Psalm 9 is a song of thanksgiving in which David praises God for showing His righteousness in judging wicked nations and he is expressing his gratitude that people who are afflicted or oppressedcan trust such a judge. We can break the psalm into two sections.
The first is David’s praise of God as a righteous judge to whom the afflicted can look to for help. This section spans verses 1 through 12. The second section begins with verse 13 and continues for the rest of the psalm and is David’s petition for deliverance from enemies that were plotting against him and Israel.
Psalm 9 – Part 1
1 To the chief Musician upon Muthlabben, A Psalm of David. I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.
David exclaims that he will show the works that God has done – he calls them marvelous works;he will be glad and rejoice in God; and he will sing praises to His name. It may appear that David trying to make a bargain with God – if You do this then I will do that – but I don’t think so. This is adoration and praise, in this case, for protection that God has already performed on David’s behalf. (By the way, this is the way we should begin each prayer we pray.)
The term “Muthlabben” doesn’t refer to an instrument, but probably to a tune that was familiar with the people at that time. The word means “the death of the son.” David says he will praise the Lord “with my whole heart.” He will not praise with only a part of his heart like hypocrites. For instance, Jesus said we aren’t to pray like the hypocrites who pray with the idea of elevating themselves in the eyes of the people around them. Also, the heart is where true praise comes from – the mouth and voice is only the method of deliverance of that praise. Finally, in verse two he says that Yahweh is “Most High,” that is, He is above all those who set themselves against Him.
3 When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence.
4 For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right.
5 Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever.
6 O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.
This is the reason for the praise. God has vindicated David by punishing the nations that rose up against him and Israel. David ends verse three saying that the enemy will fall at the presence of God – a mere glance at God is enough to destroy any enemy. We see this in John 18:3-6 when Jesus was arrested the soldiers who came to arrest Him fell down and in 2 Thess 2:8 the intense light of God is the means of the destruction of the son of perdition.
David’s enemies had opposed him as God’s chosen representative and God had been thorough in His punishment, virtually wiping out at least some of the cities of the attackers so that not only had the cities totally disappeared, but also the names of the enemies. “Rebuked” in vs. 5 is an actual, physical punishment – not only words. We understand this meaning because of the words that follow, “Thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever.” Then in verse six we read about the destruction that is virtually on-going. God has destroyed cities and even memories (or perhaps even monuments) of them.
In these verses (4,5) David considers that God has affirmed his right to his throne and that God is, in turn, sitting on His throne in heaven. God is in control and the issues between the wicked (i.e., Satan) and God are not to be settled by strength of one’s armies, but by the righteous judgment of God Himself.
7 But the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment.
8 And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness.
Verses 7 and 8: David announces that the Lord will abide forever and he will forever rule as the righteous judge.
9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
10 And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.
Here, David talks of God’s mercy on the afflicted and oppressed, saying He is their refuge. The word refuge means, literally, “high place” in Hebrew – a good place to be when trouble approaches. They know that in Yahweh they have all they need and he will never forsake them. Verse 10 shows us an image of a people who know of God’s saving grace already. They will put their trust in Him because He has worked on their behalf in the past.
11 Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings.
12 When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.
In the last two verses of this section David urges the people, the afflicted and the oppressed, to praise God declaring to everyone all that he has done. He tells them that God remembers the blood that has been shed and He will not forget the cry of the humble.
There is a book that was written several years ago called Power in Praise in which the author tells us to praise God all the time – no matter what has happened, good or bad. This is what David is doing here, telling his people to praise God and tell everyone around them to declare the works of God.
13 Have mercy upon me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death:
14 That I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation.
Now comes David’s prayer. He asks here for mercy, asking God to consider the attacks he has been under from his enemies. He addresses God as the one who lifts him up from the gates of death – the Hebrew word for lifts is a word that refers to an on-going situation, not just a single occurrence. The gates of death refer to situations that are so dire that they are like the gates of a prison in which one is shut up forever. Essentially, he is asking God for favor because of the enemies that are attacking him and his people with such ferocity that it is like they fear for their lives.
Cities were often referred to as virgins, therefore the phrase daughters of Zion, and these are life-giving or refuges whereas gates of death are quite the opposite – places of death and imprisonment.
Verse 14 gives the reasons why God should hear: that there should be a fresh cause for praising Him; that he could tell all the causes for his praise; that he would show God’s excellence.
15 The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.
16 The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah.
David is seeing the work of God, now, he is confident that God has heard his prayer. God’s help in a time of trouble is something that he had witnessed many times and he is sure that God will once again deliver on His promise of safety and salvation. The enemies are being caught in the traps they have set for David and he has faith that this is God’s own hand working for him.
Isn’t this true in the activities we see around us? I know I have seen it happen to people who set traps of lies – or worse – for people they want to harm and they, themselves, end up getting caught in those lies. It is as if their greed or lust for power or their hatred has blinded them so they cannot see that they are becoming entangled in their own web.
The Haggaion is an interlude in the singing to allow reflection on what has been said. The Selah is a further interlude, without music or singing to again allow reflection without distraction.
17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
18 For the needy shall not alway be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.
The fate of the wicked and of the nations that forget God is spelled out here. It is interesting when we understand that “the wicked” and “the nations” are two unique entities in this verse. It turns out that “the wicked” in Hebrew is a word that is singular in number. It refers to Satan. The nations that forget God will meet with the same fate as Satan.
Forgetfulness does not refer to a mere ignorance about God like those who have never heard of Him, but is a willful ignoring of God as judge. In short: the wicked who turn away from God will be put away from His remembrance forever. We need to be on our guard and knees, praying for the people and the nations of which we are citizens to not forget God. The price they pay will be terrible and irreversible.
Unlike the wicked and those who forget God, the needy and oppressed will not be forgotten and those who trust in God will not perish.
19 Arise, O LORD; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight.
20 Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.
This is David’s petition to the Lord. He pleads that God would not let men prevail by drawing the people toward forgetting God. Man is weak and for him to appear to be the strong one who appears to make God’s power seem small is so ridiculous that God must rise and put things in their proper order. Instead, let the heathen be judged so all can see that fear will be instilled in them and the nations will know they are only frail, mortal men.