“Our Father, we are so grateful, thankful, for the wonderful privilege we have had as citizens of this great country where we have experienced a degree of freedom that has never been experienced by everyday people throughout the history of the world. We have a tremendous freedom and tremendous prosperity in this country. We have been richly blessed because of Your grace and Your goodness to us.
Father, we have such a rich heritage of Bible-believing leaders and Bible-believing people that have laid the foundation for this great nation. Father, tonight, as we hear the returns from this election, we pray that there will be a foundation laid through the leaders elected tonight that we can turn a corner, or at least stop the deterioration and collapse.
But we know that that is not going to happen unless there is a transformation that takes place in the hearts and the minds of people in this country. There is a great challenge before churches and Christians to be evangelists, to do the work of evangelism, to be able to give an answer for the hope that is in him, and to lay out the case for Jesus Christ, in trusting in Him and Him alone for salvation. But also in laying the case for the need to grow, the need to mature, and the need to build a life based upon the thinking that is taught in Your Word. We need to have transformed minds and transformed lives.
Father, we pray that You would strengthen our faith, because no matter what happens tonight the issues are still the same for us as believers. That is to walk closely with You, to trust You, to obey You, to make learning Your Word and applying it in our lives the highest priority that we can have.
Father, we know there are many people, some in this congregation, many Christians throughout this country who are, perhaps necessarily, distracted by too many responsibilities. They need to reexamine their priorities and put the study of Your Word first.
Father, we pray that You will challenge each one listening and each one in this congregation that that needs to be a priority. To be transformed does not happen in 30–45 minutes once a week, but it is a day-to-day process.
Father, as we study Your Word today may we be reminded that You are the One who is our defender. You are the One who is our shield and our high tower, and that we have protection from You no matter what is going on in the world around us. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
Last week we covered 1 Samuel 19, but tonight we are going to look at Psalm 59. I want you to open your Bibles with me to Psalm 59. When we look at Psalm 59 we read in the opening superscript that gives authorial information. We read that this is to the Chief Musician. It is set to a tune called Do Not Destroy. It is a classification of a psalm called a Michtam of David. We are told what the specific circumstances were of this psalm. It is when Saul sent men and they watched his house in order to kill David.
This is what we studied last week in 1 Samuel 19. David had married Michal, Saul’s daughter. Saul is now David’s father-in-law. Saul has attempted to have him killed or to kill him five times at this particular point in our study. Psalm 59 is David’s response. It is a tremendous opportunity for us to take stock in our own mental attitude. How we respond to attacks, to circumstances, to situations that come up in our lives, whether they involve personal attacks from people we know or do not know or whether it is systems, systems of government, or systems of bureaucracy.
We think particularly this November 2016 election night of the trends that are going on in Western civilization, trends that are hostile to those who believe in biblical truth. There are glimmers of hope. Too often we are the victims of a very liberal leftist agenda that is held by the media. We do not get stories. We do not get told things. There is a lot that we miss.
How many of you know that two weeks ago there was an enormous demonstration in Paris, France where 700,000 people came out to demonstrate?
How many even know that there was a demonstration of that size?
700,000! That is bigger than most towns in Texas. Do you know what they were demonstrating against? Anybody want to guess? 700,000 people came out to demonstrate against same-sex marriage. In Paris! Check it out. We are not told a lot of good things that are going on in this world. It is important to keep up.
It is hard to keep up when you have a media that does not want you to know that their story, their narrative, is not the only one, the only one being accepted. Many times we face the opposition. We face opposition from the culture. We face opposition from maybe teachers, faculty members, and university professors. We face opposition from maybe people in our own family because they do not agree with our own belief system.
We have to learn how to handle these things. Scripture says that of the ten spiritual skills that God gives us, the ultimate one that I think is the last one is joy. Sharing the happiness of God. That is what James starts with in James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brethren.” That is not some superficial exercise. That has to do with an embedded mental attitude that is the same mental attitude that the Lord Jesus Christ had when He went to the Cross. Sure, He sweated blood. He was discouraged. He was sorrowful. He was grieving as He faced the Cross, but His joy never diminished because He is immutable. He never changed. His joy never diminished.
We can have those bittersweet emotions where on the one hand we face realities that are sad and sorrowful, but at the same time they are overridden by the joy that we have. That is what we see in this psalm. David is facing the opposition from his father-in-law, who is the king of Israel, who is going to bring all of his governmental authority to bear against David to have him killed. Saul is sending hit squads, execution squads, against David to destroy him.
This is David’s father-in-law. This is someone he has grown close to as he ministered to him by the playing of a harp when Saul was having these anxiety attacks and panic attacks and all of these other things. We see that David’s mental attitude comes through as you look at this psalm, Psalm 59.
