful life. He just offers the invitation – be warned and be wise. “Kiss the Son” is probably a form used in Hebrew poetry. Its meaning is that the nations should pay homage to Jesus. The Psalmist ends with the blessing of all who take refuge in him. There is no refuge from Him – only refuge in him (D. Kidner). God must be just, but this verse shows us that God’s heart is to bless – even those who set themselves against him, if they would only repent and submit to Jesus.
Psalm 3 (Read 2 Samuel chapter 15 for the background to this Psalm) A very brief summary: David’s eldest son Amnon raped Absalom’s sister but was not punished for it. As a result Absalom hated David and Amnon. Amnon eventually died and David’s relationship with Absalom was restored. But Absalom was planning to usurp David’s throne. When this happened, David fled. Some time after this Psalm was written, Absalom died in an accident and David returned to his throne (2 Samuel 19). Read verses 1&2: What David knows about his problems David had been betrayed by his son who had stirred up rebellion against him. He seemed to be in an impossible situation. To make it worse people were saying that even God would not help him. It would be natural for David to be discouraged and depressed and yet it seems he is merely stating the facts. “This is my situation. Think on it.” Selah – the meaning of this word is uncertain but it is generally believed to be a musical instruction to pause and reflect. Read verses 3&4: What David knows about God David doesn’t give way to his feelings. Having stated the things that are against him he now affirms what he knows to be true about his Lord. n God is his shield of protection n God will give him glory, not shame n God will answer his heartfelt cry “This is my situation. Reflect on that.” Read verses 5&6: What David knows about himself David realizes he is able to sleep because God is continually sustaining him and working in his life. He has made up his mind to not let fear prevent him from sleeping, to not let fear grip him; even when everything is against him. Read verses 7&8: What David decides to do A fervent, specific, prayer of conviction is the answer. He asks God to deliver him and he tells God what he can do to the enemy (give them a knock-out blow to the jaw!). David knows that deliverance can only come from the Lord. He then pronounces God’s blessing on His people and tells us to reflect on that! Q. How often do we worry about problems that seem impossible? Would it help us to use the same steps that David used, to bring us to that place of trust where God could work out things in our life?
Psalm 4 In this Psalm David addresses his words to himself, to others and to God. And by writing down his thoughts he is affirming all the thoughts that are going through his mind. Read verse 1: TO DAVID David was experiencing a time of distress and he really needed to hear God’s voice. But he wasn’t complaining to God because he states that God is righteous. He simply implores God’s mercy. Even though he is King, he is humble before God. Read verses 2-5: TO MEN – TO US?
v.2: The people were not glorifying God and were following delusions and false gods. They were believing lies instead of the truth of the scripture handed down to them, and this was bringing shame on David. “Think on that”, David says. v.3: “But also think on this/ know this” – the Lord sets apart the godly and he hears them. David can say from experience, “the Lord will hear”. When we remember what God has done for us in the past it gives us the confidence to expect him to act in the future. v.4&5: What we should never do is react in anger, which may cause us to sin. Rather we should consider things in silence and put our trust in God. Read verses 6-8: TO GOD When we consider what God has done for us we realize that we are richer and better off than any who come against us. We have God’s favour (v.6); we have more joy than them (v.7); and we have peace and safety (v.8).
Psalm 5 Read verses 1-3 David said: Give ear to my words; listen to my cry; hear my voice; I lay my requests before you. The repetition serves to remind us that the presence of his enemies was not far away and he still needed to know that God was near. Q. Do we pray ‘in our hearts’ or ‘with our voice’? Voicing all our thoughts and prayers to God is helpful in prayer, as we saw in Psalms 3&4. And we should always remember to wait, or watch, for the answer (v3). Read verses 4-6 Here we have three repetitions showing God’s dislike of lies and deceit. David was obviously in a place where he had been deceived and he knows that God is on the side of truth. The arrogant cannot stand in God’s presence but David goes on to say that he will bow before God. Q. Does it make any difference what position we adopt in prayer? Read verses 7-8 God’s Holy Temple (v7) had not yet been built. David would have worshipped in a tabernacle or tent where the Ark of the Covenant was kept (2 Sam 7v2) in Shiloh. So when David talks about God’s house and his temple (more repetition) it is figurative of where God dwells. David’s prayer is that, unlike his enemies he will be kept in the paths of righteousness and truth. Q. Does it make any difference where we are when we pray? Read verses 9-10 David lays on the accusations here in increasing measure. He is the victim of propaganda and lies. The reference to the open grave is meaning that the words of his enemies are like death and destruction to him. Notice David talks about the mouth, throat and tongue belying what is in the heart. Satan is the great deceiver – we do well not to listen to him and banish him if he speaks wrong thoughts into our minds. Q. When did Jesus have occasion to use this strategy? (Matt 4v10, Matt 16v22&23) Read verses 11-12 More repetitions: be glad, sing, rejoice! We can take refuge in God because there is a cover of protection over us (v11). The righteous will be blessed – made so by the blood of the Lamb; for David the sacrifice in the tabernacle; for us the blood of Jesus. The covering of the blood brings favour/grace and protection/shield (v12). Q. How often do we finish our prayer on a note of victory? Q. Consider the pattern of this Psalm – is it helpful?
Psalm 6 This is the first of what are commonly called the penitential Psalms; i.e. David is feeling sorry for his sins. When he wrote this Psalm he was obviously at his lowest ebb. Like us, David experienced anger, tears and faith almost all at once. It can be an encouragement to us when we feel we cannot pray. Read verses 1-7 “No-one has enemies like me”; “No-one is depressed like me”; No-one is in pain like me”; “My head is so full of worries I cannot begin to pray”; “I’m not good enough to pray”; “Perhaps God is punishing me”; “I can’t stop crying”. It’s good to know we are not alone when we suffer, because here is David identifying with almost all of us at some point in our lives. David had family problems, he had lost children, he was a fugitive because men sought to kill him, and
he had sinned really badly. He also knew that some of the problems were of his own making and he was desperately repentant. These verses reveal all of these things. And they also show that it is ok for us to be open and honest about our feelings before God. We can always appeal to his grace; and He will always be faithful because that is part of his covenant with us. Read verses 8-10 David’s cathartic outburst (the release of all his emotion) and his repentance result in the assurance that God has heard him and will answer his prayer. Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed because David knows that God has heard his prayer and accepted his repentance. Q. How important is confession for the well-being of our soul?
Psalm 7 Read verses 1-5 Once again, David writes when he is being pursued. But, in this Psalm, he states from the outset that his refuge is in God. He knows he is not guilty. Read verses 6-9 David appeals to God for justice and judgment; noticeably for himself as well as for his enemies. We should always seek justice and truth and be prepared to accept it! David reminds us that God’s judgment is always righteous, and he explores this theme in the next few verses. Q. “God tests the hearts and minds”. Why do we have times of trial? Read verses 10-16 God is righteous, just and fair. He is loving and forgiving but he can also be wrathful and should be feared by those not willing to relent (v12). “Digging a hole for yourself” originates from here. Things can only get worse if we fight against God; and conversely they get better when we submit to Him. Verse 17: The Lord’s righteousness causes David to shout and sing God’s praises!
