The psalms have been the song book of the people of God for many years and some of them (like psalm 83) can worry us – especially as they were used in public worship! So how do we make sense of these troubling verses.
One of the most important interpretive keys for scripture is that the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed and the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. That is very helpful for me because the Bible is unfolding in revelation and it is only in Jesus that things come together.
Jesus brings all the previous Biblical insights together.
What we are seeing in the Psalm is a picture of spiritual warfare. Before Jesus came along the battle between good and evil was chiefly played out in the physical realm. Paul says (Ephesians ) that our battle is not against flesh and blood but spiritual powers and principalities.
God has made a good Creation but presently it is dominated, in the spiritual realm by powers that seek to undermine the work of God and make creation a bad place. The evidence is before us each night on the main news programmes.
In the Psalm we are seeing battles that involve Kings and people groups around Israel. These people are all connected to the powers of evil and worshipping these powers. The King is seen as the chief representative through whom these powers act. (Just as, in the Bible, the Kings of Israel were to be the public representatives through whom God would act.)
Today we are possibly prone to forget that surrounding God’s people are enemies that seek our downfall and destruction – we forget that to our loss. The world is not a neutral place. You and I are a battleground for spiritual realities.
“O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. See how Your enemies are astir, how Your foes rear their heads.” (Psalm 83:1-2)
Such was the prayer of God’s Old Testament people when they were surrounded by enemies who were attacking them. God’s Old Testament people felt as if their whole world was arrayed against them. Hence, they were desperate for God’s help. God has offered us help in that he offers us the way of Jesus.