Alfred Place Baptist Church

Psalm 9: The Lord Who Is Known by His Justice

Psalm 9:1 For the director of music. To the tune of "The Death of the Son". A psalm of David.

I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.

 2 I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to 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; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously.

 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 the enemy, 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 will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice.

 9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

 10 Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

 11 Sing praises to 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 cry of the afflicted.

 13 O 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 the Daughter of 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 justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. Higgaion. Selah

 17 The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God.

 18 But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.

 19 Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence.

 20 Strike them with terror, O LORD; let the nations know they are but men. Selah

Everyone who declares, “I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart” (v.1) is going to be scrutinized. That is absolutely unavoidable because the world despises a man of immoderate devotion. It will consider him a fanatic or a holy fool. Moderate consecration? Yes, the world can live with that, but that’s impossible for those who have been redeemed by the agony and bloody sweat of the Saviour. They will say, “Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul my life my all.” The world will despise such commitment to Christ. It will dub it ‘extremism’ and ‘fundamentalism’ and shake its head and utter solemn warnings about its dangers. On the other hand, the man who spends hundreds of pounds every week following ManU or Arsenal or Liverpool, who lives and breathes soccer, is a perfectly natural and responsible individual, an enviable man, but not someone who loves God with all his heart.

The devil too will seek to destroy single-minded love for God wherever he meets it for, make no mistake, David was a man full of zeal for God. You notice the four “I will”s in the opening words of this psalm; “I will praise you . . . I will tell of all your wonders . . . I will be glad and rejoice in you . . . I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” (vv. 1&2). Here is an utterly single-minded man – “This one thing I do.” He lives for the Lord. His chief aim is to glorify and enjoy God. While every Christian praises God, David praised God with all his heart. There was not one room in his life which was off limits to God. You opened each door and the sound of praise came out. You could even unlatch the door to the cupboard under the stairs and immediately you were hit with the sound of doxology. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Praise is part of the very structure of the Christian life – the three G’s – Guilt, Grace and Gratitude. Guilt because of my great sin; Grace and salvation through my great Saviour; Gratitude for such a great deliverance – “my life shall all be praise.”

The Bible tells us of some of the extraordinary deliverances David had known in his life, and in the first twelve verses of this psalm David applies to his own life the lessons he has learned from what God has just done for him. Then, in the second half of the psalm, David shows how he is prepared to do battle with many more enemies. In youth he had fought with them, as a young king he had his foes, in old age he was still meeting them. As he said in Psalm 23, God had spread a table for him, but it was in the presence of his enemies. Though he praised God with all his heart he mingled with his praise great earnest petitions for constant deliverance because there were always dangers surrounding him as they surround us all until the end – “and deliver us from evil.”

You see the structure of this psalm. It contains very familiar psychology for every Christian. There’ve been times when we’ve been carried away in praise for God’s deliverances. We had been in a slippery place, we were almost falling, the enemies were all waiting for us to fall flat on our faces, but God delivered us. He led us into victory, and at such times we felt that we had ‘spirit baptism’. We were on a high; no more grey clouds; henceforth we’d sing, “And now I am happy all the day.” Then we had a rude awakening. From an utterly unexpected quarter a new problem arose, a growing problem, drawing in more and more people. Our enemies were far more powerful than those we’d just overcome. They surrounded us on all sides. People we thought were our biggest supporters turned against us. We’d been fighting with footmen; now we were fighting with the cavalry. We’d forded the river Jordan, but now we had to do it in flood. I am saying that the broad overview of the psalm is this; there is no victory in life, no experience, no blessing which guarantees we won’t have to face another battle.

  1. DAVID HAD ONCE KNOWN A GREAT DELIVERANCE.

Of all David’s early deliverances none was as memorable as his victory ov
er Goliath. Of course he had been prepared for that by still earlier occasions when God had helped him. There was a time when the teenage David was engaged in a simple duty, watching over the flocks of his father. Then out of the blue there came a commotion, sheep were running in all directions because a bear had suddenly lumbered swiftly into the flock and caught a sheep and carried it off. David went after it; he struck it – I have no idea how you strike a hungry bear that has the sheep in its jaws – but David struck it and I suppose in shock and pain it dropped the sheep and David picked it up and ran back to the flock. What happened next? Well, the bear went after David, of course. See David running with a mad bear chasing him! David describes the next thing that occurred; “When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair. Struck it and killed it” (I Sam. 17:35). He seized a bear by its hair? I never heard anything more foolhardy in my life. Don’t do this at home . . .

