Psalm 49-57

 

Why Should I Fear in Time of Trouble? 

Psalm 49 has a message that is not popular, but is definitely necessary. It was a problem during those times in the Old Testament when people assumed that things were good between them and God because they were prosperous, no matter what it took to get that way. It is one of those places in the Bible that stresses the reward in the afterlife as greater than whatever we can get for ourselves here. I don’t really understand the answer to the question of why one should fear in time of trouble, but I suppose it’s really asking why people should be concerned with God when they are being otherwise mistreated. That question it does answer. It basically says people will always get what’s coming to them, in this life or maybe after.


God Himself is Judge

Psalm 50 is a reminder that God is the ultimate judge in all things and that He knows whether or not your offerings are genuine or lip service. He doesn’t want lip service. This is a common discussion I have had with non-believers about the forgiveness of God. He knows when you’re just speaking the words and when an offering is genuine and only rewards the genuine.


Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

As opposed to the other psalms, Psalm 51 has a note for the specific instance for which it was written. It is listed as written by David in repentance for what he did with Bathsheba and against her husband Uriah. The story itself appears here.

Remembering that David did a terrible wrong to Bathsheba’s husband, getting him killed in battle and all, the fourth verse is a little misleading. The psalm suggests that David only wronged God in this instance and that is far from the truth. Still, Bathsheba was better of in the long run if we don’t assume that she actually loved her first husband or that she could have possible felt trapped into marrying David. The rest of the psalm is actually pretty awesome, though. Here is a psalm where someone recognizes that they are not a good person and not doing what God wants them to do. He also recognizes that it’s the intention behind the sacrifice and the actual repentant heart that matters most. He wants God to make him clean and bring him back into the right relationship with God so that he could then do all the things that God wants in the right spirit rather than the way he feels at the time.

The end does get a little confusing and the psalms book that I sometimes turn to even points out that the tone is different enough that it may have been added later. The last two verses bring up circumstances that weren’t a problem in the time of David. Jerusalem was not called Zion yet and mention of the walls being rebuilt both imply that it is added after the exile.


The Steadfast Love of God Endures

Psalm 52 is about trusting that God will see him through. It is also written specifically about an event in David’s life. Many of the psalms are attributed to him in different ways, but while some may have been written by David, there is also speculation that others just use melodies he has written and others are simply written about him. Whether David wrote this about his life or someone else wrote it to commemorate his life (in the same way that poetry is still written about notable figures today), this one is specifically about the time when someone told Saul about where he was.

It’s about David and his followers trusting God and those against him not trusting God. The man who told Saul where David was simply snitched, but his intention in doing this could not be known, so whether or not he did so deceitfully could be a stretch. With Saul as king, he could have simply felt he was doing his duty. Nevertheless, there were deadly consequences for those who could have been helping David and some who had no idea what was going on. Those people still trusted God that everything would work in a way that was “good” to Him in the end, that He would make it good.


There is none who does good

Psalm 53 recounts the way things are. The psalmist recognizes that there are people who don’t believe in God and who believe that everyone is essentially bad. They are fearful when they don’t have to be because they don’t believe. But the psalmist isn’t one of them and he believes that all of Zion will be redeemed at some point. Whether the battle that redeems them is literal or figurative is a completely different matter.


The Lord Upholds My Life

Psalm 54 reads like a refrain where the first part is from another song or something that is referenced here but that this one resolves it. It opens with the problem that people have risen up against the psalmist but quickly turns to praise for God having vanquished them. Okay, it’s in the future tense, but it’s so certain.


Cast Your Burden on the Lord

Psalm 55 has a great sentiment but reads a bit like a prayer for someone who is still working on it. I know it sounds like I’m being judgey but it takes a while to get the hang of things, I certainly haven’t yet. I just feel like wishing vengeance or violence on others in prayer is not the goal, even though it’s often how I really feel about a situation.


In God I Trust

In Psalm 56, we again find a specific reference to something happening to David. It could be he wrote it about this event or that someone else wrote it memorializing the event. It simply praises God for His assistance in keeping the psalmist alive.


Let Your Glory Be Over All the Earth

Psalm 57 is a beautiful psalm of thanks and praise. There’s a note that it was written during or in remembrance of David’s ability to flee from Saul with God’s help.


Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

 

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