O LORD my God, in You I have taken refuge; save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me, or he will tear my soul like a lion, dragging me away, while there is none to deliver. Psalm 7:1-2
David’s call for help is very real. Saul was trying to kill him – so the words referring to a lion dragging him away and tearing him limb from limb is not an exaggeration. Although David refers to having his “soul” torn. That refers to the mental anguish that often accompanies times of stress and difficulty in our lives. He speaks of being dragged away while there is none to deliver him. He is being chased down and feels as if the lion’s breath is hot on his neck as he is being hunted. His call is for God to act as he takes refuge in the Lord. He cries out for “saving” – the word here speaking interestingly of being given space. How often have we faced difficulty and trouble and felt like everything is coming in on us. We feel a moral, mental, and even physical claustrophobia, as everything seems to be tightening around us. It is in those times when God offers us relief and grace to handle things.
O LORD my God, if I have done this, if there is injustice in my hands, if I have rewarded evil to my friend, or have plundered him who without cause was my adversary, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it; and let him trample my life down to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. Selah. Psalm 7:3-5
But David’s cry for help is for more than just deliverance from his enemies. He also recognizes that often HE is his own worst enemy. That is why he also cries for God’s grace in discerning whether or not he has acted ungodly. He is concerned that his own heart may have acted unjustly. He may have treated a friend in an evil manner – or even plundered an enemy without cause to do so. His loves his Lord enough to ask for his own judgment if he deserves it. So when some freak out at David’s call for God’s judgment on the wicked later – they need to see that he began with himself before ever turning to their actions and attitudes. Oh that we would follow his example and examine our own hearts before calling for a spotlight to be shown on our detractor’s actions.
Arise, O LORD, in Your anger; lift up Yourself against the rage of my adversaries, and arouse Yourself for me; You have appointed judgment. Let the assembly of the peoples encompass You, and over them return on high. The LORD judges the peoples; vindicate me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me. O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; for the righteous God tries the hearts and minds. My shield is with God, Who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day. Psalm 7:6-11
David then cries for God’s action against the ungodly. We may struggle with this because we wrongly think that this is not godly. The reason many think this is because they don’t understand the justice and righteousness of God. The term used by theologians for these parts of psalms is that they are imprecatory. What this means is that they represent God speaking through the psalmist and describing what should be done against sin. Fortunately for us God exercises mercy and forbearance far more often than He does wrath and judgment. This does not mean He is not wrathful against sin and that judgment is not just in every case. It simply means He does not manifest that wrath in the moment of the sin. That should catch your attention because God is just – and His justice HAS to be satisfied. The judgment that sin deserves is ALWAYS meted out – for if it was not, then God is not just – or His justice is a joke. It might come as a surprise to some to know that every last bit of the wrath of God has been paid in full. It ultimately came upon His Son Jesus Christ on the cross.
David calls for God to come in his anger against the way his enemies rage against him. He reminds God that He has appointed judgment – and that He will judge those who are guilty and vindicate those who have remained true to Him. He calls for God to save him – but bring upon the ungodly that are coming after him true righteous judgment. There is a phrase that should arrest our attention in verse 11. David reminds God that He is a righteous Judge – as well as a God who is indignant every day. This word, “indignant” means to be enraged and it is used with another word that refers to a kind of snorting with the nostrils in fury and anger. Note here that David reveals God as One who is indignantly enraged with the wicked. Too often we take the grace of God for granted and represent God as a tamed, benevolent grandpa who wouldn’t hurt a flea. But please know that God is holy and righteous. Because His righteous ways are ignored – and His holiness downplayed (or honestly even mocked by many) – His wrath hangs heavy over mankind with nothing holding it back but His infinite mercies. Were He to truly loose His wrath – it would consume us quicker than a toothpick thrown into the sun itself. But before one judges David for such language and requests – note that there is an alternative.
If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready. He has also prepared for Himself deadly weapons; He makes His arrows fiery shafts. Behold, he travails with wickedness, And he conceives mischief and brings forth falsehood. He has dug a pit and hollowed it out, and has fallen into the hole which he made. His mischief will return upon his own head, And his violence will descend upon his own pate. I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. Psalm 7:12-17
David absolutely prays for God to judge the ungodly. But note that he also offers an alternative. There is repentance – which by the way is the wise and humble response to God’s wrath. David offers it in a warning – with God making preparation for His wrath. He also warns about the foolishness of walking in wickedness and falsehood. God will bring that evil upon the head of the one who practices it – and those who love violence will see their own lives end in a violent fashion. But remember – God has been gracious enough not to respond in instant wrath – but has made a way by having His wrath fall on His Son – while offering us forgiveness.
David ends this song singing of God’s righteousness and the worthiness of His name. Such a cry for God’s help and for His judgment is something we may not see much of today – and yet this prayer is perfectly in order before God.
So what can we learn from this prayer and song of David? First we learn that we can call on God in those moments when it seems like the entire world is against us as we follow Him. But we do so making sure that we actually are living for Him. The second lesson is that God is a holy God and He is indignant every day with the sin and wickedness of this perverse fallen world. That doesn’t play well in our society today – but in all honesty it is not because God is as fault in the matter. Men continue to dishonor and disobey God daily. Regardless of what society now calls acceptable – God’s stance on sin has not and will not change. What we are reminded of then is to pray for people to repent. We are reminded to pray for men to repent before God’s arrows of wrath and released in all their fury. In the end it will not be the consensus of public opinion that will be lifted up – but His name and His righteousness. This is a sobering and true reminder to hold fast to Him and His ways regardless of what the world says or does to us.