Psalm 35 TALK: A Call to God to Help us fight the Good fight of Faith

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

 PSALM 35 TALK – A CALL TO GOD TO HELP US FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF THE FAITH

 INTRODUCTION

 In a cold first century dungeon the apostle Paul wrote his last letter to his young well-loved protégé Timothy and towards the end of this letter he writes (New International Version),

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 to all who have longed for his appearing” 2 Timothy 4: 6 – 8.

Twice before this, Paul called Timothy to do the same, to fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy  1: 18 and 6; 12). Paul knew from his understanding of the scriptures and his experience of the Christian life that even though in Christ the Christian is more than a conqueror (Romans 8: 37) we are still in this life involved in a dangerous and difficult conflict between good and evil. As we see in Ephesians 6: 12, we are not struggling

  “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

David knew this too and throughout his long life and particularly when fleeing the murderous madness of King Saul. We believe David was on the run from Saul for over eight years before Saul finally succumbed in death at his own hands when fighting the Philistines.

It is this context that I believe Psalm 35 was written. A Psalm not unlike the previous Psalm except Psalm 34 was written with a particular deliverance in mind during this period of time, namely his escape from Gath while Psalm 35 deals with the total eight- year period of ongoing struggle and ultimate deliverance seen in Psalm 35 by the eye of faith looking to God’s final outcome. Both Psalms mention “The Angel of the Lord” (no other Psalms do) and Psalm 35 speaks of the darkness while fighting the good fight when he was on the run from Saul and his men while Psalm 34 speaks of deliverance from this darkness, verse’s 4 and 5,

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame”.

When I was much younger I was asked to preach in the local Salvation Army Church in the suburb I worked in as a full time Church Youth Worker. I had never attended such a church before yet alone preached in one. I was given an open brief to preach on anything I believed I should. I knew that The Salvation Army was designed on military images from the bible so I checked my bible for a passage that spoke of the Christian faith being expressed in military terms. I found a few and settled on Ephesians 6, “The armour of God”. They really liked it and I gained a new appreciation of how the Christian life is like being in a great battle and how we need to look to God for help and deliverance.

David uses lots of military terms in his Psalm 35 and I believe in this Psalm he is calling out to God to help him in his fight against the forces of evil he faced as he fled from Saul and his men.

In this study I want us to look at how we can find help and deliverance in our struggle against the forces of evil and like Paul we too one day will be able to say, “I have fought the good fight of faith”.

A WORD ABOUT IMPRECATIONS

 Psalm 35 is called an imprecatory Psalm and H.C. Leupold lists the following Psalms as imprecatory Psalms, 7,22,31,36,39,54,55,56,109 and 140. However imprecation verses pop up right throughout the Psalms. The first verse I came across in my study of the first book of Psalms (1 – 41) is Psalm 5: 10,

 “Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you”.

I would like to quote myself from my Psalm 5 study to explain a bit about these imprecations.

 “Verse 10 is David’s actual prayer for God’s judgment to come upon his enemies, this is called in theological cycles as imprecation which is a term which means invoking evil or judgment on someone. There are many examples of imprecation in the Psalms and these Psalms are often called Imprecatory Psalms. This raises the issue in my mind of whether we should pray that God will deal with his enemies the same way today. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for them, Luke 6 : 27 – 29,

 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic”.

 However we also know from the teaching of Christ and the rest of the New Testament that God has appointed a day that all men will be judged, Acts 17 : 31,

 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

This means that when we read David praying for God to deal with his enemies like he does here in verse 10 of Psalm 5, who are also God’s enemies we should think of this in the context of the final judgment to come. Martin Luther pointed out that when we pray in the Lords prayer, “Thy Kingdom come”, we are praying for God’s Day of Judgment to come as well”.

This Psalm has three clear sections that contain as Spurgeon points out a, “complaint, prayer, and promise of praise”. My headings are:

1.     1 – 10:   A CALL TO GOD FOR GOD TO FIGHT FOR HIM

 2.     11 – 18: A CALL TO GOD FOR HELP IN A UNFAIR FIGHT

 3.     19 – 28: A CALL TO GOD FOR VICTORY OVER HIS ENEMIES

 

1.     1 – 10: A CALL TO GOD FOR GOD TO FIGHT FOR HIM

 This section contains a number of military terms used in David’s time but the Psalm starts with a legal term, “Contend” which literally means that David wants God to take up his defence for the charges of treason Saul had lain against him. This concept is developed much more in Psalm 26 but here David is calling on God to not only take up his case but to actually fight for him,

“Fight against those who fight against me”.

