Psalm 67:1-7

To the Chief Musician. On stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us, Selah

That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.

Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.

Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy!
For You shall judge the people righteously,
And govern the nations on earth. Selah

Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.

Then the earth shall yield her increase;
God, our own God, shall bless us.

God shall bless us,
And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.

Commentators do not list the 67th Psalm as among the Messianic Psalms, but without a doubt it will have its fulfillment at the time He reigns, and cannot be fulfilled until then. The sinful, selfish nature of fallen man is such that he does not want God to rule the earth. The portrait painted by the inspired writer is that of a universal kingdom of God, in which the nations will be glad and sing for joy. For the first time in the history of the world, the the nations and the people will be judged righteously. For the first time, since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, will the earth yield her increase of fruit, as it did before sin entered the world. — Phillips, page 139.

Structurally and thematically this psalm is organized in a beautifully symmetrical-chiastic fashion, with the first and third section focusing on God’s solicitude for Israel as the basis for worldwide praise, culminating in the center section (in which verses 3 and 5 mirror each other exactly) with a focus on God’s ideal and ultimate sovereignty over all nations, including Israel. Notably, the number of verses in this psalm, reflecting its symmetrical-chiastic structure, is seven, which number in the Bible is indicative of perfection and completion—hence underscoring even at the structural level that this is not only a picture of what the nations should ideally do, but also what they will one day really do when God establishes His kingdom on earth. — Wechsler, page 173.

Wechsler believes Psalm 67 was written by David.

This Psalm was probably composed, like Psalm 65, to be used at one of the great annual festivals, probably the Feast of Tabernacles. — Meyer, page 83.

The psalmist begins by adopting the phraseology of the priestly (or “Aaronic”) benediction in Numbers 4:24-26, in which the key expressions “be gracious,” “bless,” and “cause His fact to shine upon” all specifically signify spiritual provision (regardless of outer circumstances), “rest” (in the salvific sense” and intimacy with God. — Wechsler, page 173.

Regardless of what may happen throughout the course of human history, it will ultimately, inevitably culminate in all the peoples of the earth offering their praise to God when, in the person of His Son, He establishes His kingdom permanently on earth, judging the peoples with uprightness and guiding the nations on earth. — Wechsler, page 174.

Williams’ take:

According to the Scriptures God chose Israel as His agent to lead all nations to Him; and to this end He gave her a sufficient revelation of Himself and of His salvation. Israel refused this honor; but the Divine purpose has not thereby been defeated. She will be restore; she will yet publish peace to the nations, and win all peoples to the knowledge and service of God.

Here appears a deep principle of the Word of God, true in all dispensations, that the spiritual welfare of those far from God is dependent upon revival and restoration of soul among the people of God … The prophetic doctrine that the salvation of the world depends upon the restoration of Israel (Romans 11:12, 15) is repeated in the last two verses, as it was affirmed in the first two. — Williams, pages 351-352

This one seems pretty straightforward. Almost all my commentaries (except Guthrie) agree that this psalm points forward to the Millennial Kingdom. I see no reason to think otherwise.

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Psalm 66:1-20

To the Chief Musician. A Song. A Psalm.

Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!

Sing out the honor of His name;
Make His praise glorious.

Say to God,
“How awesome are Your works!
Through the greatness of Your power
Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.

All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah

Come and see the works of God;
He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.

He turned the sea into dry land;
They went through the river on foot.
There we will rejoice in Him.

He rules by His power forever;
His eyes observe the nations;
Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah

Oh, bless our God, you peoples!
And make the voice of His praise to be heard,

Who keeps our soul among the living,
And does not allow our feet to be moved.

10 For You, O God, have tested us;
You have refined us as silver is refined.

11 You brought us into the net;
You laid affliction on our backs.

12 You have caused men to ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water;
But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.

13 I will go into Your house with burnt offerings;
I will pay You my vows,

14 Which my lips have uttered
And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble.

15 I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals,
With the sweet aroma of rams;
I will offer bulls with goats. Selah

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul.

17 I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.

18 If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.

19 But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His mercy from me!

The first 12 verses use plural pronouns, the last last 8 verses use singular pronouns.

enemies shall submit (v.3) — The psalmist specifies God’s awe-inspiring miracle of turning the sea into dry land (v.6)—a miracle performed on such a grand scale that it set fear and trembling into the heart of the peoples all around (Exodus 15:14). yet though these people—the enemies of God and Israel—then feigned obedience to God out of fear of His great power (v.3), the psalmist affirms that one day all the earth will worship God—a goal which no force of history can preempt (cf. Isaiah 11:10; Zechariah 14:9, 16; Revelation 22:3-4). — Wechsler, page 172.

sea into dry land (v.6) — a reference to Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21)

through the river on foot (v.6) — a reference to Israel’s crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 3:14-16)

peoples (v.8) — According to Williams, this is a reference to the Gentiles who will be invited to worship Israel’s God.

fulfillment (v.12) — signifies “satisfaction” and “rest.”

