Psalm 92

Good vs Bad

Who do you know that has a high moral character? How does that person compare to others?

There are good people, then there get the point. Some we admire for their morals; others we admire for their fortitude. Some are role models because they live out their faith; others we admire for trying to live out their faith. Of course, we don't admire the person who doesn't try or who doesn't care to live the moral life.

It's too easy to use a broad brush to separate the good from the bad, the virtuous from the evil; we shouldn't, but we all do it. That attitude did make its way into Scripture, especially Psalm 92.

Psalm 92 was not so much a hymn of praise, but a statement of the faithful against the faithless. More to the point, the song pitted the king (or high priest/governor under a foreign power) loyal to YHWH against the person who denied. it's God. The psalm can be divided into three sections: the context for praise, the juxtaposition of YHWH with the person who denied him and the character of the faithful.

A Psalm. A song for the Sabbath day.

1 It is a good thing to give thanks to YHWH,
to sing praises to your name, Most High;
2 to proclaim your loving kindness in the morning,
and your faithfulness every night,
3 with the ten-stringed lute, with the harp,
and with the melody of the lyre.

World English Bible

While the place of praise in 92:1-3 was not mentioned, singing praise for the covenant ("loving kindness" and "faithfulness") twice daily echoed to the morning and evening sacrifices offered in the Temple (Numbers 28:3-4). The author penned the hymn in the tradition of King David who praised God with lute and harp (1 Sam. 16:23). So, liturgy set the stage for the rest of the psalm.

4 For you, YHWH, have made me glad through your work.
I will triumph in the works of your hands.
5 How great are your works, YHWH!
Your thoughts are very deep.
6& A senseless man doesn't know,
neither does a fool understand this:
7& though the wicked spring up as the grass,
and all the evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.
8& But you, YHWH, are on high forever more.
9 For, behold, your enemies, YHWH,
for, behold, your enemies shall perish.
All the evildoers will be scattered.
10& But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox.
I am anointed with fresh oil.
11& My eye has also seen my enemies.
My ears have heard of the wicked enemies who rise up against me.

92:4-6 gave the reason for praise: YHWH gave the king or chief priest/governor victory over his foes. The ruler saw this victory as God's will, and he praises the divine for his providence and wisdom ("great works...deep thoughts"). Faithfulness in these verses opposed the faithlessness in 92:6-7, 9. The faithless were "senseless" and "fools." Their plans were temporary; their place in society and their political influence did not last. Notice the author aligned himself and his fate with that of YHWH's. It was he and God vs. the wicked; his enemy was God's enemy. God would raise up the ruler; his place would be affirmed ("exalted my horn"), his office would be renewed ("anointed with fresh oil"), he would see enemies defeated.

12& The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree.
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13& They are planted in YHWH's house.
They will flourish in our God's courts.
14& They will still produce fruit in old age.
They will be full of sap and green,
15& to show that YHWH is upright.
He is my rock,
and there is no unrighteousness in him.

92:12-15 shifted away from the wicked to the character of the righteous in a series of metaphors. Like YHWH, they will stand firm (like "the palm tree" in a sand storm stands erect; 92:12a). They will worship frequently in the presence of God at the Temple, like the cedars of Lebanon that supported the Temple, "planted" in God's house, flourishing in the Temple courts (92:12b-13). As a result, they will still live an ethical and pious life even into old age, as a way to give praise to God (9:14-15a). The psalm ended with a statement of faith; God is solid, like a rock, so his character is true (92:15).

The good vs. the bad. Yes, there are those we admire for the virtue, others we revile for their vice. We should remember, however, that both virtue and vice are not a destination but a process. We have virtues and vices only to the extent that we do them. But, they do have an affect on our character and outlook. The virtuous are dependable, tested and firm; the evil scatter to the winds. The truly virtuous realize they cannot practice virtue alone, however. They need God. He is the one who strengthens, he is the one who defeats enemies, he is the one who helps us to live moral lives even into old age.

How has God strengthened you in your moral life? How have you leaned on him to help you overcome your moral faults?