The Lord, the Lord Almighty, Part 2

By James Boice

Theme: Glory in the Highest

This week’s lessons teach us how and why to praise God, and what will happen for us as we do.

Scripture: Psalm 29:1-11

We might think that a poem this narrowly focused would be dull, but the psalm avoids dullness by two forms of motion. One is the passing of the storm which is described as sweeping over the entire country from north to south (vv. 3-9). The other is the movement from heaven where the psalm begins (vv. 1, 2) to earth where it ends (vv. 10, 11). The more I study it, the less surprised I am that Harry Ironside called Psalm 29 probably the finest poem in the Bible and “one of the loveliest poems I have ever seen.2

If you do not have a poetic spirit, you never appreciate this psalm. For this is not a poem to be critically analyzed, above all not in a scientific frame of mind. If you keep telling yourself that the voice of God is not in thunder, that thunder is only the clashing of differently charged electronic particles, you will miss it all. To appreciate this psalm we have to get out in the fields, watch the majesty of some ferocious storm and recall that God is in the storm, directing it, as he is in all other natural and historical phenomena.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon had a great poetic soul, and here is what he advised:

Just as the eighth psalm is to be read by moonlight, when the stars are bright, as the nineteenth needs the rays of the rising sun to bring out its beauty, so this can be best rehearsed beneath the black wing of tempest, by the glare of the lightning, or amid that dubious dusk which heralds the war of elements. The verses march to the tune of thunderbolts. God is everywhere conspicuous, and all the earth is hushed by the majesty of his presence.3

The commentators tell us that in the early church this psalm was often read to children or to members of a congregation during storms.

The psalm opens with a two-verse introduction in which heavenly beings or angels are called upon to praise God.4 This will seem strange to us if we are approaching the psalm in a rationalistic rather than a poetic frame of mind, for, of course, praising God is what the angels of God are employed in doing constantly. Strictly speaking, it is human beings, not angels, who need to be urged to praise God, and for a mere human being to do the urging only seems to make the situation more bizarre.

Why does David call on the angels, then? As soon as we think of this poetically the reason is obvious. It is because he feels that his praise and that of other mere human beings is not adequate. David is overwhelmed with the majesty of God revealed in the storm he has witnessed and is now going to describe, and he feels that he needs help to praise God properly. To praise God adequately the entire created order must join in, and even then sufficient praise will be lacking.

David’s appeal to the angels does indicate something significant about worship, however, something we must keep in mind. (The angels already know it.) It describes the praise of God as consisting of two things: 1) ascribing glory to him, that is, acknowledging his supreme worth with our minds; and 2) worshiping or bowing down to him (the Hebrew word means to bow down), which means a subordination of our wills to his. The two belong together, and each is essential. So what the angels do naturally, we also must learn to do if the glory of God is to make its proper impact upon us and we are to worship him properly.

Study Questions:

  1. Who are the “mighty ones” addressed in verse 1?
  2. Why does David urge them to praise God?

Application: What does it mean to ascribe glory to God, and also to worship him? What does this look like on Sundays? What does this look like during the rest of the week?

2H. A. Ironside, Studies on Book One of the Psalms (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1952), p. 171.
3C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1b, Psalms 27-57 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 29.
4The phrase which the New International Version translates “O mighty ones” is an unusual one, occurring in the psalms only here and in Psalm 89:6. The Hebrew phrase beni `elim literally means “sons of gods.” On the surface this might suggest an inferior rank of gods, that is, “sons of the gods.” But this idea is so out of place in Hebrew theology that it needs to be abandoned. Actually the phrase is very similar to the more common words beni `elohim (“sons of God”), which refer to angels (cf. Job 1:6; 2:1; 28:7), and this is the meaning it seems to have in Psalm 89:6. The strange double plural may be only an unusual plural form, or it may be a way of heightening the term to include many, many angels. The latter explanation seems to fit well here.


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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.

The Lord, the Lord Almighty, Part 1

By James Boice

Theme: An Extraordinary Poem

This week’s lessons teach us how and why to praise God, and what will happen for us as we do.

