Monday, July 31, 2017

Basil on Song


“The Holy Spirit sees how much difficulty mankind has in loving virtue, and how we prefer the lure of pleasure to the straight and narrow path. What does he do? He adds the grace of music to the truth of doctrine. Charmed by what we hear, we pluck the fruit of the words without realizing it.”

Friday, July 21, 2017

A prayer towards the end of a clergy sabbatical

I wrote this prayer towards the beginning of my sabbatical.

Here's something of what I've been praying this final week of my sabbatical:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this sabbatical:

For the financial assistance I’ve received;

For time and space and freedom;

For the privilege of worshiping with your people in a variety of different places without being responsible for leading.

Thank you for all who have ministered to me and who have helped me;

For those who have given of their time and expertise;

For those I’ve met who have been a blessing to me;

For all that I’ve been able to do and to think about;

For the rest, refreshment and challenges;

For the opportunity to experience new places and different things.

Thank you for every encouragement.

Thank you for the ways in which I’ve been stretched and stimulated.

And for the ways I’ve been able to minister and study.

Thank you for all that has been achieved.

Thank you for those who have looked after my responsibilities in my absence.

Help me not to be preoccupied by what has not been done.

I continue to pray that the study I have done might bear fruit for me and for the church.

Help me as I consider my return to my normal ministries.

Help me to listen as I seek to discover what has happened in my absence and how things have been.

Give me grace where I might have done things differently.

Help me particularly as I return to the busyness of perhaps a number of things that are over-due my attention.

Give me wisdom as I consider priorities for the immediate and longer-term future.

Help me to say “no” to things appropriately where that’s the right thing to do.

In particular, help me to give myself to prayer the ministry of the Word.

Help me to be a faithful pastor to those you’ve entrusted to my care and to do the work of an evangelist.

Make me willing to serve whole-heartedly and self-sacrificially in all the roles to which you’ve called me.

Again, I pray that you would help me to have in place patterns that will help to sustain a healthy long-term ministry.

Bless and guard our family-life.   

Give me those who will partner with me faithfully in prayer and ministry and help me to be a good friend and fellow-worker to others.

Help me as I share ideas for future ministry with others.

Give me grace to encourage others.

Give us grace to consider what we should pursue and what good things we should leave undone.

Forgive my sins and failures.

Grant me your grace and empower me with your Spirit.
In your mercy, may I play my part in your purposes faithfully and to your glory. Amen

Some notes on Psalms 6-13

In case these are of any use to others:

Psalm 13 jottings

Psalm 13 notes


When prayer seems unanswered / God seems far away or absent or appears to hide / when feeling forgotten (by God) / when wrestling with thoughts / sorrowful / defeated / enemies triumph / when feeling near death

Outlines / structure:

Expositor’s Bible:

Waiting for God’s Salvation

Expression of despair: how long? (vv1-2)

Expression of prayer: give me light! (vv3-4)

Expression of hope and trust: let me sing! (vv5-6)

Goldingay, Baker Commentary

How long, how long, how long, how long?

Wilcock, BST:

1. Distinctive pattern, distinctive prayer

2. Looking backward, looking forward

Kidner, Tyndale:

Desolation into delight

Vv1-2, desolation

Vv3-4, supplication

Vv5-6, certainty

Motyer, Psalms by the Day: A New Devotional Translation

Still waiting, still trusting

A. The fourfold ‘How long’: protracted anxiety

B. The threefold ‘in case’: urgent threats

C. The twofold rejoicing: the fruit of trust

Wilson, NIV Application Commentary

Questioning God (vv1-2)

Plea for deliverance from approaching death (vv3-4)

Trust and confidence (vv5-6)




The Psalm suggests “the state in which hope despairs, and yet despair hopes” so Luther according to James L. Mays, cited in Goldingay, p208.

Kidner: “The three pairs of verses climb up from the depths to a fine vantage-point of confidence and hope. If the path is prayer (v3f), the sustaining energy is the faith expressed in verse 5. The prospect from the summit (v5) is exhilarating, and the retrospect (v6) overwhelming.” (p77)

The sections of the Psalm become steadily shorter

Pain, prayer & praise (Wilcock, p50)

“in each stanza the psalmist is concerned with God, with himself, and with his circumstances, in that order.” (Wilcock, p50)

Almost a howl (Keller) – a deep sense of abandonment (Goldingay)

A dose of realism – not pious pretence

A Psalm that gives us permission to be honest with God about how we really feel, to repeatedly question him, to come to him with our doubts / worries / challenges / “issues” . struggles / agony

A personal 1st person Psalm but also for the music director – how does this affect the reading of the Psalm?

The Psalm considered as the words of Christ – a Psalm Jesus could have prayed on the cross when forsaken by his Father – suffering then vindication pattern

Is God’s absence real or felt / perceived only?

The Psalmist’s problem(s): how he feels (vv1-2)

Vv1-2, Goldingay, aggressive, confrontational – a uniquely impertinent 4-fold question

How long? - Ps 62:3; Hab 1:2; Ps 74:10; 80:4; 94:3; Ex 16:28; Num 14:11, 27 – rhetorical, not a request for information – implication, this is intolerable and needs to stop now – Jer 47:6

Zech 7:13

Vv1-2 – Kidner: the distress analysed in relation to God, to the Psalmist himself and to his enemy.

