A TREASURY OF DAVID Psalms 13–19“But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation” (Ps. 13:5).Seven psalms written by David help us sense the intimate life of prayer and praise which was the foundation of his greatness.
The believer trusts God (Ps. 13), but wicked men doubt His existence (Ps. 14). Righteous behavior (Ps. 15) and a dedicated heart (Pss. 16–17) bring blessing, for God Almighty saves His own from their enemies (Ps. 18). God declares His glory in creation and in His Word (Ps. 19).
Understanding the Text
Psalm 13: Benefits of Trust.
The believer, like others, is vulnerable to despair—but can find peace through prayer. “Sorrow in my heart” Ps. 13:1–6. David knew times of turmoil and uncertainty. The sense of impending disaster troubled him. David turned to God and honestly expressed his feelings of impending doom (vv. 3–4). Then David remembered God’s “unfailing love,” and his emotions were transformed. The despair was replaced by rejoicing, and David found himself singing to the Lord (vv. 5–6). This psalm reminds us that joy is just a prayer away from despair. We can bring our emotions as well as our needs to the Lord. As we focus on who the Lord is, our emotions will be transformed. Psalm 14: The Fool and God. Evildoers never realize that the path they have chosen has brought them outside the circle of God’s love. “The fool” Ps. 14:1–3. The Hebrew word, nabal, is a term that describes a person whose heart is closed to God and whose life is characterized by gross immorality (cf. Jdg. 19:23–24; 2 Sam. 13:12; Josh. 7:15). This powerful psalm reflects Paul’s teaching in Romans 1. A person who will not acknowledge God becomes corrupt and does “vile” deeds. The psalm reminds us that no one who closes his heart to the Lord “does good, not even one.” “Will evildoers never learn?” Ps. 14:4–7 David seemed to shake his head in bemused amazement. Even in this life evildoers live with a sense of dread. How much better off are the poor whom they exploit, who have a refuge in the Lord. God will soon act and “restore the fortunes” of His people. We should never envy those who exploit us. We have access to God, and will be blessed in the end. Psalm 15: A Blameless Life. Only the person who lives a righteous life has fellowship with the Lord. “Dwell in Your sanctuary” Ps. 15:1. In Old Testament times God’s presence with Israel was symbolized in the temple. To “dwell in” that sanctuary pictures intimate fellowship with the Lord. “He whose walk is blameless” Ps. 15:2–5. This simple description provides a good checklist against which to measure ourselves. And what a promise! “He who does these things will never be shaken.” Psalm 16: A Heart for God. This beautiful psalm looks beyond behavior to portray the inner life of a man whose heart is filled with God. “You are my Lord” Ps. 16:1–2. David knew God not just as Lord, but as “my” Lord. Apart from this relationship, nothing he had was “good” (beneficial, of benefit). David then went on to consider those good things which were his through personal relationship with the Lord. “The saints . . . in the land” Ps. 16:3–4. One good we receive is relationship with others who also know God as “my” Lord. Fellowship with other believers can be a delight. “You have assigned me my portion” Ps. 16:5–6. The Hebrew says “allotted.” This recalls the Conquest of Canaan, when the land was first divided among the tribes by lot. As God controlled the fall of the lot (like our dice), each family felt that it received its property directly from the hand of God. David used this imagery to convey his belief that God sovereignly gave him his own lot in life. Each of us can have this joy. For God has placed each of us where we are, and will use us there. “The Lord, who counsels me” Ps. 16:7–8. Each of us too can experience God’s guidance. When we “set the Lord always before” us, keeping our eyes on Him, always following where He leads, we will “not be shaken.” “The path of life” Ps. 16:9–11. With the Lord as our Lord, we have security in this life and can look forward to an eternity of joy in God’s presence. Psalm 17: The Apple of God’s Eye. Confident of God’s great love, the believer chooses righteousness and looks ahead with confidence. “My righteous plea” Ps. 17:1–5. Those who resolve not to sin can have great confidence in prayer. “Show the wonder of Your great love” Ps. 17:6–9. We pray because we expect a God who loves us to act. The “apple of the eye” is the pupil. The image may suggest God’s eyes are constantly on the believer, watching over him. Or it may suggest that God protects the believer, who is as precious to Him as this window of the eye which makes sight possible. “Like a hungry lion” Ps. 17:10–14. If David looked around, he saw enemies on every side. But when David looked up, he saw God, who “by Your hand” could “save me from such men.” It does make a vital difference whether you and I look around or look up. Looking around creates fear; looking up brings confidence. “I will be satisfied” Ps. 17:15. David had awakening from sleep in mind, yet the verse possibly expresses his confident hope of resurrection. Psalm 18: The Greatness of God. David’s clear vision of God’s awesome power and love remains a source of encouragement for believers today. This long and beautiful psalm focuses our attention on those attributes of our God which are vital to remember when troubles come. “I am saved” Ps. 18:1–6. David’s prayers had been answered. God hears and responds to cries for help. “He parted the heavens” Ps. 18:7–19. Our prayer—answering God is the “Most High.” His past acts of intervention in the world reveal His awesome power. “He has rewarded me” Ps. 18:20–29. David did not speak in pride, but in praise. God rewards those who seek to live righteous lives. “Arms me with strength” Ps. 18:30–45. God is a source of constant strength to those who trust Him, and He gives victory to the righteous. “The Lord lives!” Ps. 18:46–50 The God of history lives today, to save us from our enemies. We serve an all-powerful God who answers prayer, and who does intervene for us when we are in need. Psalm 19: The Glory of God. God’s glory is revealed in creation, which displays His power, and Scripture, which displays His moral purity. “The heavens declare” Ps. 19:1–6. God speaks to every human being through creation. Every person has some truth about God, for the universe which displays “His eternal power and divine nature” (Rom. 1:20) shouts out to human beings without speech or language. “The law of the Lord” Ps. 19:7–14. God’s glory is more perfectly displayed in God’s Word, which reveals His character and provides moral guidance. The Word offers warning, and promises great reward for those who please God.
Guidance from the Psalms(Ps. 15)
I was teaching a short, two-day course at Princeton Seminary’s continuing education center, when I realized how much I did not want to come back the next summer. Several months earlier I’d said that I would come to teach a two-week summer course. But as I flew east from my Phoenix home, I felt how much I missed my family. And I remembered about all the writing I had to do during those summer months. The thought of two weeks away during the next summer became almost unbearable. So I decided, the last day of my short visit, that I’d tell the seminary that I just couldn’t make it. But that morning, my daily psalm “just happened” to be Psalm 15. As I read, one verse seemed to jump off the page and confront me. The blameless man “keeps his oath even when it hurts” (v. 4). I knew then that I had to return. Usually when I read the Psalms it’s for personal enrichment and/or worship. They lift up my thoughts and my heart to the Lord. But now and then God has a personal word of guidance for me in a psalm. And when God speaks, there’s nothing to do but to listen and obey.
God can give us personal guidance through any passage of His Word. As we read, we need to listen carefully.