Scripture: Psalm 29:1-11

I do not know of any book of the Bible that requires more knowledge, more experience of life and more skill of interpretation to understand it well than the book of Psalms. It is because the psalms are so diverse. They cover the vast range of biblical theology and the full scope of human experience from doubt to faith, suffering to jubilation, defeat to victory—and they do so in an amazing variety of poetic forms. The psalms are so deep, so diverse, so challenging that I do not believe anyone can ever really master them. Moreover, as soon as the student begins to get hold of one type of psalm and thinks he understands it, he is suddenly confronted with another that is entirely different.

That is what happens as we come to Psalm 29. This psalm is unlike any we have seen before. To begin with, it consists entirely of praise to God. Other psalms praise God, of course. But almost all mix praise with something else, such as appeals to God to help the psalmist or applications from the greatness of God to how we should live now. This psalm has no other elements. It is pure praise. It does not call upon us to do anything, because the psalm is itself doing the only thing it is concerned about. It is praising God.1

Second, the psalm is pure poetry. To be sure, all psalms are poetry. That is what a psalm is. But this psalm reaches new poetic heights. You will recall that the chief elements in Hebrew poetry are repetition or parallelism. We have seen these to some degree in every psalm thus far. This entire psalm is built upon them.

The most striking example of repetition is the name of the LORD, Jehovah. The poem only has eleven verses, but “the LORD” (or Jehovah) occurs eighteen times, in some parts of the poem appearing in every line (vv. 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11). In the middle portion (vv. 3-9) the name is found in the phrase “the voice of the LORD,” and this occurs seven times.

The poem’s parallelism is equally pronounced. It begins with three parallel appeals to the angels to give glory to God, followed by a fourth line that says the same thing though in slightly different words (vv. 1, 2): “Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”

The middle portion (vv. 3-9) describes a thunderstorm in which the constant repetition of

words evokes the echoing of the thunder. In verse 3 the ideas of the first two lines (the voice of God being “over the waters” and God thundering) are combined in the third: “the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.” All the other verses of the middle section are simple parallels in which the second line repeats the idea of the first, usually intensifying it, except for verse 7 which appropriately breaks the pattern with two short lines describing flashes of lightning, and verse 9 which has an additional sentence added on.

The final section (vv. 10, 11) returns to simple parallelism with two couplets in which “the LORD” occurs four times and the words “enthroned” and “his people” twice: “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.”

Study Questions:

  1. What features mark this psalm off from the others we have studied thus far?
  2. How are repetition and parallelism used in this psalm?
  3. Review the outline of the psalm.

1The closest psalm parallels are Psalms 8 and 19, but even they have some additional elements. The best parallels are the Song of Moses (Exod. 15) and the Song of Deborah (Judges 5), but they are not as concentrated in their praise as Psalm 29.


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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.

Hope in God Alone, Part 5

By James Boice

Theme: A Final Broadening Stanza

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

Up to this point the twenty-eighth psalm has been intensely personal, a true psalm of David the individual. But now it suddenly broadens to include all the Lord’s people (vv. 8, 9). A verse earlier David called the Lord his strength and shield (v. 7). Now he claims the same thing for others: “The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.” He closes by praying, “Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.”

From a literary point of view this last stanza seems tacked on, naturally leading some scholars to see the hand of a later liturgist or editor. But it is a perfectly natural addition if the author was Israel’s great king, as the title claims to be the case. As Alexander Maclaren says, “… if the singer were king over Israel, and if the dangers threatening him were public perils…it is most natural that God’s ‘anointed,’ who has been asking deliverance for himself, should widen his petitions to take in the flock of which he was but the under shepherd, and should evolve the shepherding and carrying of it on the Divine Shepherd-King, of whom he was but the shadowy representative.”2

This ought to be a pattern for us. When we pray to God earnestly and get answers there are two things we should do: 1) thank God, which is what verses 6 and 7 model; and 2) expand our prayers to request that others receive the same benefits. This is the burden of the psalm’s final stanza.

Remember that the Lord’s Prayer is spoken, not with first person singular pronouns (“My Father” or “Give me my daily bread”) but with plural pronouns: “Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts…And lead us not into temptation (Matt. 6:11-13).

Which leads to one final observation on the teaching of Jesus on prayer, though this one comes not from his direct teaching but from his example. We remember the great final prayer of the Lord before his crucifixion recorded in John 17. It is similar to Psalm 28 in that it begins with Jesus’ petitions for himself but then quickly passes over into prayers on behalf of his people: for his disciples and for the untold millions who were to believe on him because of their message. If Jesus prayed for his people, we should pray too. And we should teach them to pray as David prayed, looking to God for answers to all proper requests, knowing that apart from hearing his voice we shall be as those who are spiritually dead and that, regardless of where others may turn, our help is in God alone.

Study Questions:

  1. What is meant by the psalm “broadening” in the last stanza? What specific elements are seen?
  2. Why is it significant that David switches from the first person singular to the plural in this psalm?

Application: In what ways do your prayers need to more faithfully include concern for others’ help and blessing?

Key Point: If Jesus prayed for his people, we should pray too. And we should teach them to pray as David prayed, looking to God for answers to all proper requests, knowing that apart from hearing his voice we shall be as those who are spiritually dead and that, regardless of where others may turn, our help is in God alone.

2Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 1, Psalms 1-38 (New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1893), pp. 271, 272.


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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.

Hope in God Alone, Part 4

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.

Study Questions:

  1. Why is it important that righteousness be vindicated?
  2. 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?

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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.

Hope in God Alone, Part 3

By James Boice

Theme: The Psalm’s Petition

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

The central stanza of this psalm, the one that contains three verses rather than two, is the second. It expresses David’s actual petition (vv. 3-5): “Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts. Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve.”

This is an example of the many places in Psalms in which David or another writer asks God to judge the wicked, a feature of the psalms which troubles many people. At the very least, it is opposed to the more accepting spirit of our times. But, more than this, it is a problem for Christians who have been taught by Jesus not to judge others, lest we be judged (Matt. 7:15), and to pray, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). We looked at this problem briefly when studying Psalms 5 and 7, and we will be looking at it again as these studies continue. A few things need to be said about this problem here.

1. David is not self-righteous in these statements. That is the problem we feel in statements asking God to judge others. It is what Jesus was warning about in the command not to judge, since he went on to speak about trying to take a speck out of another’s eye when we have a beam in our own. That is a real problem for us, and a common one. But it is not the case with David here. David has already approached God on the basis of his mercy, that is, acknowledging his own sinfulness. But even more to the point, he begins his petition (in vv. 3-5), not with an appeal to God to judge the wicked but with the request that God keep him from being dragged along into their evil stratagems. In other words, David is aware that in himself he is very much able to behave exactly like the wicked. He knows that anything any other sinner is capable of doing, he too is capable of doing.

That is why he is so anxious to hear God’s voice and to receive answers to his prayers. Apart from the life-giving, sustaining power of God’s words, he will be swept along with the wicked and will perish with them.

2. David is never able to speak merely as a private citizen, but speaks instead as God’s appointed king, Israel’s judge. A private citizen may choose to forgive another who has done him a personal wrong. It happens all the time, particularly among Christians. But this is not a valid option for a judge, which is what David was. A judge must dispense justice, not waive it. David was responsible for seeing that justice was done and is praying rightly that it might be. This may be why there is a sudden reference to him as God’s “anointed one” in verse 8.

3. Evil should not prosper. Regardless of how we may feel about those who do evil—and we should certainly try to redirect them if we can—evil itself is not good, and we should pray that all evil plans might be frustrated and that all who persist in evil should be stopped and in the end be judged. If we do not feel this way, it is probably an indication that we are not very sensitive to sinful acts and have little concern for those who are victimized by them. There are many who feel that our criminal justice system is floundering because it has erred in exactly this way. It has placed concern for the criminal or wrong doer ahead of compassion for his victim and thereby fails to provide justice for either one.

