To the chief Musician, Altaschith, Michtam of David: when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him
1 Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men.
3 For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul: the mighty are gathered against me: not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O LORD.
4 They run and prepare themselves without my fault: awake to help me, and behold.
5 Thou therefore, O LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to visit all the heathen: be not merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah.
6 They return at evening: they make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.
7 Behold, they belch out with their mouth: swords are in their lips: for who, say they, doth hear?
8 But Thou, O LORD, shalt laugh at them: Thou shalt have all the heathen in derision.
9 Because of his strength will I wait upon Thee: for God is my defence.
10 The God of my mercy shall prevent me: God shall let me see my desire upon mine enemies.
11 Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power: and bring them down, O Lord our shield.
12 For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak.
13 Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. Selah.
14 And at evening let them return: and let them make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.
15 Let them wander up and down for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of Thy power: yea, I will sing aloud of Thy mercy in the morning: for Thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.
17 Unto Thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy.
We will wait on God to judge the wicked and to save us by His mercy.
Walking down a dark alley in a large city, suddenly you become aware of the presence of an enemy. Six men have stepped out of the shadows and they now surround you. At this point, you definitely sense an ominous threat to your safety and well-being. The typical reaction most men experience under such circumstances is called the “fight or flight syndrome.” But what is the underlying emotion in such cases? Fear, fight, and flight are typically rooted in self-preservation. While this is a factor in the response, it is not the primary factor. David’s primary interest is that God be glorified in the destruction of His enemies. His attitude in this psalm is similar to his reaction to Goliath who had the gall to oppose the armies of the living God! No godly man can witness the acts of wicked men without being filled with holy anger and the desire for God to act in righteous judgment. These are the sentiments of the Psalmist in this Imprecatory psalm.
His reaction is also rooted in relationship. Take, for example, the town bully who chases a little boy through the neighborhood, fully intending to inflict serious bodily harm. As the little boy rounds the corner into his own yard, he wakes his father sleeping in a hammock with cries like these: “Awake, Father! Awake and save me!” Since the son is in relationship with the father, any offense the bully would pay to the son would constitute an equal offense to the father as well.
Verses 1–4. David opens the psalm with a distressed call for help. The godly are perpetually attacked from within and without. Every man of faith knows that he is heavily outnumbered and he will succumb to the enemy in the battle unless God intervenes. These enemies ultimately bear malicious intent. They are out for blood and they will not stop until they have taken a life or destroyed a soul.
David is the victim of an unjust and cruel warfare. It would be one thing if he had committed an act worthy of death, such as killing someone in cold blood. But David maintains his innocence against these charges. Certainly, unwarranted accusations are not uncommon for those righteous men that lead in the public arena, especially in civil government. When you take a stand for what is right, the opposition (that is, those who despise the law of God) will try to discredit you by twisting your words or by implicating you with some wrongdoing.
Verses 5–8. The next set of verses describe God’s reaction to these wicked men who oppose His people. Does the leading statement in verse 5 seem strangely harsh, especially as spoken from the lips of a righteous man? Here David pleads for the destruction of the nations that oppose God, and he asks God to withhold all mercy from the “wicked transgressors.” Overcome by his zeal for justice, is David giving way to hyperbolic language? You may remember from Psalm 51 that David counted himself as a transgressor, so he cannot be asking God to withhold mercy from everyone that has transgressed the law of God. Yet with these words he still maintains a strong sense of antithesis between those that are in covenant with God and those that are outside of the covenant. For those that remain in a stated position of rebellion against God, David prays for God’s retributive justice.
Even as there is within God Himself a desire for mercy and justice, there is within every true believer a desire that God’s mercy would extend to all (Paul desired that “all Israel would be saved”), and a desire for justice—that all of God’s enemies will be utterly destroyed. This dual desire is not contradictory. It is merely an appreciation for both God’s justice and His mercy. Perhaps an illustration here could be helpful. When our men went out to fight battles against enemies like the German Nazis during World War II, many of them probably hated the Nazis and what they stood for, in a righteous sense. While this does not mean that they had personal animosity toward each individual soldier against whom they were fighting, at the same time few of them could have said, “I love the German Nazi state.” By virtue of the fact that the enemy soldiers had chosen to fight for the Nazis, they would become part of that hated enemy. Of course, there may have been a good man fighting for the Nazis who despised the atrocities and the aggressive warfare waged by that regime. To say that one hates evil but does not oppose the evil doer is a contradiction in terms. That would be akin to saying that one hates the Nazi doctrine, but does not oppose the Nazis. The Christian opposes the world and those that align themselves with the world. Nevertheless, we are more than happy to see those on the other side change their affiliation, just as the American armies were delighted when Nazi soldiers would change sides.
