Psalm 69 - The restoration and the zeal of the Lord

Bible Studies on the Messianic Psalms

Psalm 69 - The restoration and the zeal of the Lord

by I Gordon


Psalm 69 is like a smorgasbord of Messianic passages. It is a buffet of the finest tasty treats. Argh, well, in terms of Messianic passages that is. We are only going to look at a very small portion of it (verses 1-9). So we'll start with what is useful this time of the morning - a test. Here are the first 9 verses and you can tell me which verses are quoted in the New Testament about Jesus. Rumor has it that this the actual test that will be applied at the pearly gates. Though rumor has it you shouldn't believe every rumor you hear. Here's the passage:

Psalms 69:1-9 A Psalm of David. Save me, O God, For the waters have threatened my life. (2) I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me. (3) I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; My eyes fail while I wait for my God. (4) Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; Those who would destroy me are powerful, being wrongfully my enemies; What I did not steal, I then have to restore. (5) O God, it is You who knows my folly, And my wrongs are not hidden from You. (6) May those who wait for You not be ashamed through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; May those who seek You not be dishonored through me, O God of Israel, (7) Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; Dishonor has covered my face. (8) I have become estranged from my brothers and an alien to my mother's sons. (9) For zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.

There are three verses or parts of verses that are quoted in the New Testament from this portion of scripture. Jesus quoted verse 4 about Himself and His rejection. (John 15:25) The disciples remembered the first part of verse 9 when a zealous Jesus cleared the temple (John 2:17) The Apostle Paul quoted the last part of verse 9 to show that Jesus came not to please Himself (Rom 15:3) Now, as I was reading through this, the main part that stood out concerned the zeal of the Lord which is mentioned in verse 9. We'll concentrate on that the most while browsing all of verses 1-9. When I read these Psalms I like to ask myself some questions. Namely:

  1. What is the context of the Psalm? What was happening in the life of the Psalmist?
  2. How was it fulfilled in the life of the Lord Jesus?
  3. What does it mean for our lives today?
  4. Does it have any future prophetic relevance?

What was happening in the life of the Psalmist?

So what was happening in the life of the Psalmist? After many hours of diligent study I can now tell you that I do not know. So that clears that up. Point number 2... Well, maybe a little more detail. There are some Psalms where we know the definite circumstances that led to the Psalm being written. And some we don't. This falls in the latter category. It is a Psalm of David's and obviously there was a lot of rejection, a lot of trouble and a lot of opposition going on. The first few verses give an overview of the desperation:

Psalms 69:1-3 Save me, O God, For the waters have threatened my life. (2) I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me. (3) I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; my eyes fail while I wait for my God.

David is under tremendous affliction and he feels like he is going down for the count under the relentless pounding of opposition and troubles. As he says, he is in deep waters. Maybe you have gone out in really heavy surf and taken a bit of a beating. Sometimes you can get held under by a big wave and occasionally you don't even know which way is up. And when you do finally get to the top, coughing and spluttering, then comes the next wave! Sometimes life can be like that; Deep waters, crashing waves and no foothold. In verse 4 we find a little more.

(4) Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head;

This narrows it down a little for us. David wasn't dealing with health concerns, financial difficulty or marital problems. He was dealing with an untold number of people that seemed to hate him - and without cause. It is quite possible that this Psalm was written around the same period that we spoke of in the last two messages where we looked at the betrayal of David by Ahithophel and by his own son Absalom who turned the hearts of the people against David. David had to flee for his life at that stage and if you know the story he was given a lovely send off by a very pleasant man called Shimei.

2 Samuel 16:5-14 As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul's family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. (6) He pelted David and all the king's officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David's right and left. (7) As he cursed, Shimei said, "Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! ... (11) David then said to Abishai and all his officials, "Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. (12) It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today." (13) So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt. (14) The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted...'

It says they arrived at their destination exhausted! It isn't an easy road to travel where you just commit yourself to the Lord and don't retaliate. Yes, David knew what it was to be hated, and even hated without cause. But we should also remember that this particular passage isn't just about David. This brings us to the second question:

How was it fulfilled in the life of the Lord Jesus?

The Lord Jesus quoted this verse concerning Himself in John 15:25.

