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This Psalm commences with an earnest appeal, and finishes in the triumphant knowledge of God’s salvation and watch over both the Psalmist himself, and His people.
We should note that as in Psalms 26:4-5 the Psalmist is again concerned with the company he keeps (Psalms 28:3-5). This should act as a warning to us that if we would keep company with the Lord we cannot also keep company with those who oppose Him. For God will take note of the comany that we keep.
The Psalm splits neatly into four.
1). The Psalmist earnestly calls on God to hear his prayer (1-3). 2). He prays that he might not be counted among those who go astray after their own ways (3-5). 3). He rejoices because he knows that YHWH has heard him and will be his strength (Psalms 28:6-7) 4). He finally rejoices because he knows that YHWH will also be the protector of all His people (Psalms 28:8-9).
‘A Psalm of David.’
The Psalmist Earnestly Calls On God To Hear His Prayer (Psalms 28:1-3 ).
In each of these two verses the ideas fall into an abbc pattern, with each central idea then being repeated in another form. Note the contrast between the two verses. In the first the Psalmist wishes to avoid what to him is virtually a living death, a silent YHWH. In the other He joyously looks to the living God within the inner Sanctuary, in full anticipation of response. Woe be to us also if God is silent in our lives.
But there is a great deal of difference between God being silent, and our having to go through the valley of thick darkness trusting God along the way (Psalms 23:4). Sometimes we have to learn to trust God in the dark. It is not then that God is being silent, but that He is teaching us to trust Him even when the lights are off. We must not think that our spiritual lives are dependent on our feelings. They are dependent on the gracious activity of God. So even when our feelings are at a low point, we must continue to look to Him with trust and confidence. ‘In returning and rest you will be saved, in quietness and in confidence will be your strength’ (Isaiah 30:15). The valley will not turn out to be endless, and we will emerge from it the stronger.
‘To you, O YHWH, will I call,
O my rock, do not be deaf to me,
Lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down into the pit.’
He commences by calling on YHWH as his Rock. The idea of YHWH as a Rock is common in Scripture, especially as the rock on which we are founded so that nothing can move us (Psalms 18:2; Psalms 18:31; Psalms 18:46; Psalms 27:5; and often; Deuteronomy 32:4; Deuteronomy 32:18; 2 Samuel 22:2-3; 2 Samuel 22:32; 2 Samuel 22:47; 2 Samuel 23:3; etc), and therefore as the source of our strength. He is regularly described as the Rock of our salvation, and this is often connected with the idea of an impregnable fortress. It is in this Rock that we must put our confidence. What we have to do is ensure that we are ‘in Him’. And then we will be secure.
This idea of the Rock on which we are built is then also applied to Jesus Christ, where He describes Himself as the chief cornerstone of His church (Mark 12:10). Those who are founded on Him, and what He has done for them on the cross, and through the resurrection, will withstand every earthquake shock (1 Corinthians 3:11). Nothing will move them for they are founded on a rock.
For the rock in which we can find shelter from all that would get us down see Isaiah 32:2. For we must not only be founded on Him, but ‘in Him’. We must recognise that ‘we’ are dead and that our lives are hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).
Note his fear that his Rock, even YHWH, may be deaf to him, and be silent towards him when he prays, for in his eyes that would simply result in a living death. To go down into the Pit is to enter Sheol, the grave world (compare Psalms 88:3-4; Psalms 143:7). It is the world of those who do not hear YHWH. And to him the thought of being out of touch with YHWH is unbearable. It would be like joining the living dead. And the test of that is not our feelings. It is the test of the genuineness of our hearts towards Him. 28:2
‘Hear the voice of my supplications,
When I cry to you,
When I lift up my hands,
Towards the innermost place in your sanctuary.’
But the thoughts of his heart are actually in a far different direction. They are directed towards the inner sanctuary in which is the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, the earthly throne of the heavenly King, and it is to there that he cries out and lifts up his hands in prayer (a regular way of praying, compare Psalms 63:4; 1 Timothy 2:8). And even while he does this he is aware that he is speaking to the One Whom even the heaven of heavens cannot contain (1 Kings 8:27).
For us there is an even greater privilege, for our Lord Jesus Christ has made a way for us into God’s very presence, a new and living way established through Himself and the offering of Himself on our behalf, and we can ever therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, (the throne from which God reveals His compassion and lovingkindness) where we can obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 10:19; Hebrews 4:16)
He Prays That He Might Not Be Counted Among Those Who Go Astray After Their Own Ways (Psalms 28:3-5 ).
But those who would enter His presence and walk with Him, must also be careful of the company they keep (compare 1 Corinthians 5:11). And he especially has in mind here those who pretend to be one thing, while all the time having the intention in their hearts to be very different. On the one hand they speak peace with their neighbours, but on the other their intentions towards them are not for their good. And this is because they have no concern for YHWH and His works and ways. They are not out to love their neighbours as themselves, but rather to squeeze out of their neighbours as much as they can. They are selfish and concerned only for their own good.
But the problem with enjoying such company will be that we enjoy also their end when they receive their final deserts. And they will be broken down, rather than being built up.
‘Do not draw me away with the wicked,
And with the workers of iniquity,
Who speak peace with their neighbours,
But mischief is in their hearts.’
So the Psalmist does not want to be counted among those who are deliberately misleading or downright dishonest, those who are ‘workers of iniquity’, while all the time putting on the appearance of being the opposite. He does not want to, as it were, be arrested along with them and dragged off for sentence (‘drawn away’). For he does not approve of their ways. This is a warning that we should consider people’s motives and well as their outward actions before we involve ourselves with them. How easy it is to be led astray by those who outwardly appear only to be concerned for what is good, while having a hidden agenda in their hearts.
