J.Calvin on Psalm 146: “…So many reasons why we should hope in him.”

JCalvinPic1For our further meditation on Psalm 146 today, we include this commentary of John Calvin on vss.7ff., where he remarks on the character and works of God that call us to hope in Him and to praise Him. May His words encourage us to see God for Who He is and to fall down before Him in perfect (complete) trust and adoration.

7. Rendering right, etc.

He instances other kinds both of the power and goodness of God, which are just so many reasons why we should hope in him. All of them bear upon the point, that the help of God will be ready and forthcoming to those who are in the lowest circumstances, that accordingly our miseries will be no barrier in the way of his helping us; nay, that such is his nature, that he is disposed to assist all in proportion to their necessity.

He says first, that God renders justice to the oppressed, to remind us that although in the judgment of sense God connives at the injuries done to us, he will not neglect the duty which properly belongs to him of forcing the wicked to give an account of their violence. As God, in short, would have the patience of his people tried, he here expressly calls upon the afflicted not to faint under their troubles, but composedly wait for deliverance from one who is slow in interposing, only that he may appear eventually as the righteous judge of the world.

It follows, that he gives bread to the hungry. We learn from this that he is not always so indulgent to his own as to load them with abundance, but occasionally withdraws his blessing, that he may succor them when reduced to hunger. Had the Psalmist said that God fed his people with abundance, and pampered them, would not any of those under want or in famine have immediately desponded? The goodness of God is therefore properly extended farther to the feeding of the hungry.

What is added is to the same purpose — that he looses them that are bound, and enlightens the blind. As it is the fate of his people to be straitened by anxiety, or pressed down by human tyranny, or reduced to extremity, in a manner equivalent to being shut up in the worst of dungeons, it was necessary to announce, by way of comfort, that God can easily find an outgate for us when brought into such straits.

To enlighten the blind is the same with giving light in the midst of darkness. When at any time we know not what to do — are in perplexity, and lie confounded and dismayed, as if the darkness of death had fallen upon us — let us learn to ascribe this title to God, that he may dissipate the gloom and open our eyes. So when he is said to raise up the bowed down, we are taught to take courage when weary and groaning under any burden.

Nor is it merely that God would here have his praises celebrated; he in a manner stretches out his hand to the blind, the captives, and the afflicted, that they may cast their grief’s and cares upon him. There is a reason for repeating the name Jehovah three times. In this way he stimulates and excites men to seek him who will often rather chafe and pine away in their miseries, than betake themselves to this sure asylum.

What is added in the close of the verse — that Jehovah loves the righteous, would seem to be a qualification of what was formerly said. There are evidently many who, though they are grievously afflicted, and groan with anxiety, and lie in darkness, experience no comfort from God; and this because in such circumstances they provoke God more by their contumacy, and by failing for the most part to seek his mercy, reap the just reward of their unthankfulness.

The Psalmist therefore very properly restricts what he had said in general terms of God’s helping the afflicted, to the righteous — that those who wish to experience his deliverance, may address themselves to him in the sincere exercise of godliness.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 146

Psalm 146For this new Sunday, as we awaken to new mercies and fresh revelations of God’s faithfulness (Lam. 3:22,23), we turn to the Word of God in Psalm 146.

As we continue to make our way through this OT Psalter, using it especially to prepare ourselves for the worship of the Lord in His house of prayer, we note that these last five psalms all begin and end on the note of “Praise ye the LORD” (or simply, “Hallelujah”). As such, these closing songs of the OT church’s songbook are most fitting for our worship – public and private – for the theme of our worship as well as of our daily walk must be the praise and adoration of our sovereign God and King.

And as we look at Psalm 146, we see that this is the psalmist’s resolve and testimony too. He will not praise the Lord occasionally or sporadically, but as long as he lives and as long as he has being (v.2). This is the way we must tell our own souls to praise God (v.1).

And the psalm writer also gives himself and us good reason to praise the Lord. The God of Jacob (which is another way to say that He is the God of the covenant and church) is the God of boundless power and saving help for His people. Read carefully the things he mentions here in describing the Lord and His power and works. And note too how broad and deep these works and ways of the Lord are, from creating the heaven and earth out of nothing to relieving the fatherless and widow. O, yes, this God reigns – forever! And He is “Thy God, O Zion, unto all generations” (v.10).