John 15:24-25 If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. (25) But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'

Just as the people turned on David, a man after God's own heart, so they turned on Jesus. They hated Him without a cause. What a crazy thought. Jesus taught the people about the Father. He healed their sicknesses and forgave their sins. He delivered the demonized and lifted up the downcast. Yet He was hated without cause. If that doesn't speak to us of the twisted condition of the human heart nothing will. Yet that hatred, without cause, is matched by the love and grace which He showed us... without cause.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. [1]

Restoring what He did not take away

Psalms 69:4' ...Those who would destroy me are powerful, being wrongfully my enemies; What I did not steal, I then have to restore.'

I've always enjoyed this verse. The KJV puts it like this: 'that which I did not take away, I then had to restore.' Something was taken. Something was stolen. And someone had to restore it. The Lord Jesus wasn't the One who took it but He was the One who put His hand up to get it back. Now none of us really like having to fix something that we didn't cause, do we? You remember when you were little and your Mum says to you 'your room is a mess... you are not going anywhere until it is tidied up.' And you say 'I didn't do it. It was Fraser... Fraser did it!' And she says 'I don't care who did it. But you are not going anywhere until you've put it right!' 'But it was Fraser... Oh Fraser! Fraser...' When we are little we don't think it is very fair or just to have to pay for something someone else did. 'It's not my mess. Why should I clean it up?' But thankfully God doesn't think like we do and that is why the Lord Jesus came! 'What I did not take away, I then have to restore'. And He did so willingly, without compulsion, simply driven by a love for us and a zeal for His Father's will.

So what was taken? What was stolen from mankind? Innocence, sinless standing, fellowship with God, a beautiful world free from any curse, bitterness, disease or violence - one created perfectly for mankind's needs. All has been taken; All stolen. All lost. That which was taken Jesus had to restore. Some of this was restored at the cross. Some awaits His return. But all that was lost at the fall will be restored and even more so. Those in Christ will find themselves in an even greater position and standing than what Adam and Eve had before the fall.

'Aside He threw His most divine array, And veiled His Godhead in a robe of clay
And in that garb didst wondrous love display, Restoring what He never took away.' (Author Unknown)

And what did it take to do this?

The zeal for His Father's will

Psalms 69:7-9 Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; Dishonor has covered my face. (8) I have become estranged from my brothers and an alien to my mother's sons. (9) For zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.

The Bible, speaking of king David firstly, but ultimately of the Lord Jesus, reveals a zeal that burned within for the things of God. So much so that it brought reproach from the masses around. So what exactly is zeal? The Hebrew word has the following thoughts: In the KJV this Hebrew word, qinah, is used 43 times. 25 times it is translated as Jealousy, 9 times zeal, and 8 times envy. So it can have good and bad connotations. It is a feminine noun (I won't read anything into that!) that describes an intense fervour, passion, and emotion. Let's look at how this came out in the life of the Lord Jesus.

Where's that whip?

John 2:13-17 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (14) And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. (15) And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; (16) and to those who were selling the doves He said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business." (17) His disciples remembered that it was written, "ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME." [2]

What was happening here? The key is the timing of the event. It was nearly Passover. Do you know what God commanded the Israelites to do in the week leading up to the feasts of Passover and Unleavened bread? They had to remove any trace of leaven from their homes. Leaven was and is a type of sin in the Bible so it had to be removed. Everyone was incredibly diligent to search and remove any trace of it during this time. So Jesus here was simply doing in His Father's house what all of the Israelites were doing in their own homes - He was removing the leaven - removing the sin. His Father's house, the temple, had just become a business. People weren't so much interested in prayer and learning God's ways as they were making a profit from selling the animals for sacrifices and charging exorbitant exchange rates on the temple money that they had to purchase animals with. In short, it had just become a business and Jesus hated it. The zeal (that is His burning passion, fervour and emotion) that Jesus had for His Father's glory drove him to clear it all out.

It makes you wonder what He would do today does it not? When the church is run like businesses for profit, driven by CEO's essentially with corporate business and marketing principles, what would Jesus think or do?

What does it mean for our lives today?

Reading this got me thinking about two things and how it relates to me. They are simple enough.

  1. It made me ask what is God's house today? The zeal that Jesus showed, that emotion, passion and fervor was for God's house. 'Zeal for your house will consume me'. If Jesus had zeal for God's house then, how would that apply today? We are God's house today. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. He has the same passion and, in a good sense, jealousy, to see our lives free from worldliness and used for God's glory today.

