But I pray to you, Lord,
in the time of your favour;
in your great love, O God,
answer me with your sure salvation.
Rescue me from the mire,
do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
from the deep waters.
Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
or the depths swallow me up
or the pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant;
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
Come near and rescue me;
deliver me because of my foes.
You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
May their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and their backs be bent for ever.
Pour out your wrath on them;
let your fierce anger overtake them.
May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
For they persecute those you wound
and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in your salvation.
May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous.
But as for me, afflicted and in pain –
may your salvation, God, protect me.
I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hooves.
The poor will see and be glad –
you who seek God, may your hearts live!
The Lord hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.
Let heaven and earth praise him,(Ps. 69:13-36 NIV)
the seas and all that move in them,
for God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it;
the children of his servants will inherit it,
and those who love his name will dwell there.
We constantly need to be saved from ourselves, from others, from the world and the devil. There is not a single day when we are not in need of God’s mercy and favour. We need restoring grace, and constantly to be forgiven and replenished with the full benefits of salvation.
If God was not holding us firmly, we would slip away from the relationship that we have with Him. The Psalmist feels the pulling away from God down into the mire. Sin is not pretty, there is nothing wholesome about it, it stains, pollutes and infects. The Psalmist has that feeling of sinking. He is the author of his own downfall, yet there are plenty around to gather like vultures desiring to finish him off. To what extent the Psalmist has provoked the hatred we don’t know. Deeper water is up ahead and the floods are rising. He is in over his head and the pit of death is about to close over him. There is no time left. Like the Psalmist we’re never able to bring a good case to God about ourselves for why God should help us. We are cast upon God’s love. Out of the goodness of God’s love the Psalmist pleads for help. He needs mercy and the familiar phrase of ‘Do not hide Your face from me’ is used. He is calling for the blessing of benediction to be upon his life. The Psalmist is in a hurry because he feels that he is slipping away, but God never needs to be in a hurry. We often think that a complicated intervention is required in our lives to mend the things that we have broken or undo the damage we have inflicted. It is complicated for us, but simple for God. The Psalmist seeks redemption because he has been guilty. Perhaps his guilt was that he had sought solace and sympathy from others. He may have shared his problem, and rather than finding support he was scorned, disgraced and shamed. The Psalmist recognises that the enemies are all known to God. Everything that he has done, every way the enemies have reacted, is all open to God. His heart is broken by the scorn heaped upon him and he is emotionally broken and helpless. He looked for sympathy but found none and there was no one to comfort him. Perhaps they felt that he deserved everything that he is going through. Society today offers no forgiveness or redemption. People are quick to find someone to blame. Worldliness in the Christian is when we allow the world’s ways to become our ways. We need to be careful that that attitude of hating, finding fault and offering no hope of redemption doesn’t become our attitude.
Gall and vinegar are metaphors to describe how they tried to make matters worse. They have made his life intolerable. As a matter of justice, the Psalmist calls upon God to deal with his enemies. Calvin comments on this passage saying that the Psalmist has ‘a holy zeal for the divine glory which impelled him to summon the wicked to God’s judgement seat’.
Thinking of the wicked who had ruined his table, he prays ‘may their own table be a snare to them’. Often as God visits in salvation and redemption it also means judgement for some. The Red Sea was salvation for the people of God but judgement for the Egyptians. The enemies’ eyes are to be darkened so that they cannot see. Lacking sight and understanding, they will be limited in the future harm they can inflict. The Psalmist calls down God’s wrath and anger upon his enemy. It is important to note that the Psalmist is leaving retribution in the hands of God. Since the Psalmist has been forsaken by family and friends, he wants the enemy to see what this is like. He has been made homeless, so he wants their homes to be deserted and their families scattered.
The Psalmist acknowledges that he is being disciplined by the Lord. God is causing him pain and hurt. This is evident to others and they just persecute and gossip about him. Charging them with crime upon crime translates a difficult Hebrew phrase, and the Psalmist is really asking for their evil to be turned upon them. Those who belonged to the community have become covenant breakers and should be removed from the covenant community, consistent with the covenant curses mentioned in Deuteronomy. Their names should be erased from the list of those who belong to the covenant community.
V29 marks the transition from lament and imprecation to a hymn of praise. Even though he is in pain and distress, he worships God. This is a very important lesson for us. When we are in pain or in a difficult emotional place, we feel we should stay away from church and away from God until we have ourselves sorted out. Look at how drained and broken the Psalmist is, yet he brings all that brokenness, emotional strife and anger into God’s presence. It is really the only place for us to come. If you waited until everything is sorted and resolved, you’ll never be ready to come to God. Wherever you are found at this moment in time – lonely, angry because things have worked out, frustrated or just can’t see the point of it all – bring all of those emotions before the Lord. The Psalmist needs protection from the enemy and from himself. He places himself in God’s hands and knows that God will protect him. The praise of God’s name is upon his lips and he will bring offerings of thanksgiving. Bringing his heart and lips to God is worth more than the sacrifice of animals. As his downfall brought shame, so his restoration will bring gladness. The downfall of a leading figure caused some to lose heart, but now that they witness the mercy of God in restoration, their hearts live again. When a sinner repents, the angels in heaven rejoice. When someone comes to Christ we all know the joy that brings. We rejoice with those who rejoice. We should do the same when a Christian is restored.
One thing that our own grief can bring about is we become absorbed in ourselves. We see a great deal of self-absorption in the earlier part of the Psalm. Now that the Psalmist has brought everything into the sanctuary he is now beginning to think of others. He encourages the poor and captive that they too can know God’s salvation.
As God saves His covenant people, so the whole cosmos praises God. Think of the cosmic excitement when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The angels tumbled out of heaven down to earth and back to heaven, rejoicing that salvation’s day had dawned. Everything that God has created will resonate with joy and praise because of what God has done.
The Psalmist affirms the certainty of future deliverance where God’s covenant people will possess the new heavens and the new earth. We will settle there, we will be God’s people and God will be our God.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for the range of emotions that we see in the Psalms, and it is being reinforced for us as we make our way through these Psalms that we must come before You in prayer, bringing the complete gambit of our feelings before You. Like the Psalmist, help us to pray honest prayer, but help us to remember that we come before a Holy God, therefore we should be reverent before You. Lord we thank You for having saved us, continuing to save us, and for the hope that we will ultimately be saved and take up our position of serving You in the new heavens and the new earth. Lord God help us to put all our present difficulties into the context of Your eternal plan of salvation because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen