Psalm 35 Commentary

Open to Psalm 35 for this Psalm 35 commentary.

Psalm 35 is a lament psalm where David is working through a problem in his life with God’s help.

This lament psalm – like most lament psalms – has David working through dealing with his enemies.

Some label this as an “imprecatory psalm” while others think that’s too extreme a label since there really is no curse being uttered by David against his enemies. Actually, the worst that David asks the Lord for regarding his enemies is that they experience the very evil that they’re committing against him.

So, let’s dive into Psalm 35, starting with the superscription and then the first petition we see in this psalm in verses 1 through 8.

KJV Psalm 35:1 <A Psalm of David.>

Psalm 35 Commentary Petition for Protection from Persecutors | 1-8

Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me:
fight against them that fight against me.

So, David begins by asking the Lord to return to his enemies only what they are doing to him.

The word plead is the verbal form on the word translated strive in this verse. So, strive or contend with those who strive or contend with me is what David is saying.

And David’s request is even clearer in the second statement that he makes in this verse. He asks God to fight against those who fight against him.

So, there’s this reciprocal nature of David’s request. He’s not the aggressor here. He’s only asking the Lord to return his enemies’ own evil back to themselves. To show them what it feels like to have someone contending and fighting against them – because that’s exactly what they were doing to David – contending and fighting against him.

Then, David continues his petition in verse 2.

 2 Take hold of shield and buckler,
and stand up for mine help.

So, the first reference to a shield is that of a small shield you could hold on your arm while in combat. Then the word buckler is referring to a larger shield.

But already in these first two verses, it’s clear that David is painting a picture of warfare. He’s using military-style words to call God to action against his enemies. He’s asking God to go to war – as it were – with those who are at war with David.

The petition continues in verse 3.

 3 Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me:
say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.

So, the weapons mentioned back in verse 2 were more for defense than offense. Shields – large and small – are used mostly for defensive purposes. But here in verse 3, the weapons that David calls God to use against his enemies are offensive.

There’s the spear, of course. And then the KJV and several other versions have David asking God to stop the way against his persecutors. Now, if you have a version of the Bible that has a different word there, it’s probably battle-axe or javelin. And that’s because the word stop and the word javelin are just one vowel different from each other in Hebrew. And so, some translations use one vowel and some the other vowel.

Whatever that word was as God breathed it out through David, the effect of either word is clear. David is now asking God to take the offensive against his enemies.

And David isn’t simply interested in the destruction of his enemies. Now, we actually see him at the end of this verse redirecting his desires to the Lord. He wants God to tell him “I am your salvation.” He wants that reassurance from God that he himself will take care of David’s most troubling difficulties.

So, ultimately he wants God’s salvation – not just his enemies’ destruction.

And why does David need his soul to be comforted? Well, it’s because in verse 4 we’re told that there are those who seek after that very soul to harm it.

 4 Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul:
let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.

Again, it’s very evident that David is taking a defensive approach here rather than aggressively seeking the destruction of these men who are persecuting him.

And the other thing to keep in mind is that he’s bringing these requests to the Lord. He’s not seeking his own vengeance.

Now, as we move on, I’ll remind us that in the psalm previous to the one we’re studying right now – Psalm 34 which we studied last time – we saw there the first reference in the Psalms to this being known as the Angel of the Lord. And interestingly enough – in verses 5 and 6 of our psalm for today – Psalm 35 – this being is mentioned two times as David calls on him to chase and pursue his enemies who are chasing and persecuting him.

 5 Let them be as chaff before the wind:
and let the angel of the LORD chase them.

6 Let their way be dark and slippery:
and let the angel of the LORD persecute them.

So, David asks that these people who are fighting him and striving against him and persecuting him be like chaff before the wind. That is, blown around. Flimsy. Weak. Powerless. Just like they’re making David feel.

And he asks that the path they walk on would be dark and slippery. He wants them to experience danger on their way. When you can’t see the path you’re walking on, that’s dangerous. You might wander off the path or stumble over something on the path. But when that path is not only dark – but also slippery – then whatever footing you may have had on that dark path is gone. The idea is that David wants his enemies to stumble and slip and fall.

And then of course, there’s this reference to the Angel of the Lord. And we know how dangerous this being is. He killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night. So, David is asking that the Angel of the Lord chase and persecute – or pursue – these people.

But, why? I mean – that doesn’t sound very loving. Why is David calling for these things to be the case for his enemies? Verse 7.

 7 For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit,
which without cause they have digged for my soul.

So, it’s not as if David is the one who initiated this kind of antagonism between him and his enemies. No – they are the aggressors.

They’re pictured as hiding a net for David in a secret place – as if he were some animal to capture and kill.

They’re the one who dug a pit for him to fall into – again as if his life is worth as little as that of a beast’s.

And they did this without cause. That’s huge. David didn’t do something to provoke them to these actions. There is literally no cause whatsoever for them treating David like they’re treating him.

And that’s why he feels justified in continuing to ask the Lord to come to his defense in verse 8.

 8 Let destruction come upon him at unawares;
and let his net that he hath hid catch himself:
into that very destruction let him fall.

