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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

03 May 2012

Week 18 - Psalm 69

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
Psalms 69:13 (ESV)

Sometimes I wish “they” could devise a reading plan that gives us a Psalm every other day or so. To me, reading many Psalms in a day can take away their impact. My Wednesday reading was such a day (Psalm overload). One Psalm stood out to me, and that’s why I am devoting a special post to Psalm 69.

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. 3  I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. 4  More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore? 5 O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. 6 Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. 7 For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. 8 I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons. 9 For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. 10 When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. 11 When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. 12 I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me. 13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. 14 Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. 15 Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me. 16 Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. 17  Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me. 18 Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies! 19 You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you. 20  Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. 21 They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink. 22  Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap. 23  Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually. 24 Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them. 25  May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents. 26 For they persecute him whom you have struck down, and they recount the pain of those you have wounded. 27  Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you. 28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous. 29 But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high! 30 I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. 31 This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. 32 When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. 33 For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners. 34 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. 35 For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; 36  the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it. Psalms 69:1-36 (ESV)

It’s a pretty typical Psalm at first. A cry to God for help. It almost seems as if the writer is saying, “I don’t feel like anyone loves me.” That resonates with me – I feel that way sometimes, and I’m sure you do, too. But then, instead of wallowing in misery, the writer reminds God that He knows all sins and prays that his actions don’t bring shame to God. I wonder what he did to cause him to pray that way? It is a good reminder to us that our actions may have unexpected consequences. It’s a way for God to remind us that we can harm our witness to God with our words and actions.

Then we get to the central part of the Psalm. This part is referenced in the New Testament quite frequently, which made it particularly interesting to me. The Psalm must be pretty special to receive attention from the New Testament writers!

The disciples remembered the words of verse 9 after Jesus drove the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple.

“Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2:16-17 (ESV)

Paul recalled the second half of verse 9 in his instructive letter to the Romans, and he took time to remind them that what we know as the Old Testament was an important part of our instruction:

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:2-4 (ESV)

The Psalmist continues to elaborate on his troubles in verses 10-20. Apparently he was being slandered and gossiped about, and he felt that his enemies had completely surrounded him. But again, he looks up toward heaven to remind God that He is steadfast, good, and abundantly merciful. Do you think that Jesus might have had similar feelings, hanging on the cross for you and me? Can you choose to pray those words, even as you lose a job, or a relationship, or a home? Do you truly trust the abundant mercies of God? Verses 13-18 make a great prayer for us today.

And then in verse 21, we see Jesus’ last acts on the cross (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23; Luke 23:36; John 19:28-29) – with a difference. Jesus went on to forgive, but the Psalm gives a curse. What a contrast! Jesus takes the sour wine, moments before He dies, and prays, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I wonder if Luke intentionally alluded to this Psalm to contrast Jesus’ grace with our sin nature and desire to “curse” those who wrong us?

Paul uses verses 22-23 when he explains why Jews who reject Christ’s message have their hearts hardened. (But in the remainder of the chapter, he explains that the hardening is relieved with repentance).

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” 9 And David says,  “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.” Romans 11:7-10 (ESV)

Verse 25 (and a verse from Psalm 109) was used by Peter to explain why Judas had to die – and why a new apostle needed to be elected.

“Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,  “ ‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
and “ ‘Let another take his office.’
Acts 1:16-20 (ESV)

The Psalm continues, asking for God’s salvation and declaring that he would praise God with a Psalm and magnify Him with thanksgiving, reminding himself (and us) that God looks at the reason we worship rather than how much we can contribute in our offerings. He reminds us that everyone needs to praise God – the whole world!

This is a busy little Psalm, spending a good part of its text embedded in the words of the witnesses to Jesus Himself. It reminds us that man has been sinful and in anguish for his sins since the beginning of time. It also gives us tremendous hope and a reminder that our right worship means more to God than an offering given grudgingly. Most critical to me is the reminder that everything – everything – in the Old Testament is meant for our instruction today; the exciting stuff as well as the not so exciting stuff.

As we progress through the Bible this year, I pray that you will recall Paul’s words in Romans when you find something that makes no sense, or isn’t “interesting”, or is downright dull. When you get to those places, speak this Scripture and take some extra time to figure out why God left it in His Word:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:2-4 (ESV)

I pray that your week is going well, and look forward to my week in review on Saturday. God bless you as you continue your commitment to Read Through the Bible in 2012. We can do it – together!

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