Study Questions:

  1. The first stanza of this psalm (vv. 1-2) is an appeal for God to hear David’s prayer. What is the second stanza about (vv. 3-5)?
  2. How do we reconcile David’s petitions for God’s judgment to Jesus’ instruction not to judge others?

Application: Pray for the wisdom to know how to pray in a godly way for people who do unrighteous deeds, especially when evil is done to you.


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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.

Hope in God Alone, Part 2

By James Boice

Theme: How to Approach God

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 I referred to a parable that has bearing on this psalm. At this point it is hard not to think of another thing Jesus said. At the beginning of his ministry Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He spent forty days fasting and praying, and at the end of that time he was hungry. Satan came to him with the suggestion that he use his divine powers to turn some of the stones that were lying around him into bread. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread,” Satan said (Matt. 4:3). Jesus’ reply was a citation from the book of Deuteronomy: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (v. 4; cf. Deut. 8:3).

I wonder if you have ever thought about your life in those terms. All Christians speak about spiritual life and how much more important it is than mere physical life. We quote Jesus words: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul” (Matt. 16:26)? But if the only way life is received and sustained is by hearing the words of God, shouldn’t we be profoundly serious about our relationship to God, indeed, much more serious than we are? If we really believed that we are perishing apart from hearing the voice of God, as David apparently did, wouldn’t we pray more? Wouldn’t we be always crying out to him in prayer and seeking his face through diligent Bible study?

Or let me put it another way. Since David speaks of “the pit,” imagine yourself standing on the edge of a tremendous pit about to topple into it to certain death. Wouldn’t you cry out for help in such circumstances? And if you knew a person was there who could help you, wouldn’t you keep calling out to him or her until the person did?

Here are two more things we need to see about David’s appeal to God in this stanza.

First, his attitude. David is not praying arrogantly or belligerently, as if God owed him anything. God is no man’s debtor. Rather, he is asking for mercy. Later, in Psalm 34, he will report on God’s answer in corresponding terms, saying, “This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles” (v. 6).

Second, the basis of his appeal. The last line of the stanza describes David lifting up his hands toward God’s “Most Holy Place.” This refers to the innermost part of the tabernacle or temple enclosure, where the Ark of the Covenant rested. The significant thing about this is that it was there that the blood sacrifices were offered for the nation’s sin on the annual Day of Atonement.

So when David addresses his appeal toward God’s Most Holy Place he is telling God that he is coming on the basis of the shed blood, a sinner who knows that his sin must be atoned for before he can approach the Almighty. This is exactly the way the tax collector approached God in Jesus parable, praying, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). In that prayer the words “have mercy on” are actually a reference to the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant and mean the same thing as David’s invocation. That is, “Receive me on the basis of the blood atonement.” Today we know that the actual, true atonement was made for us by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Charles Spurgeon captured something of this model approach to God when he wrote, “We stretch out empty hands, for we are beggars; we lift them up, for we seek heavenly supplies; we lift them towards the mercy seat of Jesus, for there our expectation dwells.”1

Study Questions:

  1. What two points are made about David’s appeal?
  2. How is the tax collector’s appeal to Jesus in Luke 18 similar to David’s appeal to God?

Application: In what ways do your prayers need to be strengthened according to the teaching of this psalm?

1C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1b, Psalms 27-57 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 21.


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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.

Hope in God Alone, Part 1

By James Boice

Theme: An Appeal to Be Heard

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

At the end of the last study I wrote about waiting for the Lord, which is where Psalm 27 ends and what we must learn to do better, since God does not usually respond to prayer according to our timetable. We do not expect to have to wait for God forever, of course. But what should we do while we are waiting? The answer is that we need to keep praying, to persevere in prayer. Significantly, this is the point to which Psalm 28 takes us. It is about importunity.

This reminds us of a story Jesus told, introduced by the words: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). He said that there was once a judge who cared nothing for God, the law or other people. There was a widow in his town who had a case that needed to be heard. The judge wasn’t interested. She had nothing to bribe him with. But she kept coming, and finally the judge said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming” (vv. 4, 5)!

