LORD, LEAD ME!
David’s first request in this next section is for God to lead him. Just as a refresher we need to remember the context of this - Absalom’s rebellion. David cried out to God for His leadership because of his foes. This was Absalom - who was the rebellious son who longed to be king. It was also Ahithophel, David’s former advisor, who joined in the rebellion with Absalom. There was also a host of others who ran to Absalom’s side in this rebellion. David’s foes were numerous - and he desperately needed God’s direction. For him it was a life and death matter. David’s cry was for God to make His way straight or smooth before him. Every decision mattered.
It is this way with us too. We have an Absalom too - it is Satan, who also desires to usurp God’s rule and authority. His work is to subtly deceive us into thinking we should join his rebellion. The world is also filled with a myriad of Ahithophel’s, who seek to counsel us contrary to God’s Word. These may be anything from an actual person who wants us to walk in their way rather than God’s way. The spirit of Ahithophel is in our entertainment, our news, our music - it is everywhere. It is the spirit that wants to convince us to live for ourselves - or for the values of the world rather than those rooted in the Word of God. Believe me when I assert that we need to cry out to God daily that He lead us in His righteousness - and make His way straight so we can walk in it. We should note before moving on that David’s request is to be led in God’s righteousness - not his own self-styled direction.
HARSH WORDS - FOR WHO - AND WHY?
Verse 9 and 10 are a watershed moment in Scripture. They are the verse first time we have an imprecatory portion in the Psalms. If that word is new to you (imprecatory) - it refers to a call or prayer to bring down evil things or curses upon a person or group of people. There are those who are offended with these prayers - seeing them as an embarrassment to the Bible and to God. Nothing could be further from the truth. These prayers are representative of God’s holiness - and His steady position of wrath against all sin. It is what the wicked deserve for rebelling against God. Maybe it would be wise to remember what Absalom did shortly after becoming king. He was counseled by Ahithophel to rape all the remaining wives of David in broad daylight before the people. He also raised an army with the intent of killing David and all those with Him. David’s prayer is not so much a wish on his part - but as a mouthpiece for God - he offered a prophecy for those who continued in this rebellion. Indeed there was nothing true in what these two said. Their inner most beings were given over to destruction - wanting to kill David. Their throats were like an open grave with the smell of death and rotting corpses in it. All the time they were flattering the children of Israel - they were plotting death, destruction, and devastation to the King.
But - before we get too self-righteous about things - Paul used these very words to describe our nature and what we are capable of in life. We do have an inner Absalom and Ahithophel in our flesh. Our “inward part” is destruction too because of our sin nature. The word used there speaks of a chasm of wickedness within us - and when we fall into it and live out of it as a source there is no depth to that which we are capable of thinking or doing. We can speak deathly words and even use flattery to accomplish sinful desires.
David’s exact request is that they be destroyed - and that God would let them fall by their own wicked counsels. And for those who remember the history of these events, that is exactly what God did. He thwarted the counsel of Ahithophel when he listened instead to David’s friend, Hushai, who was working as a secret agent for David inside Jerusalem. Ahithophel hung himself when his ungodly counsel was rejected - and Absalom was destroyed in battle. But, before we become too critical toward David for this request we should also see that his desire was not for his own honor - but for the honor of God (they have rebelled against You!). Absalom and Ahithophel indeed had heaped up a multitude of sins as they rebelled not just against David - but against God. This reminds us that these imprecatory psalms have as their basis the honor and glory of God - not any personal vendetta of a man or men.
PROMISES AND PRAISE
David finishes this song with a call to be glad, sing for joy, and be exult over God’s gracious defense and favor. When we trust in the Lord - coming to Him in prayer for our needs and our protection - God delights in bringing that protection into our lives. It is a good thing to trust the Lord and to love His name and honor in life. It may not bring the less bumpy road to us - but even in our trials and troubles we will see Him work mightily and have reason to praise Him much! Three things here are told us concerning how God will work to answer our prayers. First we find refuge in Him. The word refuge means to rest in the shade of a tree. The word was also used as a picture describing how baby birds would find refuge under the wings of their mother. God protects and gives us a refuge in Him in our darkest and most difficult moments. Second, when we embrace God’s righteousness in our troubles - God will bless us. The word blesses in this passage speaks of someone giving a greeting that promises friendliness and camaraderie - and here it says that God is the One greeting us in this way. What a joy to know that He comes to us in such trying times with a friendly greeting that promises blessing, fellowship, deliverance, hope, strength - and everything you can imagine coming from a close friendship with God in those moments! Third, God promises that He will encircle us with His favor (read grace here!) like a huge shield. The shield referred to here was one that was over twice the size as a normal shield. It was used by the warrior to kneel down behind and be covered by its protection. God is that way with us - and how we should love the imagery used here. God is that shield to us - but only as we kneel in prayer and take our refuge in Him.
So there we have our primer in prayer from David. It begins with a cry for God’s presence - an audience with Him in prayer. It begins with a heartfelt and sincere desire to connect with Him and wait for His answer and deliverance. It then moves into a time where we request God’s leadership and guidance, knowing that not only our outward enemies are evil - but also our inward tendencies when we look to ourselves rather than Him for that guidance. Finally, we see that it ends with a turn to God’s promises for comfort, encouragement, and endurance. We take our refuge not in our own abilities to deliver ourselves - but in our God and His promise to bless those who turn to Him in righteousness and godly dependence. Oh, to learn these lessons again and again as we pray and seek His face. Indeed we would find our God infinitely able to handle any problem, trial, or trouble we face - and - we would go from concerned cry to praise for protection and provision. And through it all we would learn that intimacy with our Father in heaven is at the core of every answer we receive.