Psalm 8 Read verse 1 This Psalm has universal appeal and relevance. David is inspired to write a hymn of rejoicing at God’s majesty over all things – both on the earth and in heaven – and he does it by exalting the Name of the Lord. It has been suggested that this Psalm was written at winemaking time (a possible meaning for “gittith”). But I feel it could just as easily have been penned by David when he was in hiding in a cave and looking out at the night sky. I believe it has a prophetic nature throughout, as well. Read Philippians 2v9-11 Read verse 2 Here David talks about God’s power over his enemies. He takes the young and the weak to overcome opposition. Read Matt 11v25 and 1 Cor 1v27. When you think of the power at God’s disposal this is amazing. Read verse 3-5 “Consider the heavens” – see the fact sheet overleaf. How amazing that the God of the whole universe, most of which we know absolutely nothing about, is mindful of us/cares about us. Not only that he has made us only a little lower than the angels and crowns us with glory. Read Hebrews 2v5-9 and Ephesians 1v18-22 Read verses 6-8 And yet although we are so tiny (seemingly insignificant in the scheme of things) God has given us dominion over his creation on earth. Read Genesis 1v26 and Genesis 9v1-3 Or, have we made a mess of things? Are the earthquakes and tsunamis and famines and casualties of war a result of us not looking after things as God required of us? Our dominion was God’s ideal, but we failed at The Fall. Jesus Christ, who became man, now has authority over all things. Read verse 9 David repeats the first verse as if to stress that God’s Name is synonymous with his person and character (the creator of the whole universe) and with his Sovereign Glory. Bible scholars believe that Psalms 9&10 were written in one piece. In these Psalms David looks at the whole area of the suffering and oppression which is the experience of all men, himself included.
Psalm 9 Read verses 1-8 Here we see David praising God and giving a wonderful affirmation to all the things that God has done for him in relation to his enemies; and he acknowledges the fact that God is the Lord who reigns forever. David could have written books about his great exploits and made himself a great name but his aim was not to glorify himself, but the Lord. Notice the contrast between the transience of the world’s nations (v.5) and the eternal nature of God’s throne (v.7). Q. Why is it good to remind ourselves of these things? Read verses 9-12 David can encourage the people of the land as he speaks from experience, that the Lord is a refuge, a strong tower – someone who never lets us down (v.9&10). The promise is for all who know God’s name (more than just know about it) and trust in Him. God is on our side and he does hear our cry. Read verses 13-20 This part is aimed particularly at those who suffer. Hope will never perish (v.18) because God does not forget. All else will perish (v.17) but the godly and needy will never be forgotten. The Hebrew word for ‘man & men’ in the last two verses carries the meaning of frailty and weakness. In other words, man’s power is nothing in comparison to the Lord’s.
Psalm 10 The big question: Verse 1 Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In other words: Why is there all this suffering in the world? Who has not said these words when faced with family tragedy, devastating illness, war, famine, earthquakes etc? Like David, we should not be afraid to address these issues. Read verses 2-11 For his first answer David looks not to God, but to what the wicked are like and what they are doing. He describes godless people and leaders. People who do not believe there is a God and have no-one to answer to for their wrongdoing (v.4); people who become arrogant (v.5); people who curse, tell lies and threaten (v.7); people who are as ruthless as a lion (v.8,9). Read verses 12-18 For his second answer David looks to what he knows about God. The Lord, the King of Kings is on the throne and is in control. He does see our troubles (v.14); he is the helper of the defenceless (v.14); he does hear our prayer (v.17); and there will be a judgment – a day when everyone is called to account (v.15). See 2 Cor 12v7-10 for Paul’s conclusions on suffering.
Psalm 11 Read the first sentence This Psalm seems to refer to a crisis in David’s life. In typical fashion David begins with an affirmation of truth and faith, “I’m taking refuge in the Lord”. He knows without a shadow of doubt that he will find refuge in the Lord. He knows that God does not want to see the innocent suffer. Probably this is based two things: on personal experience but also on the historical fact that God had instituted cities of refuge throughout the land (each within a day’s walk) where the innocent could find protection. Read Joshua 20v1-9 It is a basic Bible principle and right that the innocent/righteous man can find a place of refuge and safety in God. God is our Protection. Read verses 1&2 When David was in trouble his advisors said, “Flee”. But David trusted in God. This poses the question: Is it always right to stay where there is trouble, or is it sometimes right to flee? We should not flee from our position, or calling, or duty. But we should flee from evil and temptation. The “arrows” here could be a metaphor for destructive or deceptive advice. Bible characters who did not flee: Gideon, Ruth, Jesus Bible characters who did flee: Moses, Elijah, the disciples. We might suffer setbacks if we flee, but praise God, he restores us! Read verses 3&4 When the foundations of society are being destroyed what can we do (the solution is beyond us)? David was probably talking about threats to his throne. In a different way, some of the Christian principles that our society was built on have been destroyed, and some countries have seen an even greater collapse of law and order. What we must do firstly is to
look to the Lord, who is Sovereign; because he sees all and is still in control. And secondly, we must be sure our faith is rooted (has its foundations) in truth and righteousness. Q. What can we do? We can run away – or we can run to God. Read verses 5&6 The Lord examines, and sees and understands: this means he tests as you would test for the purity of metal, he proves us by trials until we pass the test. He sees and knows our individual hearts. His examination is not meant in a punishing way, but it is that God might bring us to our full potential in Him, and make us more like Himself. David implies that those who are wicked (who are also tested) do not have the opportunity to be changed, unlike those who love him. Q. Is that still true under the New Covenant? Read verse 7 David concludes his argument. God is our friend – “the upright will see God’s face” (not literally) meaning they can take refuge in God because he is righteous and just. God is a God of justice. He loves justice. In an unjust world we can trust that God sees all who cry out to him for justice. Q. How can “seeing God’s face” help us when we are feeling “got at” and aware that the devil is aiming his fiery darts at us?
Psalm 12 Following on from the theme of wickedness in Psalm 11, David expressed how he could not trust anyone. Everyone was no longer loyal but practising deception. Lying and flattery had become the norm. Read verses 1&2: Doublespeak/distortion “No-one is faithful any more. Everyone lies to their neighbour,” said David. He was living in a society controlled by deception. As a result, no-one could be believed or trusted. Who was his real enemy? So David despaired and cried to God for help. Q. What situations do we find ourselves in, where we do not know if we can believe what we are being told? Our world, our culture today is also controlled by deception. The world of politics, banking, finance, TV soaps, advertising and even customer service are all well-practised in doublespeak, euphemisms and distortion of the truth. Are these people trying to help us or exploit us? We can understand David’s heart! Read verses 3&4: Flattery and boasting Flattery is deception – telling a ‘white lie’ to get someone on your side or make them feel better about themselves. In the long run it fosters a feeling of mistrust. See Pro.28v23. Boasting can be about deceiving yourself. We do it to feel better about ourselves; we do it to defend ourselves; we do it to make ourselves proud of who we are; we do it to be in control. In the long run we no longer see ourselves as God sees us. See 1 Cor. 13v4. Boasting and pride do not sit alongside love. Read verses 5&6: The Lord speaks Amazingly, God gave David a prophetic Word in response to his question as he was writing the Psalm. “I will arise and protect those who are being maligned”. God had heard David’s prayer. He hears our prayer too when we cannot get social workers, bankers, schools, courts, leaders, doctors etc, etc. to really hear what we are saying, rather than “fobbing us off” with double-speak. God hears, he will arise (he’s on his way) and he will protect us. We may not be able to trust what man says but David says we can trust God’s words – they are like silver purified seven times. They are refined, flawless, perfect and reliable; and yet they come to us through human channels. How can we trust that they really are God’s words? Derek Prince explains it this way (Chords from David’s Harp): David presents us with ... a picture of silver being purified in an oven of clay... In David’s picture there are three main elements: the furnace of clay, the silver that is to be purified and the purifying fire... The clay represents the human instruments through whom the message of Scripture is brought. The silver represents the message itself. The purifying fire represents the work of the Holy Spirit. The silver is purified seven times... the number seven is ... associated with the Holy Spirit ... and suggests completeness or perfection. As the words of Scripture come to us through the furnace of human clay, they have been completely purified by the fire of the Holy Spirit. The dross of human error has been fully purged. Thus they are flawless. (See 2 Peter 1v21) Read verses 7&8: Honour what is true and pure
W.W.Wiersbe says, “How paradoxical that society today sees the Scriptures as something relatively worthless and yet pays great sums of money to the people who manufacture deception and flattery”. He is talking about the media. But the question is, “How much do we value our Bibles?” Do we treasure them and read them and get closer to God through them? Do we depend on God’s Word and trust in it? Do we use it as our guide and follow God’s laws? Do we believe verse 8 and trust that God will keep us safe? David said, “What is vile is honoured by the human race” (v8). He was talking about blatant, open sin. Our culture now openly accepts many things today that were not acceptable 50 years ago – they are even thought to be good! (Sex outside marriage, homosexual practices, abortion etc.) Q. In whose words do we put our trust? Society’s or God’s?