In this verse we have parallel ideas in the first two lines, the wicked and the workers of iniquity, followed by a contrast which is in a sense a test. They speak peace with their neighbours while their intention towards them is very different. Like him therefore we must always consider the genuineness of our thoughts and actions. We must ensure that our hearts are true.
‘Give them according to their work,
And according to the wickedness of their doings.’
Give them after the operation of their hands,
Render to them their desert.’
The Psalmist wants to have no time for such people. He agrees that they should receive their full deserts because of the ways in which they behave. Here we have an abba pattern. Centrally their doings are wicked, as are the operations of their hands, ideas which are contained within the envelope of giving them according to their works, and rendering to them what they deserve.
If we see this as harsh we must remember that these words are on the mouth of one who has been called to act as a judge in Israel. He has a responsibility for law and order. Thus it is a cry that God will enable him to ensure sound justice without fear or favour, and to remove criminals from the streets, while at the same time ensuring that he only gives them what they deserve. He is aware that he must ever remember that he is acting on behalf of God.
‘Because they do not regard the works of YHWH,
Nor the operation of his hands,
He will break them down,
And not build them up.’
In the end their behaviour is the result of the fact that they have no concern for YHWH, and are not interested in His doings. They are like the fool who says in his heart, ‘there is no God’ (Psalms 14:1). And the result will be that they will be dismantled rather than being built up. Their lives will come to nothing. Note the contrast with Psalms 28:4. The operation of their hands is precisely because they do not take notice of the operation of His hands. Their doings are wicked because they ignore His works. We can compare here Isaiah 1:16, ‘put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well ’. It is not that God has not given them a chance to repent. If they are willing to do so there is always a way back.
Note also the impact of the illustration taken from the idea of pulling down and erecting buildings. They have had no interest in what God is achieving, and act contrary to it, and so, although they may stand proud for a time, He will dismantle them and whatever they are achieving, for it is contrary to His ways. Rather than building them up and making them eternally useful, he will bring them crashing down. In the end their lives will count for nothing. Compare Psalms 73:17, ‘until --- I considered their latter end’. Many a building stands proud, tall and immovable, until the arrival of the demolition squad. We should look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen, for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
He Rejoices Because He Knows That YHWH Has Heard Him And Will Be His Strength (Psalms 28:6-7 ).
His thoughts now become more positive. The negative was necessary, but now he begins to look upward. He has prayed through to a point of confidence and faith. And the more he prays the greater his faith. (‘This kind goes out only through prayer’ - Mark 9:29, for it is prayer that produces growth in faith).
‘Blessed be YHWH, because he has heard
The voice of my supplications.’
He begins by blessing God for having heard his pleas. The fears of Psalms 28:1 b have departed, and he praises Him for listening to his supplications. It is a reminder to us that however dead our prayers might appear, if we genuinely approach Him in Jesus’ Name (with His good in mind, not ours), we can be sure that they are being attended to.
‘YHWH is my strength and my shield,
My heart has trusted in him, and I am helped,
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song will I praise him.
And having blessed God, he now firmly establishes himself on what he knows about Him. It is He Who is the source of his strength, and is the great shield behind which he can take shelter. He knows that YHWH the Mighty Warrior, the God of battle, is acting on his behalf, both positively to give him the victory, and negatively to keep him from all harm, and that he is being helped. No wonder then that his heart rejoices and he is filled with praise. He knows that one with God is a majority. Note the order. He meditates on what God is on His behalf, then he is helped, and this causes him to rejoice in his heart, with the result that the praises break forth from his mouth.
He Rejoices Because He Knows That YHWH Will Be The Protector Of All His People (Psalms 28:8-9 ).
But the Psalmist is not only concerned for himself. His concern is for all God’s people. And he rejoices because what God is for him, He also is for them. He has now become one of God’s intercessors. This was in fact one of the king’s privileges. He could approach God on behalf of his people because he was a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek (Psalms 110:4). But that is also our privilege too, for we have become sons of the King, called upon to reign with Him (Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:4; 1 Corinthians 4:8).
‘YHWH is their strength,
And he is a stronghold of salvation to his anointed.’
Note the change to ‘their’. What YHWH has been for him (his strength and shield,) He is also for His people. He is their strength and their stronghold, the strength on which they can constantly draw, the stronghold into which they can enter in order to be saved. He is a strong refuge (Psalms 71:7; Psalms 61:3). The righteous run into it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10).
‘To His anointed.’ This may refer to the king as the anointed of YHWH and the representative of his people (Psalms 2:2; Psalms 18:50; Psalms 20:6; 2 Samuel 22:51; 2 Samuel 23:1; etc), or to the people themselves, whom God has set apart for Himself under the shelter of His Name. Our blessing too comes because we are sheltered under the Name of His Anointed, even Jesus in Whom we trust.
Save your people,
And bless your inheritance,
Be their shepherd also,
And bear them up for ever.’
So he finishes by calling on God to save His people and bless His inheritance. They are not only His people but of value to Him as well (compare Exodus 19:5-6). And they are something for which He has a responsibility. Thus he asks Him also to be their shepherd and to uphold His people for ever, bearing them up in His arms (compare Isaiah 40:11).
But David could never have dreamed that one day this very Shepherd would come down from above to be the good Shepherd Who would die for His sheep, so that they might follow Him and be given eternal life and total security (John 10:11; John 10:17-18; John 10:27-28). How much more then should we praise the Name of Him When we consider how much He has done for us.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 28". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany