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.

A Tale of Two Kings: The Difference Between Saul and David

Two of the most prominent Kings of Israel in the Scripture are Saul and David. These two men are given the most attention in 1 and 2 Samuel. David and Saul are foils of one another. Saul was rejected by God while David was a man after God's own heart. However, if you've studied their lives carefully both of the men had some incredible failures in their life. Saul failed to obey the Lord in his commands and David committed adultery with Bathsheba. If both men had grievous sin in their lives, why was one rejected and the other blessed? What is the difference between these two men? As we will see, the difference between the two Kings is in their response when confronted in their sin.

Saul's Response to His Sin

When Saul disobeyed the Lord's direct command, the prophet Samuel goes to confront Saul in his sin. Rather than owning up to his sin, Saul tries to justify his actions. (1 Sam 15:15) He makes excuses for his disobedience. Rather than owning his sin and asking for forgiveness, in pride he follows the foot steps of Adam and argues that his sin is not that big of a deal. He points the finger at everyone else rather than pointing it at himself.

Saul started out with a bright future. He was the first King of Israel. His anointing was cause for great celebration. Yet due to his sin and refusal to repent the Lord would leave Saul and reject him as King.

David's Response to His Sin

David too would commit some horrific sins, but his response is very different from Saul. Just as the prophet Samuel confronted Saul in his sin, the prophet Nathan would confront David. When the prophet calls David out for his adultery and conspiracy of murder, David immediately responds "I have sinned against the Lord". (2 Sam 12:13) David took ownership of his sin rather than making excuses. However David describes in detail the thoughts and emotions he was experiencing during this time in a beautiful song, Psalm 51.

David writes calling out to God for mercy. He owns his sin singing, "For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me". (Ps 51:3) David owns his sin and is truly broken. He lays himself bare before the Lord asking for forgiveness and restoration.

A Model of True Repentance

David serves for us as a model of true repentance that is accompanies saving. David sings "For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise". (Ps 51:16-17)

What God desires from us is true brokeness. Not self-justification and not even penance. He requires broken and contrite heart. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus kicks off the sermon on the Mount with the beatitudes. The first beatitude rings a powerful truth "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Those who enter into the kingdom of heaven are the Davids, not the Sauls.

In our sin, we must most own up to our spiritual poverty. We must confess our unworthiness and fall on our face. We must own our filthy rags that cloth us. Brokeness is the only proper response to our sin. Yet, brokeness is not only the proper response to proper, it is the only saving response. Where there is no sorrow over sin there is no genuine repentance. Those who have not recognized their spiritual poverty and their need for grace will not inherit the Kingdom. If we are not broken over our sin, then what need do we have of a savior? Only those who embrace the shame of their transgression can share in the glory of the cross.

Those who cry out "Woe is Me!" will find that God is more than gracious to blot out our transgression. By God's grace he sends a savior to spiritually destitute sinners, and rather than asking us to make up for our sins through good works (which we could never do) he sends a savior to die in our place.

Are You Saul or David?

The question is not "Am I a sinner". You are. Both Saul and David were great sinners. Yet one was broken over his sin and the other was apathetic. One was a man after God's own heart, the other a failed and tragic king. As you look at the sin in your life are you responding like Saul or David?

Do not attempt to justify your sinful actions. Own up to them and fall on your face before your God. Plead for mercy and grace. Confess your spiritual poverty. It is when we are broken that God will heal. He will take our filthy rags and give us the riches of Christ. He will forgive our sin and clothe us in the righteousness of Christ. The bitter tears of brokeness are quickly covered by the sweet blood of Jesus.

The Gift of Rebuke

Few of us have ever thought of rebuke as a gift. We hate hearing that we are in the wrong. For many of us, our skin literally crawls as we boil with anger. The reason we hate to be rebuked is because we are so prideful. The fact of anyone, friend or foe, telling us we are wrong conflicts with the little wanna be king called ME we put on the thrown of our hearts. However, for the spiritually mature, rebuke is not an act of cruelty but of generosity. Rebuke from wise godly Christians is an incredible gift of God that he has given us. In Psalm 141:5 David tells us of the gift of rebuke when he writes,

Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; Let him rebuke me–it is oil for my head; Let my head not refuse it.

You see in the eyes of David, the striking from a righteous man is a good thing. It is the ultimate demonstration of kindness. Yet so often we resist rebuke. The American virtue of self-autnomy resists this. In our minds there is no higher power or authority in our lives than ourselves. Rarely do we see rebuke as a kindness, rather we perceive it as judgemental, demeaning, an disresepctful. Yet this is not the Biblical understanding of rebuke. To be rebuked by the righteous is to receive a gift from God.

As David writes this Psalm, he knows rebuke is a gift to keep him from sin, yet he knows his heart will resist it when rebuke comes. Our puffed up heads resist the sweet annointing oil of God's favor. David prays to ask God to let him not resist rebuke in pride, but to receive it as a gift. Receiving rebuke from godly people in our lives is difficult, but something we must learn to receive with joy. There are times when a friend loves us enough to sit down and share with us hard truths. When that time comes we must be prepared to receive it as a gift. How do we do that?

Respond in Humility

Whatever is said, we must respond in humility. We understand that we don't have it all figured out. We are not following Jesus perfectly. We acknowledge that sin might be showing its ugly face in our lives even without our realization. When we hear rebuke, we must respond in humility knowing of our shortcommings and our desperate dependency on the grace of God.

Listen Reflectively

Whether friend or foe, when rebuke comes we must listen carefully to perceive the truth. This means we reflect on the words we hear. We ask ourselves reflective questions.

"Is this person speaking truth?" "Am I wrong in this area?" "Where do I need to repent?" "Is the Lord trying to get my attention?"

Thinking through questions like this will help you respond to rebuke as a gift.

Trust in the Righteousness of Christ

One of the reasons we struggle with receiving rebuke is because we are so geared up in a performance religion. We think being a Christians means moral perfectionism. We want to be self-sufficient in our own goodness. When rebuke comes the disillusionment of perfect person we imagine in the mirror shatters. When we are confronted in our sin or failures we must trust in the righteousness of Christ. Rather than trusting in our own goodness, we must trust in the goodness of Jesus. We fail. Jesus doesn't. When we face rebuke we must be restored in the confidence that comes from being clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

Preparing your heart in these three ways will help you be ready when God brings a loving friend into your life to rebuke you. Respond in humility. Listen reflectively. Trust in the righteousness of Christ. Then like David, we will begin to see rebuke as a gracious gift of God to keep us from sin and protect us from our own idolatrous hearts. Then we will grow in maturity as the annointing oil of rebuke sanctifies and matures us in Christ Jesus.