Psalm 13 It is thought that this Psalm was possibly written during David’s difficult years before he was crowned. The prophet Samuel had anointed David, but David had to wait for Saul to die before he could become king of Israel. But Saul was doing evil; and he was jealous and was persecuting David, seeking him out and trying to take his life. During this time David maintained his integrity and never tried to harm Saul. However, to David it must have seemed as though God’s promises were taking forever to come to fruition. Q*. Is there something you have been praying about and it seems that you are waiting a long time for the answer? Read verses 1&2: DAVID’S PROBLEM David is desolate and in distress – he is struggling inside, his feelings are focused on himself and his problems, and yet he knows that he has served God and not done anything wrong. Four times he says, “How long?” How long? Have you forgotten me? (v.1) How long? I don’t see you are here Lord. (v1) How long? The sorrow never goes. (v.2) How long? I’m feeling defeated. (v.2) Q. Have you ever found yourself saying these words? When we pray for help and none comes it is natural to feel let down and ignored; and it’s natural to question if God really is hearing our prayers. Because of his distress David wasn’t being totally rational. He was “wrestling with his thoughts” – he was getting obsessed with the problems and panicking – and he knew days of feeling depressed. But David knew that to give in to his feelings was not the answer, because feelings can be deceptive. Having said that – It’s not wrong to acknowledge our feelings. But, having done that, we need to shift our focus from our feelings, to the facts and then to God (which is what David did.) Read verses 3&4: DAVID’S PRAYER David prayed and he acknowledged the existence of the enemy – in his case Saul and his men, and his own weakness. Q. With reference to Q* (your long awaited answer to prayer) have you acknowledged the existence of the enemy? Awareness of God and the enemy is present in nearly every Psalm and in nearly everything Jesus said too. Our enemy, Satan, is real. His aim is to get us to feel weak, distressed, panicky, uncertain and feeling forgotten; because his sole aim is to stop us from trusting in God. When David/we take our eyes off our inward feelings and battle against the outward enemy we can begin to get the victory in our situation. So, David prayed for encouragement (“give me light”) and strength. In verse 4 David is saying, “Don’t allow the enemy to gloat over me”. David wanted God’s name to be glorified. David was God’s chosen one and what was done against David was done against the Lord. This goes for us too. Q. Do we remember we are on the Lord’s side and he on ours? Q. Do we always realize we have a choice of action? Verses 5&6: DAVID’S PRAISE David chose to praise God, rather than be brought down by the enemy. He chose to praise God; He chose to look upward, rather than inward or outward. He chose to stop questioning God and to start trusting him. He knew he could do this because of God’s covenant unfailing love and mercy, because of his promised salvation and deliverance and because of previous answers to prayer. The choice to praise rather than panic is ours too. Praise puts our focus on God instead of on ourselves. Praise reminds us that we have a God who is bigger than our problem. Praise increases our faith and diminishes our doubt. Praise defeats the enemy. David’s circumstances had not changed but the Lord had changed him as a result of his praise. Q. In relation to Q* how much time have we spent praising God and telling him that we are trusting him and rejoicing in him?
Read verse 1 The Hebrew word for fool is “nabal”. Interestingly, there was a person amongst David’s acquaintances whose name was Nabal (see 1 Sam 25v1-39), who set himself against David, and he personifies the meaning of the word “fool” in the context of this Psalm. He had no thought for David, or for God. He was selfish and lived for the good time. He was unaware of the danger he was in. This is the kind of fool that David was talking about in this Psalm – the godless fool, the one who shows contempt to God and his people. Such a person is an atheist, they act as they do because they think there is no God. An atheistic Russian cosmonaut said he’d looked carefully while in space and didn’t see God. Someone commented, “If he’d opened the door of the space capsule, he would have met him!” (From Wiersbe Commentary) Read verses 2-4 These two verses show that Israel was in a pretty bad state at that time when (probably) David was still waiting to become King and the spiritual state of the people was very low under Saul’s leadership. Q. How can a Godly leader be an influence for good? Q. How can a charismatic, ungodly leader or celebrity be an influence for bad? Can you think of any? Paul deals with this problem in Romans chapter 3, where he quotes from this Psalm. No-one is good, but we can be made righteous through Jesus Christ. What Jesus has done by redeeming mankind on the Cross gives us hope, where there would otherwise be none. Read verse 5 “Overwhelmed with dread”. When Nabal heard about the effect of his actions on David the fear was so great that he died! God had been present with David. There was a Godly remnant, followers of David, and God was present with them. This is God’s promise to us, “God is present in the company of the righteous”. Read verse 6 Whatever situation we find ourselves in, however much we feel “got at” and attacked, we are assured that God is our refuge. And it would appear that God is particularly on the side of “the poor” – those who are being exploited, those who do not have a voice, those who are treated unjustly. God is present – He comes to us ... God is a refuge – We can go to Him Read verse 7 God has promised redemption through the Messiah – Jesus. Redemption - both for Israel and for us. David foresaw this in prophecy. Paul explains it in Romans. We experience it now, but much of Israel still awaits the blessing when one day God will fully restore his people. But the fool who says there is no God? What blessings do those who neglect God have to look forward to? How can God accept them when they have rejected Him? The fool lives according to his or her own rules and desires and not according to God’s.
Psalm 15 I am giving this Psalm the title of “The impossible made possible” Read verse 1: David begins with the question to God: WHO can dwell in your Holy Place (Tabernacle / tent / holy mountain i.e Heaven)? Just who would be good enough? If David the King thought he needed to ask the question, what hope is there for the rest of us? Read verses 2-5: These verses give us God’s answer. The people who will get to heaven are those who: o o o o o o o
Do what’s righteous (what does this mean exactly?) Are honest, always speak the truth, never lie, are not deceitful Never gossip, or slur anyone’s character, or put anyone down Hate evil in a person, do not condone evil Honour God’s people, give them respect, put them first Keep an oath, don’t go back on a promise, even if it costs them Lend money without requiring interest (How different would our country be if people didn’t get themselves into spiraling debt?) o Don’t accept bribes to testify wrongfully.
God is basically saying that if we are perfect we will get to heaven! But no-one is perfect ... Read verse 2 again With God there is a difference between being perfect and being blameless. Praise God this makes the impossible possible. Read 1 Thessalonians 5 v 23&24 Praise God, we may never be perfect but in his sight we can be blameless! If we trust in the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross and try to follow the requirements in this Psalm, then God will see us as blameless (v24); we can come into his presence and we can spend eternity with Him.