There is a kingdom of Satan and this kingdom is filled with those who oppose God and refuse to repent. They are destructive and act with impunity. Speaking of kings and rulers who act in rebellion to God, David compares them with dogs that act ferocious with grandiose barks and fierce snarls, but are quite easily overcome. Using language similar to that found in Psalms 2 and 52, David reminds us that God laughs in the face of these proud, rebellious powers. At any time, without a moment’s notice, He may choose to destroy them.
Verses 9–15. The final verses clarify David’s reactions to these wicked men in a series of faith confessions. First, he acknowledges that God sovereignly works in His own timing and he will patiently wait on God. Just as he is confident in God’s final destruction of the wicked in judgment, he is utterly confident in God’s mercy upon himself.
But David does not merely wish to see the end of his enemies at the final judgment. He asks God here and now to scatter His enemies and render them powerless in the sight of God’s people. It would be one thing if God ended the world right now, judged the wicked, and took the righteous to heaven. It is quite another thing for the kingdom of Christ to gradually expand throughout every nation in the world. In this we see a wonderful, steady rout of the kingdom of the devil. There is something more glorious in this gradual rout than if God would end the world immediately, for we are truly spectators of the most marvelous war ever waged. As it plays out through the millennia, we are privy to the many aspects of this war: and we watch as Satan’s kingdom is gradually crushed, continent by continent, institution by institution at the hands of our ever-living, resurrected Lord of lords and King of kings.
The power of wicked men opposing Christ and His kingdom is very limited because their own pride and rebellion are the things that undermine their power. Initially, the wicked may develop a little character strength and then use that character strength to oppose God. But in proudly opposing God and by sinning in word and action, they erode the character it takes to establish and retain that power.
In concluding this section, David asks for three things—that these wicked men who arrogantly act in rebellion against God would be consumed in God’s wrath. But he also prays that in this judgment, everyone would know that God rules in His church (in Jacob or Israel) to the ends of the earth. Finally, David asks that God would frustrate the wicked, so that they would be as dogs that search for meat day and night and are never satisfied, again alluding to that prolonged, desperate loss suffered by the wicked.
Verses 16–17. The Psalmist ends where everything in worship, battle, and life must end—with the praise of God. He praises God for both His power and mercy, for without one or the other He would not be God or Savior. As eyes of faith begin to open we can see God’s hand of deliverance through every one of our trials, and our response must to be praise this God of mercy.
Who is a righteous man? A righteous man is one who is confident in the mercy of God towards himself and the judgment of God towards the wicked. The wicked man, on the other hand, believes in neither. But why does God have mercy on the righteous man? Because the righteous man is confident (believing) that God will have mercy on him. Does this sound like a circular argument to you? It is just that faith and salvation go hand in hand. God is merciful to those who have faith in His mercy, and of course we must acknowledge that faith itself is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8–9).
1. “Consume them! Consume them in your wrath!” Such lyrics in our worship pits God against the wicked, and then takes God’s side in the fray. Still, we must be careful in our use of these psalms. Worship does not look at unbelievers in a proud, “I’m better than you” sort of way. We are perpetually aware of the weakness in ourselves, and our own reliance on the mercy of God, even while we call down great curses upon those that live in rebellion against God.
2. Occasional holy laughter that mocks the hype and bravado of those who oppose almighty God should find its place in worship too, whether in preaching, in prayers, or even in the psalms that we sing.
1. Give several examples of Imprecatory psalms.
2. What two attributes of God are placed side by side in this psalm?
3. Does God have a sense of humor?
4. To what does David compare the wicked in this psalm?
5. What message does David want to communicate to the wicked?
1. When we are attacked, are we more concerned about self-preservation or about the honor and glory of God?
2. Are we confident in the mercy of God towards us as well as God’s judgment towards the wicked? How confident are we of God’s mercy and judgment?