Psalms 11-20

Psalms 11-20 covers everything from Jesus to caring for the poor! In this post I cover some of the Messianic Prophecies from Psalm 16 and Psalm 18 as well as summarize psalms 11-20 of the book.

Introduction

This post covers Psalms 11-20. All 10 of these Psalms belong to Book I.
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Psalm Summaries

Psalm 11

To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David
The blog title, "In God I Trust," as well as the official motto of the US, "In God We Trust," is roughly found in Psalm 11:1; this concept of placing our trust in God is repeated in some form at least 20 times in the book of Psalms alone. This is possibly the most important and the hardest instruction we are given. Once we trust in the Lord everything else will fall into place. I know from experience, however, that its hard to trust. We struggle trusting those around us, and if we can't easily trust our tangible neighbors, we certainly won't easily trust God. Putting our trust in God requires patience! Each time I become restless waiting on God to answer or provide, I remember that I have to trust God and it helps to calm my nerves.

Another point made in Psalm 11 is that the wicked are always ready to attack us. No one wants to be told or reminded their actions are wrong. An easy example is my disdain for traffic cops. I'm constantly griping about how they never get anyone for running a red light or missing a stop sign, but they're so ready to pull you for going 5 miles over the speed limit when no one else is on the road. It seems silly to me, but that's because I want to speed. I like driving as fast as possible and traffic cops enforce the law that stands in the way of that. When I see people pulled, I almost always sympathize with them (unless I saw them doing something crazy). The same is true for sinful behavior. Subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) We don't want righteous people reminding us that our behavior is sinful. As such, we lash out at those whom we feel threatened by. This means if we behave righteously, we should expect people lashing out at us. Luckily, God is watching out for us from above and He will intervene if needed.

The final point I want to address from Psalm 11 is the fact that God hates those who love violence. This is one those verses that has been weighing on my mind for quite some time. In the New Testament, Paul tells us only to involve ourselves with that which is good (Philippians 4:8). After reading that passage, I was moved to clean up my iTunes playlists and reevaluate the shows I watch on TV. One thing I noticed is that as a society, we're kind of obsessed with violence. We are entertained by violent sports, we watch violent movies, we play violent video games, and we listen to violent music. Is it a wonder there's a mass shooting in the news every other day? We often make the excuse that sports, movies, and games are just for entertainment, but how can something God hates be entertaining? That's like saying it's fine to make racist movies because they're not real—that shouldn't be entertaining to anyone, and it isn't fine. Psalm 11:5 doesn't say that God despises those who partake in violence, it says those who love violence. If we're entertained by violence, we enjoy it, which means we're inching dangerously close to loving it.

Psalm 12

To the Chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David
No one likes a suck-up, but a lot of times, we flatter ourselves and those around us without even realizing it. Psalm 12 speaks against vanity, flattering lips, and two-facedness. The New Testament bluntly tells us that we can't serve two masters, whereas Psalm 12 condemns those with a double heart. A double heart is like double speak from 1984, allowing one to say something other than what they feel. Psalm 12:6 reminds us that only God's Words are pure; He is never deceitful and never lies.

Psalm 13

To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David
Psalm 13 asks the question "how long?", and I'm sure we can all relate. Thought to be penned by David, this Psalm could apply to Job just as easily. We all have moments when we think "how long, Lord?" Joseph probably wondered how long he would be a slave. Abraham wondered how long before Sarah would conceive. Moses' generation of Israelites wondered how long it would take them to get to the Promised Land. David wondered how long Saul would pursue him, and Job wondered how long he would suffer. Psalm 13 beautifully sums up what it feels like when we are waiting on God to deliver us from a situation. This chapter is a plea to God that He might consider the psalmist and save him. Once again, the psalmist shows that the most important part of the process is trusting God. Once the psalmist mentions trust, the psalm ends as though all is resolved. I think this shows that when we trust in God, we don't have to panic about anything.

