Praise for the past while living in the present

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Reading through the Psalms when everything in life is going “as planned” and everything “is as it should be” is one thing, reading through the Psalms either in the midst of great pain or after great suffering is another thing.

The tone of Psalm 9 is quickly set with the first two verses…

“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.
I will be filled with joy because of you.
I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”

David praises God for the past (especially in verses 3-6) but while living in the present as we can find in the rest of the Psalm.

It is important to note that David’s praise for God’s past working does not cause him to look at his current circumstances through “rose colored glasses.”

Our love/hate relationship with the “health and wealth” gospel (if we have enough faith, then…) seems to always be seeping into our hearts and minds.

Yes, we can and must praise God for the past as we remember his faithfulness. We worship him for who he is, not for what he gives. So yes, as we remember his past provision, it gives us the faith and hope to look forward, but that does not mean that God is obligated to remove all hardship, sickness, trouble, pain, or suffering now, in the present. He may, he can, but if he doesn’t, that does not mean that the “formula” must be lacking a certain element.

Three verses jump out for me in Psalm 9, that show me that even in David’s praise of remembering God, he is not out of touch with the reality of the present.

“The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” (V9)

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.” (V10)

“But the needy will not be ignored forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed.” (V18)

In verses 3-6 David is speaking in the past tense (the enemies are finished, the nations have been rebuked, David’s enemies have retreated), but in these few verses he is explaining current situations.

What is David’s reality as seen in these three verses that are in the midst of a Psalm of praise?

  • There are times of trouble, right now, right here.
  • God has not wiped away every trouble (that is to come, but it’s not yet).
  • God’s people are, even now, being oppressed (crushed, afflicted).
  • If we weren’t, then God might not need to be our refuge.
  • If we weren’t, then we might not run to God for shelter.
  • Many of God’s people have been abandoned and feel that they have been abandoned (reality)…but we still trust in God’s name (his character).
  • Trusting in God may change our circumstances (if God wills), but it doesn’t always mean that, does it?
  • In troubles and pain, we search for God. Would we want it any other way? A better question might even be, would God?
  • The needy are ignored all over the world. And many of them are God’s children.
  • The needy will not always be ignored, but they are today.
  • The hopes of the poor are crushed in the present, otherwise David would not have said that this won’t always be the case.
  • Reality is, crushed hope exists now, even in God’s people as they are living in very hopeless situations.

We love the Psalms because they are honest and real. There is no hint of “health and wealth” in the Psalms. No rose-colored glasses. The psalmists say it how it is.

Genuine worship is real, raw honesty with a God who knows the deep sorrows that are in our hearts. Praise and thankfulness that comes from brokenness, even in the moment of being broken.

With David in this Psalm, I can praise God for his past faithfulness and deliverance. Too many to count!

With David in this Psalm, I concur, the present is hard, hope can seem crushed, affliction is painful, the needy are ignored…but none of that means that God is not God, is not good, is not fair, is not faithful, is not just, is not loving, or is not reigning.

With David in this Psalm, I want to praise God for the past, but trust him while living in the present…and that means searching for him, calling to him, running to him, and finding shelter and refuge in him.

God never ignores us. He will not abandon us.

But let’s be biblical, he may still choose to keep us in a place of affliction so that we keep running to him as our “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps 46).

Would we want it any other way, would God?

O Lord, thank you for your mercy and love — past, present, and future!

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