For the director of music. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.
Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary provides the introduction to our meditation.
When piety decays times really are bad. He who made man’s mouth will call him to an account for his proud, profane, dissembling, or even useless words. When the poor and needy are oppressed, then the times are very bad. God himself takes notice of the oppression of the poor, and the sighing of the needy. When wickedness abounds, and is countenanced by those in authority, then the times are very bad. See with what good things we are here furnished for such bad times; and we cannot tell what times we may be reserved for. 1. We have a God to go to, from whom we may ask and expect the redress of all our grievances. 2. God will certainly punish and restrain false and proud men. 3. God will work deliverance for his oppressed people. His help is given in the fittest time. Though men are false, God is faithful; though they are not to be trusted, God is. The preciousness of God’s word is compared to silver refined to the highest degree. How many proofs have been given of its power and truth! God will secure his chosen remnant, however bad the times are. As long as the world stands, there will be a generation of proud and wicked men. But all God’s people are put into the hands of Christ our Saviour; there they are in safety, for none can pluck them thence; being built on Him, the Rock, they are safe, notwithstanding temptation or persecution come with ever so much force upon them.
Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
Everyone lies to their neighbor;
they flatter with their lips
but harbor deception in their hearts.
Thankfully this doesn’t necessarily describe the general situation here in the United States, though we all can likely identify specific instances where it tragically does. However, who can deny the almost exact correspondence between these verses and what we now see occurring in our nation’s capital and the cesspool that surrounds it? As we learn ever more about the moral corruption rampant in our centers of institutional power how can we but shudder at the likely consequences of such infantile incompetence and unfettered immorality?
May the Lord silence all flattering lips
and every boastful tongue—
those who say,
“By our tongues we will prevail;
our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”
The shock of recognition is almost physical as we experience the daily deluge of lies peddled by our leaders and the media who serve them. They flit from one unfounded accusation to another, pretending that the last collapsed lie never happened and the current lie is undeniable truth. We are told that certain people are “guilty until proven innocent” while others are “innocent regardless of their obvious guilt.” Human lives are destroyed without remorse as political payback. Those who have most abused their privilege remain safe in their positions of social, political and commercial power. I sometimes fear that the corruption runs so deep that reform is no longer possible.
“Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord.
“I will protect them from those who malign them.”
Perhaps the day of reckoning will come when all that has supposedly been done “for the poor” will be exposed as the inhuman evil that it actually is. People who have driven “the poor” into despair, violence and unending poverty to enhance their raw political power may someday have to account for their actions. This is unlikely in our fallen world but can be expected come the Judgement.
And the words of the Lord are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold refined seven times.
The Lord’s words are indeed flawless. However, even in our supposed institutions of Christianity they are ignored if not mocked and denied. They are twisted into justification for whatever policy serves the purpose of increased power and expanded cultural chaos.
You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
and will protect us forever from the wicked,
who freely strut about
when what is vile is honored by the human race.
It is a great mystery just how the Lord “keeps the needy safe” when they are surrounded by the evil corruption practiced by their supposed benefactors. Regardless, it is our duty to seek reforms that will restore dignity, hope and opportunity for those who find themselves in poverty.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Psalm 118:1 (NIV)
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:8 (NIV)
Wishing you all a joyful and blessed Thanksgiving!
For the director of music. Of David.
Charles Spurgeon provides the opening comments on this beautiful Psalm.
The Psalms are a rich repository of experimental knowledge. David, at the different periods of his life, was placed in almost every situation in which a believer, whether rich or poor, can be placed; in these heavenly compositions he delineates all the workings of the heart. He introduces, too, the sentiments and conduct of the various persons who were accessory either to his troubles or his joys; and thus sets before us a compendium of all that is passing in the hearts of men throughout the world. When he penned this Psalm he was under persecution from Saul, who sought his life, and hunted him ‘as a partridge upon the mountains.’ His timid friends were alarmed for his safety, and recommended him to flee to some mountain where he had a hiding-place, and thus to conceal himself from the rage of Saul. But David, being strong in faith, spurned the idea of resorting to any such pusillanimous expedients, and determined confidently to repose his trust in God. To assist us to remember this short, but sweet Psalm, we will give it the name of “THE SONG OF THE STEADFAST.