Psalm 16 This Psalm reveals to us many different facets of God’s character. It focuses our minds on the different roles God plays in our lives. Read verse 1: GOD IS OUR REFUGE As with many of the Psalms the first verse is both an introduction and a summary. God is our refuge. The Hebrew word means “shelter”. In other words He is someone we can come to during the storms of life where we can find security, protection and peace. In Israel God had designated 6 cities of refuge where the Israelites could run to when they had been wrongly accused of murder. In those cities the person would be given shelter until a fair trial could be arranged. These cities were placed so that any one of them could be reached within one day’s journey. God recognized the need for refuge in the natural sense, and similarly the Psalms show us that he offers us emotional and spiritual refuge too. Q. Do we remember to take advantage of God’s offer of refuge? Read verses 2-4: GOD IS OUR EVERYTHING David said he had no good thing apart from the Lord and therefore God was lord of all he had. David voices God’s thoughts when he says in verse 3 “the holy ones are those in whom is all my delight”. So, David chooses to align himself with the saints rather than with those who “run after other gods” (v4). Q. God delights in us. Is he the focus of our delight? Read verses 5-6: GOD IS OUR PROVIDER NOW AND FOREVER The Lord is our “cup”, i.e. he is the provider of all that we need – he can fill our cup to overflowing, physically and spiritually. But more than that his promise is to sustain us and give us an inheritance. His promise is to keep us, not just now, but for all eternity. The terms “portion” and “boundary lines” spoke to the Israelites of a safe inheritance (literally in the Land) that could not be taken away. Our inheritance is not land but all that comes with The Kingdom of God. We come into his kingdom at our conversion and have the promise of eternal life in that kingdom. Read verses 7&8: GOD IS OUR COUNSELLOR AND ROCK David relied entirely on God’s counsel and instruction. When he was in trouble, whether from his enemies or because of his own stupid mistakes, David sought God’s counsel. God never let him down, even at his lowest times. The Psalms reveal to us just how much David learned from his times with God, so that David was able to pass on God’s counsel and wisdom. Interestingly, it was at night (with no other distractions, but when things begin to play on one’s mind) that David learned from God. With God as his rock he would not be shaken. Q. How often do we worry at night ... but forget to ask God for his wise counsel? Read verses 9-11: GOD IS OUR HOPE AND OUR JOY David, speaking prophetically, says that he is glad that he will know everlasting life. Verse 10 is referring to Jesus. We know this because Peter explains that in Acts 2v29; the point being that if Jesus is raised from the dead he makes it possible for us to know resurrection too. God had given David the assurance that one day he would be in his presence. Death was not the end. The future life was an unknown factor to the Israelites. The joy of heaven was not revealed until the work of Jesus was completed on the cross at Calvary. And yet David knew – he must have had a revelation from God in one of his night-time meetings with God. And the knowledge filled him with joy. Q. What fills us with joy? Look back over this Psalm and see how many times David talks about his delight, his gladness and pleasure. Can we share that joy?
Psalm 17 This Psalm is a prayer, rather than a song, in which David – possibly at night (3) – searches his soul and seeks God’s assurance of vindication, protection and salvation. Read verses 1&2: “Hear Me” If you have ever been accused of something you didn’t do you will understand where David is coming from with this Psalm. Here he is asking God to hear his side. This isn’t just a grumble (my plea is just, v1). Three times (standard Hebrew technique of emphasis) he asks God to hear/listen to his prayer - that he wants to be vindicated (cleared) in God’s eyes. Consider the many persecuted Christians around the world who are wrongfully accused and abused because of their faith in Christ. Read verses 3-5: “Search Me” David feels his heart is right with God and he asks God to examine him. If our hearts do not condemn us we can come to God in faith, knowing that he hears and will answer. We get the impression it has cost David a lot to remain strong in the Lord’s ways. But the result was that he could have confidence in God. Read verses 6-12: “Uphold Me” David may have felt justified and he may have had faith in God but he still felt the need to ask God for his ongoing protection against his enemies. David’s enemies included the pagan nations, but also Saul, who should have recognized David’s anointing. It’s rather striking that David talks of his need to know God’s love and how precious he is in God’s sight. This isn’t the prayer of a warrior, but the prayer of someone who loved his God. (There are echoes of Moses’ song in Deuteronomy 32 here.) Five times, in the Psalms, David talks about finding refuge under the shadow of God’s wings. David knew that his strength was found in his relationship with God alone. See also Zechariah 2v8 for “the apple of God’s eye”. Q. How do you apply verse 6 to yourself? Also see Colossians 3v3 Read verses 13&14: “Save me” David doesn’t rest in his own military prowess – although in the natural sense he was very strong and capable. He trusts in God to deliver him. David knew his Scriptures well and understood that the battle is the Lord’s. Understanding that premise enabled David, the anointed King, to put his trust in One who is far greater – King of All. Q. How can God’s “sword” help us? Read verse 15: “Receive Me” Compare this verse to verse 1. David asked for vindication, and concluded that God would vindicate him. His prayer has given him assurance. In this verse “When I awake” is a Biblical way of saying “after death”. David looks forward to the day when he will be in God’s eternal presence and will know his likeness. Romans 8v29 tells us that we should be conformed to the image of Jesus. In his spirit, David knew that he would one day be in God’s presence and perfect enough to be there, even though there is no teaching on this in the Old Testament. We have the same hope as David – but we don’t have to wait ‘til after death. Through faith in Jesus Christ we can be changed daily, and be in God’s presence daily, and know without a doubt that we have a place prepared for us in Heaven. In this prayer David found peace as he poured out his heart to God. He was able to get to the place of assurance and know that his will was aligned with God’s. He found rest in the knowledge of God’s love. We can use this prayer as a pattern when we are in trouble.
Psalm 18 David sang this Psalm to the Lord when he had been delivered from the hand of his enemies and the hand of Saul. It’s almost like a sequel to the prayer in Psalm 17. Read verses 1&2: So many songs of praise have been inspired by these words penned by David 3000 years ago – and so many times they have been proven to be true! The Lord is our: Strength; Rock; Fortress; Deliverer; Refuge; Salvation; Stronghold. These all describe God’s strength and yet David addresses God with the words, “I love You Lord”. God was more than someone who could get David out of trouble. Read verses 3-6:
The Lord was also David’s confidante and friend, the One he relied on and trusted and had faith in. David said he called to God, described all his distress, and God heard him. Q. How do you think David regarded God? (As being Friend, Father, King, Helper, Lord ...?) The word that David uses is Yehova, meaning the self-existent or eternal one, “I AM”. God is the beginning and end of all things, he made all things and knows all things, and can do all things. But he is also our friend – amazing. Read verses 7-15: Although David uses very picturesque and dramatic imagery to describe how God won the battle for him, we can deduce that probably God routed the enemy with hailstones and bolts of lightning (v12&14). Q. In contrast to David, how do you think the enemy regarded God? Read verses 16-19: David knew that it was God who had rescued him, God who had supported him, and God who had brought him out of the tumult into a place of rest – a spacious place. This is what inspired him to write the words in this Psalm. Q. Do we always remember to give God the credit when he delivers us? Read verses 20-29: Compare again with the beginning of verse 1. He is not saying that simply by always doing the right thing, then God will always answer your prayers. In fact David gives God the credit for keeping his heart right (v28). What he is saying is that when we spend time in fellowship with God and search our hearts and want to be obedient to his will – then, God delights in us (v19) and because he delights in us he wants what is best and right for us. Q. David understood the secret that as he delighted in God, so God delighted in him. Do we? Read verses 30-36: David is so full of praise that He uses another string of attributes for God. God’s way is perfect, his words flawless; he is our Rock and keeps our feet on the right road (v33,36) and trains our hands for battle (v34). If you do not have words to praise God – use some of David’s – and claim these promises! Read verses 37-45: According to the custom of the day David described the battle and the outcome. These Psalms that David wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would have been sung time and time again as a reminder of all that God had done. Recounting how God has worked in our lives can be a great strength and encouragement to ourselves and to others. Read verses 46-50: David acknowledges that God had routed the enemy, but he also praises God for dealing with Saul (“from a violent man you rescued me”). Again compare the last verse of this Psalm with that of the previous one (Psalm 17v15). David had an idea of the eternal nature of his kingship. He knew from the Scriptures that he was a part of the promise given to Abraham. He wouldn’t have known about Jesus the Messiah, but he was aware of his special place in history and eternity as God worked through him. Q. Are we confident of our place in eternity?