Psalm 14

To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.Psalm 14:1
Psalm 14:1 kicks off this psalm with the blunt truth that only fools deny God's existence. I had completed a whole year of college before I met anyone who suggested there might not be a God, and I was in graduate school before I met an outright atheist. When you look at all the wonder of the world, I find it hard not to see God's hand at work. Every culture in the world seems to be in agreement that there is a higher power and a higher purpose, even if they don't agree on who or what. Among those that I know who don't subscribe to a specific religion, most are still theistic agnostic—they believe there is probably a god, but we can't know for sure. Even Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is hesitant to call himself an atheist (though he clearly isn't convinced God exists).[8]

Psalm 14 seems to be describing a time when the philosophy of atheists, probably agnostics as well, is running rampant in the world. We are given the vision of God looking down on us only to see that none of us have wisdom or understanding and no one is doing good. Notice that anytime the wicked are mentioned, they are associated with mistreatment of the poor. This is a point I can't make enough; there are too many people in the world who call themselves Christian but are willing to throw the poor under the bus in an instant.

Psalm 14 concludes with hope. We are reminded that salvation will come out of Zion to end captivity. This could be a reference to the Babylonian captivity. I find that an unlikely interpretation, however, due to the fact that salvation came from God stirring the heart of a Persian king. More than likely, this is a reference to Jesus who brings us salvation through His death and resurrection which occurred at Zion.

Psalm 15

A Psalm of David
An important question is answered in Psalm 15—who will be in the kingdom? The psalmist provides us with a list of the qualities found in those who will dwell in God's holy place. These people will walk upright (i.e., honorably), work righteousness (i.e., they will follow God's Word) and speak truth. They will not speak evil against people, unfairly attack the character of people, or look down on people. God is looking for people who fear the Lord, are consistent, and treat the poor with kindness.

Psalm 15 attributes the idea of not being moved to the righteous. If we lend money without inflating the interest and treat people fairly, we will not be moved. We will be blessed our position in the kingdom is solidified. I have noticed that when you do right by people, things do seem to work out in your favor. Although the world appears to be in shambles, there are still people who repay goodness and kindness with the same. There is a video in which a man gives a poor boy soup and medicine for his ailing mom. The man saves the boy from the wrath of another merchant and makes no mention of repayment. 30 years later, the man is still giving food to the poor. We witness him experience a heart attack and bump his head. He is unable to pay to for medical care, but we find that the doctor is the same boy to whom he gave the soup and medicine. Remembering the man's act of kindness, the boy pays the bill in its entirety. Whether the video is based on a true story, or merely an example, it highlights the point made in these psalms. We are not moved by evil when we have been consorting with good. Unfortunately, neither are we moved by good when we have spent too much time consorting with evil.

Psalm 16

Michtam of David
The first thing I'm sure you want to know is what "Michtam" is—at least, that was my first question. The title of this psalm makes reference to Michtam, which is clearly a noun like prayer of psalm. There are exactly 6 psalms that bear this word in their title. Some translate it as "golden psalm." When translated as such, golden is meant to indicate the psalm is precious. Some believe it indicated a specific tune.[11][13] Merriam Webster say the word refers to atonement.[12]

Psalm 16 tells us that our sorrows will be multiplied if we chase after false gods. We are to set the Lord before us. Remember, in other passages we are told that God is our rock, when we set Him before us and cling to Him, we cannot be moved! In doing so, we reap the protections and love of God. He will not leave us to suffer death. (Please see the note below about hell.)

If we aren't careful, Psalm 16:10 can be misinterpreted to mean there is a chance to enter Heaven after being sentenced to Hell. However, the word translated to hell is not a reference to a place of eternal fire as most believe. The original Hebrew text reads "Sheol," and Sheol was a place for the dead, whether good or bad. This verse is saying that the good people will not stay in Sheol, which is described as gloomy and drab.
As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.Psalm 17:15 KJV

Psalm 17

A Prayer of David
This psalm is a prayer for favor from David to God. We all want to be favored by God because we desire His protection. As such, David humbles himself first, pleading with God to hear his case.

D avid says that he will behold God's face and be satisfied when he awakes with it's likeness. I don't think David meant this literally. We are called to follow the ways of God. Before the world fell to sin, Adam and Eve were described as being made in the image of God. We aren't described as such after the fall, but we haven't changed in appearance (that we know of). The major change is in our behavior. We no longer conduct ourselves with the righteousness of God. David is declaring that he will make himself in the image of God by following the righteousness of God's commands.