We are going to examine Psalm 59, but when you get to the end the psalm, as David is facing this horrible situation that is life threatening, David’s concluding thoughts are “I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning …” This is joyful singing, exaltation. David is excited and exalting in the power of God even as he is going through this horrible negative situation.
We are looking at Psalm 59. The main theme of this psalm is a popular theme in the Psalms, God is Our Sure Defense. God is in many different metaphors that we see here that are going to come into play tonight. I want to begin with introductory matters. In fact, tonight is basically going to be an introduction and flyover of this psalm. It is a joy to study the Psalms. It has been a long time since I have done some of this.
Unfortunately, my glasses are not as strong as they use to be. I do a lot of work using Logos and using some other computer programs. But if you have a Hebrew text and you look at the Hebrew text, in the margins there is extremely fine print, 2–3 points, smaller than the footnotes. A lot of times the sigla in the margins points out different types of issues that are going on with the text. Some of that is important in understanding what this text says.
As I pointed out, a lot of times before we can ever get to an application we really have to understand what is going on here in this text. What is actually being said? There are differences because we have the Masoretic Text, which is the accepted authorized version of the Hebrew text. This was finalized around AD 900. We are talking 800 years after the close of the Canon, 800 years after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Even though it does not apply particularly to this passage, during that time there were things, as we studied in Psalm 110, that were changed just by simply changing the vowel points to take away some of the Messianic implications. I do not think that applies in this particular psalm, but there are some textual issues here where the Masoretic Text disagrees with the Septuagint, a couple of Targum writings, which are very ancient Jewish commentaries on the text. We can see what they viewed of the text, as well as a couple of other ancient manuscripts. This is something I learned from Michael Rydelnik.
When I went through Dallas Theological Seminary the rule of thumb on textual criticism in the Old Testament, which is very different from New Testament textual criticism, is that if the Masoretic Text says it, “just go with it”. That is a predominate view across evangelicalism. But the alternate view that is espoused by more and more conservative evangelicals, as well as some Israeli scholars, is that if you have at least two ancient versions, like the Septuagint and one other ancient version, and if they agree against the Masoretic Text, especially if you have some ancient Dead Sea Scrolls that agrees with the Septuagint, then that is probably the more accurate reading.
We will get into that when we get into the verse-by-verse study next week. But I want to go through some introductory matters that apply to any psalm. Psalms are a great thing to read and to study devotionally. As we get into them, they mean a lot to us in different circumstances of life.
1. There are 150 psalms. Psalms is the largest book in the Bible. It is the middle book in the Bible. If you hold your Bible up, most Bibles, when split in half will be the book of Psalms. Seventy-three of the 150 psalms are specifically stated to have been written by David. Those 73 psalms are almost half [of the book].
But we know that there are others that were written by David, because the New Testament quotes from four or five, such as Psalm 110, which we just finished studying on Sunday morning. Jesus says that the psalm is written by David, but that is not what the Psalm says. There are other psalms that are quoted in the New Testament as a psalm of David, but it was not written in the psalm. It is not because it was generally thought that the psalms were Davidic. It is more specific than that. It is very clear that at least half the psalms, maybe a good deal more, were written by King David.
2. Twelve of these psalms, like the one we are studying tonight in Psalm 59, have a historical content set in that superscription at the beginning of the psalm that is part of the inspired text.
David did not write it that way, but I believe that when the psalms were collected, they were organized and brought together in their final form under Ezra, probably when the Israelites returned from captivity. The Holy Spirit was working in that organization as well. Those who complied and organized the psalms did so under inspiration of Scripture.
There is significance to the order and structure of the psalms. What that is is up for a lot of debate. There are a lot of scholars that say that is not true, but I believe there is a purpose for that. Some may say what it is. I do not know. I have not had the time to get into that. That is really spending hundreds of hours studying and memorizing all of the psalms.
3. We know that several other psalms other than these 73 were written by other writers:
- Asaph, a choir director, the chief musician of the Levitical musicians at the temple at the time of David. He wrote Psalm 50 and Psalms 73–83. He wrote twelve psalms.
- Solomon wrote Psalm 72 and Psalm 127.
- Moses wrote Psalm 90.
- Heman the Ezrahite, a disciple of Ezra who wrote the Book of Ezra. Heman was a priest at about the time of the second return from Babylon. He wrote Psalm 88.
- Ethan, the Ezrahite, wrote Psalm 89. That is a well-known and very important Psalm, a meditation on the Davidic Covenant, which is crucial.
These are some of the basics about the background on the Psalms. The book of Psalms, a Psalter, as we have it, is divided into five books in the organization. As I said, I lean very heavily toward the view that the organization and structure of the Psalms was done under the inspiration of the Hoy Spirit.
