Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.
O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Christians who have never known actual attacks on their person because they are believers, or on their Christian character, will not really understand the psalms that call on God for help. To them, these are just words. But, as those of us who have been attacked, continually, they are not just words, but heart-felt pleas for rest and assistance, from people who sometimes cannot sleep for fear.
As a priest held up a sacrifice to God, so David holds up his own life to God, both as a sacrifice and as a genuine request for mercy. David does not take his fears to a psychiatrist or a counsellor! He goes directly to the Lord, Jehovah. He did not take tablets, nor did he drink alcohol to ‘make it go away’ (which it never does). Nor did he sit in a corner to mope in misery, nor did he act abominably because of his anxiety (as so many people do), nor did he wail out to all and sundry saying he was ‘ill’. No, he simply handed over his life to God.
David did not trust in any human means. Instead, “Oh my God, I trust in thee”! That is, he had complete faith. It did not mean he was never afraid – because any human being can be made afraid by an overwhelming enemy or situation. No, he rested in God despite his fear. He asked God that he would not be ashamed. It does not mean ‘shame’ as we know it. In this context buwsh means David did not want to be disappointed or to have help delayed.
Is this not the plea of us all when we need dire help? Of course it is, even though we know God can often take time to answer our deepest prayers. No-one wants to suffer! But, as we have noted before, God might not answer straight away for reasons only He knows. And those reasons are ALWAYS for our spiritual benefit, if not for our physical ease. And when He seems not to answer at all, it is a cue for us to check-out our true spiritual state.
To those who have not known any real opposition from enemies or circumstances, it might seem David’s first concern is his own safety – but it is not! His main concern is that his enemies do not triumph over him. In my own life, in 2005, I discovered this was MY first concern. I did not want to be attacked, nor did I want to fight back; I did not want all the trappings of fear or any other blow. I knew I was on the brink of losing everything and knew the enemy was trying to deliver the death-blow fast.
But, my FIRST concern was that the enemy did not win! Not so I could be saved, but that God’s name would not be blasphemed by an enemy that hated Him above all else and so took out their hatred on me. I did not want them to shout “See, he called on his God, but where is He? Let his God come to help him now!” (Recognise the words from scripture?). I am not inventing this, as those close to me know. Yes, I feared losing everything and being attacked mercilessly. But, above all that, I feared greatly that the enemy would make their victory known.
As it was, God helped me enormously in a way only He could! He eased my fear as He took me out of the awfulness of the situation, and the enemy could not say they had won, or that I had been totally destroyed! In the past I have also come close to physical death by enemies, but those very real physical occurrences were as nothing compared to the 2005 scenario, where what was at stake was not just my life, but the good name of the Lord, which I just could not bear.
Only those who have come that close to oblivion will know what I mean in full. But, others can know what it means at least in their minds, by taking careful note of these things and ‘sharing’ what others have gone through by their prayers and acceptance of what God does… real fellowship, not feigned.
David then asks God to be the same with all who belong to Him – let NO believer be disappointed! On the other hand, let those who sin wickedly without a reason against believers, “be ashamed”. In this context the meaning is different. It does not mean to avoid disappointment. In the case of enemies, it means David wanted them to know shame, to be troubled by God’s anger, to be confused, and even to be ashamed of each other. Is this not another imprecatory prayer? Of course it is!
Many today sin without a reason, other than that they are unsaved. Their sin is officially sanctioned by governments and by their own kind. So, they feel able to strike out with impunity at Christians and others who live decently. Because they are sanctioned by governments, the very few rise up in sheer hatred to attack anything they hate – Christians, God, scripture, peace and decency. And so we must pray against them, so that they cease by any means thought appropriate by God.
Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O LORD.
Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
Those ways of working and response must be taught to us by God. “Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths”! Those ways and paths may not be as we wish them to be, because our ways can be tainted by sin and anxiety. We continually need God’s grace within, and even His mercy, that we speak and act as God intends. At times these ways are not to the liking of fellow believers, who think we should act as they do! No, we must act as God says we must act. We must firstly learn how to live life in God’s way; we must walk His path, which is narrow and straight.
We must be taught in His truth, ‘emeth – whatever God teaches in His word, by His testimony, and even by His spoken word (rarely). ‘Truth’ is whatever God says and does: it is true doctrine. It is a fact that all Christians think they obey true doctrine, but, sadly, most do not. What they take as ‘doctrine’ is, often, just their own mistaken ‘interpretation’. Some even think they have a special call by God to interpret in a ‘different’ way (the basis of all cults)! No, there is only ONE interpretation of scripture, and that is given by the Lord. If it continually contradicts the teachings of good men, then it may be suspect (as the root, ‘aman suggests), though those who claim to be ‘specially called’ cannot see it, because they are deluded. Others mistake traditional teachings for ‘doctrine’. These are probably the majority of Christians, who have no time for truth and extended deep studies of God’s word.
David asks God to “lead” him in the truth (verse 5). This is a strong word, meaning to tread, to march onwards actively. Most believers are easy-believists who cannot tolerate the hard study of all who want the truth. They just live on snippets, summaries and shortened versions provided by magazines and others. This is a sure sign of either unbelief or poor belief, and should not be a part of genuine Christian living. As a called teacher it is my task to teach properly, not to provide easy material requiring no intellectual or spiritual input by the Christian reading or hearing it! It is this very easy-belief teaching that leads people to be superficial Christians, unable to stand against error or to live the way of God on His path.
We must study hard and long, prayer and meditate, to know truth. God gives it in abundance to those who seek (genuine Christians), but we still have to apply ourselves to it as diligent students of His word. Why? Because He is “the God of my salvation” (verse 5). It is His due, for us to apply ourselves, as servants and students, to what He says. He has saved us, and we owe Him our every moment and attention: “on thee do I wait all the day”. Do YOU wait on God all day? Do you submit your every thought to Him throughout every waking moment? If you do not, then God will not show Himself to you, but will stay distanced.
And remember – we are not alone… or should not be alone. We should have the support of fellow believers. How many fellow believers know this fellowship? How many care that much about their saved brothers and sisters – even if they do not believe exactly as they do? Even so, we should be able to rely on them for prayer and support in difficult times. It is a sign of the end times that many who should be there for us, are not. I know only a few who will show concern or help. This ought not be. It is certainly not according to God’s grace. God help us all to care for our fellow believers who need us!
David asks God to remember His own “lovingkindnesses”, because it is God’s character and way. God shows kindness and goodness, because He loves us. His mercies - compassion - are tender and loving. Nothing has changed, from creation to now; God is always the same.
David then asks God not to remember the sins he committed when he was younger. How many young Christians need to plead with God to forget their sins! Today, sinfulness is almost second-nature to many young Christians, as they follow the world and not God’s path. They think they are immune from punishment, or that it is acceptable to do what their unsaved friends do.
They should beware, for God will draw them up short suddenly, without warning! He will show them that their sinful ways are scandalous and shameful. He will show them He will not tolerate their transgressions, perhaps with a very sharp lesson, a painful retort. Far better for these youth to repent and get on with sincere and loving living with their Lord. I know what it is like to stray as a youngster, and that is why I can warn young people today!
You are only young once – but you then have the rest of your life to regret what you did. Why not simply live believing lives from the start? The unsaved friends you so envy and follow have nothing in their favour; they will die and enter hell after judgment. What is so good about their lives? And remember, that club you so love is just a building with low lights! It is there to take your money for a wealthy club-owner who cares nothing for your eternal soul. And it is filled with young souls bound for hell as they do all kinds of things dishonouring to their Creator.
