Week 2

  1. I Trust in you
    Psalm 7

    Powerful people attract enemies. We see it all around us, politicians, rulers, business people even sporting greats all have others that want to bring them down. Particularly in the world of social media where there is no accountability and in the guise of free speech, accusations are thrown around, often without evidence, and reputations are ruined. Sometimes it gets even nastier, and people’s lives and futures are put at risk.

    David had these enemies and one in particular is the subject of this Psalm. He is identified as ‘Cush the Benjamite’, nothing else is said about him. Cush was a region that we now call Ethiopia extending further south to Northern Kenya, and as a Benjamite he was from the same tribe as King Saul who was trying to kill David. Some believe the subject of the Psalm was King Saul himself, or at least one of his close advisors. Accusations were made against David, they were not true, and he was keen to justify himself, one of those accusations was that David was trying to kill Saul and take his place. On two occasions David had opportunity to do that and didn’t in fact he said ‘far be it from me to raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed’.

    In many ways David was less than righteous in his behaviour, but in the things he was accused of he could protest his innocence and in this psalm he does that. All of us, especially those that are in positions of leadership or influence have accusations made and lies told about us. They may come from jealousy or insecurity, or just malice. The natural inclination would be to try to justify ourselves, even take revenge – give as good as we get or stand up for our rights. David recognized that his protection could only come from God, he would trust in Him, he alone was his refuge.

    David was prepared to examine himself to make sure there was no fault in him, at least as far as these accusations went. He was willing to accept the consequences of any failure on his part, but he was convinced he was innocent. He looked to God not only to justify him but to punish his accusers as well. He left revenge or justice in God’s hands, he knew that God was his deliverer and that eventually he who be restored. Isiah 54:17 promises: ‘no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”’

    David appeals to God to bring judgment; he looks forward to the day when that will happen. So do we. The time is coming when Jesus will return in power, he will hold those who have rejected him, and falsely accused his people to account. He will vindicate those he declares to be righteous, and he will invite them to join him in the New Heavens and the New Earth where will reign. No one likes to be falsely accused, to be lied about. We want to stand up and retaliate, but this was not Jesus’ example, the one we should live by. The Bible tells us that we are to turn the other cheek, just as he did, not to seek revenge, to leave recompense to God. This idea screams out against almost everything we are brought up to believe, stand up for your rights, don’t be a doormat and so on. God guarantees us that the false accusers will not go unpunished, he will bring justice and you will be vindicated. Like David, we can rest in this assurance and, ‘give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.’’

  1. How do you feel when people tell lies about you?
  2. What do you want to do about it?
  3. Do you think you should stand up for your rights?
2. Out of the mouths of babies
Psalm 8

As the time came near for Jesus to be crucified he entered the temple in Jerusalem. While there he threw out the money changers and the buyers and sellers, then the sick and lame came and he healed them. As this happened the children who were in the precincts of the temple shouted and began to praise God. The rabbis  and leaders were offended, how dare these children be allowed to interrupt the solemnity of the temple, it was outrageous! Jesus turned and asked, ‘’haven’t you read the psalm that says: ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise?’ He was quoting from Psalm 8:2.

This Psalm marks a change in atmosphere from those that precede it. They were laments, even complaints about the injustice David was experiencing though they ended with praise and hope. This Psalm is a hymn of praise, it emphasizes the majesty and power of an almighty God. In doing so David contrasts the glory of God who reigns in heaven with the lowliness of his creation. And he begins with babies and infants.

Our society has a complicated relationship with babies. On one hand they may be seen as an inconvenience that interferes with life choices and can be disposed of prior to birth at will as if they are of no value. On the other they become the centre of their parent’s world dominating every decision so that they almost become objects of worship. Some time ago I studied Bioethics (in a reputable university) where the teaching centred on the thoughts of Peter Singer. Singer argued that human life had no greater value than animal life, he went further: ‘Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons’ and so ‘killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings ‘(Peter Singer, Practical Ethics).  Needless to say I did not continue in the course!

God sees things differently, ‘the message of this Psalm couldn’t be more different – humanity – even in its weakest, frailest form is purposeful and valuable because it gives God glory.’ (Peter Orr). David looks at humanity in all of its insignificance and weakness and contrasts it with all the majesty and glory of God and wonders. What is so important about man and woman, boys, and girls that God even thinks about them? Everything else in all of creation is subject to them, these things exist for the enjoyment of human life and one day it will be lifted up even higher than the angels! What a remarkable God we serve.