Jesus’ comment was: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (vv. 7, 8).

Jesus was not teaching that God is an unjust judge, of course, or even that he is indifferent to the cries of his people. On the contrary, his point was that God is the exact opposite of the indifferent magistrate of the story and that for this reason alone you and I should be bold and persistent in praying. We need to be persistent, because God’s answers do not always come at once, which is why the story is introduced as showing that we should always pray “and not give up.”

The structure of Psalm 28 is a common one. It is called dipodia, which means stanzas of two verses. Each of the four stanzas has two verses except the second or central one, which has three. The first stanza is an appeal to God to hear the psalmist’s prayer, a prayer he had apparently been making for quite a long time.

Why do I say this? It is because David appeals to God no longer to “remain silent.” If he is appealing to God not to remain silent, it must be because he has been silent for a while. He has not been answering, and David is appealing to him to break silence and speak to him at last. He has a good argument too. For he reminds the Lord that if he remains silent, David “will be like those who have gone down to the pit” (v. 1). It is worth thinking about this on several levels.

First, the pit is Sheol or the abode of the dead. Because of the way the sentence is written we are probably not to think that David is saying that he will die or be killed if God fails to intervene, however. That might be an appropriate thing for him to have said in other psalms where he is being threatened by hostile armies. But here his plea is for justice, particularly a vindicating judgment upon the wicked who surround him with hypocritical smiles and schemes (vv. 3-5). What David seems to be saying is, not that he will be killed or die but that spiritually speaking he will be as good as dead unless God speaks to him. If God refuses to answer his prayers, how will he differ from the dying godless who have no relationship to God whatever?

Study Questions:

  1. What is Jesus teaching us about prayer from his parable of the widow and the unjust judge?
  2. How do we know that David had been making his appeal to God for some time?
  3. What does David mean by “the pit”?

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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.

My Light and My Salvation, Part 5

By James Boice

Theme: The Soul’s Prescription

In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the need to confidently wait upon the Lord to answer our prayers.

Scripture: Psalm 27:1-14

2. We seek to be heard. Sometimes children talk to us only because they want to be listened to, not really caring what we say in response, and unfortunately many parents are too busy to listen. Is God ever too busy to listen when we speak to him? Never! Why don’t we do it more often then? The reason is that we are too busy, not God. Or perhaps the reason is our sin or unbelief. Perhaps we do not really believe that God is a true listening parent, a parent who says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7).

3. We seek guidance. Which of us knows the way to walk so we will be kept out of sin and so make progress in the way of righteousness? Not one! We no more know how to live our lives for God than children know how to avoid danger and care for themselves and others. They need to be taught, as do we. In God we have one who can be turned to for guidance. David prays, “Teach me your way, O LORD, lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors” (v. 11). He prays confidently because he knows that God will do it.

4. We seek protection. The fourth thing a child looks for in a parent is protection, and David is certainly seeking this of the Lord because of his many enemies. They are the background of the psalm, being mentioned as early as verse 2 and being suggested even in verse 1 (“whom shall I fear? … of whom shall I be afraid?”). They are the bad bullies of the neighborhood, and David needs the protecting presence of God just as a small child needs his father in such circumstances.

Does David have the acceptance, answers, guidance and protection he needs from God? Yes, because the psalm ends on this note, returning to the tone of quiet confidence with which it began: “I am confidence of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (v. 13). David is not speaking about the afterlife here. He is speaking about “the land of the living”—the here and now.

But there is this warning, which I call a prescription (vv. 13, 14). The things he is praying for (and for which we pray) do not always come to us at once. God has his timings, which are not ours, and therefore what we pray for and need is sometimes delayed. What then? Are we to despair of having answers, to lose confidence? Not at all! We simply need to wait. “Wait on the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (v. 14). If some wealthy person promised to give you an expensive gift, wouldn’t you wait for it expectantly? If you were in trouble and a king were coming to your aid, wouldn’t you be alert for his appearance? God is just such a generous benefactor and powerful king. He is well worth waiting for. It is a privilege to wait for him. Yet how little true waiting most of us really do.