David then uses military terms of his day in a figurative way,

“Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me”. (Verse 2)

David is calling to God for God to take up arms for him. He wants and in fact needs God’s help and protection. He eventually gains around 600 men (1 Samuel 23: 13) but Saul has the entire army of Israel at his disposal and in one campaign against David (1 Samuel 24: 2) Saul took 3,000 men to help him capture David. In modern terms we would say David is hopelessly outgunned. To say that David is fearful of his life is an understatement and this is why at the end of verse 3 he writes,

“Say to my soul, “I am your salvation”

The only thing that kept David and his men alive during those eight long years was God fighting for him.

As I said at the start we as followers of Christ are up against unbelievable powerful odds, “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heaven”. We too might feel that we are totally outgunned in the battle of faith. But Paul in Eph. 6: 10 says,

 “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”

David trusted in God and his mighty power and in our fight of the good fight of faith we should do the same.

Verses 4 – 8 commences David’s first imprecatory prayers. We must put this prayer in this Psalm in its context.

David faces death at the hands of Saul and he is totally innocent of any wrong doing. A good passage to get a idea of the crazy and dangerous mind and intent of Saul is in 1 Samuel 20: 30 – 33, where Jonathan, Saul’s eldest son finds out for himself what his father thinks of David and intends to do to him.

 “Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”

“Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David”.

From this day onwards David is caught up in a life and death battle with King Saul. David never wavers from his loyalty to Saul and even saves his life by not killing him when God seems to give him opportunity to do this on at least two occasions. However David becomes a political outcast from his own country and Psalms like 35 are a record of his private prayers during this time.

I wont you to notice that David does not pray for Saul and his followers death but rather that they be thwarted in their attempts to destroy him and that God judge them for the injustice they seek against him.

Jesus taught us not to pray like this in his teaching but rather leave judgment to God as Jesus says in Matthew 7: 1 – 3,

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye”?

However David as the “Lords Anointed” knew that his enemies where God’s enemies and therefore their murderous attack on him was in fact an attack on God as well.

The imprecatory prayer of this first section, verses 4 – 8 is actually David asking God to do three things to his enemies:

1.     Put them to shame (vs. 4a)

2.     Turn them back (vs’s 4b – 6)

3.     Trap them in their own traps (7,8)

 

1.     Put them to shame (vs. 4a)

In verse 4 David is asking God again that the enemies who pursue him be the ones who are disgraced and put to shame. David has asked this a number of times before and is very clear in Psalm 25: 3,

“No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse

David, when on the run from Saul was a social outcast and most of the people in his own country would have looked down on him as a traitor and criminal. King Saul and his loyal followers trumped up charges of treason against David. So David wants God to clear his name and the shame he now feels be shifted from him to the people who accused him of treachery and treason.

We to might feel like David sometimes when we are caught up in this Godless world and maybe miss out on promotion at work because of our Christian stand or we are accused of saying things as a Christian we have not said. Peter had a bit to say on this in his letters and his advice in 1 Peter 4: 12 – 14 is,

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you”.

1.     Turn them back (vs’s 4b – 6)

The end of verse’s 4 and 5 David is asking God to turn back his enemies,

“May those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them”.

For eight long years David lived as a virtual fugitive while on the run from Saul and his men and he would have always been looking back to see if Saul was catching up to him. A number of times the text of 1 Samuel records close shaves as Saul gets within striking range of David. David pleads with God for this evil intent of King Saul to be turned back. God answers this prayer many times as Saul is continually thwarted in his attempts to capture and kill David.

Twice in these verses David asks help from the mysterious, “Angel of the Lord” who we read about in the previous Psalm. Derek Kidner points to the famous passage on “The Angel of the Lord”, Exodus 23: 20 – 23,

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out”.

Kidner points out that in this passage the Angel of the Lord is, “either our salvation or our doom”. The angel of the Lord is powerful but to oppose him and his will, even for an Israelite was to face the very judgment of God himself.

So David asks God to send his Angel against his enemies to drive them back like chaff blown like the wind and to turn them back by making their path dark and slippery a poetic way of saying may they fail in their evil pursuit of him.

