Psalms 9-10 – Joy and Sadness

While Psalms 9 and 10 have been presented in most translations as two separate psalms, evidence points to their origin as one psalm. The psalms are connected as one psalm in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament read during Jesus’ earthly life. Together they follow the pattern of a Hebrew acrostic, although not all of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are included. When seen together as one psalm, they display a sharp contrast of joy and sadness.

But shouldn’t these psalms remain separate since they seem to contradict one another? No. On the contrary, they present a tension familiar to the lives of many seasoned believers–a tension between victory and failure, faith and uncertainty, confidence and perplexity. The psalmist reflects on deep questions concerning God’s presence and God’s apparent absence as well as God’s justice and the prosperity of those who deserve to be judged. The psalmist thanks God for the many wondrous deeds he has performed, and this leads him to wonder why God seems so distant in the midst of his struggle.

The life of the Christian is often a walking contradiction. We aim to trust in the unbelievable promises of God, and that trust drives us to ask deeper questions of him as we draw out the implications of those promises in our daily lives. I am reminded of something my professor Frank James told us today in our History I class. He said that the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most difficult doctrines to believe. He also said that if we’ve never questioned this doctrine, we probably don’t truly believe it. Truth must be wrestled with and engaged with on many levels if it is to bear authentic fruit in our lives.

I have an unhelpful tendency to see polarity in my Christian experience as two opposing forces. I look at the times when I am joyful and trusting fully in God, saying to myself, “Yes, this is how I should always be!” But then I look at the times when I am joyless and questioning God, saying to myself, “I should never be like this.” This is an improper view for the life of a Christian. The psalms express the vast array of human emotions, lifting them all to God. How refreshing it is to know that God has ordained moments of joy and sadness! How good it is to know that he is using both experiences for my good!

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