My series on the psalms is among the least popular of my writings and yet I'm choosing to persevere...for your sake and for mine! No solid gold song collection, self-disclosing stories, or fine art sampler like my typical blogs. Just the agelessly instructive words of an exceptional and exceptionally messed up guy, nonetheless called “a man after God’s own heart.”
The psalms are a deep, deep well of comfort, enCOURAGEment, and strength--vital and relevant during these troubled times. They also serve as a practical model for drawing close to God when we're both in the weeds or on a mountaintop.
During a recent bout of discouragement, I read Psalm 9 (where I “just happened” to be in my study of the Psalms—how nice!) aloud and felt the weight lifted. I don’t think this is a magic formula. The magic formula is Jesus Christ alone. It’s more like in seeking Him as a remedy to my dis-ease, I was given what I needed in the moment. Regardless, the psalms are good that way.
After all, David—a comfort as one of God’s chosen men despite some rather ginormous defects—shows us in a relatable way how we can enjoy practical intimacy with God and the loads of benefits thereof. Psalm 9 is a fine example. I appreciate that scholars believe it was written by David after he defeated the legendary foe, Goliath, and with him, the dreaded Philistines, enemies of Israel.
Whether you feel oppressed by the more material threats of global conflict, nasty frenemies, or overwhelming dark feelings, Psalm 9 is for you.
Let’s break it down:
1. Thank God.
David so often begins with thanking God and many psalms are peppered with songs of praise and gratitude. This isn’t a perfunctory thank you note, it’s wholehearted gratitude brimming with awe and worship. In my own experience, this kind of thanksgiving comes only with humble recognition that all we are and have comes by God’s hand.
I’ve found this truth emerges most brilliantly 1) when God’s helps us overcome seemingly impossible odds, 2) He grants us some blessing we just know we don’t deserve or 3) in the refining fires of trial, when we’re stripped of our false pride and self-sufficiency to see our need for God most clearly.
David models this reality throughout the psalms.
In the next few verses, David is extolling God’s power and help in upholding David’s cause to defeat his enemies—in this case, a flesh and blood foe. This feels much more tangible to me right now as the war in Ukraine threatens the world.
Yet it could just as easily be the other types of enemies we encounter so often this side of heaven—fear, discouragement, hopelessness, doubt, strife. We need to remember that the greater enemy isn’t the symptom but the source, an elusive and cunning spiritual agent who is seeking who he might devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Regardless, God is always greater. Always. David knows this. Of course, in Psalm 9, David’s fresh on the heels of victory. It’s so easy to dance a jig and praise God when you’re on an upswing. But if you read this psalm, you’ll notice the timelessness of David’s praise. We can borrow David’s soaring spirit to restore our own. David affirms that God’s justice and power is eternal and principled. He will prevail—with our humble submission. This is key:
2. Humbly repent and submit.
David acknowledges that God’s deliverance is for the righteous, those who “know Your name,” who trust and seek God. David’s victorious voice is undergirded by obviously humble dependence on God’s grace, justice, and loving protection. The odds were against David in combatting Goliath, and his own brother and king thought he was a fool to face him.
David’s courage and battle readiness weren’t fueled by stupidity, hubris, or a steady diet of steroids. David leaned his full weight on God alone.
We are blessed to enjoy the sweet and empowering luxury that our righteous standing is in Christ and His righteousness. Even in Christ, however, we must be mindful of our need for Him to enjoy the evergreen salvation He offers—spiritually and practically. The lynchpin is ongoing repentance that helps me fix my eyes on Christ and His sufficiency (1 John 1:9, James 5:16). This is a posture of submission and awareness of our need, themes that are clearly echoed throughout psalm 9 and many others.
Sinner’s sidebar: "Sin" makes some of us bristle and squirm. Call it failing, flaw, weakness, or missing the mark, if it makes it easier to swallow. "A rose by any other name" is still what it is.
I’m deeply comforted by the many, many broken people God employed to accomplish His purposes and in Christ’s own bloodline—including David. Yet I want always to remember and remind that they suffered grave consequences for sin. Our loving Father doesn’t want us to suffer the destructive real-life results of wanton sin. Sin is its own punishment. We can rejoice that Christ paid the ultimate price for our sins, let that propel us toward the obedience He asks of us for our own good (John 14:15). This response rests on trusting Father knows best.
3. Trust God.
The closing verses of Psalm 9 are rousing calls to action. David forcefully calls on God’s help. These are the heartfelt pleas of someone who knows—knows—God and that God has the power to conquer the enemy, deliver the oppressed, meet the needs of the needy. That’s you and me, folks! Whatever we’re facing in the quadrants of our troubled minds, four walls of our home, our nation, or our world, Jesus remains the answer. Freedom comes for those who know, trust, and seek God.
For me, this passionate cry routinely emerges when I’m done. I’m done trying to fix it or fix me in order to fix it, if you get my meaning. It’s trusting Jesus alone as my source and shield. That’s such a relief and really good news!
Whoever or whatever your foe, know that there’s no other name that will save us (Acts 4:12.) It’s just that elusively simple. While I outline a three-step process, they're truly all captured in one comprehensive step: Jesus.
More often than not, I rediscover Christ’s sufficiency when I’m faced with the utter insufficiency of everything else. Uncomfortable to say the least, but it’s a fact.
I want to grasp that simplicity and live in it every day.
I pray the same for all of us. Now more than ever.
Read this psalm aloud (or pick another fan-favorite above) and read it aloud (aloud is important) every day for a week. As goofy as it may feel, speak it out in a dramatic, fist-pumping David-just-kicked-Goliath’s butt kind of way. Let me know how you feel after a week of that! I’d really love to hear your experience.
Grace and peace in Christ,
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