We too can trust that God is with us in our battle with evil and this world in the person of Christ himself through his Holy Spirit. This is what Peter said at the end of the passage I quoted in the last section, 1 Peter 4: 14,

“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you”.

2.     Trap them in their own traps (vs’s 7 – 8)

David asks for another thing we have seen him ask for before, namely that the trap his enemies set for him be the very trap his enemies fall into,

“Since they hid their net for me without cause and without cause dug a pit for me, may ruin overtake them by surprise- may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin”. (Verses 7 and 8)

What David is praying for here using poetic language is natural justice that is that the sins of his enemies be the very thing that brings God’s judgment upon them. There are many examples of this in our own times like when communist Russian opposed Christians and ended up after 70 years being brought down in disgrace and the Christian church came out of this dark time stronger than ever. Or when a person claims there is no God and lives a life like there isn’t and dies an early death from the effects of drugs or alcohol.

David wants God to turn the efforts of his enemies to kill him to disaster and failure and we see also from the text of 1 Samuel that this is what actually happened to Saul on a number of occasions.

We must never seek vengeance as Romans 12: 19 says,

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord”.

We are to show love to our enemies because as Peter says in 1 Peter 4: 8,

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”.

Love is the weapon Jesus wants us to wield in the battle against sin and the devil as Jesus says in John 13: 34 – 35,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The first promise of Praise (verses 9 – 10)

Now for the first time in the Psalm David turns to praise. He does something similar at the end of each section and he is doing it while he is still on the run from Saul. He is determining to act in faith and praise God for his answer to his prayers before he sees the hand of God answering them. This is the remarkable thing that sets David apart. He trusts in God and his word all through his life. Even after his great fall to the sins of adultery and murder he turns back to God in faith.

This is the difference between Saul and David, Michael Wilcock writes, “David’s delight is in the law of the Lord, despite his lapses into sin, Saul is like chaff that the wind blows (verse 5)”. We see the difference between these two men especially in the incident in Saul’s life near its end. He has lost touch with God and his word and faces the mighty forces of the Philistines alone so what does he do he consults a witch in Vendor for advice and help and we read these words from Samuel who Saul seeks to consult from the grave, 1 Samuel 28: 16 – 19,

“Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today.The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”

The next day Saul, his son Jonathan and his army were slaughtered by the Philistines then David’s prayers for deliverance from the hand of Saul were answered and his praise could go up to God but David did not wait till then to praise God he had been praising God for his ultimate deliverance years before and verses 9 and 10 of Psalm 35 are examples of that praise,

“Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim “Who is like you, O Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them”.

David is turning his attention from his troubles to his God and the salvation he is offering him, “rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation”. He is using not just his mouth to praise God but his, “whole being” and he is acknowledging his weakness and frailty in the face of the opposition he faces by describing himself as poor and needy. But God recues and saves those who humble themselves before him in faith and praise.

Paul teaches us to do the same in Philippians 4: 6 – 7,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

2.     11 – 18: A CALL TO GOD FOR HELP IN A UNFAIR FIGHT

David now goes back to describe a little further the terrible plight he was in when he was on the run from Saul and his army. He presents three things that describe the unfairness of his adversities. His enemies are inspired and empowered by the evil one, Satan who Jesus describes in John 8: 44 as “the father of lies”. These pictures are:

  1. False witnesses (vs’s 11 – 12)
  2. False friendship (vs’s 13 – 15)
  3. False mockers (vs’s 16 – 17)
  1. False witnesses (vs’s 11 – 12

David now speaks of how many of his very own men and even friends from the army of Israel he served in joined with Saul to make false accusations against him. We see that it was not just Saul who falsely accusing David of wrongdoing in 1 Samuel 24: 9 where David is speaking to Saul about the unjust false accusations he was making against him when we read,

“”Why do you listen when men say, “David is bent on harming you”.

David probably did not know all these men personally but he considered them his brothers as he had formerly served with them in battles for the Lord and now these brothers in arms became as David says in verse 11, “Ruthless witnesses” who he says in verse 12, “repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn”.

