Introduction: Each year brings with it many unknowns and can cause us to fear the future or resign ourselves to what we may be tempted to view as bleak prospects and dashed hopes, with minimal answered prayers. Indeed, this hopelessness for the believer is so common that the book of Proverbs can say, “Hope deferred makes the hearts sick”. How are we to resist giving up when the heavens seem to be silent to our prayers? Well, there is no better place to go than the Psalms for some healing balm for our hope-starved souls! Let us turn, then, for these Bible notes for Thanksgiving week, to Psalm 10-13. May the consideration of these Psalms deepen our communion with the LORD, corporately and personally, as we learn to appreciate how His Word meets our questions, and soothes our heart-broken laments. May we then find ourselves full of fresh thankfulness to God, even in the midst of our darkest valleys.
Monday: read Psalm 9:15-10:2. Many have noted that there is no title for Psalm 10, and scholars naturally look back at Psalm 9 as providing a possible connection between these two Psalms. In particular, the theme of God judging the wicked connects both. In Psalm 9:15-20, for example, the ultimate destruction of the wicked in the final judgment comes to the fore. How timely David’s prayer in Psalm 9:19-20 sounds in our day of international upheaval!
“Arise, O Lord, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, O LORD; let the nations know they are but men.”
Meditate and Pray: Lord, thank you for the mighty prayers of these Psalms, as their author wages a war of imprecation against the wicked. Though many of these “war-prayers” cannot find proper expression on our sin-compromised lips, we thank you that the Psalms are the songs of our warrior King Jesus – and He with absolute integrity and measured, holy retribution can utter the prayer: “Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out”. Amen to these words in the mouth of our Savior from Psalm 10:15!
Tuesday: read Psalm 10:1-2 & 13. There are certain key questions which Psalms that lament wickedness and sufferings characteristically ask. We take the first question for today: “Why O LORD?” “Why does the wicked man revile God?” (Psalm 10:13); “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1).
These questions are all through the Psalms, expressing the profound darkness into which the tested and afflicted believer may fall. It is a most difficult place to be, to have every fiber of your being cry out: “why?” Even Jesus knew the depth of perplexity behind this question, as He cried out in real God-forsakeness: “Why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). But His “why?” was much deeper in its suffering and inexplicability than our questions ever will be!
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God for what Pastor Tim Keller calls, “the relative nature of our perplexity and darkness”. We may for a long time ask “why?” and not receive an answer from the LORD. We may have to wait until Heaven before all our questions will be answered. But, when that time comes, our hearts will break forth in adoration and praise – because every answer to our “why’s?” will be a light-filled answer!
But oh, how different for Jesus when He cried out “Why… Why have you, my God, forsaken me?” Can we ever really understand how it could be that, at the very time when Christ’s obedience was at its height, as He willingly went to the Cross to honor His Father, then it was that He was God-forsaken? There was no answer to Christ’s “why?” except the mystery of Christ’s taking our sins to the depths of the God-forsakenness of Hell!
Wednesday: read Psalm 10:1-11 and Psalm 13:1-2. The second frequently asked question of grief and perplexity in the Psalms is: “How long?”. “How long, O LORD? Will you forget the righteous forever?” (Psalm 13:1ff). This question is also implied in Psalm 10:2-11’s description of the wicked man, who sins with impunity since God’s promised judgment tarries. Such a hardened soul concludes in verse 11 that the long delay in God’s judgment of wickedness and rescuing of the righteous is proof that God will never act: “He has forgotten”!
Meditate and Pray: O LORD, we thank you that you do not set your alarm for action to the watches of our panic and impatience. Thank you that your timing always anticipates all the needs of every situation. Give us the grace to rejoice especially in the perfect timing of your saving work in the sending of your Son! Forgive us that our dissatisfaction with your timing usually flows from our obsession with the temporal pressures upon us in this world. Lift our eyes to see, and believingly rejoice in, the reality that, “When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4-6). Amen.
Thursday: read Psalm 12. It is important to remember that so many of the Psalms which ask, “Why?” or “How Long?” are Psalms of lament. What then is a lament? Here is a good definition:
“Laments reckon with a world that is not harmonious… In the laments the psalmist is out of sorts and confused. Something is not right in his world. He feels abandoned and threatened. God’s promises appear to be in jeopardy … God often seems unaware of the crisis or unconcerned about it.” Ed Cathey
Meditate and Pray: How patient God is to take so much complaining and lamenting from our lips. How gracious for God to include so many laments in the Psalter! Such laments are for us – to give us words to express our heart-broken grief when all we can do is ask, “Why?”, “How long?” As one scholar puts it, magnifying the grace behind God’s patiently hearing, and then recording these laments:
“The very presence of such prayers in Scripture is witness to God’s understanding. He knows how men speak when they are desperate.” Derek Kidner
Friday: read Job 42:3-5. Beyond the questions which perplex us, and which often flow from our lips in times of trouble, when we as God, “Why?”, “How long?” or even “Where are you?” – there is one ultimate question towards which all our God-ordained trials are to flow: “Who are you LORD?” This is the final question which we are to aim for in all our afflictions, as we ask God to reveal Himself to us at such times. It is a question that is implied in every ray of hope with which most of Psalms end, and one produced by the Spirit of God in the heart of the suffering believer whose trials make Him hunger to know God in his affliction. This question is the question which is answered for Job, and which causes him to cover his mouth at the end of his words to God… “Who are you LORD? I had heard about you with my ears… but now I want to know you more!” (See Job 42:3-5).
Meditate and Pray: Oh masterful Craftsman-God… we long to know you more – even if it takes a cross of suffering for our relationship with you to grow. We are all like Job’s friends. We think we are experts in theology and can glibly provide an answer for every kind of suffering. But when you take us through the valley of the shadow, then it is that we see what a great Shepherding God you are! Please pursue us with your deep lovingkindness in our trials. Save us from superficial knowledge of you. Do that deep work in us through suffering so that we learn what Paul means when he says that he wants, “to know Christ in the fellowship of His sufferings”. Give us that fellowship with you, each and every one us us. Amen.