Study Questions:

  1. God commands us to pray to him, and yet we do not do it as often as we should. What are some reasons for this disobedience?
  2. What are the other things David asks of the Lord?
  3. What needs to characterize our waiting upon the Lord?

Application: Make a list of ways in which God has provided these things David mentions.

For Further Study: To learn more about the presence of the Lord from a well-known Old Testament story, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “The Gate of Heaven.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)


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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.

My Light and My Salvation, Part 4

By James Boice

Theme: The Soul’s Prayer

In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the need to confidently wait upon the Lord to answer our prayers.

Scripture: Psalm 27:1-14

The latter half of Psalm 27 begins with verse 7, as I pointed out earlier, and it is here that we find the abrupt change of language, structure and tone I also mentioned. The verbs change from the first or third person to the second. The earlier affirmations become prayers. The mood changes from confidence to earnest entreaty.

Here my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

In this section of the psalm (vv. 7-12) most people’s attention is directed to verse 10, which says, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” This is partially because being forsaken by a parent is so poignant, partially because so many people have experienced disappointment from a parent to some degree. One of my friends, a clinical psychiatrist, tells me that she uses this psalm often in her counseling because so many of her patients speak of being abandoned emotionally and often physically by their parents. Indeed, an increasing number seem to have been abused by them. She uses the psalm to teach her patients that God does not abandon us like our earthly, sinful parents or friends.

There is another reason why we are naturally drawn to verse 10, however, and that is because the idea of a rightly functioning parent is ideally suited to everything David says in this section he is seeking from God. What do we seek from a parent after all? We look to a parent to receive, listen to, guide, and protect us, don’t we? Well, that is exactly what David is seeking from God in these verses.

1. We seek acceptance. In the world we all experience much rejection. Parents reject children; children reject parents. Husbands reject wives, and wives, husbands. We are rejected by erstwhile friends, potential employers, people we are courting, and others in dozens of diverse situations. Most of us experience rejection from someone almost every day. But God does not refuse us. David prays, “Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger. . . . Do not reject me or forsake me” (v. 9), and he knows, even as he prays, that God will not forsake him. God has accepted him in the past. He will continue to accept him, as he writes in verse 10: “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.”7

Spurgeon said, “These dear relations will be the last to desert me, but if the milk of human kindness should dry up even from their breasts, there is a Father who never forgets.” He added, “Some of the greatest of saints have been cast out by their families.”8

Study Questions:

  1. Why are people naturally drawn to verse 10?
  2. What is the first thing David is seeking from the Lord, and why is it significant?

Reflection: In what ways have you felt rejected by others, perhaps even by Christians? How does this psalm instruct and encourage you through such disappointing and painful experiences? 

7The verse creates a problem for the interpreter, because it seems to say that David’s father and mother had forsaken him when, in fact, they had never forsaken him, as far as we know. Some have suggested that the words should be referred to the time David took his parents to the Moabites for safekeeping, during the years he was pursued by King Saul (1 Sam. 22:34). But in that instance it was David who left his parents rather than they leaving him. Other writers have suggested that by the time of the writing of this psalm David’s parents had died and that this is what is referred to. On the whole it is probably best to regard the verse as a hypothetical statement, which is what the New International Version tries to do by words meaning, “If my father and mother should forsake me…”

8C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 1 b, Psalms l-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 4.


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.

My Light and My Salvation, Part 3

By James Boice

Theme: The Soul’s Desire

In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the need to confidently wait upon the Lord to answer our prayers.

Scripture: Psalm 27:1-14

The second stanza of the psalm (vv. 4-6) expresses David’s one great desire, which is to “dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of his life” (v. 4). This sounds a great deal like Psalm 23, which ends with David dwelling “in the house of the LORD forever.” But there it has to do with heaven, while here, in Psalm 27, the reference is to the earthly tabernacle. Indeed, David seems to be ransacking the Hebrew language for nouns to describe it: “the house of the LORD” (v.4), “his temple” (v. 4), “his dwelling” (v. 5), “his tabernacle” (vv. 5, 6).