Deuteronomy 6:12-15 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (13) Fear the LORD your God, serve him only... for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God.'

The Lord is a jealous God in the same sense that a husband would be, or should be, if his wife starting looking at other men. If a husband wasn't jealous in that situation something is just plain wrong. God's intense love for His people looks and longs for a singular love, devotion and faithfulness back.

  1. Secondly, it got me wondering what I am zealous for. Do I still have that passion and fervor for the things of God? J.C Ryle said that ' Zeal is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way. ' Does that describe me? Does that describe you? Each of us can only answer that in our own hearts. It isn't saying that we have to be exuberant or a particular personality type. It isn't saying that you suddenly have to be an excitable and over the top type of person. We are all different. But is there a burning desire within to know God, please God and to advance His glory? It's interesting that the Greek word for zeal used in this passage in John is 'zelou', a masculine noun meaning heat, to be hot, fervent. Like an inward fire. It brings back memories of the Laodicean Christians in Revelation whose assessment is that they were lukewarm Christians (unfortunately indicative of Western Christianity today as a whole). Not completely cold, but not hot either. Jesus actually said He would rather they were one or the other. And what command is given to the Laodicean church? What's the solution for lukewarm Christians?

Revelation 3:19 'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

We are like a balloon... We have leaks. We need to be filled. The world pulls at our feet and even the lightest weight can pull us down.

What future prophetic significance does this event have?

Let's finish with a brief look at the future prophetic outworking of this passage. In the book of John, the cleansing of the temple is closely linked to the wedding where Jesus performed the miracle with the wine. This points to what will happen when Jesus returns. There will be the long awaited marriage of the Lamb and there will be a total cleansing of not only God's temple, and Jerusalem, but of the entire earth.

Zechariah 14:20-21 On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD's house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. (21) Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty... And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite ('merchant','trader') in the house of the LORD Almighty .

When I was doing this study I looked to see where else 'the zeal of the Lord' is mentioned. I found that most occasions are mentioned, especially in the Old Testament, in connection with the return of the Lord. Let's just look at one following passage. Well, maybe two. In this study of Psalm 69 we have focused most on two things:

  1. Jesus will restore all things: 'That which I did not take away, I then had to restore.'
  2. He was filled with zeal for God's name, glory and people.

These two points meet together and have their ultimate fulfillment at the second coming. Look at this passage:

Isaiah 59:16-20 And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him. (17) He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle. (18) According to their deeds, so He will repay, Wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; To the coastlands He will make recompense. (19) So they will fear the name of the LORD from the west and His glory from the rising of the sun, For He will come like a rushing stream which the wind of the LORD drives. (20) "A Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," declares the LORD.

Isaiah 9:6-7 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (7) There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

That which was lost will be restored and even more so. And it is the zeal of the Lord - the intense fervour, passion, and inward burning desire of the Lord that will see this accomplished. Jesus still has the same zeal for that which is God's as he did when He drove the merchants and money lenders from the temple 2000 years ago. Only this time it will be worldwide. The earth is the Lord's and no ISIS, no Islam, no human force or kingdom will stop this from happening. He will reign from then on and forevermore - The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this!

[1]  Speaking on this passage, J. Vernon McGee wrote: 'T he Lord did not find any merit in me. The Lord didn't say, "That fellow McGee down there is such a nice fellow, I'll justify him." You can be sure he didn't say that! Rather, He said, "He is a poor lost sinner." He justified me without a cause within me. Now this psalm tells us that they hated Jesus without a cause - they hated Him without a cause that I might be justified without a cause. What a wonderful truth this is!'

[2]  The story is told about a young Theodore Roosevelt who would later become the President of the United States, As a boy 'Teddy', as he was known, was so afraid of the Madison Square Church that he refused to set foot inside if alone. He was terrified, his Mother discovered, of something called the "Zeal". It was crouched in the dark corners of the church ready to jump at him, he said. When she asked what a zeal might be, he said he was not sure, but thought it was probably a large animal like an alligator or a dragon. He had heard the minister read about it from the Bible. Using a concordance she read him those passages containing the word ZEAL until suddenly, very excited, he told her to stop. The line was from the Book of John, 2:17: "And his disciples remembered that it was written, The Zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."

That's enough to scare the bravest kid!