“I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart,
I’m writing the book on your wonders.
I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy;
I’m singing your song, High God.”
That’s how Psalm 9 starts. I’m guessing he’s in a good mood.
But I’d be wrong. The psalmist is actually in dire straits, so the opening statement of praise is not a reflection of where he currently is but where he wants to be! Note the four “I will” lines. When everthing goes pear-shaped, can you say as much? I will worship whole-heartedly. I will tell others of God’s work. I will be glad. I will praise God.
It’s not that praising God works as a kind of anaesthetic easing the pain of our problems as much as the fact that praising God deepens our confidence in Him. You’re declaring what really is, despite any appearance to the contrary. This is faith talking.
The psalmist is learning to walk in confidence.
And when we find ourselves overwhelmed with all the awful extent of evil in this world, these verses are a great place for people of faith to start! The “I will” is a trumpet-call to positive declaration.
To what? Well first, to an awareness of God’s judgment on His enemies, (vv. 3-6):
“The day my enemies turned tail and ran,
they stumbled on you and fell on their faces.
You took over and set everything right;
when I needed you, you were there, taking charge.
You blow the whistle on godless nations;
you throw dirty players out of the game,
wipe their names right off the roster.
Enemies disappear from the sidelines,
their reputation trashed,
their names erased from the halls of fame.”
The point is -on a macro-scale- God will take care of it. God is at work vanquishing evil nations, bringing down ungodliness and routing His enemies. Sometimes we miss the grand sweep of history because we are so rooted in the present, in the now. But look at that last bit: “their names erased.” The psalmist isn’t kidding. Remember the regular refrain in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers about the “Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite” (see Ex 33:2)? Where are those nations today? Do you know what is known about the Perrizite and Hivite nations? Practically nothing. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says, of the Hivites, “No name resembling Hivite has yet been found in the Egyptian and Babylonian inscriptions.” Once these were top dogs, feared by many, ruling and reigning with might and strength. Now they are gone. They opposed God and His ways and their names have been “erased” forever.
The point is this: those nations that perpetrate evil and ignore God will know His judgment. If the world stands long enough you can be sure that big power names of today will simply dissolve into history and be forgotten. Why? Because God, in His time and in His ways, pulls down those powers that oppose Him.
Second, he walks in confidence because of a Hope in God’s just rule (vv. 7-10):
“God holds the high center,
he sees and sets the world’s mess right.
He decides what is right for us earthlings,
gives people their just deserts.
God’s a safe-house for the battered,
a sanctuary during bad times.
The moment you arrive, you relax;
you’re never sorry you knocked.”
This is the beating heart of the psalm. God holds the high centre! In contrast to evil nations that are being destroyed “the Lord shall endure forever.”
And that’s why we’re summoned to praise. The writer urges God to save him, not for his own comfort, but because by so doing more will hear of God’s work and be urged to praise the Lord (verse 14).
“They’re trapped, those godless countries,
in the very snares they set,
Their feet all tangled
in the net they spread.
They have no excuse;
the way God works is well-known.
The cunning machinery made by the wicked
has maimed their own hands.
The wicked bought a one-way
ticket to hell.
No longer will the poor be nameless—
no more humiliation for the humble.
Up, God! Aren’t you fed up with their empty strutting?
Expose these grand pretensions!
Shake them up, God!
Show them how silly they look.”
Third, he walks in confidence because God’s judgment is presently active (vv. 15-18).
Judgment is going on right now! Interestingly, v15 views that judgment as something the nations do to themselves. They are caught up in their own sin. Their own transgressions “boomerang” on them and destroy them. This is the nature of sin and wickedness. Not only does it have a terrible eternal reward, but even in this life it turns back on the sinner to bite him and make his life hard and miserable.
The psalmist sees God presently at work, and that work goes on into the future. This is God-shaped confidence. The one who knows God rules will look upon wickedness and say “That can’t last. I won’t join with that because I know God is defeating that and will defeat that.
Things can’t continue as they are because God is at work and evil will be judged.”
How can we be sure? Verse 16: “The Lord is known by the judgment He executes.” God’s name and reputation are at stake here! God must destroy evil to vindicate His own righteousness. If He does not judge the nations around will never realize who is God. God will act and must act to establish His name before all!
This psalm gives the believer confidence in God’s just rule. Sometimes we look only to eternity as the time when all will be set right. Psalm 9 helps us see clearly that even in the here and now God seeks to establish righteousness and justice.
So what in the world is going on?
God is defeating His enemies.
God is protecting His people.
God is establishing His rule.
That may not always come as swiftly as I might desire, or even in my lifetime. But I know God’s name and so I must put my trust in God. “The Lord will endure forever!”