The first time I preached in public was when I lived in Dublin and I preached on a psalm. Not Psalm 9, but Psalm 63 which begins:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
The sermon was recorded and the recording sent to my minister in Bangor, who sent me some feedback in a note. He was very positive and encouraging, but he had one main complaint. I don’t remember the exact phrase he used, but in effect he was saying it wasn’t christological enough. In other words, there wasn’t enough of Christ in my sermon. Christian preachers must always preach Christ, no matter what the text is. Whether the preacher is preaching from the Old or the New Testament, he must always preach Christ, the only Saviour of the world.
And my minister was absolutely correct, because didn’t the Lord Jesus say that the Scriptures are about him? I referred last week to that passage in John 5 when the Lord criticised the Jews, because though they searched the Scriptures and knew them back to front, they didn’t realise that the Scriptures — and for the Jews at that time, the Scriptures meant the Old Testament — they didn’t realise that the Scriptures testify about him. They’re all about him. And I mentioned as well the time when the Risen Lord Jesus met the disciples on the road to Emmaus; and beginning with Moses and all the prophets he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. The Scriptures are all about him.
And so, as we’ve gone through the psalms on Wednesdays evenings, I’ve tried to show how each psalm testifies about him. John Calvin said that the psalms are ‘an anatomy of all the parts of the soul’, because — he said — all our emotions are represented in the psalms. Calvin said that the psalmist lays open our inmost thoughts and affections: our griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, and perplexities. What we feel is set out in the psalms. And that’s true and John Calvin is quite right. But while all our thoughts and emotions are represented in the psalms — so that we often find ourselves identifying with the psalmist and we think to ourselves that’s just what I’m feeling — nevertheless the primary purpose of the psalms is to focus our thoughts on Christ the Saviour.
And so, the righteous man of Psalm 1 who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night is the Lord Jesus, because he’s the only truly righteous person.
And the Lord Jesus is the king whom God installed on his holy hill in Psalm 2, because after the Lord suffered and died for our sins, God the Father raised him from the grave and exalted him to heaven where he was installed as King over all.
And he’s the one in Psalm 3 who faced many foes and many enemies rose up against him; and so, he called out to God the Father for help. He’s the one who lay down in the grave, but who was woken from death, because the Lord his God sustained him.
And he’s the one in Psalm 4 whose enemies were telling lies about him and who were spreading false reports about him, but he called on them to repent and he entrusted himself into the hands of God.
And he’s the one in Psalm 5 whose life on earth was a life of conflict, because he faced enemies who plotted against him and false witnesses who made all kinds of false allegations against him.
And he’s the innocent sufferer of Psalm 6, suffering because of the anger and wrath of God, though he had done nothing wrong.
And he’s the one in Psalm 7 who faced false accusations, but who was finally vindicated by God, the righteous judge, when God raised him from the dead.
And he’s the one in Psalm 8 who was made a little lower than the angels whenever he came into the world as one of us; and who has now been crowned with glory and honour in the presence of the Lord God where he rules over all things.
So, each of the psalms points in one way or another to Christ the Saviour. Yes, the psalms are about us and all our thoughts, and our griefs and sorrows and fears and all our other emotions are portrayed in the psalms. But the psalms are first and foremost about Christ the Lord.
And so, today, we come to Psalm 9, which is another psalm of David. David was God’s Anointed King; and he points to the Lord Jesus, who is God’s True Anointed King. And this psalm can be divided into two main parts: verses 1 to 12 and verses 13 to 20. In verses 1 to 12 he praises God for his past acts and for being a refuge for those who trust in him. And in verses 13 to 20 he prays to God for help. Because it contains a prayer for help, some commentators say this is a psalm of lamentation, which we’re familiar with by now, because many of the psalms we’ve studied so far were psalms of lament, where the psalmist is in trouble and cries to the Lord for help. But Psalm 9 is an unusual lamentation, because it contains praise and thanksgiving at the beginning. There’s praise because God has shown himself to be a righteous judge who judges the wicked. But then, there’s a cry for help to God, asking him to help the afflicted once again.
Verses 1 and 2
And the psalm opens in verses 1 and 2 with the psalmist declaring that he will praise the Lord with his whole heart; and will tell of all his wonders; he will be glad and will rejoice in the Lord and will sing praise to his name. He’s the Lord; and there we have God’s special covenant name once again, which is LORD in capital letters. This is the name he revealed to his people and it speaks of his commitment to them, because he has bound himself to his people with a promise. And the Lord is the Most High God, the one who is above all other things. The nations believed in many gods, but the Israelites believed in only one God and he ruled over all. When you’re in trouble, it is good to know that the one we can turn to for help is both willing to help us and able to help us. He’s willing to help us, because he’s promised it. And he’s able to help us, because he rules over all.
