Our God: Worthy of Praise
How would you define a Psalm? Most people would define it as a hymn of praise to God or a prayer. What is most interesting is that Psalm 9 is the first Psalm in which we see the word, “Praise” directly used in relationship to God. The last study of Psalm 8 focused on the majesty of God. Our most recent study at our Wednesday prayer meeting focused on Psalm 9. The tone of the entire Psalm is set in the first two verses of this chapter. These verses declare David’s intention of praising God and he does so in a number of ways.
First, David praises God from his heart. He writes, “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1 ESV). Worship of God from the heart is central to what true worship really is. That’s why Jesus told the woman at the well, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 ESV) True worship begins from the heart and it is not primarily what we do or even what we say. When was the last time you took time to be still and know God, especially at church during a worship service? So many times we are guilty of doing seemingly good deeds when we ought to instead be gazing on God in heart-felt, sober, and true worship.
Second, David praises God verbally and he does so primarily in word and with song. He continues, “I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:2 ESV) Many times we just assume that worship has to be only from the heart and should never go any further. That is the opposite of what David is doing here. He is clearly verbalizing his praise to the Lord. You know, I think it would be good for us to make it a point every day to acknowledge one aspect of God’s goodness and then verbalize that aspect to one person. If we would do this, we would begin to think of his goodness much more often and we would actually develop a more positive and spiritual frame of mind on a daily basis. This is recognition that God is constantly active in our lives and that he is working all things for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28)
There were three main things for which David gave praise to God. He thanked God for victory over his enemies (v. 3-6), for the working of justice and proper judgment in the earth (v.7-8), and for the fact that God was his refuge from the wicked (v.9-10). At the end of this portion of the Psalm, David once again praises the Lord echoing the verses with which the Psalm first began. Notice what David writes, “Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! (Psalm 9:11 ESV) It’s interesting that David here combines the idea of both singing and preaching. It is also very interesting to look back at great periods of church history and see that they have always been marked by both preaching and singing. For instance, Martin Luther’s hymns were being sung by the German people just as much and just as often as the words of his preaching were affecting their hearts. Another example would be the British revival that took place under John and Charles Wesley. The recovery of the gospel in that case was accompanied by an equally stirring recovery of gospel focused singing and preaching. Hymn writers such as the Wesleys, Augustus Toplady, William Cowper, and John Newton were just a few of the preachers/hymn writers that contributed to that great revival.
David closes the Psalm by focusing its on a petition or prayer to God for future deliverance from his enemies (v.13-20). There are a number of interesting points that I would like to point out regarding this petition that I believe are important for us to apply to our own lives when we petition God. First, David pleads for mercy. He says, “Be gracious to me, O LORD! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death. (Psalm 9:13 ESV) this petition reveals that David never approached God on the basis of any supposed goodness that he had performed or any achievement he had made. He always came to God as a sinner seeking mercy. This we must always have! There is nothing in us that even comes close to being a source of merit that will cause God to work on our behalf. We must have the same attitude that Isaiah had when he saw God high and lifted up. He only could cry, “Woe is me!” and so must we! David continues, “that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in your salvation. (Psalm 9:14 ESV) I think it is worthy to draw attention to the fact that David prayed for mercy as his first petition not because he desired to escape hell, or that he might live a comfortable life or prosper far above others. David prayed for mercy specifically so that he could declare the praises of God to all those that were around him. In that sense, the Westminster Confession of Faith is absolutely correct when it states that, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
Second, David petitions God to a rise in judgment upon the nations. I absolutely love how David closes the Psalm because it really puts into perspective the reality of man. David writes, “Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men! (Psalm 9:19-20 ESV) the grounds for David’s petition to God is the fact that this very thing is something that God had done for David many times in the past. It is because of God’s past deliverance of David that he now expects God to do the very same thing in the present as well as in the future. You know, sometimes we want to think that there is absolutely no hope for the United States of America or even for the world. Every day, Christians are throwing in the towel believing that the end is so near that we just simply need to hold the fort and wait for it to arrive. I believe this to be the gravest of errors! God has done great things for our country in the past in sending numerous revivals. We don’t need to throw in the towel or hold the fort. What we need to do is to seek our sovereign God and to petition him to do what he has done before and that is to break the hearts of men as only he can do. This is the kind of work that God does. It’s not the kind of work that happens because of a good preacher or even because of hard preaching. It is something that God does so that only he can receive the glory and praise for its results. May I encourage you to pray and petition our God to this extent. That he would revive us again!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:1-2 ESV)