You’d think that that was a lucky deliverance, a once off, the sort of deliverances that happened to us when we were young boys and fell out of trees and came to no harm at all, or when we stepped out into a road not seeing a car and it just missed us, but this deliverance from a ferocious beast happened again to David. A lion took one of his father’s lambs, and most young shepherds, 16 years of age, would call it ‘collateral damage,’ a consequence of being a hill shepherd. Not at all; young David did the same thing again, went after the lion carrying the lamb in its jaws, struck it, rescued the lamb and when the angry lion attacked him, David seized it and killed it. How did he do that? He tells us; “The LORD . . . delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear” (I Sam. 17:37). That is the only explanation David could muster. It was the Lord’s doing and marvelous in his eyes, and David always remembered that. Don’t we remember such deliverances from our early years as a Christian? We remember falling into the sea from a pedallo; we couldn’t swim and we thought as we sank into the sea and so the bubbles going from our mouth to the sparkling surface of the Mediterranean that we were bound to drown, but we bobbed up and grabbed the side of the pedallo and pulled ourselves on board. Or again we lost control of a car on an icy Welsh hill and went all over the road, but there were no other cars about and no damage was done to our car. We said, “The Lord delivered me . . .” We knew there was no other explanation. A burglar broke into Keith Underhill’s house in Thika and made a noise and woke them up. They were too dry-mouthed with fear to shout. Burglars strip down to their underpants and cover themselves with grease so that you can’t hold on to them. However, because of the noise they made – and they had put the bedroom light on – the thief squeezed back through the window and ran off. Thus the Lord delivered them.

So there had been deliverances before the Goliath incident. When David heard the giant fighter’s taunts and challenge, and saw the fear and reluctance of all his family and friends to respond he said to King Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him” (I Sam. 17:32). What enabled David to act like that? Not madness; not pride; not longing for recognition and promotion from being a shepherd. It was what I have said to you; his memory of God’s deliverances in times past. He had tested the Lord’s faithfulness. He said to king Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (I Sam. 17:27), and he could say those words with such quiet conviction that he won over the heart of Saul; “Go, and the LORD be with you.”

So David confronted the sneering warrior, and he made his speech; “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands” (I Sam. 17:45-47). Then very quickly he dispatched Goliath with a slingshot, and the giant’s own sword. David had confidence in the Lord and that confidence was turned to worship.These opening words of this psalm are typical; “I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High” (vv. 1&2). What is he doing? He is giving God all the glory. God has done it; God alone is to be praised, not David. He pours contempt on any pride.

Then the king goes from the particular – the deliverance from Goliath – to the general, to deliverance from all the threat of the Philistines. At the beheading of Goliath the children of Israel were given a baptism of courage. They cascaded down the hill and charged up the other side into the Philistine army and drove it back. They pursued it all the way to Gath and Ekron. Their dead were strewn all along the way and they plundered the Philistine camp. David comments on such victories, wrought by the LORD; “My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously. You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever. Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy, you have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished” (vv. 3-6). You hear what David says? “You didn’t even have to leave your throne; you sat there judging the Philistine and endless ruin overtook them. That’s how powerful you are. Who talks any more about the threat of the Philistine? “Even the memory of them has perished” (v.6).

Then David worships God for his mighty acts. He magnifies the name of God. He says to his courtiers, his cabinet, his heads of staff, his generals and all who gather to hear him, “Boys, I’m not going to reign for ever. You cannot imagine Israel without me as the King, but I will go the way of all flesh. I am going to die, but I can tell you of One who’s not going to die whose power is not just over Israel or the Mediterranean basin, but over the whole world. And then he says these words to them; ‘The LORD reigns for ever; he has established his throne for judgment. 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’” (vv. 7-10).

The people were so glad that Jerusalem was built on a hill with strong walls and towers. It was a place of refuge when the armies of the enemies marched into the land. The people could hear the warning trumpets sounding from Mt Zion and from the surrounding villages and farms they hurried into Jerusalem. The gates were closed and barred and the people were safe. So David tells his audience, “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (v. 9). Aren’t you glad that you have a refuge? You sing, “O safe to
the Rock that is higher than I.”

“How oft in the conflict when pressed by the foe

I have fled to my refuge and breathed out my woe;

How often when trials, like sea-billows roll,

Have I hidden in Thee, O Thou Rock of my soul.”

William O Cushing, 1823-1903).