God is “good and upright” and we are meant to be the same. That is why “he (will) teach sinners in the way”. That is, the way of truth and Christian obedience. Those who continually fall into sin or are always tempted do so because they have never handed-over their lives to God, and that is both a shame and a loss. They miss the true savour of bliss and peace, by preferring the sins of their mates.
What an awful shame it is, too, on God, as unsaved mates scoff at Him and His Gospel – after all, if their saved mate so easily ditches his faith for a night out, or some other sinful pleasure, what is that God worth? And so the saved youngster brings shame upon the name of God and on his own life, reaping dubious rewards for no good reason.
As a one-time youngster, I can assure young saved people that being with the unsaved has no benefit, and any pleasures are only temporary! You are more likely to gain punishment and ill-effects than anything good. Follow God to the letter! His way is always good. Throw away those desires after sin. Embrace fully the holiness God expects from you. And, remember next time you cast aside your claimed faith for the sake of sinful pleasures - it may well be your last moment on earth, as God removes you for your own spiritual safety.
The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
For thy name's sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.
What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.
The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.
God will help those believers who come to genuine decisions: He will “guide in judgment”. Many Christians ask how we know when God leads us. The wording here tells us how – He guides us. This has the meaning of taking us by the hand, of marching us onward, with resounding trampling sounds. So, we will KNOW when God calls us to do something. He will make very sure we KNOW which way He wants us to go! We will not mistake His path for us. If we never seem to quite catch God guiding us, it is only because we have not yet obeyed implicitly. Nor have we ordinarily followed what God says in His word. So, we become deaf by choice.
The meaning of being guided also includes treading down the enemy like grapes. It is to put your foot on a bow, to steady it to receive an arrow. These are not occasional actions, but must be our constant way, so that our every judgment or decision is valid and true. To be able to take advantage of this we must be “meek”. That is, in need of God’s strength and power, weak in our own strength, afflicted by enemies, and, above all, humble before God.
Some have commented that I seem very confident and stride forth as one who ‘owns everything’! I find that funny, but it is also true. It is true because I rely on God, and believe that He will guide me continually. So, I do not bow my head as one without a cause, nor do I pretend I do not know what to do. I act as God speaks to me. And this gives confidence, not in myself, but in the Lord and His strength. A man called by God should not bow the knee to others and pretend to be weak and without power, when God Himself is his power and strength!
So many superficial Christians think that to be ‘meek’ is to be everyone’s doormat, or to be constantly wringing one’s hands like a Dicken’s book character, or to side with the wicked! No, to be meek is to recognise one’s own weakness and to adopt God’s strength. I can honestly tell you – I am very weak as a person, but very strong as a child of God! I am certainly very aware when I am not confident! We must acknowledge this weakness before God can teach us anything.
Keep God’s commands and words and He will give you everything (verse 10). He has made certain promises to all who obey, and He will keep them. This is because “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth” for those who are righteous. Nothing in what He demands is against us, but is always for our good. It is completely spurious to speak of His demands as onerous or punitive!
David asks God to pardon his sins (verse 11), for his sins are great. It is therefore possible that he wrote this psalm after his sin with Bathsheba and against her husband. At any rate, David recognises his forlorn state before God. Indeed, each one of us has sinned greatly, even if we have not done anything outwardly wrong after the degree of David’s sin. This is because simply being born infuses us with sin enough to send us to hell, but for His mercy through the salvation of Jesus Christ!
If anyone fears God, says David, then God will teach him how to live his life. We are not without guidance, nor does God leave us alone on this earth to ‘work things out ourselves’. No, He is at our side all the time and the Holy Spirit is within. The only time He is not, is when we foolishly ‘do our own thing’ and ignore His commands and requirements of holiness. Then, He stands back, silent.
And what God teaches us is both general and uniquely ours. His word teaches us generally, but God also speaks to us as individuals: “him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose”. This is the same as gifts – which He gives as He sees fit, according to His plan for our lives. I am sometimes saddened to hear of Christians who try their best to ‘get’ gifts, usually of healing for some reason, even though God has not given them to the seeker. He gives us whatever He deems right for our own lives. What we want is not the prime consideration.
