Psalms 9 and 10 have often been read together as a single composition. Both psalms can be categorized as please of deliverance from the ‘wicked’, though as we will see, Psalm 9 introduces elements of anticipated thanksgiving. The psalm is attributed to David and begins with some instructions for its musical direction.Anticipation of Thanksgiving (9:1-3)
I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you.
Here we have David giving advance notice of his thanks for God’s deliverance and restoration, even though that is not his present reality. It is clear from the rest of the psalm that David is still suffering and that his hope for deliverance still lies in the future (see vs. 13). Despite this fact, the psalm begins with an expression of confident thanksgiving and expression of joy. It is a confident expectation based on past experiences of deliverance and an understanding of the character of God.
David says, “I will be glad and rejoice in you.” Even when there are not a lot of external circumstances to be glad in, we can be glad that we serve a God who is good, who loves us and is working in our lives. David’s joy and thanks do not rise from an already accomplished fact of deliverance, but he looks forward gratefully to a future deliverance confidently awaited and expected.God as Judge of the Nations (9:4-8)
David now introduces the theme of God as ‘righteous judge’. He sees God’s judgment as already decided but awaiting enforcement in the future.God as Refuge for the Oppressed (9:9-14)
Confident that God is a righteous judge ready to pass judgment for the righteous and against the wicked, David now proclaims God as a trustworthy refuge and stronghold for those who are ‘oppressed’ and ‘in times of trouble’ (9:9). The words ‘refuge’ and ‘stronghold’ describe a high, rocky spot that is inaccessible and thus provides protection from any enemies. David sees God as a remote and protected spot to which he can flee out of the press of trouble.God’s Judgment against the Wicked (9:15-20)
Psalm 9 concludes with a description of God’s judgment on the wicked as what they justly deserve for their violent oppression of the weak and needy. The ‘wicked’ refers to wicked individuals opposing David as well as to evil nations oppressing Israel. ‘Higgaion’ is a musical term linked with the word ‘Selah’. It probably refers to some sort of a musical interlude that was to take place at that point in the psalm.
Psalm 9 is a plea for deliverance characterised by a strong confidence in the righteousness of God which forms the basis of enduring trust and joyful thanksgiving. David’s approach to his times of difficulty becomes a model of endurance and praise for us. We are to emulate his example of faith.Lessons from Psalm 9
I think there are some excellent lessons we can draw from this Psalm for our lives today, no matter who we are. The primary one I’d like to focus on is that of our ‘joy’.
- God’s Will for You – Joy! The Christian life is meant to be a life characterised by JOY! God's purpose is that we have abundant and joyful life (see Ps.16:11; 32:11; 68:3; 100:1; 149:2, 5. Is.51:11. Zeph.3:14-17. Jn.15:11. Rom.14:17. Gal.5:22). Joy is a good thing. Research tells us that joyful people have better health, live longer, are more productive, more creative and more resilient and they are less self-focused and more generous. Joyful people have a far richer and more fulfilling life than people who are continually sad or depressed.**
From this Psalm (and some of the other Bible verses we’ve just read) we learn that we can choose to be joyful. Joy does not have to be dependent on circumstances.
- Joy or Happiness? How can we live a consistent joyful life? How do we maintain this sense of ‘gladness’ in our heart? Firstly, we have to realise that there is a big difference between ‘joy’ and so-called ‘happiness’. Happiness comes from what ‘happens’ to us. It is highly dependant on circumstances. It is external derived in that it is caused from without. Many people look for happiness in things like this: activities (accomplishments, sports, hobbies, etc), pleasure (experiences and events) and possessions (‘things’). This is a common belief about happiness – if I can experience good things in my life, I’ll be a much happier person. Yet, research reveals that very few external things lift a person’s level of happiness for any significant period of time.*** Even when things are going well externally, a person can still be struggling to find fulfilment and happiness deep inside of them (Ecc.2:1-11).
- The Source of True Joy. Genuine joy comes from a combination of three important things: your relationship with God (Ps.16:11; 43:3-4), obedience to God (Prov.29:18. Jn.13:17; 15:10-11) and right attitudes (Mt.5:3-12). Notice that deriving your joy from these three things enables your joy to be independent of circumstances. Joy comes from within – internal. All the circumstances might be contrary but there is joy within – because of its source (Hab.3:17-19. Acts 5:40-42; 16:22-26. Phil.4:4). Here in Psalm 9 we have David rejoicing in God … despite things not going well for him at this particular time in his life (see also Ps.42:5-6; 103:1-5).
How is your joy? Check your foundations: relationship, obedience and right attitudes. These must be continually maintained! No relationship, rebellion, wrong attitudes - no joy.
- Make a Choice to Rejoice! We don’t have to be led by our emotions. We can actually direct or give leadership to our emotions, just like we can lead our body, our mind (2 Cor.10:3-5. Phil.4:8) and our will (Lk.22:42). Emotions and feelings are given to us by God. They are important indicators of what’s happening inside of us. We need to pay attention to them because they’re usually telling us something we need to be aware of but they are not to rule our lives. There are many things we need to do in spite of our feelings. If we live by feelings we will never achieve our potential in life or our God-given purpose!
In Psalm 9, David is telling his soul (mind, will and emotions) to praise God … to remember that good things God has done. He is directing his mind and his emotions (giving them leadership) towards gratitude and praise.Conclusion
Sampler Discussion Questions
- God wants you to live a joy filled life! That is his will for you.
- However, that does not mean that life will always be easy. There will be times when the external circumstances are difficult and even painful.
- We can draw on God’s strength during these times and even learn to rejoice, despite what is happening externally.
- As we build our lives on a (1) strong relationship with God, on (2) obedience to His commands and on embracing (3) right attitudes, we provide a foundation for genuine and lasting joy.
- Share a time in life when you were your ‘happiest’. What do you think was the cause of it? How long did these feelings last?
- Share about a time in life when you were your saddest? What do you think was the cause of this? How long did these feelings last?
- What are some of the keys to being joyful even when things are not going well in our life?
- Why is joy such an important part of the Christian life?
- What are some ways the enemy tries to rob us of our joy? How can we guard against his attack?
* From Gerald Wilson in his commentary on Psalms (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing, 2002), p.223f.
** See Martin Seligman’s research as reported in his book Authentic Happiness (Sydney, Australia: Random House Publishing, 2002), p.44.
*** ibid., p.45-61.