Then David closes his exhortation, first by a word of prayer. He might have noticed some hard men, and worrying women who had not been listening. They refused to hear what he’d said. His words of comfort hadn’t entered their hearts, and he could despair of them because what have they got – what has anyone got – if they don’t have the Lord? But then David garrisons his own heart and takes comfort from the fact that God will have a remnant according to the election of grace, a people who love and trust in him. He will be utterly loyal to those who seek him, and so David prays, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you” (v.10). He tells them, “God does not ignore the cry of the afflicted” (v.12)

I had this letter yesterday from a woman called Mary Ann in Kenya. I’d met her in December; she is a single mother in Nairobi; a Christian in need, and so I had given her sixty pounds towards the school fees of her children for this term and to buy some school books. She writes to me, ‘I have done the school shopping, and I am able to pay my rent for two months and for school, and the balance I promise to pay before the end of Term One. “Count your blessings. See what God has done.” I praise the Lord for your kindness that you have been able to remember me in my suffering. Pray for me that I may get a job please. We say, as a family of three, “May God bless you,” Mary Ann, Kennedy and Tonney. P.S. Send me any of Martin Luther’s books please.’ She is experiencing what David asserts here, that God does not ignore the cry of the afflicted. “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you” (v.10). His love in times past forbids me to think he’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink. Have you thought that you may be the means God appoints to help those who trust in the Lord. So that is the first section. David had known a great deliverance, and he was full of doxology and trust and he wanted to testify of this salvation to others and magnify the Lord before them and pray to God in their hearing.

  1. DAVID WAS CONFIDENT THAT HE WOULD KNOW MANY MORE DELIVERANCES FROM THE LORD.

You will see how these last eight verses are divided up into three sections, into words of petition, words of declaration and words of supplication. In all of them David displays enormous trust in God. He has said mind-blowing truths about the Lord, that he is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and that those who know his name will trust in him for he has never forsaken those who seek him (vv. 9&10). Those are not mere words. They are the deepest convictions of his heart. This is the engine that drove David on and on, day after day. This is how the king lived. If you don’t understand those convictions then you will never understand David, and you’ll never have the comfort that David enjoyed. This is the faith of the men and women of Hebrews chapter 11. They subdued kingdoms and worked works of righteousness and obtained great promises of God through trusting in the Lord. This is what gave them victory over the world and gives us victory over the world’s destructive influences. The world will ruin your life and only by such faith can you overcome it. Notice it here in David.

i] David’s God-honouring petition; O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death, that I may declare your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation” (vv.13&14). David was in serious trouble again. The tense of the psalm changes to the present tense. David was being persecuted as he was writing; “see how my enemies persecute me!” David had been hunted by Saul as men hunt animals. He had nowhere to lay his head; he went from cave to cave sometimes sleeping under the stars.

Of course he cries that this might end, but he does so in a very godly way. He will not strike down his enemy. He will love his enemy. He will do good to those who despitefully used him. He will overcome their evil with his good. So God tested him; “Are those words, or do you really love your enemies?” David and his outlaws were hiding in the darkness of a cave and Saul came into the cave to relieve himself. He was so close to David that he could touch his clothes. How easily, when Saul was so vulnerable, to pull out his dagger and plunge it into the king. What did David do? Let’s read the incident; it is so moving and full of instruction. “Saul came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, ‘This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, “I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.”’ Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. Afterwards, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, ‘The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.’ With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way. Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, ‘My lord the king!’ When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen when men say, “David is bent on harming you?” This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD gave you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, “I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’s anointed.” See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognise that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, “From evildoers come evil deeds,” so my hand will not touch you’”” (I Sam. 24:3-13).

David was resolute to keep God’s commandments; “Thou shalt not kill” especially the king. David determined to love his enemy, and so he kept running and kept hiding and kept crying to God for mercy. How could he pray to God if his hands were stained by the blood of Saul? So he kept crying to God, “O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death” (v.13) and he kept doing God’s will. Do you think you can live as you
please and then ask God to give you mercy? If you hold with regard the iniquity that is in your heart then God will not hear you. But notice also this, that the king’s longing for deliverance was for this end, that he might bear testimony to God’s salvation. It was not that he might become king in Saul’s place, or brag about his deliverance. This is the reason, “that I may declare your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation” (v.14). He longed for the time when the persecution would be over and that he could walk again freely in the streets of his beloved city Jerusalem, the home of Jehovah, and bear his witness in the open air at the gates where the elders met, disputes were settled and public announcements made, to the goodness of Jehovah, praising him and rejoicing in his salvation. You see how God-centred and God-honouring was David’s life. His chief end growingly was to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever. So here we see David’s God-honouring petition.

ii] David’s God-honouring declaration. David turns again to the men standing around the court listening to him. He ends this prayer and then turns to them and looks them in the face, the doubters and waverers, sadly impressed by the mighty armies of the surrounding nations. David says these words; “The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden. The LORD is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. Higgaion. Selah. The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God. But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish” (vv.15-18). In other words, he warns them that they are too engrossed with what is happening in Moab and Edom and further afield in Egypt and Ethiopia. What happened to the Philistines? They put all their confidence in their weapon of mass destruction, Goliath, and what happened to him, he was felled with a small stone and all the morale of the Philistines disappeared. They turned tails and ran back to Gath. They fell into the pit that they themselves had dug; they were ensnared by the work of their hands. They were trapped by the net of their own devising. Goliath was a big man, but ultimately a mere man. Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.