In the Lord I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
“Flee like a bird to your mountain.
Apparently the Psalmist was in a discussion where the other party advised that he flee in the face of danger. Their argument is included but is prefaced by rejection.
For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.
The wicked are here defined as those who attack “the upright in heart” “from the shadows.” In this description their cowardice and cunning are highlighted.
But who are “the upright in heart”? They certainly are not sinless, so how then can they be deemed to be “upright in heart”? We have so internalized human-centric secular assumptions that it’s become almost impossible to conceptualize the existence of a sovereign, eternal God whose judgements are completely independent from our opinions, actions and feelings. When we are confronted with the idea that there are “upright in heart” humans we laugh in contempt, safe in our knowledge that because all people sin then all are corrupt.
But what if the Bible’s testimony is true? What if God the Father by God the Holy Spirit invades human beings with an irresistible grace due to our identification with God Jesus Christ to transform us into objects of His mercy? Are these redeemed people, even though they continue to struggle with sin, by God’s sovereign act now “the upright in heart”?
When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
The Psalmist’s opponent ends with a counsel of defeatism. This statement rings so true to our contemporary situation. Do we not see “the foundations being destroyed” every day and all around in our daily lives? Are not the foundations of Christianity under withering, unrelenting attack from those both outside and inside the Christian Church? This blog and my books are first and foremost a testimony to that fact.
The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
his eyes examine them.
The Psalmist’s answer begins by pointing to God’s existence and sovereignty. God sees all that is happening in His creation. Nothing takes Him by surprise, nothing happens outside of His judgement. So when we become fearful due to the apparent overwhelming worldly power of the wicked we can take heart that God sees it all and their evil will not go unpunished.
The Lord examines the righteous,
but the wicked, those who love violence,
he hates with a passion.
On the wicked he will rain
fiery coals and burning sulfur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.
Note that the righteous are also examined. God is not indifferent to their sins.
But for “the wicked” God’s judgement and punishment is unsparing. When we read that they “love violence” we shouldn’t assume this is limited to the physical domain. No, the wicked love to do violence also through lies, through spiritual and character destruction, and also through actual physical violence against the righteous.
The wicked imagine that they operate independent of God’s (i.e., the Triune Christian God’s) judgement. The pathetic truth is that in this world they are completely under God’s providential control and in the next they will experience eternal damnation.
For the Lord is righteous,
he loves justice;
the upright will see his face.
One of the greatest contemporary frauds is the substitution of “justice” as defined by a godless secular human ideology with the justice of God. For example, when the elite leadership of the PCUSA claims to be “doing justice” it is utterly indistinguishable from “justice” as defined by the godless secular Progressive ideology as then defined. A mirror image of this sin is provided by those who assume that any idea or policy that is identified as Conservative (or Libertarian, or another human ideology) must also be aligned with God’s justice.
It’s so easy to sub-contract our understanding of justice to this or that human ideology. It’s difficult, painful and often terror-inducing to examine the Scriptures to find for ourselves what is God’s justice. No wonder we so often shirk this responsibility.
God’s Power and Justice
To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.
If we would praise God acceptably, we must praise him in sincerity, with our whole heart. When we give thanks for some one particular mercy, we should remember former mercies. Our joy must not be in the gift, so much as in the Giver. The triumphs of the Redeemer ought to be the triumphs of the redeemed. The almighty power of God is that which the strongest and stoutest of his enemies are no way able to stand before. We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth, and that with him there is no unrighteousness. His people may, by faith, flee to him as their Refuge, and may depend on his power and promise for their safety, so that no real hurt shall be done to them. Those who know him to be a God of truth and faithfulness, will rejoice in his word of promise, and rest upon that. Those who know him to be an everlasting Father, will trust him with their souls as their main care, and trust in him at all times, even to the end; and by constant care seek to approve themselves to him in the whole course of their lives. Who is there that would not seek him, who never hath forsaken those that seek Him? (Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary, Psalm 9:1-10)
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will tell of all thy wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in thee,
I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High.