Motyer, “In turn, divine remoteness, personal indecision / uncertainty, human enmity. The causes of potential breakdown are supernatural, personal, circumstantial. What a recipe!” (p35)

Yahweh, why are you ignoring / neglecting me? Why don’t you act?

The act of praying presupposes that God hears / might hear – he keeps praying! Pray even if it seems God is not listening or responding

Even great King David had his share of sufferings and distress

Cf. Ex 2:24f

V1b, cf. David’s longing to behold God’s face – 11:7; 17:15; cf. 27:4, 8; 34:5 – a clouded friendship Job 29:1ff; 30:20ff; Ps 22:1ff

The Psalmist is not experiencing the blessing of God’s face - Num 6:24-26

David’s plight seems interminable to him – 2 Pt 3:8

How long? echoed in Rev 6:10

V2, “How long will I place plans before my soul?” – plans a plural of amplitude, set plan after plan before – turmoil of thought cf. 77:3-6

Cf. Prov 26:24

V2 – before myself, before my soul (nepes, spirit, self), lit. in / within – to myself – protracted anxiety, different ideas about how to deal with the situation – what am I to do? What can I do? Should I try this or that or the other? Agonising ? about causes, causes of action etc.

V2 – enemy – cf. ? 1 Sam 27:1, with its counsel of despair

What he prays for (vv3-4)

Vv3-4 – God and David’s enemy as two poles of his life

V3 – Take note (notice), answer – two verbs without conjunction – cf. 10:10 – answer lookingly – a look is enough, reassuring David of favour, lifting the trouble, sending the enemy packing (Motyer)

V3 – My God – personal faith under trial – cf. Mk 15:34 – Yahweh is still the Psalmist’s God even though Yahweh seems hidden / absent

V3 – enlighten my eyes – cf. 1 Sam 14:27, countenance, eyes of renewed vitality, resilience – suggests encouragement – Ps 19:8; 118:27; Ezra 9:8

V3b – cf. Mk 14:33f

V3b – illness involved as cause or effect?

V4 – “in case my enemy say: “I have proved able for him”” – i.e. I have prevailed over him (Motyer), I was more than a match for him

V4 – ‘emmot, I am shaken, fall down – and don’t get up again – dead?!

The Psalmist’s resolve and his reasons (vv5-6)

Reasons for trust / rejoicing / singing (in the midst of / despite the realities of the Ps?)

V5 – And / but – And might be a way of suggesting this was his experience throughout

V5 – the I is emphatic, but for my part I…

V5 – committed love – 5:7

V6 – 13 words of one syllable

V6 – “because he is sure to deal fully with me” – treating the verb as a perfect of certainty (Motyer), “Trust brings delight even when nothing has actually yet changed.” – cf. 1 Sam 1:18

Gamal, “he has acted fully for me”, has done all that should be done, all that is necessary

“good” – cf. Eph 3:20

Vv5-6 – a prophetic perfect expressing certainty of future deliverance as a past even?

Phil 1:6 – God’s goodness to us in the past assures us he will bring his work in us to completion

Rom 8:28

Eugene Peterson suggests our real need is not more information / answers to our questions / insight into God’s plans and the future but God’s presence and love, God himself to be an ever-present help in times of trouble.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Psalm 7 jottings

It looks like I may have neglected to post these notes when I made them so just in case they are of any interest:

Psalm 7 notes


A prayer of trust in Yahweh for vindication, for justice and for deliverance from enemies.


When persecuted or opposed unjustly

To focus on God’s character in difficult circumstances

Praising God’s righteousness and judgement

Giving thanks for deliverance or in the confidence of future deliverance


Lord, you search me and you know me.

I confess that I am a sinner, entirely dependent on your grace.

Make me a person of righteousness and integrity, I pray.

May I be faithful and consistent, as you are, keeping my word, honouring my friends and partners, always dealing fairly with others and fulfilling my responsibilities.

May I never give others cause to hate me or to hate you.

Lord, I pray for justice for myself and for the world.

Vindicate me, and all who are wronged.

Deliver your faithful people who are persecuted without cause.

I look to you as my refuge and shield, my only confidence in this world and in the next.

Arise and fight for your people, I pray.

Yours, Lord, is the battle and the victory.

May your kingdom come and your will be done.

May your just rule be seen upon the earth.

Thank you, Lord, for your righteousness, that I can have complete confidence that the judge of all the world will do right.

Thank you for the Lord Jesus Christ: the only perfectly innocent one who suffered unjustly for me and whom you delivered from death and hell, triumphing over all his enemies.

Thank you for the vindication of his resurrection and ascension and that all evil will be undone.  

All praise to your high and holy name.


