Psalm Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalm 59, God Is My Stronghold


We have read many psalms of lament in Book 2 of the Psalms. We have read an especially interesting string of laments by David concerning the enemies that have been oppressing him. One reason these psalms are interesting is that the Israelites used these psalms in captivity, praying from justice against the nations and their enemies. The psalms have always been regarded by the Jews as having a moving context, adapting the lament to apply to the person’s current circumstances.

The specific context of this psalm is given to us in the title: “when Saul sent agents to watch the house and kill him.” This description links the background of this psalm to the situation recorded in 1 Samuel 19. In 1 Samuel 19:11-18 says: 11 Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed.” 12 So Michal let David down through a window, and he fled and escaped. 13 Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head. 14 When Saul sent the men to capture David, Michal said, “He is ill.” 15 Then Saul sent the men back to see David and told them, “Bring him up to me in his bed so that I may kill him.” 16 But when the men entered, there was the idol in the bed, and at the head was some goats’ hair. 17 Saul said to Michal, “Why did you deceive me like this and send my enemy away so that he escaped?” Michal told him, “He said to me, ‘Let me get away. Why should I kill you?'” 18 When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there.”(NIV)

It is amazing how many times Saul attempts to take David’s life. In 1 Samuel 19 Saul sends men to David’s house to kill him. Michal spares David’s life and gives him time by pretending that he is sleeping in his bed and is sick. Notice that Saul did not care that David was sick. Saul commands the men to get him up out of the bed so he can kill him. David writes this psalm under the stress of this life threatening circumstance.

I. God, the Deliverer (59:1-8)

A. Deliver me (1-2)

  1. The first two verses describes David’s plea for deliverance. As you read the first two verses, there is no doubt that the circumstance in which David writes is about these men who have been sent by Saul to kill him. David asks for help with three different words in four places in the first two verses. David cries to God: “deliver me,” “set me securely on high” (NASU), “deliver me,” and “save me.” Most of the versions translate the second word in the second phrase of the first verse as “protect me” or “defend me.” But the word literally means to be set in a high place.
  2. David asks for salvation from these men who have risen up against him and are intent on shedding his blood. David is depicting an image of God setting him on a high place where he cannot be attacked from his enemies and particularly those who have come to his house to kill him.

B. Lord, look! (3-5)

  1. David continues his prayer by asking God to see some things that are going on in David’s life. First, look they set an ambush. Fierce men conspire against him and powerful men are attacking him. David is crying out to God see the troubling circumstances he is in.
  2. Second, look and see that I am innocent. David declares, “Powerful men attack me, but not because of any sin or rebellion of mine. For no fault of mine, they run and take up a position.” I do not believe that David is saying that he completely free of any sin ever in his life, from the context of David’s circumstances. Rather, I believe David is saying that he innocent in regards to Saul and has not done anything deserving of death. David has not violated the law that would cause Saul to send men after him. David has not acted in any way that would cause Saul to come against him. There would be no reason for David to call out for mercy from God if David was deserving of death and deserving of the actions of Saul.
  3. Third, David calls for the Lord to awake, arise, and punish. We see in verse 5 how the psalm was expanded to be used by Israel toward their national enemies and not just any one person’s individual enemy. David says, “Rise up to punish the nations; do not show grace to any wicked traitors.” This is David’s request to God.
  4. I think this is a good time to point out how many times David told God what he wanted to have happen. David was not fearful of telling the Lord what outcome he desired. While God’s wisdom is certainly greater than our own, we must see that can tell God what outcome we desire. Instead of asking God to generally “be with them” as we have the tendency to pray for people in difficult circumstances, let us work more on talking to God exactly what we want. We want the disease to go away. We want a person to come back to the Lord. We want a person to be made well. Let us try to avoid the generalities and tell God what the problem is and what we think would be the best solution. Then leave it in God’s hands and God’s wisdom to arise on our behalf.

