- The first three verses of this psalm set the tone for how David is going to pray for deliverance. The first verse brings the argument in legal terms. David calls for the Lord to “contend” with those who contend against him. The word “contend” is used as of a defense attorney who is called to argue a case on another’s behalf.
- David also takes a military angle in verses 2-3. David calls for the Lord to go to battle and fight for him against his pursuers. David speaks of God as a bodyguard, who in the midst of close combat is called to “take hold of shield and buckler” and “draw the spear and javelin.” The response David is longing to hear from the Lord is, “I am your salvation.” The warm words of God to encourage us to wait for God’s deliverance.
I. Be My Warrior (35:4-10)
A. A call for retribution
- As we read this section of the psalm, it is hard to miss all of the requests David prays to the Lord. David is praying a military call for deliverance and vengeance upon those who have without cause hid their net for him and dug a pit for his life (verse 7). David is calling upon God to act against these evildoers.
- Let them be put to shame. David calls for his enemies who try to kill him without cause to be put to shame and dishonored. We have seen a number of times in the psalms that to be “put to shame” means to be disappointed or let down. David is saying he wants those who are trying to kill him to be disappointed. Let their plans not come to pass such that they are let down and discouraged.
- Let them be turned back and confounded. Second, to those who are devising evil against him, David prays they are rebuffed and sent away. Let their attempts be futile and their plans confused so they will leave David alone.
- Let them be like chaff before the wind. Third, let his enemies be blown away in the wind. Let those who pursue David be turned back and driven off by the angel of the Lord who protects the righteous (see psalm 34:7 and its comments).
- Let their way be dark and slippery. As they are being pursued, let their way be slippery and dark so that they will feel the wrath of God against their actions. Do not let them get away with what they are doing easily. They must find difficulty as consequence for their actions.
- Let ruin come on them unawares. Bring destruction and run upon these evil people. Let them fall into their own traps and catch themselves in their own deceitful schemes. David is simply praying for God to bring upon these people what they deserve.
B. Promise of praise
- David declares he will rejoice in the Lord and in his salvation when these things happen to his enemies. When vindication and justice come, he will rejoice all the more in the Lord. Even all his bones will say, “O Lord, who is like you?“
- The answer, of course, is no one is like the Lord. He delivers the weak from those who are too strong for them. The Lord delivers the weak and the needy from those rob from them. Only God can bring true justice to those who are suffering. Only God can bring consequences on those who have done such evil. No one can bring retribution for their actions like God.
II. Be My Defense Attorney (35:11-18)
A. Know their godless attacks
- David describes the situation that confronts him, painting a legal picture instead of a military picture we saw earlier. David says that malicious witnesses rise up asking him things he does not know about. The picture is that David is on the stand testifying as violent witnesses cross-examine him. David does not know what they are asking about, which signifies his innocence in the matter against which he is charged. These violent, malicious witnesses repay David’s good with their own evil.
- Notice how good David has been to these malicious people. When they were ill, he put on sackcloth and humbled himself by fasting. David had compassion on these people to the point he made petitions to God on their behalf. These petitions were earnest to God as he even fasted and put on sackcloth show his sincerity and zeal in the matter. When his prayers came back to him, he went about mourning and grieving as though for a friend, a brother, or a mother.
- But when he stumbled, these same people all gathered in glee. They did not show the same compassion and sympathy that David showed for these malicious people in their time of distress and need. Instead, they gathered to attack David while he was unaware. They slandered him without ceasing, maliciously mocking him, and gnashing their teeth toward him.
B. Rescue me
- David cries out, “How long, O Lord, will you look on?” How long will these things continue? David has done good toward these people. But when the tables were turned, instead of showing mercy and compassion as he did, they used it as an opportunity to ruin David. Therefore, David cries out to God to be rescued.
- This is David’s defense as he calls upon God to be his advocate in this situation. David is declaring his innocence, showing that his actions have been righteous toward these malicious witnesses. He is not the guilty one, but those who have tried to ruin him are the guilty ones.
- David makes another promise to thank the Lord in the great congregation and praise the Lord among the throngs of people. David will rejoice and give thanks when the Lord defends him from his enemies.
III. Be My God (35:19-28)
A. You saw it…do something!
- David asks the Lord to not let these treacherous enemies rejoice over him. They are schemers and plotters of evil. They do not speak peace but conceivers of deceit against those who are quiet and righteous in the land. These false witnesses open their mouths and declare they have seen David do these wicked things.
- David says, “You have seen O Lord; do not be silent! O Lord, do not be far from me!” David says that the Lord has seen what has happened. It is time for the Lord to do something about it. “Awake and rouse yourself for my defense” is what David is longing for from God. Again, David is speaking of God as his defense attorney in these matters. Stand for my cause, Lord! Vindicate me, Lord!
B. Let the righteous rejoice
- David calls for the Lord to allow the righteous to rejoice and the wicked to be disappointed altogether. This can only happen when justice is given against evil and righteousness is vindicated. Do not allow the evildoers to claim victory.
- Let the righteous be able to shout, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant.” This is the promise and hope the righteous have in the Lord. Our vindication will come from the Lord. Our oppression and suffering will not go unseen by God and will not forgotten when it is time for judgment. The psalm ends with David’s third promise to tell of God’s righteousness and tell of God’s praise all day long.
A. The incomparability of God
- What a great reminder David offers us in verse 10: “Who is like you?” There is no one like God. There is nothing can compare to the greatness of the Lord. How often we are trading the greatness of God for the worthless things of this world! How often we put our trust in the physical things in this life to get us through our troubles instead of seeing that there is no one like God who can get us through these circumstances.
- David saw the need to place his petitions on God. We have a song that says, “Be with me, Lord, I cannot live without thee. I dare not try to take one step alone. I cannot bear the loads of life unaided. I need thy strength to feel that thou art near.” Only God can get us through the loads of life. Do we feel these are accurate words concerning our relationship with God? Can we honestly say that we dare not try to take one step alone? Or have we run most of life’s race without God, attempting the bear these heavy loads ourselves? We need to ask God for more guidance in our lives. We need to ask God to show us the way we ought to go. We need to consult the word of the Lord to be sure our actions are in line with God’s righteousness. We do not know what is best for us and what we need. God knows what is best and only God can get us through.
B. God is our warrior and our advocate
- I really like the images found in this psalm which describe God as a help for us. God will take hold of a shield, spear, and javelin and go to battle on our behalf. God can drive off those who devise evil like the wind drives off the worthless chaff. If God is for us, who can be against us? God is going to battle for us. He is on our side and with God on our side, we cannot lose and cannot fail.
- I also like the imagery of God as our defense attorney. God is our advocate who sees our innocence and will defend us. We will be vindicated and proven righteous. God see the ways of the wicked and hears the slanders of evil. God will prevail and we have every reason to trust God will not disappoint us.
C. Continue in righteousness
- Perhaps the most difficult application of this psalm is noticing how David treated these evildoers. He calls out for their ruin and for his own vindication in the events which surround him. But do we see how David treated these people? He still showed compassion and sympathy, which is absolutely amazing. When they were sick, he wore sackcloth and fasted. When the prayers returned, he grieved with them as if it were his own family members.
- We are to repay evil with good. We are not to bring our personal vengeance upon others with our own hands. We are not given the authority to treat others the way they treat us. We are called to be models of God’s righteousness, even though some may be unworthy of such good treatment. Let God vindicate. Let our actions always reflect goodness and righteousness.