How foolish then to put our trust in anyone else but this sovereign Lord! The psalmist calls the people of God not to place their trust in princes or in the son of man (v.3). For obvious reasons (vss.3b,4). Rather he points us to the incredible happiness – and blessedness! – of having the one, true God for our help and hope (v.5). Is He such to us? Have we placed and do we place our trust in Him alone? Is He our only hope, in life and in death, in good times and in bad times, in prosperity and in adversity?

As we come into His presence today, may we find Him to be all that He is revealed to be here – the God of amazing creation, of faithful providence, and of gracious salvation. In Jesus Christ, the Son of Man Whom He made strong to save us and help us in all of life and in all of life’s circumstances. And finding Him so, may we place all our hope (trust) in Him alone. So that with solid hope in our souls, we may say with the psalmist, “Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.”

Psalm 146

146 Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul.

While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God:

Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. TheLord looseth the prisoners:

The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous:

The Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

10 The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the Lord.

If you desire to meditate on Psalm 146 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “Trust and Praise” to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Hallelujah, praise Jehovah,
O my soul, Jehovah praise;
I will sing the glorious praises
Of my God through all my days.

2. Put no confidence in princes,
Nor for help on man depend;
He shall die, to dust returning,
And his purposes shall end.

3. Happy is the man that chooses
Israel’s God to be his aid;
He is blest whose hope of blessing
On the Lord his God is stayed.

4. Heaven and earth the Lord created,
Seas and all that they contain;
He delivers from oppression,
Righteousness He will maintain.

5. Food He daily gives the hungry,
Sets the mourning prisoner free,
Raises those bowed down with anguish,
Makes the sightless eyes to see.

6. Well Jehovah loves the righteous,
And the stranger He befriends,
Helps the fatherless and widow,
Judgment on the wicked sends.

7. Over all God reigns forever,
Through all ages He is King;
Unto Him, thy God, O Zion,
Joyful hallelujahs sing.

J.Calvin on Psalm 145: “…We only praise God aright when we are filled and overwhelmed with an ecstatic admiration of the immensity of his power.”

JCalvinPicAs we meditate on the glory of God revealed in Psalm 145 today, we may also benefit from these thoughts of the Reformer and Biblical scholar-servant, John Calvin. Here he reflects on the opening verse, showing us the main purpose of this portion of God’s Word, namely, that we be moved by gratitude to magnify our great and gracious God.

May his words also serve to stir us up to humble thanks and praise to our wondrous God, this day and all our days.

1. I will extol thee, my God and my king.

David does not so much tell what he would do himself, as stir up and urge all others to this religious service of offering to God the praises due to his name. The design with which he declares God to be beneficent to the children of men is, to induce them to cultivate a pious gratitude, he insists upon the necessity of persevering in the exercise; for since God is constant in extending mercies, it would be highly improper in us to faint in his praises. As he thus gives his people new ground for praising him, so he stimulates them to gratitude, and to exercise it throughout the whole course of their life.

In using the term daily, he denotes perseverance in the exercise. Afterwards he adds, that should he live through a succession of ages he would never cease to act in this manner. The repetitions used tend very considerably to give emphasis to his language. As it is probable that the Psalm was written at a time when the kingdom of David was in a flourishing condition, the circumstances deserves notice, that in calling God his king he gives both himself and other earthly princes their proper place, and does not allow any earthly distinctions to interfere with the glory due to God.

This is made still more manifest in the verse which follows, where, in speaking of the greatness of God as unmeasurable, he intimates that we only praise God aright when we are filled and overwhelmed with an ecstatic admiration of the immensity of his power. This admiration will form the fountain from which our just praises of him will proceed, according the measure of our capacity.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 145

Psalm 145On this Lord’s Day we are called once again to gather publicly in the name of Jesus Christ to worship our Triune God and Father. As we do so, in congregations large and small, we may gladly and profitably take Psalm 145 as our guide.