There are those who worship the sun and the stars, who elevate the value of animals and the environment above that of human life, who may put the needs of their children above the need of their own soul. But we worship the creator and say with David: ‘’O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!’

  1. Do you ever feel insignificant?
  2. Why would God care about you?
  3. Is all of life equally important to God?
3. Wholehearted gratitude
Psalm 9

This psalm and the next are often read as one, -in the Greek translation of the Old Testament used in the days of Jesus they appear as one Psalm. Psalms were intended to be read aloud and to be memorized as an aid to doing that this and the next Psalm are written in the form of an acrostic, that is each verse, as we have It, begins with an initial letter of the Hebrew alphabet, though there are some gaps.

Charles Spurgeon wrote that ‘half heart is no heart’. In this psalm David insists that he is wholehearted in his thankfulness to God. In the first verse he declares that: he would give thanks with his whole heart; he would speak about all of God’s wonderful deeds; he would be glad and joyful because of God and that he would sing God’s praise. He would be fully committed, totally engaged. He was not one who would offer words of praise in song but whose manner of life told a different story. In Hosea 7:8 the people of Israel are unflatteringly compared to a half baked cake, like a pancake cooked on one side but still a gooey mess on the other, unpalatable only good to throw out. The church at Laodicea was told it made God nauseous because it was neither hot nor cold, just lukewarm. God is not pleased with half hearted worship, he accepts that which comes from a whole heart that is completely his.
David is seeking deliverance from his oppressors, so he begins by thanking God for what he had done in the past. He reminds himself of God’s marvellous deeds, the times he had been delivered, and that he could depend on God’s justice. He recalled when God had been his refuge and had dealt with his enemies. Now he was certain that he could trust God to deliver him again. The schemes of the oppressors would fail, they would suffer the consequences of their actions and those that had been oppressed would be set free and restored.
On the basis on what David knew about God and his own experience he expected him to act, but it seemed to David that deliverance was taking longer to come than it should, so he tells God to get up! The CEV Bible puts it this way, “Do something, Lord! Don’t let the nations win. Make them stand trial in your court of law. Make the nations afraid and let them all discover just how weak they are.” (Verses 19,20). David was not telling God what to do but was desperately seeking his intervention. This was the nature of his prayer, not some half hearted request, but a desperate cry for God to bring glory to himself and execute judgement on the wicked. We live in a time when nations are conspiring together against others, where the poor are oppressed and when God is being ignored or not even acknowledged. A time described by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1 this way: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
God is seeking those, who like David will whole heartedly call on him. Those who will, ‘give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth’ (Isaiah 62:7). Who not only want God to act but will continue to plead until he does. Are you one of those people?

  1. Do you approach God with a heart filled with gratitude?
  2. When you worship can you say you are truly wholehearted?
  3. Do you think it is right to nag God?


  1. Why do you stand far away?
    Psalm 10

    As Psalm 9 closes David cries out to God to rise up and judge the wicked, to make them afraid of what is to come. He wanted justice and retribution on all those that rejected God and oppressed the weak and powerless. This is a natural desire that many of us feel when we see people hurting and suffering at the hands of powerful groups who benefit from the misery of others. We want to see them punished, to feel the pain they inflict on others, it is hard to extend mercy, much better to exact revenge.

    Now David wants to know why it seems that God is disinterested, standing a long way off ignoring the plight of the oppressed. The question is often asked why, if God is who he says he is, does he allow suffering in the world, why are evil people allowed to get away with their actions and exploit the poor; why are people starving or suffering because of ‘natural disasters’. How can God stand by and see the pain experienced by the lost and the lonely and do nothing? David asks those questions.

    He presses his point, the people who are doing the oppressing say that there is no God and that they are so secure in their own power that they will never be moved. They crush the poor, press them into slavery and take every advantage, increasing their own wealth while stealing from the needy. If they did believe in God, they have forgotten about him, and in any event God had forgotten the poor and was doing to nothing to help them. Where is the God that David had served, that he trusted and was convinced would deliver him and the people? Why was he hiding himself, when would he act?

    The prophet Malachi criticized the People in a similar way, he insisted that they had said that there was no point in serving God, no profit in obeying his commands, or even regretting their failings. The arrogant were called blessed and the wicked had become wealthy, they had tested God and got away with it (Malachi 3:14,15). What had happened to the promises of God, what is the purpose of doing the right thing if people who had rejected him and did evil lived better than they did? It is a reasonable complaint.

