Praying the Psalms: Psalm 7

The faithful of the Lord are often unfairly criticized by the wicked. In fact, Jesus tells us to expect persecution. The persecution that may befall a Christian is not only physical but also verbal. Christians are often slandered, misunderstood, and attacked by the main stream secular culture. As orthodox Christianity becomes a minority culture in the West, it is easy to fall victim to our times and believe that we are the first to ever receive this sort of mistreatment and verbal attacks from our culture. This is certainly not the case. God's people have always been attacked, not only since Jesus' day but even since David's.  The occasion of this Psalm is not fully known, but what we do know is that a man of Cush, a Bejaminite from the tribe of the former King Saul, slanders David.  Psalm 7 is a psalm of lament that can help us pray to God when we are attacked, criticized unfairly, and persecuted for the sake of righteousness.  It also addresses God’s justice towards the wicked and the need for repentance.

Commentary

v. 1-2 - David begins his prayer with a cry for refuge in God. He comes to God in desperate need. He is concerned and distressed from his enemies who are attacking him. He feels like a prey, where the mountainous lion of his enemies seek to rip his soul apart. David, at a place of desperation, seeks a place of protection in God. He looks to God alone to be his refuge.

v. 3-5 - In these next few verses David pleads with God on behalf of his innocence. David is not stating that he is sinless or perfect, but rather in this situation he is confronted with he believes he has done no wrong. He even ask God that if he has done something wrong such as repaying his friend with evil or plundering his enemy without cause, that he deserves to be pursued and overtaken by his enemies. Yet, David sees himself as blameless in this personal attack. The criticism he is facing from his critics are unfounded, unjust, and without cause.

We too must expect that we will face a belligerent and hostile culture often without cause. There are those who will have an inexplicable hatred towards Jesus’ followers. Like David, we may very well feel confronted by enemies who have no just accusation towards us, yet they bubble over in boiling hatred towards us.

v. 6-11 - Now that David has plead for his own righteousness in this situation he is facing, he appeals to God justice to urge him to do something about the situation he is facing. He asks God to arise in his anger to execute his fury on his enemies and to bring the swift hammer of justice upon them. God is a just God who is holy and blameless. David pleads with God on account of his own character, asking him to act in defense of his justice.  Although justice is attribute of God we tend to minimize in our modern world, David took great joy in the justice of God, appealing to it in his desperate situation.

The Lord judges the people. There is no human being that escapes the judgement of God. No matter how much we may think we are in control of our own lives, all of us will one day stand before God to give an account of our lives. Our actions will be laid bear before us; things that are hidden and secret as well as things that are public and well known to all. God sees and knows everything about us including our actual motives and intentions of our heart. As David says God is the one "who test the minds and hearts" (7:9).  This sort of vulnerability can be frightening or paralyzing to us. We tend to be experts at hiding our sin not only from others, but from ourselves. Yet, when we stand before God in his holiness and splendor the light of his righteousness will leave us naked and exposed.

Yet, David doesn't seem to be overwhelmed in anxiety over the judgement of God, rather he seems to be confident. In fact, he urges God to come and judge him according to his righteousness and integrity.  Does this mean that David thinks of himself as able to save himself with his good deeds? No not at all. In v. 10 he tells us that God "saves the upright in heart".  The Bible from Genesis to Revelation teaches us that we are justified by faith. We are saved by placing our faith and trust in Jesus as savior and Lord of our lives.  The Gospel tells us that Jesus came to stand under the crushing weight of God's wrathful judgement of our sins while gifting us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus. This means that the Christian has great confidence in our salvation. The judgement we will one day face before God is not a frightening reality for the Christian. As we stand before God we stand knowing that it is only because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus that we will be saved.  Yet, the righteousness of Jesus turns us into righteous people. As we live the Christian life we grow in the gifted righteousness of Jesus like a toddler trying to put on his daddy's shoes.  We possess righteousness completely and totally, but God's grace sanctifies us and causes us to grow in righteousness.  This is why David has such confidence. Those who are pure in heart and who turn from their sins and trust in God by faith will be saved from the coming judgement.

v. 12-16 - Yet, there are those who do not repent from sin. David makes it clear what comes to those who practice evil. "If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword" (7:12). The sword of God's wrath will come upon the evil. The bow of God is bent and pointed at his enemies, only waiting to release the arrow towards sinners. God is a warrior prepared for battle and his deadly weapons are ready.  For those who refuse to repent and turn to Jesus, the full and terrifying wrath of God is ready to be unleashed in hell.

