Sermon

God's Word Faithfully Preached from the Pulpit

The LORD will Not Forsake His People (Psalm 94 and Luke 4:17-21)

  • We continue our sermon series based on the book of Psalms, which we understood as Christ’s Psalms and Our Psalms.
  • The different forms of the psalms and messages of the psalmist teach us the kind of praise and thanksgiving that God is looking for as well as the kind of prayer and lament that is acceptable to him. (Not to be self-centered/human-centered like many Christians used to today)
  • Psalm 94
    • Author unknown (No evidence of Davidic authorship, but neither it is impossible for David to write it while being persecuted by Saul)
    • No indications of date of writing, but its subject matter points to a time of widespread apostasy and injustice. Given the troubled history of Israel (e.g., Judges, Kings), the situation in the Psalm is too common and could fit any period of time.
    • A corporate or community prayer psalm, or communal lament (The psalmist representing the community of God’s people)
    • There are numerous themes conveyed in this lengthy psalm, but overall, the psalm provides us a prayer in the face of injustice, a warning against the wicked, and an encourage and assurance that the LORD will not abandon his people.
  • Flow
    • Evaluation of the Psalm and its content
    • Major principles in the Psalm (Sermon Points); Connection to Christ (fulfillment)
    • Conclusion and Application to believers today

Evaluation of the Psalm and Its Content

  • Placement in the Psalter
    1. Kingship psalms (Ps. 94-99)
    2. Some scholars argue that it lacks certain elements contained in other kingship psalms (e.g., “the LORD reigns,” “throne”)
      • Psalm 93:1-2
      • Psalm 95:3
      • Psalm 96:10
      • Psalm 97:1
      • Psalm 99:1
    3. But the reference to God as “God of vengeance” (“God to who vengeance belongs” points to a task that is a privilege belonging to a king. Without ultimate authority, he cannot execute justice (see Psalm 99:4)
    4. Another reference is to “people” (Psalm 94:5). The King has his subjects.
    5. Hence, though there’s no explicit mention that “the LORD reigns” supreme and omnipotent above everything, it is the message of the Psalm. And the prayer or lament of the Psalmist is grounded upon this truth that God is King over all.
  • Structure and content of Psalm 94
    1. vv. 1-2 – A petition to the LORD (request)
      • “God of vengeance” (repeated for emphasis)
      • “Shine forth!” “Rise up!” – Not as if the Psalmist commands God so that he will act, but he invokes God’s justice based on his understanding and assurance that God will indeed serve justice.
      • Affirmation of his faith that God is a just God and has the supreme authority to execute justice. (*Our prayers reflect our theology).
    2. vv. 3-7 – A lament (cry of grief and sorrow)
      • v. 3 – “How long” (Repeated for emphasis). Not that God is negligent and isn’t working. But it speaks of the Psalmist’s great and deep longing for God’s justice that he wants it to be served now.
      • v. 6 – “Widow, sojourner, fatherless” – The most vulnerable in the society, representatives of the class of people that requires special care and attention (cf. Deuteronomy 14:29). To oppress them is direct defiance against God.
      • v.3 – The “wicked” and “evildoers” oppress them – Wicked people will always use their power to take advantage of the weak and vulnerable. And they are proud (not referring to pride even among believers), exulting themselves before God and against God.

        (v. 4 – synonymous parallelism – 2nd half verse restates and amplifies the 1st half). They are really proud about their wickedness!  Since they are able to oppress others (who cannot fight against them), they think that they are powerful and untouchable.
      • V. 5-6 – “Crush,” “afflict,” “kill,” “murder” – Related to the “floods,” “thunders of many waters” and the “waves of the sea” in Psalm 93. As the floods and waves threaten and overwhelm the Psalmist, the wicked also threatens the people of God.

        Nevertheless, as God is mightier above the waters, God—the God of vengeance—also reigns above the wicked. Hence, it is foolish for them to think and say, “The LORD does not see…”
    3. Vv. 8-11 – A word of instruction for the wicked (confrontation)
      • v. 8 – “Dullest,” “Fools” – Wickedness demonstrates foolishness
      • vv. 9-11 – “Planted,” “Formed” – God formed the ears and eyes as senses and mechanisms for man. But the LORD is sovereign over what he has planted and formed. And if God provided these mechanisms that enables man to take notice, it is foolish to think that the LORD who made them is unable to notice as well.

        “Discipline the nations” “rebuke” – Reflects Psalm 2, that God is above the nations and rebukes those rulers who go against him

        Here the Psalmist points to the omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence of God. The wicked cannot escape the notice of God or the sovereignty of God.
    4. Vv. 12-16 (or 12-15) – A word of comfort for the afflicted (encouragement)
      • “discipline” “teach” – Contrary to the foolish wicked men who would not consider the truth about God, the believers who submit to God’s instructions are called “Blessed.” (Not material blessing, but favor from God)
      • “Until a pit is dug for the wicked” – While the believer will find deliverance from trouble, the wicked receive God’s judgment. Judgment is certain for the wicked, but God “will not forsake or abandon his people.”