Sometimes we might find the evil one, Satan will use even so called Christian brothers to turn on us with false accusations. I experienced this myself many years ago when a man I had fellowshipped with many times at work one day turned on me when he believed I had not given him contracts for work he believed I had promised him. It was a very painful and soul shattering experience to have a Christian friend turn on me this way. However I learnt once again that my faith is not in men but it is in The Lord Jesus Christ and on him I can always rely. As the writer to the Hebrews put it in Hebrews 12: 2,

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”

       2.  False friendship (vs’s 13 – 15)

In verses 13 – 15 David is probably referring to his early encounters with King Saul. In 1Samuel 16 verses 14 to 23 we are told that Saul began to suffer from some kind of mental disorder that the text calls, an “evil spirit from the Lord tormenting him”, verse 14. This could well have been some form of mental depression, which came on Saul after he had got out of step with God. As the first part of the verse says, “The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul”. It is during this period that someone in the court of Saul suggests that a young man named David should come and play his harp for the king. David is described this way in 1 Samuel 16: 18,

 “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him”.

David comes and plays his harp and gives Saul relief from his sufferings as we read in verse 23,

“Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him”.

So David puts a lot of time and effort into helping the ailing King Saul and he did this out of genuine love and devotion for his King. David expresses in verses 13 and 14 what he believed he was doing for Saul,

“Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered. I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother”.

Yet what is King Saul now doing to him? I think verse 15 answers that well,

“But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing”.

So David faced false friendship, he thought he had the confidence and faith of King Saul but as it turned out the King turned on him and now slandered his good name and sought to kill him. Many other former friends of David joined with Saul to do the same thing.

        3.  False mockers (vs’s 16 – 17)

I call them false mockers because the accusations and insults they now threw at David were false and this mocking was vicious as verse 16 describes,

“they gnashed their teeth at me”

David followers this thought of angry gnashing teeth of mocking and false accusations with a renewed prayer for deliverance in verse 17,

“O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions”.

These verses remind me of the false accusations thrown at Jesus when he stood before the Sanhedrin after his arrest. I take up the story in Mark 14: 55 – 65,

“The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 

We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree”.

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus,

Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him,

“Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked.  “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him”.

This only a small part of the suffering our Lord went through for us. Jesus knew that the devil and all his evil forces lay behind the Sanhedrin trial. He also knew he would be handed over to the Romans for execution but in three days he would rise from the dead in Victory over sin and evil. As we fight the good fight of faith we need to lift our eyes to what will happen in the future as its says in Revelation 12: 10 – 12,

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

The Second promise of Praise (vs. 18)

This second section of this Psalm finishes with yet another promise of praise as the first section did, verse 18,

“I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you”

Just as we saw in Psalm 34 verse 3 David believed and promoted what one commentator called “the fellowship of praise”,

“Glorify the Lord with me let us exalt his name together”

Here in Psalm 35 he is promising to give thanks in the great assembly to join others in “the fellowship of praise”. Again he makes this promise as he faces the forces of Saul against him.

As we face great opposition in our fight of the good fight of faith we to need to join with others in faith to praise the Lord for the salvation we have in Christ. As Paul encouraged the Colossians in Colossians 3: 16 – 17,

“ Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”

3.  19– 28: A CALL TO GOD FOR VICTORY OVER HIS ENEMIES

 Even though David has just promised to praise God for his deliverance in the company of his fellow worshippers he is not out of the woods yet as the old saying puts it. Saul and his army are still in hot pursuit of David so David makes a final call to God for deliverance. It is amazing to think that David would have prayed this kind of prayer for eight long years and shows his amazing faith in his God who is really testing him.

It is easy to have faith in God when things are going well but when difficulties come upon us our real faith is fully revealed. This is what Peter is talking about in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

I see three main requests in David’s final call for victory over his enemies in this final section of the Psalm:

1.     Don’t let them gloat over me

 2.     Vindicate my innocents

 3.     Awake and come to my defense

 

1.     Don’t let them gloat over me

David reveals the very real sense of the powerlessness he felt when he was on the run from Saul in his references to his enemies gloating over him in this final call to God. We read this in verse 19,21,24,25 and 26. He is saying the same thing in different ways in these verses,

“Let not those gloat over me” vs.19,

“”They gape at me and say “Aha Aha” vs.21,

“do not let them gloat over my distress” vs.24

“Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!” vs.25,

“May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame”, vs26

What is David really asking for here?

