Psalm 36 - The Blindness of Sin and the Hope of the Gospel

Text: Psalm 36:1-2

1 Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.
2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.


Penned by David, Psalm 36 is, in the words of Derek Kidner “a psalm of powerful contrasts, a glimpse of human wickedness at its most malevolent, and divine goodness in its many-sided fullness. . . . Few psalms cover so great a range in so short a span.” The Psalm opens with a condemning and all-encompassing indictment of the wicked. Vv. 1-4 explain that evil infects not only the deeds and desires of the ungodly, but their heart, their eyes, their self-appraisal, their words, their will, their deeds, and their plans. Not just part but the whole of our being is consumed, given “over” and “up” (as the language of Romans 1 puts it), to willfully embracing the native desires of our fallen hearts. This corruption is so complete that transgression itself speaks “deep in his heart.” The picture here is one of a conscious turned in on itself: warped and mangled.

How very contrary is this to the messages we hear in literature, music, art, and entertainment? Again and again we’re told: “Just listen to your heart. Follow to the still, small voice inside you. And above all, be true to yourself.” Such is the power of sin that even our most inward part, the very center of our being, tells us to abandon God and live for our selves.

Interestingly, the psalm goes on to explain that the reason there is “no fear of God before their eyes” (v. 1) is because they “flatter [themselves] in [their] own eyes” (v. 2a). Pride blinds us, in other words, so that our iniquity literally “cannot be found out or hated” (v. 2b). As long as we oppose humility—defending ourselves and minimizing what we think, feel, and do—not only can we not dislodge and do away with sin, we cannot even see it. What possible hope is there if the entirety of our being, every faculty of mind and body, has been captivated by this self-glorifying addiction to love ourselves first?

Implication (Gospel):

Our hope comes from the gospel. As John Piper put it most recently, “There is no other object of knowledge in the universe that exposes proud, man-exalting thinking like the cross does. Only humble, Christ-exalting thinking can survive in the presence of the cross. The effect of the cross on our thinking is not cut off thinking about God, but to confound boasting in the presence of God.”

The cross exposes us simultaneously to the horrific depths of our sin—this is what it took for God to save us—as well as to the breath-taking depths of God’s love—this is what God was willing to do to save us. The cross humbles us by saying, “You are not loveable; but you are loved.” The gospel proclaims to us, in a single, unbelievable breath, that we are both more warped and sinful than we ever dared think and yet more loved and accepted that we ever dared dream. In this way, the gospel exposes to us how oppressive, disgusting, and ultimately suicidal our self-centeredness really is not by condemning us for it but by confronting us with the absolute and utter selflessness of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Application (Life):

Today I will distrust my natural instincts, thoughts, and feelings and instead focus on giving up my life in the pursuit of loving God and others.

“capacitating the incapacitated”

George Hunsinger, “Karl Barth’s Doctrine of the Holy Spirit”
from The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth
Those who are awakened to lifelong conversion by the Spirit never cease to be sinners themselves. Yet despite their continuing sinfulness, the miracle of grace never ceases in the hearts (183).

What the miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit brings about [in conversion] . . . is not essentially restoration or healing but resurrection from the dead (184).

Since to be a sinner means to be incapacitated, grace means capacitating the incapacitated despite their incapacitation. Sinners capacitated by grace remain helpless in themselves. Grace does not perfect and exceed human nature in its sorry plight so much as contradict and overrule it.

In this miraculous and mysterious way, by grace alone—that is, through a continual contradiction of nature by grace that results in a provisional conjunction of opposites (coniunctio oppositorum)—the blind see, the lame walk, and the dead are raised to new life (cf. Matt. 11:4) (185).

Psalm 34 - God’s Hidden Presence and the Righteous vs. the Wicked

Text: Psalm 34:15-1

15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.


The title of Psalm 34 begins: “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.” The story of David and king Abimelech (or, Achish) is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. On the run from Saul, David is captured by a foreign army and taken before the king of Gath with this somewhat anecdotal charge: “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” (1 Sam. 21:11). In other words: “Here we have found a foreign trespasser, a royal enemy of the state, and an incredibly dangerous and brutal one at that.” Fearing for his life, v. 13 tells us that David “changed his behavior before the [unsuspecting] king” and began to “pretend to be insane.” Upon seeing David’s condition, Abimelech chastised his soldiers and sent David away.