    Then David reminds himself in verse 14 “But you do see, you have been the helper of the fatherless, you will protect those who commit to you. You will take away the power of the wicked and you will bring them to account.” God would deal with the oppressors until there were none left standing, he will bring judgement.  David ends his Psalm by asserting that the Lord, his Lord would be king forever. The nations would perish, the mighty and the powerful would be brought down. God would hear the cries of the afflicted and he would strengthen them. He will pay attention to the complaint and bring justice to them. The disempowered, the oppressed would be lifted up, what they had lost would be restored, and they would have no reason to fear ever again.

    It often seems that the ungodly have freedom to act in the world, to make profits out of the least powerful, to deprive them of their entitlements. Slavery is still rife, leaders of business make almost obscene profits while their workers struggle to survive. Nations engage in war to protect mineral deposits or oil supplies to make the rich comfortable while the poor of the world are kept in desperate situations so that they can provide cheap food, clothing and trinkets for the wealthy. God has heard the cry of the oppressed and he will execute judgement on the oppressors. In Exodus 22:22 God makes it very clear what he thinks of those who oppress others: “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword.” It may seem that God is letting things happen, but he is not. He will bring justice – even if it seems a long way off.

  1. What can you do to reduce the oppression of poor people?
  2. Do you care about the poor?
  3. Does it seem that God doesn’t care about suffering?
  1. How can you tell me to run away?
    Psalm 11

    In this Psalm David either recalls a conversation he had when he was being pursued by King Saul and in fear for his life, or perhaps another occasion when he was threatened. His friends offered him advice, ‘run away, head for the hills until the danger passes. Your enemies have got their weapons ready, and they are not taking prisoners. If you and the leaders are killed what hope is there? Better to make a strategic retreat than to be a dead hero’. Sounds like good advice, but David’s response seems to come from a sense of outrage.

    “My trust is in God, he is my refuge, he will protect me. How can you tell me to run away?” Many years later Jesus told his disciples that he was heading to Jerusalem where there was danger. Peter tried to discourage him and to protect himself. Jesus’ response was “Get out of my way Peter, the advice you are giving me is not from God, in fact you are speaking Satan’s words”. A harsh response indeed. Many times throughout the words of the Bible men and women are instructed not to fear, but to be strong and courageous, to trust God to protect them.

    Like David we are called to choose: fear or faith. What will it be? There are voices spurred on by ungodly spokespersons in media and elsewhere seeking to upset the faith of the righteous, to upset the confidence of the faithful, to abandon unquestioning confidence in the God of the universe and to put their trust in those who will not stand in the presence of God. Whose agenda do they pursue as they seek to destroy the foundations of our faith? We are told we must fear disease, then we are told we are to fear vaccinations against disease. We are to fear the conspiracies of the ungodly and also to fear the decisions of governments. Throughout history there have been scaremongers who have tried to destabilize society to foment rebellion and give rise to anarchy. David would not listen, he knew where his help came from, he sought refuge in God and his word, and he stood steadfast.

    The Lord is in his temple, he sits on the throne of power and authority, he sees and he tests the hearts of men and women everywhere. He especially tests those who are righteous. Will they stand strong or will they run from the battle? Will they choose faith, or succumb to fear? From where will they take counsel – spiritual men and women and the word of God or the ungodly, political and social activist whose only agenda is their ego? God hates the wicked, those who oppress the poor, the refugee, the orphan and he will bring judgement against them. The apostle Paul warns Timothy to be a diligent student of God’s word because there were those, even in the church, who had strayed from the truth and were upsetting the faith of others, but he says: “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

    God’s promise is sure, those that are righteous will see his face – however “for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:6). God calls us to stand firm and “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10). Let us choose like David, not to listen to those who tell us to give in to fear but find refuge in God who is in his temple.

  1. How do you show courage in difficult times?
  2. How important is it to use God’s word to instruct you about dealing with world affairs?
  3. What do you think of Jesus’ rebuke of Peter?
  1. The world is full of liars
    Psalm 12

    This Psalm is known as a community lament. It is intended to be sung by the congregation, but it is not a happy song. If we had to make a comparison with the songs that fill our airways we might call this the Blues, music that had its origin among the slaves of the deep south of the United States a couple of hundred years ago. Songs that contained themes of oppression and hopes of deliverance. I am a fan of blues music, it is evocative and speaks of pain, it is always hopeful but recognizes continuous struggle. This is that type of psalm.

    One writer introduces the psalm with these words, ‘This is a community lament, describing a time when liars are in positions of authority.’ Sadly this make the psalm very contemporary, politicians make promises in order to be elected, knowing that they cannot be delivered. A previous Prime Minister went so far as to say he made core and non-core promises, he felt no obligation to keep his word if it was a non-core promise. There is a very low level of trust of those in power, people expect lies to be told and are not surprised when they are. What is true in politics is also true in business and other arenas of life, we have what has been called a trust deficit at almost every level of society.

