Category Archives: James Montgomery Boice

June 5 Tuesday: The Rock That Is Higher Than I

By James Boice on Jun 05, 2018 12:00 am

It’s important to notice the image David uses for God in verse 2, calling him “the rock that is higher than I.” The idea of God being a rock is common in the psalms, appearing twenty times.1 In fact, it occurs three times in the next psalm, Psalm 62. We have already looked at it at some length in our study of Psalm 18, where alone it is used four times in an interesting progressive sequence: “The LORD is my rock (v. 2); “My God is my rock” (v. 2); Who is the Rock except our God?” (v. 31); and “Praise be to my Rock” (v. 46)!

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June 4 Monday: The Rock That Is Higher Than I

By James Boice on Jun 04, 2018 12:00 am

In the Trinity Hymnal, the hymnbook we use in our church, William O. Cushing’s hymn “O safe to the rock that is higher than I” is linked to Psalm 94 because of verse 22, which speaks of God as a rock of refuge. But it is hard to read Psalm 61 without supposing that Cushing had it in mind, rather than Psalm 94, when he composed the hymn.

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May 29 Tuesday: If God Does Not Go with Us

By James Boice on May 29, 2018 12:00 am

Even in times of blessing we can expect some things to go wrong. In fact, even when we are closest to the Lord ourselves, we can be sure that there are still areas of our lives that will cause us trouble and need correcting.

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May 24 Thursday: God Is My Fortress

By James Boice on May 24, 2018 12:00 am

In the psalmist’s first appeal (vv. 1-5), the emphasis seemed to be on David’s danger and therefore on the bloodthirsty men who had been set against him. In this second parallel appeal (vv. 10-13), David’s description of the danger shifts to what he is asking God to do to these enemies.

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May 23 Wednesday: God Is My Fortress

By James Boice on May 23, 2018 12:00 am

Most people who live in the West today have little appreciation for the role of the numerous wild dogs of an ancient eastern city. For us, dogs are pets for the most part, or at least guard dogs that patrol an area but are not allowed to roam wild. It was not like that in the East. Occasionally people may have had small dogs as pets. Jesus’ words to the Canaanite woman seems to imply this: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs” (Matt. 15:26). But generally the dogs of an Eastern city were wild scavengers which roamed in packs, particularly at night when they searched the streets and alleys for garbage or other food that may have been discarded by the citizens.

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May 22 Tuesday: God Is My Fortress

By James Boice on May 22, 2018 07:14 am

From where we sit, in safety and comfort, and frequently surrounded by luxuries, the psalms sometimes seem to be little more than quaint poetry containing noble thoughts. We lose a feel for their urgency. Yet the psalms are often very urgent and their prayers almost desperate. We catch something of the urgent quality of this psalm in the imperatives that begin each of the four swift sentence prayers of verses 1 and 2: “deliver”, “protect,” “deliver” and “save.” These are not casual utterances. In them we can sense David’s awareness of danger and of his desperate aloneness except for God.

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May 21 Monday: God Is My Fortress

By James Boice on May 21, 2018 02:00 am

Psalm 59 is another psalm with an historical setting from the life of David, the great poet of the first two books of psalms. These historically-based psalms have appeared in more or less alternating order since Psalm 51. That is, when we look at the titles to these psalms, we find historical references for Psalms 51, 52,54,56, 57, and now 59 and 60. Most of these are linked to the days when David was hiding from King Saul, first at Nob, then at Gath, next in the wilderness of Ziph and finally in the wilderness cave of Adullam. As the collection comes to an end, we find Psalm 60 looking ahead to something that happened later in David’s life when he had been king for some time, and Psalm 59, which we are to study now, looking back to David’s first troubles with the king.

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May 17 Thursday: Low Deeds in High Places

By James Boice on May 17, 2018 12:00 am

The second stanza of Psalm 58 moves from a description of the wicked to a prayer that they and their evil might be overthrown by God. It contains five images for what David is asking God to do. They move from what is powerful to what is increasingly weak, from what is awe-inspiring to what is merely tragic or sad.

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May 16 Wednesday: Low Deeds in High Places

By James Boice on May 16, 2018 12:00 am

The stanzas of the New International Version are a reasonable way to outline this psalm. The first stanza is itself in two parts, since verses 1 and 2 address the wicked directly while verses 3-5 describe what they are like. But there is a sense in which the entire stanza is a portrait of these people. Stanza two is a prayer that they might be overcome or destroyed, a malediction. It occupies verses 6-8. The final stanza, verses 9-11, is a prediction of the end of the wicked and the vindication of the righteous. It concludes with a striking summary in verse 11.

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May 15 Tuesday: Low Deeds in High Places

By James Boice on May 15, 2018 12:00 am

Yesterday I mentioned Charles Colson’s address at Harvard Business School, in which he spoke of the lack of ethics in our culture. The audience that heard the address I am referring to was mostly passive, however, as many Americans seem to be today. Americans tend to dismiss corruption, saying simply, “Well, that’s just the way people are.” And they are, of course! That is what original sin is all about. G.K. Chesterton said that the doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy that has been empirically validated by 3,500 years of human history. But the fact that “all have sinned” and that low deeds in high places are so frequent does not mean that we are to accept sin or corruption passively. Especially not in our leaders! And not in ourselves!

