The psalms up to the ninth are pretty easy to pigeonhole. At risk of being accused of profiling, I’ll confess it’s pretty hard not to categorize the sixth psalm as a lament. The seventh is a stereotypical imprecatory psalm, and the eighth psalm is unmistakably a hymn. So as to cover my tracks and be politically correct, let me add that none of these categories are absolute or watertight. In contrast, the ninth psalm doesn’t so neatly fall into place. It is a mixture of thanksgiving, praise, imprecation, and lament.
At the risk of further offense, we might say that this otherwise masculine psalm seems to have a feminine emotional state. Yes, all of these emotions can come together, not only in one psalm, but in one person—the poet-warrior David. Not only can these diverse moods go together, they should. The emotional hue of many worship gatherings today is a tepid pastel pink. We’re neither burning red or cooling blue. We don’t know how to lament or rejoice, so we settle for cheap laughs and peppy talks. We have more goofy than glory.
The psalms invite us to a wider emotional range. A range corresponding to reality, that is to say, to God. John Calvin wrote, “I have been wont to call this book not inappropriately, an anatomy of all parts of the soul; for there is not an emotion of which anyone can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.” The psalms teach us that not only must our minds be discipled to think truth, but our hearts must be disciplined to feel accordingly. This doesn’t mean we become monotone emotionally. It means the colors become righteously vivid.
If this psalm is mixed-up, it’s mixed up in a good way, like cake batter. Bitter vanilla and sweet sugar come together to make something better together than they could’ve independently.