So, once more we see this request for reciprocal destruction. They hid a net in verse 7. So, therefore – verse 8 – let them be caught in that very net they laid for me!

Now, we have in English a word that describes what happened to European Jews under the murderous reign of the German Nazi Adolf Hitler. It’s actually a word from Latin that came from Greek that means “whole burnt offering.” It’s the word holocaust.

But, Jews don’t usually use that word to describe that tragedy from the early 20th century. Instead, they use the word shoah. And interestingly, that word is found twice in this verse. It’s translated as destruction.

David – of course – didn’t know about the destruction that would come to his people in the 20th century. Nevertheless, what he’s asking for his enemies is akin to what happened to the Jews under Hitler – destruction, devastation, desolation.

Why? It always come back to this in this psalm. David is not the aggressor here. His enemies are. David is simply asking that what those men have done to him and others – unjustly – God would return to them.

They’re wanting to destroy and devastate and leave him desolate. And so, David asks that those actions be returned to them.

Psalm 35 Commentary Confidence in God’s Deliverance | 9-10

And so, after eight verses of asking God for protection from his persecutors, David now for two verses – verses 9 and 10 – expresses confidence that God will deliver him from his enemies.

 9 And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD:
it shall rejoice in his salvation.

So, that soul of David’s – which the enemies were trying to capture in their pit back in verse 7 – that soul – David says – is going to rejoice in the Lord’s deliverance. David is confident that God will protect him – and answer his prayers that he’s already uttered in this psalm.

The confidence continues into verse 10.

 10 All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee,
which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him,
yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?

And notice the picture David paints of him and people like him – in contrast to his persecutors. Does David picture them as being on even footing? Are they both represented as being about the same level when it comes to their strength and power?

No – David portrays himself and those like him as poor with two different Hebrew words – both indicating helplessness and being disadvantaged.

On the other hand – how does he portray his enemies?… They’re too strong for him. They spoil or rob him.

It’s hard to imagine a king saying these things – though it’s not impossible – especially in David’s life. So, perhaps this psalm was written before David was anointed King of all Israel – when he felt himself especially vulnerable and weak.

Psalm 35 Commentary Lament for Being Repaid Evil for Good | 11-16

Well, so far we’ve seen David’s petition for help and protection against his abusers. Then we’ve seen him express confidence in the Lord’s ability and willingness to protect him.

And that leads us to the next major part of this psalm. It’s the lament – where David really identifies in greater detail the nature of his problem that he’s struggling through with God’s help.

And when it comes down to it, David struggles most with this fact – that he’s being repaid by his enemies with evil… for his doing good to them. There’s that contrast that seems to push David beyond the limit. He’s done them good. And they turn around… and repay him with abuse?!

Psalm 35 Commentary Enemies’ Abuse | 11-12

So, David showcases some of this abuse that he’s facing from these men in verses 11 and 12.

 11 False witnesses did rise up;
they laid to my charge things that I knew not.

12 They rewarded me evil for good
to the spoiling of my soul.

So, these men are portrayed as rising up – indicating a threatening posture toward David.

They’re false witnesses – or literally witnesses of violence – witnesses of chamas. They’re lying about David and their lies – if believed – will result in violence done to him.

Their treatment of him will result – if unchecked – in the spoiling of his soul. That is, in the bereavement of his soul – as in his very life is in jeopardy because of their lies and unjust treatment of David.

And then David mentions that they take his good that he’s done for them and they pay him back – not in kind. Not with good – but with evil.

Psalm 35 Commentary David’s Seeing Their Good | 13-14

And that leads David to expound on the good that he’s done for these men in times past in verses 13 and 14.

 13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth:
I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.

14 I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother:
I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.

So, there’s the sharp contrast – but as for me. In contrast to what his enemies are doing – he would treat their loss as if it were his own.

Sackcloth was the garment worn by mourners. He mourned their sickness. He refrained from food when this would happen to show the seriousness of the situation in his own heart.

The part about his prayer returning to his own bosom might be him saying something like “if what I’m saying here is not the truth, let God not listen to my prayers.” Or maybe it’s emphasizing how much David was praying for his enemies.

And there is no greater loss in life than to lose one’s family. And it’s that kind of reaction that David would have for the misfortune of these people. He treated and thought of these people like his own family.

Psalm 35 Commentary Enemies’ Abuse | 15-16

And so, given David’s real heartfelt sorrow at every loss these people may experience in times past, it’s awful to see how they are now treating him in verses 15 and 16.

 15 But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together:
yea, the abjects [i.e., stricken/smitten] gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not;
they did tear me, and ceased not:

16 With hypocritical mockers in feasts,
they gnashed upon me with their teeth.

So, when the enemies were sorrowful, David was sorrowful. But now, when David was sorrowful, the enemies… rejoiced! They got together as a pack of lions to tear at their prey.

And then verse 16 continues with the idea that David was at their mercy. In verse 15 he’s being torn at like prey by a predator. But in verse 16 he’s like the food at a feast being gnashed upon by the teeth of these godless mockers.

Psalm 35 Commentary Petition | 17

And so, David moves on to verse 17 where he continues speaking of predator vs. prey. But now he’s moved from his lament to another petition.