Although each phrase begins with “I” each points away from self and towards God. Yes, “I” exist, but my chief end is to “glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
When my enemies turned back,
they stumbled and perished before thee.
For thou hast maintained my just cause;
thou hast sat on the throne giving righteous judgment.
Thou hast rebuked the nations, thou hast destroyed the wicked;
thou hast blotted out their name for ever and ever.
The enemy have vanished in everlasting ruins;
their cities thou hast rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.
These verses create discomfort to the post-modern reader (i.e., us). This is because those spoken of we today most naturally understand to be victims. And “victims” by definition occupy the highest positions of moral authority. Thus when the Psalmist speaks of their complete destruction our natural response is to take offense.
To begin, when the Nation of Israel entered the Promised Land they did indeed fight and in some cases utterly destroy the people already living there. However note that the Psalmist understands this consequence to be an act of God carried out by the people of Israel. Deuteronomy 9:5 (NIV) provides essential information for our understanding.
It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Even so, the thought of so extreme a judgement causes great distress. Our conception of God has become so dominated by the truth that “God is love” that the truth of “God is our judge” has been almost obliterated in many Christian minds. And yet, when Adam and Eve fell it was God’s judgement that (Genesis 3:19, NIV):
“By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
Thus by God’s judgement we all will die in recompense for our sin. No-one is outside of this judgement, although as individuals and communities we meet this end in various and sundry ways according to God’s providential purposes. In this case it was God’s purpose to transfer the Promised Land to the people of Israel and to prevent the wickedness of the peoples already living there to influence God’s chosen people.
It would be a grave error to generalize from this specific instance to any nation’s contemporary situation. Yes, there are cases where warfare is a legitimate national policy. But this passage from the Psalms shouldn’t be used to justify warfare. Rather it should make us quake before the judgement of a holy God and ask what we do that is wicked in His sight.
But the Lord sits enthroned for ever,
he has established his throne for judgment;
and he judges the world with righteousness,
he judges the peoples with equity.
This passage makes it absolutely clear that it is God the sovereign judge that is here being discussed. But our post-modern mindset turns this situation on its head and presumes that it is we who are sovereign and God who receives our judgement. And the judgement of many, including many Christians, is that God has failed to live up to our moral standards! The pathetic, appalling arrogance that Christians should take this position vis-a-vis God is almost beyond belief. And yet, throughout the contemporary Western world this would appear to be the default position of Christianity.
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know thy name put their trust in thee,
for thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek thee.
In what possible way can those Christians who see themselves as God’s judge “put their trust in thee” or “seek thee“? No, their trust is in their human selves, in their ideologies and their feelings. In their ideology it is the God of the Bible who is the oppressor. It is only in their ideology and feelings that any “stronghold for the oppressed” exists. But they are the pathetic deceived, and the end of their “kindness” is a totalitarian hell-state.
The silence of those of us who know better is in effect to be an ally of this wickedness.
Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.
Be gracious to me, O Lord!
Behold what I suffer from those who hate me,
O thou who liftest me up from the gates of death,
that I may recount all thy praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in thy deliverance.
The Psalmist doesn’t enjoy God’s blessings and protection because he is sinless. Rather, it is because he lives in right relationship to God, worshiping Him as the ultimate sovereign and source of righteous judgement upon His creation.
The nations have sunk in the pit which they made;
in the net which they hid has their own foot been caught.
The Lord has made himself known, he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah
The wicked shall depart to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.
How can we but remember the soul-destroying, mass-murdering 20th century totalitarian regimes of Soviet Russia, Communist China and Cambodia, and Nazi Germany among others when reading these words? And how can we but point to the 21st century ideologues who pretend that these ideologies have been reconstituted to be the best path forward for human society as those breathing new life into ultimate wickedness?
For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.
Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before thee!