The heading to this psalm states that is it “David’s Psalm of praise”, and truly it is that, for God is praised in His glorious attributes and in His wondrous works from start to finish. Of special significance is the fact that David praises God especially as the sovereign King of all the universe, so that the outstanding attribute of God is His absolute sovereignty and with that the “glorious majesty of his kingdom” (vss.1, 3, 11-12).

And yet, as great and high and holy as this sovereign King is, notice too that this Jehovah God is the One Who upholds all that fall (v.14), opens His hand to provide for all (v.16), is near to all that call on Him (v.18), and preserves those who love Him (v.20). No wonder David’s heart and mouth bursts forth in praise to God: “I will extol thee, my God, O king!”

As you read through and meditate on this psalm carefully, take note of and perhaps even list the attributes of God that are mentioned by David. And then, pay attention to how God displays these virtues in His works, as the psalmist  describes them. And finally, ask yourself how God has revealed these same attributes through His works in your own life, and praise God for them.

Psalm 145

I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.

4 One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.

5 I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.

6 And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness.

7 They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness.

8 The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.

9 The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

10 All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee.

11 They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power;

12 To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.

13 Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.

14 The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.

15 The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.

16 Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.

18 The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.

19 He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.

20 The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.

21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

If you desire to meditate on Psalm 145 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “The Greatness and Grace of God”, to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. O Lord, Thou art my God and King,
And I will ever bless Thy Name;
I will extol Thee every day,
And evermore Thy praise proclaim.

2. The Lord is greatly to be praised,
His greatness is beyond our thought;
From age to age the sons of men
Shall tell the wonders God has wrought.

3. Upon Thy glorious majesty
And wondrous works my mind shall dwell;
Thy deeds shall fill the world with awe,
And of Thy greatness I will tell.

4. Thy matchless goodness and Thy grace
Thy people shall commemorate,
And all Thy truth and righteousness
My joyful song shall celebrate.

5. The Lord our God is rich in grace,
Most tender and compassionate;
His anger is most slow to rise,
His lovingkindness is most great.

6. The Lord is good in all His ways,
His creatures know His constant care;
To all His works His love extends,
All men His tender mercies share.

7. Thy works shall give Thee thanks, O Lord,
Thy saints Thy mighty acts shall show,
Till o’er the earth the sons of men
Thy kingdom, power, and glory know.

8. Eternal is Thy kingdom, Lord,
Forever strong and ever sure;
While generations rise and die
Shall Thy dominion still endure.

J.Calvin on Psalm 144: “The accumulation of terms…, tends greatly to strengthen faith.”

JCalvinPic1As we reflect on the “worshiping warrior” psalm, Psalm 144, it is also profitable to receive these words of John Calvin on v.2. May they also inspire us to worship our sovereign Lord, Who is our Strength, Goodness, Fortress, High Tower, Deliverer, and Shield.

2. My goodness, etc.

…Elsewhere (Psalm 18:50) he calls himself “God’s king,” not in the sense of his having dominion over God, but being made and appointed king by him. Having experienced God’s kindness in so many ways, he calls him “his goodness,” meaning that whatever good he possessed flowed from him. The accumulation of terms, one upon another, which follows, may appear unnecessary, yet it tends greatly to strengthen faith.

We know how unstable men’s minds are, and especially how soon faith wavers, when they are assailed by some trial of more than usual severity. It is not enough, if God would sustain us under such weakness, to promise us his help in individual or single expressions; and, even however many aids he supplies us with, we are subject to very great vacillations, and a forgetfulness of his mercy creeps in upon us which almost overwhelms our minds.

We are to remember that it is not merely in token of his gratitude that David heaps together so many terms in declaring the goodness of God, but to fortify God’s people against all attacks of the world, and of the evil one.

…David accordingly having ascribed the victories he had gained over foreign enemies to God, thanks him at the same time for the settled state of the kingdom. Raised indeed as he was from an obscure station, and exposed to hatred from calumnious charges, it was scarcely to have been believed that he would ever obtain a peaceable reign. The people had suddenly and beyond expectation submitted to him, and so surprising a change was eminently God’s work.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 144

Psalm 144For our worship preparation this Lord’s Day we consider Psalm 144, another “Psalm of David” penned under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And since the Spirit of prophecy is the Spirit of Christ, we have here again the Word of Christ our Savior (1 Peter 1:11).