Psalm 19 In this Psalm we see how God reveals himself through Creation and through the Word, and they cannot be separated. This is a common theme in the Bible which is explained to us by the Apostle John in his gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … through Him were all things created. (John 1v1,3) So, revelation comes through the Word of God (both the written Word and Jesus Christ) and through all that he created. Q. Think of one thing that reveals God to you when you consider creation. Read verse 1 For us it might be a new-born baby, or a pastoral scene, or the vast oceans. For David, it was the night sky that spoke to him of God’s power and glory. The word David uses here for God is Elohim which speaks of an all-powerful God. Inspired, he says that the stars proclaim the work of God’s hands. We now know just what all those stars are and it makes us wonder at God’s greatness all the more. Some facts about the universe n There are at least 10 billion trillion stars (like our sun) in the universe n They probably number more than the grains of sand on all the worlds beaches (think about God’s promise to Abraham)
n Millions of new stars are made every day n Our Sun is one of the smaller stars (and yet approximately 1 million earths could fit into it, it is so huge) n We now know that planets (and probably stars) do make sounds in space which can be picked up as electromagnetic waves. These are phenomenal figures and just make us wonder all the more at God’s greatness. Read verse 2 David didn’t know that there were so many stars or that there was sound in space, but God’s Word always proves true. Q. How do the stars reveal knowledge? The stars all have their set courses. Absolutely everything in space runs on mathematical principles. As far back as David’s time sailors could plot a course, depending on the position of the stars in the night sky. They not only reveal God’s glory but his limitless ability and many scientists now accept that there is some form of intelligent design in the creation of the world. It cannot be argued with. Read verse 3and 4a Silently, the stars are revealing knowledge and teaching us about God’s greatness. The word “voice” can also be translated as “influence or measuring line” meaning that they can be depended on mathematically. Everything speaks of the perfection of creation. Read verses 4b-6 In these verses David speaks more specifically about our Sun, using poetic language and metaphor, so that there is beauty even in the description of creation. The sun is like a bridegroom that we are waiting for and like a champion who never fails. We might not always see the sun in our country, but we can be sure that it is always there, and always on course. Every day, it rises and sets and provides us with light and warmth. Always dependable – an example of God’s dependability and power and glory. Read verse 7 David moves on to show how God reveals himself through the Word. In this verse David carefully changes a word. He doesn’t use the word God (Elohim), he uses the word Lord (Jehovah). Through this he is showing that whilst Creation reveals God’s glory and power, God’s Word brings relationship – He is David’s Lord. God’s word, like the universe, is also perfect and dependable. And it is refreshing, it restores us and renews us. In this verse David is talking about the Law (the Torah) which is there to teach us and help us understand and to give us wisdom. Read verse 8 The “precepts” are those parts of the Word which teach us right from wrong. They are not meant to be there to condemn us or put us down but to enlighten us and give us joy. Q. Which is the happier child – the one who can run free and always do what he/she wants, or the one who has a loving parent who sets boundaries for the wellbeing of their child? Ultimately we are happier if we have good guidance, which we find in the Scriptures. Read verse 9 Here David talks about the reverence and respect we have for the Word of God. God and his word are inseparable – one and the same, as seen in Jesus Christ. Just as God is eternal we are reminded that his words endure forever. Read verses 10&11 We can read this verse and think it is written in beautiful poetry or we can be challenged by it. Is this statement true?: The way we think of the Bible is a reflection of the way we think of God. Do we really desire God’s Word? Do we prefer to read it to a novel? If we had to choose, would we rather go to a Bible Study than a church meal – or vice versa? Is God’s Word everything to us – more precious than any other possession? Great is our reward when we love God’s Word. Read verses 12&13 David continues the challenge. We cannot judge ourselves, we need God’s Word. It leads us to the knowledge of God’s forgiveness and freedom from the sins that we find difficult to overcome. Read verse 14 The fact is it is pleasing to God when we meditate on his Word, when we sit quietly without words and simply think about what God is saying to us. In his last 5 words David sums up his thoughts. God (Elohim) is a Rock – as dependable and powerful as the heavens above and all of Creation. God (Jehovah) is also a Redeemer – the whole purpose of His Word is to lead men and women to himself.
Psalms 20 & 21 These two Psalms flow together as one, and in fact, the beginning of Psalm 21 is part of Psalm 20 in the Hebrew texts. They are like a “before” and “after”, two halves of the same account. So that we see the people and King David: n Setting out their requests n Testifying to trust in God n Praising God for victory n Trusting the outcome to God n Exalting God Read chapter 20v1-5: Setting out requests Sometimes it is good to use specific, rather than vague, language when we bring our requests to God. It helps us to sort out what we need rather than what we want and it helps us to align our requests with God’s will. Here we see a format which was more than likely a battle song which helped the people to prepare for war against their enemies. Within it we see 6 specific requests for the King: May the Lord answer you (v1) May the Lord protect you (v1) May the Lord support you (v2) May the Lord accept you (v3) May the Lord give you your desires (v4) May we all shout for joy in victory (v5) Note: The victory was assumed and the blessing was for all. Read chapter 20v6-9: Testifying to trust in God When we fight for God, for his glory and his kingdom we cannot fail. We can have absolute trust in him. David never fought his own battles, he didn’t pick fights. He only fought those who deigned to attack God’s land and his people. And so, David’s confidence was in his anointing and his call. If a soldier goes AWOL or sides with the enemy, he cannot expect support from his leader. A good soldier is one who is 100% obedient. He will have support from his colleagues and leaders. God calls us to be like soldiers (2 Timothy 2v3,4) David’s Testimony: The Lord gives victory (not of ourselves) (v6) The Lord always hears and answers us (v6) We trust in God – not the greatness of our weapons (v7) The Lord helps us to stand firm (v8) David knew God was with him and his people against all odds. Israel was never a fighting nation or even a large nation. But God has kept his word and been faithful over thousands of years. We too, are to stand firm in impossible situations. (Romans 8v31) Read chapter 21v1-7: Praising God for victory David could have seen the victory as his own, especially when the crowds were praising him for coming back victorious. But he didn’t – he gave the honour and thanks and praise to God. If pride steps in it can usurp God’s place in our life just as surely as if it were an idol. Testimony is good, not when it’s about us, but when it focuses on what the Lord has done. David testified to: Rejoicing in God’s strength (v1) Knowing God’s answer (v2) Experiencing God’s rich blessings (v3) Protection on his life (v4) His standing as King through God’s hand (v5) Rejoicing in God’s presence with him (v6) Knowing he can trust God’s unfailing love (v7). Read chapter 21v8-12: Trusting the outcome to God Here David seems to anticipate future battles and future victories. And David uses poetic and rousing language to encourage the people to put their trust in God who is the ultimate judge. Some points to note: God will avenge – it is not for us to do so. (v8) God’s wrath is sometimes shown in drastic ways (v9) Those who plot evil against God’s people cannot succeed (v11) Because God is always victorious (v11) God’s justice is targeted righteously (v12)
Q. God’s people (Jews and Christians) are still being persecuted throughout the world. Who avenges them and what can we do (as soldiers of the Cross) to help them? How are things different under the New Covenant? Is God any different? Read chapter 21v13: David exalts God David, the greatest of all Israel’s kings, finishes his song by elevating God; he gives him honour and acknowledges his power and might and greatness. In doing so David the king yields to the sovereignty of one far greater than himself and encourages his people to follow.