You have the first 41 Psalms make up Book 1, then that closes at the end of Psalm 41:13 with a benediction. A benediction is the expression of a blessing. The word “bless” has different connotations. When the object of blessing is God, then the word “bless” has the connotation of praise to God. We do not bless God. God is not in need of our blessing. God is infinite. He is totally independent and not dependent upon His creatures for anything. The idea of blessing God is the idea of praising God and expressing thanksgiving for all that He has done.
Psalm 41:13, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.”
The word āmēn means to believe. It is a form of the root verb for “believe.” It is a strong affirmation of faith.
Book II is Psalm 42–72. Psalm 72:19 ends with a benediction, a blessing statement.
Psalm 72:19, “And blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.”
One thing we are going to see tonight as we go through the opening material, and one of the reasons I designed the class this way, is because it is really going to focus our attention on God. Tonight, with the end of this election, I think somebody here made the comment earlier that we have gone through about nine months of labor, and tomorrow we are going to find out if we have a boy or a girl. But it has been a tough and strange election, hard for everybody and hard for the country. We need to have our focus on the Lord.
Book III covers Psalms 73–89, which ends with the benediction:
Psalm 89:52, “Blessed be the LORD forever!”
Notice that each time LORD is in capital letters it is Yahweh. “Blessed be the LORD Yahweh forever! Amen, and Amen.”
Book IV is Psalms 90–106
Psalm 106:48, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting. And let all the people say, ‘Amen.’ Praise the LORD!”
What is the Hebrew for “Praise the LORD!”? הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ in Hebrew, hallû-yāh.
Book V is Psalms 107–150, which includes both the shortest and the longest psalm. The shortest psalm is Psalm 118. The longest is Psalm 119.
Psalm 150 is the final benediction to the entire psalter. It is the benediction to the psalter, not one verse but an entire psalm.
I want to read Psalm 150:
“1Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
2Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
3Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
4Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
5Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
6Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD!”
Psalm 150:1, “Praise the Lord!” These are commands, exhortations to the people to praise God, to praise Yahweh, “to praise God in His sanctuary.” Remember, it is at the time of the temple. Go to the temple and praise God. “Praise Him in His mighty expanse.”
Psalm 150:2, “Praise Him for His mighty deeds.” Think through what God has done historically. When you get into passages like this, where we are praising God for His mighty deeds, one of the things that are really sad in our generation is that people have trivialized the praise of God when we are praising God for His mighty deeds. Many of us have things that we can look at in our life. We are thankful that God did them. They are not necessarily all that significant. There are things we like because they made our life a little better, or we avoided some problem.
Remember in Acts 2 when the disciples were on the steps of the temple. The Holy Spirit has come upon them and they are all speaking in these various languages to the people who come to the temple to worship at Pentecost. What does the Scripture say that they talked about? It does not say that they talked about the gospel, although I think that would be included. They talked about the wondrous or the mighty deeds of God. They are talking about the great things that God has done:
- Deliverance of Noah and his family
- The calling out of Abram
- The preservation of the family of Jacob and his sons by taking them to Egypt and preserving them
- The preservation of the Jews and the blessing upon the Israelites in Egypt
- Their deliverance at the Exodus is one of the major works that are praised again and again in the Psalms
As you go through these are the things that praise is given for, praising His mighty deeds, these things in history. We look at that and say, “Oh, it happened so long ago.” The Exodus happened in 1400 BC, one thousand and four hundred years before Jesus. That means that if you were alive when Jesus was alive, you would say, “But that happened so long ago.” 1,400 years is a long time ago. But they were supposed to keep the Seder, keep Passover, Pesach, to remember God’s mighty deeds. Just because these events happened 2,000 years, 3,000 years, 4,000 years ago does not make it any less significant or any less real.
Psalm 150:2b, “Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.”
They are thinking through His attributes.
Psalm 150: 3, “Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with harp and lyre.”
I think that is really important that we praise God with music, but it has got to be the right kind of music. Scott Aniol taught us when he was here, if you remember, at the Chafer Conference in 2013. He is now a professor in the music department at Southwestern Baptist Seminary. He said that music is a language. The problem is that there are a lot of musical languages. Most of them are antagonistic to the expression of praise. We talked about that.
There is a right way and a wrong way to praise God. A lot of the contemporary music that is out there today is built on paganism. The music itself is wrong. In many cases the music is of a language that contradicts what the words are supposed to be saying. Then you have a problem with the words. The words are often trite. One of the things about a hymn that we studied a number of years ago is that when you look at a good hymn, not all hymns are good. When you look at a good hymn and take the words out, it is good poetry. It is quality poetry. We are honoring God. It is excellent poetry.
