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Psalms 9-10 - Higgaion and Selah

Monday, June 06, 2022

Psalms 9-10 - Higgaion and Selah

            I have been trying to write a little note about two psalms a day. In this case, two psalms were originally one psalm. I am told that Psalms 9 and 10 were originally one long psalm. At some point, this psalm was divided into two pieces. However, I want to combine them once more for this writing.

Those who know about this psalm tell us that it is an “alphabetical” psalm. Perhaps we thought Psalm 119 was the only one that fits this category. Not so! There are other “alphabetical” psalms. Unfortunately, translating from Hebrew to English lost that distinction for us. Yet, Hebrew scholars assure us that David used the first 11 letters of the Hebrew alphabet in Psalm 9:1-18 and the rest of the alphabet in Psalm 10:1-17!

            While we could discuss much in these two psalms regarding the praise David has for God (Ps. 10:16), David’s prayer for the enemies’ defeat (Ps. 10:15), and many other things, I would like to focus on two words in the text.

I want to focus on the two words “Higgaion” and “Selah.” It is interesting to note that “Higgaion” is translated in other psalms (Ps. 19:14, 92:1-3, 2:1, 38:12; Isa. 59:3, 13; etc.), but not here. Here, the translators of the KJV, LSB, TIB, ASV, ESV, NET, NAS, and several others chose to “Anglicize” a Hebrew word. What does “Higgaion” mean? It is hard to know its exact meaning, but often it is considered an utterance or a call for meditation from the reader of the Psalms (Evan Blackmore. The Book of Psalms, Vol 1. 2017. p. 180). For this reason, a handful of translations render the word “meditation” (NKJV, NLT, LSV, etc.) and even “quiet interlude” (NLT). The next word in Psalm 9:16 is “Selah.” We remember from our study in Psalm 2 that this word is a complicated word. It can mean rest, but it also carries the idea of meditation at times.

Thus, as David pens this psalm, when he comes to verse 16 of Psalm 9, the musical notation is to rest or pause and meditate on what was said. I really like these words because I think they provide added emphasis to the songs and teaching. The blessed man is one who “meditates” (higgaion) on God’s word (Ps. 1:2). Do we meditate on the teaching in the psalms? They are rich!

By application, when we sing praises to God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 13:15; Jas. 5:13; etc.), are we truly thinking about and meditating upon the meaning? Though our songs are not verbally inspired like the psalms were (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:20-21), they are based in Scripture and worthy of our meditation because of the message they teach from God’s word. We also recognize that several psalms have been supplied with a tune, and we today worship God and sing the songs once penned by David in this way. Pause! Meditate! Think about what a privilege we have when we can read these songs and sing them to God!

            Much more ought to be said, but please allow these words to encourage us to not only meditate on the words of Scripture but make sure we meditate on the “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” we direct to our God (Col. 3:16)! May they be holy! May they be offered “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24), that they might be a “sweet-smelling savor” to God (II Cor. 2:15).

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

Psalm 7

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Psalm 7 - 6/4/22

This psalm reminds us that while enemies can come from “without,” they can also come from “within”! Paul warned the Ephesians about this reality with Christians in Acts 20:28-32. In this reading, please note that this psalm was penned as a result of the actions of “Cush, the Benjamite.” There is some confusion about who “Cush” might have been, but there is no mistaking the term “Benjamite.” Remember that David was from Judah. Benjamin was one of the other Israelite tribes. This means David was crying to God for deliverance from his own people!

Sadly, harm will come to us from those closest to us at times. This is not something we like to think about, but remember that even Jesus went to ‘his own, and his own received him not” (Jn. 1:11)! It was Paul who warned the elders that, “of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Another example is Diotrephes (III Jn. 9-10). He would have been among the brethren John addressed in his letter. He would not have been someone from “outside” but a member of the congregation who loved the “preeminence”!

As we read Psalm 7, it doesn’t escape my notice that David cries for God’s justice in this case. Punishment needs to come from the Lord in this matter (Ps. 7:10-11). Yes, let us remember that God needs to be the One who punishes. It is not for us to take vengeance on others (Rom. 12:19). “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:20).