 17 Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions,
my darling from the lions.

How long is God going to watch as David is – as it were – torn and gnashed upon by these enemies of his?

And again he brings in the concept of ferocious beasts when he mentions that he needs to be rescued from lions. And of course, he’s not speaking of literal physical lions – he’s speaking of his enemies – which are acting like lions.

And David’s darling there means “only.” He’s speaking of his life as it truly is – his only one on this earth. He has no other.

Psalm 35 Commentary Praise | 18

But just when it seems that things are as dark as they can be, David breaks into praise in verse 18.

 18 I will give thee thanks in the great congregation:
I will praise thee among much people.

So, David is confident in God’s help and so, he takes the time to praise God for future help that he believes will come.

Psalm 35 Commentary Petition | 19

And you might think that he could end the psalm right there. But David isn’t done yet.

I think we all know what it’s like to find some real grace to believe God for protection or whatever else… only lapse into fear and doubt.

And when that happens, it’s completely appropriate to once again petition the Lord – which is exactly what we see happening in verse 19.

 19 Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me:
neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.

Again, without a cause. That seems to be what is bothering David so much about this. There’s no cause for his enemies’ abuse. In fact, just the opposite is the case – they have reason to thank him for the good he’s done to them.

Psalm 35 Commentary Lament | 20-21

And so this renewed petition concerning deliverance from these men seems to launch David back into bringing these men back into focus with another section of lament in verses 20 and 21.

 20 For they speak not peace:
but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land.

21 Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me,
and said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it.

Psalm 35 Commentary Petition | 22-27

And then there’s an extended petition section in verses 22 through 27. But what’s really interesting is that toward the end of the section the petition turns from petitions concerning David’s enemies… to petitions concerning the joy of God’s servants.

 22 This thou hast seen, O LORD:
keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me.

23 Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment,
even unto my cause, my God and my Lord.

24 Judge me, O LORD my God, according to thy righteousness;
and let them not rejoice over me.

25 Let them not say in their hearts,
Ah, so would we have it:

let them not say,
We have swallowed him up.

26 Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt:
let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.

But, that’s not what David wants to be focusing on – the protection of his own life and the prevention of his enemies winning. No, he wants to get to the joy that God’s people should have in God delivering David from trouble in verse 27.

 27 Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause:
yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.

Psalm 35 Commentary Praise | 28

And so, with that, David can end this psalm with praise on his lips.

 28 And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.

 

Psalm 34 Commentary

Open your Bibles to Psalm 34 for this Psalm 34 Commentary.

Psalm 34 is an acrostic praise psalm.

It’s acrostic because each new verse starts with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet – starting with Aleph and ending with Tau. But there’s actually one letter missing – the waw or what we would transliterate as “W.” And then actually the last verse starts with a pe or what we transliterate as “P.”

And Psalm 34 is a praise psalm starting with a call to praise, then moving to take the majority of its verses to give reasons that we should praise the Lord, and finally ending with a concluding praise.

What Psalm 34 also very interestingly features is a superscription that we’ll read now.

KJV Psalm 34:1 <A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed.>

This was a situation in the life of David where he had just discovered with certainty Saul’s murderous intentions for him. So, he decided to flee to Gath and came before the king of Gath named Achish – Abimelech might be a title for Philistine kings – like Pharaoh was for the king of Egypt.

But when David discovered that the servants of Achish were leery of him he decided to pretend to be insane. The trick worked and he was allowed to leave.

I see this episode as not the most noble time in David’s life. He attempted to flee his own country to go over to the preeminent enemy of God’s people – the Philistines. That decision seems premature and not very well-thought out because he ends up immediately having to deceive Achish into thinking he was crazy. It’s just not a highlight of David’s life.

And yet, David is now going pen a psalm praising the Lord for this ugly situation in his life. And we too can praise the Lord – even when we remember something good he did in the midst of some really bad decision we’ve made.

And when we can do that, I think we demonstrate an appropriate amount of humility. That even when a situation make us personally look really bad – we can use it – not to glory in our shame – but to make God look as good as he truly is.

Psalm 34 Commentary Call to Praise | 1-3

So, with that, David begins his call to praise the Lord in verses 1-3.

I will bless the LORD at all times:
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD:

Now, David begins by declaring his settled intention of praising the Lord for the deliverance he experienced from the Philistines.

And the focus is very much on David. Notice all of the personal pronouns – “I will bless,” “My mouth,” “My soul.”

But then the call to praise expands out to others.

the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

3 O magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together.

So, David expands his praise to include the humble. In other places that word is translated afflicted. He then challenges them to join in exalting and magnifying the Lord with him.

So, that’s the call to praise. David isn’t ashamed of calling on others to praise the Lord with him for a situation that does not shine an especially-positive light on him personally.

Psalm 34 Commentary Reasons to Praise | 4-21

And that leads us to verses 4-21 where David enumerates the reasons that he himself is praising the Lord – and why he’s calling on others to do the same.

Psalm 34 Commentary What God Did for Him and Others | 4-7

And for the next four verses you have David alternating what God did for him and what God does for others.

Verse 4 is what God did for David personally.

4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me,
and delivered me from all my fears.