The psalmist next praises God for having tried and refined His people (v.10), yet those who have been trained by it come into a place of abundance (v.12). all of these points are reiterated in Hebrews 12:4-13, which explicitly adds, citing Proverbs 3:11-12, that divine chastisement is, in the end, a cause for rejoicing, for it is evidence of God’s undiminished paternal love. — Wechsler, page 172.

In the first part [vs.1-12] appeal is made to all the earth to worship God because of what He has shown Himself to be on behalf of His people. This is a recognition of the true function of the people of God, that of revealing God to the outside nations in such a way as to constrain them to worship. — Morgan, page 116.

extolled (v.17) = praised

In regarding the wickedness in his heart (i.e., the depravity that affects us all; see Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9) he correctly determined that the Lord will not hear (v.18, to which compare Isaiah 59:2). Yet for the one who has … submitted in faith to God’s Word (and now that Word made flesh in Jesus; John 1:14), God will give heed to the voice of their prayer (v.19) and not turn away His lovingkindness (the expression of God’s covenant love) from them. — Wechsler, page 172.

Williams’ take:

The Psalm praises God for smiting the nations in judgment and Israel in chastisement. It will be sung by Israel and the Messiah at the opening of the millennium. She will recite His past action with her enemies (vs.3-7) and with herself (vs.9-12); she will offer the sacrifices of praise promised when in trouble (vs.13-15); and she will invite all who fear God to listen to her testimony as to His faithfulness and love in the fulfillment to her of His promises of deliverance (vs.16-20). — Williams, page 351.

Guthrie explains the Psalm as praise from Israel for some past deliverance. He suggests the overthrow of the Assyrian forces under Sennacherib. Perhaps that was the immediate context, but I think Williams’ explanation of the Psalm as prophecy makes the most sense. Morgan’s explanation (above) makes sense only in the prophetic context because in no sense has what God did for Israel in the past forced the nations to worship Him.

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Psalm 65:1-13

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. A Song.

1 Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion;
And to You the vow shall be performed.

O You who hear prayer,
To You all flesh will come.

Iniquities prevail against me;
As for our transgressions,
You will provide atonement for them.

4 Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.

By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us,
O God of our salvation,
You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth,
And of the far-off seas;

Who established the mountains by His strength,
Being clothed with power;

You who still the noise of the seas,
The noise of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples.

They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs;
You make the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice.

You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water;
You provide their grain,
For so You have prepared it.

10 You water its ridges abundantly,
You settle its furrows;
You make it soft with showers,
You bless its growth.

11 You crown the year with Your goodness,
And Your paths drip with abundance.

12 They drop on the pastures of the wilderness,
And the little hills rejoice on every side.

13 The pastures are clothed with flocks;
The valleys also are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, they also sing.

This joyous hymn was probably composed for use in the sanctuary on the occasion of one of the great annual festivals. It expressly dwells on the Divine bounty in the fertility of the earth (Leviticus 23:9-14). — Meyer, page 80.

Each of the three sections of this psalm deal with an expression of God’s grace towards man, beginning with that which is the greatest of all: His forgiveness of sin. He will hear the prayer and forgive the sin of all men (lit., “all flesh,” meaning any human being, whether Jew or Gentile who come to Him—the phraseology of which parallels Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple (see 1 Kings 8:41-43). “How blessed” is the one whom God thus chooses (v.4)—i.e., chooses to forgive (per v.3). And if such forgiveness comes about by God’s choice, then it cannot come about through the striving or merit of man; it is, simply put, a gift of God.

God’s grace is expressed in His awesome deeds (v.5)—i.e., the awe-inspiring miracles that He performed to deliver His people Israel. So too, just as Israel affirms in their “song” of response that God “has become my salvation (Exodus 15:2), so too does David affirm in this “song” (as the psalm is called in its heading) that the Lord is the “God of our salvation.”

In the last section David focuses on God’s grace as expressed in His ongoing (not necessarily miraculous, as in the previous section) provision for His people—as for mankind in general—by upholding the natural order. — Wechsler, pages 171-172.