Put them in fear, O Lord!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah
Here is the answer to and judgement of the godless, grasping, vainglorious and greedy ideologues who demand our allegiance. They who have brought utter poverty of soul and hearth, who have sought for themselves worldly power and riches based on state organized terror, may our faith in the One Sovereign God “put them in fear” and testify that “they are but men!”
Divine Majesty and Human Dignity
To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is thy name in all the earth!
The Psalmist begins by giving God all the glory in words that resound throughout eternity.
Thou whose glory above the heavens is chanted
by the mouth of babes and infants,
thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
It is the human purpose to give God the glory from the moment of our birth.
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.
When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which thou hast established;
what is man that thou art mindful of him,
and the son of man that thou dost care for him?
This question has become far more relevant as our place in the cosmos has successively shrunk. While we once imagined that the earth was the center of creation we now know that it is on the periphery of one galaxy among billions. The universe is immense beyond all human conception.
For some this knowledge leads to atheism, as we appear to be utterly irrelevant to the universe’s operation. For believing Christians this knowledge expands our conception of God’s power and grace as we contemplate with deeper humility the Psalmists question.
Yet thou hast made him little less than God,
and dost crown him with glory and honor.
Yes, God has placed us on this tiny speck of a planet. Yet He has given us souls whose value utterly transcends our time and place. God has given us consciousness and consciences. We somehow by His decree live within the laws of nature yet can stand apart from them to wonder and dimly understand. Though we are tiny in place we are by God’s providential purposes of enormous value.
Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
Our dominion now extends outward towards other planets in our solar system and perhaps someday to neighboring stars. The tragedy is that as we exercise our God given powers we successively grow in arrogance and unbelief. We deny God the glory and rather give it to ourselves.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is thy name in all the earth!
But ultimately the glory will be given to God as we through the tragedy that follows hubris again face the truth about ourselves and our one true God.
This Psalm speaks unambiguously about God’s wrath. I can easily imagine many people therefore turning away. If you fear God then I beg you to read, pray and trust that this too is in God’s Word for your best good.
O Lord my God, in thee do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me,
lest like a lion they rend me,
dragging me away, with none to rescue.
David opens by admitting his sense of helplessness in the face of ravenous enemies who appear to be both powerful and skillful.
O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have requited my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue me and overtake me,
and let him trample my life to the ground,
and lay my soul in the dust. Selah
Here David in effect confesses that he is a fallible man, capable of self-deception. Although he is convinced of his righteousness in this situation he yet places himself in God’s hands. For only God can judge rightly. Note also that David is willing to accept God’s judgement even if it goes against him. This is what it looks like to truly trust God. Are we willing to place ourselves in God’s hands regardless of the outcome? This is in fact where we sit regardless of our belief. Perhaps we would more carefully search our consciences and more honestly confess our sins were this our attitude towards the Most High God.
Arise, O Lord, in thy anger,
lift thyself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake, O my God; thou hast appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about thee;
and over it take thy seat on high.
The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
David yet dares to call upon God’s wrath against his enemies. Although he asks God to judge himself according to his righteousness, he is confident that his enemies have earned God’s punishment. Although his enemies appear to be invincible by worldly means, they are powerless to withstand God’s justice.
O let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
but establish thou the righteous,
thou who triest the minds and hearts,
thou righteous God.
My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
and a God who has indignation every day.
Although I have never been physically threatened my good name and livelihood have been repeatedly assaulted by persecutors. I am certain that in all of these cases I was not blameless for the situation. However, I yet considered myself to be generally in the right.
How can a frail, fallen man dare to judge himself to be on the whole righteous in a specific situation? Here are some questions that I have used to gain insight.
- What actions in word or deed might I have taken to cause this situation?
- What were my motivations throughout the events that precipitated the situation?
- Once the situation was upon me, are my thoughts focused on the seeking of a resolution and/or defense against unwarranted attack? Or, are they focused on the personal and/or professional destruction of my adversaries?
- When the crisis has passed, is my goal restoration and forgiveness or am I harboring anger and looking for a means of future attack to “level the scales of justice?”