        The faithfulness of God to his covenant. Though there are times when the Psalmist feels that God seems silent, he is never absent. God’s people can be certain that they have not been, and will not be, abandoned by him.
    5. Vv. 17-23 (or 16-23) – A confession of faith (affirmation of hope)
      • v. 16 – “Who” – The clear answer is God
      • v. 17 – “land of silence” – Land of the dead
      • vv. 17-19 – Affirms the the truth that in the LORD, there is protection from the wicked in times of injustice and oppression.
      • vv. 20-21 – “wicked rulers” “injustice by statute” – They have institutionalized wickedness and oppression. “They band together” (i.e., scheme). Nevertheless, justice will certainly be done sooner or later.
      • vv. 21-23 – The LORD is the stronghold of the righteous, and he will wipe them out (repeated for emphasis).

Main Points in the Psalm and Implications

  1. PRAYER FOR GOD’S JUSTICE AGAINST THE WICKED
  • But isn’t it “unchristian” to pray for God’s vengeance against the wicked? (See Matthew 5:44).
    • Throughout the book of Psalms, there are expressions of request for God to bring justice, curse, and punishment upon someone’s head.
    • But Christ’s Command isn’t something new (Leviticus 19:18)
    • To start with, there is no psalm that is entirely a prayer for cursing. The case is, the psalmist prays for the LORD’s help against an overpowering enemy. The psalmist is being wrongly and unjustly attacked, and he runs to his covenant God to do the right thing by helping him.
      • Covenant Complaint – Keep in mind the covenantal framework of the Psalms. It is God who made a covenant to Israel. God is their God, and they are his people. And God promised to guard them, and to Abram he promised in Gen. 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.”

        So the lament or complaint against their enemies is only asking God to do what he promised, in relation with the covenant arrangement. If we are his people, he will not forsake his people.
      • Justice, Not Personal Revenge – It is zeal for God’s rule and kingdom, not for his personal advantage against the enemies. It is not a prayer that God would enable the Psalmist to personally satisfy himself in revenge against the wicked. Rather, the Psalmist takes the matter of punishing the enemy into the hand of God.

        Hence, the prayer of lament for justice against the wicked is a believer’s demonstration of trust that while he is helpless against the wicked, justice is in the hands of God who reigns.

        Even Christ himself made use of such prayers (same principle) when he pronounced woes upon those who are unrepentant (Matthew 11:20-24; 23:13-39). While Christ certainly loved his enemies and showed kindness to them and preached to them the gospel, when they showed nothing but opposition to him—the Anointed of the LORD—spoke strongly of God’s coming judgment upon them.

        Now, because God reigns, and his justice is certain…
  1. A WARNING AGAINST THE WICKED, ENCOURAGEMENT FOR GOD’S PEOPLE
  • Again, through the Psalm, the wicked are reminded of God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. They cannot execute God’s notice and justice.
  • And though they persist in their wickedness and oppression, God will always grant justice and comfort to his people.
    • Fulfillment in Christ as the ultimate proof of God’s faithfulness, love, and care for his people.
    • Matthew 9:35-36 – Not just political oppression and physical distress, but spiritual oppression from their leaders
    • Luke 4:17-21
    • While the Jewish society despised these poor and sick socially, physically, and even spiritually—God cared for them. Not to say that only the poor and sick will enter God’s kingdom. But the point is that despite injustice from men, there is comfort from God in Jesus Christ.
  • In fact, God will not only care for his people and confront the wicked. He also uses the very actions of the wicked to win the greatest victory against the greatest enemy, Satan.
    • The confession of faith in Psalm 94 must be the same confession of faith by Christ. Only Christ is the truly and absolutely “righteous” and tuly “innocent” one who was condemned to death. Herod, Pontious Pilate, and the Jewish leaders “banded together” against him.

      But throughout his suffering, Christ committed himself to the Father as his stronghold and rock of refuge. (Read 1 Peter 3:23; Acts 2:27; Hebrews 12:2).

      Christ endured the hostility of his enemies, knowing that the Father will keep him and justice will be served accordingly. By Christ’s death and resurrection, Satan was defeated, righteousness is achieved, Christ gained the victory for his people. We are powerless against Satan, but in Christ, God shows his care and love for us.
    • And to those who continue to reject the Messiah, the LORD will act as the “God of vengeance.” This was fulfilled in AD 70 when Jerusalem and the temple was destroyed by the Romans, according to the prophecy of Christ. Moreover, Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. He will destroy wicked and unrepentant sinners, and the enemies of the church, those who persecute and oppress God’s people. But he will never forsake his people, and he will deliver them in the day of trouble (judgment day).

Conclusion

  • So in Psalm 94, we see the greater context and message of the kingship Psalms. The focus is turned away from the kingship of David and his sons to the kingship of the LORD. It highlights and rejoices in God’s ability to care for his people just as he promised. God will do what David and any other king could not, and our hope is not to be fixed in any mere man but only in the LORD.
  • There will always be wickedness and oppression around us. There will be persecution. And the only strength and deliverance can be found in our covenant God. The Psalm encourages us to pray for God’s justice against the wicked. How could we pray this? Because God reigns and he will not forsake his people.
  • Hope in the Lord. God is faithful. Though not immediately visible, is enough to comfort the believer that God’s redemption is certain… And if not now, God’s justice will be served in the end.
  • God reigns and blessed are those who take refuge in him!
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