Williams’ take:

The remnant according to the election of grace (Romans 11:5) here sings of the day of the establishment in Zion, and over the happy earth, of the Kingdom of God and the power of His Messiah (Revelation 12:10); of the new moral birth necessary to entrance into that Kingdom (v.4); of the sufferings of its subjects (v.3); and of the judgment of its foes (v.5). Israel will then perform her vow of praise (v.1), and the converted nations will unite with her in the worship of Messiah (vs. 2 and 8). — Williams, page 350.

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Psalm 64:1-10

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

¹Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation;
Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.

Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
From the rebellion of the workers of iniquity,

Who sharpen their tongue like a sword,
And bend their bows to shoot their arrows—bitter words,

That they may shoot in secret at the blameless;
Suddenly they shoot at him and do not fear.

They encourage themselves in an evil matter;
They talk of laying snares secretly;
They say, “Who will see them?”

They devise iniquities:
“We have perfected a shrewd scheme.”
Both the inward thought and the heart of man are deep.

But God shall shoot at them with an arrow;
Suddenly they shall be wounded.

So He will make them stumble over their own tongue;
All who see them shall flee away.

All men shall fear,
And shall declare the work of God;
For they shall wisely consider His doing.

10 The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and trust in Him.
And all the upright in heart shall glory.

To express complaint (v.1) to God, provided one does so in the manner modeled by Scripture, is not only an acceptable part of worship, but it is also an essential part, for in doing so the child of God finds healthy release for the angst that inevitably attends living in an ungodly world, and in the process strengthens the bonds of filial intimacy and dependence on their Heavenly Father. David concludes his complaint in this section by affirming that the inward thought and the heart of man are deep (v.6)—i.e., too deep for David to discover (and so take guard against), but never too deep for God, who knows the innermost secrets of all men’s hearts. 

Because God knows the heart, and because He is just and all-powerful, David can say with confidence that He will (not may) shoot at them and suddenly they will be smitten down—i.e., completely defeated (not just “wounded”), just as in 1 Samuel 17:46, where David declares with identical confidence what God will do through him to Goliath. — Wechsler, page 169.

Williams’ take (and he’s very specific about the occasion with no reference to David’s context at all):

In Matthew 22 and Luke 11, and in other similar passages, it is recorded that the leaders of the Jews composed in private crafty questions for the Lord so as to entangle Him in His teaching, and thus to be in a position to accuse Him either to the Sanhedrin or to the Roman government as a heretic or an insurgent and consequently guilty of death, and that they then in public rudely and vehemently proposed these questions to Him.

In this Psalm are found His comments upon their conduct, and His appeal to God about it. — Williams, page 349.

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Psalm 63:1-11

A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

¹ O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.

So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.

Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.

Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.

My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.

But those who seek my life, to destroy it,
Shall go into the lower parts of the earth.

10 They shall fall by the sword;
They shall be a portion for jackals.

11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
Everyone who swears by Him shall glory;
But the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.

The superscription tells us that it was written in the wilderness of Judah. But the word “king” (v.11) forbids our supposing that the Psalm was penned during the Sauline persecution. It was probably written amid the events recorded in 2 Samuel 15:23-28. — Meyer, page 78

In Hebrew David’s opening expression “Thou art my God” is arranged in grammatically less typical fashion as “My God Thou art,” by which he intends to underscore not simply the deity of the LORD, but the comforting and joy-giving fact that the LORD, who is the only true deity, is his God, personally and intimately, even when he is in the wilderness removed from His dwelling presence in the sanctuary (v.2).

By the statement “Your lovingkindness is better than life” (v.3) David means that God’s [covenant love (His faithful and continual expression of what is best for those whom He views as His own under the promise of the Abrahamic covenant)], which will bring him into the glory and complete joy of the next (eternal) life, is better than anything that the present life has to offer. — Wechsler, page 167

marrow and fatness (v.5) — highly valued and nourishing foods in David’s time

follows close (v.8) = clings, the same word used for husband-wife intimacy in Genesis 2:24.

Portion for jackals (v.10) — Absalom’s army was badly routed, and many of the slain must have fed the jackals which roamed the forest (2 Samuel 18:6-8). — Meyer, page 79

swears by (v.11) = places their confidence in

speak lies (v.11) = contradict what God has said

Williams’ take:

When David was in the Wilderness of Judah exiled from the worship of the Tabernacle (v.2), this prophetic message was given him by the Spirit to refresh his heart and sustain his faith. It sings of the first and second Advents of David’s Son and Lord. His first Advent occupies verses 1-10; His second, verse 11.