If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and strung his bow;
he has prepared his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
This is a straightforward and clear statement about God’s wrath. No one who has trustingly, comprehensively and honestly read the Bible can doubt that this passage describes a real and fearful aspect of God’s character. But, since the Bible is so ofter read with skepticism, selectivity and dishonesty, there exists a huge segment of believers (let alone nonbelievers) who don’t know or meditate upon it. Great danger to our souls is the result.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil,
and is pregnant with mischief,
and brings forth lies.
He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole which he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own pate his violence descends.
The wicked become ever more consumed by the evil they have welcomed into their lives. They spend massive time planning how they can destroy their adversaries. They ever more easily and completely justify lies to obtain their corrupt ends.
But hatred and arrogance blinds them to the utter self-destructiveness of their path. Yes, they may prosper for a time. Yes, many may appear to escape judgement in this world. But they have raised Hell itself into their minds and souls. Their every waking moment becomes consumed by the scheming necessary to maintain massive card-houses of lies and fortresses of good appearances. They grow more hateful with time. No success is sufficient, no setback causes self-reflection. They live in a self-made Hell on earth and then face their Maker unclothed by Christ’s perfect grace and righteousness. Yes, they are to be resisted and defeated. But even more they are to be pitied.
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
David ends with his eyes firmly fixed upon God. For He is the ultimate source of righteousness. It is He alone who deserves our worship. It is in Him alone that we must find our help and hope in this fallen world.
Praise be to God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit now and forever more!
Some will insist on mere coincidence, but sometimes the intersection of Scripture and current events seems providential. I have been publishing commentaries on the Psalms in numerical order, with the fifth being my most recent. So here I am on Sunday, August 4, the day after two mass shootings within a 14-hour period in the United States. Reading Psalm 6 the direct relevance to our current tragic situation becomes crystal clear if we substitute “me” with “us;” “I” with “we;” “my” with “our.”
O Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger,
nor chasten me in thy wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is sorely troubled.
But thou, O Lord—how long?
We all need to reflect on what has happened within the United States to cause so many acts of senseless mass murder. It will simply not do to mindlessly fall back into our trite pet political positions. Do any of you really imagine that there is a bright line between the “pure” and “impure” in this situation? Perhaps rather than striking poses of self-justification we should rather ask the Almighty what we have done to bring this evil upon ourselves. I contend that the answer would shock and humble each and every one of us.
Yes, our bones and souls are “sorely troubled.” How many of us (me definitely included) have stopped to think about where God’s judgement fits into our contemporary crisis? While we cannot know “how long” God will allow this to last we can be sure that our healing will be delayed until we abandon our pride and earnestly seek God’s Face.
Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of thy steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee;
in Sheol who can give thee praise?
To whom do we turn for deliverance? To political strong men and women? To bumper stickers, lapel buttons and door decals? To political parties and human ideologies? When was the last time that we knelt down before God in fear and trembling and sought His deliverance? What a difference that would make in our spiritual and worldly responses to this terrible crisis.
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief,
it grows weak because of all my foes.
Look at the honesty of the Psalmist as he describes his sense of helplessness. Can we be as honest with each other and to God? Or do we (and I) always have to have the last word, the stinging rebuke, the confident statement or the certain solution?
Depart from me, all you workers of evil;
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and sorely troubled;
they shall turn back, and be put to shame in a moment.
Are we confident that the Lord hears our prayers and will accept them? Do we believe that behind the scenes of the visible world God will act on our behalf? Do we really know who are our enemies? Are they our political opponents, or are they really “the powers of this dark world” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12)?
Finally, what would happen if we ceased looking on our political opponents as “the dehumanized other” but rather as fellow children of God caught up with us in this fallen world?
I contend it would make a massive difference for the better.
This is not a plea for a utopian “kum ba yah” transformation where love and kindness wins the day. No, we (and I) will continue in sometimes contentious, heated debate with our political and theological opponents. But we must do so with the goal of seeking to persuade other fellow human beings that our perspectives are more valid while maintaining the humility to listen to their critiques and accept their correction when we have been proved wrong.