Outlines / structure:

Expositor’s Bible:

The righteous God loves the righteous

(1)  A - Prayer for refuge (vv1-2)

(2) B - Oath of innocence (vv3-5)

(3) C - God’s righteous judgement (vv6-13)

(4) B’ - Judgement of the guilty (vv14-16)

(5) A’ - Praise of God’s righteousness (v17)

Goldingay, Baker Commentary

On trial, in battle, hunted

Wilcock, BST:

(1) Concerning Cush: a lion (vv1-5)

(2) Concerning God: a courtroom (vv6-9)

(3) Concerning God: an armoury (vv10-13)

(4) Concerning Cush: a pregnancy and a pit (vv14-17)

Kidner, Tyndale:

A cry for justice

Vv1-2, The hunted man

Vv3-5, The oath of innocence

Vv6-11, The righteous judge

Vv12-16, “Sin, when it is finished…”

V17, Thankful praise

Dale Ralph Davis, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life

Just Justice

Take care with your prayer (vv1-5)

Find hope in God’s anger (vv6-11)

Watch Judgement take place (vv12-16)

Remember praise is due (v17)



Goldingay calls a siggayon a lament on the basis of the Akkadian sigu

Shiggaion – Wilcock guesses it could be related to the verb to wander and therefore wild, rhapsodic music


Sang to the LORD

Davis has “on account of the words of Cush”

Cush – Sudan (Goldingay) – the area south of Egypt not Ethiopia

2 Sam 18:20-32 the Sudanese – Shimei and or Sheba both styled Benjaminites (Goldingay) – see Goldingay p144 for verbal links between this story and the Psalm

Cf. 1 Sam 24

Concerning Cush, a Benjamite – not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible

When David was pursued by Saul the Benjaminite?

Or during Absalom’s rebellion the latent hostilities of the Benjaminites resurged – 2 Sam 16:5-14; 20:1-22

How is God pictured and described in this Psalm?

Movement from lament to thanksgiving

A broadening out to God’s eschatological rule over the nations? – then God’s people will no longer be troubled

2 Thess 1:5-10 – the coming judgement

Themes / genres: individual lament (vv1-2), oath (vv3-5), kingship psalm (vv6-12), thanksgiving hymn (v17)

Justice and salvation go together here

From intensely personal to global (v7-8)

Cf. Naboth

Num 5:11-28; Dt 8:7-20; 1 Kings 8:31-32

Vivid pictures of David’s opponents: a lion, a pregnant man (!), and a digger of holes

Of God: judge and warrior (Wilcock, p35)

Wilcock: 4 chiastic stanzas: Cush / God / God / Cush (p35)

David lays out before the Lord his position (v1a), his danger (vv1b-2) and his conscience (vv3-5) (Davis, p86)

V1 – Yahweh, My God (repeated in v3) – an initial note of confidence

V1 – I take refuge in you – loyalty, trust

Cf. other supposed refuges… “Other refuge have I none” (Charles Wesley, Jesus Lover of My Soul)

Kidner says the tense shows that “while David’s preservation and deliverance were still matters for prayer (v1b), his unseen refuge was already a fact”

Vv1 & 2 – repetition of save

V2 – lion imagery

V2 – God his only hope – an argument for God to act

Vv3-4 – If, ‘im, 3x in MT

V3 – “this” – whatever his enemy is accusing him of

Dt 25:16

V3 – awel – guilt (NIV) is meanness, deception, hostility, unfaithfulness

Cf. Is 1:15; 59:3, 6

Vv3-5 – an appeal to God’s justice – of course the Psalmist cannot claim sinless perfection but he knows himself to be in the right with respect to his enemies. They are baddies and he is a goody. Their opposition is undeserved.

Cf. Job’s claim to righteousness – 1 Cor 4

Is the Psalmist at all confused about this / really questioning it or is this rhetorical?

He who is at peace with me equivalent to a close friend Ps 41:9; Jer 38:22 – cf. Judas?! – an ally?

2 Kings 7:17

Perhaps david feels slandered, misunderstood, falsely accused of bribes, treachery etc. – cf. Absalom’s smear campaign – 2 Sam 15:1-6

Cf. God’s knowledge and an illustration from the art of spying – CIA photos from 1973 in which one can make out the time on the soldiers watches (Davis, p86f)

V4 – David’s supposed betrayal of Saul?

Vv4-5 suggest a war context

V4 – solem - friend, strictly, ally – someone in a committed salom relationship

Ex 23:4f; lev 19:17f; 1 Sam 24:10f; Prov 25:21

V4b – Goldingay, “but released my watchful foe without cause” – says halas never elsewhere means to plunder – a former ally who has become a foe?

Unprincipled leniency to foes? – cf. Saul to Agag 1 Sam 15

V5 – kebodi, kabod, my glory – personal worth? – can sometimes refer to the liver or inner being, heart – cf. 4:2 / honour – 3:3

Cf. Job 31

V5 – evil as an army

V5 – Selah – Goldingay translates this “(Rise)” – Willock: an interlude for music or meditation? – a pause to read related Scriptures? (Goulder)

Vv6-11 – Kidner: breadth of vision here; concern for universal justice

V6 – God’s anger

V6 – An appeal to God’s anger against the anger of the enemies – God’s anger is the Psalmist’s hope; the attackers’ anger is the Psalmist’s threat (Goldingay)

Cf. Heb 4:13 – God as all-knowing judge – There’s no fooling him!

Cf. 5:5; 6:1

V6 – appeal to God to arise and awake – God does not sleep of course, but it can seem like he does!