David pleads with the people to remember God’s justice; “The LORD is known by his justice” (v.16). Egypt was known by its pyramids, but the Lord is known by his justice. Babylon was known by its hanging gardens, but the Lord is known by his justice. Wales is known by its singing and rugby, but the Lord is known by his justice which is guaranteed by God’s power. It is rooted in God’s character. It is accomplished in God’s time. It is good news for some, but it is bad news for others. Some people don’t have the money or influence to get a fair hearing. They suffer at the hands of those who are more powerful, but God promises to stand with his oppressed people; he loves the widow and the orphan who call on him. Israel was a small nation but loved by the just God.

Let us be sure that we are known by our justice and that we love justice too. God speaks sternly to an unjust people through the prophet Malachi: “‘So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Mal: 3:5). The righteous Lord loves righteousness. Do you know what will happen? Paul told the men of Athens as they stood before him on Mar’s Hill what lay in the certain future, “He has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

We live in a nation that continues aborting helpless babies, misusing military power, engaging in sexual immorality, giving the state media an anti-Christian bias, failing to punish adequately evil-doers or to reward those who enter and remain in the state of marriage. Our nation commits many other evils, and such nations are going to end up in the cosmic incinerator as surely as God is just. Do not tremble at the power-structures of those who reject the Lord. Find your hope in this, that the Lord is known by his justice, and for every glance you give at the nations, take ten looks at the Lord.

They say that everyone has to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong and so they fall into the pit of disunity and the destruction of others. They say that life has no purpose and so they fall into the pit of purposeless living. They say there is nothing after death; “we get snuffed out” and so they fall into the pit of bleak despair. Did you hear of the young man who lived for rugby, and then broke his back last year playing the game and became a paraplegic? He had nothing else to live for and he persuaded his parents to take him to Switzerland where he could be put to death. Life was no longer worth living without rugby, and so it was; he was ‘put to sleep,’ as they say. “The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden. The LORD is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands” (vv. 15&16). But what of those whose only hope is in this Almighty power far greater than themselves? They see themselves as poor and needy because of sin and their own mortality. They cry for deliverance to the living Lord. All their hopes are in the Lord; are they disappointed? David tells us court, “But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish” (v.18).

iii] David’s God-honouring supplication. The king ends in prayer; he asks God for himself and his nation. He has been delivered in times past and once again the enemies are persecuting him. David cries mightily to God, “Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, O LORD; let the nations know they are but men” (vv. 19&20). What was absent in David’s day as in our day? It’s a sense of the reality of the living God. It’s an absence of the fear of the Lord. It’s the thought that God is irrelevant, and unnecessary, and totally out of date. God is considered a theory whose usefulness is over and not needed any longer. All the nation has forgotten God (v.17). What alternative is there to God? Man! Puny men. We are living in days of the exaltation and the triumph of man; days of an absence of the presence of God, and so David cries to the Lord what we must cry to him, and as never before; “Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, O LORD; let the nations know they are by men” (vv. 19&20). It is a cry to God to make himself known, to come and convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment.

When the city of Nineveh heard the preaching of Jonah and felt that they were going to be judged and overturned they were struck with terror. They repented in sackcloth and ashes. “Who knows whether God will be merciful to us?” they said, and he was. They knew that they were not God; they were mere mortal men and they humbled themselves before God. What greater hope for a nation is there then the Lord arising and coming by the Holy Spirit, convicting
them by his presence and vindicating his truth? What pride in man and in his achievements do we see all around us! Where can we find an explanation of the origin of this world and of man? Who can tell us how we are in the state we are in today? “Man will tell us. Charles Darwin has told us. Richard Dawkins will tell us. David Attenborough will tell us.” All man’s boasting, pomp and show! “Arise O LORD! Let not man triumph. Strike them with terror, O LORD. Let the nations know who they are. They are but men.” That was David’s mighty prayer at the close of this time before his court. He had remembered the great deliverances he had known in years gone by and now he turned to the living God and cried to him to arise and revive his work and magnify the name of the Messiah. Let God arise and scatter his enemies.

8th February 2009            GEOFF THOMAS