New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 94:1

Yahweh, You God to whom alone vengeance belongs, You God to whom vengeance belongs-
I suggest this began as a Psalm of David pleading for vengeance against Saul and / or Absalom's group, which under inspiration was then reused by the exiles in their pleas for vengeance against Babylon. The stress that vengeance belongs to God was of course a major theme with David, in that he refused twice to take Saul's life when he easily could have done- because vengeance belongs to God and not man. And likewise it was stressed to the exiles that vengeance upon the Gentiles who had abused them belonged to God, and they were to pray for the time of His vengeance to come.  

Shine forth- 
A request for the shining forth again of God's glory from between the cherubim (s.w. Ps. 80:1); even though the ark seems to have been lost during the captivity.

Psa 94:2

Rise up-
There is a repeated Biblical theme that the believer's relationship with the Father too is essentially mutual. David lifts himself up to God (Ps. 25:1; 28:2; 86:4), and asks God to lift up Himself in response (Ps. 7:6; 10:12; 94:2).

You judge of the earth, repay the proud what they deserve-
This again is in line with the note on :1, that God and not man is the judge who will repay the proud. And yet Israel had been punished far less than their sins deserved (Ezra 9:13), and this desire for their abusers to receive precisely what they did, to be punished as their sins deserved, seems to reflect a lack of appreciation of that grace.

Psa 94:3

Yahweh, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph?-
This really had the answer "How long will it be before you exiles repent and desire to return to your God as well as to your land?". The truth was that they had gone into exile because they had 'triumphed' in their wickedness (s.w. Jer. 11:15). But it had its basis in David's wondering whilst persecuted by Saul "how long" before he would become king.

Psa 94:4

They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers boast-
The psalmists adopt God's perspective, that the essence of sin is pride, and the greatest sin of Israel's abusers was their pride and boasting. Whilst this complaint is obviously relevant to the Babylonians, the words are used by David about the proud and arrogant words of those within Israel (Ps. 31:18).

Psa 94:5

They break Your people in pieces, Yahweh, and afflict Your heritage-
This is clearly relevant to the actions of the Babylonians (s.w. Lam. 3:34).But it was true also of David's enemies within Israel, especially Saul (Ps. 143:3). The truth is that the exiles were broken because they had broken each other in pieces (Is. 3:15 s.w.). Yet that brokenness was intended to bring forth the humility which would enable them to repent and be restored (s.w. Is. 57:15 "contrite"). And it was the suffering servant as representative of Israel who was broken, as their representative (s.w. Is. 53:5,10).     

Psa 94:6

They kill the widow and the alien, and murder the fatherless-
This went on at the time of the Babylonian invasion, as Jeremiah's Lamentations testify to. But we wonder whether the psalm had its origin with David lamenting similar behaviour from Saul and his men.
The reference to "the alien" would be hard to understand in a Babylonian context. But if done by Saul, it would show a conscious disobedience to the spirit of the Law of Moses, which required that aliens be treated with the utmost respect.

Psa 94:7

They say, Yah will not see, neither will Jacob’s God consider-
This was the subconscious attitude of Saul and David's persecutors within Israel. Whilst they may not have said these words, it was a fair summary of the implications of their positions and actions. But it's quite likely that the Babylonians actually said this in so many words. But David's frequent plea for Yahweh to awake from sleep and hear, as if He were deaf, is not far off the same attitude of those who acted as if God were blind or willfully closing His eyes.

Psa 94:8

Consider, you senseless among the people; you fools, when will you be wise?-
"Among the people" may mean that the people being criticized were amongst God's people; they were warned that He who even disciplines the Gentiles (:10) will even moreso judge His own people. The question "When will you be wise?" suggests a strong desire in David [at this point] that his persecutors repent; although often he simply wishes them dire condemnation.