As we read and meditate on this psalm, we hear David and Christ singing and praying as worshiping warriors.  These are not conflicting themes, for David and the people of God often express these truths in the psalms. As we have seen in many psalms already, the psalmist was often in the midst of spiritual battle with the enemies of the Lord and His church when he was inspired to write his song. And as he wrote about these battles, he expressed his worship of the Lord, in both prayer and praise. We see that here too.

The Nelson Study Bible (T.Nelson, 1997) states in its notes on this psalm, “Warfare in ancient Israel was tied closely to the worship of God. Deliverance from the enemy was not just a task for tough soldiers, it was a matter of active piety.” It also remarks that this psalm may have been used in the  training of Israel’s armies.

And we must also state plainly that psalms such as these are just as relevant and necessary for the NT church. The church on earth is always a militant church, fighting in the army of Jesus Christ and under Him as Captain of her salvation (Eph.6:10ff.; the book of Revelation throughout). As we engage our spiritual foes from day to day, we magnify the Lord our Strength (Rock – v.1), realizing our own weakness and frailty (vss.3-4), calling on the Lord to come down and help us in the battle (vss.5-8). And this prompts a new song of praise to the Lord (v.9).

And notice that we do this with our eye on the salvation of our sons and daughters in the covenant of grace and the future prosperity of the church (vss.11-15). No Christian soldier stands alone; we always battle and we always worship connected to our fellow-soldiers, including those closest to us. And so we pray and praise God thinking about our covenant children and the entire body of Christ in every land and place. Yes, we too are worshiping warriors! May we show ourselves to be such today.

Psalm 144

Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:

My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and hein whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me.

Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!

Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.

Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.

Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children;

Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.

10 It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword.

11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood:

12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:

13 That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets:

14 That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.

15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.

Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 144 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “Trustful Praise and Prayer”, to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Blest be the Lord, my rock, my might,
My constant helper in the fight,
My shield, my righteousness,
My strong high tower, my Saviour true,
Who doth my enemies subdue,
My shelter in distress.

2. Lord, what is man, what hath he wrought,
The son of man, that in Thy thought
To hold him Thou shouldst deign?
For man is like a breath, a sigh,
His days on earth as quickly fly
As shadows o’er the plain.

3. Lord, bow Thy heavens, in might descend,
Touch Thou the hills, the mountains rend,
And they shall smoke and flame;
As arrows send Thy lightnings out
To put Thy enemies to rout,
And fill Thy foes with shame.

4. Stretch forth Thy hand and rescue me
From trouble’s dark and raging sea,
And from the alien throng,
Whose mouth but vanity doth speak,
Whose hand of strength against the weak
Is filled with craft and wrong.

5. Now will I sing a glad new song,
Thy praise, O God, I will prolong,
For Thou hast heard my prayer;
Salvation Thou dost give to kings,
Thy own dost keep, with sheltering wings,
From hurtful sword and snare.

6. O Thou to Whom in trust I flee,
Stretch forth Thy hand and rescue me
From all the alien throng,
Whose mouth but vanity doth speak,
Whose hand of strength against the weak
Is filled with craft and wrong.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 143

Psalm 143Our psalm for consideration this Lord’s Day as we prepare for worship of our heavenly Father is Psalm 143. According to the heading, this prayer-song too was penned by David, the “sweet psalmist of Israel”. This psalm is considered to be the last of the seven “penitential” psalms, expressing confession of sin (see especially vs.2 below, as well as Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, and 130).

A quick reading of this psalm will reveal that it is a powerful prayer consisting of a series of urgent petitions. But because it is a penitential-prayer psalm, we want to take our time reading it, meditating on David’s needs and petitions while considering our own, and taking this song with us as we prepare for worship. For if our Father’s house is the “house of prayer” (Is.56:7; Matt.11:17), then we surely want to take these petitions with us today as we come into the presence of our God.

Reflect then carefully on these inspired words:

Psalm 143

Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me,and in thy righteousness.

And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.

For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.

Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.

I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.

Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.

Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.

10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.

11 Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.

12 And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.

Let’s take a brief look at each of David’s petitions in this psalm. First, David begins by asking the Lord to hear him and answer him. This is not raised in fear and doubt about the Lord’s ability or desire to hear him, but in the keen awareness of his own urgent need. His situation is desperate, as the rest of the psalm indicates. His enemies have been on the attack and his life is hanging in the balance (v.3). David’s spirit is overwhelmed and he feels all alone (v.4). And so, as he goes to his God, he immediately asks to be heard.

In fact, if we go down to v.7, we see that he also asks to be heard “speedily”. If God does not respond to his plea for help right away, he feels he will perish. His spirit is failing (v.7), and so he needs the Lord not merely at some point in the day but immediately! “Give ear to my supplications” right now, Lord! I need Thee every hour, and I need Thee this very moment!” That is why He also says in v.6 that he stretches forth his hands to the Lord. His hands are out in urgent need because his soul is thirsty for God. God is his all and all that he needs!

Do we understand such need, fellow worshipers? Do we too feel the urgency of our petitions when we make them? Are we thirsty for God, such that when we pray out of real need our hands are held out to Him? Or are our prayers just routine and our supplications too casual? No matter what our circumstance is, we always need the Lord. And we always need Him at that moment. So let us learn to pray with David, “Hear my prayer, O LORD.”

You will note that David appeals to God’s faithfulness and righteousness in asking to be heard and answered.  That too is important to keep in mind. That too shows that David prayed in true faith, as we must. God will hear us because He is our faithful Father, Who loves us and Who gave His Son for us so that the way would be open for us to go to Him and ask Him for anything according to our real need. And He will answer us because He is righteous, perfectly just (right and fair) to grant us what we need according to His sovereign will.

Yet that righteousness of God also reminds David (and ourselves!) that he is a sinner who cannot stand before this righteous Judge in his own works or merits. And so, secondly, David prays that God not enter into judgment with him. And the reason is simple: in God’s sight no man is or can be justified. We recognize this as the “dark side” of the doctrine of justification (see Romans 3:20 and Gal.2:16). We have no righteousness of our own to hold us up and give us a hearing before the holy and just God. All our “righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Is.64:6). And so if God the righteous Judge enters into judgment with us, we are condemned as guilty sinners and damned to hell.

But there is also a “bright side” to justification, shined by the light of the gospel of salvation by grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone. That precious light is that the righteous Judge Himself has made and provided a perfect righteousness for sinners through the perfect work of Jesus Christ – through His death on Calvary and through His obedience to God’s righteous law. And so, all our righteousness is in Christ, and His beautiful robe replaces our filthy rags when we trust in Him alone.

It was in that knowledge and trust that David approached his Lord. Yes, his Lord was Jesus, the great “I am” to come. And in promise and hope of His coming and His perfect work to be accomplished, David prayed what he did in v.2. He was a penitent sinner. And as such he was also a justified sinner. Shall we also learn to pray this way? In sorrow for our sin and in hope of Christ? In that way too we shall be heard!

Thirdly, David petitioned his God for spiritual direction (vss.8,10). Beseeching God to have him hear His lovingkindness first thing in the morning, he wanted to know the way he should go in this midst of this persecution-trial. And thus he asked God to teach him to do His will and to lead him in the way of uprightness. We can understand this need, I trust. One of the great temptations that fall on us when we are being attacked by enemies is to resort to their tactics. Satan wants us to be filled with hate, to lose our perspective in sinful anger, and then respond sinfully – both to God and to the persecuting neighbor. And according to our fallen nature, this is what comes so easy to us.

David knew that and prayed in essence, “Don’t let me fall into this trap, Lord. Don’t let me follow the devil’s way and my own sinful way in this trial, but You make me know the right way to respond and lead me to do it. I trust in Thee and I trust the good work of Thy Holy Spirit. Make me alive by that Spirit (v.11), and I will do the right thing – for Thy glory and for my good.” Shall we also learn to make these our requests in our trials? How necessary and important!

Fourth, and finally, David also asked the Lord for deliverance (vss.9, 11). While he knew that this trial was of the Lord and that he must submit to the Lord’s way for him, he also wanted to be rescued from these deadly foes; he desired his soul to be brought out of trouble. He longed for peace and rest. There is no conflict in these two sides to our trials. God is sovereign and brings such trials in our lives. And we are called to submit to Him and trust Him fully.

Yet at the same time, we do not wish to live in persecution and pain, to be so low in life and soul. From our perspective our need is to be free of troubles and to enjoy peace and joy. And so we ask as David did, “Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies. Bring my soul out of trouble.” Is that not our experience, whatever our troubles are? Even Jesus, Who knew perfectly that the cross was God’s way for Him, prayed for deliverance from it (Matt.26:39). Such petitions are also the will of God for us. Such requests we may also make confidently, yet humbly and submissively.

And so, as we come into the Lord’s house of prayer this day, may we bring this prayer of David before the Throne of Grace. This is the prayer our Father delights to hear. This is the prayer that praises and glorifies Him. This is the prayer that speaks to our great needs. And our God has the great grace that answers to all those needs. “For Jesus’ sake. Amen!”

Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 143 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “Contrite Trust”, to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Lord, hear me in distress,
Regard my suppliant cry,
And in Thy faithfulness
And righteousness reply.
In judgment do not cause
Thy servant to be tried;
Before Thy holy laws
No man is justified.

2. The enemy has sought
My soul in dust to tread;
To darkness I am brought,
Forgotten as the dead.
My spirit, crushed with grief,
Is sad and overborne;
My heart finds no relief,
But desolate I mourn.

3. Recalling former days
And all Thy wondrous deeds,
The memory of Thy ways
To hope and comfort leads.
To Thee I stretch my hands,
Let me not plead in vain;
I wait as weary lands
Wait for refreshing rain.

4. My failing spirit see,
O Lord, to me make haste;
Hide not Thy face from me,
Lest bitter death I taste.
O let the morn return,
Let mercy light my day;
For Thee in faith I yearn,
O guide me in the way.

5. Lord, save me from my foe,
To Thee for help I flee;
Teach me Thy way to know,
I have no God but Thee.
By Thy good Spirit led
From trouble and distress,
My erring feet shall tread
The path of uprightness.

6. O Lord, for Thy Name’s sake
Revive my fainting heart;
My soul from trouble take,
For just and true Thou art.
Remove my enemy,
My cruel foe reward;
In mercy rescue me
Who am Thy servant, Lord.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 142

Psalm 142To guide us in preparing for our worship of Jehovah through Jesus our Savior this Lord’s Day we consider the Word of God through David in Psalm 142. The title of this psalm refers to it as a “maschil” of David, which it to say it is a contemplation or meditation of the psalmist. Being so, it also calls for our careful meditation.

The heading also points to the psalm’s historical setting; “when he was in the cave”, that is, when David was fleeing from Saul and hid himself in a cave (There were at least two such incidents.). Most commentators believe this is a reference to the second cave hiding of David (cave of Adullam), recorded in I Sam.22:1-5, an incident which also provides the background for Psalm 57.

We see, then, that the setting of this psalm is again that of suffering, specifically, the suffering of persecution. And even more specifically, persecution at the hands of those who were in the church. David was being pursued by wicked king Saul, who belonged outwardly to the kingdom of God and professed His name.

And as we see from these words, David was in a bad way. His “spirit was overwhelmed within” him (v.3), because he was “brought very low” (v.6). His persecutors (Saul and his band) were stronger than he (v.6b) and had set snares for him (v.3b). David’s life was on the line and he could see no way out.

Besides, David felt all alone. According to v.4, he had no one at his right hand; refuge failed and no one cared for his soul. It is one thing to be in trouble; it is quite another to stand alone, feeling that all have forsaken you. No wonder David considered his soul to be “prison” (v.7).

And yet, as we see from the rest of this psalm, David was not alone. Jehovah God was with him! With him as his refuge and portion (v.5). With him as the One Who is all knowing: “then thou knewest my path”. With him as the One Who sovereign over this situation and stronger than Saul and his mighty men. Yes, his God cared for his soul!

