Theme: Praise for Past Deliverance: Victory
In this week’s lessons we look at some reasons why David praises the Lord, and see that even his prayer requests are offered with the end result of praise in mind.
Scripture: Psalm 9:1-20
The tone of Psalm 9 is set by the first two verses, which declare David’s intention of praising God verbally, with words and in song, and with his whole heart. This exuberant note of praise begins and ends the psalm’s first section (vv. 1-12).
Right here we need to stop and apply David’s example to ourselves, for it is often the case that we do neither of these things. We do not praise God with our lips very much, if at all. And when we do, if we do, we praise him halfheartedly. Tenth Presbyterian Church, which I serve as a senior pastor, is an exception to this for which I am very thankful. Our church knows how to sing God’s praises, and our members do speak of God and his blessings often. But frequently in churches the hymns are rather mumbled than sung, and no one under any circumstances actually praises God in words. It is more often the case that Christians complain of how God has been treating them, carry on excessively about their personal needs or desires, or simply gossip. This should not be. Christian worship should be more like the exuberant worship of ancient Israel than it is.
Let me tell you about one thing I have started to do as a result of my study of the psalms. Recognizing that they are open in their praise of God (as well as emotive in their articulation of pain or grief), I decided to make a point every day of acknowledging God’s goodness in some area to some person. That does not seem like much. But when I began to think along these lines I realized how much time frequently went by without my having praised God for anything. And I discovered something else. Once I had begun to make a point of acknowledging God’s goodness, I began to think of his goodness more often and I actually developed a more positive frame of mind. This is not mere psychological conditioning, though it works that way. It is actually a recognition (not always easy to achieve) that God is constantly active in our lives and that, as the Apostle Paul put it, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28).
David knew this. Therefore, although he expressed dismay when the events of his life seemed to run contrary to his being the object of God’s goodness, the characteristic themes of his psalms are nevertheless true praise: “I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart…I will sing praises to your name, O Most High” (vv. 1, 2).
What is it that David praises God for in this psalm? There are three things, each of which we should properly expect from a man God had made king over Israel.
1. Victory over enemies (vv. 3-6). Enemy nations had marched against Israel, but God had turned them back, causing them to stumble and eventually perish in their headlong retreat. David sees this as God upholding his cause and judging righteously. He rejoices that even the very name of his enemies has been forever blotted out. God has brought them to ruin. We need to say here that we cannot imagine an exactly similar situation involving ourselves. We are not kings or queens. Most of have not been charged with defending our land from foreign enemies, though this might apply to military commanders in times of war. Moreover, even though we might have real enemies in some area of our lives, we would not want God utterly to destroy them, blotting out their name from the earth, as David says God did here. We are instructed rather to pray for our enemies and to do good to those who use us wrongly (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27-36).
There is one area in which we can echo David’s words wholeheartedly, however, and that is in the Lord Jesus Christ’s victory over Satan. Satan is our great spiritual enemy, a ruthless enemy. But Jesus has defeated him. Satan is active, but he is a defeated foe and we can praise God for it.
What is the theme of this psalm? Why is it important to consider this theme?
What is the first thing for which David praises the Lord in this psalm? Given what Jesus teaches us about our response to our enemies in Matthew 5:44, how can we apply this first request?
Reflection: How well are you marked as a person of praise, even in the midst of difficult situations?
For Further Study: The Psalms is one of the best known and loved portions of Scripture. James Boice’s sermon series is a great resource for your devotional or personal study time. From now until March 31, you can order your copy of his three-volume set at 40% off, and get free shipping.