Psa 94:9

He who implanted the ear, won’t He hear? He who formed the eye, won’t He see?-
The exiles needed to be reminded of this, as they had the impression God was seeing or hearing their situation (s.w. Is. 59:21; Ez. 12:2). It was because of this attitude that they had gone into exile in the first place (s.w. Jer. 5:21; 7:24). There are huge implications of believing in God as the creator of men in His image. He can hardly be perceived as insensitive to what we see and hear, seeing that He created ears and eyes. The same logic demands that we believe that He can strengthen human faculties just as He wishes (Ex. 4:11). see on :10.

Psa 94:10

He who disciplines the nations, won’t He punish? He who teaches man knows-
The people being criticized were amongst God's people; they were warned that He who even disciplines the Gentiles (:10) will even moreso judge His own people; see on :8. It makes no sense to assume that the God who teaches man is ignorant of that knowledge which He teaches; this is an extension of the logic discussed on :9.

Psa 94:11

Yahweh knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile-
The Bible persistently emphasizes the colossal significance of the thoughts, the spirit. And this prepares the way for the huge theme of the Spirit in the New Testament, and the opportunity to receive a holy spirit, the very spirit or mind of the Lord Jesus. It was because of the "thoughts of man" that the earth was destroyed by the flood (s.w. Gen. 6:5). "Futile" is the word for "vanity", which is commonly used of idolatry. And this indeed is where modern day idolatry is committed- through having an empty mind, filled with vanity, rather than the things of God's Spirit.

Psa 94:12

Blessed is the man whom You discipline, Yah, and teach out of Your law-
The chastening or "discipline" is the word used for David's experiences after the sin with Bathsheba (s.w. Ps. 6:1; 38:1; 39:11). His eyes were opened to God's law through that. It was the Gentile nations who were disciplined in :
10; so David has in view here how from among them, there would come some who responded to God's judgments by wanting to learn His law.

Psa 94:13

that You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit is dug for the wicked-
The idea is that if the exiles repented and accepted God's discipline (:12), then their days of adversity in Babylon would come to an end, and their abusers would be buried eternally in the pit. The days of adversity or evil could equally refer to the evil which Judah had themselves wrought (s.w. Dt. 31:18), the days [of punishment] for their own evil. And these could be ended if they repented of it.

Psa 94:14

For Yahweh won’t reject His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance-
The implication could be, in the context of :13,15, that this would be the case if they returned to righteousness and followed it. For God had indeed rejected and forsaken His people because of their sins; the same terms are used about this in Is. 32:14; Jer. 12:7. The psalmist's understanding that ultimately God would not be left without a people therefore implied to him that His people would ultimately repent.

Psa 94:15

For justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart shall follow it-
As noted on :14, the idea could be that there would be a "return" to justice, and again the righteous would follow righteousness. It was this repentance by the exiles which would lead to God no longer rejecting and forsaking His people (:14).

David so often parallels righteousness and justice / truth (Ps. 9:8; 33:5; 37:6; 72:2; 94:15; 99:7; 103:6; 106:3). Indeed, this parallel is so common in God's word. What it means is that the righteousness of God is a just righteousness. It's not fake, 'I'll turn a blind eye'. It is true, real, valid, and has integrity underpinned in the very essential justice of God Himself. Justice and righteousness may appear abstract ideas, mere theology. But the result is that the person who believes God's righteousness is imputed to him or her... will feel this, they will know it to be true, they can by grace, in faith, quietly hold their head up before God. And David after Bathsheba is our example. He believed and felt this imputed righteousness. It's not so much a case of 'forgiving ourselves' after God has forgiven us, but rather of being swamped by this very real and legitimate sense that truly, we have been counted righteous. And Paul in Romans holds up David after Bathsheba as the personal example to "every one who is Godly" in their time of spiritual need. See on Ps. 41:12.

Psa 94:16

Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will stand up for me against the evildoers?
David had been careful to stress that justice belongs to Yahweh; hence he didn't take Saul's life when he had the chance. So the answer to this question is "God". And this was likewise to be the answer arrived at by the exiles. 

