Psalm 7 — Vindicate Me, O Lord
7 O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me:
2 Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
3 O Lord my God, If I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands;
4 If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:)
5 Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah.
6 Arise, O Lord, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded.
7 So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return thou on high.
8 The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.
9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.
10 My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.
11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
12 If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.
13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.
14 Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.
15 He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.
16 His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.
17 I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high.
David is again in lament (Pss. 3–7). His adversaries are culpable as in the previous laments. The title provides the name of his opponent: Cush, of the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin was the tribe of the house of Saul, who was appointed by God as the first king of Israel. Saul’s household was arrayed against David: Doeg the Edomite slandered David to Saul; Saul himself had a love/hate relationship with his son-in-law; Ish-bosheth ruled the northern tribes in direct conflict with David’s anointed rule in Hebron; Ziba, Saul’s servant, deceived David regarding Mephibosheth; Shimei shouted insults at David and personally escorted him out of Jerusalem, during Absalom’s coup d’état; and in returning to the throne the Benjamites were fickle, at best, regarding David. Cush (translated “black”) is nowhere found in the historical account; therefore, each of the above settings is a possibility.
David, as composer of the Psalm, is also identified as the lead singer, as the song is delivered to the music director for corporate worship. Israel added harmony to David’s solo as the world stage was continually aligned against them. The word “shiggaion” in the title is unique to the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures and has not been confidently translated by anyone. We leave it an unknown. Tradition has this Psalm sung in the autumn during the feast of tabernacles, when Israel, having been delivered from the oppressions of Pharaoh, remembered His protection during times in wilderness tents.
David made his plea for deliverance in a prayer of trust to YHWH (v. 1). The Hebrew “YHWH Elyon — O Lord my God” is repeated and suggests David was specific in who he was calling for by naming the attribute. He needed the power of God to deliver him from those who aggressively came after him. The plurality of enemies is set against the individual “Cush.” The remedy is understood in naming the leader of the conspiracy of oppression. David needed to be saved from “all those who pursue me.” God is mighty to save, and the Psalmist is never shy about proclaiming God’s glory in the midst of His saving grace.
David’s plea revealed his heart under the ravaging assault (v. 2). He used the simile of a ferocious lion. The lion, in biblical imagery, is common. Lions roamed the Middle East until the early twentieth century. The lion, mightiest of the beasts, does not retreat from anything (Prv 30:30). David, in weakness, was being overpowered by a force greater in strength and nothing could deliver him from them. It is common for God to position His people in weakness: Moses; Jacob; Joseph; etc. God gets the glory when He delivers His people in weakness. Christians are right to loathe their circumstances in weakness but count it all joy in being positioned there. God is at work preparing deliverance.
David opened his defense, with a series of conditional statements, before the Judge on His throne (v. 3). He indicates a specific charge, “if I have done this.” He knows the law and injustice is made plain. The third “if” addresses David’s defense of his treatment of his foes (v. 4). Doing evil to a friend is heinous, as is stealing from him. David’s four points in his justification respond to the character assassination attempt. John Philips in his commentary writes, “Slander is one of the most difficult things to fight. A man’s good name and reputation can be destroyed by a lying, jealous tongue and his whole life laid in ruins. Slander is one of Satan’s favorite weapons (p. 56).”
David offered a solution to the conflict, in humility, before God (v. 5). The Psalmist lays his life bare before the Lord in self-condemnation if guilt is determined by the righteous judge. David surrendered his will to God’s will in judgment and subjected himself to ruination for the sake of the truth.
Following a “selah” pause, David’s tone changed, as indicated by the series of imperative verbs (v. 6). The Hebrew language becomes militant and confident. The Psalmist has removed the focus from himself to focus on the justice of God. Innocence is implied by David as he implores God to act on his behalf. Modern judges are praised for their lack of emotions on the bench, but David wants a fiery, impassioned judge who will counter those who rage against God and His anointed. The martyrs under the throne of God (Rev 6:9) imprecate God to act in like manner. David wants YHWH to sit in judgment, but he also wants Him to prosecute a counter suit.
David requested the Lord convene the peoples and for YHWH to return to His bench (v. 7). While David is being thrashed by his enemies, he invites God back to the courtroom. Often, in difficult times, those who trust in God wonder why God appears to be absent from the scene. It is one thing for us to pray, and it is another thing for us to wait on the Lord. We are never told to stop praying while we wait for God to act. Prayer in these situations is a demonstration of faith and trust in the Lord.