V6 – God, you must have ordered a decision

God is more powerful than any enemies and he cares

Cf. Acts 17:31

V6 – repetition: arise, rise up, awake

Cf. Num 10:35-36 and Ps 3:7

V7 – MT suba, return, not seba, rule – return on high, LORD

Return to your judgement seat throne / sit as judge

Vv7-8 – an appeal to God to exercise his rule and judge, to God’s righteousness and integrity / character

A prayer for vindication, declare me in the right – judge my case and find for me, Lord

Cf. 2:8-9

V9 the hinge of the Psalm – movement from prayer to expressions of confidence and praise

V9 – The righteous God searches minds and hearts – both David and his enemies are open books to the LORD

God not grandfatherly and mildly indulgent! (Wilcock)

A court with teeth! (Wilcock)

Vv9-11: 6 descriptive phrases of God: righteous God, tester (one who searches my heart, v9), my shield, saviour, righteous judge, God who expresses his wrath

The ungodly will experience God’s sword; the repentant will benefit from his shield. It is precisely by dealing with the wicked that God delivers the innocent. We ought to be grateful for the fierceness of the Biblical God because it guarantees that eventually all will be as it ought to be (Wilcock, p37)


A Tester

B Righteous

C Shield

C’ Saviour

B’ Righteous judge

A’ Indignant

(Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p132)

The confidence of a believer before God

Heb 10:19-23; 2 Tim 8:8

V9 – mind and heart, lit. hearts and kidneys, inmost being, the deepest part of a person, innards, Ps 26:5; Jer 11:20; 17:10; 20:12 – God knows the heart Jer 17:9

V10 – God as shield – cf. 3:3; 18:35 – Heb. Lit, my shield is on God

The Lord as righteous judge with the nations gathered around him a familiar image in the kingship of Yahweh Pss 95-99

V12 – God’s delay has given an opportunity for repentance

V12 – God as warrior – cf. Ps 98 – he will fight his peoples’ battles on their behalf

V12 – darak, maybe lit. he treads his bow, pulling the string with his foot

V13 - God’s lightnings like flaming arrows – Ps 18:14

Judgement inescapable and deadly. David’s predicament will be reversed.

Vv14-16 cf. Prov 26:27; 28:10

V14 – pregnancy and birth metaphor

Wickedness may be allowed a gestation period

V14 – The first verb in the verse, habal, elsewhere describes the pain and anxiety of actually giving birth. There are several roots: a common one denotes “act corruptly” or “destroy” (Goldingay).

Cf. begetting and digging – Is 51:1-2 – pregnancy and digging (hara and kara) sound like one another

Evil is fertile but futile (after Kidner)

V14 – NIV disillusionment = saqer, lie, falsehood

Cf. James 1:14f

V15 – word play in the Hebrew – wayyippol, falls, yipal, made

Falls back, yasub, the same as turns (v12)

The lion of v2 falls into the pit of v15

V15-16 – they provoke their own downfall – their plots rebound on themselves – they fall into the pit they have dug – no doubt they think themselves so very clever and well prepared – perhaps they gloat over how they will ruin their enemies, not knowing that a great downfall awaits them

Sin comes home to roost

Wrongdoing is a boomerang – Prov 26:27; Mt 26:52

God stands behind all things – no such thing as merely natural consequences but the way God has established and governs the universe

Davis p90 – an Eskimo technique of getting a wolf to lick itself to death on a knife covered in frozen blood

Cf. the cross – the innocent unjustly suffering one delivered, the evil of his persecutors will rebound on them

V16 – the abcc’b’a’ structure of the verse mirrors the reversal it describes (Goldingay)

V17 – Application: resolve to thank and praise God

Mk 7:37

V17 – the exact expression Yahweh Most High only elsewhere in 47:2

V17 – The name of the LORD most high – note in Expositor’s Bible Commentary on the Name of Yahweh (p135) – The Creator-Redeemer-King God who has revealed himself, the God of the covenant – reliable, promise-keeping, God’s people who call on him can expect his blessing and protection – God’s name recalls his perfections and mighty acts and will be praised – list of other Psalms which use The name of the Yahweh on p136

Name / character

Hope in God’s faithfulness and power

Trial / war / hunt imagery often used together (Goldingay, p152)

Isaac Watts: O bless the Lord, my soul, nor let his mercies lie / forgotten in unthankfullness, and without praises die.

Troubles à prayer à deliverance à praise

Whether in trouble or in thankfulness, pray!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Simple but not easy: the life of a pastor

Much of life is, on the whole, simple but not easy.

Take healthy living as an example. Eat a moderate balanced diet and exercise and so on and you can expect better health. Of course there are complications which need very deep and technical thinking about, but basically, how to look after yourself is simply stated for most people most of the time. But that does not mean it is easy! Most of us know what we ought to do, but our eating, exercising and sleeping may often not be what we know they should be.

So it is with the Christian life. Love God and love your neighbour. Now, some of the detail gets very complicated sometimes, but in outline it is very simple but not easy.

So too with the life of a pastor. Minister the Word, pray, love people, do the work of an evangelist and so on. There are a host of specific skills to learn, like how to do weddings and funerals well. And the Word and the Lord and people are inexhaustible. And sometimes there is a tricky ethical question that 35 hours of study won't really get to the bottom of. But on the whole, most of the time, it is pretty simple.

So why is it not always done? Or not always done well?

Often we know what we ought to do. And we even really believe that we should do it!

We must cry to God for his grace and mercy and the power of his Spirit.

But perhaps one other thing - one to pray for - is keeping the realities of God and heaven and hell at the front of one's mind. Life is busy and distracting. We need to consciously and repeatedly remember God and his love for sinners, his call to repentance, his sanctifying grace and the power of the Spirit and so on.