But if you take out the words of a lot of this contemporary music that is used today, it is bad poetry. It is trivial. It is trite. It is not going to do anything to improve somebody’s ability to think. That is part of the reason that you have people read good literature is to elevate their thinking. Read good poetry. Read Shakespeare. Read Wordsworth. It does not matter what the content is if it is good poetry. It will elevate your sense of poetry.
You will never learn how to eat good food and appreciate really good food if you exist on a diet of Whataburger and Burger King. The only way you are going to develop a palate to appreciate good food is to go to good restaurants. If you do not know what a good restaurant is, with a good chef, then you need to listen to somebody who knows. Your palate will be educated after you eat good food.
It does not have to be expensive. It does not have to be something that is going to break your bank account, but that is how you develop good taste. If you enjoy wine, you do not develop a palate for good wine by drinking Thunderbird, Ripple, or Boones Farm Apple wine. You have to drink good-quality wine. That develops your palate.
What we do is dumb down everything in the church. We sing trivialized “clichéish” songs that are supposed to be praise, but nobody has any appreciation for good music or good lyrics. It is devastating to the church and to praise. We have to have good music. “Praise Him with harp and lyre (stringed instruments).” There is nothing wrong with different kinds of instruments, but it is the kind of music and the quality of the music.
Psalm 150:3, “Praise Him with timbrel …” Timbrel is a different from a modern tambourine. A tambourine has jingly symbols on it. The ancient timbrels were basically a skin stretched over a round hoop. It was a percussion instrument without the metal symbols associated with it. “Praise Him with timbrel and dancing.” That is not the kind of praise dancing that you see today. Trust me. This is just as post-modern as most of the music that is sung that people think impresses God.
Psalm 150:5, “Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.” This was all part of these huge orchestras that the Levites had to conduct praise in the temple. It was structured. It was orderly. It was brilliant and masterful.
When you look at the Psalms there are all kinds of different psalms depending on who you are reading and how you classify them. There are different classifications. Some psalms are thanksgiving psalms or praise psalms. Some are declarative praise psalms. Others are what they call descriptive-praise psalms. In a descriptive-praise psalm you are describing what God did. In a declarative you are calling upon others to join you in praising God for something that He has done. There are thanksgiving psalms, then there is what is referred to as lament psalms.
There are two categories of lament psalms:
1. Communal or National Lament: Psalm 44, Psalm 74, Psalm 79, Psalm 80, and Psalm 83.
2. Individual Lament: Psalm 3, Psalm 4, Psalm 5, Psalm 6, Psalm 7, Psalm 9, Psalm 10, Psalm 56, and Psalm 59.
Psalm 59 is listed as an individual lament, but we will see that there are elements in this lament psalm that are typical of a national or communal lament where the nation is crying out to God over some distress or crisis in the life of the nation. That is what a lament is. Normally we think of a lament as expressing grief or mourning, but it also has the meaning of expressing someone’s complaint. They are going through a time of adversity, a time of distress, and they are crying out to God to pay attention to what is going on in their life, and to deliver them from the difficult time, the horrors, and/or whatever of their particular circumstances.
Psalm 59 is a lament psalm. I think that it is an individual lament, but David, because he is the anointed and future king of Israel, gives it a national sense. We will see going through it, as David is being attacked by these enemies, the soldiers of Saul, it has a national dimension to it. As the future king of Israel, David ties himself or connects himself to Israel and Israel’s future. He easily makes an application and a transition to where it goes to talking about Saul’s soldiers attacking him to Gentiles who are attacking Israel. There is that dimension to this that we will see as we go along.
When we study a lament psalm you may ask the question: How do we know that it is a lament psalm?
There are usually six characteristics that are listed that help us to identify a lament psalm:
1. It is addressed to God at the very beginning, as we see in Psalm 59. David is saying:
Psalm 59:1, “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God …” David is calling upon God to do something, to intervene in his life, and to rescue him from some crisis. The psalm is addressed to God.
If you are reading a letter and it says, “Dear So and So” and your name is there, then you know that this is a petition or expression or something that somebody is bringing to you. This is addressed to God.
2. There is usually an introductory petition or cry for aid. It is addressed to God:
Psalm 59: 1, “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God …” but in the expression of this toward God that David is saying:
“Defend me from those who rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,
And save me from bloodthirsty men.”
This is David’s introductory petition. He is in a tight spot. Later he will express the problem with more detail. It does not always follow this order, but you will have these sections shown here.
3. There is a confidence section where David begins to express his confidence and trust in God. For example, Psalm 59:5 has elements of confidence:
“5You therefore, O LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel,
Awake to punish all the nations;
Do not be merciful to any wicked transgressors.”