Our introduction comes from the first expository paragraph from the Interpreter’s Bible.
We have in this psalm a hymn for morning sacrifice in the temple, sharply personal in tone. While its references are related to the natural acts of worship of the writer’s time, its phrases are such that they can be applied to Christian worship in its most spiritual aspects. It is a psalm from which the interpreter may take an image here, or a phrase there, and put himself in their charge, their true context being his own religious experience or need and that of the people whom he is addressing.
Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my groaning.
Hearken to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to thee do I pray.
O Lord, in the morning thou dost hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for thee, and watch.
The author offers his prayers in confidence that God will hear them, and then waits expectantly for the response.
For thou art not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not sojourn with thee.
The boastful may not stand before thy eyes;
thou hatest all evildoers.
Passages like this one can be discomforting even for confident, committed Christians. For, due to the lingering power of sin operating in our partially sanctified lives, we can all (if we are honest with ourselves) identify areas within where wickedness holds sway. Thus were we depending on our own righteousness for justification all would be lost. But God, in His infinite mercy and grace has imputed Christ’s perfect righteousness to we soiled sinners in order to win our salvation.
We dare not boast of this mercy, as if the source were found to be within ourselves. No, we can only stand justified before God because we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Thus it is a terrible fault for a Christian to boast on account of their salvation.
But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:17,18)
Thou destroyest those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men.
The psalmists often single out lying as a particularly destructive sin. Note in this instance deceit is tied directly to a desire to commit violence. The fact is that most of humanity desires to live their liver in peace. Thus it often requires crafty deceit to marshal a population towards war.
But deceit is also deployed for less massive but no less destructive purposes. If you find yourself using or approving of ad hominem attacks, doxing, information hiding or outright lying to get your way, be it personal or political, then you should pause and reflect. This is not to say that it is always impermissible to comment on an opponent’s character or to highlight information that best supports a position you believe to be closest to correct. However, if your first impulse and primary purpose is to win by attacking your opponents character and distorting / hiding fundamental information then you have fallen into the terrible sin of destructive deception.
And destructive it is. It tears asunder social cohesion and personal trust. Eventually opponents and even standers by will recognize the cruel deceit that defines your behavior, thus shredding your credibility. When all this occurs the use of raw power as opposed to persuasion and consent to settle disputes becomes the norm. And bloodshed likely follows.
But I through the abundance of thy steadfast love
will enter thy house,
I will worship toward thy holy temple
in the fear of thee.
It is only through God’s initiative of love that we are saved from those same sins that beset the wicked.
Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness
because of my enemies;
make thy way straight before me.
For there is no truth in their mouth;
their heart is destruction,
their throat is an open sepulchre,
they flatter with their tongue.
It’s noteworthy that our enemies provide motivation for righteousness. To the unsaved the apparent progress of enemies serves as a education on how to win in this world. Thus the same tactics are turned back upon the “enemy” and now the world is doubly evil.
But to God’s Elect, our enemies are revealed to be the very evil that we abhor. Thus their apparent progress doesn’t result in appropriation their tactics but rather a redoubling of revulsion about their evil. And, the conviction that our only hope is to run deeper into God’s worship and His mercy.
Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against thee.
Here we find the concept that, since the enemy’s actions are based upon evil, they build on a compromised foundation. Even though they may appear to prosper for a time, their building will ultimately collapse in upon itself. Thus evil is understood to be not just immoral, but also utterly unstable.
But in addition to its internal failure, wickedness also finds itself to be opposed by God. Thus His judgement leads not to simply temporal failure, but also to eternal punishment.
But let all who take refuge in thee rejoice,
let them ever sing for joy;
and do thou defend them,
that those who love thy name may exult in thee.
For thou dost bless the righteous, O Lord;
thou dost cover him with favor as with a shield.
The righteous are spared the life of lies, hatred and violence that consumes the wicked. This is the doing of God, having raised them from the death of sin into the light of eternal salvation. The joy of that eternal salvation can be experienced as a foretaste of its eternal completion here in this life irregardless of the wickedness by which we are surrounded.
