For the director of music. A psalm of David.
Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
protect me from the violent,
who devise evil plans in their hearts
and stir up war every day.
They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
the poison of vipers is on their lips.
Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from the violent,
who devise ways to trip my feet.
The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;
they have spread out the cords of their net
and have set traps for me along my path.
I say to the Lord, ‘You are my God.’
Hear, Lord, my cry for mercy.
Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
you shield my head in the day of battle.
Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord;
do not let their plans succeed.
Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
May burning coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise.
May slanderers not be established in the land;
may disaster hunt down the violent.
I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor(Ps. 140:1-13 NIV)
and upholds the cause of the needy.
Surely the righteous will praise your name,
and the upright will live in your presence.
The Psalmist returns to a traditional individual lament with elements in the Psalm that we have seen on a number of occasions. We’re inclined to ask, ‘why so many laments?’ Perhaps it is better to shift the focus and ask the question, ‘How many laments might I need over my lifetime?’ It is easy to judge the Psalmist for his melancholy mood and lament ourselves at the tedium of his laments. Yet the Psalms find us where we are. Think of the number of laments that you have made in the past week, elections, Brexit, covid, lockdown, people, colonialism, wealthy people, privatisation and that probably only skims the surface. The Psalms are replete with laments to teach us how to bring our laments to God.
The Psalmist is well aware of his struggle against those who oppose his ways. Evil people had falsely accused him, and he turns to the Lord to seek deliverance. The Psalmist is wholly prepared to commit his future into the Lord’s hands.
The Psalmist begins his prayer seeking for rescue and protection from evil people who promote war and unrest. They are violent people. They have honed their skill of speaking accusations, spreading rumours and lies like poison.
People today do not realise how venomous their speech can be. We see it in politics and industry, and sadly we also see it in churches where people feel they have free reign to say whatever they like, however they like. There is a severe shortage of respect. Angry people opposed to God and opposed to God’s people are evident in plenty in the OT.
Angry, violent people had set traps for the Psalmist. Covert operations were planned to physically harm him or trap him in a dilemma where he would have difficult choices to make. Daniel is a prime OT example of someone who had a trap set for him.
The Psalmist makes his appeal to the covenant-keeping LORD. The LORD is called by the Psalmist, ‘My God’. That makes a difference! No matter how many enemies there are, the Lord is on the side of His people and that always adds up to an overwhelming, landslide majority. The Psalmist, aware of his own shortcomings and sin, pleads for mercy. He doesn’t deserve rescue, so he pleads in mercy for God to come to his aid. The Lord is his deliverer and shield in the day of battle. Deliverance and shielding is not deliverance out of battle or shelter from the battle, but it is deliverance and shelter through the battle. The battle still has to be fought. In NT terms our battle is with the world, the flesh and the devil. The battle still has to be fought and won in the strength of the Lord.
The Psalmist prays for the failure of his enemy and the tone of his prayer changes to imprecation. The Psalmist desires that the tables are turned so that the enemies’ traps, snares and lies may ensnare them and bring about their downfall.
The Psalmist ends with an expression of confidence in God. The Lord is just and will uphold justice. For this the Psalmist praises the name of the Lord and seeks to walk before the Lord.
There are many lessons we learn from this Psalm. We can learn from both the details and the overall pattern of the Psalm. The Psalmist brought his lament before the Lord. From his time spent in the presence of the Lord he grows in confidence. The enemy are still there, the battle still has to be fought, the unpleasantness will still be felt, but the Lord is his refuge, deliverer and shield.
Lord we thank You that in the battle we fight as we seek to walk before that You give us everything we need to help us live the godly life. Lord many of the battles can be unpleasant and we would rather be out of them than in them. Lord help us to learn and grow as we go along. Help us to know triumph in Christ but help us to learn how to share in the fellowship of His suffering because we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.