    The particular lies that David is accusing the rulers of are flattering lips and insincere speech (a double heart). These people manipulate others so that they can gain power, opportunity or influence for themselves. David’s prayer is that God would remove these people and restore integrity and godliness to places of authority. Proverb 14:43 in the Amplified Bible says: ‘Righteousness [moral and spiritual integrity and virtuous character] exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people.’ God has seen the disgrace, the poor are plundered and the needy groan so he says he will rouse himself. He will restore the broken, he will provide a place of safety for them, and of course he will deal with the liars and exploiters as well.

    Treatment of the poor is a reference point for righteousness in the Bible. Throughout the law God’s people are commanded to protect them and care for them. Revival in the community depended on obedience to this command, the book of Proverbs gives constant reminders of God’s compassion on them. Proverb 21:13 says that ‘he who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, will also cry himself and not be heard’ and 28:27, ‘He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses’. When the council in Jerusalem sent out Paul and Barnabas ‘they only asked us to remember the poor – the very thing I also was eager to do’ (Galatians 2:10). Latin American pastor Gustavo Gutierrez used the term ‘preferential option for the poor‘ to suggest that the law and the prophets, and even Jesus saw the liberation of the poor as evidence of righteousness, and for those who claimed to be righteous, they must be active in seeking to relieve poverty. Indeed Jesus used a parable of the kingdom to separate those who ministered to the poor and needy from those that turned their back on them. (Matthew 25:34-46).

    David draws the distinction between those who lie, flatter and manipulate with the poor of the land. He will rescue and welcome the poor but will reject the wealthy and powerful who have gained their position through oppression. Meanwhile he expects his church to actively pursue righteousness by liberating the poor, binding up the broken hearted and setting the captives free.

  1. Are you convinced by people who flatter you?
  2. Do you pay attention to the poor – in what way?
  3. What do you think about care for the poor and needy being a key to revival?
7. Have you forgotten me?
Psalm 13

David didn’t have any problem repeating himself, the Psalms are not written in chronological order and we are not always sure at what time in his life they were written, but there are repeated themes. In Psalm 13 he once again asks the question ‘how long’, in fact he asks it four times in the first couple of verses. He is desperate for an answer so he returns to God with the plea ‘how long do I have to wait, have you forgotten me forever?’

It is likely that many reading this have found themselves in a similar place to David – how long Lord? How long will I be without a job, how long will I be sick, how long before my kids turn their lives around, how long Lord? David was distressed in three areas: his relationship with God, his relationship with himself and then those who were his enemies. It seems that David was struggling with his prayer life, ‘are you not listening God, have you turned you back on me’. When we are in a difficult place our spiritual life is often the first to suffer. We stop reading the bible, we find no joy in it and our attention wanders. The same for our prayers, is God even listening, have I failed him in some way so that he has closed his ears, if I close my eyes my mind wanders, or I fall asleep – I am just so dry! And singing, that’s hard. If I sing worship songs, they are just words, in fact I feel hypocritical. Do something God revive me somehow.

David asked ‘how long must I take counsel with my soul’? Maybe that was the problem, when you are feeling down self-reflection may not help. Jeremiah said in Lamentation 3 when he was going through a particularly bad time: ‘my soul has been rejected from peace, I have forgotten happiness and my strength has gone and so has my hope from the Lord…surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me’ (3:17-20). He focused on what went wrong, his problems and he became depressed. The answer to David’s question of how long, was it’s been long enough! Then he thought about his enemies and how happy they would be to see him fall and his misery increased.

Jeremiah in the depths of despair had focused on his misery and became more miserable, but then he says, ‘But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” In the same way David writes: ‘But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.’ In the darkest place there is hope, and as an expression of faith we offer praise to him. When we least want to, we lift our voice in praise and worship, as the writer the Hebrews puts it “let us continually offer a sacrifice or praise, that is the fruit of our lips that give thanks to his name’’ (Hebrews 13:15).

Praise is often the key that opens the door to hope. It is spoken of as a sacrifice because it costs us something – it requires discipline and commitment, it takes our focus off ourselves and places it on him. It fixes our eyes on him, the beginner and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). When the Bible seems dry, sing, when your prayers bounce of the ceiling, sing, when your soul is cast down, sing. He will fill your praises with his presence, restore your hope and give you new vigour.

  1. Do you find it easy to sing when you feel down?
  2. When does self reflection become self torture?
  3. Do you know songs of praise you can sing when needed?