So, David prayed and God answered. God rescued him from what he was fearing at the time – which was the Philistine king and the possibility of death at his hands. And of course, David found himself confronted by this foreign king because David was fleeing death at the hands of his own king – Saul, as well.

God delivered David from both of those fears.

So, David has spoken of what God did for him. Now, in verse 5 he expands his view to what God has done for others.

5 They looked unto him, and were lightened:
and their faces were not ashamed.

That word translated lightened is found two other times in the Old Testament. And both times it describes Israelites enjoying the blessings of God in the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Verse 6 is back to what God did for David personally.

6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him,
and saved him out of all his troubles.

And just like in verse 4 we have this reference to the Lord hearing David.

But instead of the Lord delivering David from all his fears as he said happened back in verse 4, here in verse 6 the Lord saved David from all his troubles. But the same basic idea is being communicated in those two verses.

And then finally, verse 7 goes back to what God does for not just David but all those who fear him.

7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him,
and delivereth them.

Interesting to note the reference to fear in verse 7. Because you remember that in verse 4 David said that God had delivered him from all his fears when David sough him. So, we see that the fear of God is a fear that we don’t want to be delivered from.

There are fears that are destructive and harmful and – frankly – ungodly. But the fear of the Lord isn’t like that. It’s clean and pure and right. God will deliver you from every fear that is inappropriate for you to have. But the fear of the Lord is one fear that no one needs to be delivered from.

And this isn’t the last reference to the fear of the Lord. We’ll see that mentioned again in verse 11 where David endeavors to teach us the fear of the Lord.

Now, who is the Angel of the Lord? He’s the one who conversed with Hagar. He prevented Abraham from actually sacrificing his son. He appeared to Moses in the burning bush. He confronted Balaam on the way to his attempt to curse Israel. He appeared to Gideon and to Samson’s parents. He’s the one who carried out God’s judgement on David’s proud sin of numbering the people. He appeared to Elijah and strengthened him. He killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night. And there are several more references to this being known as the Angel of the Lord.

He’s somewhat of a mysterious figure. But there are two facts about him that we should know. One is that he is separate from the Lord. The Lord sends him, for example.

But the other fact is that oftentimes he speaks as if he were the Lord.

And for these reasons, some have thought that he is a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ.

So here in Psalm 34 – do people fear this Angel of the Lord – Jesus Christ, possibly – or do they just fear the Lord? I think the answer is both. To fear the Angel of the Lord is to fear the Lord. They’re that connected and inseparable.

And it’s interesting that David – who had previously had an encounter with this Angel that was very negative – remember that the Angel of the Lord was killing a lot of people in Jerusalem because of David’s sin… Well, this man who had a bad experience with this Angel – now he’s extolling this Angel’s protecting qualities.

God can be both dangerous and protective at the same time. It just depends on how we approach him and what the actions in our lives elicit from him.

Disobedience can bring fearful consequences. But trust and obedience allows us to see the Lord’s goodness.

Psalm 34 Commentary God is Good and Provides | 8-10

And that’s where David goes in verses 8 and 9. In these verses, we have David calling on his audience to trust and fear the Lord and to experience his goodness.

8 O taste and see that the LORD is good:
blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

We can note two things about that word taste. First of all, it usually is associated with food in the Old Testament. It was an action that we see associated with the manna from heaven and with honey and with other food in general.

It’s one thing to say that the Lord is good, just like saying that an apple is good without ever tasting one. But David is wanting us to go beyond that and actually experience the Lord’s goodness in our lives.

The other interesting fact about this word is that we’ve seen it in this psalm already. But it wasn’t translated as taste there. In verse 1 it was translated as behavior. David changed his behavior, we’re told. So, the word can relate to perception or sense.

So, even when David had that experience where he ended up altering his good sense to appear to be insane – he tasted and perceived God’s goodness.

And part of God’s goodness that David wants us to taste is his provision to those who fear him, according to verse 9.

9 O fear the LORD, ye his saints:
for there is no want to them that fear him.

Again we have this note of the fear of the Lord that we saw in verse 8. There, we were told that the Angel of the Lord camps around those who fear him and he delivers them. And of course, if that’s the case, then this kind of person will lack nothing.

Now, in contrast to the provision that those who fear the Lord receive from him, even the ablest predators in nature can go hungry, according to verse 10.

10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger:
but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.

The idea is that lions are the predators that you would assume would be able to find food. They’re fierce and powerful and strong and deadly. And if they’re young then they should have even less trouble finding prey. But there are times when even these beasts can’t find anything to eat.

In contrast, the Lord’s people will not want any good thing. Why? Because we have the Lord – whom we’ve just been encouraged to taste and see that he is good. And if we do, we won’t want which is the same word in Psalm 23 – the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Psalm 34 Commentary Wisdom | 11-21

Then it seems that David takes on the role of a wisdom teacher – sounding much like Solomon does in the book of Proverbs.

11 Come, ye children, hearken unto me:
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

Again, notice that mention of the fear of the Lord. We’ve seen it in verses 7 and 9 and now here in verse 11.

Psalm 34 Commentary What a God-Fearer is Like | 12-14

So, in verses 12-14, David decides to start teaching us the fear of the Lord by describing what a person is like who really reverences and fears displeasing the Lord.