What’s interesting to me about this Psalm is how absent God appears in 1 Samuel 21, and yet how full of praise to God David is when he reflects back on the incident. Everything about the narrative points not toward a miraculous rescue by some mysterious, divine Presence, but to a much simpler explanation: David saved himself. After all, it was David’s quick thinking and clever actions that fooled the king of Gath and led to his freedom. Nowhere is it mentioned that God was at work. And yet, all through Psalm 34, David gives God the glory for his deliverance.

Another interesting element is the clear delineation (particularly in vv. 15-22) David sees between God’s treatment of the righteous and his treatment of “those who do evil” (i.e., “the wicked”). For example: God’s “face” is toward the righteous, His ears are open to their cry, and He delivers them from “all their troubles.” On the other hand, the Lord’s face is “against those who do evil” to “cut off the memory of them from the earth.” Similarly, while affliction, although besetting the righteous, will never ultimately overtaking them, it will (in the end) destroy and condemn the wicked. In all of this we see that, although God is a God of love, He is also a God of unrelenting justice.

Implication (Gospel):

My problem with God’s justice is this: I’m on the wrong side of it. Contrary to the fears and anxieties that most commonly beset me (fears about money, relationships, and reputation mostly), in reality, the biggest problem in my life is God himself. You see, if God’s orientation toward a person is so deeply effected by their righteousness (or lack thereof) what hope do I have of getting anything other than the worst that Psalm 34 says awaits the wicked?

The gospel answers this question by telling me that real hope lies not in cobbling together some pathetic and self-glorifying righteousness of my own, but instead in admitting my abject spiritual poverty and laying hold of Christ. Take vv. 15 and 16 for instance: the only reason God’s eyes are upon me and his ears “open to my cry” (v. 15) is because (on the cross) He set his face against Jesus to cut him off the memory of “those who do evil” from the earth (v. 16). In other words, Christ, the righteous, became as “those who do evil” so that I, the one who really does “do evil,” might become righteous.

Or, to use vv. 21 and 22: on the cross, Christ took the place of the wicked—being slain by my afflictions and experiencing the condemnation I deserved (v. 21)—so that, through this act of substitution, my life might be redeemed and the promise fulfilled: “none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (v. 22).

Application (Life):

Today I will focus on two things: one, recognizing God’s help and aid in the mundane things of life (i.e., in those place where I wouldn’t naturally see Him act work); and, two, giving up my worthless and prideful pursuit of earning righteousness in order to relying more and more on Christ.

Psalm 33 - What Do You Trust In?

Text: Psalm 33:16-17

The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.


Though not attributed to David himself, Psalm 33 serves well as a commentary on the life of a man who great hope and only Deliverer was the Lord. In contrast to the rest of the Psalm’s positive tone, verses 16 and 17 serve first to expose and then to immediately deconstruct the sources in which many of us are tempted to place our trust and hope: namely, human power. We so naturally love what we can see and rest secure in what is (by our estimation) “great.”

The underlying point is this: whatever we hope in most, wherever our ultimate trust lies, there we will find our “god.” It really doesn’t matter whether we pay lip-service to God or not. Whatever finally makes our hearts secure and enables us to sleep peacefully at night, that thing (and not the resurrected Christ) is what we worship.

Of course, the flip-side is also true: whatever we fear most, whatever thing, if we lost it, would make us a miserable, anxious mess, that (again) is our god. The profoundly useful thing about fear is that we often don’t know what we’re trusting in until it’s taken away. As long as our army is great, our bank accounts are full, our families are safe, and our reputation’s intact, it’s easy to say, “I trust in the Lord.” It’s only when those false hopes are demolished that we finally see (and more importantly, feel) what it is we truly hope in.

