There are Psalms which express what it’s like to be disciplined because of sin or doing things one’s own way, and there are Psalms which express what it’s like to experience evil or injustice undeservedly. In this Psalm is expressed the situation of what it’s like in times of spiritual testing which may come about even though we have continued to walk faithfully in the Lord. The Psalmist here notes what we may feel during those times when physical circumstances are contrary to our spiritual walk.
Read verses 1-3
Q: What is specifically being referred to here?
A: The conquest of Canaan and the possession of the Promised Land by Israel.
Q: What is the main theme being addressed?
A: What God accomplished in the past:
“…Your hand drove out…” (v.2)
“…You planted…” (v.2)
“…You affected…” (v.2
“…Your right hand…Your arm…” (v.3)
“…Your presence…” (v.3)
“…You favored…” (v.3)
Q: What is the important point being made concerning man’s role in these events?
A: According to v.3 it’s that none of this came about by their own strength or will, but only in concert with God’s grace.
Application: Past success came about not by the works of man but the working of God.
When we look back at times when we think there was great spiritual growth or revival, how well do we separate what were the works of men vs. the reality of the working of God?
Do we mistakenly believe we can change circumstances on our own for better or worse?
How is true spiritual success achieved?
Read verses 4-8
Q: How do these verses build upon the framework of the previous verses?
A: These verses take the past tense of the previous verses and apply them in the present tense.
Point: Just as the Lord was sovereign and in control in the past, so is He now; just as He provided victory in the past, so He is able to provide it now; just as the outcome was in God’s hands then, so it is the present.
Application: Just as the Lord was sovereign and in control in the past, so is He now; just as He provided victory in the past, so is able to provide it now; just as the outcome was in God’s hands then, so is the present.
Just as past spiritual endeavors could not have been successful without God, neither can the present ones. How do we ensure that the things we desire and undertake are actually subject to His will and ways and not simply our own desires being played out?
Read verses 9-16
Q: So although the first section contrasted God’s ability to bring victory in the past to present in the second section, what do we find is the actual situation in the present?
A: They are not being led to victory, but instead experiencing defeat and failure.
Q: Who is causing this to happen?
A: God, the same one credited with bringing victory in the past:
“…You have rejected us…” (v.9)
“You cause us to turn back…” (v.10)
“You give us as sheep…” (v.11)
“You sell Your people…” (v.12)
“You make us a reproach…” (v.13)
“You make us a byword…” (v.14)
Q: What is the greater spiritual lesson being taught here?
A: God is in control of the circumstances whether they’re “positive” and leading to victory or “negative” and inducing testing and trials.
Application: We cannot make a judgment about what is happening based solely on the circumstances. It is the same God in charge regardless of external appearances one way or the other.
Read verses 17-19
Q: How are God’s people holding on during this crisis?
A: By holding firmly to His Word (“Your covenant”) from the heart.
Point: Regardless of external conditions – good or bad – the overwhelming consideration is to remain spiritually faithful to God’s Word and ways.
Q: What is the author trying to express in v.19?
A: This is a dramatic way of expressing the fact that in spite of experiencing the worst circumstances imaginable, they are still remaining faithful to God.
Application: Regardless of external conditions – good or bad – the overwhelming consideration is to remain spiritually faithful to God’s Word and ways.
Do we believe that is we’re “good” that we won’t experience bad things in life or that we won’t have to be tested?
Do we recognize that in every circumstance – good or bad – God is effecting something greater in our life spiritually?
Read verses 20-26
Q: How might this last section compliment what was expressed in the opening sections?
A: Whereas the opening sections acknowledge nothing can come about except by God’s hand, so it is again confirmed here. God is acknowledged as having been in control in the past, and regardless of how things look now He is still in control.
Q: So what is the true test that is taking place here?
A: They know God can bring victory but they have yet to glimpse it. They are still in the midst of the test from which they desire to yet be rescued.
Q: What are the questions in verses 23 & 24 actually asking?
A: It’s a dramatic way of asking how long these trials will continue.
Point: It’s OK to speak frankly to God in times of trial, especially in the course of seeking His grace and strength to get through it.
Q: What is the quality of God’s character to which they ultimately appeal?
A: “Your lovingkindness”, which is the Old Testament term for God’s grace.
Application: It is not a test of knowledge but faith; it is not an issue of personal strength or circumstances but God’s grace.
That which God has accomplished for us in the past is supposed to serve as the basis for the quality of our trust in Him where the present is concerned.
It does not matter whether the present situation is “good” or “bad”, God is in control regardless.
It all ultimately comes down to the issue of God’s grace, which should actually be of extreme comfort to Believers.