Exploring the Meaning of Psalms 9
By Rev. Julian Duckworth
Psalm 9. Prayer and thanksgiving for the Lord’s righteous judgments.
This is a psalm which is full of the Lord’s great activities on behalf of the speaker, and, as a result of these, the certainty of the downfall of what is evil. One verse (6) gives an example of the kind of language running through the psalm, “O enemy, destructions are finished for ever!
It is important, as with each and all of the psalms, not to see all of this destruction of evil in terms of human affairs and what other people deserve. Psalms are spiritual, not political or even moralistic. While evil of any kind should be brought to an end, the greatest spiritual evils are those we find taking place within ourselves in our heart and our intentions, in our mind and its judgments and views of people and the world we live in.
The other meaning of all psalms is that they give expression to what was in the mind and heart of the Lord Jesus Christ during his life in the world, during his temptations and in both his humanity and his sense of his divinity. Psalm 9 can be seen to be full of these inner states, feelings and resolves of Jesus.
The psalm begins with an outpouring of personal praise of the Lord. No reason for this is given as yet, just adoration. The next few verses then turn to the Lord’s activity, his presence, his maintenance, his justice, rebuke and destruction of the wicked. (Arcana Caelestia 8227)
Verses 6-8 bring out the apparent power of what is evil. This is described as the destruction of cities and even of the memory that they once existed. This has an interesting spiritual meaning, because ‘cities’ represent what we have come to believe and to build up as our truth, like a ‘city’. When evil takes hold of a human mind, it brings darkness, confusion and violence to the extent that clear thinking and discernment comes to an end. (Heaven and Hell 505)
The psalm then moves into statements of the Lord being a refuge in times of trouble, as one who never forsakes one who seeks, and who does not forget the cry of the humble. This brings on renewed praise in the psalm. The spiritual idea here is that when we think about the Lord, who He is, what He does, how good He is, we begin to become aware of it all and affected by the Lord’s work on us and on everything. It evokes praise and thanksgiving. (Arcana Caelestia 456)
The last part of the psalm, from verse 13 becomes personal, beginning with a plea for mercy and for having been lifted up from death. This is followed by a realisation of how evil brings about its own downfall. Wickedness will be turned into hell and the poor and needy will not be forgotten. May all people come to know that they are but men, and that the Lord is over all.