1, O LORD my God, in You do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
2, lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
3, O LORD my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands,
4, if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause,
5, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust.
6, Arise, O LORD, in Your anger; lift Yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; You have appointed a judgement.
7, Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about You; over it return on high.
8, The LORD judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.
9, Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may You establish the righteous—You who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God!
10, My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart.
11, God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.
12, If a man does not repent, God will whet His sword; He has bent and readied His bow;
13, He has prepared for him His deadly weapons, making His arrows fiery shafts.
14, Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.
15, He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made.
16, His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.
17, I will give to the LORD the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
This psalm is a bit lengthy, which means my commentary will be lengthy as well. In these verses, from a personal standpoint, I relate these words to the demon attacks I’ve suffered on numerous accounts. There was a specific instance after I woke up from sleep and saw a large, black figure hovering over me with long claws, scratching away at me, and it felt like my soul was being torn to shreds. Whenever these demonic attacks occur, I always take refuge in the Lord. I pray the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer—for God to deliver me from the evil one and his demons. I often command the demon to leave me alone in the name of Christ, for I am God’s child and there is nothing that it or the Devil can do to change that. Whichever approach I take, relying upon God’s refuge, He never fails to deliver me from the evil one and his minions. Verse 2 is really where I draw the comparison—each demonic attack like a lion tearing apart my soul into pieces until nothing remains. Thanks be to God, however, that I can find refuge in Him as He saves me from these demons that pursue me.
No doubt we all face opposition and temptations that pursue us, some indefatigably so. Whether they be gay marriage proponents, militant atheists, or organizations like ISIS who seek to tear our faith into pieces, remember that we have refuge in the Lord. We can also pray on behalf of fellow believers for their refuge, who suffer under godless, evil agendas. Or perhaps your enemy is the Evil One himself—throwing temptations at you left and right, or a specific temptation that you keep struggling against. I urge you to take refuge in the Lord. He desires to be your harbor and help you to overcome sin. Trust Him; He will help you.
I see this passage as a prayer for sin that David was unaware of. He’s essentially saying, “Lord, if I have done any of these things, I deserve Your just punishment.” But he is unaware if he has or not. When we repent, we pray to be forgiven for both sins we know we’ve committed, as well as any that we may not have recognized or fail to recall from memory. I relate to David. If I have wronged anyone in any way, and if I have attacked my enemies without reason, then I deserve to die. Whether I remember my sins or not, I am guilty of them just the same and deserve death, as I deserve death for original sin. David, too, recognized this. For “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). However, thanks be to God that my sins are justified by the blood of Christ (Romans 4:25-5:1), so there is no sense in reminiscing upon my past wrongs since God has forgiven me. People will bring up your past, but God no longer sees it; all He sees is you covered in the justified blood of Christ. Likewise, Satan calls you by your sin, but God calls you by name, as He sees you justified by the righteousness of Christ. Therefore, when Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.
All that’s required of us is that we recognize these wrongs (and that we know what those sins are, as laid out in God’s Word), acknowledge that we deserve God’s just and eternal punishment (that we have no ability to save ourselves and are therefore unable to “choose” or “accept” Christ apart from grace), repent of those sins, and hold onto the promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith is not hoping in what God can do; faith is knowing that God will do and/or has already done. God has forgiven me for Christ’s sake, and so by faith I know that I will be reunited with Him in the resurrection like His, just as I have been united with Him through a “death” like His in my Baptism (Romans 6:3-5).
Here, David is calling upon the vengeance of the Lord, drawing it from the Torah: “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.” (Deuteronomy 32:35) By “swift,” this verse does not mean that the calamity of God’s enemies (who happen to be our enemies as well) will happen soon, for we find that the wicked are often highly successful while God’s people suffer. They are successful because God “makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)Our God is extremely loving toward all people, even those who hate Him. He does not desire that the wicked should perish (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9). Once upon a time, we were enemies of God as well, so we ought to thank Him for not utterly destroying us as soon as the opportunity came. However, when God’s vengeance does come, it will be so swift that no one will be able to catch themselves from their fall.