We need to read the pronouns carefully in this song, but notice how the men who turn to wickedness and hurt themselves in the end (Ps. 7:15-16). This is the way of the wicked. Wicked schemes and actions will ultimately fail! Sin will not prevail, but righteousness will (v. 9-10)! David declares this knowledge, but no doubt, it is still hard to endure under such conditions (v. 1, 14). How much harder is it when we see people acting in an evil way who should know better? Remember, this was a “Benjamite” who had done this to David! It was not a Philistine, Ammonite, Moabite, or some other “heathen” from a foreign nation!

A few things we can learn from this psalm include:

1. Let us make sure we are not acting as the Benjamite. Let us be a people who are living right and speaking right (Phil. 4:8-9; Jn. 13:34-35).

2. Let us understand that even brethren can disappoint us at times. Sometimes, they do worse than this and berate and hurt us. Let us be like David and trust that God sees and knows what is happening in those situations. He will take care of things if we are patient and allow Him to do His work (Ps. 7:1, 9-11)!

Reread Psalm 7 and take comfort in God who sees and knows. Trust Him, and let us find the good even when hard times are upon us, and people (especially brethren) wish to hurt us (II Tim. 3:12). Take all of your care to God as David did (I Pet. 5:7), and know God sees and is ready to help us in our troubles.

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

Psalm 8

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Psalm 8 

Psalm 8 is a psalm of praise to the God of Heaven (v. 1, 9). It is very straightforward and reminds us of the majesty of God and the place of man, God’s creation. The words of this psalm capture a man who is in awe of His God (v. 3-4).

This psalm holds a special place because there are sections that are connected with Jesus and His work on earth. The first place is recorded in verse 2. When Jesus entered Jerusalem during His last week, the children cried, “Hosanna to the son of David,” and displeased the chief priests and elders (Matt. 21:15). When they confronted Jesus about this, Christ asked them if they had never read Psalm 8:2. The children understood and declared the truth boldly when others might have been afraid to do so.

The beauty of God’s creation is apparent to all – even the smallest and weakest among us! Note in Matthew 21:15 that the weak ones showed the most strength as they spoke boldly and without fear before the leaders of the people. Do we not stand amazed at our children’s sincerity, boldness, and, yes, bluntness? Perhaps while we are teaching our children about life and the Lord (Eph. 6:4), we need to stop and learn some lessons from them (I Cor. 14:20)!

Jesus thought this was the case because when the chief priests and elders confronted Jesus, He reminded them of Psalm 8:2. Yes, from the mouths of babes (children), Thou has perfected praise! Is there anything more precious to our ears than hearing small children sing praises to God at the top of their lungs or hear them speak about their love for Jesus, whom they have not met (I Pet. 1:8-9; Jn. 20:29)?

When David considered the power of God, His majesty, and might, all he could do was ask, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:4). I encourage you to go out on a starry night and really watch and take in the amazing night sky. Stand and watch the ocean waves on a sunny day, or gaze at the “purple mountain’s majesty,” and you will repeat the words of David here!

Last, notice the description of man in v. 5-7. Here, we not only see a connection with Genesis 1:26-28 but also with Christ, as described in Hebrews 2:6-10. Jesus Christ came to the earth, lived as a man, and died upon the cross so that we might be saved. Just as man is “a little lower than the angels,” this is the position Jesus took (Phil. 2:5-10) that He might show us how to face temptation (Heb. 4:15; Matt. 4:1-11), and He might be the perfect sacrifice for man’s sin!

Thus, in a psalm praising God for His majesty and in awe of His power and the glory bestowed to man, we today stand in awe of how this perfect praise points to a perfect Savior!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

Psalm 5 - "Another Morning Prayer"

Friday, June 03, 2022

Psalm 5 “Another Morning Prayer”

Here we have another morning prayer offered to God in song (Ps. 5:2-3). In it, we find praise to God for His character and the condemnation of the character of evil men. It clarifies what kind of God David (and we) are worshipping (Jn. 4:24; Josh. 24:14). Jehovah is not like the pagan gods of the nations. Those gods were often portrayed as nothing more than glorified men. They would act like men, sin as men, etc. David declares that God does not take pleasure in wickedness (v. 4). He hates all who work iniquity (v. 5; Heb. 1:9).