David definitely feels he has been unjustly treated by Saul and others and he feels that if these men get away with their evil intent then a great injustice would have been done to him and many others. The rest of verses 19 and 20 express this thought very well,

“Let not those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; let not those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye. They do not speak peaceably but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land”.

David is saying by their actions they reveal their true position before God. They are not men of justice and peace but deceitful men of injustice and malice.

2.     Vindicate my innocents

It is clear what David wants God to do for him, he wants vindication or he wants his good name restored and justice done. David during those eight dark years was a political and social outcast in his own country. By the wicked action of Saul and others who supported him David went from being a public hero to a national traitor. His good name was dragged down into the mud and he was now a doomed fugitive on the run for his very life. David felt hurt, betrayed and forsaken and he wants God to change this and return him to his former status as an upright man who loved God and his people.

We se this not only in this Psalm but also in many others and it is a problem David faced not only when he was on the run from Saul but also when his very own son Absalom turned on him and sought his life again when he rebelled against him. David cries out for vindication in verse 24,

“Vindicate me in your righteousness, O Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me”.

 When the evil one attacks us he will sometimes use the same tactic of seeking to bring down our own good name. Even within the church this attack of Satan can come upon us. Paul faced this problem in his ministry when particularly members of the Church in Corinth attacked Paul’s good name and motives and this is the background to his second letter to the Corinthians. Paul seems to be contending with men who call themselves true apostles who attack his motives and things they falsely say he wrote in his first letter to them. Listen to what Paul says to the church in Corinth about this in 2 Corinthians 11: 13 – 15,

“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve”.

So Paul saw that this attack from within the Church at Corinth was an attack orchestrated by Satan himself and is therefore yet another aspect to the spiritual warfare he was engaged in

3.     Awake and come to my defense

The final aspect to the call of David to God for victory over his enemies is found in verses 22 and 23,

“O Lord, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me. O Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord”.

David appeals to the great attribute of God namely his omniscience, which is God knows and sees all things. It’s not that he believes God has gone to sleep during those long dangerous years when he was on the run from Saul as he states in verse 22,

“O Lord, you have seen this”

 No David knew he believed in a all knowing and all seeing God who knew not only what Saul was doing but knew the heart of Saul and what motivated him as Psalm 44: 21 says,

“Would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart”?

No what David is asking for is God’s action or for God to seemingly spring from his sleep concerning the problems David faced from Saul’s murderous intent and act on David’s behalf. He wants an answer from God to act for him,

“Rise to my defence!”

He wants God to contend for him as verse 23 says.

This brings us to the all-important truth that sometimes God’s answer to our prayers is “Wait”. For David it took 8 long years before God answered this prayer but in God’s good time Saul got what he deserved death and defeat and David got what he asked for deliverance from his enemies and restoration of his good name when he became the next king of Israel.

So we too must learn to be patient in prayer and acknowledge that God does know our situation and is concerned for it.

In a few Psalms after this David devotes a Psalm to this topic of waiting on the Lord and in Psalm 37: 7 he writes,

 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes”.

Finally Peter puts waiting on God in perspective and gives us some practical advice on waiting on God in 2 Peter 3: 8 – 9,

 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.

The third and final promise of praise (27,28)

The final two verses of this Psalm like many Psalms of David end on a high note of praise. Twice before we have seen David turn from despair and desperate prayer for deliverance from his agonizing fight with the forces of Saul and his army to the promise of praise to God for that deliverance. This was written by David while he waited patiently for God to do it.

Verse 27 reads,

“May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness”

David had eventually 600 men and a collection of women with him while he was on the run from Saul. God did not leave him on his own and many others during those years in Israel and Philistine came to David’s aid.

Some at great cost like priest Ahimelech and most of his family lost their lives after Aimelech gave David and his men practical assistance in 1 Samuel 21 and 22.

So David even during his eight years on the run knew personally people who, “delighted in his vindication” they by faith knew David’s time was coming. Eventually when David is installed as the rightful King of Israel in 2 Samuel 2 we read in verses 2 and 3,

“So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah”.

This is when David knew God had fully answered his many prayers for deliverance. Then the reality of his praise of verse 28, uttered here by faith saw the clear light of reality.

“My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long”

We to have a hope to look forward to as we fight the good fight of faith the reality to come for us namely being with God in heaven forever.

As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13: 12,

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known”.