However, this verse does say that their calamity “is at hand,” denoting a sense of nearness, and other passages speak to this nearness of their destruction as well. Without proper understanding, the reader will misunderstand this as a contradiction since there are plenty of wicked people living who have yet to meet their calamity. However, remember that when God says this, to Him, “one day is a thousand years” and “a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). God makes no distinction of time because He exists outside of time, but He does use our perception of time to do things exactly when necessary; this requires us to wait. So, from God’s perspective outside of time, the calamity of the wicked is indeed near, for He has already done it; we just haven’t experienced it yet.
Think of it like a supernova. Most of the stars we see in the night sky are dead stars—they imploded a long time ago, and it takes an inordinate amount of time for that event to travel all those light years to Earth to the point that we no longer see the light. The supernova already happened; we just haven’t seen it yet (that is, no longer seeing the light that it emitted a long time ago). Likewise, with God, whatever He has declared He’s done, He’s already done it; we just haven’t seen the effect of His work yet. This is exactly when faith comes in—knowing that God has done what He’s declared.
Perhaps imagine drawing a line on a piece of paper. That line represents time or a timeline. You created it. Likewise, God created time and everything within it. As the Creator of time in His infinitude, He can jump into time to accomplish His will whenever He needs to. Now, put a dot in the middle of that timeline on the piece of paper; that dot is us in time as we currently know it, exactly when you’re reading this article. Jump to a couple inches to the right of that dot and let’s say that’s where God destroys, say, ISIS. He’s already done it; we just haven’t experienced it yet. Does that make sense? Good 🙂
But I digress. I imagine that David was writing this psalm at a time in which he was being pursued by his enemies (as it seems to be a common pattern), whether it was while King Saul was trying to kill him or Absalom or some other war he fought in. So how can we apply this to our lives today? If you’re a soldier like I was, you can certainly apply it during a firefight. Of course, not all of us are in a military vocation. So, as 21st century Christians who live comfortably in our first-world homes, how can we apply psalms like this? Two things.
Firstly, you don’t need to be in a war or other dangerous experience to feel that your life is being threatened. Anything can make us feel in danger—any threat to our way of living, whether that be financial instability/debt or physical endangerment during vocational or missions work. Even if it’s just financial instability or fear of falling off a ladder, we can apply these psalms of prayer for God to rescue us from our greatest enemy, Satan, for he is the one who desires us to live uncomfortable lives and to physically and spiritually die. We can pray the 7th petition of the Lord’s Prayer and ask God to deliver us from the hands of Satan and to preserve us when we’re in any sort of struggle or have fear of any kind.
Secondly, whether you realize it or not, we are all at war. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) We grab any thought contrary to God’s Word captive, overtake it, and replace it with God’s truth, whether that’s against heresy or some falsity that Satan attempts to overwhelm us with.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) We are at war with Satan and his army of demons. Why do you think it’s so hard to fight against sin? Because Satan is at war against us. But fear not: God gives us His armor (Ephesians 6:13-18), giving us the strength to prevail against Satan. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:7) There’s that refuge theme again in the epistle of James. Even while we wear the armor of God, we always have a refuge in Him; we can fall back, regroup, and get back into the fight. Then with Paul we can say, “I have fought the good fight of faith, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Here, David petitions God to judge him according to his righteousness, but we have no righteousness of our own, for “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment,” or as the KJV translation says, “are as filthy as rags” (Isaiah 64:6). So how do we account for this statement? Well, the second of six principles of interpretation is: Scripture interprets Scripture. So let’s go to Scripture.