Regularly the pastor needs to re-focus on eternal realities and on the core of his vocation - not on that pile of admin, the leaky gutter, the financial issues or even the tensions between X and Y over the choice of music - important and urgent as these things might sometimes be. He must even lift his eyes from getting the next sermon adequately prepared.

God. Bible. Prayer. Love. People. Evangelism. Repeat. Something like that, anyway, maybe?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Scripture and Supper are both signs related to a reality. How do they refer?

If we might say that the “language” of the Supper, including the bread and wine and what is done with them, is something like metaphorical, it is worth remembering that all language and language about God in particular is analogical.

Make sense? Need developing? What footnotes might it call for I wonder?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Psalm 12 jottings

I expect these will be my penultimate sabbatical Psalm of the week jottings:

Psalm 12 notes


A cry to the LORD for help when evil and lies abound; God’s flawless promise of safety and protection despite the wicked strutting about


When feeling isolated / lack of Christian fellowship / the ungodly seem to prevail and are confident of victory

When slander / lies abound

Key verses / possible memory verses: v6, v7


LORD, help, deliver and save me and all your people.

Keep me faithful when many are faithless, when it seems as if everyone is overtaken by a tide of evil.

Protect me from lies and smooth, flattering speech.

May I not be taken in by boasts or bravado.

May I not simply believe what I like to hear.

Make me discerning in the words I listen to.

And also in how I speak.

May I speak wisely, truthfully, honestly.

Keep me from seeking to use and manipulate others.

May I not put an undue confidence in my supposed eloquence or powers of persuasion.

Make me always conscious that you are my Lord, my creator, my owner;

that I owe everything to you;

That I constantly depend on you;

That I have no self-sufficiency;

That all I have is a gift.

Thank you, LORD, that you hear the prayers of your people;

That you regard the oppressed, the weak and the needy;

That you are attentive to their groaning.

Thank you that you have promised to act and bring justice.

LORD, vindicate those who are slandered.

I praise you LORD, that you are exalted above the muck and mess of this world;

That you are unsullied by it;

And yet that you care for it;

That you perfectly govern it with your infallible wisdom;

That you mean to put it to rights.

Thank you for your precious and pure words – words which are tested and proved and trustworthy.

May I prize all that you have said and be quick to resort to your word.  

Whatever the state of the world, however things appear, may I be conscious of my safety and security in you.

Grant me an everlasting confidence in you.

Outlines / structure:

Expositor’s Bible:

Lying tongues and the truthfulness of God’s Word

Prayer for deliverance (vv1-4)

Promise of the Lord (v5)

Reflection on God’s promises (v6)

Prayer for deliverance (vv7-8)

Goldingay, Baker Commentary

Vv1-2 – direct plea and lament at the life of the community

Vv3-4 – wish (jussive declarations) and lament at the life of the community

Vv5-6 – Yahweh’s word in light of the life of the community and response to that word

Vv7-8 – confidence in Yahweh, but a further reference to the depraved life of the community

Wilcock, BST:

Words of guile

Words of truth

Kidner, Tyndale:

“The easy speeches that comfort cruel men”, G. K. Chesterton, ‘O God of earth and altar’

Vv1-4: The power of propaganda

Vv5, 6: The counter-thrust of truth

Vv7-8: The war continues

Wilson, NIV application commentary

Grounds of complaint (vv1-2)

Plea for deliverance (vv3-4)

Divine response and promise (v5)

Confident expectation (vv6-7)

Reprise of complaint (v8)

Dale Ralph Davis, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life

Spin Doctors

Where we are: A lying society (vv1-4)

What we hear: A pure word (vv5-6)

How we get on: A present paradox (vv7-8)

Motyer, Psalms by the Day devotional

The tongue of falsehood and the Word of truth

A1. Appeal to Yahweh in a collapsing society (vv1-2)

B1. The words of man, false and forceful (vv3-4)

C. Yahweh’s commitment (v5)

B2. Yahweh’s words, pure and purified (v6)

A2. Confidence in Yahweh in a mixed society (vv7-8)

Eric Lane, Focus on the Bible Series

David under pressure

Vv1-4: David brings his situation to God

V5: God answers him

Vv6-8: David responds to God’s answer



To the choirmaster

According to sheminith – an octave / 8th – Leupold translates it “by the bases”

A Psalm Of David

Theme: various types of speech / lips / what people are saying / words – the use and abuse of words

What the Psalmist says

What the world is saying

What the LORD says

Structure of the Psalm: problem - prayer – promise – prayer - problem

Similarly Micah 7:2; Is 57:1; Elijah in 1 Kings 19:10, 14

David when persecuted by Saul (1 Sam 18; 19:9-10; 22; 26:19 – sly foes; 23 – two faced dealing with David ?) or in Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sam 15-18)?