12 What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days,
that he may see good?

And this is an invitation to us. Do we want a quality life? Do we want to prolong our days enjoying what God has given to us in this life? Do we want to be able to continue to taste and see the Lord’s goodness in this world?

If so, then David gives the following instructions to us in verses 13 and 14.

13 Keep thy tongue from evil,
and thy lips from speaking guile.

14 Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.

So, if we want a good life, fearing the Lord – these things should characterize us. Our speech needs to be above reproach. We should be engaged in good, turning from evil, and living in peace with God.

We’ll see in a moment that David testifies in verse 16 that the one who does evil will have God’s opposition. So, if you love life you won’t be engaged in that kind of activity.

And just like the Lord – whom you’ve tasted and seen to be good – and whom if you seek you won’t lack any good thing – we must do good like our good Lord.

The peace that we’re to pursue I think is speaking more of peace with God – seeking to be in harmony with God. But it probably also spills over into how we treat our neighbors.

The kind of person that is constantly at war with their neighbors and acquaintances – you typically have a hard time perceiving that man to be wise. Somehow, wisdom and fearing the Lord is going to spill over into your relationship with your acquaintances.

And this emphasis of doing good and being at peace with one’s neighbor isn’t just an Old Testament concept. The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:10-12 urges Christians to be engaged in peace with their neighbors. And he urges us toward that activity so that we’ll have a good testimony before the lost and thereby glorify God our savior.

Psalm 34 Commentary God’s Posture Toward People | 15-21

Well, then from verses 15-21 David speaks of God’s posture towards two groups: the righteous and the wicked.

Psalm 34 Commentary 15-16

In verses 15 and 16 the righteous have their prayers heard by God while God is antagonistic to the wicked.

15 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous,
and his ears are open unto their cry.

So, God’s eyes and ears are directed toward the righteous – those who fear him.

But on the other hand…

16 The face of the LORD is against them that do evil,
to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

This hearkens back to verse 14. “Depart from evil” David warned there. Now we see why. If you’re the kind of person who “does evil” – that’s you life, doing evil – then God’s posture toward you is one of antagonism and opposition.

David’s trying to teach us the fear of the Lord. Does it make you fear when you really grasp the concept that the almighty God – who created and controls everything – can be “against” you?

Psalm 34 Commentary 17-21

Well, then in verses 17-21 God is near to the righteous. He hears their prayers and delivers them from their problems.

While God will destroy the wicked – who hate the righteous.

17 The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth,
and delivereth them out of all their troubles.

So, the Lord hears the righteous just like he heard David back in verse 6. He delivers the righteous from all their troubles just like he saved David from all his troubles back in verse 6 and delivered him from all his fears back in verse 4.

And the average person reading this psalm might tend to think that the righteous are rather self-righteous. They’re good and not evil – look at how great they are. But that’s not the perception that the righteous have of themselves. You can see how these people – I trust you and me – are described internally in verse 18.

To see the explanation of this verse that the President of the United States Donald Trump quoted in the wake of the October 1st mass murder in Las Vegas, visit this article.

And now that we’ve examined the meaning of Psalm 34:18, we ask – What causes these sorrowful characteristics in the life of the righteous that we saw in verse 18? Verse 19 identifies it as affliction.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous:
but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

Being righteous and having afflictions are not incompatible realities. In fact, David testifies here that if you are righteous you are going to have afflictions. And not just some afflicitions – many afflictions.

But we can rest assured that in those afflictions you and I will see again and again the Lord delivering us from them.

20 He keepeth all his bones:
not one of them is broken.

So, the heart of the righteous is often broken with afflictions and yet it says here that his bones are not.

And John the Evangelist seems to use this verse along with verses describing the Passover lamb to speak of what happened to Jesus when the Roman soldier didn’t break his legs on the cross.

And remember the context of this verse in Psalm 34. This is what a righteous man is like and how God responds to him. Of course, there has never been any ore righteous than Jesus Christ. And so, how fitting that on the cross, God kept all of his bones and made sure that none of them was broken.

In contrast to the righteous, though, verse 21 declares God’s posture toward the wicked.

21 Evil shall slay the wicked:
and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.

That word evil is the same word behind afflictions in verse 19. The righteous experience much evil or calamity or affliction. But they have God to deliver them. The wicked are different. They have evil or calamity or affliction too. But what they don’t have – that the righteous do – is God.

And that’s one reason they tend to hate the righteous as this verse mentions. And yet, they won’t get away with it. Because that phrase be desolate is also translated often in the KJV as guilty. They will be guilty before the Lord. The Lord isn’t ignorant of their plans against the righteous. He’ll hold them accountable.

Psalm 34 Commentary Conclusion | 22

 22 The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants:
and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

So, the man who tastes and sees that the Lord is good and who trusts in the Lord from verse 8 is back in view here at the end of this psalm.

And this kind of person won’t be desolate. We just saw that word in verse 21 where we considered that it can also mean guilty. Those who trust in the Lord will never be guilty before him.

So, let’s praise the Lord for his redemption of us – his servants – and the fact that we will never be viewed by him as guilty.

