How can a Christian find comfort in
times of trouble? When the world seeks to marginalize those who
belong to Jesus, where can the Christian turn? Psalm 9 answers these
questions in no uncertain terms: The Lord who has delivered His
people endures forever.
The Psalm itself presents a couple of
unique characteristics. First, though it is impossible to see this
in translation, Psalm 9 is the first of a handful of Psalms which has
an acrostic structure. Acrostic poems start each line by following a
pattern, sometimes spelling out words. In the Psalms, this is always
the alphabet, beginning with the first letter down to the last
letter. In this case, Psalm 9 begins every other verse with the next
letter of the alphabet (though it sometimes misses a letter or two).
This is important, because it forms the basic structure of the
thought patterns in the Psalm as well.
The other unique thing about this Psalm
is that it may have originally been connected with Psalm 10 in one.
In Hebrew, they are two separate psalms, and I will treat them as
two, but there are good reasons for considering them as one. First,
the acrostic pattern continues into Psalm 10. Second, the use of
Selah at the end of Psalm 9
is highly unusual, since that word appears everywhere else somewhere
in the middle of a psalm. Third, Psalm 10 has no title, which is
unusual in the first book of the Psalms, which range from Psalm 1 to
Psalm 41. Indeed, the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, combines
them into one, which explains why the numbering for many Psalms in
Greek is different (and also for Roman Catholic Bibles based on the
Latin Vulgate, which does the same thing).
To the choirmaster. According to
Muth Labben. A Psalm of David.
Labben” can be rendered as “Death of a Son,” which has led some
to speculate that it could refer to an event. However, it is most
likely the name of a song.
I will praise the LORD with all my
heart. I will make known all your miracles.
I will rejoice and I will exult in
you. I will praise your name, Most High.
The main concern of
the psalm is presented at the very end. Before David brings that
petition, however, he begins with declaring why he can bring it at
all. Even though the nations seem to threaten Israel, the Lord has
proven Himself to be faithful in the past. While it is impossible
for us to remember all the mercies of God, since they are infinite
(Job 5:8-9), recalling as many as possible will lead to joy
In the turning back of my enemies,
they will stumble and they will be destroyed before your face.
For you have established my judgment
and my claim. You sat down on the throne, judging righteousness.
the mercies of the Lord in general means remembering them in
particular. In the past, the Lord destroyed the enemies of Israel.
This is a cause for rejoicing, because it teaches us that God has not
forgotten us (Isaiah 49:14-18), that God will bring justice (Luke
18:7), and that our righteousness is not in vain (Psalm 58:10-11).
It is indeed good news, because the reign of Christ will be over His
enemies, who will be crushed under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).
If death, for example, is not destroyed, where is our victory?
You rebuked the nations. You
destroyed the wicked. Their name you wiped out forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in enduring
ruins. The cities you pulled up. The memory of them has perished.
The name and the
memory of the wicked has perished and will perish in the earth. This
may seem odd to us, because we may assume that mentioning their name
even in writing perpetuates their memory. Do we not have the ruins
of those ancient civilizations and on occasion some of their
writings? Yet their name has perished from the earth, because their
generations no longer continue. If a man died in Israel, his brother
was to take his wife, so “that his name may not be blotted out of
Israel” (Deuteronomy 25:6). Ruined cities and archaeological
scraps do not perpetuate a name. There are no longer any children to
bear their name. The wicked will come to an end, because their
generations will cease when the Lord judges the earth, but the
righteous will go on forever.
And the LORD sits forever. He has
firmly established His throne for judgment.
And He will judge the world in
righteousness. He will judge the peoples in uprightness.
the wicked perish and the world knows them no more, the Lord sits
enthroned as king forever. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the
word of the Lord will never pass away (Matthew 24:35). From
everlasting to everlasting, He is God (Psalm 90:2). God’s enemies
will be defeated. God will judge the world and bring justice to His
And the LORD is a refuge for the
oppressed, a refuge for times of distress.