Similar context to Ps 11? Perhaps David’s friends have now fled and he is alone (v1) – social foundations destroyed, could be considered an expansion of 11:3 – the same confidence in Yahweh as in Ps 11

Vv1-4: The many who cannot be trusted

Vv5-8: The one who can be trusted

Vv1, 8 – an inclusio of ungodliness – not an instant removal of sin

V1 – cf. Ps 69 - help, deliver, lit. save or send a saviour – a rather blunt / bold / impolite beginning – heartfelt urgency

Vv1-2 – The Psalmist feels as if he is the only godly person left

David is isolated (v1) and facing false accusations (v2)

V1: a peculiar absence – who / what isn’t there: covenant (Hasid / hesed / faithful) man is no more – cf. Mt 5:13

V2: a social trend – what is there: empty, smooth, deceptive talk

V2 – lies = empty, cheap talk, vanity, no truth behind them, no substance / foundation, false, insincere, irresponsible – corrodes discourse if people’s word cannot be trusted – cf. his word is his bond

Flattering lips – lit. “a lip of smoothnesses” – a plural of amplitude, every sort of flattery (Motyer), smooth lips, plausible talk – nice – their words glide easily – can be addictive to the one who enjoys receiving it – dangerous – cf. Is 30:10; Jn 5:44

Deception – double talk – a double heart, lit. a heart and a heart / a mind and a mind, double minded, two-faced – cf.1 Chron 12:33; Jer 32:39 – the double talk comes from the double mind - they are not people of integrity – the speaker is afflicted too by his denial of truth, disintegrates

Cf. advertising, politics, spin

David’s prayer – vv3-4

V3 – cut off – cut off from the covenant – Gen 17:14

V3 – a boastful tongue – the tongue that speaks big things, big talk – James 3 esp. v5 which may have v3b in mind

Eugene Peterson, God’s words never bloated by boasting or distorted by flattery

Cf. Dan 7:20, 25, “mouth spoke great things”

2 Pt 2; Rev 13; 20:10

V4 – an arrogant philosophy

V4 – lips we own, our lips are with us – part of our equipment, on our side – irresponsible talk for which they do not expect to be held to account – they think they can talk their way to success

Maybe ‘et – our lips will be our blade (Goldingay) – if this is right, their words seem smooth but they are actually sharp!

Cf. Ps 36:1-4

Fake news?

From a truth-twisting society to a truth-speaking God (Davis)

Last half of v5 “those who malign them” tricky to translate – something to do with blowing / panting / longing – NRSV: I will place them in the safety for which they long – or perhaps breathe out a curse – cf. Ezek 21:31

Goldingay, v5, he witnesses to him from puah

V5 – the first time the LORD speaks in the David Collection!

The wicked say, “we will triumph” (v4), but God says, “I will arise” / shine forth (v5)

V5 – “protect” is from the same root as help / save / deliver (v1), could be put in safety

Cf. Ps 3 – taking a stand / arise / deliver language similar

Similarly God’s promises in Ps 34:22; 46:10; 94:14

V6 is an assurance about the assurance given in v5 (Davis) – Yahweh’s words can be trusted


V6 – furnace of clay – on the earth? To the earth? Of the earth? A change of letter would make it gold, “a furnace, gold purified”

Contrast vv6 and 2 – God’s sayings solid wealth against empty tokens / fake coinage

V6 – 7 representing perfection / completeness – rigorous quality control. Human words are tested and fail in this Psalm. Yahweh’s words are tested and pass – no dross, impurity, corruption in them.

The statement in v6 is of course a general truth always applicable to all of God’s words, but what difference does it make to apply them particularly to God’s words in v5? God’s justice and timing perfect and so on.

V7 – lit. the generation this, from this generation for ever?

The clear confidence of v7 seems to contrast with the present reality of v8

V8 – vile – Kidner: cheapness, worthless (Jer 15:19), shameful excess, gluttonous, Pr 23:20; Dt 21:20

V8 – zullut – worthless / trivial – they treat the valuable as worthless and the worthless as valuable and they can walk about freely, heads held high, because society shares their estimate of things

V8 – lit. when triviality is exalted for the sons of man, that is, in the estimation of people

V8 – the wicked still walking about openly, swaggering about, strutting their stuff, flaunt themselves – back to the situation of vv1-4! – outwardly nothing has changed – living by faith not by sight, with confidence that God will act decisively if not now then at the judgement day

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The sacramental interpretation of Scripture

Once again the judicious use of The Face Book has drawn my attention to an interesting piece on the alleged sacramental nature of Scripture:

George Westhaver, The Oxford Movement’s sacramental interpretation of Scripture

Westhaver also points to interesting use of the analogy between the incarnation and Scripture - that the divine comes to us clothed in humanity, without an outward appearance of glory.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Scripture's Language

The ‘Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy’ (International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978) which is available with bibliographical information at: remains helpful in clarifying the doctrine of inerrancy and its limits. E.g. it does not commit one to literalistic interpretation nor to assuming that the Bible always speaks with technical precision or strict accuracy (e.g. it may contain round numbers or phenomenological descriptions).

Interestingly, Calvin noted that God sometimes speaks to us in the language of everyday appearance not of scientific exactness. In his sermon on Job 9:7f, he says: "God speaketh unto us of these things, [the planets and stars] according to our perceying of them, and not according as they be."

Sermons on Job, 157 quoted in Helm, Calvin's Ideas, 187.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Word sacramentish

The Sacraments are traditionally thought of in Reformed theology as signs and seals of the covenant.

Bavinck comments:

"In a certain sense also the Word is a sign and a seal – a sign that makes us think of the matter it designates, a seal that confirms that which exists in reality.” (Reformed Dogmatics, volume 4, p479)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

On trusting our English Bibles

Whilst I am all for the important work of textual criticism and the best possible translations, this is a useful reminder from Peter Wegner:

“It is important to keep in perspective that fact that only a very small part of the text [of the Bible] is in question – approximately 10 percent of the Old Testament and 7 percent of the New Testament. Of these, most variants make little difference to the meaning of any passage, as Douglas Stuart explains: “It is fair to say that the verses, chapters, and books of the Bible would read largely the same, and would leave the same impressions with the reader, even if one adopted virtually every possible alternative reading to those now serving as the basis for current English translations.””

