Seriously? Praise the Lord when things are bad? No problem, when things are going well. When we get what we want. But how many of us feel like praising God when things, for lack of a better word, suck? If I had a motto for my life, years ago it would have been: life sucks and then you die. Not any more. What changed? And why do I agree with the title, Praise the Lord when things are bad?
Psalm 9 For the director of music. To the tune of “The Death of the Son.” A psalm of David. Ps 9:1 I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. Ps 9:2 I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. Ps 9:3 My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. Ps 9:4 For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously. Ps 9:5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever. Ps 9:6 Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy, you have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished. Ps 9:7 The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. Ps 9:8 He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. Ps 9:9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Ps 9:10 Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Ps 9:11 Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done. Ps 9:12 For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted. Ps 9:13 O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death, Ps 9:14 that I may declare your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation. Ps 9:15 The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden. Ps 9:16 The LORD is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. Higgaion. Selah Ps 9:17 The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God. Ps 9:18 But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish. Ps 9:19 Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Ps 9:20 Strike them with terror, O LORD; let the nations know they are but men. Selah
Christians are all in for praising God, as long as the music is good, it’s the right kind of music, the volume is just right, and life is good.
With a list like that, and with the adjacent image in mind, do the letters p, r, a, i, s, and e start to fall off the letter tray when our life starts to go off the rails?
I get it, I’ve been there.
It’s hard to even want to praise the Lord when things aren’t going well.
It’s darned near impossibldif ye when pretty much everything’s going wrong.
And yet, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
And the really tough question, isn’t – praise the Lord when things are bad – the right thing to do? Doesn’t God deserve our praise even when life sucks?
Some background on Psalm 9
If you were to ask any normal churchgoing person to define a Psalm, I suppose that he or she would most naturally compare it to a hymn. A prayer, perhaps, but chiefly a hymn in which David or one of the other authors of the psalms praises God. And the person would be right! For, more than anything else, the psalms in our Bibles are hymns of praise.
But have you noticed that there have not been any purely praise psalms until now? At the end of the Psalter the psalms are nearly all praise psalms. The last five each begin and end with the words “Praise the LORD,” for instance. Here at the beginning it has been different. The first psalm celebrates the doctrine of the two ways—the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. The second is a messianic psalm, anticipating the victorious rule of God’s coming king. These first two psalms are introductory. The next psalms ask for help or deliverance or justice, all in varying ways. The psalm closest to being a praise psalm thus far is Psalm 8, which begins and ends, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” But even that psalm was chiefly a celebration of man’s place in the created universe, as we saw when we studied it. Psalm 9 is the first psalm that is chiefly a song of pure praise.
Yet I say chiefly, because the psalm has two main parts and only the first is exclusively devoted to praise. The first part (vv. 1–12) contains praise for past deliverance. The second (vv. 13–20), which grows out of it, is prayer for future deliverance. Yet so confident is this second part that it seems largely to be praise also. 1
Did you notice the line below?
But have you noticed that there have not been any purely praise psalms until now?
Is this a Psalm that only contains praise? It doesn’t sound like one when we consider:
Ps 9:13 O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!
How is that praise?
And yet, it is.
It’s a hard lesson to learn. Hard, in the sense of what we have to go through before we even cry out to God, even with something like, Why are you doing this to me! But also hard in the sense of everything we go through after that, until we finally realize that we truly should be praising God, even when things are awful.
Was David rejoicing over life’s problems – ala James’ joy during trials?
Just in case you don’t get the reference in the heading, here’s what it’s about.
Trials and Temptations
Jas 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
Jas 1:9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Jas 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Jas 1:16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
Well, considering that this passage is from the New Testament, it’s not the impetus behind someone calling David’s cry, O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!, anything close to praise.
However, as I mentioned, I agree with the author this is indeed praise.
How did David praise The Lord while crying out because things were bad?
So what is it that makes this a Psalm of praise, even while telling God things are awful?
Well, let’s take a look, generically, at what’s in Psalm 9. David writes the things below. But it’s not just what he wrote. It’s the order in which they come.
- Praise with all my heart – in all the way on praise
- will tell others of God’s wonders – like NT Great Commission
- be glad and rejoice
- Sing praise
- Enemies turn back
- stumble and die because of God – giving thanks
- supported David – giving thanks
- God judged righteously – thanks and praise
- … 2 more verses like this
- God reigns forever – praise
- God will judge righteously – praise
- God is a refuge for the oppressed – praise
- Those who know God trust Him – praise
- Sing praise for what God has done
- remembers and does not ignore the afflicted
- O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!
- Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
So – what just happened in item 13? That doesn’t sound like praise!
However, as I said, it actually is praise.
Look at the last character in verse 13. It’s a comma. And no, there aren’t commas in Hebrew. But there is a grammar and structure to combinations of words. Therefore, we see the structure below when we greatly collapse everything before verse 13 and everything after verse 13.
- verses 1-12 are praise and thanksgiving
- verse 13 is a call for help – but …
- verses 14-20 are very much a repeat of the earlier verses.
Notice, I put “but …” after verse 13 is a call for help. That’s because of the way David made his request for help from God.
Remember, David began with praise for God’s righteousness, judgment, remembrance and support for the afflicted. Including himself.
Then, David calls out for help, based on the things He just praised God for.
Ps 9:14 that I may declare your praises
in the gates of the Daughter of Zion
and there rejoice in your salvation.
Conclusion – 2023.01.11 Psalms 009 – Praise the Lord when things are bad?
We now see that David makes his request of God so that He can praise God even more! So that God can continue to do the good things He’s been doing in the past. And since God has always done those things for which David praised Him in the first 12 verses, David is confident that God will continue to do those things.
It’s a model for us to pray. And in that regard, there are parallels to what Jesus taught us in The Lord’s Prayer. Praise, acknowledging God’s power, our confidence that God will continue to be God, and more praise. And in the middle of that, our request, nestled in the praise.
That’s a model we should try to follow. It’s certainly better than God, I need this. Amen. After all, God’s not a genie. Or an ATM. He’s our creator. And His plan for our life is what we really should desire, rather than our own plan. As such, it just makes sense that our request should be part and parcel of our praise.
Image by Aritha from Pixabay
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