4. There is more of a sense of confidence there that would fit into this at the beginning. Then there is a broader lament section which expresses and details more the problem in Psalm 59:6–7:
“6At evening they return,
They growl like a dog,
And go all around the city.
7 Indeed, they belch with their mouth;
Swords are in their lips;
For they say, ‘Who hears’?”
Another statement of confidence comes up in Psalm 58:8:
“8But You, O Lord, shall laugh at them;
You shall have all the nations in derision.”
We live in a politically correct time whereas, if you are laughing at somebody who is wrong you are such a horrible person. But God laughs at His enemies. He laughs at the evil doers. He derides and ridicules the evil doers because they are standing against Him.
5. The main petition that starts around Psalm 59:11:
“11Do not slay them, lest my people forget…”
He is saying killing them outright is too good for them God. Make them really suffer so they are an object lesson for everybody else not to be disobedient as they have been. David gets into more of the petition in Psalm 59:13:
“13Consume them in wrath, consume them,
That they may not be;
And let them know that God rules in Jacob
To the ends of the earth. Selah.”
6. Vow of praise. This is a section where there is a public proclamation and sometimes what the psalmist vows to do is to give praise to God in the temple, Psalm 59:16–17.
But after David focuses on how bad the bad guys are, and he has thought about who God is, it transforms his whole mental attitude. That is a tremendous lesson for us. That when you are facing problems in life, financial, health, family, job, careers, school, military, whatever it may be, start thinking about the attributes of God. Write them down. It is a good exercise. Write down each attribute and how that attribute applies to your circumstances. Go through that mental exercise. All of a sudden, we begin to see that compared to God the problems we are concerned about is pretty minimal. That is what David is doing in many of these lament psalms. David says in Psalm 59:16–17:
“16But I will sing of Your power …” this focuses on God’s omnipotence.
“Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy …” Your faithful loyal love, ḥesed/chesed is used.
“Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning;
“For You have been my defense
And refuge in the day of my trouble.
17 To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises;
For God is my defense,
My God of mercy.”
These are a great, great couple of verses to memorize, especially when we look at difficult times. We may be looking at difficult times in this nation one way or the other.
What we are doing here is we are looking through and seeing the structure that we have in the Psalms. We see the language. There is usually some distinctive language that is repeated as you go through the Psalms. This is significant.
One of the things that you learn when I am talking about language is you have figures of speech. We will look at this because David compares his enemies to dogs.
Psalm 59:6, “At evening they return, they growl like a dog, …”
We are going to have to look at that idiom because you and I think of dogs in completely different ways than somebody in the Middle East at that time thought about a dog. In the Middle East, then as now, dogs were the scavengers. These dogs were wild. They are not your little cuddly terrier or golden retriever that sleeps at the foot of your bed. These are very nasty, wild animals that are starving most of the time.
I wish I had some pictures of these dogs. It is not as much of a problem today as when I first went to Kiev. But there were so many people, after the Soviet Union broke up and during the hard economic times of the 1990s, who could not take care of their pets. They would let the animals go free.
In the first two or three years that I was in Kiev, I remember going over to Jim Myer’s apartment. It was about a mile and a quarter walk from Jim Dumas’ apartment where I was staying at the time. You would walk through this one section that was on the other side of a major thoroughfare and the metro station. You would come out to where it was kind of empty. There was not a lot going on in that area. There would be these packs of 50–60 wild dogs that were roaming the streets. It was a little bit spooky about eleven o’clock at night, when not much else is moving except these packs of wild dogs. That is the image here in Psalm 59:6 of these packs of wild dogs scavenging for anything to sustain them.
As I look at this a question that I think some people might ask is: “Are you not overanalyzing the Psalms? You are breaking everything down into each individual component and spending a tremendous amount of time. Can we not just read it and appreciate it for what it is? This is praise to God. Can we not just enter into that?”
That is an attitude you will often find with a lot of people, especially over the last 30–40 years. But that does not do justice to the text or to the human author of the text. The psalms are written with a specific structure. They knew what they were writing about. They knew that they were following a certain structure just as someone who writes good poetry today understands that they write within certain structures.
In Hebrew poetry the writers would write with these specific forms of praise psalms or thanksgiving psalms or lament psalms. The writers used those specific structures. These are psalms that were not just words written down at the spur of the moment or spontaneously, but they were thought about, and obviously the Holy Spirit inspired. Inspiration was not that they just sat down and boom it was right there. The Holy Spirit worked in and through the process of their writing and expression of what was going on, the use of specific kinds of language. They used specific kinds of parallelism.
In English poetry a lot of times they rhyme words, but in Hebrew poetry they would “rhyme” ideas. A lot of times you will see that the thought of the first line is repeated with other words in the second line. By example, in Psalm 59:1 the cry from David is: “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God …” The second line says: “Defend me” and that is synonymous with “Deliver me.” Then it is “Defend me from those who rise up against me.” It is saying the same thing but with other words. That is called synonymous parallelism.