A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006). 298, citing Douglas Stuart, “Inerrancy and Textual Criticism” in Inerrancy and Common Sense, ed. Roger R. Nicole and J. Ramsey Michaels (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980), p98. Piper, A Peculiar Glory, p83

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Jottings on Psalm 11

Continuing my sabbatical aspiration to spend some time each week with a Psalm, some somewhat disorganised jottings on Psalm 11:

Summary: Maintain your confidence in the LORD the heavenly King because the righteous will see his face and the wicked will face his justice


Confidence in God in the face of mockery / criticism / defeatism / enemies / wickedness

When tempted to fear / flee / give up

When in danger / threatened by enemies

When everything seems to be going wrong

Looking to God for justice and vindication

Key verses / possible memory verses: v1a, vv4-5 (temple understood as Christ / church / believer), v7!

Outlines / structure:

Expositor’s Bible:

Refuge in the Righteous King

Vv1-3: Refuge in God

Vv4-6: Yahweh is the righteous king

V7: God is the refuge of the righteous

Goldingay, Baker Commentary

Stay or Flit?

Wilcock, BST:

Something familiar, something new

In the dark (vv1-3)

The central fact (v4a)

In the light (vv4b-7)

Kidner, Tyndale:

Panic and stability

Vv1-3: Voices of despair

Vv4-7: The forgotten dimension

Wilson, NIV application commentary

Refuge or flight (v1)

What can the righteous do? (vv2-3)

Yahweh the Examiner (vv4-6)

Affirmation of Yahweh’s righteousness (v7)

Dale Ralph Davis, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life

Crumbling foundations

The advice faith hears (vv1-3)

The answer faith gives (vv4-7b)

The assurance faith holds (v7c)

ESV devotional Psalter

Eugene Peterson, Praying with the Psalms

Motyer, Psalms by the Day devotional

A. Safety (v1a) and misleading voices (vv1b-3)

B. Sovereignty (v4a-b) and a true view of life (vv4c-6)

C. Confidence under divine scrutiny (v7)



To the choirmaster

Of David

Vv1b-3: Supposed reasons for cowardice

Vv4-end: Solid reasons for confidence

Vv1-3 – true and false refuges

Similar themes to Pss 3-10 – the righteous and the wicked, the Lord’s punishment and favour

No prayer in this ps. It is a kind of testimony / creed – no address to God, rather proclamation about him

A theology proved in time of crisis

David as a potential refugee – 1 Sam 18-27 threatened by Sail better background than 2 Sam 15-19, when David fled from Absalom

V1, better, have taken refuge – have you resolved to do that? A decision is necessary. When a crisis comes you will need to know where you stand and to what / whom you are committed. What are your foundations? Where is your refuge / rock / fortress / security?

V1 – In Yahweh emphatic in the Hebrew text – the LORD acts as David’s anchor – David is not all at sea – the foundations may be torn down but this ultimate foundation remains

Cf. other inadequate supposed refuges – security system, pension, family etc. all inadequate refuges – On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand – Rock of ages cleft for me

V1 – I’ve already fled to the LORD so why should I flee?

Those who walk with the Lord may be (v1) vulnerable and unprotected (v2) under attack.

V1 – on fleeing to the mountains: Gen 19:17; 1 Sam 14:22; I Kings 19:3-9; Mt 24:16

? your mountain – 1 Sam 23:14, 25-29; 26:1 – Mt Zion

V1bff – how long is the quotation? – Calvin, NBV, NKJV end it at 1c; NEB, REB include v2, others include v3, JB, NIV, NASB, TEV, ESV.

The foundations are being destroyed (v3) – the normal protections and securities are lacking or seem lacking, ? social fabric disintegrating, civil order unsettled – everything falling apart

V1 – 1 Sam 18:8-16 could be a suitable background – David did eventually flutter off to the mountains

V2 – The speaker distinguishes himself from the wicked – likely David is quoting his friends or he could be summarising his own fears – cf. The Benedict Option ???!!!

Vv1c-3 – The advice of fear, sane but in conflict with 1a

If this advice comes from friends or seeming friends, perhaps it is the more subtle and dangerous for that. Not the advice of a hypocrite, enemy or agnostic, but opposed to faith. Pious, sincere, caring, plausible. Discernment needed. The danger of well-meaning friends! Cf. Peter to Christ – surely not the cross, Lord?!

It’s all very well to take refuge in the Lord, but what are you actually going to do?, David’s friends might have asked.

In matters little whether David is here or in the hill country if he is in the Lord. Attitude not location is key. (Wilcock)

Prudence or unbelief?

Mt 10:23 – flee – Ps 11 – don’t flee!

When to flee and when to stand? – Pray for discernment – Phil 1:9-10

H. L. Ellison, “The love of your friends will often create your most subtle temptations.” (D R Davis, p128)

The assumption behind this advice: safety is all important – security / self-preservation potentially an idol – risk sometimes right

Nothing good can be done here – save your own skin – run for the hills! – don’t run scared

V1 – in Yahweh I am as safe as I ought to be

V2 – the attack of the wicked is immanent (their bows are bent and the arrows are already at the string – they have cocked their gun and are about to shoot) and clandestine, secretive, underhand (they shoot from the shadows). The implication is that their attack will be deadly.

