What do we learn from this Psalm? The English translation is not as smooth as the indigenous translation. Many translations in the native tongues are inspired by God’s Spirit. They have a wonderful smoothness & flow.
First, we see that it is a psalm of deliverance & is very positive and full of thanksgiving. The first 2 verses strike a high note of praise. Joy and gratitude pours from the heart of David. [And observe, he is still undergoing trials & afflictions, v. 13.]
When we go through trials we find it very hard to praise God. How could David be so positive and so full of praise? I believe he was in the habit of praising God repeatedly every day; see Psalm 119.164. We pray more than we praise God. We moan & complain instead of magnifying God through praise & worship.
Secondly, the psalm is full of faith. As we have said, deliverance has been accomplished (vv 3-4); God has pleaded David’s cause & vindicated him; as a consequence, his enemies are routed. But David continues to go through afflictions, v.13.
The approach of the man of God is: ‘God who delivered me in the past, will deliver me even now and in the future.’ Was that not Paul’s attitude also, as we see in 2 Corinthians 1.10? Both David and Paul are strong in faith, because they have passed through many trials, many experiences of death, and they have come on to resurrection ground. Compare 9.13b and 2 Cor 1.9. If we want strong & unshaken faith, we must go through deep experiences of the cross. It is the cross that brings us to the higher ground of a deeper knowledge of Christ and a more steadfast mustard-seed faith.
Thirdly, we observe that David is not complacent about God. He knows that God who has delivered him in the past will continue to deliver him. But He is not passive or resigned to the situation; he keeps crying out for help and mercy, v.13. The psalms reflect the continuous outpouring of prayers from the heart of the man of God. May we also learn to pour out our heart to God in prayers and praises. This is daily devotional exercise that we must cultivate.
Fourthly, we see how David through his deep personal experiences has proved the faithfulness & righteousness of God, that ‘God is faithful’. The Lord will never forsake those who seek Him, v.10. God never forgets the cry of the afflicted, the humble, v.12. Are we longing for God? Are we crying out to Him?
Now David as one who represents the righteous, seeing how God has obtained the victory for him, in him and through him in a personal level, brings out the faithfulness and righteousness of God on to the general & universal level, vv. 5-6. You, O Lord, who have dealt righteously and mercifully in my case, have always done so in the history of the nations. How did God deal with the seven ungodly nations in Canaan? Deut 7.1. How did God deal with Pharaoh and Egypt? How terrible were His judgments in Egypt! We know how God dealt with Babylon, Egypt, Edom & Tyre. When God passes a final judgment, it is final, irrevocable. Therefore let the rebellious & ungodly nations tremble before Him.
The ungodly are like the chaff which the wind blows away. Does that not remind you of Dan 2.35? Is that not what David is saying in vv. 5b, 6c? ‘Their names have been blotted out forever; their very memory has perished.’ Has not Babylon the great empire become a desolation? Jer 51.29, 37. Very shortly the Babylon of modern civilization (the political, religious and commercial ‘Babylon’) will be judged & condemned forever. Read Revelation 18.
Fifthly, we see the God of retribution. Those who dig a pit will fall into it; those who hide a net will be snared by it. The Lord will avenge His saints, Rev 16.6. For all the blood of the martyrs spilt throughout history, there is going to be a terrible carnage. O you godless ones, read the Book of Revelation and tremble. We are warned in the Old Testament by the instances of proud & wicked individuals who met God’s dreadful retribution. Haman hung from his own gallows, Saul who threw his spear at both David & Jonathan, was killed by an Amalekite with his own spear. (Though he fell on his sword, he did not die. I believe the Amalekite killed him with his spear.) And do we not know the fate of Adonibezek, Agag, Ahithophel? Perhaps the most dreadful example of God’s retributive justice is Pharaoh of Egypt. There is a divine principle: ‘as you sow, you will reap’. Gal 6.7-8; Hos 8.7. Sow to the flesh, and you will reap corruption. Sow the wind, and you will reap the whirlwind.
Sixthly, and most importantly, in this Psalm we see God’s throne, vv. 4, 7. It is a throne of grace for all the saints, or as the O.T. puts it, for the ‘poor & needy’, v.18. There are several comforting verses in this Psalm: 9-10, 12, 13c, 14c, 18. But while the throne is a throne of grace, it is also a throne of judgment. And God’s judgment & justice predominate in this psalm, vv. 4, 5-6, 7-8, 16 & 19. The throne means that God is in full control. The wicked cannot escape. And neither can we, if we take God lightly and harbour casual & indifferent thoughts about God. We live in an age of sentimentality, shallowness & spurious faith.
David is conscious of the throne of God; though it is not recorded that he had a vision of God’s throne like Isaiah and John. Now we believers must also be conscious of and in touch with the throne of God. We see the altar, but not the throne. Acts of the Apostles shows clearly that the early church was in constant touch with the throne of God, and that throne was brought to bear upon every conspiracy and onslaught of the wicked against the children of God.
Finally, the Psalm ends with a homily against man. Let not man prevail, v.19a. Let the nations realize that they are ‘but men’, v.20b. We live in an age where ungodly man is constantly being glorified. Who is man? He is a mere breath, Ps.39.5, a vain show, Ps.39.6; lighter than breath, Ps. 62.9. What are the nations? They are a drop in a bucket, Isa. 40.15; they are dust on the balances, Isa. 40.17. The believer too must realize that he like Jacob is a ‘mere worm’, Isa 41.14. David is not impressed by outward show, by man’s false glory or his splendid talents & gifts. How much we idolize man! Humanism and modern science are reprehensible to God. David is not afraid of Goliath, even as Elijah was not afraid of Ahab. The man of God stands in the presence of God, and he knows that his God is a living God, an almighty God, who alone is worthy to be worshipped forever & ever. How dare man exalt himself before the living & awesome God!
Why does David refer to the nations as the wicked, the ungodly? We observe that the wicked have (i) no fear of God, v.20a; (ii) they forget God; ie. God is not at all in their thoughts, v.17; (iii) and they constantly plot against and persecute the children of God,v.15. Will not God, for the honor of His name, judge them for this? He will surely do so.