Psalm 22 This is not the most well-known of David’s Psalms but it is certainly the most prophetic. And, as is often the case with prophecy, it can be applied to David, to ourselves and – more importantly - to the life and work of our Saviour, Jesus. It shows us different sides of David: shepherd boy, warrior king, submissive servant AND prophet. And it speaks of Jesus throughout his life. This Psalm is David’s voice and spoken from his heart and experience and yet, it is almost as if Jesus is speaking those same words. We therefore have to study this Psalm alongside New Testament scriptures in order to appreciate its full meaning. Read verses 1&2 This is the cry of anguish, of someone who is in great mental and physical strain; the cry of someone who is feeling cut off from God and yet knowing that God is there to call on. At certain times in our lives we can probably identify with that feeling. David was no different to us – neither was Jesus. He felt everything we feel when he hung on the Cross for us. See 2 Cor 5v21; Gal 3v13; Matt 27v46 Read verses 3-5 David gets his thoughts into perspective by reminding himself of God’s (The Holy One, God the Father) position and character – always praised, always trusted, ever faithful God. As New Testament Christians we have the advantage of knowing that Jesus also came as the Holy One to show us what God is like, i.e. compassionate, loving, forgiving, faithful. Rev 16v5; Luke 1v35; John 6v69 Read verses 6-8 David, like many believers since – and like Jesus – knew what it was to be both honoured and abased and humbled. He knew what it was to feel worthless and unloved, taunted and rejected by men. And sometimes we have these feelings ourselves. But look – Jesus experienced all that too. He walked the same path as David and ourselves. As a man he experienced all the pain and emotions that we experience – and more, as he became despised for us, for our sin that he carried. As an old hymn says: O help me understand it, help me to take it in What it meant for Thee, the Holy One, to take away my sin. Again, this truth is supported by New Testament Scriptures. See Matt 27v41-44; Philippians 2v6-8 Read verses 9-11 Mary recognized this truth in The Magnificat (see Luke 1v46-55) David identifies with the truth that he was chosen from his mother’s womb as do Samson, Jeremiah, John the Baptist and many others in the Bible. This is a truth for us as well. God knows us before we are born – that is, we are a spiritual being before we ever have physical breath. Once we are born into this tainted world and become of age, the only way to renew that spiritual relationship with God is by faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. (Of great comfort is the fact that children, babies and the unborn are known by God and received into his presence if they die prematurely). And for us, it is very affirming to know that God loves us and has known and loved us since we were conceived. (At this point the Psalm merges much more into prophecy about the Messiah, although He is not mentioned as such. This Psalm is an example of those passages in the Bible where prophetic truth is “In the old concealed and in the New revealed”.) Read verses 12-15 David was speaking metaphorically about his enemies – strong bulls and lions – as strong opponents. When he penned this he felt his life was almost ended. (But we know God sent relief.) At times everything feels as if it is too much for us to bear. The bulls and lions in our lives could represent any kind of opposition we face (illness, death, redundancy, emotional stress, family problems etc. etc.) For Jesus, hanging on the Cross, this description is so expressive. All had turned against him. Even his disciples had left him. “He was poured out like water” – like a sacrifice, and dehydrated, waiting for death. See John 19v28-30 – Jesus was thirsty. Here we see that all the Old Testament Scriptures were
fulfilled. Why? So that the Jews would recollect them and realise the huge mistake they had made in crucifying their Messiah. Read 16-18 Here we have more specific information about Jesus’ death – n Villains around him – a criminal either side n Pierced hands and feet, and bones on display (this is a description of crucifixion about one thousand years before the Romans introduced it as a punishment! The person would be stripped of his clothes to bring utter humiliation and then tied and nailed to the cross beam before being lifted up for all to see.) n Casting of lots for Jesus’ garment (See Luke 23v34) This makes such painful reading. But Jesus was “obedient unto death”, he fulfilled all the Scriptures and aligned his will with Father God’s – all because he loves us and knew it was the only way to bring us reconciliation with God. Read verses 19-21 These are words of David. And very likely our prayer at times. We plead with God for deliverance from our difficulties and problems and he answers us. But for Jesus, who spent the night wrestling in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, there was only one outcome. However, Jesus did not die at the hands of the Romans. He, himself, gave up his spirit to God. He was not killed by the sword of the Romans (verse 20). And (to fulfil verses 20,21) Jesus was not left on the Cross at the mercy of the elements and wild animals. His body was taken down by Joseph of Arimathea and, with respect and love, laid to rest in his family’s tomb. See Luke 23v46; Matt 27v57-60 Read verses 22-23 Despite the preceding verses, David was inspired to announce praises to God and to call people to honour him then and now (descendants of Jacob – that refers to us!) Somehow God had revealed the fact that death was not the end. There was a purpose, as explained in the New Testament. See Hebrews 2v11&12; Hebrews 12v2 Read verse 24 Compare with verse 1. God was in it all. He was working all the time. He was working out his purposes. And even though all others forsook Jesus, God did not. Through it all God was fulfilling all the Scriptures and working out his great plan of salvation for all mankind with the full cooperation of Jesus. See Hebrews 5v7-10 (At this point the Psalm moves from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection and glorification of Jesus.) Read verses 25&26 David introduces the theme of God’s provision; the fact that any who seek Him can find Him; and the theme of eternal life. “May our hearts live forever”. Without the Messiah the Jews do not have this hope. Once Jesus had come this hope was for everyone. See John 6v27 Read verses 27-29 David looks to the future when the Jews will remember what was accomplished by the Messiah, and when all nations of the earth – Jews and gentiles together – will bow before the One who is Sovereign Lord over all. This amazing prophecy, written so long ago, has echoes of Revelation and End Times theology. Whether we be rich or poor, we cannot keep ourselves alive. God ordains both our birth and our death. After all the scientific advancement since David’s day, man still has no control over the day of his death – unless it is taken unlawfully. And ultimately, as it says in Philippians, all will have to bow the knee to Jesus, the one who they persecuted. See Matt 8v11; Philippians 2v10&11 Read verses 30&31 David declares to future generations that there will a time when they will be able to say, “God has done it” – through Jesus Christ the Righteous One there will be made a way of forgiveness that will be open to all. Praise the Lord, when Jesus died on the Cross he shouted, “It is finished”. The work of atonement, of paying for our sin, was completed on the Cross. Jesus, referred to all the way through this Psalm, was the one who effected it. And prosperity will serve him. He will be revered and worshipped for everlasting. Read John 19v30; Revelation 7v9-12 Many people, prophets and poets and songwriters, have tried to capture God’s plan for eternity – such is its awefullness and beauty and wonder.
This old and well-loved hymn follows the themes of Psalm 22: Man of sorrows, what a name for the Son of God who came, Ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah! What a Saviour. Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood Sealed my pardon with his blood. Hallelujah! What a Saviour. Guilty, vile and helpless, we, Spotless Lamb of God was he; “Full atonement?” Can it be? Hallelujah! What a Saviour. Lifted up was he to die, “It is finished” was his cry; Now in heaven exalted high; Hallelujah! What a Saviour. When he comes, our glorious king, all his ransomed home to bring Then anew this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah! What a Saviour.