And David refers to God’s wonders in verse 1. God’s wonders are the wonderful acts he has performed in the past. They include his act of creation, when he made all things by his powerful voice. But they also include his acts of redemption, when he freed the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, and brought them through the Red Sea, and when he fed and provided for them in the wilderness, and helped them to take possession of the Promised Land. These are his wonders, the wonderful acts he has performed. And the psalmist declares that he will tell of his wonders and will sing praise to him because of them.
Verses 3 to 6
And then, in verses 3 to 6, David tells us about one of God’s wonderful acts, when the Lord caused David’s enemies to turn back and to stumble and perish. He tells us that God upheld his right and cause; and he proclaims that God is the judge, who sits on his throne and who judges righteously. In others words, his judgment is right. He never gets it wrong; he’s not taken in by appearances or deceived by lies; he’s never unfair, but his judgment is always correct. And so, because the Lord is a righteous judge, he has rebuked the nations and he’s destroyed the wicked; and he’s blotted their name out forever. David refers to the nations, and that takes us back to Psalm 2, where we read that the nations conspired and plotted against the Lord and his Anointed King. In Psalm 2, the Lord laughed at the nations, because he regarded their plan to rebel against him as ridiculous. They could not possibly overthrow the Lord and his King. He laughed at them in Psalm 2, but here in Psalm 8, he rebukes and destroys the wicked nations.
Endless ruin has overtaken them and he’s uprooted their cities and even the memory of them has perished. Think of Sodom and Gomorrah, those wicked cities, which were totally destroyed, when the wrath of God fell on them. Entire cities were overturned. But, of course, it’s even worse than that, because we all remember Sodom and Gomorrah, whereas the memory of the wicked in Psalm 9 will be blotted out and will perish.
Verses 7 to 10
And in verses 7 to 10, David the King confesses that the Lord is the true King who reigns forever. And this eternal King sits on his throne to judge the world and all the peoples. Whereas in the previous verses David was referring to God’s past acts, he’s now referring to the future and to a future judgment that will take place. However, whereas the wicked ought to be afraid because of this coming judgment, the Lord has revealed himself to be a refuge for the oppressed in times of trouble. The word ‘refuge’ denotes a high place or a high tower, a place the oppressed can run to for safety and protection. Those who know the Lord and who know that he never forsakes those who seek his help will trust in him.
Verses 11 and 12
And this first part of the psalm culminates in an expression of praise and faith, because the psalmist calls on us to sing praise to the Lord who is enthroned in Mount Zion and to proclaim among the nations what he has done, because the Lord is the one who avenges blood. ‘Vengeance is mine’, says the Lord and he will therefore punish the guilty oppressor. But, on the other hand, the Lord remembers and will never disregard the cry of the afflicted. The afflicted may be tempted to think that no one will hear their cries and that there is no one to help them. But the Lord hears and will answer them. David mentions Mount Zion, because the Lord chose Mount Zion to be his dwelling-place among his people in those days. The Most Holy Place in the temple in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, was God’s throne room.
Verses 13 and 14
So, in verses 1 to 12 David praises the Lord, because of the wonders he has performed and for being a refuge for those who trust in him. In verses 13 to 20, he turns to God in prayer. God has done great things in the past. God has revealed himself to be a refuge for those who trust in him. So, help me! David asks the Lord to see how his enemies are persecuting him; and when he asks the Lord to see, he means he wants the Lord to look on him with compassion. And he asks the Lord to have mercy and to lift him from the gates of death. He pictures death as a city which he’s about to enter, because of his enemies. And he prays to the Lord to save him so that he will be able to declare God’s praises in the gates of Zion. So, take me from the entrance to Death City and bring me to the entrance to Zion City; and there I will rejoice in your salvation.
Verses 15 to 18
The verbs in verses 15 and 16 are in the past tense. However, the commentators suggest that David is referring to future events which are so certain that it’s as if they’ve already happened. So, because he trusts in the Lord, it’s as if the nations have already fallen into the pit they had dug; it’s as if their feet are already caught in the net they have hidden. Because the Lord is known for his justice, it’s as if the wicked are already ensnared by the work of their hands. Their punishment is inevitable. And notice, of course, that the trouble they planned for David has rebounded on themselves. So, they dug a pit to capture David, but will fall into it themselves. They put out a net to snare David, but will be ensnared in it themselves. Think of wicked Haman in the book of Esther who was hung up and died on the gallows he had made for righteous Mordecai. The Lord is so mighty that he’s able to turn the tables on his enemies in order to rescue his people.