Implication (Gospel):

In the gospel, we see the ultimate contradiction in human hope and trust: it is not by might that we saved, but by weakness. The cross signals the end to any hope we might have had in what we consider great (or wise, for that matter). The cross ushers us into the truth that it is only through death that new life comes. And this Christ-shaped pattern now defines our lives. Through the gospel we are enabled to release our trust, as Psalm 22:7 says, in “chariots and horses,” and to instead anchor ourselves on “the name of the Lord our God.”

Application (Gospel):

Today I will confess to God all those things I’m naturally inclined to trust in—whether it’s my job, my reputation, my body, my money, my family, or even my religious efforts. In their place, I will (as Paul put it in 2Corinthians 12:9) “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Psalm 31 - Suffering, the King, and the Cross

Psalm 31:5 & 9-13

5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
9 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.
11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side!—as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.


Taken up later by Jeremiah, Jesus, and author of Psalm 71, Psalm 31 is an intense, authentic, and (in the most meaningful sense of the word) raw expression of one man’s suffering and ultimate salvation. Utterly devoid of the usual religious pretenses, platitudes, and banalities, David writes with unflinchingly clarity of the stark emotional realities that living in a fallen, broken world create. And yet, although he is brutally honest, he is not hopeless. Two times in this Psalm, David walks the reader through his pain and in both instances he emerges on the other side clinging to the God who, as the Psalm begins, is a refuge, deliverer, rescuer, rock, and fortress. In this way, Psalm 31 is a powerful model for teaching us how to bring our suffering to God without belittling Him or our suffering itself.


In the context of the Bible’s overarching story, Psalm 31 bridges the gap between the failed kingship of Saul, the ascension of David himself, and the establishment of the Davidic Covenant/Dynasty (i.e., the “partial kingdom”).

Implication (Gospel):

As was briefly noted above, Jesus himself took up the words of Psalm 31:5 as his final, extinguishing prayer in Luke 23:46. However, even without this direct, cross-borne quotation, the Psalm is virtually teeming with the predictive/prophetic pattern that 1Peter 1:11 defines as “the sufferings of the Messiah and the subsequent glories.” In this way, Psalm 31 functions as a sort of internal monologue or emotional commentary on Jesus’ own physical and spiritual suffering. The only difference being that where David was merely “forgotten like one who is dead” and simply “became like a broken vessel,” Jesus was literally destroyed.

For example, as verses 15 and 20 intimate, despite David’s initial suffering the king himself was ultimately rescued from the hands of his enemies and persecutors, covered by God’s presence from the “plots of men,” and stored in God’s shelter from the “strife of tongues.” Far to the contrary, in the case of Jesus, on the cross we see God’s great and final King delivered into the hands of his enemies and persecutors, victimized by the plots of men, and openly exposed to the strife of tongues. And yet, it is out of that suffering and through the resurrection that the gospel takes shape.

Application (Gospel):

No matter how awful, pathetic, or seemingly hopeless my situation, even if as the Psalm says there is “terror on every side,” I can be secure in my suffering knowing that, because Christ died in my place, I will never ultimately be forgotten like one who is dead or become like a broken vessel. In fact, whatever suffering I face, because of the cross, becomes merely a window into the suffering Christ endured on my behalf. Because of this, suffering (of whatever sort) now serves to draw me closer to God and invite me deeper into his love.

Today I will regard my suffering as a opportunity to understand more deeply (without ever being forced to undergo its fullness myself) the wrath that Christ endured to save me from my sin.

Psalm 30 - Text, Context, Implication, Application

Psalm 30:1-5, 9 & 11-12

1 A Psalm of David. . . . I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!


Attributed to David and described by its subscription as a “Song at the Dedication of the House [or, Temple],” this Psalm is a heartfelt celebration of God’s victory in delivering the persecuted king either from one of his many political-military enemies or some sort of physical sickness. Most likely the first of the two (based on the biblical stories of David recorded in 1st and 2nd Samuel), either way David praises God for rescuing him from the very brink of destruction: “you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me . . . . you have healed me. . . . you have brought up my soul from Sheol [‘the grave’]; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit [to ‘death’]” (vv. 1-3). David’s joy is found not merely in a good outcome or a happy providence, but in God’s great reversal of his circumstances: from the pit to the palace, from dust to dynasty, from mourning to dancing, from sackcloth to gladness, and ultimately from death to life (v. 9).


