Psalm 9:1–16comment (1)
September 10, 2009
By Douglas Wilson
Related Scripture: Psalm 9:1–16
Explore the Bible
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
GOD IS JUST
Ask friends on Facebook what justice means, and you will receive answers from every shade of the political spectrum. Some people think that justice comes when the government provides for the nutritional, residential, educational, vocational and medical needs of its citizens. Others say justice occurs when the punishment fits the crime committed. Still others believe justice and tolerance are present only if religion is intentionally absent from the forum of public opinion. As long as humanity formulates what justice means, people will never know what is truly just. Psalm 9 ends with a call for God’s righteous justice so that “the nations know they are only men.”
This partially acrostic psalm introduces another reason to worship God — He is just. Several passages are set in acrostic format, using the letters of the alphabet sequentially to begin verses or phrases. A sufficient number of the Hebrew letters are in sequence when combining Psalms 9 and 10 so that early Greek translators joined the two into one. Both speak of God reigning forever (9:7; 10:16), as well as plead for the Lord’s justice (9:19; 10:12).
According to Psalm 9, God is the measure of justice. No one can legitimately claim God is unjust or unfair. He is, in fact, the definition of fairness. The following are descriptions of God in this song: He is a righteous judge and He executes judgment with justice by striking down the wicked. Though His timing is different from ours, God’s judgment is always just.
God Rules (1–8)
The psalmist wrote of his personal response to God’s powerful reign “I will thank,” “I will declare,” “I will rejoice” and “I will sing.” Thanking God requires recognition of His faithfulness. Declaring His wonderful works requires remembrance of God’s favor. Rejoicing and boasting about the Lord require acceptance of His provision. Singing about His name requires acquiescing to God’s position as Elyon, Most High (see Gen. 14:18–22).
God judges righteously and those who follow Him experience true justice. King David faced many adversities throughout his life, some of which were a direct result of disobedience to God. Yet David saw the Lord’s provision and protection and testified, “You have upheld my just cause.” True justice requires that unrepentant, guilty people face the consequences for their rebellion against the Lord and God-ordained authority. God reigns eternally and His judgments are always right.
God Remembers (9–12)
The Lord, the God whose personal name is Yahweh, is our true Refuge. He is a sanctuary to those who follow Him by faith. In Numbers 35, six cities were to be set forth as cities of refuge when the Israelites settled the promised land. Individuals unintentionally guilty of manslaughter could flee to these cities in order to preserve their lives from family avengers and vigilantes. In another song, David used several terms that point to God’s deliverance as a city of refuge (2 Sam. 22:3; Ps. 18:2). The Lord surely offers us refuge from a conspiring world, a conniving enemy and a corrupt fleshly nature. God remembers but do we? He hears the cries of all the afflicted. By contrast, we generally cry out for justice only when we experience inequity. The Law requires remembering the Sabbath day (Ex. 20:8; Deut. 5:12), the commands of the Lord (Num. 15:39) and the days of old (Deut. 32:7), among other calls to remember.
God Rescues (13–16)
God takes care of His people. He extends grace to those who trust Him: “Be gracious to me, Lord.” In the subsequent lines, we read the psalmist’s plea for deliverance in order that he may continue to declare God’s praises. This is reminiscent of Psalm 67, in which the cry is corporate rather than individual: “God be gracious to us and bless us … so that Your way may be known on earth.” That psalm requests God’s favor so that the nations may know Him. Both psalms echo the Lord’s self-revelation in the Law: “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love” (Ex. 34:6–7). God is in no hurry with His justice; He rescues us in perfect time for our good and His glory.