And therefore to Him David cried and made supplication (brought his needs – v.1), pouring out his complaint (musing, meditation) and showing his trouble (v.2). Trusting in his God, he asked for deliverance (vss.6,7). And confident of the Lord’s blessing, he promised to praise His name (v.7).

From this psalm we learn again how to behave when we are persecuted and in trouble; how to handle trials and temptation; how to hang on to the God Who hangs on to us and Who will never leave us or forsake us.

But above all, we learn to look at Christ, our suffering Savior, Who endured such persecution and the ultimate forsaking for our sakes. In this psalm hear His cry for help as He faced Calvary for us, to deliver us from the greatest prison – sin! And hear God hear His Son and see Him through His trouble, so that He and we triumph over sin and Satan and death and hell.

Read David’s meditation with your eye on Jesus. And your soul will sing with sweet comfort and hope, no matter what your sin is or what your situation may be.

Psalm 142

I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.

I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.

I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.

Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.

Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.

PsalterAppIf you desire to meditate on Psalm 142 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. To God my earnest voice I raise,
To God my voice imploring prays;
Before His face my grief I show
And tell my trouble and my woe.

2. When gloom and sorrow compass me,
The path I take is known to Thee,
And all the toils that foes do lay
To snare Thy servant in his way.

3. All unprotected, lo, I stand,
No friendly guardian at my hand,
No place of flight or refuge near,
And none to whom my soul is dear.

4. O Lord, my Saviour, now to Thee,
Without a hope besides, I flee,
To Thee, my shelter from the strife,
My portion in the land of life.

5. Be Thou my help when troubles throng,
For I am weak and foes are strong;
My captive soul from prison bring,
And thankful praises I will sing.

6. The righteous then shall gather round
To share the blessing I have found,
Their hearts made glad because they see
How richly God has dealt with me.

And here is the PR Psalm-singing Choir with a performance of this Ps.# from their 2012 concert:

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 141

Psalm 141To guide us in our worship readiness this Lord’s Day we turn to Psalm 141, another “psalm of David” according to the heading.  The entire psalm is a prayer, and so is fitting for us as we enter the Lord’s house of prayer and supplication, to bring our needs to the high King of heaven, Who hears His children’s praise and pleas and answers them according to His abundant mercy and grace in Jesus Christ.

Here is the prayer(s) David uttered under the guidance of the Holy Spirit:

 Psalm 141

Lord, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.

Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.

Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.

When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.

Our bones are scattered at the grave’s mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.

But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.

Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity.

10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape.

As you read through this psalm and meditate on it, you will notice that David brings a varied prayer before his heavenly Father. Standing in God’s presence he is confident to bring several different petitions to Him. This is the prayer of faith too, that the child of God is not afraid to bring his many needs to the throne of grace. And from this varied prayer of David we too may learn how to pray and what to pray for when we come to our Father in heaven with our needs.

Notice at the outset that David expresses the need and urgency of his prayer to God (v.1). He not only asks to be heard but he asks that God “make haste” to hear him. It may seem to us to be presumptuous and even irreverent for David to tell God to hurry to hear him, but this too arises out of true faith. The child of God prays out of the sense of deep need and at the same time realizes that only God can hear and help him. So at times he will make this known to God too: “Lord, my need is great and urgent. Give me Your ear and haste to do this!”

Do you ever ask God to do this for you? I have to admit I don’t think I ever have. But maybe that is because I don’t realize sufficiently what a beggar I am and how eager my Father is to hear me and help me. Let us learn from the example of David.

Further, you will see that David views his prayer as worship and wants it to be acknowledged as such by the Lord. In v.2 he uses the language of the tabernacle (temple) – prayer as incense and the evening sacrifice. He wants God to receive his prayer as an offering, a sacrifice of praise and thanks that is sweet-smelling to God, and that will therefore be received by Him (cf. Luke 1:8-10; Rev.8:3)).

Do we think of our prayers this way? We ought to, for this is what they are and must be. But how shall our prayers ever rise as a sweet incense to the God of holy nostrils? Only on the basis of the perfect atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and through His High-priestly work in heaven on our behalf. This too belongs to the prayer of faith, that we come only and ever in Jesus’ name, no matter the need and circumstances. Prayer time is worship time. May we ask that it be as incense and as a sacrifice pleasing to our God.