And the knowers of your name trust
in you, for you do not abandon your seekers, LORD.
declared that the wicked will perish and that God will remain, David
makes a natural application to his situation. Those who trust in the
Lord will find a sure refuge in Him. In the midst of all of life’s
troubles, especially when the enemies of God seem to be ready to
destroy us, God will not leave us or forsake us. The name of Jesus
is our salvation (Acts 4:12). The works of God in the past teach us
that He will not abandon us, even when it meant delivering his
faithless people only for the sake of His good name (Isaiah 48:9-11;
Sing to the LORD who dwells in Zion.
Make known among the peoples his deeds.
For he who seeks bloods remembers
them. He does not forget the cry of the wretched ones.
The Lord declared
to Noah that He would seek vengeance for the shedding of blood
(Genesis 9:5-6). “Vengeance is mine, and recompense” declares
the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35). Those who are oppressed by evil in
this life will find a certain deliverance in the Lord, whether that
comes now or in the life to come. It will come to an end.
Show favor, LORD. Look on our
affliction from those who hate us, our lifter from the gates of
So that I may recount all your
praises/praiseworthy deeds. In the gates of the house of Zion I
rejoice in your salvation.
Having laid the
groundwork for his petition, David now calls on God to look upon his
situation. God has delivered from evil in the past, so therefore God
will also deliver from evil in the future. Like so many of the
psalms, David promises to give thanks to God as a result. God’s
action leads to man’s reaction, so to speak, when the elect will tell
others about what God has done. To be in the “gates of the house
of Zion” is to be in God’s house, declaring to the congregation all
the mighty works of God. Thus, while praising God is important for
our own faith, it is equally important for building up the faith of
others. This is not merely a personal favor or an individual
deliverance that David has in mind.
The nations have sunk in the pit
they made. In the net which they hid their foot has been caught.
The LORD makes himself known. He
has made judgment. In the work of his hand the wicked is trapped.
Lord rules over all things and shows His power by using the very evil
planned against His people for the destruction of the wicked. Haman
was hung on the gallows built for Mordecai (Esther 7:10). The dogs
licked up the blood of Ahab in the place where Naboth had been slain
(1 Kings 21:19). The wicked lay their own trap, and the Lord brings
justice to His people in that way. Higgaion
is an uncertain term, but it is related to the word translated
“meditate” in other places. This is the muttering or reading in
a low voice that Psalm 1 connects to a godly man, and the muttering
or plotting in Psalm 2 of the wicked. I am of the opinion that its
use here, connected with Selah,
is a call for us to especially meditate on these two lines. “The
Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me” (Psalm
will return to Sheol, all the nations who forget God.
forever shall the needy be forgotten. The hope of the afflicted
shall not perish forever.
may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).
The wicked will come to an end, and their name will perish from the
earth. The afflicted saints of the Lord may suffer for a time, but
they will persist in the Lord. Even if evil seems overwhelming, it
will crumble into nothing.
Get up, LORD. Do not let man
defy/be strong. Let the nations be judged before your face.
Set fear on them, LORD. Let the
nations know they are men. Selah.
psalm closes with another call to God. Do not let the nations
imagine themselves to be strong, when in fact they are mortal. The
word for “man” in these two verses carries the extra suggestion
of mortality. They are but “mortal men.” Though they imagine
themselves to be strong, they will perish. “Man in his pomp yet
without understanding is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm
49:20). The word translated here as “fear” is unique and a
little uncertain. Most translators translate it as “fear,” which
would then mean something like “bring them to realize their
weakness, Lord, for they are but men.” The Septuagint, however,
rendered this word as “law-giver.” The Vulgate, Luther in his
German Bible, and even some English translations, also translated it
this way. The sense in that case would be something like “teach
them to fear you, Lord, so that they recognize their weakness.” I
think “fear” is the most likely, since it fits well with the rest
of the psalm. God certainly sets fear and dread upon the enemies of
Israel, because He fights for His people (Deuteronomy 2:25).
certainly have no fewer enemies than Israel did. Jesus reminds us
that if they hate us, they hated Him first (John 15:18). This psalm
is a wonderful prayer in the midst of that turmoil, because it
reminds us to remember all the mercies of God. If God has preserved
you until now in so many ways, He will not forget you in the new day
of trouble. Let the enemies of the world rage against us. God
remains our fortress forever.