The Upper Side
I will give thanks and praise the Lord, with all my heart;I will tell aloud all Your wonders and marvelous deeds. I will rejoice and exult in you;I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. When my enemies turn back,They stumble and perish before You. For You have maintained my right and my cause;You have sat on the throne judging righteously. You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked and unrepentant;You have wiped out their name forever and ever. The enemy has been cut off and has vanished in everlasting ruins,You have uprooted their cities;The very memory of them has perished. But the Lord will remain and sit enthroned forever;He has prepared and established His throne for judgment. And He will judge the world in righteousness;He will execute judgment for the nations with fairness (equity). The Lord also will be a refuge and a stronghold for the oppressed,A refuge in times of trouble; And those who know Your name [who have experienced Your precious mercy] will put their confident trust in You,For You, O Lord, have not abandoned those who seek You. Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion;Declare among the peoples His [great and wondrous] deeds. For He who avenges blood [unjustly shed] remembers them (His people);He does not forget the cry of the afflicted and abused. Have mercy on me and be gracious to me, O Lord;See how I am afflicted by those who hate me,You who lift me up from the gates of death, That I may tell aloud all Your praises,That in the gates of the daughter of Zion (Jerusalem)I may rejoice in Your salvation and Your help. The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made;In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught. The Lord has made Himself known;He executes judgment;The wicked are trapped by the work of their own hands. Higgaion (meditation) Selah. The wicked will turn to Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead),Even all the nations who forget God. For the poor will not always be forgotten,Nor the hope of the burdened perish forever. Arise, O Lord, do not let man prevail;Let the nations be judged before You. Put them in [reverent] fear of You, O Lord,So that the nations may know they are but [frail and mortal] men. Selah.
Recently I visited Toledo, Spain, and viewed paintings of the great sixteenth-century artist, El Greco. Perhaps his most famous work is The Death of the Conde, a huge breathtaking tableau.
The painting has an upper and lower side. In the bottom half, El Greco depicted the ornate funeral of a count, with casket attended by richly dressed family members, nobles, and priests. The second is one of sorrow and grief.
On the upper side, El Greco painted the reception of the count into heaven. Down below, he lay within the casket, but up above, he was being flown or carried into the presence of God by angels and surrounded by the joys of the heavenly hosts.
The exquisite work of art was El Greco’s way of saying, that for the be.I ever, every down-here scene of human sadness has a concurrent corresponding scene up there.
When we lose sight of the upper side, sometimes life become intolerable.
Davis paints Psalm 9 amid a difficult lower experience, described in the last eight verses of the psalm. But in the opening twelve verses, he focuses first upon the scene in heaven.
Are you in a place of sadness, grief, or loss? Read Psalm 9 and get the upper side perspective even before you get to heaven.
As we open Psalm 9 we are given first the view of heaven and I think David begins the psalm with that view because as he describes the “lower view” this gives him and us the hope we hold dear. When we find ourselves in the presence of God, we will experience unrestrained joy. Those “perilous moments” will be among the things for which we praise when we consider how He brought us through. No longer will there be a war between faith and feeling for when we arrive in that place, we will be able to praise Him “with all our heart.”
In the beginning of the psalm, David speaks of his current troubles and his powerful foes as though they happened in the past. They have been thwarted, ruined, and defeated and even their memory has perished. That’s what heaven will be. Gone will be the troubles and trials, heartaches and sorrows. Gone will be those who have tormented and wronged and misused us. Gone will be the power of sin and Satan and their memory will be washed away.
George Wood says, “One day we will see how God acted to make our problems perish while preserving us.”
There will be a complete different perspective when we view life from the topside.
While we might not be able to count on much else, including ourselves, God is always reliable. In Scripture God says, “I am the Lord, I change not.” He will never cease to love us and He will always be just and fair. He will never forsake us(Hebrews 13) nor ignore our cry for help when we are afflicted. We will never need Him to sign a contract or a prenuptial!
George Wood says that on the upper side you know that God does not ignore you. On the lower side there is panic: “Lord, please take a look. Do you see what’s happening to me? My problems are about to overrun me!”
David has been crushed down to the point of death. He has no human solution but only hope that God will somehow bring him to the opposite- life eternal. George Wood says, “Despite insecurity we must trust the Lord to help us.”
On the upper side we know that God doesn’t forsake but on the lower side we might say that while we believe that God will not always forget us, we wonder if He has right now. George Wood says, “To be forgotten devalues personhood, affliction compounds loneliness and isolation.”
In verse 19, David implores God to not “let man triumph.” When we face evil, we are inclined to call out as David, “O God, please do something!”
George Wood tells us, “When we turn our attention away from the source which brought us harm, and focus on the Lord, we discover we can rely on His righteous character, eternal rule, and fair judgement.”
One of those who understood trials, struggles, and suffering- the apostle Paul had this to say:
“But we have this precious treasure [the good news about salvation] in [unworthy] earthen vessels [of human frailty], so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be [shown to be] from God [His sufficiency] and not from ourselves. We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be shown in our body. For we who live are constantly [experiencing the threat of] being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be evidenced in our mortal body [which is subject to death]. So physical death is [actively] at work in us, but [spiritual] life [is actively at work] in you. Yet we have the same spirit of faith as he had, who wrote in Scripture, “I believed, therefore I spoke.” We also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and will present us [along] with you in His presence. For all [these] things are for your sake, so that as [God’s remarkable, undeserved] grace reaches to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of [our great] God. Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]! So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Dr. John Thompson