Psalm 33 Commentary

Let’s open our Bibles to Psalm 33 for the following message: God Protects His People.

Psalm 33 Commentary Genre

Psalm 33 is a praise psalm. Verses 1-3 feature the call to praise. Verses 4-19 give reasons as to why we should praise the Lord. And then verses 20-22 form the concluding praise.

So, this is a praise psalm.

Psalm 33 Commentary Call to Praise

And so, we’d expect Psalm 33 to start with a call to praise – which, as I’ve said, is exactly what we have in verses 1-3.

But before we get into that, I’ll just note that there is no author mentioned for this psalm. There’s no superscription. And that’s a pretty rare thing in the first 40 psalms. That actually leads some to think that maybe Psalm 33 is supposed to be part of Psalm 32. But I think that’s not the case. Psalm 32 was a meditation on forgiven sins. While Psalm 33 is a praise psalm about God’s protecting his people.

But I just want to say that we aren’t told who the psalmist is behind this psalm. We could assume David – but we might be wrong. Whoever it is, it’s ultimately the Lord inspiring whatever author wrote the psalm and it’s to be for our benefit.

Alright, the call to praise. First in verse 1 we see who exactly is being commanded to praise the Lord.

KJV Psalm 33:1 Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous:
for praise is comely for the upright.

So, the righteous and the upright are commanded to rejoice in and praise the Lord.

The word rejoice often takes on the nuance of singing joyfully or even shouting joyfully. Verbally rejoicing, in other words.

And this verbal rejoicing is not something that the righteous should be ashamed of. Rather, it’s only fittingcomely – for the upright to direct our verbal rejoicing to the Lord.

But not only is verbal rejoicing appropriate and fitting for the righteous… Musical instruments play their part as well – according to verse 2.

 2 Praise the LORD with harp:
sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.

So, here the mode of rejoicing that the psalmist suggests is the harp, the psaltery, and an instrument of ten strings.

In other words – musical instruments have their place in the righteous verbally rejoicing in the Lord.

The church orchestra is not something to despise. It’s not to be viewed as a distraction to worshipping the Lord. Having instruments accompanying our verbal rejoicing in the Lord is appropriate – actually, it’s commanded in this psalm.

And with hearts and voices and instruments tuned to sing God’s praise, we have the culmination of all of that in verse 3.

 3 Sing unto him a new song;
play skilfully with a loud noise.

So, we see the verbal aspect and the instrumental aspect of our rejoicing in the Lord here.

And these two aspects are to be used in executing this new song.

The phrase new song appears 7 times in the Old Testament. 6 of those 7 times occur in the Psalms and this is the first psalm that features those words.

The emphasis seems to be on making a song that corresponds with something new that God had done in the psalmist’ life. Some new action he took – some new mercy he showed – some new deliverance he wrought.

So, I think the idea can be – don’t rest on your laurels. God saved you 15 years ago? Wonderful! You sang praises to him then? Excellent.

But has he not done anything for you recently? Why are you not singing like you used to?

If God has done any new work of grace in your heart – given you any new comfort – delivered you from any new danger – you better get yourself a new song!

This kind of praise is fitting for you upright people. And it’s the praise that the psalmist calls us to.

Psalm 33 Commentary Why Praise the Lord?

Now, why should the righteous joyfully praise the Lord with instruments and voices? … Well, the psalmist gives us numerous reasons in verses 4-19. And I think we’ll see evidence of God’s doing a new work in his people in those days – which causes them to turn around and sign a new song – a song corresponding to some new thing God had done to them.

Psalm 33 Commentary God’s Word and Works

So, here’s one reason to praise the Lord – it’s God’s word and works in verse 4.

 4 For the word of the LORD is right;
and all his works are done in truth.

And of course, there’s nothing new about God’s word for us – in a sense. We have it in its fullness now in our Bibles. And yet, there are times when the word is clarified in our minds – or applied in a way we’ve never known to our hearts. If that happens, that’s cause for great rejoicing – and a new song.

And of course then God’s works are as new as his morning mercies, as Jeremiah speaks of in Lamentations. God does new works every day. And it behooves us to take better note of what he’s doing in our lives so that we can give him greater praise.

Now, the word right is actually the same word as we saw in verse 1 as upright. God’s word is morally upright – and that’s how he expects his people to live.

The word truth is also translated often as faithfulness. God’s acts according to his faithfulness to his people – to those who are righteous and upright.

And then the psalmist transitions from God’s word and works to his character in verse 5. His heart toward righteousness and justice leads him to fill the earth with his goodness.

 5 He loveth righteousness and judgment:
the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

What a good God we have. He loves lovely things – righteousness and justice. Can you imagine if the universe were run by a being who loved wickedness and fraud? That’s not our God.

And remember how God’s work was done in faithfulness in verse 4? The psalmist returns to that thought here at the end of verse 5. It’s as if he pictures the whole world and see God’s goodness – his loyal covenant love – overflowing it all.

That word goodness is – as you can probably guess – the Hebrew word chesed. That’s God’s loyal covenant love to his people. And that word appears two more times in this psalm alone. We’ll note the other two uses of it as we go along.