David claimed God as judge and requested justice from the only One who could provide it in righteousness (v. 8). Here is the key verse, “Vindicate me, O Lord.” It is important not to be confused by the righteousness he is claiming. David would never confess a righteousness generated by himself. He knows righteousness belongs to God. Here imputed righteousness is foreshadowed. Jesus, the righteous, died for the unrighteous. There is a righteousness in those who trust in God, not themselves, and it is what allows them to claim a justification in judgment. God shows us what is right, and David was claiming he did right.
David warranted his claim for YHWH as judge in order for Him to separate the righteous from the wicked (v. 9). The righteous are as bold as a lion because of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The battlefield of testing is the heart and the kidney (in the Hebrew). What the Psalmist is teaching, using New Testament vernacular, is that God wants the truth (mind) spoken in love (heart). David’s opponents were operating in fear, as does the bully on the playground. The bully fears that others will find out he is not who he says he is, nor is he true in his claims. David called his adversaries on their evil deeds, and they hated him. Only God could judge in the matter.
David proclaimed his allegiance to the God of His salvation (v. 10). He did not fear God’s judgment because he knew God’s covenant love for him. “My shield is with God,” continues the military terms of attribute toward God. YHWH is seen as a shield in Ps 3:3. The imagery also begs us to consider Paul’s articulated armor of God in Ephesians 6. The believer is shielded from the fiery darts of the enemy, who is also called, “the accuser of the brethren.”
David reasserted YHWH’s righteousness in judging, as seen in His daily activity (v. 11). God hates sin, and “all those who do iniquity (Ps 5:5 & 11:5). The frequency (daily) of His indignant anger adds emphasis to the possibility of immediate execution of wrath. It is here that David began to preach to his rivals. He preaches confidently with theology that would make the most implacable opponent quiver.
David preached a warning for his opponents to consider (v. 12). Unrepentant sin invites the angry judgment of God. Pretentious repentance mocks God, who continues in His militant ways by “sharpening His sword and bending His bow.” The imagery is one of readiness to strike.
David continued his warning with a theology of vengeance belonging to God (v. 13). The Judge executes the punishment Himself. Who can escape the wrath of God? No one can escape from His omnipresence. The only option is to surrender in true repentance, but David’s opponents were not interested. Man is at enmity with God. He sweeps sin under the rug and excuses himself. His self-righteousness is a curse in itself, as hidden sin begets more sin.
David profiled his enemies using the imagery of pregnancy (v. 14). Another metaphor of readiness is presented by the Psalmist as he moves from warning his foes to exposing them. The seat of scoffers is full (Ps 1:1), but the Lord scoffs at them (Ps 2:4b). David’s adversaries’ technique was mischief in the realm of falsehood. It was boasting (5:5); speaking falsehood (5:6); destroying others (5:6); deceit (5:6); flattery (5:9); and unreliability in their speech (5:9) noted elsewhere. The evil pregnant in them, had given birth to falsehood.
David profiled his enemies using the imagery of the proverbial boomerang (v. 15). The metaphor of the pit, becoming the digger’s grave, is deep. David knew of no such device as the boomerang, but the aborigines of Australia knew of the power of its return trip against their enemies. Evil is circuitous. Jesus said it best, “Do unto others, as you would have it done unto you.” As the dog returns to his own vomit, so are the strategies of the wicked. Begin your heckling for the name of “Haman” who prepared the gallows for his hated adversary, Mordecai. The wicked man was hung by his own devices.
David prophesied of the return of unintentional, self-inflicted evil upon the heads of his foes (v. 16). Moving from the past tense to the future tense of the verb, brings a prediction in parallel form (repetition in Hebrew poetry). Mischief and violence against God’s anointed will only return in greater woes into the future.
David closed Psalm 7 with a victory taunt (v. 17). Our modern sensitivities prevent most of us from enjoying the victory dance. We watch it every Saturday and Sunday in the autumn, but we still cringe anyway. Still, the church must sing songs of joy and dance as David did before the Lord.
Faith is our victory; even as perfect sacrifice was Christ’s victory over sin and death. We have trusted in YHWH, our God and our Savior. The means of His deliverance is personal. It is a relationship of covenant love that guarantees God’s good intention to turn what men meant for evil into good.
There is no one else to turn to on the day of trouble. There is only One who makes the promise to work it altogether for good…Jesus Christ, the power of God, the wisdom of God, our city of refuge, our shield and defender, and the avenger of those who love His name…the God of all power, the Lord of our righteousness.
Spokane Valley, Washington
May 25, 2021