In the Daily Reader for Psalms 1-8, I pointed out that one of the joys of reading this book all the way through is picking up on themes and artistic flourishes that bind certain Psalms together. Although each Psalm stands individually, they are compiled in such a way that indicates intention to the whole work.
This is evident in the final five chapters today, Psalms 10 through 14. First, thematically, each of these Psalms deals in some way with wickedness. Whether it’s a call to “Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted…”; or acknowledgement that “The fool says in his heart: ‘There is no God…’”; or a desperate plea: “Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…”, the elements form an aggregated reflection on what it is like to live in a broken world.
And these chapters have at least one artistic flourish: in each one there’s a question. 10 and 13, both Psalms of lament, begin with a question that asks why the LORD has not yet acted on behalf of the righteous: “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?” In the others, the question is buried; for example, in Psalm 14, the composer asks, “Have they no knowledge – all the evildoers – who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the LORD?” This could be a rhetorical technique, or it could hold deeper meaning, or it could, in fact, be simple artistry. But it is fascinating the think about the intentions behind these flourishes, like studying the brush strokes of a painter.
This conversation about God’s response to the wicked is launched after a majestic tribute to the LORD in chapter 9. On the heels of “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” The Psalmist personally gives “thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” In the Hebrew, this is an acrostic poem, with each stanza beginning with a successive letter of the alphabet. Throughout, the LORD is celebrated as “a stronghold for the oppressed… and those who know Your name put their trust in You, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you…”
Our verse for this week is Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Psalms 9 through 14. Now let’s read it!
Psalms 9 - 14
9:1 I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.
You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.
But the LORD sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.
The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.
Be gracious to me, O LORD!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.
The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah
The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.
Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
Put them in fear, O LORD!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah
10:1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.
He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.
The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
11:1 In the LORD I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD's throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The LORD tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the LORD is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.
12:1 Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the LORD;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
The words of the LORD are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
You, O LORD, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.
13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.
The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the LORD?
There they are in great terror,
for God is with the generation of the righteous.
You would shame the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is his refuge.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.