V2 – cf. the modern shadowy threat of terrorism

V3 – could be lit. The faithful one – what has he done? Yahweh?

V3 – pessimistic / defeatist / hopeless – the battle seems already lost, but of course this is to fail to take account of the LORD (v4)!

All the old certainties are gone, nothing fells secure / stable / safe / sure, you can’t tell how things will be from one day to another – and there’s nothing you can do about it

V3 – perfect tense: what could even the righteous have done? Or maybe even “What could even the righteous have determined to do?”

V3 – note the alternative of the NIV footnote – “what is the Righteous One doing?” – God seems absent, inactive, uncaring, powerless?

V3 – the foundations, the ground rules of society

V4 – The LORD is, the crucial central fact

V4 – unlike Theresa May’s government, the LORD’s government is strong and stable, established, firm, immovable

Vv4-5 – temple or palace – same word

V4 – The temple parallel to (a model of) God’s heavenly throne room

Solomon’s temple of course not built in the time of David. The tabernacle?

Yahweh enthroned amongst his people in the temple and also in heaven – with them and exalted – immanence and transcendence – with his people in the crisis and above the crisis

Hab 2:20

V4 – Yahweh, Yahweh – placed emphatically at the beginning of the clauses

“note the imagery, especially about the throne, eyes, and eyelids. David replies that his picture does not imply Yahweh is removed but that he rules (throne); that throne is not a place of inactivity but of supremacy; it does not suggest distance but dominion. Yahweh’s exaltedness or ‘transcendence’ doesn’t indicate distance or indifference but activity (gaze, test), which leads to judgement.” (DR Davis, p129)

The Lord sees – he is not in the dark – his vision penetrates the shadows of v2

V4 – eyelids, Motyer: used as a parallel to eyes for the sake of variation – Ps 132:4

V4 – You need Yahweh front and centre of your vision – that transforms the whole landscape

V4 – God’s judgements just, based on careful scrutiny (gaze, test)

V4 – test – the trials of life as in vv1-3

V4 – God hasn’t moved to the mountains

Steadfastness in a chaotic world all depends where you look: at the wicked (v2a) or at Yahweh (v4). Yahweh must be at the centre of your vision. Yahweh reigns: everything will ultimately be okay.

Cf. Revelation 4 – 12 references to a throne

Keller: 3 responses / insights:

(1) Theological – God is still on his throne and will execute justice in his own wise time (v4)

(2) Practical – crises are really tests, opportunities to find out what is solid etc. (vv4-5)

(3) Spiritual – what we really need is knowledge of God himself, his presence, his face (v7)

V5 – Motyer suggests “It is Yahweh who tests and it is the righteous he tests” brings out the sense of the Hebrew

V5 – the faithful and the unfaithful

V5 – Yahweh’s stillness is not inertia but concentration (Kidner)

V5 – examine, assessing a precious metal

V5 – The righteous pass the test and are safe under God’s all powerful and all-knowing eye. The wicked fail God’s examination and will be subject to terrible judgement

Yahweh’s examination is not just an interesting piece of research – it forms the basis for his action.

V5 – cf. God hates the wicked – “God hates the sin, loves the sinner”

God v definite, a living extremist, loves & hates, virile, not sentimental or bland (see DR Davis p130)

God’s righteous character (v7a) explains his justice and judgement (vv5-6) which is the basis of the believer’s hope. God’s judgement good news for his people

Ps 96:10-13

2 Thess 1:6-9

V6 – the cover of darkness or fleeing to the mountains could not save them

V6 – Motyer, a fine mixed metaphor – “He will rain down on the wicked traps – fire and sulphur and raging heat, the measure in their cup” – not as in NKJV coals

V6 – cup – Ps 6:5; 75:8; 116:13 – Motyer, “life’s experiences as decided upon and measured out by Yahweh”

Not a pleasant share or a cup of blessed wine

V6 – cf. Sodom and Gomorrah – Gen 19:24 – fire in NT Lk 17:28-30; 2 Pt 2:6-9; 1 Pt 1:7

V7 – upright – not sinlessly perfect but basically trusting God, in their better moments loving righteousness and hating evil

V7 – The image is of the face of Yahweh turned favourably to those he loves – Num 6:25; Ps 80:3 – “It is not by flight (v1b) but by confidence in divine favour (v7) that life’s challenges can be faced.” (Motyer)

V7 – cf. Rev 22:4, “They shall see his face” – assurance – remember this is coming when all seems darkness and ruin and you are dodging arrows!

1 Cor 13:12

It is love that causes us to want to gaze on someone’s face

Kidner, “If the first line of the psalm shows where the believer’s safety lies, the last line shows where his heart should be.”

Fellowship with God, loving him for his own sake, God himself the ultimate goal and reward of the believer – not just protection and blessing from God but communion with him.

1 Pt 1:8

DR Davis (p133):

Faith needs discernment to filter out counsels of despair and fear

Faith needs vision to see the just and reigning God

Faith needs hope that anticipates awaking and gazing on God’s face

Only 2 categories, the righteous and the wicked, no neutrality, no 3rd way