God Is Just

Explore the Bible Series

September 13, 2009

 

Background Passage: Psalm 9:1-20

Lesson Passage: Psalm 9:1-16

 

Introduction:

 

Christian apologist Dr. Peter Kreeft has said that the problem of evil is the most serious challenge to belief in an all-powerful, loving God.Many thoughtful people struggle with the issue of theodicy (the problem of suffering), and, frankly, I have deep sympathy with those who approach this concern with transparency, tenderness, compassion, and humility.In recent months I have read several books written by men who claim to have ďlost their faith.ĒTwo books stand out to me as I reflect on Davidís poetry, expressed in Psalms Nine and Ten.

 

First, I read with interest William Lobdellís, Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in AmericaóAnd Found Unexpected Peace.Once an ardent evangelical, Lobdell gradually grew disenchanted with Christianity, largely because of things he observed covering the religion beat for the Los Angeles Times.He highlights the child abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, the opulence of many evangelical churches, and the incredible world of televangelists like Bennie Hinn.A careful reading of Lobdellís book reveals a profound struggle with the problem of evil.

 

Second, I re-read Bart Ehrmanís book, Godís Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important QuestionóWhy We Suffer.When I first encountered Ehrmanís work, I didnít give the book a fair reading; however, a second perusal shed light on my own struggles with the issue of suffering.Ehrman, New Testament professor at the University of North Carolina, did not find, as he sees it, adequate answers to one of lifeís deepest questions, and as a result of his New Testament studies, he ďlost his faith.Ē

 

Hereís my point in mentioning these two writers.Christians may choose to dismiss these concerns as irrelevant and reflective of apostate authors; or, we can listen, with patience and honesty, to the issues they raise.I have not arrived at the same conclusions Lobdell and Ehrman have, but I must acknowledge that God does not always, in this life, protect and vindicate his people, in the face of evil: NAZI operatives hanged Bonheoffer, Mary I burned at the stake Latimer and Ridley, Dr. Bill Wallace died at the hands of Japanese torturers, and countless believers have suffered and died in torturous pain and in crushing loneliness.Where is God?

 

I have agonized over the issue of the suffering the righteous.It seems undeniable that Godís people may indeed suffer greatly, and often God does not intervene to mitigate the suffering.Clearly, he does not always shield his people from persecution, economic hardship, catastrophic illness, and death.In this life, God does not always heal, renew, restore, protect, or deliver.Two things seem clear to me.First, Godís protection keeps his elect from ruining their souls, even in the presence of hardship.Second, the ultimate vindication of the Lordís people is eschatological; that is, God will settle his accounts at the end of the age with those who have mistreated his people.

 

The structure of Psalms Nine and Ten reveal King Davidís struggle with the problem of suffering, especially as it relates to a righteous person.The Septuagint combines these two Psalms in an acrostic format.Every second verse begins with successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet (this is, of course, impossible to capture in English translation), and Chapter Ten continued Davidís meditations on suffering.One cannot understand the principles expressed in Psalm Nine without wrestling with Davidís points in Chapter Ten; that is, the exaltation of Nine only makes sense in light of the sufferings of Ten.The later text explains Davidís quandary.The prideful wicked prosper and appear unassailable.They persecute and scheme against the poor, renounce the Lord, presume on the future, lie and curse, and murder the innocent.Despite their unrighteous behavior, the wicked thrive, and God seems aloof from the sufferings of his people (See 10:1).He stands afar off and hides himself, David felt.Again, we might ask, where is God?Chapter Nine reflects Davidís faith in God, despite the hardships the king faced.

 

I donít have any easy answers to the problem of suffering, especially as it relates to the hardships of those who love and serve the Lord.Frankly, I donít think the Bible offers a thorough explanation except that we must trust the Lord that all will work for his glory and our eternal benefit.†† If suffering characterizes your path today and your faith seems weak, I encourage you to marinade your soul in Psalm Nine.Borrow Davidís confidence in the Lord until your faith recovers.God bless you, brothers and sisters, especially those of you who wonder where God is while you endure some great pain.

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   The Grounds for Davidís Praise (vv. 1-12): Chapter Nine begins with a doxology that introduces and concludes this joyful hymn (vv. 1-2).These praises arose from the kingís heart and centered on the Lordís character and deeds.The next nine verses outline Davidís reasons for exaltation. Verses Eleven and Twelve return to the call to praise as David compelled his countrymen to sing to the Lord, extolling Jehovahís mercy and grace.

A.    The failure of Davidís enemies (vv. 3-4): We do not know the particular circumstance that troubled David, but it certainly involved a serious threat to the security of his reign.Chapter Ten seems to indicate that this menace arose from within Israel perhaps related to the rebellion of Absalom (though 9:5-6 may indicate an external enemy).Whatever the case, the kingís enemies stumbled, at the behest of Jehovah.David took great comfort in the Lordís justice and equity.

B.     Godís rebuke of the nations (vv. 5-6): Israelís traditional enemies, during Davidís reign, were subdued by the power of the Lord.These verses outline the thorough destruction of Davidís opponents: God had rebuked the nations, destroyed the wicked, blotted out their names forever, and rooted out their cities.

C.     The Lordís sovereign glory and justice (vv. 7-8): The imagery of the divine throne reflects several aspects of Jehovahís character: sovereignty, majesty, glory, holiness, and justice.In this instance, David emphasized Godís eternal justice and equity.

D.    Godís concern for the oppressed (vv. 9-10): Those who know the Lordís name will find, in Jehovah, a stronghold in times of trouble.The concept of knowing the divine name undergirds the covenant theological framework of the Old Testament.To know Godís name is to understand his character and to walk in intimate fellowship with him.

II.                Two Petitions to the Lord (vv. 13-20)

A.    ďBe gracious to me, O Lord. See my affliction from those who hate meĒ (vv. 13-18).

1.      David promised to praise the Lord for deliverance from the enemies of Israel (vv. 13-14): The enemyís threats had ushered the king to the gates of death; yet, even in the hour of despair, God had saved David from destruction.

2.      David acknowledged the impending destruction of his enemies (vv. 15-16): Adversaries had laid a snare for David, but, by Godís gracious design, they had fallen into their own traps. Indeed, the Lord made himself known by catching the wicked in their own devices.

3.      David contrasted the destruction of the wicked with the deliverance of the poor (vv. 17-18): Those who forget the Lord will return to Sheol, the dark place of the dead; but, the Jehovah will remember the humble, the needy, and the poor who put their hope in the Lord.

B.     ďArise, O Lord! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you.Ē (vv. 19-20): David pleaded with God to strike fear in the hearts of the nations, the fear of impending judgment and destruction.