Verses 1 and 9 speak of the earth—the one, its surface; the other its lower parts. He descended from the Father’s glory to the surface of the earth and found it dry and thirsty. His enemies shall descend into the lower parts of the earth and will there find not one drop of water to cool their parched tongues.

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Psalm 62:1-12

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

¹ Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.

He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be greatly moved.

How long will you attack a man?
You shall be slain, all of you,
Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence.

They only consult to cast him down from his high position;
They delight in lies;
They bless with their mouth,
But they curse inwardly. Selah

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.

He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.

In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah

Surely men of low degree are a vapor,
Men of high degree are a lie;
If they are weighed on the scales,
They are altogether lighter than vapor.

10 Do not trust in oppression,
Nor vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase,
Do not set your heart on them.

11 God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.

12 Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy;
For You render to each one according to his work.

Jeduthun (Intro) — A Levite, chief singer and instructor, father of one of the three families of Levitical singers. See 1 Chronicles 9:16; 16:38-42; 25:1-6; 2 Chronicles 5:12; 35:15; Nehemiah 11:17. He is mentioned in the inscriptions of Psalms 39; 62; 77.

truly (v.1) = The words “truly,” “only,” and “surely” are translations of the one Hebrew word. It occurs six times in the Psalm. Its modern meaning is “Whatever happens.” — Williams, page 348.

silently waits (v.1) = better translated “tranquility”

Verses 3 and 4 are addressed to the enemy.

David begins this second section by reiterating (in vs. 5-6) the comforting confidence with which he began the psalm, the only substantive difference begin that he substitutes “hope” for “salvation”—affirming that the “salvation” of which he spoke in verse 2 is still unrealized (and hence a reference to future and final salvation), just as “hope,” by definition, pertains to that which is yet unaccomplished and unseen (cf. Hebrews 11:1, where “things hoped for” is parallel to “things not seen”).

David concludes by exhorting his “people” (those he addresses in v.8) to look beyond the apparent prosperity of the wicked (v.9—”men of low degree”), for power and lovingkindness belong to God (i.e., they are His to the utmost degree) and by them He will eventually recompense every man according to his work (culminating at that time when Jesus returns in glory … and wrath Matthew—16:27; Romans 2:6). — Wechsler, page 166-167

“men of low degree are a vapor, men of high degree are a lie” (v. 9). I think this means that men who are “important” are impostors and lowborn men are like a breath that disappears. Verse 10 supports this by referring to the lack of value of oppression (by the important) and robbery (by the lowborn).

vapor (v.9) = air

Williams’ take:

Acts 17:31 and Matthew 16:27 make it evident that Messiah is the Man of verse 3 and the God of verse 12.

The first two verses reveal the perfection of Messiah’s trust when suffering the hatred described in verses 3 and 4: and verses 5-8 predict the faith which His people, animated by His spirit, will repose in God when suffering the oppression of the men described in verses 9 and 10. Except morally, verses 5 and 6 are not a repetition of verses 1 and 2. They are separated by a long period of time: the one is the expression of Christ personally when on earth; the other, that of Christ sympathetically in His people’s time of future trouble.

The presence of the word “glory” in verse 7 in relation to verse 2 points to the distinction between His first coming in weakness and His future coming in power, and marks the distance which separates these two verses — Williams, page 348.

Some of what Wechsler brought out in his quote (above) seem to lean toward Williams’ interpretation, but don’t go quite as far.

One of my commentaries guesses that David wrote this Psalm at the time of Absalom’s rebellion, but says nothing to back this claim up. If David wrote this when he was king, the people mentioned in verse 8 would be those under his rule. If that’s the case, there must have been some spiritual conflict with the enemies mentioned in verses 3 and 4. There was surely some contemporary application, but I find Williams’ take compelling.

In either case, the lesson on trusting tranquilly in the Lord, who is our Rock, Salvation, and Hope, even when our enemies expect us to tumble like a leaning wall is a powerful message. I have a long way to go.

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Psalm 61:1-8

To the Chief Musician. On a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David.

1 Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.

