John T. Willis

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Psalm 69:9-12

The composer of Psalm 69 continues her or his complaint that even though she or he was striving daily to serve Yahweh faithfully, enemies were opposing her or him vehemently. The psalmist says in verses 9-12:

"It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
When I humbled my soul with fasting,
they insulted me for doing so.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me."

1. The reason the psalmist is suffering is because she or he is deeply committed to God. The poet has great zeal for the Jerusalem temple="God's house," because here God dwells among his people (see Psalms 46:4-7; 48:1-2; 76:2; 84:1-4; 132:1-4; and very often). Jesus' disciples remembered Psalm 69:9a when Jesus cast the money changers out of the temple (John 2:17), and Paul reapplied Psalm 69:9b to support his point that Jesus did not please himself (Romans 15:3).
2. In spite of the psalmist's constant striving to serve Yahweh faithfully, her or his enemies insulted her or him (verses 9-10), belittled her or him (verse 11), and mocked or taunted her or him (verse 12). Paul assures all Christians that "all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). Persecution of all kinds is part of the package for serving God.
3. Various peoples have various ways to show humility and submission. Two ways the Israelites in the Hebrew Bible showed humility were by fasting (verse 10a; see Isaiah 58:3-12; Joel 2:12) and wearing sackcloth (verse 11a; see Isaiah 3:24; Joel 1:13). They expressed humility and submission in many other ways as well.
4. In ancient walled cities, people gathered at the gate of the city every morning to buy and sell, to carry on court cases, and to talk about their thoughts and experiences. The author of Psalm 69 says one thing they did was to gossip about her or him (verse 12a). And, to add insult to injury, the town drunks created mocking songs about her or him (verse 12b). It is tragic, but true, that even today professed Christians often gossip about their fellow-believers, people whom they are supposed to love and respect because God loves them and has made them a part of his family. If Jesus and Paul were the brunt of gossip in the early days of the Christian movement, we should not be surprised if the same happens to us today.
May God help us to use our lips to build others up, not to tear them down (see 2 Corinthians 12:19; 13:10).

John Willis

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Psalm 69:6-8

Surrounded and oppressed by hostile enemies, probably his or her own fellow-believers who have wicked hearts, the author of Psalm 69 is concerned about the effect his or her response to this adverse situation will have on his or her fellow-believers who remain faithful to Yahweh. Thus the psalmist prays to Yahweh in verses 6-8:

"Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me,
O Lord God of hosts;
do not let those who seek you be dishonored because of me,
O God of Israel.
It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred,
an alien to my mother's children."

1. God's faithful followers are deeply concerned about how their response to difficult situations will affect others who are genuinely trying to serve God. No true believer in God wants to cause others to reject God and turn away from him.
2. Being faithful to God often causes a person to suffer shame, dishonor, and reproach in the eyes of fellow human beings. However, unfortunately, this is to be expected, because this is what happened to Jesus while he was one earth. Jesus said to his disciples in John 15:18, 20b, 23, 24b-25: "If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. . . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. . . . Whoever hates me hates my Father also. . . . But now they have hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, 'They hated me without a cause'."
3. Committed disciples of God are happy to bear reproach "for God's sake." Times come and situations arise when true followers of God must decide whether they will yield to the political pressures of society or religion, or whether they will remain faithful to God. If they remain faithful to God, some "fellow-believers" will castigate them and reproach them; but they are willing to bear this reproach "for God's sake."
4. Often a person's own family and close friends turn against her or him for being faithful to God. This happened to Job (Job 19:13-15), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 12:5-6), several psalmists (Psalms 38:11; 41:9; 88:8, 18), and Jesus (John 6:66). Many followers of God in Christ in our own time have experienced this. While it hurts and is very disappointing, we must remain faithful.

John Willis