Those who practice evil always will have it returned to them. The wicked man is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.  The wicked dig their own graves. As they sin they dig a hole only for it to be the cause of their own destruction. The mischief they cause returns to them. Sin has consequences, not only when it comes to eternity but also in this life. Sin doesn't stay secret. No matter how much we may try to cover our tracks our sins finds us. Sin is at its core destructive and those who zealously and unrepentantly live in sin will find themselves not only enslaved to it but destroyed by it.

v. 17 - David concludes his psalm giving thanks to God on behalf of his righteousness.  The fact that God is a just God who punished sinners is a good thing. No matter what great evil we are victim too, we know that God will settle accounts.  Justice is coming if not in this life, then before the judgement seat of God.  As a result, even though we may be facing great persecution from evil people, we have a confident hope in the justice of God to administer righteousness accordingly.  The fact that God is holy and just towards sinners is a catalyst for hope and worship.

Prayer Guide

  • Who is attacking you unjustly and unfairly? Share with God your struggle.
  • Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal any sin in you in this crises your facing.
  • Call out to God for justice on the earth
  • Praise God for his justice on the earth
  • Thank God that he saves the upright in heart. Thank him for your savior Jesus.
  • Pray for those who have yet to repent and turn to Jesus that God would save them from their sins.

Standing Firm in a Hostile Culture

The American church is heading into unknown waters and difficult circumstances that American Christians have never experienced.  In some ways the modern church is beginning to look much more like the early church.  We are faced with some tough sets of challenges such as false teachers and cultural and political persecution. We have been on the road back to Rome for quite some time now.  There is an increasing hostility to the Christian faith and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Changing Cultural Landscape

In the 1950s, it was culturally advantageous for you to be a Christian and belong to a church. It seemed like everyone went to church.  If you grew up in the Bible belt there was incredible social pressure to church.  However, over the past 50-60 years we have watched a rising secular and anti-Christian spirit begin to dominate the cultural landscape of the West.  The privileged position Christians have enjoyed in the West over the past 1,000 years is quickly being eliminated.  I believe that we are only seeing the beginning of a zealous secularism that seeks to permanently eliminate the church and its influence from the public square.

It is easy to be a Christian when you are the moral majority.  Can we stand firm in Christ as we increasingly become what Dr. Russell Moore has called "the prophetic minority"? In the coming decades we will have an incredible task of standing firm in Christ in an increasingly hostile culture.

Yet, it is easy to see the cultural reshaping of our country and be pessimistic about this.  It is a bad thing for our country, but I believe that this is a wonderful opportunity for the church.   The dead weight chaff of an uncommitted cultural Christianity is being eliminated, and the opposition we will be facing will be used by God as a purifier for the church.

Standing Firm in Hostility

May we stand firm in Christ regardless of the blazing heat that may be rising around us.  May we stand firm on the unchanging truth of the Gospel and may we boldly call all people to repentance and faith.  May we urge every man and woman to trust in Jesus as their Lord and as their savior.  May we unapologetically proclaim Christ as the exclusive means of salvation for all people as we stand on the solders of Christians over the past millennia who laid down their life for the cause of Christ.  As the early church father Tertullian said, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church".

Prepare for Suffering

I'm currently reading Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper. In the third chapter on suffering he has an excerpt from Richard Wurmbrand who endured fourteen years of imprisonment and torture in his homeland of Romania between 1948 and 1964. Here is the section Piper quoted:

What shall we do about these tortures? Will we be able to bear them? If I do not bear them I put in prison another fifty or sixty men who I know, because that is what the Communists wish from me, to betray those around me. And here comes the great need of the role of preparation for suffering which must start now. It is to difficult to prepare yourself for it when the Communists have put you in prison.

I remember my last Confirmation class before I left Romania. I took a group of ten to fifteen boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to a church, but to the zoo. Before the cage of lions I told them, "Your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to do with men who would be much worse than lions. Decide here and now if you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ." They had tears in their eyes when they said yes.

We have to make the preparation now, before we are imprisoned. In prison you lose everything. you are undressed and given a prisoner's suit. No more nice furniture, nice carpets, or nice curtains. You do not have a wife any more and you do not have your children. You do not have your library and you never see a flower. Nothing of what makes life pleasant remains. Nobody resists who has renounced the pleasures of life beforehand.

For the Christian it is not a matter of if we will suffer, but when. Most of us in America will never experience the kind of persecution you just read about, but we must prepare ourselves for that time. We must decide to renounce the pleasures of this life now, before the time of suffering comes. Then, by God's grace the suffering will be far easier to endure, because we already treasure Christ as our most supreme joy. Just as Peter tells us, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12). As Piper says, "Suffering with Christ is not strange; it is your calling, your vocation". Suffering is coming. It is the joyful task of the Christian to suffer for the sake of Jesus as we advance the Gospel. It is not a matter of if we will suffer but when, and how we will respond. May Christ find us faithful when that fiery trial does arrive.