2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

3 For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.

4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah

5 For You, O God, have heard my vows;
You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.

6 You will prolong the king’s life,
His years as many generations.

7 He shall abide before God forever.
Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him!

8 So I will sing praise to Your name forever,
That I may daily perform my vows.

David expresses himself in language intended to underscore his vulnerability—removed from all that make shim feel familiar and secure, calling out to God as if from a strange land, from the end of the earth … when his heart is faint (v.2). It is in God that he therefore looks for the most intimate familiarity (his internal/emotional needs) and the most impenetrable security (his external/physical needs): for security he implores that God lead him to the rock—i.e., to God Himself, for whom the term “rock” here is a common biblical designation, signifying a massive rock formation that is humanly impossible to move; for familiarity he implores that God let him dwell in His tent forever and—employing one of his favorite images—that He let him take refuge in the shelter of His wings, the phrasing of both of which statements is elsewhere connected with the expectation of joyful, all-fulfilling intimacy in the unrestricted presence of God. — Wechsler, page 164.

the rock that is higher than I (v.2) — which he himself cannot attain

tabernacle (v.4) — The psalm was evidently composed while the tabernacle was standing; and after David had received the promise of the everlasting kingdom (vs. 6-7). — Meyer, page 76

Notwithstanding his opening appeal that God “hear,” David affirms that He has already “heard” (v.5)—i.e., that He has already provided that which is best for David. This “best” as David goes on to affirm (not petition), entails: (1) the inheritance of those who fear God’s name (v.5), referring to the family of believers, of which he is part; (2) qualitatively eternal life, as indicated by verse 6 (“Thou wilt prolong, etc.”), in which “many generations” is a poetic idiom for “forever”; and (3) the sublimest of all privileges, to abide before God forever—i.e., in His presence—as a remade man, preserved (i.e., permanently ensconced) in lovingkindness and truth. — Wechsler, pages 164-165.

I will sing praise to Your name forever (v.8) — David’s ultimate motivation and goal.

William’s take:

The doctrine of this, and similar Psalms, is the perfection of the faith of Messiah, as man, under every form of hatred, affliction and adversity. The sharper these became the more He trusted. His moral glory as the Servant of Jehovah shines through all. This position of dependence and suffering He voluntarily took in union with, and on behalf of, His people. Hence they are cheered and comforted in trial, and their faith sustained by these communications, for they prove that their King and Shepherd trod these dark paths before them; that He trusted God and was delivered; and that a like deliverance is consequently assured to them. — Williams, page 347

It seems to me that Williams’ has a point here. Verses 6 and 7 certainly seem Messianic. Again I am drawn by the writer’s simultaneous experience of despair and hope. This is why it makes me sad that many (most) churches and ministries no longer preach about future things because somebody might disagree and be offended. How can we hope, especially in the midst of trials and despair, when we have no idea what it is our hope is in?

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Psalm 60:1-12

To the Chief Musician. Set to “Lily of the Testimony.” A Michtam of David. For teaching. When he fought against Mesopotamia and Syria of Zobah, and Joab returned and killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.

1 O God, You have cast us off;
You have broken us down;
You have been displeased;
Oh, restore us again!

2 You have made the earth tremble;
You have broken it;
Heal its breaches, for it is shaking.

3 You have shown Your people hard things;
You have made us drink the wine of confusion.

4 You have given a banner to those who fear You,
That it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah

5 That Your beloved may be delivered,
Save with Your right hand, and hear me.

6 God has spoken in His holiness:
“I will rejoice;
I will divide Shechem
And measure out the Valley of Succoth.

7 Gilead is Mine, and Manasseh is Mine;
Ephraim also is the helmet for My head;
Judah is My lawgiver.

8 Moab is My washpot;
Over Edom I will cast My shoe;
Philistia, shout in triumph because of Me.”

9 Who will bring me to the strong city?
Who will lead me to Edom?

10 Is it not You, O God, who cast us off?
And You, O God, who did not go out with our armies?

11 Give us help from trouble,
For the help of man is useless.

12 Through God we will do valiantly,
For it is He who shall tread down our enemies.

The heading associates this psalm with David’s war with Aram-naharaim (i.e. Mesopotamia) and Aram-Zobah (between Damascus and the Upper Euphrates). Cf. 2 Samuel 8:3-6. Apparently, while the war was being waged in the northeast, Edom and Moab invaded from the south. in this sudden crisis David recalled Joab to bring his forces to bear on the new threat. This psalm conveys the sense of national humiliation resulting from a wholly unforeseen military reverse. — Guthrie, page 488

For teaching (heading) — (used only here in the headings of the Psalms) which, rather that indicating what is generally true of all Scripture (that it is to be taught), most likely indicates, in light of how the same expression is used in the preface to David’s psalmic elegy on Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:18), that this psalm was meant to be taught to the sons of Judah in commemoration of the many Israelites who fell in the difficult battle (referring in all likelihood to the events of 2 Samuel 8). — Wechsler, page 162