Now pay attention to David’s petitions here. What does he ask for? In v.3 that God set a watch before his mouth to guard what he says in His presence. In v.4 that his heart not be led into any evil so that he not work wicked works with wicked men. In v.5 that he be open to the smitings and reprovings of his fellow saints, which are good for him. And conscious of the enemies about him and his weak standing (v.7) he states that God is all his trust, asking that God not leave him alone but keep him from the sinful traps of the wicked (vss.8-9). And in fact, he prays that God let the wicked fall into their own traps while he escapes (v.10).

What are these requests but those of a needy, dependent child of God who realizes that he can bring anything to the Lord! And who realizes that the sovereign God is able to help him in every situation and give grace sufficient for any need! David’s heart and mouth are open to his God as he prays. While he prays carefully and reverently, he also prays with confidence that he can tell the Lord everything with regard to his needs.

God is honored and praised when we too pray in this confidence. Is our heart and mouth so open to our heavenly Father? Do we truly realize our need before Him and do we truly believe He that open to us, that we can ask Him anything?

Let us remember that we pray in and through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us know that for His sake our Father will never turn us away or ever reject a petition prayed according to His will. And let us remember to praise and thank Him for this glorious blessing of our salvation!

If you desire to meditate on Psalm 141 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. O Lord, make haste to hear my cry,
To Thee I call, on Thee rely;
Incline to me a gracious ear,
And, when I call, in mercy hear.

2. When in the morning unto Thee
I lift my voice and bring my plea,
Then let my prayer as incense rise
To God enthroned above the skies.

3. When unto Thee I look and pray
With lifted hands at close of day,
Then as the evening sacrifice
Let my request accepted rise.

4. Guard Thou my thoughts, I Thee implore,
And of my lips keep Thou the door;
Nor leave my sinful heart to stray
Where evil footsteps lead the way.

5. O righteous God, Thy chastisement,
Though sent through foes, in love is sent;
Though grievous, it will profit me,
A healing ointment it shall be.

6. While wickedness my foes devise,
To Thee my constant prayer shall rise;
When their injustice is o’erthrown
My gentleness shall still be shown.

7. Brought nigh to death and sore distressed,
O Lord, my God, in Thee I rest;
Forsake me not, I look to Thee,
Let me Thy great salvation see.

8. Themselves entangled in their snare,
Their own defeat my foes prepare;
O keep me, Lord, nor let me fall,
Protect and lead me safe through all.

The PR Psalm-Singing Choir also has a video of its performance of this number:

 

J.Calvin on Psalm 140: “He comes forth, not as a raw and undisciplined recruit, but as a soldier well tried….”

JCalvin1As we reflect on the urgent prayer of David in Psalm 140 today, we also consider these thoughts of John Calvin on v.6. Here is speaks of the nature of true prayer, as David takes himself to God out of the principle of faith. May we too learn from these words to pray true prayer in real faith in the God of our salvation.

6. I said to Jehovah.

In these words he shows that his prayers were not merely those of the lips, as hypocrites will make loud appeals to God for mere appearance sake, but that he prayed with earnestness, and from a hidden principle of faith. Till we have a persuasion of being saved through the grace of God there can be no sincere prayer.

We have here an excellent illustration of the nature of faith, in the Psalmist’s turning himself away from man’s view, that he may address God apart, hypocrisy being excluded in this internal exercise of the heart. This is true prayer — not the mere idle lifting up of the voice, but the presentation of our petitions from an inward principle of faith. To beget in himself a persuasion of his obtaining his present requests from God, he recalls to his mind what deliverance’s God had already extended to him. He speaks of his having been to him as a shield in every time of danger.

Some read the words in the future tense — “Thou wilt cover my head in the day of battle.” But it is evident David speaks of protection formerly experienced from the hand of God, and from this derives comfort to his faith. He comes forth, not as a raw and undisciplined recruit, but as a soldier well tried in previous engagements. The strength of salvation is equivalent to salvation displayed with no ordinary power.

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