Recent world news items:
The Moroccan media is publishing false accusations against foreign Christians in an effort to perpetuate Islamic animosity toward Christians in the country.
Uzbekistan: Authorities continue to pressure churches and Christians, fabricating evidence to punish or limit Christians’ ability to practice their faith, and subjecting them to excessive fines, false accusations, and confiscating their Christian literature.
On January 6, the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress launched a report that contained highly inflammatory and false accusations against the Christian community in an attempt to bolster support for the repressive legislation.
Abbottabad, Pakistan – Accused of a crime they did not commit, two Christian spouses were arrested and savagely beaten by the police for three days, for refusing to confess.
Hindu extremists continue to target Christians in India with harassment, false accusations, beatings and even murder. The Global Council of Indian Christians believes Hindu extremists are behind two recent murders of Christians in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
Last Tuesday,two pastors were burned to death in Mombasa, Kenya. The two pastors, Benjamin Juma of Nyali Baptist Church and Jackson Kioko of Melchidizek Church, were planning to hold an evangelistic outreach in the Jomvu area of Mombasa, but while they were planning, a crowd gathered and suddenly accused them of being thieves. Without waiting for any confirmation of the supposed crimes, members of the crowd set the two pastors on fire. By the time the pastors’ friends and families heard about what was happening, it was too late.
David’s situation quite similar: falsely accused of plotting against the government, of inciting rebellion (1 Sam. 24:9-12; 26:18-19). This Psalm his response, his cry to God for justice, not only for himself but for the nations. Principles apply regardless of specific nature of accusations or parties involved. Just as pertinent to ones dealing with injustice on personal, family level and where the stakes don’t rise to level of life and death.
Important to note as we go along here, David’s cry not motivated by selfish desires or ends. Yes, he had personal stake in the outcome – survival. But that’s only one component of the whole and not primary motivator; just actions and just result as outworking of God’s just and righteous character are what David desired. And it’s all in context of heart devoted to God. Look at the “bookends” of the psalm:
v.1a “O LORD my God, in You I put my trust;”
v.17 “I will praise the LORD…” “[I] will sing praise to the name of the LORD”
total confidence in covenant Yahweh, total devotion to Yahweh seasons the expressions of David’s heart and lips. Will come back to that at end.
A. Lord, save me – from whom 1b-2
those who pursue to make war or take revenge
unrelenting, no rest even for moment; spoiling for a fight, trying to provoke conflict, seeking to get even, payback for imagined injury
dangerous enemies (2)
ones who have real power to do real harm – slander, even though begins with words, if unchecked can have profound long-lasting consequences
slander quickly multiplies enemies – begins with one, never ends that way. Understandable given qualities of slander’s “poster child”: “your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”. (1 Pet. 5:8)
David prays: enemies are closing in; push them back, make room for me to live in peace. Lord, you’ll have to do it because no one else can rescue me.
B. Lord, save me – why 3-5
Lord my God, what have I done? Have my hands done something wrong? Have I done wrong to my friend or stolen without reason from my enemy? If I have, let my enemy chase me and capture me. Let him trample me into the dust and bury me in the ground. Selah NCV
I’m innocent of the charges (3)
so far as David knows, he bears no guilt – accusations are untrue, have no basis in fact; can go to bed and fall asleep easily with clear conscience
acting deceitfully (4a)
has not taken advantage of friend or relationship
in fact, on at least 2 occasions had resisted encouragement to kill his known enemy Saul; OTOH, Saul likely would have killed David
acting unjustly (4b)
has not taken initiative in hostilities, only responded to attack and waged war justly
“To do evil for good, is human corruption; to do good for good, is civil retribution; but to do good for evil, is Christian perfection. Though this be not the grace of nature, yet it is the nature of grace.” William Seeker
if not, let them destroy me (5)
if accusations are true, then…
consequences are warranted; enemies should be allowed to triumph over him
in effect asking God not to interfere, to take hands-off attitude
will recognize God’s hand in calamity
if enemies prevail, David will take it as indication from God that he was blameable
Selah. Pause to reflect on declaration of innocence – convinced it is justified, carries on with plea.
C. Lord, save me – how 6-8
just judgment (6)
note: David does not request permission to annihilate, superhuman powers, invincible armor, stealth weapons…. Not a request for supply of whatever David needs for David to prevail over enemies
David engages God to act on David’s behalf and on God’s own behalf
both David’s honor and God’s is at stake if assessment of situation is correct
calls on God to appear in his full strength: arise (take action), lift yourself up – rise to full height and strength and majesty
God, you declared yourself the Judge – now’s a good time to put on your robes and carry out justice so wicked won’t think you’re bluffing
btw, all your people are in danger (7)
true injustice affects more than just immediate “participants”
things lead to things, people are related to people – actions have far-reaching consequences both good and ill
according to promise (8)
to judge the earth in righteousness Psa. 75:2-9
to bless…, to curse…
D. Lord, save me – to what purpose 9-10
wickedness would cease (9a)
plea not simply for his own deliverance from adversaries; passionate plea for deliverance from wickedness for all God’s people
note: not praying for an end to the wicked but an end to their evil deeds because of God’s action
righteousness would prevail (9b)
make the just secure, them and their labors; wickedness be replaced with righteousness
David confident that right would overcome since God’s just judgment based on true knowledge – thought and motive
upright would be protected/defended/delivered (10)
David confident God would defend him because of his innocence and love for God
presumptuous? not really! “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.”1 John 3:21
E. Lord, save me – for what reason 11-13
it fits God’s character (11)
just judge is encouragement to righteous, threat to the wicked (Rom. 13:3-4)
it works for good
by bringing to repentance (12)
notice God’s longsuffering; repeatedly gives sinful men opportunity and incentive to repent
by bringing down judgment (13)
longsuffering but not a procrastinator; if repeated incentive only serves to harden, final judgment will eventually be carried out
F. Lord, save me – because I get it 14-16
the wicked are really evil (14)
judgment not unjust; evil is real, not simply an appearance or misunderstanding
tries to entrap the innocent (15)
falls in his own trap
tries to harm the innocent (16)
evil and wickedness doesn’t pay; I know better than to try to get ahead that way. In fact, my intention to stay far away as possible from that way of life.
provides consolation – won’t get away with it forever; will eventually be day of reckoning, when God balances out the accounts
G. I love you, Lord 1a, 17
integral part of prayer: adoration
I trust you (1a)
I know you (17a)
I praise you (17b)
genuine love for God fuels a passion for his glory
regardless of circumstances there is cause to trust God – he is trustworthy; regardless of circumstances there is cause to praise God – he is praiseworthy.
The one who is righteous can have confidence in God knowing this: when God is glorified, it is good for his people. Don’t fully understand how it all works, but know that he does work it out for our good. For that we can and should praise him.