1 Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
2 Take hold of shield and buckler
and rise for my help!
3 Draw the spear and javelin
against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation!”
4 Let them be put to shame and dishonor
who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed
who devise evil against me!
5 Let them be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the Lord driving them away!
6 Let their way be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the Lord pursuing them!
7 For without cause they hid their net for me;
without cause they dug a pit for my life.
8 Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!
And let the net that he hid ensnare him;
let him fall into it—to his destruction!
9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord,
exulting in his salvation.
10 All my bones shall say,
“O Lord, who is like you,
delivering the poor
from him who is too strong for him,
the poor and needy from him who robs him?”
11 Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft.
13 But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
14 I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
I bowed down in mourning.
15 But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered;
they gathered together against me;
wretches whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing;
16 like profane mockers at a feast,
they gnash at me with their teeth.
17 How long, O Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their destruction,
my precious life from the lions!
18 I will thank you in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise you.
19 Let not those rejoice over me
who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
20 For they do not speak peace,
but against those who are quiet in the land
they devise words of deceit.
21 They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, “Aha, Aha!
Our eyes have seen it!”
22 You have seen, O Lord; be not silent!
O Lord, be not far from me!
23 Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication,
for my cause, my God and my Lord!
24 Vindicate me, O Lord, my God,
according to your righteousness,
and let them not rejoice over me!
25 Let them not say in their hearts,
“Aha, our heart’s desire!”
Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”
26 Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who rejoice at my calamity!
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
who magnify themselves against me!
27 Let those who delight in my righteousness
shout for joy and be glad
and say evermore,
“Great is the Lord,
who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
28 Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness
and of your praise all the day long.
To listen to this psalm, I started with Sons of Korah with this absolutely beautiful rendition of the first 10 verses. Here’s Karl Kohlhase with a quicker tempo and the whole psalm, using, “Say to my soul, I am your deliverance” as a refrain.
The psalm starts out with a strong plea for help, for God to step in on his behalf. It’s interesting that he jumps to a supernatural plain: God is able to deliver me, and I need his help against these people who contend against me. They pursue, they seek his life, they devise evil, and instead of being caught in the fear of attack, David looks up and asks God to blow them away like chaff, to catch them in the net they laid for him…
Verse 9 anticipates even further, the rejoicing after the Lord has saved him, and verse 10 proclaims the Lord as the one who takes care of the poor and needy (it reminds me of other praises of God like Hannah’s prayer and Mary’s magnificat).
Then the psalm develops the identity of the attackers: these are former friends, people who when they were in trouble, he prayed for and grieved. Now they have turned on him, without cause. This is what is most discouraging to him. But instead of wallowing in discouragement or turning to fight them back (that’s what I’d do, I suppose), he looks up to God to sort them out. Verse 17 catches my attention not only because he turns again to ask God to deliver him, but his description is reminiscent of Daniel (only he predates Daniel’s confrontation with lions), and then I remember that he fought a lion when protecting his sheep.
Still forecasting, David ends the psalm with the attackers being put to shame, but those who delight in his righteousness will praise God. This caught my attention too. Who delights in the righteousness of another? Well, he is the king, and righteousness simply means rightness, doing what is right. Think about who doesn’t like someone committed to doing the right thing. It’s when we want to be let off the hook, or have the rules bent for us that we tempt the righteous with a bribe or a request and feel mad at them when they don’t bend. But if there are people who appreciate the commitment to doing what is right, it’s a great support. He remembers that there are those who delight in him.
But not only will these people delight in his righteousness, they will give the glory to God. Shouting for joy with a long-lasting gladness, they will say, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant.” This reminds me of something I noticed once in Matthew when Jesus says to live so that others see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. They’re not to thank you or praise you: how do you do that? Well, here it’s obvious that David is crying out to God to save him in a way that only God can, so when others see it they praise the God who saves, who delights in David’s welfare. I’m going to let that sink in today, that God delights in the welfare of his servants.
I’m going to cherish that God delights in taking care of his people, and that David, in this psalm, goes all the way from being attacked and asking God to fight for him to the praise of God after God will rescue him. That’s some pretty good forecasting prayer!
All thanks and praise to God!