# 69 A journey through the Psalms. Truths to help us to “…live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). # Sixteen: Psalms 9 & 10. “prophetic perfect”

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When we read the psalms and the prophets (including the NT writers) we might wonder how they can speak so positively and confidently about life when everything around them is in complete chaos.

Well, it seems, that in certain places in their writings to accomplish this they use what is  called the “prophetic perfect” tense! And it is “a literary technique used in the Bible that describes future events that are so certain to happen that they are referred to in the past tense as if they had already happened.”   (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophetic_perfect_tense)

The psalmists use it often, including in Psalm 9:3-6 as follows:

“My enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause,
sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,
you have uprooted their cities;
even the memory of them has perished.”

So, as per the Wikipedia definition above, here the psalmist “describes future events [upholding his cause and bringing judgement on his enemies] that are so certain to happen that they are referred to in the past tense as if they had already happened.”

It is interesting, in that, as we read this whole psalm we certainly don’t get the impression that this is yet the case as the psalmist still cries out to God for help against those who oppose him. He says in verses 13-14, 19-20:

“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.

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.”

So how can the psalmist be so confident “that [these things] are so certain to happen”? I believe, it is because of what the Word of God teaches him (and us) about God’s character, sovereignty and the history of God’s “wonderful deeds” in the past, and also from the psalmist’s own experience of God and his ways. So, he acknowledges in verses 7-18:

The Lord reigns forever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
and judges the peoples with equity.
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…

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.”

I wonder, despite what might be happening in your life or mine, are we able to talk so confidently of the future in the same way the psalmist did? Are we able to use the “prophetic perfect” tense with complete faith that it will actually happen?

The Apostle John did in Revelation 11:15 when he quoted loud voices in heaven, which said:

‘The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever.’”

How we look forward to that day, when faith will become fact, not with just a hope-so attitude, not with just some religious optimism, but with true confidence in God. As it says in the Message:

“What you [God] say, goes—it always has.”  (Psalm 93:5)

Father, we do not want to deny all the suffering and injustice that is happening around us in our broken world. We can’t deny our own pain. But we do know you well enough to acknowledge that it won’t always be this way. You will have the last word and for that we are extremely grateful. Help us to live in the light of this truth. Amen.

# 68 A journey through the Psalms. Truths to help us to “…live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). # Fifteen: Psalms 9 & 10. A “fascinating two-part poem.”

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“When JB Phillips worked on a paraphrase of the New Testament, he described the experience as similar to working on the electricity of a house – with the mains switched on! The book was ‘live’.” (SU notes: JB Phillips Ring of Truth Hodder and Stoughton 1967)

Certainly over my life I have experienced this truth seeing God use his word powerfully to create change in my life and the lives of others. And I feel the same way, as I consider each of the psalms. Nothing boring about this book of prayer in poetry form, and the next two psalms are again full of ‘power surges’ as David talks to God about his and the nation’s situation. Are you ready?

But, first of all, why deal with Psalms 9 and 10 together?

Well, there are a number of reasons, not the least being that in some versions of the Bible, the Greek and Latin versions, these psalms are combined as one Psalm.  And so, we ask, why is that the case? Well, let me allow someone far better qualified that I to explain.

Kidner says, “The absence of a title to Psalm 10 supports the view that it runs on from Psalm 9, and this is strengthened by the presence of a fragmentary acrostic [when the first letter of every second verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet], begun in Psalm 9 and concluded in Psalm 10.”

He then continues: “But the mood is so changed in Psalm 10:1 as to leave the impression that these are in fact two psalms, written as companion pieces to complement one another, concerned as they are with twin realities of a fallen world; the certain triumph of God, and the present, if short-lived, triumphing of the wicked.” (see references # 29)

Wilcock describes these psalms as a “fascinating two-part poem.” (see references # 5  )

If we think about types of psalms, then these two psalms appear to combine a number of them all in one (or two).

