Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Know that Yahweh has set apart the holy for himself! - Psalms 3 & 4

Both of these Psalms talk of God relieving his set apart people from their enemies, and both Psalms make very fitting and applicable evening prayers before going to bed, especially during times for Christians dealing with difficult people who are opposing God’s purposes.

Now, the setting of Psalm 3 is apparently during the attempted coup d'état of David’s son Absalom. The events surrounding this period are in roughly 2 Samuel 15-17, which sheds light on David’s feelings and the pressure facing him. David knows from God’s promise to establish his dynasty and have him rest with his fathers (2 Samuel 7) that this coup won’t succeed, right? This is why his confidence is in Yahweh to protect him and why he can boldly ask him to “Arise and rescue.” Yahweh is faithful to his promises. He is who he is (hence the name). This is why David can sleep secure, even if uncountable enemies surround him and seem to have the upper hand (as Absalom seemed to have had). 

Though this Psalm doesn’t address it, what grief and torn feelings David must’ve had that his own son would do this. David’s mourning at Absalom’s death (2 Samuel 18) was deep and genuine, but since the rebellion was against God’s messiah/anointed one (a theme prevalent in David’s thinking, fear and honor for God’s anointed, hence is almost bizarrely merciful behavior towards Saul). David, of course, being the messiah in this case.

I think one of the main reasons God gave us Psalms was to form and develop our prayer and worship life. What a fitting Psalm this is for the church that Jesus promised not even the gates of Hades could withstand (notice the church is on the offensive in Matthew 16:18 and parallels, not the defensive!). What a fitting Psalm this is for calling on God to fight our adversary (which is what Satan means, “the Adversary”), the roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). Striking in the jaw, smashing teeth, that’s salvation in vivid terms (a word which more often than not in the Bible has military/political connotation, unlike today, it seems)!

And I haven’t mentioned Psalm 4, which is also fitting for the life that one of God’s holy people (made holy by God’s doing, not their own!) lives since God hears our requests and sets us apart for his purposes. I should mention that Psalm 4:4a (רִגְז֗וּ וְֽאַל־תֶּ֫חֱטָ֥אוּ) is a tricky one. The first verb could mean “fear/tremble” or “be angry.” It’s used both for fear and reverence for God and anger at enemies. Now, Paul quotes this passage in Ephesians 4:26 in the context of not letting your anger and grudges swell up, hence the second half the verse, “Don’t let the sun set while you’re still ticked off.” And the Psalm’s context seem to address controlling your emotions during times of conflict, as David’s supporters were against Absalom, and since the second half of the verse talks about being silent on your bed. So I take it meaning roughly, “Be indignant, just don’t let it lead you to do something wrong.”

Also, I don’t know if the (זִבְחֵי־צֶ֑דֶק) “sacrifices of righteousness” refers to properly prescribed sacrifices and/or sacrifices offered in the right spirit. Both ideas seem to compliment. Of course, today as New Covenant priests we’re urged in places like Romans 12:1 to offer our entire selves as living sacrifices because of the salvation Jesus won for us by living, dying, and rising.


  1. I really like your literal use of the words messiah and christ. It is too easy, as Christians who don't speak Hebrew or Greek, to get these words mixed up with God or lord.

    It is good to remember that David was a messiah/christ. Recently, reading over the story of David helped me to further understand Jesus's kinglike and messiahlike roles.

  2. Thanks. It's easy as well gloss over Christ in Jesus Christ as if it's redundant or a last name or something.

    It also poses a conundrum for translators. Do you translate it Christ? Messiah? Anointed? Chosen-by-God-to-an-office-person? I think the NIV2011 takes a step in the right direction by translating "christos" as Messiah when it's describing Jesus, and as Christ when it's being used as a title (which is mostly in Paul).


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