Psalm 140

How to act towards people who hate you

Do you know people that hate you? I mean really hate you? David did. David had “friends” who wanted him dead. How awful it must have been to be in the presence of those people when he knew their smooth words were a mask for their hatred?

The answer David gives to the problem is to do nothing, and then to pray, because God would maintain his cause:

I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor. (Psalm 140:12 KJV)

At the same time he trusted that God would cause justice to be served:

Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again. (Psalm 140:10 KJV)

The writer in Proverbs further explains the concept of burning coals like this:

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee. (Proverbs 25:21-22 KJV)

So if someone hates you, be courteous to them, because God is the judge of all men, and if He sees you acting this way but nevertheless afflicted by the wicked, He will act to “maintain the cause of the afflicted”.

Psalm 139

Thine eyes did see my substance

It is one thing to understand that God knows all our thoughts and sees all our actions (v1-6) but it is quite another thing to actually invite it.

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. (Psalm 139:1-6 KJV)

David goes on to ask God to search his heart. In our prayers, do we invite this kind of scrutiny?

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24 KJV)

Part of the reason is that David realises he can’t get away from God anyway:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (Psalm 139:7-12 KJV)

And he realises that when he was helpless and, as yet, unformed in the womb, it was a good thing that God could see him!

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16 KJV)

so he concludes that the fact that God knows all, is rather a good thing for him:

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:17 KJV)

Just as in the womb it was only God who could see us and look after us, so in death it is only God who can remember what we were and bring our substance back from decay. Jonah sought to run away from God, finding himself at last in a more perfect and complete hiding place than anyone could deem possible — the belly of a fish, deep in the sea. It was a good thing for Jonah that God could still see him and hear his prayer! Should we not likewise rejoice in God’s knowledge of us in our waking lives? It may feel uncomfortable that He knows and sees everything, but ultimately it is that trait that saves us.

Psalm 138

A matter of perspective

Notice the comparison between the following two verses from this Psalm and the next:

Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. (Psalm 138:6 KJV)

Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. (Psalm 139:2 KJV)

God knows the actions of every one of us, even from a long way away. For some that is positive, and for others it is negative. It all depends on our point of view.

Psalm 137

Edom’s hatred of Jerusalem

It appears from verse 7 of this Psalm that the Edomites had a hand in the destruction of Jerusalem at the time of the Babylon invasion:

Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof. (Psalm 137:7 KJV)

It is also evident from 2 Chronicles 36:17-19 that this destruction was complete.

Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand. And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. (2 Chronicles 36:17-19 KJV)

The Psalm appears to suggest that, had it not been for the Edomites, that destruction would have been less severe. God’s judgment on Edom would therefore also be severe as we can see in Isaiah 34.

For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. … For it is the day of the LORD’S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion. (Isaiah 34:5, 8 KJV)

Psalm 136

O give thanks to the LORD, for His mercy endureth forever

It is clear from the first three verses that this Psalm is about giving thanks to God.

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 136:1-3 KJV)

There follows a list of twenty things to give thanks for, finishing off in verse 26 with a repeat of the call to give thanks.

Now then; if I were to make a list of twenty things to thank God for, what would I put in that list? I wouldn’t have thought of many of the things in this Psalm, that’s for sure. And what order would I put them in? I think giving thanks for food would be near the top of my list but where does it come in this list? In fact, does the writer of the Psalm list anything that is completely personal to him?

What are we being taught by this Psalm? Perhaps that God wants us to understand His work deeply and to praise Him for those things that are truly His handiwork. Yes, we might also thank Him for the things that from our own self absorbed perspective seem important, but we should also take the time to understand His great works throughout history and thank Him for those things that happened long ago or that happen outside our immediate daily experience.

Psalm 135

For I know that the LORD is great

This Psalm shows how God’s name became associated with the great salvation He achieved for the people of Israel:

For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. … Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast. Who sent tokens and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants. (Psalm 135:5, 8-9 KJV)

It explains that the plagues happened so that in hearing of His great works, the Gentile people might seek to serve Him too. In the days before social media, TV, the internet, radio or newspapers, the fame of God’s name still needed to spread somehow through word of mouth, and it was these great events that made that happen.

Thy name, O LORD, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O LORD, throughout all generations. (Psalm 135:13 KJV)

This is not just an idea confined to the Psalm. In the Exodus account God Himself says to Moses why He is causing the plagues to happen:

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so. (Exodus 14:4 KJV)

Psalm 134

In the house of the LORD by night

A Song of degrees. Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD. (Psalm 134:1 KJV)

It seems like an odd phrase in verse 1. What does it mean to stand in the house of the LORD? Who would go into the house of the LORD at night, when the doors would be shut and guarded?

Could this be talking about the Priest, who needed to keep the lamp burning through the night?

Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before the LORD continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations. (Leviticus 24:3 KJV)

But the Psalm seems to speak to many people, not just the few. There was only one other function that could be performed in the temple at night, but we don’t find it stipulated in the Law. We find the answer in the words of Solomon:

That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place. (1 Kings 8:29 KJV)

And the words of Nehemiah:

Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. (Nehemiah 1:6 KJV)

These both mention prayer in relation to the temple at night. So the Psalmist is saying that by prayer to God, we may stand in His house, wherever we are, and whatever time it is, day or night. It is those who pray by (or on) their beds that are described as being in the sanctuary of God in verse 2. This is comforting for us Gentiles, because we have no other temple to go to.

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD. (Psalm 134:2 KJV)

Psalm 133

The blessing of life for evermore

In verse 2 and 3 of this Psalm, David is considering the dew of God that runs down the mountains of Israel and brings life to the people of Israel every morning. He likens it to the anointing of the High Priest.

It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. (Psalm 133:2-3 KJV)

When Aaron was anointed, the oil was poured onto a plate (the crown) tied to his mitre which had engraved on it “Holy to the LORD”:

And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be. (Exodus 28:36-37 KJV)

Holy means “set apart”. Perhaps David is drawing the comparison to say that all people of the land can be equally special to God no matter where in it they lived – whether Hermon to the far North or Zion to the South? He is also making the point that while the source of the river Jordan is Mount Hermon, the source of salvation is from Zion.

Psalm 132

David’s vow to house the Ark of the Covenant

Clearly at an early age David became concerned that the God of Israel was dwelling in a tent. We can gather this because of his mention of his own tent in v3

Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; (Psalm 132:3 KJV)

while in contrast he realised the Ark wasn’t:

We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool. Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength. (Psalm 132:7-8 KJV)

So he made a vow:

How he sware unto the LORD, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, Until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob. (Psalm 132:2-5 KJV)

Later in his life, he states his wish to resolve this issue more definitely, referring to his desire to build the temple.

That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains. (2 Samuel 7:2 KJV)

Psalm 131

Lifted up in pride

A Song of degrees of David. LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. (Psalm 131:1 KJV)

What does David mean when he says “my heart is not haughty”? The English word “haughty”, translated from the Hebrew word “gabahh”, has its first occurrence in the Bible in 1 Samuel 10:23, and that’s no accident. Here we read about Saul, the newly chosen King:

And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher (gabahh) than any of the people from his shoulders and upward. (1 Samuel 10:23 KJV)

David is saying that he will not make the same mistakes that Saul did in lifting himself up, in pride, above the people. David will remain a humble servant.

In comparison with Saul, another King called Jehoshaphat was “lifted up”, but notice what he was lifted up in:

And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah. (2 Chronicles 17:6 KJV)

What about us? Do we lift ourselves up in pride, or are we lifted up by the ways of the LORD?