Psalm 23 – (Promises - phrase by phrase) 1a. The LORD is my Shepherd The LORD is YHWH, Lord and Master, and he cares for me like a shepherd – tenderly (JEHOVA ROHI). He is with me all of the time. Almighty God, ruler of heaven and earth is mine, “MY” shepherd. My shepherd who knows me by name – I belong to him. I am like a sheep in my understanding. I may not always know the way or have control, but He does. If I let him he will always take control of my life and care for me. I can trust him because Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep”. 1b. I shall not want. I lack nothing, for the shepherd is my provider – (JEHOVA JIREH, my provider) – it’s who he is. He can provide for all my physical, emotional and spiritual needs when I follow him. Jesus reminds us (Matt 6v26) that even the birds of the air are provided for by our heavenly Father. And if he provides for them how much more will he provide for us? 2a. He makes me lie down in green pastures. If you have ever been in a hot, dry and dusty land you will appreciate green pastures all the more. When sheep are left on dried up ground and dead vegetation rest and feeding does not come easily. An arid landscape depicts those times in our lives when we are spiritually dry and in need of refreshment. This verse not only tells us that God will lead us to fresh, green pastures but that he will make us (not let us, or allow us, but make us) lie down and rest. He knows our needs. His way is the way of Sabbath rest – one whole day a week from my labours and time to spend with Him. I go against this at my peril and end up in dry ground. But green pastures provide fruitfulness and fertility and renewal – a fresh experience every morning. 2b. He leads me beside still, quiet waters. Green pastures need water. Not rushing waters which erodes the landscape but quiet water which brings refreshing to the land – here there is a sense of peace and renewal, (JEHOVA SHALOM – My peace). Water represents the work of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. In a hot land still, warm water is like a magnet to the weary traveler who is drawn in to an amazing experience of calm and refreshing. When our minds are busy and confused, when our emotions are out of control we need to find that place of knowing the quiet peace of resting in the Holy Spirit and knowing God’s peace surrounding us, just as if we are swimming in it. 3a. He restores/refreshes my soul. He restores us – he heals us (JEHOVA RAPHA). God is a healing God – it’s who he is. He wants to make us whole. My soul is the part of me in contact with my body and therefore feels affected by the world around me. But it is also the place in me that is in contact with my spirit. My soul consists of my emotions, my ethics, philosophies and understanding; my will and my appreciation of good and evil things. It gets “worn out” keeping my actions and my body in the right place. And so it needs to rest and connect afresh with my spirit, where Christ dwells, and where I can experience his refreshing. 3b. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. His promise is that he will guide us in the right ways. (His name is JEHOVAH TSIDKENU – God my righteousness). He has given us Jesus who is our righteousness. 1 Cor. 1v30 says: You are in Christ Jesus … our righteousness, holiness and redemption. We can rest in Jesus who is our righteousness so that the Holy Spirit can lead us in right paths. When I try to walk in my own strength I often fail, but when I rest in God he helps me to get it right and he gets the glory. 4a. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil. And yet sometimes I do fear. I’m not oblivious to the risks of walking alone in the dark, physically or emotionally. It is always better to take someone with me. Praise God he is always with me (JEHOVAH SHAMMAH). I am never alone, I need not fear.
4b. For you are with me. Your rod and staff they comfort me. If I don’t trust in God am I in fact saying that he is not trustworthy? Of course he is – I know he is – therefore I can trust him to allay my fears. Just as the shepherd in Israel used his rod and staff to urge the sheep on or restrain them when needed, so God has his hand on our lives, directing us, keeping us and protecting us. 5a. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. What are your enemies? David’s enemies were the Philistines, but he also had an enemy in Saul who was supposed to be on his side. Each of us has our own enemies (not necessarily human), which can be anything that is set against us. But God’s promise is that he will eat with us (have close communion with us) despite the presence of our enemies. Nothing can stop him from blessing us, even amidst trouble, because he is our banner – he is the one who will bring the victory (JEHOVAH NISSI). 5b. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows. When we realise that God is there amidst our difficulties that is often the time that we experience his blessing most. The word anointing means that God consecrates us and sanctifies us (JEHOVAH MEKODDISHKEM). 2 Cor. 1v21&22 says: Now it is God who makes … us stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us and put his Spirit in our hearts …” 6a. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life As we experience more of God we appreciate with David the goodness, mercy, grace and love of God which we have proved in our lives. (EL RACHUM – God of Mercy) “Surely” is David’s conclusion to his thoughts about God our Shepherd. Surely God is good! 6b. And I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever. The “House of the Lord” to the Israelites was The Temple. Clearly David wasn’t referring to that. He understood that there is a far greater “house” waiting for us where we can experience the presence of God for all eternity. God is everlasting (EL-OLAM – everlasting God) and the Good Shepherd has prepared a place for all his sheep to live with him and to experience everlasting life in his presence. No matter where we are – physically, emotionally or spiritually – if we have given our life to Jesus and trust him as our Shepherd, then (with David) we are always a part of God’s house and belong to his family – for ever.
Psalm 24 Read verse 1 The whole world belongs to the Lord – everything, not just the earth but the whole universe. And so, we are stewards of the earth, not owners. If God owns everything, he owns us and he owns all that we possess too. But this brings implications for us. God expects us to look after the earth in a responsible way. Read Genesis 1v28-31 Knowing that the earth belongs to the Lord and not to the Devil should give us the assurance that God is in control. The Devil only has limited freedom. God rules over HIS earth. Read Daniel 4v17 So, it stands to reason that if God owns everything and is a God of Love will he not always provide for us? David wrote this Psalm. He was a shepherd boy, not an intellectual, but he wrote in depth of God’s lovingkindness and provision as the Holy Spirit guided him. David knew he had salvation in the Lord even though salvation through Jesus Christ had not yet been revealed to the world. Read Romans 8v32 Read verse 2 Just in case anyone should have any doubt about verse 1, David goes on to write that God doesn’t just own everything, he created it. Everything makes sense if all moral reasoning is based on those two facts. When man takes God out of the equation and decides that God didn’t make the earth (Evolutionary Theory) all the above points fall apart. We don’t look after God’s creation properly, we don’t look out for one another, we shirk our responsibilities and put ourselves first. We don’t know how to handle evil. We say the Devil doesn’t exist but evil is still all around us and if we don’t believe in God, we have no antidote. The earth would be an anarchic, impossible place to live if all the Christians were to disappear from the earth. Note: One third of the world’s population is made up of Christians, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers. That’s 2.5 billion people! Q. Do we have the impact we should be having? Read verse 3 David has been thinking about the earth and now poses the obvious question: Who can come into God’s presence – who has the right? The word “ascend” gives us the picture of a God who is high and lifted up, a holy God who is to be worshipped. Sadly, this question isn’t asked very frequently these days. People are far more interested in themselves, “how can I reach my potential, what can I do to make me happy, how can I be loved?” Instead of looking upward they look inward. They look to themselves and often spend a lot of time and money on themselves to boost their selfesteem. Q. Do you think that, without realising it, they are worshipping themselves and worldly things, but not the Creator?