O God, You have cast us off (v.1) — This unexpected military reverse had struck a tremendous blow at the people’s morale. It was like an earthquake which rends strong buildings (v.2). Divine action had led to defeat; both led to demoralization; the nation reeled as a man who has just drunk drugged wine (v.3). Their defeat was all the more demoralizing in that they believed themselves to be the people of the Lord, under whose banner (v.4) they would experience security. The heart of their problem and distress was thus that God’s promises seemed to go unfulfilled. — Guthrie, page 488

Since this psalm, according to a natural reading of the heading, was composed in the course of Israel’s ongoing battle with the Arameans at a point when the former was “struggling” against the latter, David begins with a gut-wrenching cry of despair, likening his people’s situation to those whom God has rejected (v.1). That this is, as in Psalm 44:9, exaggerated wording intended to emphasize the depth of David’s despair over the situation, and not an actual assertion of fact (viz., that God has truly “rejected” His people), is indicated by (in addition to clear Scriptural statements to the contrary—e.g., Jeremiah 31:37; 33:25-26; Romans 11:2; Romans 11:29) David’s following description of what amounts to God’s chastisement of Israel. The difference is a crucial one: the notion of “rejection” (or “abandonment”), which is in the Bible synonymous with “condemnation,” takes place only in the absence of relationship, whereas “chastisement” takes place only within the existence of relationship (even if its “presence” isn’t felt by the chastisee). That a relationship indeed exists between Israel and God is indicated by David’s use of the clearly relational expressions “Thy people” (v.3) and, even more intimately, “Thy beloved” (in Hebrew plural yedidim, from the same root as David’s own name; v.5) — Wechsler, pages 162-163

Shechem (v.6) — one of the oldest cities in Palestine, located about 30 miles north of Jerusalem.

Verses 6-12 are repeated in Psalm 108:7-13.

David here affirms God’s promises regarding the land—i.e., that He has given it to Israel and that they will dwell in it in peace and flourish therein—by focusing on those places and peoples within it that have served as historical focal points of opposition to the fulfillment of these promises. Hence he mentions ( in v.8) Israel’s most prominent tribal-ethnic enemies in the land: Moab (to the east), Edom (to the southeast), and Philistia (to the south and southwest)—all of which have since been judged and removed by God from the face of history. (The “Palestinians” of today, despite the oft-touted claims of their religious and political authorities, bear no connection whatsoever—except that of a similar ethos of opposition to Israel—to the “Philistines” of the Old Testament.) In vs 7-8 he mentions those places epitomizing opposition to Israel’s presence in the land not before David’s time, but also in the time after David—specifically, after Israel’s return from Babylonian exile and especially in the present day. i.e., Shechem (on Mount Ephraim; the political center of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 12:1, 25) and, today, the area around Nablus in the West Bank), the valley of Succoth (a city east of the Jordan River alloted to the tribe of Gad (Joshua 13:27) and in present-day Jordan), Gilead, Manasseh, and Ephraim (all three of which collectively encompass those areas of the Promised Land currently part of the West Bank and western Jordan). These references culminate with the mention of Judah, whose capital (i.e., Jerusalem) has always served as a political nexus of opposition to Israel (as it still does in the ongoing controversy over “East Jerusalem,” and as it will until the end (cf. Zechariah 12:3)—the resolution of which opposition is concisely affirmed by the qualification of Judah as God’s “scepter,” referring to His promise in Genesis 49:10 to raise up a Jewish king from the tribe of Judah who will bring peace to His people and receive the obedience of all other nations on earth.

David concludes—in characteristic fashion—by affirming his and (what should be) his people’s utter dependence on God for military victory, for whereas deliverance by man is in vain, through God they shall do valiantly. — Wechsler, pages 258-259

Williams’ take:

The doctrine of this, and similar psalms, is the perfection of the faith of Messiah, as man, under every form of hatred, affliction, and adversity. The sharper these became the more He trusted. His moral glory as the Servant of Jehovah shines through all. — Williams, page 347

I think this is one of Williams’ less convincing interpretations. The psalm, as I read it, really doesn’t seem to support his view. But if he’s right that all the psalms are prophetic, as many of them obviously are, then it’s a possibility.

Once again I’m struck by how the Holy Spirit included in Scripture a passage so filled with despair. It’s only in the final verse that David expresses his faith in God’s sovereignty.

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Psalm 59:1-17

To the Chief Musician. Set to “Do Not Destroy.”
A Michtam of David when Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him.

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
Defend me from those who rise up against me.

2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,
And save me from bloodthirsty men.

