Summary: Although Psalms 9 and 10 fit together in an alphabetical pattern, they are very different. Yet, both are vital aspects of a positive relationship with god
I cannot think of ABC without thinking of that demand in the David Mamet play and film, “Glengarry Glenn Ross,” where the supervisor keeps telling the salesmen to “Always Be Closing.” Now, I meant the ABCs of the alphabet when I entitled this sermon. If I were going to have played off the play and film reference, I would have entitled it “ABT.” You would probably have wondered what I was possibly thinking and I would have responded, “Always Be Thanking.” It rather echoes I Thessalonians 5:18 (“Continually give thanks in all circumstances”) doesn’t it?
Of course, some people think being thankful all the time is like going around with a goofy smile on your face all of the time and being insensitive to other people’s feelings. Some think it means to always be happy. We can be grateful, thankful, without being irrationally “happy” in bad times. In the teen-age film where Winona Ryder came to prominence (“Heathers”), her character says, “If you were happy every day of your life, you wouldn’t be a human being; you’d be a game show host.”
Nevertheless, the Bible teaches that “thanksgiving” is intended to be a “lifestyle” rather than a mere holiday or something we do on Sunday. Thanksgiving is an act of the will to respond to God from within daily life and to gratefully acknowledge the tangible acts God has accomplished on our behalf. It isn’t easy to do because whenever we thank someone (and particularly when we thank God), we are admitting that there was something in our lives that we hadn’t thought of, were too cheap to take care of, hadn’t prioritized, or weren’t able to do for ourselves. In one way, having to give thanks feels like an indictment against our individual capability so that a gift becomes a burden. But that’s just the way our enemy twists a good thing into something that should be celebrated. We have trouble showing gratitude because it is humbling to us.
Yet, the very process of thanksgiving gives us opportunity to pause and look at both the gift and the giver in a new light. This contemplation gives us a chance to appreciate what has been done for us or given to us in a way that the value of the gift, and in turn, the giver, goes up because we have thought about and expressed appreciation. Ever notice how, as we grow older, we seem to take longer and longer in opening our exchange gifts at Christmas time? Ever notice how taking the time to look at those gifts and talk about how they’re going to bless you and your expectations for them actually ADDS to your enjoyment and appreciation of receiving the gift? And when you do this, did you ever notice that the person(s) giving the gift get a lot more enjoyment out of giving. Something they have done or something they have given is going to stick with you and be thought about, even when they’re not physically with you. Through giving, they’ve become a part of your life.
A lot of people think God is selfish because the Bible commands us to thank God all of the time. But it is really for our benefit that God has done so. As with praise, it enhances our experience. And, it’s really the only way we can include the giver in the fabric of our lives. Even God doesn’t bust the door down to bless us. God expects the request or, at least, the opening of the door when God stands at the door and knocks. In reality, In this way, we “train” ourselves to be open to God’s intervention in all circumstances.
Now, before we actually get into Psalm 9, you should know that it is special. In fact, it is so special that the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) and the Latin translation of the Old Testament (the Vulgate) treat the two psalms as one psalm. Psalm 9 focuses primarily on giving thanks for victories past and present while Psalm 10 speaks of a problem situation but finishes with bold words about God’s eventual triumph. So, if the two psalms are so different, why did some of the ancient translators believe they were a single psalm? It was because of a pattern. In Psalm 9, the poet begins each section with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order, but the psalm ends about halfway through the alphabet. Psalm 10 continues the pattern and finishes the alphabet, but there are a couple of letters missing. Why would the psalmist rigidly follow the alphabet? I believe it was to signify that the entire language couldn’t contain the subject matter being described.
In Psalms 9-10, the poet used almost all the Hebrew alphabet to spell out how God had blessed him and was going to bless him in both victory and trouble. That’s a great example.