Consider the faith of Abraham. “He believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). St. Paul explains this further, “And to the one who does not work [rely on works/the Law] but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). (Prior to this verse, Paul used the faith of Abraham as an example.) So then, we are made righteous through the righteousness of Christ by faith, which He imputes to us. So, the righteousness of David is the righteousness of God; David knows this because of what he wrote in Psalm 5:8, “Lead me, O LORD, in Your righteousness.” When God judges the believer, he judges us in the righteousness of Christ, as if we never sinned, for “He has now reconciled [us] in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present [us] holy and blameless and above reproach before Him” (Colossians 1:22). Likewise, “[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” (Ephesians 1:4)
Moving on, David eagerly waits for the evil ways of the wicked to come to an end. I’m sure many of us can relate. As God heard the cries of the Israelites who were in Egyptian captivity for 400 years, He hears our cries today, and He will deliver us. David exalts God as His greatest defense. We see this same shield imagery in Ephesians 6:16, to “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Remember, we’re at war. I find it interesting that the one thing Satan desires to cripple and destroy (our faith) is the same thing that can take out his fiery attacks. Since God is the one who gives us faith, of course He can use the one thing Satan wishes to destroy as our greatest defense against him. All defenses can be crippled, unless the one who fortified it remains within it. After all, faith as small as a mustard seed has the power to move mountains (Matthew 17:20).
David makes a valid point that God is the righteous judge. To be righteous means to know right from wrong. As God is the Creator of morality and thus the only moral absolute, only He knows right from wrong; therefore, only He is righteous in and of Himself; and therefore only He can exercise righteous judgement in its fullest. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they desired to be like God—to know good and evil (Genesis 3:4-6). However, ever since this rebellion against God, it has become evident that in spite of knowing what good and evil are, we cannot fully distinguish right from wrong, which is why everyone has their own self-righteously developed sense of morality that all too often drifts from the Word of God. When we make the distinction successfully, it is drawn from the Word of God, even if it’s done so unknowingly. (For God’s moral law binds on all human hearts at all times—Romans 2:15.) So, since God is the only righteous judge in all existence, He knows how to give just judgements. Jesus also shows us how to exercise righteous judgement. (See my article, “Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged.”) What God declares as just may not seem just to us because in our sin and narcissism, we want things done our way rather than God’s way. God is the Creator of good; therefore, only He gets the final say in what is good and just.
Along with this, David says, “God feels indignation every day.” Indignation is anger provoked by unfair treatment. What reason does God have to feel indignant? Unfair treatment against His people. When God’s people are harmed, this provokes Him to anger, and He responds in His righteous judgement, dealing with the situation accordingly, for vengeance and recompense are His (Deut. 32:35).
God’s Word turns us back to Him. The first step in repentance is acknowledging the truth of what God has told us about ourselves: that we are conceived and born sinful creatures in need of God’s mercy. A whetstone was used to sharpen a sword in preparation for battle, so God’s sword is not idle against the unrepentant, merely being prepared. Just look at the unrepentant Pharaoh who hardened his heart against God. Don’t be like him. Don’t be that guy.
Like David, we sing praise to God for His righteousness. We sing hymns like God’s Christ, Who is My Righteousness: “God’s Christ, who is my righteousness, My beauty is, my glorious dress; Midst flaming worlds, in this arrayed, With joy shall I lift up my head. Lord, I believe Thy precious blood, Which, at the mercy seat of God, Forever doth for sinners plead, For me, e’en for my soul, was shed.”
Psalm 7 Prayer
Father, protect me from the evil one and his demons. Protect me also from the evil ways of the world—from lustful desires, from the dark attractions of gossip, and from organizations like ISIS who seek to murder me. I pray also for my brothers and sisters who suffer at the hands of persecution from ISIS and others like them. Be with them, give them strength, be their refuge as You are mine. Forgive me for my sins, Lord [feel free to be specific]. Whatever sin I fail to recall, please forgive me for them also. I trust in Your steadfast love and Your providence. Give me the strength to war against my fleshly desires and against the evil one who desires to consume me in the fires of Hell. Maintain my faith; please lend me Your strength and wisdom always. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.
Garrick Sinclair "Ricky" Beckett first started his Christian writing on a blog titled "The Lutheran Column" where he hires proficient Lutheran writers to convey biblical truth. Along with the blog, he also writes poetry, string quartets in music composition, enjoys doing photography, reading, and playing video games. Ricky is a graduate from Concordia University-Ann Arbor from the Pre-Seminary program with a major in Christian Thought and a minor in Theological Languages. Currently, Ricky is a seminarian at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis as he works on his Masters of Divinity to become a pastor in the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).
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