Let’s start at what is always a good place to begin when we pray, and that is praise and thanksgiving. David prays:

“Lord, I will worship you with extended hands                                                                                     As my whole heart explodes with praise!                                                                                                   I will tell everyone everywhere about your wonderful works                                                         And how your marvellous miracles exceed expectations!                                                                    I will jump for joy and shout in triumph                                                                                               As I sing your song and make music for the Most High God.”  (9:1-3 TPT)

If we had not yet read what follows in this psalm and particularly the next psalm, one could get the impression that life is pretty rosy for David. A king living in luxury and peace? Not a care in the world. Hardly! The next verse introduces the reality: “my enemies” (9:3) which he elaborates on as we continue reading.

David here does what any person of faith in God should do in “times of trouble” (9:9). David reveals what makes the difference between the person whose faith shines even in difficult times and the person who drowns in misery, looking for external causes and often eventually blaming others. Instead of such a self- defeating exercise, here we can learn from David as he remembers all he knows that is good about God and everything else about God and his ways that gives him hope even if all around him seems lost.

Later in the psalm he acknowledges the truth that:

“The Lord reigns forever;                                                                                                                            he has established his throne for judgement.                                                                                      He will judge the world in righteousness;                                                                                             he will govern the peoples with justice.                                                                                               The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,                                                                                                      a stronghold in times of trouble.                                                                                                         Those who know your name will trust in you,                                                                                      for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (9:7-10 NIV)

I am often amazed at the faith of some of the OT characters, e.g. Abraham, Joseph, Jeremiah, and not the least David. Not perfect, but their faith was often strong in the midst of incredible difficulty and opposition. And all this prior to the coming of Jesus with all the marvellous revelations that this brings concerning the character and wonderful works of God. Since the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus we now know so much more about what God is like, and so, in one sense, knowing what we know, we have no excuse not to trust him, no matter what the situation of our life is.

Paul puts it like this in Romans 8:

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us … 31  If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things … 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Father,

“I will worship you with extended hands                                                                                                   As my whole heart explodes with praise!”

Your word is indeed alive and powerful as the Holy Spirit reveals the Son to us and changes us into the people of God you desire us to be. Continue to keep our hearts open to all that you want to say and give us the strength to walk in the ways you show us, giving praise and thanks to you, whatever the situation. Amen.

 

# 67 A journey through the Psalms. Truths to help us to “…live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). # Fourteen: Psalm 8 “we do not see…But we see Jesus…”

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I don’t know about you, but for me, without just being a pessimist, the words of David in this Psalm seem not to match the majority of mankind as I know it. He says that we as humans are “crowned …with glory and honor…[and] made…rulers over the works of [God’s] hands [and that God has] put everything under [our] feet”.

Sure, some humans have accomplished some pretty impressive things over the years, some have even shown just how compassionate and just and merciful humans are capable of being. And there is no doubt that there have been/are some people who are very passionate about the earth and the “flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea” and about our responsibility to care for it/them for future generations to enjoy.

But sadly, these ones are too often more the exception than the rule, and I’m sure I don’t need to suggest examples of those who fit “the rule” to convince you.

So, how do we reconcile these words of this psalm with what we know of humans generally throughout history, and even what we know concerning our own hearts and activities?

Part of the answer, maybe, is answered by a comment in the NIV Study Bible concerning this psalm. It says, “Man’s rule is real – a part of his ‘glory and honor’ – and it is his destiny … but it is not absolute or independent. It is participation, as a subordinate, in God’s rule; it is a gift, not a right.

Too often in history, God as Creator and Sustainer of his creation has been forgotten or totally ignored. And when we as humans have forgotten the truth of the words in Bold above and gone our own way, the result has been that things have gone very wrong.

But, it seems, there is more to this truth, as there often is in the Bible. The N.T. has something to say as well. You see, as we read the letter to the Hebrews 2:6-9 the author applies the words of this psalm to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is speaking in Hebrews 2:1-4 of our “great salvation” in Christ and this leads him to quote Psalm 8:4-6 followed by, “In putting everything under him [humans], God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:8-9)

NIV Study Bible comments on these verses as follows:

“2:8 everything. God’s purpose from the beginning was that man should be sovereign in the creaturely realm, subject only to God. Due to sin, that purpose of God has not yet been fully realized. Indeed, men are themselves ‘in slavery’ (Heb. 5:15).