And so, the wicked will return to the grave, all the nations that forget the Lord. Once again, the reference to the wicked nations takes us back to Psalm 2 and those nations which conspired against the Lord and his Anointed King. But they will perish in the end. And whereas the wicked forget the Lord, the Lord will not forget the needy. Whereas the wicked will perish, the hope of the afflicted will not perish, for the Lord will deliver them.
Verses 19 and 20
The psalm ends with David calling on the Lord to arise. He’s calling on the Lord to act. Don’t let man triumph. And when he refers to ‘man’ in verse 19, he’s means the wicked man who is part of the wicked nations. And so, he calls on the Lord to judge them and to strike them with terror, for they have acted wickedly. And let the nations know that they are but men. The word for ‘men’ means mortal. So, while they may boast about themselves and their great power, let them know that they are only weak, frail and mortal men who are destined to perish.
In verses 1 to 12, David praises the Lord, because of the wonders he has performed and for being a refuge for those who trust in him. In verses 13 to 20, he turns to God in prayer and asks the Lord to deliver him from the gates of Death and to judge the wicked nations.
King David points us to Christ, God’s Anointed King, who faced enemies throughout his life on earth, from the moment he was born, until he stood before King Herod and Pontius Pilate and was sentenced to death. As Peter and John explain in Acts 4, Herod and Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the Jews and conspired together against God’s Anointed King. In a sense, they dug a pit for him and they put out a net for him; and, for a while, it seemed that they had succeeded, because they managed to kill the Lord Jesus, who was God’s Anointed King. And the Lord Jesus went down to the gates of Death City; and he remained under the power of death for a time. And it seemed as if the wicked nations had succeeded and that they had destroyed God’s Anointed King.
But the Lord did not abandon his Anointed King, but he brought him out of the gates of Death City and raised him up to resurrection life, so that he was able to rejoice in God’s salvation, because God the Father raised him up by the power of the Holy Spirit and saved him from death and exalted him to the highest place, above his enemies and all the wicked nations. And the day will come, when Christ the King will return in glory and with power to judge the nations on God’s behalf. And on that day, a great separation will take place, because he will separate the wicked from the righteous: the wicked who refused to believe in him and who will be sent away to be punished forever for all that they have done wrong; and then all those who are righteous by faith, because they trusted in Christ the Saviour, and they will be brought into the presence of the Lord to enjoy everlasting life.
David spoke of his oppression and how his enemies persecuted him. And he cried to God to rescue him from the gates of death. And he spoke as a prophet and he foretold the suffering of the Lord Jesus, who was persecuted by his enemies and who went down to the gates of death. But the Lord God Almighty raised him up from the grave and has appointed him to judge the world in righteousness one day.
And as we turn to the Lord’s Table on Sunday, you should remember the suffering of the Lord Jesus, because the reason he suffered like that was because of you and your sins. Because you’re a sinner, because I’m a sinner, the Eternal Son of God came to earth as one of us, so that he could suffer death on our behalf. And as one of us, he was persecuted by his enemies who oppressed him and who afflicted him and who nailed him to the cross where his body was broken and his blood was shed. And so he died and he went down to Death City for you.
But the wonder of it is that it was his Father’s will for him to suffer like that, because by means of his suffering, he has obtained for you and for all who believe in him an everlasting salvation. By means of his death, he has atoned for your sin, which means he has paid the ransom to free you from condemnation; and by his blood, your sins are washed away forever and you’re cleansed from all your guilt. It was the Father’s will for him to suffer like that, because he died so that you might live.
And finally, remember and believe that the Lord never forsakes those who seek his help. So, when you’re faced with enemies who do not share your faith, when the wicked are against you, when you’re oppressed, and when you’re going through times of trouble, when you’re persecuted for the sake of righteousness, you too can turn to the Lord Almighty and seek his help, rejoicing in the knowledge that he never forsakes those who seek him; and he’s a refuge and a high tower for the oppressed. He is our Lord, our great covenant God who has bound himself with a promise to be our God forever. And he is the Most High God, who rules and reigns over all. And so, you can trust in him to help you in this life. And then, when you die and you go down to the gates of Death, you can trust in him to raise you up to that Heavenly Zion, that Holy City, where you will dwell with him in body and soul forever and where you can rejoice in his salvation which he obtained for you by the blood of Christ the Saviour.