Ugliness vs. Beauty
(11) Do not kill them, lest people forget. Cause them to totter by your strength and bring them down, Lord, our shield. (12) For the sin of their mouths and the words of their lips let them be trapped in their pride. And for the cursing and the lies they utter, (13) consume (them) in wrath. Consume (them) until they are no more so that they may know that God rules in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. (Selah) (14) And they return each evening.They growl like a dog and prowl around the city. (15) They wander about (looking) for food and howl if not satisfied. (16) But I will sing of your strength. I will shout for joy in the morning of your steadfast love, for you have been a fortress for me, a refuge in the day of trouble. (17) O my strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, God, (are) my fortress, the God of steadfast love.
Two verses in this segment are almost word-for-word repetitions of previous verses in the psalm. Verse 14 restates verse 6, emphasizing the bestial nature of David’s enemies. Verse 17 echoes verses 9 & 10, emphasizing another important theme, God’s loving care for those who are his. David focuses on the verbal nature of his enemies’ opposition with the following phrases: “sin of their mouths...words of their lips...the cursing and lies they utter” (vs. 12). He then describes their bestiality with three words that conveniently rhyme in English: “growling,...prowling...howling” like wild dogs (vss. 14 & 15).
Note David’s use of three synonyms for praise: “sing...shout for joy...sing praises” (vss. 16 & 17). Three more triads occur in this psalm. First, David resolves to praise God for the “strength” he provided, a repetition of the word which he has already used twice (cf. vss. 16 & 17 with vs. 9). In the same way, “steadfast love” and “fortress” occur twice in the same verses (vss. 16 & 17), both repetitions of those same words used previously (vs. 9 & 10).
I. David’s request to Yahweh regarding his enemies (11-15)
II. David’s resolve to praise Yahweh for all he has done for him (16 & 17)
Because God in his steadfast love has thwarted the efforts of our enemies, we offer him our praise from grateful hearts.
Growling, prowling, and howling (vss. 14 & 15) as opposed to singing, shouting for joy, expressions of praise (vss. 16 & 17) – what a difference between God’s enemies and those who trust in Yahweh’s steadfast love! Ugly cacophony vs. beautiful harmony, and what makes the difference is the grace of God.
Aesthetics, according to its dictionary definition, is “the study of what is pleasing, tasteful, lovely, and beautiful in human expression and experience.” The problem with aesthetics has always been the issue of subjectivity, that is, who has the authority to decide. The old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” perfectly captures the tension all of us feel when trying to distinguish the beautiful from the ugly. What seems lovely to some may not seem as lovely to others and vice versa. Are there any objective standards by which we can decide what possesses the quality of beauty or is everything left up to the taste of each observer?
Those who know God have such a standard. God, who is glorious and who does everything beautifully, has established in his own person and works the measure for what is truly beautiful. It is sin that has brought about the ugliness and corruption in the world around us. Rebellion against the one who is truly beautiful wreaks havoc in the lives of those who are opposed to God and spreads ugliness abroad. King Solomon made this observation: “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl. 3:11). This is true of what he created. It is also true of all who have been redeemed by faith in the Son. This will ultimately be true of the new heavens and the new earth when God rights all wrongs and establishes his universal rule. Meanwhile, we must learn to cope with the ugliness that surrounds us as we rejoice in the beauty God has given us to enjoy in our everyday lives. We look forward to the day when he will restore everything to the beauty that reflects his glorious perfection.