Psalm 18

To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul: And he said,
Not only is this one of the lengthier psalms, the title is quite lengthy as well. Like most of the titles, this one credits David as the author and establishes that it was likely written for the chief musician during the reign of David. This psalm, however, also references the deliverance of David. This psalm is clearly about the period after Saul's death when David had finally been delivered to peace. This victory over such a powerful enemy can clearly be seen throughout the psalm. David talks about God as a protector, shares the sorrow he felt while on the run, reminds us that God always delivers His people, and recounts the destruction of his enemies. The final verse reminds us that this psalm is indeed about God's covenant to David and promises that David's line will not fall to the enemies of God.

We are used to God being referred to as many things, a rock, or fortress perhaps, but Psalm 18:2 refers to God a buckler (at least in the KJV). Modern translations use the word shield, which is the definition of buckler.[10] God is likened to all of these protective tools because He protects His followers. God comes to our aid when we cry out to Him.

In verse 5, the psalmist references the sorrows of hell (see the note below about hell/Sheol). Here we see the desperation and pain that life can bring us; yet God delivers the psalmist from this hurdle.

God is described as speaking through environmental calamities such as hail, fire, earthquakes and thunderings. This reminded me of the descriptions of the end days. All of this is used to show the power of God as He delivers the psalmist from a strong enemy. It seems colossal, but we have to remember that the only true enemy we have is the devil. It is he who stirs up strife and turns the hearts of our fellow men against us.

In the Christian world, there are those who argue saved by grace and those that argue saved by works (to be explored deeper in a separate post). These people often neglect the clear picture the Bible gives regarding the issue. Yes, we are saved by grace, for we could never work our way into God's grace. However, we are rewarded by our works. This concept is seen in Psalm 18:20-29. The psalmist tells us that he is rewarded by his righteousness. During the Exodus, both Moses and Joshua were faithful. The will likely both be in Heaven because they accepted the grace of God. Moses, however, did not listen to God and lost his chance to enter the promised land. Joshua, on the other hand, stood for God and was rewarded with a promotion to leader and the right to enter the promised land. The psalmist is taking a moment to remind us that by following God's Word we reap blessings from God.

Of course, the reason we are to follow God is because His way is perfect. No one can take God's place and we can only find victory in following His instructions.

Psalm 19

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David
Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Vincent Guth
Have you ever observed the stars on a clear night from the fields of the country? Seen a bird take off for flight? Witnessed the aurora borealis? Does it not take your breath away to look at all that God created? Psalms 19:1 declares that the heavens testify to God's glory and I can't think of a truer statement. The wonder and majesty of God's creations clearly identify Him as King. The wonder of God's handiwork stretches across the universe, we can not escape its testimony.

We are reminded that God's law is perfect. His commands are worth more than gold; yet, we often treat His commands as a nuisance. We are to desire His ways and His statues more than the material wealth of our world. It is easy to say this, but much harder to live this idea when the world operates on materialism. This is why the Bible tells us we are not to be of the world. We must reprogram our minds to see value in righteousness over riches.

Growing up, I remember they used to say something like "let the meditation of the mind be the meditation of the heart." I'm pretty sure it was meant to be a statement of communion for the heart (controlled by God) and mind (controlled by us). This phrase shows Biblical origin in the form of Palm 19:14, where the psalmist asks the words of his mouth and the "meditation of [his] heart" be acceptable to God. We are prone to thoughts of the flesh; as such we must constantly ask God to redirect or heart and mind back to His ways. When we are aligned with Him, our hearts and minds should produce words and feelings that are acceptable in His eyes.

Psalm 20

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David
Psalm 20 discusses the issue of fighting during a time of trouble. In this psalm, we are reminded that God always comes to the aid of His people. Some men put their faith in things, like guns and bombs, to settle disputes and keep themselves safe. Psalm 20 reminds us that only God can protect us. Man made creations, whether offensive or defensive, will not always be able to protect us. Instead, we must put our faith in God.