The one who follows obediently and lives righteously will know peace: “His soul shall dwell at ease”, and his children will “inherit the earth”. Though today screaming, sinful hordes try to fill the earth, they are doomed to failure. The righteous will inherit the earth; they will own the world, under God, even when false kings and wicked groups take over. Theirs is a fleeting, sinful occupation, not a lasting kingdom!
The secrets of God are with those men and women He has elected to salvation. Only they know the secret to genuine life and truth and knowledge. To these, God will show His covenant or promises. They will reap the reward for obedience. The unsaved, though attempting to display their evils and ignorance, cannot ever know what God teaches, or even Who He is. They are shut out of true knowledge, and can never know it.
Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.
Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
David speaks in utter sincerity; he is constantly looking to God for help. Not only because God must be worshipped anyway, but also because God helps him when he is caught in the net of deceit, sin or enemies. It is easy to get caught! There are some who insist we are sinless, or that the more spiritually mature we are the less likely it is we will sin. This is true, but it is also itself a snare! If we think we are safe, we tend not to be so cautious – and so we get caught again! What we should do is rest in God, but stay aware. Then we will be safe.
When God sees us entering into a trap He will prompt us by conscience and by other means. Only a fool does not listen. In my own ministry I warn people every day (because they seek help); when I teach every Sunday, I warn those listening. But, do they listen? A warning heeded is like honey, but a warning ignored is an act of folly, leading to sin. God will pull us out sharply from sin, but we have to see it for ourselves and repent.
God – turn towards me, pleads David; have mercy on me because I am afraid, desperate, and in danger. Even as I speak, he says, my troubles are increasing; please, bring me safely out of my troubles. Ever been in that kind of situation, where you do not just get hit once by problems, but they increase dramatically? Then you know just how desperate David felt! Yet, he calls on God, not on any other source of help. It is what God wants us to do – so do it. Sometimes this means going to trusted Christian friends or a pastor. (Yet, as a pastor I know that people do not inform me of vital information at the right time, so any help given is almost blind).
David realises that his own sins may have led to his unfortunate position. This is often the case. And, even when we repent, it does not always mean the trouble goes away, for there are sins that have lasting consequences. You can repent and know God’s peace about it, but you must still deal with the consequences. Is it not better to avoid the trouble in the first place, if you can? Ask for forgiveness NOW – let God deal with it after that. (I am talking to EVERYONE, including myself!).
Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.
In a sense, David now calls on God for something that God will do anyway. But, God requires us to ‘face the music’ and our enemies, those things that cause us fear and harm. If we do not do so, we will not understand just what we have been saved from.
Please think of my enemies, requests David (though God already knows). There are so many of them! They not only attack, but they do so with cruel hatred. We are seeing this kind of cruel hatred today, coming from many groups of unbelievers and wicked men, and even from governments and fellow believers.
Because of this: “keep my soul, and deliver me” David calls out. ‘Don’t let me be disappointed… I trust you!’ David always trusted God, so in some ways his plea is superfluous. Even so, it is good to acknowledge that God alone saves us and to tell Him we have faith. Yes, God knows anyway, but it is good to speak it. Yes, God will help, but He also urges us to seek the comfort of other believers.
To wait on God means to live as we ought, in righteousness. It means we must “Let integrity and uprightness preserve” us. Integrity is fullness of spirit, to be innocent and upright. It is, then, to be righteous. When we live in God’s way and follow His path, we are safe.
And even our nation can be made safe when righteous men stand firm and true. “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.” Note how David uses the personal name of the patriarch Israel to request the safety of the nation. This is because the nation is Israel’s seed, his family. Behind this is David’s understanding, that all of Israel must honour the Lord if it wants His help.
© April 2011
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
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