Sunday sermon for 6 December 2020 – Psalm 9 – Where to look in trouble part 1 –

Today’s sermon, from Psalm 9, looks at how David focuses on the Lord’s wonderful deeds and who He is. It is from this foundation that David prays for God’s grace and deliverance.

The video (recorded yesterday) is below, followed by the notes that go to those without internet.

Last time Psalm 8 encouraged us to look up at what God has made and to see His majesty. This psalm encourages us to continue to look, but to look beyond the creation to the Creator.

Trouble, difficult people, even dangerous people, seem strong and permanent, but David’s eyes are on the eternal Lord who is truly mighty and who is the God of justice.

As we face the troubles around Covid-19, plus many personal challenges, and as the church faces growing opposition to the gospel and freedom of speech, it is good for us to be reminded that God has not changed. As He is the past deliverer of His people, so He is the deliverer today. We can therefore trust Him and call upon Him in trouble and encourage ourselves with who He is.

1) Commitment to praise (v1-2)

David starts with a commitment to praise (notice the repetition of “I will”). He determines to:

  • “give thanks” (v1), to confess the truth about God, with all of his heart.
  • “recount all of His wonderful deeds” (v1), to number, to declare a record of, all the things that God has done, especially His work in redeeming His people (wonderful deeds has the meaning of miraculous deeds that only God can do).
  • “sing praise” (v2). What God has done is so worthy of praise. Also, who He is. This verse calls Him “O Most High”. In the midst of the trouble that David is facing, he reminds himself that God is over all.

But he also desires to feel his praise: “I will be glad and exult in you” (v2a). I will overflow with joy, I will celebrate and boast in the Lord.

Often we don’t feel like praising God at all. The trouble is so great that praise is the last thing on our minds, let alone praise that actually causes us to experience joy. It is important here to see the focus: “to the Lord, Your wonderful deeds, in You, Your name.” These are things that do not change even in the middle of trouble. These are things that, if we meditate upon them, they will build our trust in Him and will impact upon the way that we feel.

We cannot turn feelings on and off, and sometimes we will start our prayers with cries to God in the middle of trouble. However, David here teaches us an important principle: it is good to get our focus right. We can be in deep trouble and still fix our eyes on Him. We can feel great sorrow and anxiety, but we can still begin to declare what He has done.

We can feel our hearts far away, but we can still express that desire to get our hearts into the place of praise. This is what David is doing at the start of verse 1. He is determining not to go through the motions. “Whole heart” refers to a sincere and single heart. As we express our praise to the Lord our heart responds. This is a challenge. We may praise with a heavy heart but still a heart that desires Him.

2) What He has done (v3-6)

This section is an expansion of verse 1. He is telling us something of what He is praising God for. He is recounting God’s deeds.

David is speaking as king. He is raising with God what He has already done in His sovereign justice for Him (v3-4) and among the nations (v5-6).

He is probably referring to the exodus and to the giving of the land – that God did amazing things to fulfil HIs promises: He judged the nations in the land and removed them, just as He promised. Rahab and her family trusted in the Lord but most of them did not and whole cities were defeated and, in David’s time, were gone – forgotten.

This is the way God works in history. He is a merciful and gracious God. He gives people opportunity to repent, but there comes a time – even in our day – when nations are removed or brought into decline. He is the God who we can trust in His ruling of the nations. If He can change nations, He can change people. He delivered His people from Egypt and in the land of Canaan, He delivered His church from the persecution and power of the Roman Empire, He delivered His people in the time of the Reformation, He delivered His people in Eastern Europe when the Berlin Wall came down. If He has done these things, then He can deliver you from whatever situation you are in.

He has done the greatest thing of all. David looked back to deliverance from the evil of Egypt. We look back to the greatest deliverance of the cross. So we can trust Him to help us now. To sustain us, to protect us, to keep us through suffering and sorrow. He is the unchanging God.

So, we can immerse ourselves in God’s word and God’s deeds and let them encourage us through these difficult days.

3) Who He is (v7-12)

David is now expanding on verse 2 – singing praise to God’s name. In other words, he is speaking of what makes God God, who He is.

v7: This verse is in contrast to his description of the nations and the enemies that have perished. The Lord remains.

v7-8: All His dealings with the nations are in perfect justice. The nations may be allowed a time when they act with injustice but this is only for a time. We need to be patient and wait on Him.

We can wait because – v9: The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed. He is a place of refuge, like a tower with high walls that the enemy cannot enter. There may be attacks all around, but these cannot ultimately destroy you.

v10: “Those who know Your name.” We have the privilege of knowing Him personally as His covenant people. Later this psalm says that the nations will know Him – as He demonstrates His final judgement. The call of the gospel is to know Him now, personally as His child, before it is too late.

Those who trust Him don’t just know about Him, they know His name (v10). They know who He is, they have trusted His person and His attributes. Because – and here is another encouragement – He has not forsaken those who seek Him (v10b). That is another way of describing a believer – a person who seeks Him. “Not forsaken” – was the promise in Joshua 1:5 and to us in Hebrews 13:5. It may feel like we are forsaken, but we are never forsaken.

v11: He is with them. He is among His people and He reigns over His people. He is king over all the earth and yet He is ours and we are His.

He is mindful (v12, that is the same as in Psalm 8:4). He is the defender of those who are under attack. He does not forget (Isaiah 49:15).

All of this gives us great assurance in these challenging days.

4) Therefore, help me now (v13-14)

David moves from praise to prayer. He is saying: “In the light of all that I have declared about you, I need you right now.” I need:

  • Grace.
  • God to see that there are those who hate me.
  • Deliverance from death.

This will enable me to bring You praise (v14). I will again be able to recount Your praise for another deliverance (compare v1).

Notice that there is a comparison – instead of going through the gates of death, he will be in the gates of the holy city praising the Lord and declaring how great the Lord is. The Christian is delivered from death through Christ, and we will go through the gates of the new Jerusalem and give Him the glory and praise forever and ever. Even here, while the Lord preserves our lives, this is an opportunity for testimony, to share with God’s people what He has done.

5) And make a distinction between Your people and the world around (v15-20)

As David draws this psalm to a conclusion, he calls on God to act on behalf of His people as a whole. We need Him ourselves, but prayer is not just private and personal; the child of God prays for the covenant community of God’s people.

This section starts with confidence in the goodness of God’s rule over the world, that He is a God of justice, that the wicked will fall, often through reaping what they sow. This is how the Book of Psalms started – with the choice of two ways – the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. And then the call to the nations in Psalm 2 – “why do the nations rage?” There is an eternal end – those who forget God (v17) will be lost.

On the other hand God’s people will not be forgotten and will not perish (v18), even though it might seem like it for a while (notice “shall not always be forgotten”). Notice how often the idea of remembering is seen in this psalm: v1b: “I will recount”, v6: the memory of the wicked perishes, v12: the Lord does not forget the cry of the afflicted. v14: “That I may recount all Your praises.” v17: the nations forget God. V18: God will not forget the needy one.

You can trace the same with the idea of perishing. The Lord’s people will not perish but the wicked will. This psalm stands again as an invitation – which side are you on? Are you among the nations that forget God or do you belong to His people who will never be forgotten by Him?

The final cry for God to arise (v19-20) continues in Psalm 10, which we will look at next week. In the here and now, it looks like man is prevailing. But man is only man (Psalm 8:4). Here David asks, remind the nations that they are only men.

As we pray today for our nation and the nations – we need to pray that people would realise that they are only human and that they need a Saviour. They are not gods, they are only dust. Let’s cry out that the Lord would make Himself known.

Conclusion

It is easy to lose our focus in times of trouble, to look at the trouble and to look at the enemy and to look at our sin. This psalm invites us to look at the Lord and what He has done. This is a looking that is expressed – like we are counting; let’s count and repeat the deeds of the Lord.

This sometimes has to be an act of will; it doesn’t flow naturally because we are in such distress. It is not all we do as we will see next week in Psalm 10, but it is a very important way of building our faith and helping us to pray.

It is how we run to Him and find Him to be a stronghold for our oppressed and troubled souls – we look and we express His deeds.

And we also look up to the throne now. The throne is occupied. Christ has finished His work, He has rescued His people from death and He will come again as the holy judge. So we can trust Him with our trouble.

And may the Lord help us to remember that we are only men and women – not God – and that we need Him all the time.


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