For the director of music. To the tune of ‘The Death of the Son’. A psalm of David.
1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
3 My enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.
4 For you have upheld my right and my cause,
sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
6 Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,
you have uprooted their cities;
even the memory of them has perished.
7 The Lord reigns for ever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
8 He rules the world in righteousness
and judges the peoples with equity.
9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
12 For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
13 Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may declare your praises
in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation.
15 The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
all the nations that forget God.
18 But God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
19 Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
20 Strike them with terror, Lord;
let the nations know they are only mortal.
The psalms are Hebrew poetry. We mostly think about rhyming poetry where the ends of words rhyme.
Another type of poetry is to make the ideas sound like each other.
Psalm 9:8 is a good example of this. The 2 parts of the verse mean the same.
Another form of Hebrew poetry was to use an acrostic. This often caused the words to be jumbled and makes for difficult reading or awkward translation like Psalm 9:3.
Not many of the psalms are acrostics. Psalm 119 is the most well known acrostic. The others are 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, and 145.
We do not usually translate them into English as acrostics, because there are only 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. However psalm 9 and 10 have been translated in this way because some of the letters are missing.
David probably wrote Psalm 9 and 10 as one psalm. Jewish tradition holds that he wrote it after he killed Goliath. The first part says that God beat the foreign enemy (Psalm 9). The second part says that wicked men in Israel are making the helpless into oppressed people. (Psalm 10)
The reasons for thinking that it was one psalm are:
· Psalm 10 has no words at the top about David or music. This is quite unusual in a psalm by David.
· Hebrew words that David did not often use are in Psalms 9 and 10.
· Psalms 9 and 10 make one acrostic.
However, Psalms 9 and 10 evidence two different approaches. The first is an individual hymn while the second is an individual lament.
In the first part (verses 1-12), praise is prominent, and in the second part (verses 13-20), prayer is prominent. Many subtle patterns weave the thoughts of its verses and lines together. Shifting back and forth between the individual and corporate perspectives is characteristic, as are introverted, structures.
David’s hymn in Psalm 9 ebbs and flows through two respective tides of prayer and praise dealing with individual and corporate perspectives.
Verses 1-2 introduce some “I will” statements as we glimpse David’s dedication to exuberant worship of the Lord.
There is a strong sense of gratitude for the fact that God has made him victorious over his enemies (presumably the Philistines).
Marvelous works are celebrated, referencing God’s extraordinary interventions into history on behalf of His people (compare the Exodus events).
This is a psalm determined to praise God and connect with him in awe and gratitude. The opening verses are deeply expressive.
Verses 5 and 6 reveal the just Judge’s dealings with the godless. Verses 7 and 8, deal with His dealings with all men in general, and verses 9 and 10 deal with His gracious dealings with the faithful.
We are reminded that God is established forever. He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. There was no one before Him, and there will be no one after Him. His throne is established in eternity. Ultimately, nothing and nobody can usurp him.
In verses 9-10 we are informed that he is a refuge. God as a place of safety is a recurring theme in the Psalms (46:1-2; 91:1-2). A refuge or stronghold, sometimes translated “fortress”. He is a high place of security and protection (1 Samuel 23:14, 19, 29).
There is a “both/and” tension running throughout the Old Testament, i.e., God is enthroned in and above the heavens, and also, He symbolically dwells locally in Zion in His tabernacle (compare 1 Kings Chapter 8; Psalm 11:4).
As the result of this omnipresent wonder and in celebration of his work and intervention. The heart of the psalmist is full of praise and joy. He wants the world to know just who is this God!
In God’s kingdom the humble are celebrated, the weak are protected and the violators of peace are brought to justice. He will remember those who have suffered innocent bloodshed and he brings judgement on their oppressors.
Death is depicted like an earthly city, surrounded by a wall, where people are held captive – hence the reference to the gates of death.
The idea in verses 13 & 14 is, that the dead could not praise God, that his work of is not yet complete, so he calls on God to intervene and save him so that he can continue to worship and praise him on the earth. This of course is an earthly perspective.
The psalm finishes by telling us 2 things:
· God will remember the oppressed, even if they have to wait what appears to be a long time
· God will teach us that we are only human and therefore mortal. It is only God that is really powerful
In verses 15-16, we are presented with God’s unfailing boomerang. The principle of exact retribution. This in popular culture today is called karma or “what goes around, comes around”.
Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015
I spent a good amount of the day going through the loft looking for things to list on eBay. I have a lot of vinyl records, some that are worth decent sums of money but are a bit awkward to list from the phone and the computer is painfully slow but I managed to get a few items up. I was trying to find my EWI (Electronic woodwind instrument). I am sure I could get at least £200 for that but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was quite puzzled and a little consumed by the apparent loss of this instrument. I could not remember taking it out of the house for many months and was sure I had seen it since. I found it eventually at about 11pm and was so relieved.
My dad phoned. It was a better conversation than last time. A little less of an edge. It must be difficult for him. I am sure it must bring up some of his own stuff plus I just learned that his sister, my aunt had just come out of a coma so he had all that going on when he last called. I knew she was very sick but I had no idea that she was in a coma until today. He was still mainly concerned about me being out of work, the financial situation but he did ask towards the end of the conversation “what are the chances of a reconciliation with my wife”. I told him that it was early days yet and that we both needed space and processing time but I would not rule it out.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
I hold on to these words in Psalm 9. God is my stronghold in times of trouble. All I can do in this moment is to seek God. He will not forget about me.
My experience of God is an absent God…he’s out there doing his thing, being God but he’s not so interested in me. He is busy with the universe and other people who are more connected to him and have better hearts than me. Of course that experience is erroneous and in contradiction to scripture.
I know Jesus saved his strongest words for the self righteous and religious. I am a sinner of the highest order. I can see Jacob the deceiver in me, Samson the manipulator, David the adulterer who covered his steps by killing her husband, I am Jonah the moaner who ran away. I am not a pretty picture but God used all these people despite their flaws.
One of my friends and journal recipients came round in the evening and we spent a couple of hours together. It was great to see him. I talked through my story and he asked me a number of questions. We prayed and he told me that it was really helpful for him to be able to have more empathy for me. I really am glad that he is in this loop. He is a great friend. Meeting with him gave me the confidence and desire to make some more connections. I thinking about others I want to connect with. Yesterday was a pretty good day in the end.
Reflections two years on
The first thing that strikes me about this Psalm is that gratitude is key. I didn’t have a whole lot of gratitude two years ago. My thought life was dominated by fear, anxiety, anger, judgement, sadness and mostly self pity.
There was however a small glimmer of light and enough of an awareness of the presence of God to edge me forward. People were generally more gracious than I expected to. This gave me confidence to edge further forward, make apologies, some amends and reconnect.
Psalm 9 is a celebration of who God is. It is a Psalm of wonder and confidence in his absolute sovereignty.
It reminds me that though I have many limitations, God compensates for all this. In him there is more than hope. There is surety that every injustice, every despair, every failing will be put right. God is God…we are not.