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Justification in the Psalms

Psalm 118:6-9:

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.

I needed these verses this morning. If you truly believe that God is on your side, it changes everything. When the heart swells with the reality of the God-is-at-my-side-ness of the gospel, it yields courage (“What can man do to me?”) and confident hope (“I shall look in triumph on those who hate me”). If you have God, everything else falls into place (cf. Romans 8:31).

Application from vv. 8-9: does my life testify to the superiority of trust in God to trust in worldly strength (princes)? When people look at me, are they struck by how inferior money and status and respect (etc.) are as sources of strength to the living God?

John Owen: “Christ and a dungeon, Christ and a cross, is infinitely sweeter than a crown, a scepter, without him” (Communion with the Triune God, 251).

When I read the Psalms through in a gospel-centered way – through the lens of justification by faith, for example – all kinds of things fall into place. Though David did not hammer out a systematic theology of justification by faith, I believe he lived within its psychology, and his prayers in the Psalms are resonant with its assurance and joy (and actually, 32:1-2 and 51:1-2 come pretty close to a theology of justification!). Cf. also 56:8-9:

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.

This I know, that God is for me. This is the assertion of a man who has tasted justification by faith. When David is seized by the Philistines (as he is when he writes this Psalm), he does not conclude God is punishing him; rather, he reminds himself that God is keeping record of his very tears. Suffering does not make him question God’s approval. It drives him deeper into it.

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