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May 14 Monday: Low Deeds in High Places

By James Boice on May 14, 2018 12:00 am

There was a time in American political history when anyone reading Psalm 58 would have thought it somehow unreal, at least where the United States is concerned. Psalm 58 is about unjust rulers, and in those earlier halcyon days America was favored for the most part with leaders whose characters were upright and whose actions were above reproach. No longer. Today corruption is widespread even at the highest levels of political leadership, and Psalm 58 seems to be an apt prophetic description of our times.

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April 30 Monday: “What Can Man Do to Me?”

By James Boice on Apr 30, 2018 12:00 am

What can man do to me? We know the answer to that, and we do not have to think about it very much. The answer is: A lot! And to prove it all we have to do is read the morning’s newspaper. The week I wrote this study, on just one day, I read these stories.

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April 27 Friday: Betrayed by a Close Friend

By James Boice on Apr 27, 2018 12:00 am

The alternating structure of the psalm continues in verses 20 and 21, where David casts a final glance at the friend who has betrayed him. But the tone has changed, hasn’t it? Earlier David was deeply pained by the betrayal. Here, having laid the matter before God and having assured himself that God is his Savior and that he will surely deliver him from such evil, David steps away from his own feelings and reflects on the wrongdoing itself. The real problem is that the man is a covenant breaker, and the reason he breaks covenant is that he is a hypocrite. He pretends one thing but plots another. He speaks peace, but actually he is devising war.

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April 25 Wednesday: Betrayed by a Close Friend

By James Boice on Apr 25, 2018 12:00 am

Having unburdened himself of his troubled inner feelings, the psalmist now turns to the wicked who are wreaking havoc in the city. His description of this evil is in words people who live in cities in our day can readily understand (vv. 9-11).

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April 24 Tuesday: Betrayed by a Close Friend

By James Boice on Apr 24, 2018 12:00 am

There is a significant difference between the setting of the two earlier psalms of betrayal and this one. In Psalms 52 and 54 David is in the wilderness fleeing from his enemy Saul, a low point in his career, while in Psalm 55 he is apparently established in Jerusalem, his capital city. This must mean that Saul is dead and that David is now king. We would expect this situation to be good. David’s troubles should be over. But we find that this is not the case and that David is as much troubled in his ascendancy as he was when a fugitive.

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April 23 Monday: Betrayed by a Close Friend

By James Boice on Apr 23, 2018 12:00 am

In Psalm 52 David’s presence in Nob had been disclosed to Saul by Doeg the Edomite. It concerns David’s betrayal by a foreigner. In Psalm 54 David has been betrayed by the people of Ziph, that is, by his own countrymen. This short series of betrayal psalms reaches a strong climax in Psalm 55 with its description of David’s betrayal by an intimate friend.

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April 20 Friday: Betrayed

By James Boice on Apr 20, 2018 12:00 am

He makes his request (v. 5). Finally, David makes the specific request that God might destroy those who are attacking him. In the case of Doeg, pictured in Psalm 52, he has already prophesied what his end would be. It was to be pulled down, snatched up, twisted out and torn from Israel, even from the land of the living (v. 5). David is not so graphic in Psalm 54, but he does pray that evil might “recoil on those who slander” him and that God might be faithful to him by destroying them.

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April 18 Wednesday: Betrayed

By James Boice on Apr 18, 2018 12:00 am

What does David mean when he asks God to save him “by your name” in verse 1? That idea does not have a great deal of importance for us, because we do not often think of the “name” itself being particularly significant. We think of God but not the name of God. For the Old Testament saints it was different. For them names were important. They were understood to sum up the character and personality of the person named.

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April 17 Tuesday: Betrayed

By James Boice on Apr 17, 2018 12:00 am

Yesterday we were describing the setting of Psalm 54. David had gone to the town of Keilah to rescue the city from the Philistines. But when David discovered that Saul was coming in pursuit, and that the city was going to deliver David over to Saul, David escaped and fled into the desert of Ziph.

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Friday: A Psalm That Is Repeated

By James Boice on Apr 13, 2018 12:00 am

The fruit of sin. Sin destroys the one who pursues it, of course. But verse 4 also shows how it impacts others. The verse uses a simple image, describing evildoers as “those who devour my people as men eat bread.” In the Middle East, as in the western world, bread is the most common of food staples. It is eaten regularly and with scarcely a thought. This seems to be how the psalmist regards evildoers as acting when they further their own interests. They devour the weak and poor in order that they might grow strong and rich themselves. What an apt description of our own “dog eat dog” world! We know people who function exactly like that. They don’t care what happens to anyone else. Underneath the glamour, that is sin’s true nature.

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