Read verse 4 Hands and heart. “Hands” speak of our actions and “heart” speaks of our thoughts and intentions. In other words both faith and works are necessary. But, we can never make ourselves good enough to come into God’s presence just by doing the right things. We can only be made pure, washed clean, by the shed blood of Jesus. David had to make sacrifices at the altar to make atonement for his sin, but he knew that having a pure heart was so much more than that. Trusting in an idol (even in oneself ) was never enough, or swearing falsely/deceitfully – being humbly repentant before God the Creator and asking for forgiveness is the only way into God’s presence. Under the Old Covenant a righteous walk was the precondition for fellowship with God; under the New Covenant a righteous walk is the result of fellowship with God, founded on faith. Read verses 5&6 God rewards those who honour him with their lives in repentance and service. Where the presence of the Lord is, there will be blessing, and the blessing is vindication. Vindication: means absolution, acquital, exoneration. It is a state of being found pure and without guilt, “from God their Saviour”. It is surprising to see that term in the Old Testament, penned prophetically by David. How could it be? The only way to heaven for all mankind is through the work of Jesus on the Cross. So that, even Old Testament believers were not able to enter heaven until the Coming of Christ and his sacrifice – “once for all” – which would replace the sacrifices of the Old Covenant. Old Testament believers couldn’t have the assurance that we have. But … Read Romans 4v18-25 Faith counted as righteousness – and still does. David put it as, “those who seek Him”, those whose hearts and minds reach out to God and allow Him in. These are they who are truly blessed, vindicated and have a place in heaven – whenever and wherever they live. In verse 6 David calls the Lord, “God of Jacob” which is a reference to the Covenant that God had made with Abraham and renewed with Jacob. God only wanted to bless his people, that is his desire – but they must come to Him. Read verse 7 This Psalm could have been written by David when the Ark of the Covenant came to rest in Jerusalem. The Ark (and therefore God’s presence and seeking of him) had been captured by the Philistines, and later, it had been more or less forgotten. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it, but no worse than the fact that many people have forgotten God today. But, eventually David brought the Ark to Jerusalem. Read 2 Samuel 6v16-19 The gates of Jerusalem were very high and in two parts, so that when a visiting King or indeed when the Ark came, the lower doors would be opened, but also the higher parts of the gates would be lifted too, in recognition of status and honour. “Lift up your heads “ refers to the opening of the higher parts of the gates and immediately the reader would know that this was a very special arrival. The Ark of the Covenant – the Dwelling-place of God – was coming. BUT … As so often with Scripture there is more meaning. So that verse could refer to: n The original Ark (which symbolised both the Law, and the saving work of Jesus) entering Jerusalem n Jesus’ actual entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday n The triumphant ascension of Jesus into glory, entering the heavenly Jerusalem n Us. The verse is a challenge to us, to lift up our heads to the King of Kings and to allow him (in all his glory) to enter our lives Notice the theme in this Psalm of: Hands and Hearts Works and Faith Doors and Gates The hands, works and doors are all functional thigs. The hearts, faith and gates - all things which honour and glorify God. Read verses 8-10 But … who is this King of Glory? He is The Owner of the world and everything in it (v1) The Creator of all things (v2) He who is in God’s Presence (v3) He who is Pure (v4) He is our Saviour (v5) He blesses those who seek him (v6) He is the fulfilment of God’s Covenant with Jacob (v6) He is the King of Glory (v7) He is strong and mighty in battle (v8) And just in case we are in any doubt, David repeats the last two verses again! This Psalm lifts our hearts when we recognise the glory of God when we come into his Presence.
Psalm 25 This Psalm is an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Read verses 1-3: Confidence, not Shame When our hope and trust is in God we need not feel ashamed. On the occasions when we ‘slip up’ our enemy, Satan, will try and point the finger at us and tell us we are not good enough. This can result in our confidence being sapped, and we feel ashamed of having let the Lord down. These are the times we must remember that our confidence is in the Lord, and not in what the Devil whispers in our ears. But God has designed us with the ability to feel shame, so what is the purpose of shame? If we do something that is wrong we feel shame and it points us to our sin. But what is the opposite of shame? But when we do something praiseworthy it makes us feel proud and honoured. There is only one person who can take away our shame. Read: Hebrews 12v2; 1 John 2v28: Romans 10v11 Read verses 4-7: Love and Guidance Here we see a picture of our Lord and Saviour who is also our Father. What are some of the ‘Fatherly’ things David mentions in these verses? David says: Show me (v4), teach me (v4), guide me (v5), love me (v6), remember me (v6), forgive me (v7), for you are good. David was not an intellectual – he had much to learn about God and about how God wanted him to rule in Israel. His position as King did not change his attitude towards God. He still relied totally on God’s mercy (v6,7) and He still saw God as both Lord and Father. Read Psalm 68v4-6 Read verses 8-11: Honour and humility Jesus showed us how it was possible to have both honour and humility. Those who are honoured are those who live with integrity, obeying God’s ways (v10). Humility helps us to recognise that we have a need to learn. Pride can be a barrier to us receiving guidance from God. Read Isaiah 43v4 – God is talking to the people he has made a covenant with, and that includes us! He sees us as precious and honoured when we come to him in humility and repentance. Not only that, God instructs us (v8), guides us and teaches us (v9). Read verses 12-15: Reverence and fear/awe Those who fear the Lord will get direction (v12). David repeats this thought many times in the Psalms. Read Psalm 111v10. God will do his bit, but what are we to do? – see verse 15. The child who sits in the classroom looking out of the window will never do as well as the child who keeps his/her eyes fixed on the teacher. We need to be watchful and remember that it is only God who can deliver us – we don’t need to go looking elsewhere. The view out side the classroom might be lovely, but it’s not going to help us learn. Read verses 16-19: In difficulty and Distress Now we see that David wasn’t sitting on his throne enjoying a ‘cushy’ life of opulence and ease. He was in the thick of it. He uses words like “lonely, afflicted, troubled, anguished, distressed, hated and surrounded by enemies”. This Psalm was actually written before before David came to the throne (he had been anointed by Samuel, but would not usurp the throne from Saul – this caused him lots of problems). Praise God for the reality of the words in David’s Psalms, written honestly and from the heart. If David could praise God in his problems, so can we. If David can find help, so can we. If David learnt from his experiences, so can we. David shows us how we can pray, “Bring me up”, rather than, “Bring me out”. We can come into God’s presence and he will help us. If he merely helped us we might not come into his presence. W.W.Wiersbe says: It’s not that we get out of it, but what we get out of it”. David’s desire was that God would be honoured as a result of answering his prayer. Read verses 20-22: Deliverance Again, David returns to his theme of “not being ashamed” – in other words, he wants his actions and the way he copes with his problems to bring honour to the Lord. How often is that our prayer when we are going through trials? David is relying on his right-standing before the Lord and therefore can confidently state that his hope is in the Lord (v21). In summary, David prayed for guidance, and these are the conditions he has highlighted: n We can approach God in confidence and we can trust in Him n Because God loves us He will guide us in the right way n Humility and repentance are a prerequisite for learning n We should always come before Him with reverence and fear n We can tell God all about our difficulties and distress, but it helps if we focus more on the Lord than on ourselves n Deliverance will come to those who hope in God. Next time you are in a ‘sticky’ situation, why not make this Psalm into your prayer?
The Estuary Elim Group of Churches are three Essex based Elim Pentecostal Churches in Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend on Sea with a shared Leadership team. We are a group of people responding to the love of God and the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Our services are lively with contemporary music, worship and preaching and teaching relevant to the 21st Century. To find out more about us visit www.estuaryelim.church Whether you are new to church, someone with questions or a committed Christian, we want to serve you and help you discover and fulfil Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s purpose for your life. If you would like an opportunity to email or talk to one of the team email your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you. The Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend Elim Pentecostal Churches are branches of The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (Registered Charity No. 251549)