In the context of the Bible’s overall story, Psalm 30 is located very near the beginning of Israel’s official geo-political monarchy: what Vaughn Roberts calls the “partial kingdom.” Immediately after the dethroning of Saul and prior to the kingdom’s split, collapse, and ultimate exile, Psalm 30 celebrates God’s victory in establishing David’s kingship while simultaneously looking forward to the perfect kingship of Jesus Christ.

Implication (Gospel):

What David describes in figurative terms, Jesus—Great David’s Greater Son—literally experienced. For those that argue the concept of resurrection is an exclusively New Testament idea, implied only briefly in places like Ezekiel 37 (and there only metaphorically as a symbol for the people of Israel’s return from exile), Psalm 30 functions like a prophetic signpost pointing toward (though, admittedly, not exhausting) the hope of resurrection as a “whole-Bible” doctrine. However, unlike David who was rescued from death, Jesus Christ was rescued through death so that we who justly deserve to “go down to the pit” might be raised up with him. His death becomes our death, so that his resurrection might become ours as well.

Verse 5 is particularly meaningful in this Christ-centered sense: “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Upon the cross we see God’s infinite anger at sin—his holy, perfect, and consuming wrath leveled squarely the evil and corrosive cancer eating away at his creation—dealt with “in a moment”; while in the resurrection we see his “favor” forevermore. Weeping tarried in the dark night of Gethsemane; but joy arose Easter morning. God’s great reversal of David’s earthly circumstances is only a dim foreshadowing of the cosmic reversal accomplished in the gospel.

Application (Gospel):

As simple and trite as it may sound: there is nothing too hard for God. No matter how dire our circumstance, no matter how hopeless our condition, no matter how powerless our ability, God is in the business of bringing life out of death. As Psalm 30, the life of David, and the gospel itself all illustrate, God loves to get the glory of being the miraculous deliverer when nothing else could possibly help. Focusing on the gospel enables me to face life with profound hope and confidence, regardless of my poverty, pain, or past. Having this stable foundation also enables me to support and encourage those around me who have forgotten the gospel (even momentarily) with the very hope that supports me as well. Today I will focus on the power of God displayed in the gospel instead of the difficulties that confront me.

Psalm 28 - Text, Context, Implication, Application

Text: Psalm 28:1-3 & 7-9

1 Of David. To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.
3 Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts.
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
8 The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
9 Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.


Psalm 28 is, most likely, the third in a triplet of Psalms (Ps. 26-28) designed to be read together and to focus its reader on, first, the need for preservation in times of trouble and persecution and, second, the inevitable (through labored for) joy in the Person and Presence of God. Attributed to David, we may assume these Psalms were either written during or as a reflection on the troubled king’s first hand experience of such persecution as well as God’s ultimate deliverance: “he [the Lord] is the saving refuge of his anointed [i.e., ‘his king’ or ‘his messiah’]” (28:8).

Implication (Gospel):

Though we, as sinners, justly deserve to be “dragged off with the wicked” (v. 3) and to have God “be deaf to us” so that we “become like those who go down to the pit” (v. 1) [i.e., like those abandoned to the grave and to hell], yet in and through His Son, God himself has taken the punishment we deserve. Jesus was, as Luke 22:37 (quoting Isaiah 53:12) says, “Numbered with the transgressors.” In other words, Jesus himself was both literally and spiritually “dragged off with the wicked,” in our place and for our good.

Because of this, God the Father, who was once our judge and enemy, has instead become our “our strength and our shield” (v. 7). God has blessed his people precisely by saving his anointed, that is, not simply by saving David as the Psalm indicates but by saving the ultimate David, God’s true King, Jesus Christ. Jesus has become (not only a “shepherd) but our “Good Shepherd” and he will carry us (that is, love, provide, and transform us) forever.

Application (Gospel):

Because Jesus has taken the wrath that I deserve and “carried me” like a shepherd, I can bear with the sins of those around me, not only putting up with them and forgiving them, but serving them and even “carrying” them when their own mistakes cause them to stumble. Today I will look for ways to care for the people around me, especially when they mess up and don’t deserve it.