There are different kinds of parallelism. The psalmists would use different kinds of parallelism within the structure of the psalm. We are not over analyzing the Psalms. We are going through this process so that we can more thoroughly understand the psalm. The better we understand the psalm the better God the Holy Spirit can help us to see how the doctrinal principles there apply to our own lives and to our own thinking.
The writers of the Psalms wrote using specific figures of speech and rhythm and parallelism in order to evoke certain specific responses from the person who reads them. But if we fail to understand correctly all of these aspects of a psalm that are critical for interpreting it, then we may be responding in ways that were unintended by either the human or the divine author of the psalm, simply because we have not understood the psalm.
I remember many years ago that I was pastoring a church. This church had what they called mini-churches. That was a structure that I had inherited. We met in a YMCA. We could only meet on Sunday morning, so we had these home groups that met during the week. These were led by the elders in the church and basically functioned like a Sunday School that was not on Sunday.
I remember going to one of them when I was first there as a pastor getting to know the people and what they were doing. They were meeting and reading through a psalm and the man who was leading the study was going around trying to get people engaged in the Scripture. We would read the first three or four verses and he would ask: “What does that mean to you?”
My blood pressure was going up a little bit. I remember that this one lady who was talking about how this impacted her. It was totally contrary to what the historical circumstance was in the psalm. I do not remember which psalm it was, but it was in one of these twelve or fourteen psalms that David wrote with a historical subscript. The lady totally ignored the context. But this is so common today. We analyze these psalms so we can really enter into the original intended meaning of the psalm, and then God the Holy Spirit helps us to see how that relates to our own life.
When looking at Psalm 59 I was reading through Allen Ross’ Commentary on the Psalms. When you read the psalms it is helpful to have a good commentary. One of the commentaries that I recommend to people is Dallas Seminary’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary. I hope they never revise it. It was written in the early 1980s. I knew personally almost every author of every commentary. Many of them were my professors when I went through Dallas Theological Seminary.
Allen Ross was one of my professors. He has a doctorate from Dallas and a doctorate from Cambridge. He taught a required course on the Psalms every year. He has taught this course off and on through his career since he left Dallas in the late 1980s. He has just published the third volume of a three-volume Commentary on the Psalms. Each one of those volumes is larger than the Old Testament commentary that Dallas Theological Seminary produced on the whole Old Testament. It is a treasure trove of great information. Also, if you know Hebrew there is technical information there.
Allen Ross also wrote the Psalms commentary in The Bible Knowledge Commentary set by Dallas Theological Seminary. That is why I recommend that commentary. He says regarding Psalm 59:
“Psalm 59 is essentially a lament psalm, even though it varies somewhat from other, more straightforward, laments. But there is some question whether it is the lament of an individual or a national lament. The motifs that fit a national lament are God’s rule, interest in the nations, and judgment on the nations.” – Commentary on the Psalms
We have some of those elements here in Psalm 59, for example in Psalm 59:5 it talks about “You therefore, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to punish all the nations …” That is talking about God’s rule, His oversight of the nations, and His judgment on the nations. It is also brought out in several other places in the psalm.
For example, at the end of Psalm 59:13, “And let them know that God rules in Jacob …” That is the rule of God. “To the ends of the earth ...” That is God’s sovereign power. David is primarily writing a personal lament, but he sees that there are parallels to the national circumstance and situation. David is pushing it in that direction.
In terms of the structure of the psalm it is a chiasm. We have studied a chiasm before. It is from the Greek letter CHI, but now they pronounce it CHEE. It looks like an “X”.
You have the left side of the “X” where the first three points are mirrored in the last three sections.
A. Prayer for Deliverance (vv. 1–3)
B. Innocence and Protestation (vv. 4–5)
C. The Wicked and God (vv. 6–8)
This is mirrored by the C prime (C´) section:
C´. Hope in God (vv. 9–10a)
It is that C and C prime (C´) section that is the center focus of this psalm where the focus is in God, God’s sovereign rule over the wicked.
B´ (B prime). Imprecation [curse] on the Wicked (vv. 10b–13)
A´ (A prime). Confidence in God’s Response (vv. 14–17)
A chiasm may not be a familiar word for a lot of people. If you have been listening to my teaching for a while it is familiar to you. There is also a chiasm related to your optic nerve. You have an optic nerve that is about the size of a pencil that runs from the back of your eyeball into the center of your brain. You have one that goes from your right eye and one from your left eye, and these cross in the middle of your brain. That is a chiasm. That switch is called the optic chiasm. What you see out of your left eye is interpreted by the right side of your brain. What you see out of the right eye is interpreted by the left side of your brain. That is an optic chiasm. It is not just a literary term. I say that every now and then you get somebody who thinks I make this stuff up.
What do we learn from this?
1. This is a Psalm of David.
We know who he is. We have been studying David in 1 Samuel in the rise of David.
2. The psalm is specifically linked to the time when Saul was sending his execution squads to kill his son-in-law David, the hero of Israel and the killer of Goliath.
3. David, in this psalm, is expressing his cry to God to deliver him, as the house is basically put under observation by these hit teams. He is under almost house arrest as they are waiting and watching for the opportunity to kill him. He calls upon God to deliver him from his enemies.
4. David also expresses his innocence in the psalm. That he has not done anything wrong. He has served the king honorably and the country honorably. Yet his enemies are out to kill him. David describes them several times as workers of iniquity. They are bloodthirsty men. They are pictured as wild ravenous animals.
5. David draws a parallel between these enemies of himself as Israel’s future king, and the nations who are enemies of Israel. Just as they are against him, personifying the nation, so he connects them to the Gentile nations who are against Israel.
By the way, it was the United Nations (UN), not UNESCO (The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) that had the vote a few weeks ago related to not recognizing the historic connection of Israel to the Temple Mount. The UN is taking up several votes to not recognize the historic connection of Israel to the Temple Mount. The UN is continuing this same fraud. That is because most of the nations who are determining this are Arabs. They are hostile to Israel.
As we get into this study remember, one of the first and most important points of Bible Study Methods is when you read your Bible you ought to be doing OBSERVATION, looking at the text and asking:
- What does the text say?
Reading through Psalm 59 maybe two or three times, and you begin to notice that there are certain words even in the English that are similar. For example, in the first two verses of Psalm 59, Psalm 59:1 begins: “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God.” The Psalm 59:2 says: “Deliver me from the workers of iniquity.” You would circle “deliver” in both places. “Deliver” is an important word here.
In between the second stanza of Psalm 59:1 it says: “Defend me from those who rise up against me.” Then when you get down to the end of Psalm 59:16 David says: “For You have been my defense.” David has prayed for God to “defend” him. He concludes that “You have been my defense.” And in Psalm 59:17, the universal statement: “For God is my defense.” You would connect those words.
What I was doing as I was reading through this and going through that process myself, I saw that there were a number of important key words.
Key Word: Deliver [Hebrew: nātzal]
1. The first word in the first verse is the word translated “deliver”. Sometimes it is translated defend or protect. We have synonyms: defend, protect, shield. The word for “deliver” is the Hebrew word nātzal.
You do not know anything about Hebrew, but it has these various stems, not cases but stems. The hiphil means causative. It is cause me to be delivered. That is the thrust of that nuance. It is used in both Psalm 59:1 and Psalm 59:2, but this is the word that is used 32 different times in the psalms. Most of those would be in lament psalms where the psalmist is crying out that God would deliver them. Some of these verses that I am going to show you that are from other psalms are great verses to memorize.
Psalm 34:4, “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
Is that not a great verse if you are prone to anxiety, fear, worry, mental attitude sins such as this.
Psalm 34:17, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.”
Psalm 34:19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.”
If I was a Baptist I would say, “Can I get an ‘Amen’ here?” “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” That is the word “delivers” that we began with. It means to be rescued, to be saved. Those are the other synonyms to the word deliverance.
Key Word: Defend [Hebrew: sāgav]
We have the word “defend”. This is an interesting word. It is translated “defend” but that is not its main meaning. The verb is sāgav. The piēl is an intensive stem. It means literally “to be exalted or to be lifted high.”
We will look at the noun later. The noun means to be a high place. Sometimes it is used in a negative sense, but in the psalms it is often that God protects me. The word there is that God set me on a high place above my enemies. We always know that the best position for the military to take is to seize the high ground to have a better advantage point.
The word is sāgav is used three other times in the psalms:
Psalm 20:1, “May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; May the name of the God of Jacob defend you [literally, set you on a high place above your troubles.]”
Psalm 69:29, “But I am poor and sorrowful; let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high.”
Psalm 91:14, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.”
This is God speaking. That is more than just name recognition. It is understanding God’s character and relying upon Him.
Key Word: Defend
In this slide I have the verb on the left, sāgav, and the basic consonants are SGV. It is a soft “b”, actually pronounced more “v”. You see the same thing here. I capitalized the letters here so you would see it: “S” (sāmekh), “G” (gîmel), and “B” (bêth). Those are the same consonants that you have in the verb. It means a high place or a refuge.
Psalm 59:9, “I will wait for You, O You his Strength.” That is talking about God. God is our strength. “For God is my defense [literally, God is my high tower].”