3 For look, they lie in wait for my life;
The mighty gather against me,
Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O Lord.

4 They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine.
Awake to help me, and behold!

5 You therefore, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel,
Awake to punish all the nations;
Do not be merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah

6 At evening they return,
They growl like a dog,
And go all around the city.

7 Indeed, they belch with their mouth;
Swords are in their lips;
For they say, “Who hears?”

8 But You, O Lord, shall laugh at them;
You shall have all the nations in derision.

9 I will wait for You, O You his Strength;
For God is my defense.

10 My God of mercy shall come to meet me;
God shall let me see my desire on my enemies.

11 Do not slay them, lest my people forget;
Scatter them by Your power,
And bring them down,
O Lord our shield.

12 For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips,
Let them even be taken in their pride,
And for the cursing and lying which they speak.

13 Consume them in wrath, consume them,
That they may not be;
And let them know that God rules in Jacob
To the ends of the earth. Selah

14 And at evening they return,
They growl like a dog,
And go all around the city.

15 They wander up and down for food,
And howl if they are not satisfied.

16 But I will sing of Your power;
Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning;
For You have been my defense
And refuge in the day of my trouble.

17 To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises;
For God is my defense,
My God of mercy.

they watched the house in order to kill him (heading) — Although married to Saul’s daughter, Michal, David was stalked by men commissioned by Saul to kill him (1 Samuel 19:1, 9-18).

David earnestly implores God to deliver him from his enemies (v.1), referring not to Saul’s soldiers in general—many of whom would have refused to abet the king in his plan “to put [David[ to death” (1 Samuel 19:15), just as they refused Saul’s order to kill the priests at Nob who helped David (1 Samuel 22:17)—but rather to those among Saul’s soldiers whose desire for social and political favor (by supporting the king) was greater than their desire for righteousness; hence David further describes them as those who do iniquity (v.2) and who are treacherous in iniquity (v.5). The futility of their schemes is underscored by his use of the same phraseology as in Psalm 2:4: Thou, O Lord, dost laugh …; Thou dost scoff at them (v.8), implying that in their opposition to him, God’s newly anointed (1 Samuel 16:13), they are ultimately opposed to God Himself. — Wechsler, pages 160-161

O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel (v.5) — Jehovah, the unchanging; Elchim Sabaoth, the God of hosts, indicating the resources at His command; Elohe Israel, the God of Israel in His covenant relations.

God is my defense (v.9) — By contrast with their confident prowling, David is already safe: mark the present tenses. These verses strikingly contrast his enemies’ powerlessness against God with his own power in God, who gives him strength in his own person and the surrounding protection of a fortress. — Guthrie, page 488

defense (v.9) = a secure height, retreat, stronghold

God is his high Tower! There is perhaps no more beautiful description of what God is to His tried people. The phrase suggests at once strength and peace. A tower against which all the might of the foe hurls itself in vain. A high tower so that the soul taking refuge therein is lifted far above the turmoil and the strife, and enabled to view from a vantage ground of perfect safety the violence which is futile, and the victory of God. — Morgan, page 107

David’s plea (vs.11-13) to God for a visitation upon his would-be assassins is shown to be free of vindictiveness. He is concerned for the imparting of a moral lesson to his people (v.11), the just punishment of sin (v.12), and a universal revelation of Israel’s God. He does not ask for their swift destruction; his people would too soon forget that. Rather he asks that these enemies be somehow made a lasting exhibition of how God opposes sinners and judges them. — Guthrie, page 488

in the morning (v.16) — David concludes in typical fashion with unconditional praise—i.e., as for him, regardless of how and when God answers him, he will joyfully sing of God’s lovingkindness in the morning (for every morning they “are renewed” — Lamentations 3:22-23) and sing praises to Him, “my strength.” — Wechsler, pages 161-162

Williams’ take:

The prophecy relates to the last hours of Jacob’s trouble. verses 13 and 16 point to this fact. The believing remnant of Israel is pictured at the last extremity shut up in Jerusalem by the nations and by certain wicked transgressors, i.e., ungodly Jews in league with them (Zechariah 14:14). Messiah in spirit takes His place in their midst; cheers them with the assurance of deliverance; and prays for the destruction of their besiegers (v.5).

The words “me,” “my,” “our,” and “I” express this relationship of Immanuel with His people. When asking deliverance for them, He prays in the first person. Although their conduct will be blameless, as His was in the days of His flesh, yet will men hate them as they hated Him. — Williams, page 346.

