A Reflection on the Psalms

Read through Psalm 9
Before we dive into the meaning of this psalm, we must establish that both Psalm 9 and 10 are meant to be read as a single unit. The reason for this is because they both make up one lengthy acrostic psalm. An acrostic is a poem (or other form of literature) in which the first letter (or syllable, or word) of each line (or paragraph, or other recurring feature in the text) spells out a word, message or the alphabet. In the case of Psalm 9 and 10, the first word of every second verse of the psalms begins with consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (alephtav). These acrostic forms of poetry may have been utilized to help the people of God with memorization and recitation. It is not only this acrostic form that ties these psalms together but their use of similar vocabulary and themes. These psalms paint a larger picture of the power and the presence of God and what that means for the righteous ones and the wicked ones.

This theme of the power and presence of God is expounded on in these psalms which are prayers for help – trust and praise in the LORD’s judgment and justice along with pleas for God’s intervention for the oppressed. These psalms, placed together, paint a fuller picture of faith. Psalm 9 is about the psalmist’s theological convictions and belief systems concerning God. Psalm 9 presents the psalmist’s confidence of faith in who God is because it is describing the abstract. The psalmist knows of God only in broad theoretical truths. That is why we need to connect it with Psalm 10 which shows what the psalmist’s theological convictions really are when life becomes complex and difficult. We see a glimpse of his actual theology is when the safety of hypotheticals crumble away to the earth-shattering reality of pain, fear, and oppression that stems from real, concrete situations filled with real, hurtful people.

The psalmist begins Psalm 9 with imperfect verbs (incomplete actions, or actions that have not yet happened). He “will give thanks”; he “will tell of all your wonderful deeds”; he “will be glad and rejoice in you”; and he “will sing the praises of your name” (vv.1-2). It is always easier to tell God what we “will” do for Him. It is easy to convince ourselves of this as well. But when his theology meets real life, the psalmist’s posture changes. We see real life hit the psalmist in Psalm 10.1, “Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” When the psalmist actually encounters the enemy – which he was so confident God would “destroy” and “blot out their names for ever and ever” (Psalm 9.5) – who lives a wicked life and yet “his ways are always prosperous” (Psalm 10.5), his words change. He meets someone who believes “Nothing will ever shake me. No one will ever do me harm” (v.6). The psalmist’s theology from Psalm 9 is in conflict with the real life presented in Psalm 10. Everything that the psalmist believed concerning the power and the presence of God, and what that meant for the righteous and the wicked, is not reflected in real life! The psalmist knows what he believes, but it is in conflict with the reality that is confronting him.

This is where our picture of faith can broaden by reading both Psalm 9 and 10 together. We can have all the proper theological convictions concerning God, but it only matters in what we do; how we live out those convictions when life comes knocking at the door. What are we to do when our theology comes into conflict with the “realities” of our world? How do we reconcile our beliefs with the realities we encounter that challenge or even contradict our belief about God and the world around us? Keep reading.