Psalm 59:17, “To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; for God is my defense [literally, high tower], my God of mercy.”
What are the attributes we see in that last verse? “To You, O my Strength” what attribute is that? Omnipotence.
“I will sing praises; for God is my defense …” That would be related to His omnipotence, His protection, and His love. “My God of mercy …” That is related to God’s love.
Psalm 18:2. I love this verse. It has so many great metaphors for the protection of God. “The LORD is my rock and my fortress.” This is not a rock like you go pick up outside. This is a rock like a huge escarpment. Like Stone Mountain in Atlanta, or Enchanted Rock north of Fredericksburg. That is the idea here. This is a huge, huge rock that covers hundreds and hundreds of acres.
“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength in whom I will trust. My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold [high place].”
The word “strength” we find several times in Psalm 59. “My high place” is the word we are looking at.
Psalm 62:2, “He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense [high tower]; I shall not be moved.”
You cannot shake me. You cannot worry me. I cannot get shaken up because God is for me.
Psalm 62:6, “He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense [high tower]; I shall not be moved.”
The psalmist reiterates that. This is something you could do. You could go home tonight, take a look at Psalm 62 and read that.
Psalm 144:2, “My loving kindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge, who subdues my people under me.”
Next time you read through the Psalms look at and make a list of all the different metaphors that are used to talk about God’s protection.
Key Word: Refuge [Hebrew: mānôs]
Refuge is used in relation to defense. We take refuge in God as our high tower. It used one time, one time only in the Psalms in Psalm 59:16 in the English, verse 17 in the Hebrew.
Psalm 59:16, “But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.”
It is a place to go hide.
Key Word: Shield [Hebrew word māgēn]
Maybe you have heard of Mogan David. It is a type of wine, but Magan David is the Red Cross Service in Israel. It is the shield of David. It is protection. That is used in Psalm 59:11, “… O LORD our shield.”
Key Word: Strength [Hebrew ‘az]
In the New King James Version Psalm 59:9, “I will wait [watch] for You, O You his (my) Strength; For God is my defense.”
His or My Strength depends on which text you are reading. That is a thing we will look at next time.
In the 1918 Tankakh version of Psalm 59:9, “Because of his strength, I will wait for Thee; for God is my high tower.”
Key Word: Mercy [Hebrew ḥesed/chesed]
Mercy focuses on the grace and loyal love of God. This is a word familiar to many of us, ḥesed/chesed. The word ḥesedim for the Hasidic Jews comes from this. It has to do with loyalty.
Psalm 59:10, “My God of mercy shall come to meet me [One Hebrew rabbinical translation says: He will anticipate me. He anticipates my need. God is on the way to rescue me.]; God shall let me see my desire on my enemies.”
Psalm 59:16, “But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for you have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.”
Psalm 59:17, “To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; for God is my defense, my God of mercy.”
This is how we should look at God as we think, especially about the election, national destiny, and how it affects us individually. We can focus upon this. I want to close by looking at one passage written at a time after the destruction of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, as Jeremiah is weeping over the absolute defeat and destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Jeremiah said in Lamentations 5:14–15, “The elders have ceased gathering at the gate, and the young men from their music. The joy of our heart has ceased; Our dance has turned into mourning.”
That is what happened to Judah when they were apostate. They had no hope in God. When David is looking at a crisis he sings to God. When Israel is focused on this there is no hope, but for Jeremiah he says in Lamentations: 3:19–23.
“19Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall.”
That is the bitterness of this experience. Just because we have joy does not mean we do not go through bitter times.
“20My soul still remembers and sinks within me.”
I (Jeremiah) remember the greatness of Judah, so I have an emotional response. We look at our country. We see how it has fallen. Our hearts sinks within us.
“21This I recall to my mind; therefore I have hope.”
My hope is not based upon the success or failure of a political election. It is not based upon what is happening in the Supreme Court. It is not based upon what is happening in Congress. I have hope because of the Lord’s mercies.
“22Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”
God is not going to change tomorrow, no matter who wins the election, or next month, or next year, or the next four years. Our focus needs to be on the Lord and not on whatever temporal disasters occur. Let’s close in prayer.
“Father, thank You for Your Word, as it is a comfort to our souls because it is The Truth. Our focus should be upon You. Our mission here in this life is to be faithful witnesses to You. And to live out our lives so that they reflect Your honor, Your glory, and all that You are. We do that by taking Your Word and applying it just as David did in the midst of his difficult circumstance where he was being hunted by Saul’s army.
Father, we pray that we might follow David’s example and focus upon You and upon Your Word so that we can come to realize that great joy and happiness that You have for us that is not dependent upon circumstances or situations or people or events, but it is based upon who You are and what You have done for us. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”