When used of the Creator, light can mean several things, but it is often a reference to His glory, His beneficence, and His love of righteousness. To have the light of God’s face shine upon a person, then, is to have the glory of the Lord shine in a special way on the illuminated individual. It indicates His approval of the person on whom He shines as one who is righteous in His sight.
Scripture describes the experience of God’s light as the greatest blessing that any human being can ever enjoy. This is certainly true of today’s passage, which says that the light of the Almighty’s face brings more joy than the harvest of grain and wine (Ps. 4:7). For an agrarian society like ancient Israel, whose livelihood was dependent on such harvests, this is a powerful statement of the glory of the blessings of the Lord. In keeping with Psalm 4:6, we also see in the Aaronic blessing the idea that life in the light of God is the highest honor for mankind (Num. 6:22–27; John 8:12).
Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
Thou hast given me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
This is the supplication of a humble servant of the Lord.
O men, how long shall my honor suffer shame?
How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah
Can the reader not but be struck by the powerful connection to our contemporary situation? What is the primary purpose of our contemporary radicals other than to destroy the honor of anyone who opposes, or even insufficiently supports, their program? We have reached the point where supposedly educated, responsible employees of a major corporation, that is Google, labeled three people, two of whom are practicing Jews and all three of whom have had relatives murdered in the Holocaust as “Nazis.” What is this other than the seeking “after lies” in order to advance a partisan political program? What is this other than dishonest dehumanization used to silence legitimate political discourse and in the extreme, justifies physical violence?
Yes, lies are told by all humans regardless of their ideological leanings. However, can anyone name a major corporation that falsely labels mainstream liberals as Communists or Stalinists? Is there a mirror-image city to Portland, where Mayor Wheeler allows Progressive Antifa to rampage through the streets beating up people and destroying property with impunity; that is a city that offers the same policy to neo-Nazis? The answers are clearly no.
Am I here claiming that conservatives, libertarians, moderates and classical liberals are “righteous” in God’s sight? Of course not!
However, neither can we pretend that the contemporary dominant Progressive class have not used their power to dehumanize their opponents through lies. They dominate the commanding heights of our nation’s major institutions (e.g., mass media, education, entertainment, religious organizations, professional groups, etc.), so their behavior must be carefully scrutinized.
With power comes responsibility, and when power is abused we are within our rights as Christians to call out the perpetrators within context of God’s Word. Note that Progressive Christians have been doing this for generations. They therefore have no right to criticize this use of Scripture against the abuses of their ideological fellows.
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Who are “the godly” in God’s sight? A Reformed Christian would answer that they are God’s chosen (before the beginning of time) Elect. The Westminster Confession of Faith begins its teaching on this topic as follows.
1. Although hypocrites, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions: of being in the favor of God and estate of salvation; which hope of theirs shall perish: yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God: which hope shall never make them ashamed.
There is no political dimension to this teaching. Thus, Christians in good conscience can hold differing political positions. However, if a Christian starts to justify purposeful dishonesty or dehumanization as political tactics then they should shudder at the implications and repent.
Be angry, but sin not;
commune with your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
We are free to become angry at what we believe to be the failings of our opponents, be they political, organizational or other. However, we are not free as Christians to adopt unrighteous tactics even if our opponents use them against us.
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
All that we can or should do is to in honesty, humility and competence make our best arguments in the marketplace of ideas and then “trust in the Lord” for the end results. Yes, there are extremities in which acts of defensive violence can be taken. There are also cases in which lawful force must be used to restore order or to protect the innocent. However, our first and foremost purpose should always be in pursuit of peaceful resolution of disputes, be they personal, political or international.
There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
Lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, O Lord!”
It is only through the light of God’s countenance that good can come to pass in this fallen world.
Thou hast put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for thou alone, O Lord, makest me dwell in safety.
We can live in good conscience and peace when we entrust ourselves completely to Christ and obey His commands.