C. Description of the enemies’ attack (6-8)

  1. In verses 6-8 David describes the attacks of the enemies. The first description David gives is that they are “snarling like dogs.” Obviously calling someone a dog or that someone is acting like a dog is very insulting. Dogs were not looked upon as gentle, domesticated pets in antiquity. In this passage David points out that his enemies are acting like a pack of roving, snarling dogs. This is a picture of danger that anyone would feel when confronted with a pack of wild dogs who are snarling because they are ready to attack.
  2. The nature of the attack is not only physically threatening, but also verbal. David says, “See what they spew from their mouths—they spew out swords from their lips.” We can too easily forget the devastating nature of hurtful, sharp words. The pain inflicted from sharp words can be so severe that it seems more painful than dying. In fact, we often speak that if someone is going to act this way, we would just as soon die. Our words can comfort and heal. But our words can also bring great pain.
  3. We also see the arrogance of these people who use their lips as swords against David because they say, “who can hear us?” These people think they can say whatever they like, believing they will get away with their verbal attacks. We would not say the evil things we say about people if we did not think that we would be able to get away with it. We always assume that we will not be held accountable for our words. We assume that the person we are speaking evil about will never know. Therefore, in our arrogance we destroy friendship, relationships, and any trust that could exist between people. Too many times Christians are acting like snarling dogs, ready to bite just for the sake of biting. We need to watch our tongues and watch our words otherwise we are violating God’s command: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).
  4. Notice that God does hear our words and has a response. As hurtful as these words can be, especially when the swords come from the people we love, God simply laughs at those who would be so foolish to use their tongues for harm. David says, “But you laugh at them, LORD; You ridicule all the nations.” David pictures God simply shaking his head at humanity when our tongues are swords. We are forgetting that God will judge. We are forgetting that we will be held accountable for these hurtful words. Jesus said, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).

II. David’s Confidence and Conclusion (59:9-17)

A. God will judge

  1. In verse 9 the psalm takes a shift as David describes his confidence and expectations in the Lord. Notice these confident words, “I will keep watch for You, my strength, because God is my stronghold.” Further, we ought to see that David speaks about his expectations as God coming. David says he will be watching for God. Verse 10 is more direct, “My faithful God will come to meet me.” To speak of the coming of the Lord was to speak of judgment, not about the end of the world. This judgment is clearly identified in verse 11.
  2. David desires God’s judgment not to be in the evildoers’ death, but to crush the evildoers. David is not making this prayer as revenge for himself. Rather, David wants these people to be made as an example to all of Israel that those who use their tongues for evil will feel God’s wrath. David does not want the people to forget what happens to those who act with such evil. David wants them to be caught in their lies and brought down in their pride. David calls for the judgment be done in a process so that the people would see and learn about God’s justice. The point of judgment is to let the earth know, but especially God’s people, that God rules.

B. Concluding trust

  1. Though David knows these things to be true, evildoers still exist. Verses 14-15 go back to describing the continued evil of the “dogs.” Though the evildoers continue to snarl like dogs, David will sing of God’s strength and proclaim God’s faithful love. This is an impressive display of confidence because, based upon what we have read, David’s circumstances have not changed. How can David have this confidence?
  2. David’s words in verse 16 give the explanation: “For you have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble.” As verse 17 basically states, God has always been there for him before and will continue to be with him. God is faithful, meaning that during this time of trouble David knows that God is still with him.

C. Final life lessons and reminders

  1. Watch our words for we will be judged by them.
  2. God hears our prayers. We cannot miss the way David deals with his circumstances. Prayer is our avenue and God listens.
  3. God knows our hearts. There is great pain in the midst of our trials. It is hard to do what is right when people commit evil against us. Even worse, it is a challenge when people think that our trials are punishment for our actions. God knows our hearts, humans do not. It would be very easy to look at David’s life and assume he had been deserving of his trouble. We are not able to judge the hearts. Even when people judge us improperly, we can stand before God knowing that God is able to see our motives and see our hearts.
  4. God defends our cause. David has confidence that God will stand behind him and give him assistance because God has done it in the past. It is one way we able to get through hard times, by reminding ourselves that God has helped in the past.
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