2:9 Jesus…now crowned with glory and honor. Psalm 8 is here applied to Jesus in particular. As forerunner of man’s restored dominion over the earth, he was made lower than the angels for a while but is now crowned with glory and honor at God’s right hand. By his perfect life, his death on the cross, [his resurrection], and his exaltation, he has made possible for redeemed man the ultimate fulfilment of Psalm 8 in the future kingdom, when man will regain sovereignty over creation.”

As is so often the case, as we read the OT, it leads to fulfillment in Jesus. So here, the real “glory and honor” mentioned in Psalm 8 is actually found in Jesus, the One whose “name … is above every name” and “at the name of Jesus every knee” will bow and “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

Father, thank you that we may not yet see the fulfillment of Psalm 8 in mankind, but we do “see Jesus” in all his “glory and honor.” Continue your work of grace in each of our lives so that we will be day by day conformed to the image of your Son. Amen.

 

# 66 A journey through the Psalms. Truths to help us to “…live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). # Thirteen: Psalm 8 “A little lower than Elohim.”

As we continue reading there is even more amazing truth in this remarkable psalm. Speaking to God concerning “mankind that you are mindful of … that you care for”, David then says:

You have made them a little lower than the angels     and crowned them with glory and honour. You made them rulers over the works of your hands;     you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds,     and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky,     and the fish in the sea,     all that swim the paths of the seas.   (NIV)

David here takes us back to Genesis and God’s plan for us humans when he first created us. He had (and still has) such great plans for us! What amazing grace!

Verse 5 is interesting because of the word translated “angels” in most Bibles (or “heavenly beings” in the NIV). The Hebrew word used here is “Elohim” as in The Passion Translation: “…what honour you have given to man! Created only a little lower than Elohim.” The text note says: “This is the same Hebrew word used for the Creator God in Genesis 1:1”.

Not being a Hebrew scholar, I decided to check out what others have to say about the use of this very interesting word and discovered some thought provoking comments, not the least the next two quotes.

The Jewish Study Bible (Tanakh Translation by The Jewish Publication Society) has the following: “…You have made him [humans] little less than divine, and adorned him with glory and majesty.” The footnote adds: “As in Genesis 1:26-30, humans are very highly regarded. ‘Elohim’ is properly translated as divine; this explains why people are adorned…with glory and majesty, typically divine qualities. Thus, the tradition that “Elohim” should be rendered here as angels (Septuagint, Targum, Radok) is incorrect, and is the result of the discomfort of depicting humans as too God-like – a discomfort surely not shared by this psalmist.”

Kidner suggests: “In the most obvious sense of the Hebrew, verse 5 would seem to allude to the image of God, mentioned in Genesis 1:26 [“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’.”] which underlies our verses 6-8. But the LXX [Septuagint] takes God (Elohim) in its rarer, genetic sense, to mean supernatural beings i.e. angels…Hebrews 2:7, 9 follows that translation…The New Testament opens up fresh aspects of this passage.” Something we will consider later. (see references # 29)

The point is that God created humans totally unique (“in our likeness”) and with qualities and the potential to live lives in such a way as to reveal who our Creator is. Then, we are made to not only live well, but to reflect His glory and majesty to all creation. Sadly, the manifestation of this seems to have been scarce in the history of the human race, often ruined by our sin, but praise God, as we study history and look around us  we see it has been/is still present  in some people’s lives.

The psalmist, considering God’s unique creation of humans in Psalm 139:14-18, puts it like this:

“…you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”

 

Father, these psalms continues to amaze us, with their revelation of your love in creating us as unique beings in your cosmic plan. Strengthen us, Lord, and enable us by your Spirit, to live as those “Created only a little lower than Elohim… adorned … with [your] glory and majesty”, so that you, in all your glory and majesty, may be revealed through us to this desperately needy world around us. Amen.