What Makes the Humble Glad

The wisdom of Scripture does not just offend the carnal heart here or there. Rather, God’s ways of operating are offensive to the unconverted heart across the board.

“Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.     I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: Mine eyes fail while I wait for my God . . .” (Psalm 69:1-36).

As this is a longer psalm, we are going to summarize it from an altitude that is just a bit higher. The first section lays out the complaint of the psalmist to God (vv. 1-4). His enemies are numerous (v. 4). The reason he gives for this trouble he is in is the zeal that he carries for the house of God (vv. 5-12). All of this is for God’s sake (v. 7). In the third section, the psalmist is pleading for help (vv. 13-21). Reproach is what has broken his heart (v. 20). In the next section, he calls for justice to be meted out against his enemies (vv. 22-28). The wrath of God is real, in both testaments (vv. 24-25). In the last section, he returns to his petitions, and anticipates a positive response (v. 33). The Lord prefers thanksgiving to ritual (vv. 30-31).

This is a psalm that is frequently quoted in the New Testament, and from those citations we see it is clearly messianic. At the same time, it is a prophetic life, a type with an antitype, which means that not every detail is fulfilled in the life of the Messiah (e.g. v. 5). Jesus quotes v. 4 and explicitly applies the fulfillment to himself (Jn. 15:25), saying “that the word might be fulfilled.” The same phrase is found in Ps. 35:19. If God knows the number of hairs on your head, and your enemies are the same as the hairs on your head, then God knows the number of your enemies.

The first part of v. 9 is quoted as something the disciples recalled after Jesus cleansed the Temple (Jn. 2:17). And the second half of v. 9 is quoted by Paul in Rom. 15:3, applying it in another way to Christ.

The last two quotations from this psalm are from the imprecatory section. Paul is talking about Israel closed up in unbelief, and he applies vv. 22-23 to the judicial blindness and unbelief that has closed up the Jewish nation for a time (Rom. 11:9-10). We should note the allusion to vinegar as a drink in v. 21. And a few verses later, we find v. 25 cited in Acts 1:20 when Peter was explaining the fate of Judas. This would seem to entail Judas in the same kind of judicial blindness that had overtaken the Jewish nation as a whole.

We do not have this laid out explicitly, and so we shouldn’t call this anything more than educated speculation. But Judas had seen the power of Jesus. He had cast out demons, and had healed the sick himself. He saw Jesus walk on the water, and feed the multitudes. He knew the Lord’s power, front row seats. Combine this with the fact that he, as soon as he saw that Jesus was going to die, hanged himself. What was his motivation? I believe that the only narrative that makes sense of this is that Judas was trying to force Christ’s hand, trying to make Him devastate the Romans. And he wasn’t above helping himself as he tried to manipulate the Messiah into delivering them all from Rome.

When zeal consumes a servant of God, this is what creates a desire among the ungodly to consume that servant as well. Zeal consumes the way fire consumes the burning bush, engulfing it without devouring it. The ungodly want to devour, and leave nothing behind.

David knows that God knows his foolishness (v. 5). His sins are fully in view, and God knows them all. Nevertheless, it is not because of his sins that he is mocked, even though those sins give occasion. It is for God’s sake that he bears reproach (v. 7). The drunkards sing about him, and the late night comedians have a field day, and what they are pointing at and laughing at is the unrighteousness. But the reason they are doing so is because of the surrounding context of righteousness. This is why the godly who wait upon God are ashamed because of some sin or other (v. 6). But there is a larger picture.

There is a glib assumption made by many Christians that treats David’s deadly imprecations as somehow unworthy of him, or of the Bible, or of God, or something. It is also assumed, with very little reflection, that the arrival of the New Testament does away with “all that.” The problem lies with passages like this one. The imprecations are not erased here; they are fulfilled.

Not only so, but they are fulfilled in terrible ways. Damnation is a horrible reality, and the hellfire and damnation preacher of the Bible is the Lord Jesus. People like to pretend that the God of the Old Testament was a God of (all together now) wrath, and the God of the New Testament is a God of (all together now) love. But where do we get this idea?

David resolves to give thanks to God with a song. That song will be one of thanksgiving (v. 30). He then makes a comparison which lies at the heart of all evangelical religion. He sets a thankful heart over against external ritual conformity to the sacrificial laws of God (v. 31). He says bluntly that the Lord will be pleased with a thankful song more than with an ox, or a bullock with horns and hooves. This reality is seen and acknowledged by the humble, and it will make them glad.

Why make this contrast at all? Why does the Bible do it repeatedly? The reason is that there is a kind of person who latches onto the external requirements that God gives us, and manipulates those externals in a way that is conducive to their pride. When something comes along to topple pride, that is what makes humility rejoice.



Leave a Reply

Notify of