Note the contrast as David prays God will destroy the evildoers (v. 6, 9-10) while praying for God’s fellowship when doing righteously (v. 7-8, 11-12). This recurring theme is taught throughout the Old and New Testaments. There is such a thing as right/wrong, as godly/ungodly, and we need to recognize the distinction. Our world wishes to blur these “lines” until we cannot tell righteous from unrighteous. Friends, that is a tactic of the devil. “Woe” to people who accept this false doctrine and act this way (Isa. 5:20-25).

There is a beauty in the simplicity of David’s prayer. At the same time, there is a depth that demands our contemplation. Though “selah” is not used in this psalm, it is proper to pause and consider what is said (II Cor. 13:5). Where do I fit in this psalm? Am I described in verses like 5-6 or 9-10? Am I described in verses like 7-9 or 11-12?

Verses 4 and 7 speak of evil not dwelling with God and of David going to God’s house. While this conjures up many thoughts, let me suggest that David is speaking of fellowship at its most basic. We will see this concept repeated throughout the psalms. David is focused on making sure he is in fellowship with God, and he often describes this with terms like dwelling in God’s house (v. 7; Ps. 23:6; etc.). In our modern thinking, we might equate this with Heaven, but I understand this to mean something David intends to experience on earth as well. Fellowship with God is realized now. While we look forward to Heaven one day, let us remember our fellowship and closeness with God are experienced while we are on earth.

Go back and read Psalm 5. Perhaps this is a psalm we need to pray every morning as David did!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

Psalm 3 - "A Morning Prayer"

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Psalm 3 “A Morning Prayer” 

The context of Psalm three surrounds the time when David was running from Absalom (II Sam. 15-18). I find it comforting and humbling to see David throwing himself on God’s mercy in this psalm. He cries to God concerning his enemies. Though David is king, he does not write words to the effect that he will exact revenge on his enemies (Ps. 94:1-2; Nah. 1:2-3; Deut. 32:35; Prov. 24:29; Rom. 12:17, 19)! Instead, he writes a psalm praying to God for forgiveness and that God would “smite” or “slap” (The Israel Bible) his enemies so hard that He will break their teeth (v. 7)!

Psalm 3 reminds me of Psalm 23 at times. For example, in both songs, David speaks of his enemies and how God will deliver him. In the case of Psalm 3, David’s enemies tried to discourage him and told him God would not help (v. 2). Yet, he knew the truth and knew when he cried to God, God heard him (v. 3-4), sustained him (v. 5), and defended him (v. 7). Why was David so confident? It was because he knew the source of his salvation (v. 8. Dear Christian, if you are discouraged, hurt, and insulted, please read Psalm 3 and be reminded who sustains, defends, and has saved you (Rom. 15:4)!

“Salvation (deliverance, TIB) belongs to the Lord” is what we learn in Psalm 3:8. David maintained his focus in a time of hardship, confusion, and hurt that arose from his own family. This statement is repeated when Jonah was swallowed by the great fish (Jonah 2). I find it interesting and not at all coincidental that when Jonah was suffering, he, like David, knew where to turn (Jonah 2:9)! Yes, salvation is of the Lord! It belongs to Him! If I am going to have any kind of deliverance, I need to turn to the Lord, not away from Him!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

P.S. In this psalm, we are introduced to the word “selah.” This word is seen throughout the Psalms. It is an archaic word, so old that folks have argued about its meaning for centuries. Perhaps it is a rest (just as we have “rests” in our music), crescendo, or similar musical direction. If you like, as you come to the word “selah” in your reading, rest! If this is the instruction, do not ignore it! Pause and reflect on what you read. Take it in and then proceed to the next section.

Other scholars suggest that “selah” is to be sung in the psalm. They say its meaning is similar to “amen,” or “hallelujah,” as a word of praise or exhortation. If this is the case, when you read “selah,” pause, reflect, say “Amen!” or “Praise to Jehovah!” and then continue reading with a refreshed and focused mind. See how it changes how you read this inspired poetry.

Whatever this term means, please pay attention to it as you read the psalms and note where it is written. I think the word placement (context) reveals much about this word.

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