My workshop has a scrap bin. Each new project adds to it and sometimes draws from it. Yet, inevitably it grows disproportionately larger than the project deserves when I fail to take into account the big picture. Nowhere is the big picture perspective more important than in worship.
In Psalm 9, the psalmist begins enthusiastically with four “I will” statements:
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. (vv. 1-2 emphasis added)
What put David into such a wholehearted, exuberant, and determined frame of mind? Later, he speaks of his “affliction” and being at “the gates of death” (Ps. 9:13). Clearly David is in a difficult place, yet he is fervent and joyful in his worship of God. Can we learn something from David about worshipping when we are stressed and feeling desperate?
Examining the timeline in this psalm helps us understand how David’s attitude was being shaped. His worship flows from a sweeping historical perspective. The four “I will” statements are followed by five “you have” statements about God. David remembers:
When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.
You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished. (vv. 3-6 emphasis added)
This is the essence of gospel-centered worship. We do not coax something out of God but respond to what he has already graciously given us. We need not convince God to receive us; on the contrary, we boldly approach him totally convinced of his unconditional love for us (Heb. 4:14-16). We have been persuaded by the overwhelming evidence of his love and faithfulness to us in Christ (Rom. 8:31-39).
God’s faithfulness is seen not only in his care for his people but also in his judgment of his enemies. When the adversary is attacking or threatening, it is critical that we see the big picture. Jesus was communicating this to his persecuted church in the book of Revelation with a vision of Christ on the throne, ready to punish his foes and to reward his faithful servants.
David exposes the end of the wicked — they “stumble and perish.” When he says, “the very memory of them has perished,” he is not denying our ability to record their existence and deeds. He wants us to see how history always remembers the wicked. They eventually join the ranks of the infamous and inglorious, often meeting their end like a rat hiding in a filthy hole. They will take their place among a long line of vanquished foes — brought down by their own foolish arrogance.
After reviewing the past, David moves to the present; however, he does not look around him but above him. Troubled and tossed, he fixes his gaze on God’s eternally unshakable throne of righteousness:
But the LORD sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness. (vv. 7-8; cf. A Righteous Refuge)
Similarly, Isaiah proclaims hope in a righteous judge from “the tent of David” (Isaiah 16:5). Likewise, the writer of Hebrews explains that Melchizedek, from Abraham’s day, foreshadowed Jesus, being both king of righteousness and king of peace (Heb. 7:2). Here David invites us to find security in our righteous God:
The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. (vv. 9-10)
Finally, biblical worship moves us to invite others to join in and to encourage them in the faith. That is what David does.
Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted. (vv. 11-12)
This is what big picture worship looks like. It promotes unfeigned enthusiasm, confident hope, and infectious devotion. From such worship come big picture requests. We will examine this in the remainder of the psalm next time.