Read Psalm 35
1 Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
2 Take up shield and armor;
arise and come to my aid.
3 Brandish spear and javelin
against those who pursue me.
Say to me,
“I am your salvation.”
4 May those who seek my life
be disgraced and put to shame;
may those who plot my ruin
be turned back in dismay.
5 May they be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the Lord driving them away;
6 may their path be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
7 Since they hid their net for me without cause
and without cause dug a pit for me,
8 may ruin overtake them by surprise—
may the net they hid entangle them,
may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.
9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
and delight in his salvation.
10 My whole being will exclaim,
“Who is like you, Lord?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
the poor and needy from those who rob them.”
11 Ruthless witnesses come forward;
they question me on things I know nothing about.
12 They repay me evil for good
and leave me like one bereaved.
13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth
and humbled myself with fasting.
When my prayers returned to me unanswered,
14 I went about mourning
as though for my friend or brother.
I bowed my head in grief
as though weeping for my mother.
15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee;
assailants gathered against me without my knowledge.
They slandered me without ceasing.
16 Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;
they gnashed their teeth at me.
17 How long, Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their ravages,
my precious life from these lions.
18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
among the throngs I will praise you.
19 Do not let those gloat over me
who are my enemies without cause;
do not let those who hate me without reason
maliciously wink the eye.
20 They do not speak peaceably,
but devise false accusations
against those who live quietly in the land.
21 They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha!
With our own eyes we have seen it.”
22 Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
23 Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
25 Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”
or say, “We have swallowed him up.”
26 May all who gloat over my distress
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who exalt themselves over me
be clothed with shame and disgrace.
27 May those who delight in my vindication
shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The Lord be exalted,
who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,
your praises all day long.
Psalm 35 is easily recognized as a cry for justice by David. David was being attacked by the very ones for whom he had mourned, by those he had loved, and by those for whom he had prayed. He feels betrayed and mocked and recognizes that he needs the Lord to come to his defense.
Importantly, verses 7 and 19 tell us that David had done nothing to deserve the treatment he was receiving. His enemies’ aggression was “without cause.” That’s why in verse 8 he asks God to let destruction fall on them. Make no mistake, David wanted absolute and complete destruction. Verse 5 and 6 tell us that David even calls upon the angel of the Lord to chase and pursue his enemies. This was the same angel that destroyed 185,000 Assyrians in one night (2 Kings 19:35), so David is asking that the angel of the Lord persecute his enemies. In fact, the Hebrew word for “destruction” that is used twice in verse 8 is shoah. Shoah is the word modern day Jews use to describe the tragedy of the Holocaust. What David is asking for is comparable to what we would understand to have happened during World War II at the hand of Hitler.
While that might feel uncomfortable and overly vindictive for someone who is a man after God’s own heart, we have to put ourselves in his shoes. David was experiencing heartfelt sorrow because the people he had loved and served were seeking his disgrace, his shame, and his ruin. Not only that, they were willing to lie, cheat, and kill to make it happen. It was complete and utter betrayal by those he loved, but do not be confused. David did not seek personal vengeance. Instead, he asks God to be his defender. David did not go on the offensive. He trusted the One who had fought his battles before to protect him from his enemies in the very way that they sought to destroy him.
Two important ideas stand out in this psalm so far: First, David is nothing if not honest in his prayers, and second, he trusts God to be his defender in all situations. When we are unjustly accused, do we trust God like David does or do we lash out quickly with a detailed defense of our actions? Over and over in the Psalms, David models the type of faith we should have: honest, authentic, and unwavering. Even when faced with immediate, physical threat, David trusts that the Lord will come to his aid. So much so that he ends his cry for justice with a praise on his lips (verse 28).
David knew that while he only saw the battle, God saw the victory. May we have faith like David’s that speaks openly and honestly with our Creator and that trusts Him completely to take care of our needs.
- What battle have you been trying to fight on your own?
- Is there anything that you need to speak honestly about with God so that He can help you process your emotions and move forward in faith?
- What would it look like in your life to trust God to come to your defense rather than trying to defend yourself?