What Does Psalm 9 have in Common with the 2018 Super Bowl Commercials?
If you watched the commercials during the Super Bowl, you may have been surprised as I was by commercials ending with “to be continued.” I remember two such commercials. Of those two, I only saw the continuation of one of them, the Bud Light one. Perhaps the other occurred while I was napping or channel surfing, or perhaps I just missed it because there was no “previously on our commercial,” to alert me to fact that this was a continuation and reminding me of what had happened. To have a commercial broken up into a two part series is not expected. Nor do we expect a psalm to be broken up into two psalms as is the case with Psalm 9 and Psalm 10.
You can’t talk about psalm 9 without talking about Psalm 10. At one time this was one psalm but now it is separated into two parts. It is an acrostic psalm. This is a poetic form for psalms where each verse, line or couplet starts with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Examples are Psalms 9-10; 25; 34; 111; 112; 119; 145.
This poetic device at times led to artificiality in trying to make it work. This form has been lost in translation which made it easy to separate the one psalm into two. In some ways they do seem like two very different psalms with no connection so it is easy to understand why they would be separated rather than together. Yet, together, they follow a familiar format found in a number of the psalms – the psalm starts with praise of God, God’s power and justice, then, after “buttering up” God with words of praise, moves to a lament, tells God his sorrows then ends with a note of confidence that God will prevail and do for him what he asks.
Another indicator that these two psalms were once joined is the “Selah” at the end of 9. “Selah” is not spoken. We don’t know the function of selah. It could indicate a pause, almost like a comma, or like a breathe mark in a song, or, in this case, it might mean – “to be continued,” meaning it is not done. It’s archaic, no longer having a meaning today, so some bibles leave this word out.
There also were a number of commercial that appeared to be a confusing hodgepodge of genres so you were left asking, what is going on? I mean, what were the Tide people thinking? I don’t know about you, but if I want to make a sale, I don’t want to confuse my potential buyers. Maybe they were trying to impress us with their cleverness. Personally, I wasn’t impressed. That being said, acrostic psalms can often seem like a confusing mishmash of sayings loosely joined together by the poetic form rather than a distinct theme. This is the case for Psalm 9.
In general, Psalm 9 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving, praising God for destroying the enemy. God is in his heaven, He sits on his throne, and all is right with the world.
The psalmist start by praising God, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. . . When my enemies turned back, they stumbled and perished before you. For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne giving righteous judgment.” (1-4)
He goes on to praise God for destroying the wicked: “You have rebuked the nations, you have destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name forever and ever. The enemies have vanished in everlasting ruins; their cities you have rooted out; the very memory of them has perished.” (5-6) It isn’t enough that the enemies of Israel were destroyed, the memory of them has been wiped out as if they never existed. This would have been terrible in the eyes of the Hebrews for they did not believe in an afterlife. People achieved immortality through their children and the community which carried their memory.
In verses 7-8 we see God as judge again. God is a stronghold for the oppressed (9) and worthy of our trust (10). The psalm continues with words of praise (11-12) and petition (13-14). Verses 15-16 is a retelling of how “the wicked are trapped by the work of their own hands,” a concept found in Psalm 7:15-17, and elsewhere in the Psalms.
Psalm 9 closes with the admonition: “Put them in fear, O Lord! Let the nations know that they are but men!” A reminder of our need for humility and to recognize that we are but human. All good sentiments, just not following a central theme. Which is okay, for these are the prayers of the people.
There was no editor following the psalmist around, correcting and critiquing his words. Just as in our prayers, words may come randomly with no connecting theme. We may borrow words from those who have come before us, mixing them with our own words. And so as we pray, we make the words of others our own, giving them new meaning and making them eternally relevant, unlike the commercials that come and go and are rarely remembered.
The psalm ends with the word, “Selah.” We have set the stage, one of praise of our God, trust in God as just judge and protector, and so we conclude but it is not over. Our prayers continue. Selah – to be continued.
This post is part of a series on the Psalms. Click on the button to follow the blog and receive a free copy of the book, Dancing on a High Wire, book 1 of the Dancing Through Life Series! click here to follow blog