CONCLUSION

Through the three sections of this Psalm we have seen David call out to God for his fight against his enemy Saul.

1. Strong in the Lord

In the first section we read of David’s call to God to fight for him as he was facing overwhelming adversities. We learnt that we to face overwhelming odds in the fight of the good fight of faith. We face “powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heaven” Eph. 6:12. So we too like David need to call to God for his help in this great fight and Paul’s word of encouragement in Eph. 6: 10 is that like David we are, “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”.

2.   Look to Jesus not men

In the second section we saw David calling out to God again this time asking for God’s help as he faced a enemy that fought ruthlessly and unfairly against him. Even some of his so called former friends and colleagues turned on him particularly King Saul who David gave great assistance when he suffered from great bouts of mental depression. David shows us that this trial of his faith did not cause him to give his faith in God away but he looked to God for help and vindication and he praised God for it even before it became a reality.

We too need to not be surprised if friends, family or even fellow Christians attack us or might fail to help us when we need their help. We like David must learn to look to God for help in the great battle of our faith. As we fight the good fight of faith we need to, “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith Heb. 12: 2.

3.   Be patient and Wait on God to Act

Finally we saw how desperate David felt for vindication for eight long years while on the run from Saul and his men. How he feels that it seems like God has gone to sleep, as he has not answered his many prayers for the defeat of his enemies. We too need to be patient and wait on the Lord particularly for this battle to be finally over when the Lord returns. As Peter put it in 2 Peter 3: 8 – 9,

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.

A poem based on Psalm 35

FIGHT FOR ME

 Fight for me O Lord my God

Be now my sword and shield

Arise and come by my side

In this world’s great battlefield.

 

Chorus:

 

Praise the Lord for his victory

Praise his name on high

For he died for me to set me free

And in battle he hears my every cry

Yes in battle he hears my cry.

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

As Satan’s forces rise

To bring me ruin and disgrace

Oh hear my desperate cries.

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

May evil be blown away?

Like worthless seed in the wind

May you fight for me today.

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

When caught in this world’s lies

Of how you do not exist to help

Show them you hear our cries.

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

When unbelievers turn on me

Even after I have shown them love

Help me to set them free.

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

Awake and answer my prayers

For it seems I prayed this many times

As evil causes me tears

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

Give me patience in the fight

As I remember your word that promises

One day you return to right

 

Fight for me O Lord my God

May your judgment finally come?

May your Son return and fill the sky?

May the fight be finally won?

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PART 2

 THREE NEW TESTAMANT FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH PASSAGES

 INTRODUCTION

 In this section I want to choose three New Testament passages that deal with fighting the good fight of faith and draw out some practical applications for our daily walk with the Lord in this life.

1.     THE CALL TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH: 2 Timothy 4: 6 – 8

 As I said in the introduction twice before passage Paul spoke of the Christian life being like a fight or a battle, (1 Timothy  1: 18 and 6; 12). Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy from prison in Rome as he awaited his certain execution. I would like to make three observations from this passage about fighting the good fight of faith:

1.     It is a good fight

2.     It has a ultimate victory

3.     It involves keeping the true faith

 

1.     It is a good fight

 On all of occasions that Paul speaks of the Christian life being a fight or a battle he calls it a good fight. Ian Mackervoy says that it is a “good fight” because, “this struggle is for God and the “gospel”. We are not fighting some useless futile war as so many have had to fight throughout history but we are involved in a battle that has eternal consequences, namely the salvation of the whole of humanity as Paul indicated in the opening of his letter to the Ephesians in Ephesians 1: 7 – 10,

 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ”.

 This wisdom and understanding that Paul speaks about hear is the Gospel Message that Paul so diligently preached and now in this final charge to Timothy he says to him to,

“Preach the word; be prepared in and out of season”. 2 Timothy 4: 2.

 Paul knows that Satan knows that the Gospel is the great weapon he cannot overcome in the great war he rages against God and therefore Satan will attempt to dilute or defuse it’s message using sinful men even within the church. That is why Paul warns Timothy to be patient and careful in 2 Timothy 4: 2 and goes on to say what will happen within the church under Satan’s attack of the Gospel message.