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Psalm 58:1-11

To the Chief Musician. Set to “Do Not Destroy.” A Michtam of David.

1 Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones?
Do you judge uprightly, you sons of men?

2 No, in heart you work wickedness;
You weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth.

3 The wicked are estranged from the womb;
They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.

4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent;
They are like the deaf cobra that stops its ear,

5 Which will not heed the voice of charmers,
Charming ever so skillfully.

6 Break their teeth in their mouth, O God!
Break out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!

7 Let them flow away as waters which run continually;
When he bends his bow,
Let his arrows be as if cut in pieces.

8 Let them be like a snail which melts away as it goes,
Like a stillborn child of a woman, that they may not see the sun.

9 Before your pots can feel the burning thorns,
He shall take them away as with a whirlwind,
As in His living and burning wrath.

10 The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked,

11 So that men will say,
“Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
Surely He is God who judges in the earth.”

The psalm is against wicked rulers. It has been suggested that it was written on account of Abner and the rest of Saul’s princes, who judged David as a rebel and outlaw, and urged Saul to pursue him. — Meyer, page 72

The whole psalm will be misunderstood save as we carefully note its opening questions. The reason of the judgment is not personal wrong. It is rather the failure of the rulers to administer justice. They are silent when they should speak. Their judgments are not upright. Evil in heart, the lie in word, and poison like serpents, and no charming wins them. — Morgan, page 105.

you silent ones (v.1) = lit. “sheaf, aggregate of stalks.” The sense of David’s opening words (a rhetorical question) is thus: “Do you indeed speak righteousness, O throng (i.e., throng of people generally, parallel to “sons of men” in the next line)? — Wechsler, page 159

weigh out the violence (v.2) — Weighing is symbolic of justice, but these unrighteous judges weighed out violence instead.

estranged from the womb (v.3) — We are born with the fallen nature of Adam. (Psalm 51:5)

like the deaf cobra that stops its ear (v.4) — In the case of David’s persecutors, it was not so much their inability as their unwillingness to hear. Saul’s conscience was not dead, for he was on more than one occasion touched by David’s appeals (1 Samuel 19:6; 24:17-21; 26:21, 25). But he resisted the prompting of his better self. — Meyer, page 73

not heed the voice of charmers (v.5) — Jeremiah 8:17: “For behold, I will send serpents among you, vipers which cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you,” says the Lord.”

Break their teeth (v.6) — continuing the imagery from v.4, in which the wicked are described as having “venom like the venom of a serpent”; hence, just as a serpent’s ability to cause harm would be removed by shattering (i.e., removing) its teeth, so too is David imploring that God “shatter” the ability of the wicked to cause harm. — Wechsler, page 159

waters which run continually (v.7) — Water when conserved is powerful; when dispersed it is powerless. — Williams, page 345

snail (v.8) — A snail’s trail remains for a time marked by the slime which melts from its body, but the snail itself so effectually disappears that it cannot be found. — Williams, page 345

The righteous shall rejoice (v.10) — The response to God’s justice when it becomes manifest is that the righteous will rejoice—not that the wicked have been destroyed per se (for God takes no delight—and so neither should His people—in the death of the wicked; Ezekiel 18:23, 32), but rather that God Himself has been vindicated. Even more—the sovereignty of God upon all the earth will be manifest—hearkening to the earlier words of David in 1 Samuel 17:46 and grounded in the words of God Himself in His greatest of all promises to Abraham: “and in you all families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). — Wechsler, page160.

Williams’ take:

Israel being an earthly people to whom the government of the world will be committed, and who will be responsible to God therefor, has been, and will be, hated by the nations, and the predicted Divine way of delivering her from their oppression will be by their destruction. Hence her deliverance and their judgment will synchronize. She will, therefore, with spiritual intelligence, desire and pray for their punishment. These desires and petitions are voiced for her in the psalms by her Great High Priest.

But what will be proper to Israel in the coming day of the Lord as an earthly people with earthly promises, is not proper to the Church of God in the present day of grace. Her position and promises are heavenly. She is not to be delivered by the destruction of her persecutors, but by her being raptured to heaven from out of their midst; and the same Holy Spirit that will instruct Israel to pray for the destruction of her enemies, teaches the Church to bless them and to seek to save them. Thus the Church and Israel belong to two differing Divine economies. Confounding these leads to the confusion of thought and the misinterpretation of Scripture. This psalm belongs to the day described in Isaiah 63 and Revelation 19 when Messiah will come in the glory of His mighty angels to execute vengeance upon the oppressors of His people (vs. 9-11). — Williams, page 345.

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