Why, we might ask, does David have this single and obsessive longing for God’s house, particularly when we remember that the glorious temple of Solomon was yet many years in the future? At this point God’s house was still a tent, the tent David erected for the Ark when he brought it from Kiriath Jearim to Mount Zion (cf. 2 Sam. 6:17).

The answer, of course, is that it was not the earthly temple itself that charmed David but rather the beauty of the Lord that was to be found at the temple in a special way. When we were studying Psalm 26 and found a similar desire (in v. 8) I suggested that David’s longing for the house of God had something to do with his being with God’s people, who would be found there. But that is not the case here. Here the reason is solely that the psalmist might “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD.” It was the Lord himself that he was seeking.

And yet, he seeks it in the temple. Quite a few commentators seem to fall all over themselves trying to prove that this was not a literal desire for God’s house but rather a matter of spiritual fellowship.4 I would argue on the contrary that, although there is some truth in this, basically it is an anachronistic and misleading distinction.

1. C.S. Lewis has unusual sensitivity for what is going on in statements like this (David’s desire to “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD… in his temple”) born of his own long and perceptive study of literature, and I appeal to him here. He begins by acknowledging the way we naturally distinguish between the forms of religion and the spiritual reality behind it. We think of an awareness of God or of God’s qualities entirely apart from the tangible elements of worship. But, says Lewis, for the ancients, including the ancient Jews, religion was not like that. The two were not separated for them but rather were joined. They actually seemed to experience God in the temple. Thus their appetite for God was something to be satisfied almost physically:

Their longing to go up to Jerusalem and “appear before the presence of God” is like a physical thirst (Ps. 42). From Jerusalem his presence flashes out “in perfect beauty” (Ps. 50:2). Lacking that encounter with him, their souls are parched like a waterless countryside (Ps. 63:2). They crave to be “satisfied with the pleasures” of his house (Ps. 65:4). Only there can they be at ease, like a bird in the nest (Ps. 84:3). One day of those “pleasures” is better than a lifetime spent elsewhere (Ps. 10).5

I am aware, as was Lewis, that we live in a different time and are ourselves very different. We remember how Jesus said, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). But still, I believe Lewis is also right when he reminds us that we have probably swung too far to the other extreme and would do well to recover something of this robust Old Testament worship.

Or let me put it like this. There is something to be experienced of God in church that is not quite so easy to experience elsewhere. Otherwise, why have churches? If it is only instruction we need, we can get that as well by an audio tape or a book. If it is only fellowship, we can find that equally well, perhaps better, in a small home gathering. There is something to be said for the sheer physical singing of the hymns, the sitting in the pews, the actual looking to the pulpit and gazing on the pulpit Bible as it is expounded, the tasting of the sacrament and the very atmosphere of the place set apart for the worship of God that is spiritually beneficial. Isn’t that true? Haven’t you found a sense of God’s presence simply by being in God’s house? I do not mean to deny that God can (and should) be worshiped elsewhere. But I am suggesting that the actual physical worship of God in the company of other believers can be almost sacramental.

For what it is worth, let me state that the Puritans were not as hesitant as we are on this point, since they easily linked the Old Testament temple to specific churches. Richard Sibbes said boldly, “Particular visible churches under visible pastors… now are God’s tabernacle.”6

Study Questions:

  1. What does David mean when he writes of his longing to “dwell in the house of the LORD”?
  2. From the study, what point is being made about the relationship between our awareness of God’s nature and presence and the elements of formal worship?

Application: How does this psalm challenge some prevailing notions about the importance of the church and what takes place there?

4For example, see Alexander Maclaren: “This aspiration of the psalmist…depends not on where we are, but on what we think and feel; for every place is God’s house” (The Psalms, vol. 1, Psalms 1-37 [New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1893], p. 141).
5C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958), pp. 50, 51.
6C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1b, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 10.


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.