Psalm 33 Commentary God’s Creation and Redemption

But for now, we’re brought back to the thought of praising God for his faithful works. And so, in verses 6-9 we’re directed to praise the Lord for one of his works in particular – the fact that he created the world in which we live.

God can’t show his faithful loyal love to a people that he never created. He can’t enter into covenant with beings he never created. And so, this is where God’s praiseworthy faithfulness starts – creation.

And so, in verse 6 we’re lead to consider the fact that God created the heavens and all that’s in them by simply speaking.

 6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made;
and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

So, God can’t enter into a covenant with people who aren’t created. People can’t live on an earth (which I assume is included in the host of the heavens) that has no place to exist in. That’s why God created the heavens.

And he did these works by his word – remember that those two concepts were mentioned in verse 4.

And so, God’s faithful work of creation was initiated and executed by God’s right or upright word.

So, God demonstrates his faithful loyal covenant love through creation.

But then moving on into verse 7 the psalmist remembers that God showed his loyal love to Israel in a deeper way. He parted the Red Sea when he took that nation out of Egypt.

7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap:
he layeth up the depth in storehouses.

The word translated sea and heap are found together in Exodus 15:8 where the song of Moses is rehearsing God’s dividing the Red Sea so that Israel could go through on dry ground.

And so, with God’s creation and then redemption of Israel in view and the faithfulness and loyal covenant love that these things demonstrate – now the call to praise is expanded.

Instead of just the righteous and upright being commanded to praise the Lord, now in verse 8 the earth and all the inhabitants of the world are to fear and stand in awe of this all-powerful sovereign Lord in verse 8.

 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD:
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

Why should the whole world stand in awe of and fear and reverence the Lord? It’s just what we’ve considered so far – he created the world in which we live with a word – and then he brought Israel through the Red Sea! Verse 9.

 9 For he spake, and it was done;
he commanded, and it stood fast.

Psalm 33 Commentary God’s Infallible Counsel

Now, we’ve been talking about God’s word in this psalm.

Verse 9 – God spoke. And he commanded. Both involving his word – his verbal communication.

Verse 6 – By his word the heavens were made. With his breath he created the heavenly bodies.

And verse 4 – God’s word is right.

And can you think of a Bible word that describes God applying his word to your situation in life? With his word, God would advise or… counsel you.

And that’s what’s under discussion in verses 10-12. The psalmist now turns to speak of God’s word applied.

And he contrasts God’s counsel to the counsel of the Gentile nations in verses 10-11 – so many of which nations were enemies of Israel.

Here’s what the counsel of those nations is like and what God does with their counsel – verse 10.

 10 The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought:
he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.

So, it’s not as though those nations at the time this psalm was written were devoid of any smart people. No – it’s that the Lord took the counsel of those smart people … and he thwarted it.

But no one can thwart God’s counsel – his verbal advice – his applying of his word to your situation in life. According to verse 11 – in contrast to the counsel of the nations which God brings to nothing…

 11 The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever,
the thoughts of his heart to all generations.

And those thoughts that reside only in the Lord’s heart – he sees fit to communicate to humans. Certain humans. He didn’t – at this time in history – communicate those thoughts to the nations whose counsel he was thwarting.

He communicated his thoughts and his counsel to a certain nation only. And that nation was Israel – the nation to which he showed his covenant love and faithfulness, as we’ve seen already.

And therefore, verse 12 speaks of the blessing that that nation experienced as a result of God applying his faithful, covenantal word and thoughts to their situation.

 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD;
and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

God chose Israel for his own inheritance especially when he made his covenant with them on Mount Sinai after taking them out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. So, again, we see this praise and remembrance of God’s covenant with his people Israel.

Psalm 33 Commentary God’s Omniscience

Well, then, moving from God’s mouth – as it were – his speech … now in verses 13-15 we’re directed to consider his sight and his mind – his seeing and his thinking.

And even though the nation of Israel was exceedingly blessed because God gave them his word – yet the Lord sees all. Not just them.

The Lord might favor his nation of Israel above the rest, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t take notice of every person in his creation. No one is excluded from his gaze, according to verses 13-14.

 13 The LORD looketh from heaven;
he beholdeth all the sons of men.

14 From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.

And the Lord can see every individual in such a personal manner because – according to verse 15 – he created them all and knows in detail what each of us does.

 15 He fashioneth their hearts alike;
he considereth all their works.

The word fashioneth is translated elsewhere as form or even make. The word alike is also translated as together.

So, what that first phrase is saying is that God forms everyone’s inner men. There aren’t some whose hearts God has not created.

And this points to God’s omniscience – that he knows everything about each individual. Because, who would know the inner person of each individual better than the one who created that inner person in each individual?

And, not only is the Lord able to look within a person – into their hearts – and to see and understand our innermost thoughts and motivations – but he’s also the one who alone knows all of our external deeds.

The word considereth is translated most of the time as understand. God understands the doings of the sons of men. And he understands all of our deeds. Not like mankind which can see and then understand only the deeds that are done while we’re watching. No – God understands all the deeds of everyone.

So, God looks on the people of this world. He has perfect knowledge of us because he alone created our inner beings and knows everything we’ve ever done.