Psa 94:17

Unless Yahweh had been my help, my soul would have soon been silenced-
This is very much the spirit of the exiles in Ps. 124:1,2. But they were to follow the path of David, in devotion to God's word, repentance and thence restoration.

Psa 94:18

When I said, My foot is slipping! Your grace, Yahweh, held me up-
David recognized that his steps had slid (Ps. 38:16; 94:18). But at the end of his life, he reflects that the steps of the righteous don't slip (Ps. 37:25,31). Perhaps David came to minimize his earlier slipping, especially in the matter of Bathsheba, in his old age. Or perhaps he was able to look back and see that despite temporary sliding of steps, ultimately the steps of the righteous don't slide in the overall path of their life. 

Psa 94:19

In the multitude of my thoughts within me, Your comforts delight my soul-
The idea may be that David was confused, struggling with the idea of ultimate salvation and blessing being so different from current realities. But despite all that confusion, the simple love of God was his comfort. His confusion was shared by the exiles, and also ultimately by the Lord Jesus.
The spirit of Christ in the prophets testified Messiah’s sufferings “unto Christ" (1 Pet. 1:11 RVmg.), but He still had to figure it all out. And this enabled an element of doubt and confusion, even though in the end He knew “all the things that were coming upon him" (Jn. 18:4). To doubt or feel confused is not to sin. This Messianic Psalm had foretold: “In the multitude of my doubts within me, thy comforts delight my soul" (Ps. 94:19 RVmg.). This aspect heightens the agony of His final crisis, when He unexpectedly felt forsaken.

Psa 94:20

Shall the throne of wickedness have fellowship with You, which brings about mischief by statute?-
The initial reference would have been to the throne of Saul and perhaps later of Absalom, but was easily reapplied to the throne of Baylon.
David had a marked hatred of sin, and often stated his desire to purge Israel of sinners, and his refusal to fellowship with evil (Ps. 94:20; 97:10; 101:3-8; 119:63,78,79; 139:19). And yet he had to revise these attitudes somewhat when he as the king committed murder and adultery.

Psa 94:21

They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood-
This is how David perceived his persecution by Saul and Absalom. But he was himself not innocent of blood nor was he completely righteous.
David's prayer of repentance and request to be saved from "blood guiltiness" (Ps. 51:14) is literally 'from blood'. He was a man of blood and was guilty of Uriah's innocent blood. David had asked for 'men of blood' to be slain (Ps. 55:23 s.w.), those who had taken the blood of the innocent (Ps. 94:21), and for 'men of blood' to be expelled from his presence (Ps. 139:19). And it is not at all clear whether all those Psalms were written before his sin with Bathsheba. God was trying to teach David that he was the type of person whom he condemned. And yet it is unclear if he learned that lesson. Solomon liberally condemns the man who sheds innocent blood (Prov. 6:17; 28:17), refusing to recognize that his much lauded father had done just this, and was only saved by grace and not by any obedience to wisdom. There is so little grace in the book of Solomon's Proverbs because Solomon had failed to perceive the grace shown to his father.

Psa 94:22

But Yahweh has been my high tower, my God, the rock of my refuge-
David sees that Yahweh will be a "high tower" or place of refuge at the day of future judgment (Ps. 9:8,9, quoted about this in Acts 17:31). But David feels God has been like this to him in this life (2 Sam. 22:3; Ps. 18:2; 46:7; 48:3; 59:9,16,17; 62:2; 94:22; 144:2). He therefore sees a seamless experience in his relationship with God in this life, and at the future day of judgment. God saves us right now and is a refuge for us in countless life situations; and this is the guarantee that He will be likewise at the last day.

Psa 94:23

He has brought on them their own iniquity, and will cut them off in their own wickedness. Yahweh, our God, will cut them off-
The intentional juxtaposition of past and future tenses reflects how David believed that what he now wished in the present was utterly certain of fulfilment. God likewise sees things in this way, and faith is all about seeing things from His perspective.