Psalm 9: From the Gates of Hell to Gates of Glory

Psalm 9: God Defeats Puny Man

The psalm begins where the last one left off, with praise to God. The focus in this psalm, however, is more towards God's faithfulness in protecting those who look to him for deliverance when their enemies attack them. The psalmist is exultant in how powerful God is compared to which all his enemies are as nothing.

9:1 "I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders."

But his praise of God goes far beyond an appreciation of what God has done, his wonders; he rejoices in God himself, in his Being.

9:2: "I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High."

Because the psalmist rejoices in knowing God and loves him, God delivers him from his enemies.

"'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name'" (Ps. 91:14).

9:3-5: "My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously. You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

God's justice and punishment of his enemies is described in frightening words, the most terrifying of which is hinted at in verse five, that their name is blotted out for ever and ever, but stated in more explicitly horrifying terms in verse six:

9:6: "Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy, you have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished".

How truly terrifying! To find after a lifetime that one's existence amounts to absolutely nothing. That one is so little noted or regarded that even the memory of one's existence perishes when that existence ends on this earth. How utterly tragic and terrifying!

"Even the memory of them is forgotten" (Eccl. 9:5).
"All memory of his existence will perish from the earth; no one will remember him" (Job 18:17).

But immediately after contemplating this terrible fate of the wicked, the psalmist then contrasts it with the eternal nature of the one who disposed them to that awful fate. They are so fragile and weak that even their memory cannot survive, while God himself rules over them:

9:7: "The Lord reigns forever."

Those foolish enough to have defied the almighty God vanish in an instant, while God himself reigns forever. And that is not all. God is not content simply to reign in heaven, far removed from earth and its inhabitants, especially his people who look to him for deliverance from these enemies. Verse seven goes on to say that "he has established his throne for judgment."

God created the universe for his purposes and he has a right to expect its inhabitants to dwell there in accord with his plan and expectations. If they do not, as creator he has the right–and duty–to judge them. And he will.

9:8: "He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice."

But though the Lord judges all in righteousness, . . .

9:9: "The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."

What comfort and assurance this gives to those who trust him.

9:10: "Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."

Given this solid hope of help from God, what should be our response? The psalmist tells us:

9:11-12: "Sing praises to the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done. For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted."

Though the memory of those who attack God's people is destined to be forgotten, God does not forget their evil deeds of spilling the blood of God's people. The psalmist then pleads for God to show himself strong for his people so that they can indeed praise him.

9:13-14: "O Lord, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death, that I may declare your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation."

The psalmist seeks to be moved from one gate, the gate of death, to another, the gate of life and praise. The use of this term, gate, helps to give patience and hope to all who are afflicted in this life. For a gate implies something nearby but not yet attained. A gate is an entry point, not the actual possession of what lies behind that gate. Because of the enemy's attacks, the psalmist and his people are at the gate of death. But they are not yet abandoned to that fate, not yet behind or inside of that gate. Because they trust in God, they expect him to lift them up from going through that gate and to deposit them at the gates of God's own dwelling place, so that they can praise him. But that has not yet happened either. It is all at the gates right now. Nevertheless, by faith, they see their victory. They shall escape one gate and be brought to a better one.

But while they escape, their enemies will fall victim to the judgment of God.

9:15: "The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden."

The trap that these enemies thought to spring upon God's people shall be the very trap that captures them. This is the boomerang justice of God (see my blog on this at

9:16: "The Lord is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands."

9:17: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God" (KJV).

Once again, the matter of being remembered or forgotten comes up in this psalm. Those that forget God will be turned into hell and forgotten. How absolutely terrifying! But also how appropriate. They did not want to remember God in their lives on earth, so what they did towards God comes back to haunt them–forever.

Then, as often happens in the psalms, the writer contrasts the destiny of the wicked and the righteous. The wicked may be forgotten, but the righteous are remembered.

9:18: "But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish."

Right now, just as then when this psalm was written, the needy are often forgotten. But verse 18 reminds us that this will not always be so. For now, God allows evil to exist in this world with us. We are not to let this affliction cause us to lose hope, for the hope of the afflicted will not perish. Our hope is in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Evil thought to kill that hope on the cross, but hope survived even death and rose again in victory over the enemy of hope and faith.

Neither man nor the devil can triumph over our blessed hope, Jesus Christ. The psalmist was aware of this even though he wrote centuries before our hope was born into this world. The psalmist cries out to God:

9:18,19: "Arise, O Lord, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, O Lord; let the nations know they are but men. Selah"

When God acts in his final judgment of this world, the nations will indeed know that they are but men. For they will die beneath the righteous wrath of God for their evil. They may have glorified themselves with their might and lifted themselves up in self esteem to great heights, but in that day, they shall be brought down.

"Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs, and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken" (Ps. 141:6 NIV).

"And thou . . . which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee" (Mt. 11:23,24 KJV).

God has done many mighty works in this world. Psalm 9 begins with praise to God for those mighty works. It ends with a look towards the coming judgment God will hand out upon all who refuse to acknowledge those mighty works and praise him for them. From start to finish, he is God. Selah.


Note: All Scripture quotations from the NIV Bible unless otherwise stated.

NIV: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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