By James Boice
Theme: Giving Thanks
In this week’s lessons we learn how to approach God in prayer, how to address evil, and the need for thanksgiving.
Scripture: Psalm 28:1-9
Yesterday we considered three things to keep in mind as we read in the Psalms of David asking God to judge others. Today we begin by looking at a fourth idea.
4. It is important for the sake of all who are looking on that right be vindicated. This is the other side of what we were looking at in Psalm 25, where David prayed that he might not be put to shame (vv. 2, 3, 20). He said there that he was trying to live an upright and moral life while those about him were doing the opposite, and his appeal was for God to vindicate the right way. If David should be overcome and perish in spite of having lived for God, people would say that righteousness does not pay, and that the only way to survive in a wicked world like ours is to do evil. David wanted those who observed him to say, “No, the way of the righteous is the right way. The way may be hard, but in the end it is better to have obeyed and served God.”
In Psalm 28 we have the other side of that, as I said. For here David wants God to prove that the way of the ungodly does not succeed. I notice, for instance, that he is not praying for the final judgment of the wicked by which they are to be consigned to hell but rather that he is praying for a proper present recompense on them for the evil they are doing. In our terms, what he is praying for is that those who are looking on will see that “crime does not pay.” David is so confident that in a moral universe this must be the case that in verse 5 he predicts: “Since they show no regard for the works of the LORD and what his hands have done, he will tear them down and never build them up again.”
This is a lesson that many people have learned the hard way. They have spent lifetimes building without regard for God, only to see what they have given themselves to melts away like castles built on sand. We have a bit of doggerel which says truthfully: “Only one life, ‘twill soon be passed; only what’s done for Christ will last.”
David’s prediction of the fate of evil doers is so strong that he immediately passes into thanksgiving for what God has done or will be doing, which is the third stanza (vv. 6, 7). It is a joyous response to God for having answered him and is expressed in three tenses: 1) “he has heard my cry for mercy”; 2) “I am helped”; and 3) “I will give thanks to him in song.” It is difficult to read this without feeling something of David’s strong joy and nearly wild thanksgiving.
But the important thing for us is probably merely that he remembers to give thanks, which we do not always do. Throughout this study I have been relating the psalmist’s words to Jesus’ teaching about prayer, and it is difficult not to do that here also. We are told in Luke’s gospel that on one occasion Jesus was met by ten lepers, whom he healed, sending them to the priests for formal certification of their cure in accordance with Old Testament law. After a short while, one of them, a Samaritan, came back and threw himself at Jesus’ feet, thanking him. Jesus responded by asking, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner” (Luke 17:17, 18)?
It is worth remembering that story in our prayer times, because although we are sometimes (though infrequently) persistent in prayer when we really want something, not many of us are equally careful to thank God afterward. David did, not only in Psalm 28 but also elsewhere.
- Why is it important that righteousness be vindicated?
- What is the lesson of the ten lepers?
Reflection: How often do we thank God for answered prayer with the kind of intensity and perseverance that characterized the requests?
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Philip Ryken’s message on the reason for hope, “Get Your Hopes Up!” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.
Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.