Lets read Paul’s warning to Timothy about this in 2 Timothy 4: 3 – 5,

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

Paul is telling Timothy how he should fight this great fight in verse 5, namely he should, “do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

 Maybe it is a waste of time spending too much time in disputes within the church about right doctrine and our time would be better spent getting on with the job of preaching the Gospel so that many more people can come to Christ. Satan after all does not want that to happen and would feel he has won a little battle if Christians are waylaid from the preaching of the Gospel and winning hearts and lives to follow Christ.

2.     It has a ultimate victory

This fight Paul is speaking about here is not a fight that will lead to despair and failure. Even though Paul speaks about this in the context of his certain death that will come about because he was faithful in preaching the Gospel in his day. In verse 6 he speaks about his coming death in these words.

“For I am already being pored out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure”.

 Paul is using here an Old Testament sacrificial practice of pouring some kind of drink, usually wine over the sacrificial animal before its was sacrificed. Paul saw his life being like that drink offering that he is being offered to God. But this is not a futile act of defeat as he says in verse 8,

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me in that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”.

 Paul always looked to the final goal of God and the Gospel as he fought his daily battles of the faith. Sometimes the trails and tribulations of this life can weigh us down and we can loose our way in the battle we face each day for the Lord. The answer to this problem is to be like Paul and lift our eyes beyond these daily struggles to the ultimate goal or victory that awaits all true believers namely heaven itself.

3.     It involves keeping the true faith

Finally Paul indicates in this passage what fighting the good fight successfully involves. Paul tells us at the end of verse 7, “I have kept the faith”.

 Ian Mackervoy makes it clear what Paul is saying hear when he writes,

“His trust in Christ never failed. He believed in Christ to the end. God had trusted him with the truth and he had kept it. He had been loyal to the Lord and to the gospel of Christ”.

 Paul used another image to convey this and this time he drew on the sport of athletics when he writes in verse 7,

“I have finished the race”

 Once before Paul used this image to convey something about the Christian life in 1 Corinthians 9: 23 – 27,

“I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize”.

Paul is saying hear that keeping our faith and preaching the Gospel involves exertion and training. That is why many go to Bible College or theological college because they want to have a better understanding of the faith and the Gospel by studying the bible in a more diligent and intensive way. I treasure my three years of Bible College of had in my younger days. Not that I learnt it all then, by no means but what I learnt was how I could study the bible myself more effectively. I also was able to lay a better foundation of what the Christian faith is really about by the intensive study of evangelical Christian doctrine and this helped me be more prepared to run the Christian race and fight the good fight of our faith.

Paul now saw in 2 Timothy the finishing line close at hand. He was in the straight and heading for the finishing line tape. I once was a very good middle distance runner as a young person and I won many races because I had a strong finishing sprint that some call a finishing kick. This was something I practiced in my training and I always finished my training runs with a sprint to the finish. I hope that in the greater race of life I will finish like Paul not waving or falling over but putting on a finishing kick that will mean that like Paul I will enter glory having done my best in this life and in the battle for the Lord.

2.     THE RESOURCES GOD PROVIDES TO FIGHT THE FIGHT OF FAITH:

2 Corinthians 10 : 1 – 6

 As I have said throughout this study the bible presents the idea of the Christian life being like a great battleground. Paul talks about this in a number of places and here in 2 Corinthians 10 he speaks of it again. He was involved at this time with a group of leaders in the Corinthian church who sought to discredit his ministry there.

One of the charges these opposing leaders threw at Paul was that he was timid when he was face to face with the church in Corinth but when he was away from them and communicated by letter he was bold and often hostile to them. Paul hotly disputed this as we see in verses 1 and 2 of this passage,

“By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world”.

 Now Paul uses the military image to further his argument of what really motives him. From this Paul sets down some resources God provides for us to fight the fight of faith. I would like to draw out three points from this passage:

1.     Our weapons are not of this world

2.     Our weapons are the knowledge of God and word of Christ

3.     Our weapons are effective

 

 1.     Our weapons are not of this world

 Paul now states that he fights the Christian battle with weapons that are not of this world. He is seeking here to contrast his motives and actions to those of his opponents in the Church in Corinth he called, “super-apostles” in 2 Corinthians 11: 5. These “super-apostles” fought with human weapons or non-biblical ones as 2 Corinthians 11 sets out in phrases like,

“For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached” verse 4,

 “or a different gospel from the one you accepted” verse 4

 and, “I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge”

 So these opponents preached a non-biblical Jesus and Gospel and used worldly speaking techniques to convince others of their teachings.