Psalm 33 Commentary Men’s Inability to Deliver

And, the psalmist is going to return to the concept of the Lord seeing certain people in verse 18.

But for now in verses 16 and 17 he takes a brief pause to consider the futility of relying on earthly means to achieve safety and security in your life.

The psalmist takes three very mighty entities and declares that none of them is able to deliver anyone apart from the Lord’s help.

 16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host:
a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.

17 An horse is a vain thing for safety:
neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.

The greatest asset of each of these three entities is not at all able to deliver or save them.

The word save, deliver, and delivered are all different Hebrew synonyms. They’re three different words communicating the same concept – protection from enemies.

And who would be able – humanly-speaking – to protect a king but his army? What is able to protect a strong person if not his own physical strength? And if the army and his own physical strength fail him, then what else can protect a person beside a horse to carry him away from danger?

There are three different English words in these two verses that are the same Hebrew word. That word is found in each of the following phrases – “The multitude of an host,” “Much strength,” and “Great strength.”

And the Hebrew word behind those three English words is usually translated as much or many. So, pile on the human and physical strength … and you’re still not going to be delivered.

Now, it’s these two verses that make me start wondering if this psalm was written to praise the Lord for deliverance in a certain battle. Or maybe it would have been used generically after any battle in which the Lord saw fit to give the Israelites victory over their enemies – whom they alone were not able to defeat – apart from the Lord – who created them, and made a covenant with them, and is alone able to thwart the counsel of the warring nations and give them protection and victory.

Psalm 33 Commentary God’s Ability to Deliver

So, with the confession of the fact that physical strength – and much of it – cannot protect a man or a nation – now, God’s vision and ability to see come into play once more.

Yes, the Lord does see every single individual he’s created. Yes, he knows what each of us does.

But just like we were told of how God favored his nation of Israel in verse 12 – now we’re told of God’s delivering gaze toward a certain group – those who fear him and confidently wait for his mercy to them. Verse 18.

 18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him,
upon them that hope in his mercy;

God’s eye sees all. But it’s especially fixed on those who fear him.

What are those people like? They expectantly wait for his mercy – his chesed or his loyal covenant love.

And here’s what the Lord’s gaze can do for a person – which human strength cannot at all do ever. Verse 19.

 19 To deliver their soul from death,
and to keep them alive in famine.

The thing that the mighty man’s might could do in verse 16 – deliver him – the Lord alone is able to do – if he has his eye on you. That is, if you fear and confidently wait for his loyal covenant love.

The Lord is also able to keep people alive in famine. And I imagine that this is a reality that’s closely associated with war in those days. The land is under siege – and often the food supply would be negatively affected.

But this psalm is declaring that the Lord can take care of people under those circumstances – protecting them from death by enemy attack and the lack of food that can accompany those times of turmoil.

Psalm 33 Commentary Concluding Praise

And now – based on God’s words and works – his creation and redemption of his people – his infallible counsel – his omniscience – and his ability to protect when physical strength fails – based on all of these reasons to praise the Lord, the psalmist expresses confidence in God and a final praise to the Lord in verses 20-22 to end the psalm.

 20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD:
he is our help and our shield.

So, the psalmist includes all the believing community with the phrase our. Not only the psalmist – but now all of the people of Israel who hope in the Lord express the fact that they are waiting patiently for their God.

They’re not anxious as they wait for protection in battle. They’re not seeking other remedies – false gods, for example. No – they’re waiting for the Lord to act.

And what do they expect from him when he does act? They expect him to be a help and a shield. They expect to find him to be their source of help.

And how is that help going to be conveyed to them? He’s going to be their shield – their protective covering in the time of battle.

And when they find him to be their source help and their protective shield, verse 21 will be their response.

 21 For our heart shall rejoice in him,
because we have trusted in his holy name.

The inner man of all the believing Israelites – that God himself formed, as the psalmist has mentioned – would rejoice in the Lord when they experienced his protection and assistance.

Why?

Because when they experience battle with foreign enemies and find that the Lord protects them, they will be thankful that they trusted his revealed character – his name.

They’ve trusted what the psalmist has been rehearsing through this psalm – that God is the supreme and all-powerful creator. That he is the redeemer of his people. And that he provides infallible counsel and delivers them from their fearful enemies.

And with their confidence in the Lord expressed, the psalmist leads the believers in making one last request of the Lord in verse 22.

 22 Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us,
according as we hope in thee.

So, to the extent that the believers confidently expect the Lord to come through for them – that’s the extent to which the psalmist asks that the Lord’s chesed / loyal covenant love would be upon them.

Psalm 33 Commentary Application

Now, we’re not Israel. We’re not a theocratic nation under the Mosaic law and promised blessings or curses based on our performance of it.

But we have been created by God. We have also been redeemed by the Lord – not through an exodus from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea – but through a sort of exodus from this world and it’s values and sin and condemnation. We’ve experienced God’s redemption.

We also have the Lord’s counsel in his word. He’s no less omniscient when it comes to us as it did for Israel. And who is able to deliver us from enemies – both seen and unseen – but the Lord our God?

So, let’s join the psalmist in praising the Lord today for all these reasons and more.