Messianic Verses

Psalm 14:7

Psalm 14:7 tells us that salvation will rise out of Zion. The reference to captivity took my first interpretation to the Babylonian captivity. When Israel was released, certainly they rejoiced. However, their salvation didn't really come from Zion; God moved the heart of the king to release them. Next, my mind assumed this was a reference to Jesus' sacrifice. Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection both occurred in Jerusalem (or Zion) and provided salvation to Israel (and the world). Of course, immediately after this, no one rejoiced. Physical Israel was the reason Jesus was crucified in the first place and all who accepted His sacrifice and followed Him were heavily persecuted for centuries. Spiritual Israel—anyone who follows God, regardless of lineage—would not have been happy directly following Jesus' crucifixion, though they probably did rejoice after the resurrection. It seems more likely that this would be the interpretation of the verse.

Psalm 16:10

I talked a little bit about the translation of Sheol to hell both above and below. Knowing what we do about Sheol, Psalm 16:10 basically says God will not leave a man dead, i.e. God has the power to resurrect life. The knowledge of resurrection is paired with the assertion that God's Holy One won't be corrupted. Many theologians see this as a reference to Christ. Obviously, Jesus was resurrected (Matthew 28:7), but He was also never corrupted (1 Peter 2:21-22)

Psalm 16:11

When I first read that there were people who thought Psalm 16:11 was prophetic, I didn't see it. It takes near memorization of the New Testament to see the prophecy. Psalm 16:11 tells us that we will experience joy in the presence of God and learn the the path of life. Acts 2:22-33 uses the exact same phrasing to describe Jesus and proclaims it a prophecy from David!

Psalm 18:49

Psalm 18:49 is also attributed to be a Messianic prophecy by some. This verse declares that praise and thanks are given to God among the heathens. The reason this is seen as a prophecy is the simple fact that at the time of authorship, being among the Gentiles (or heathens) was considered unclean and unlawful. Only after Jesus would an Israelite be justified in praising God among the heathens. Thus it is considered fulfilled in Ephesians 3:4-6.[4]

Personally, I find the verse intriguing. Surely at the time the verse was written, the Israelites would have seen the Gentiles as heathens, but today, we would say a heathen is someone who does not praise God, regardless of their background. Depending on the original Hebrew word, the verse could be a reference to praising God in the presence of non-believers, suggesting the Israelites would be praising God among foreign people (which they did!), or it could be a reference to partaking in worship with the Gentiles. The original Hebrew word is goy which means nations or people.[14][15] Modern translations such as the NKJV and NIV use the word Gentile instead of heathen, favoring the latter interpretation.

The Meaning of Selah

Scholars are unsure what selah means; it appears frequently in Psalms and occasionally in Habbakuk, but no where else in the Bible. It is thought that the word was derived from Hebrew words meaning "to praise," "to lift up," and "to pause." Since the psalms are often prayers and songs, it is possible that selah was a musical instruction for performers.[2]

Sheol vs. Hell

Many people will envision fire and torment at the mention of hell, but we have to remember to keep the text in context. The original Hebrew word translated to hell is Sheol. Sheol was not a place of everlasting torment, but simply a grim abode for all dead people. Sheol is likened to Hades; in fact, the Greek translation reads Hades instead of Sheol.[9]

References

  1. "Psalm 2:7". Bible Hub; visited June 2017
  2. "What does selah mean in the Bible?". GotQuestions.org; visited June 2017
  3. "What is iniquity according to the Bible?. GotQuestions.org; visited June 2017
  4. "Psalms". Messiah Revealed; visited June 2017
  5. Emma Innes. "Toddlers DO know best: Children as young as three can tell by a person's face if they're trustworthy". Daily Mail. March 6, 2014
  6. "What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of Man?". GotQuestions.org; visited June 2017
  7. "Higgaion". Bible Study Tools; visited June 2017
  8. Neil DeGrasse Tyson. "Neil deGrasse Tyson: Atheist or Agnostic?". YouTube, via big think. April 25, 2012
  9. "Sheol". Bible Hub; visited July 2017
  10. "Buckler". Bible Study Tools; visited July 2017
  11. "Michtam". Bible Hub; visited July 2017
  12. "Mitcham". Merriam Webster; visited July 2017
  13. "What is a michtam in the Bible?". GotQuestions.org; visited July 2017
  14. "1471. goy". Bible Hub; visited July 2017
  15. "Psalm 18:49". Bible Hub; visited July 2017

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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