Paul however chose to stick to what he called, “not weapons of the world”

 We must be careful in our choice of preaching techniques, not that using modern technology is wrong but if technology or anything else takes away from the true Biblical presentation of the Gospel then we are just like the “super-apostles” of Paul’s day. We need to find ways of faithfully presenting Christ and his word or our fight for him in this world will be lost and the devil will have a victory over us.

2.     Our weapons are Knowledge of God and the word of Christ

 Paul now says his main weapon in his warfare against this world, sin and the devil is as he puts it in verse 5,

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.

 Where is this spiritual battle taking place?

Paul argues that it is taking place in the human mind when he speaks of knowledge and thoughts.

What weapon does Paul use in this spiritual battle?

The weapon is the knowledge of God and particularly that knowledge relating to Christ. This is what we as Christians call The Bible, which is both the old and new Testaments. As Paul points to in Ephesians 6: 17,

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God”

 Note the only offensive weapon mentioned in this amour of God passage is the sword, which is the word of God.

 Paul uses another powerful military image in this verse namely taking thoughts captive that are against the word Andrew Wommack explains this image and how Paul is using it this way,

“Just as enemy soldiers are captured in war, so rebel thoughts must be taken captive and made to submit to Christ”.

 The opponents of Paul the “super-apostles” obviously had moved away from God’s word and particularly the word of Christ. In chapter 11 Paul claims these “super- apostles” are inspired or deceived by Satan and now present a different Jesus, verses 3 and 4,

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough”.

 This is a great danger in the war against this world, sin and the devil namely changing or moving away from the word of God particularly its faithful presentation of who Jesus is and what he preached and taught us namely The Gospel message.

We need to be like Paul faithfully seeking to,

“Demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.

 If we do this we will have many victories over the devil and his many followers.

3.     Our weapons are effective

Finally Paul makes it clear from this passage and many others that the word of God is a powerful and effective weapon as he says in verse 4,

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds”.

 The bible is God’s word inspired to men just like us and Paul teaches in the famous 2 Timothy 3: 16- 17 passage,

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

 The word of God is very powerful as Hebrews 4: 12 says,

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.

 This then makes it clear that we must get to know our weapon, the bible and use it effectively in the battle of a faith against the forces of this world, sin and the devil. If we do use it we can be confident like Paul God that God is working through us and we to will be able to,

“demolish strongholds”

3.     THE FINAL VICTORY IN THE FIGHT OF FAITH:  Revelation 21: 1 – 8

 We saw three times in Psalm 35 that David in the midst of his eight years of being on the run from Saul lifted his eyes to the end of this conflict. David saw by faith God’s victory over his enemies and praised God. This helped David press on in his struggle with the forces of evil he battled with in his life at that time.

We to need to lift the eyes of our faith to the great victory to come. This victory is God’s final victory over this world, sin and the Devil and is beautifully depicted in picture language in Revelation 21: 1 – 8 near the end of the bible.

I would like to speak on three truths from this passage:

1.     The new dwelling of God to come

2.     The new existence with God to come

3.     The final victory over evil by God to come

 

1.     The new dwelling of God to come

 Revelation 21 starts with the words,

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away”

 This is clearly picturing that God will establish an entirely new existence after the judgment of God is completed as described in Revelation 20. What this “New Earth and Heaven” will look like is not clear but it certainly will be different, “no longer any sea” verse 1 and will be far better than the old one, “I am making everything new” verse 5.

This description is short on detail but big on generalities and the best generality is,

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God”.

 This then is the victory we should be looking forward to which is the ultimate answer to all our prayers that come as a result of our struggle with this world, sin and the Devil.

2.     The new existence with God to come

The second great truth I would like to speak about in this passage is what the new existence with God will be like. I think verse 4 perfectly but simply tells us what this existence will be like,

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 All the pain, disappointment and conflict of this life will be no more in the life we will experience with God in heaven.

David knew plenty of tears, pain and conflict in his life but even he looked forward to this great existence as well as he wrote in Psalm 110: 1,

“The Lord says to my Lord; ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for my feet”.

 Which is David looking to his Lord, Jesus Christ to come sitting with God in heaven victorious over all his enemies. David looked forward to this great final Day of Judgment and the setting up of the new existence just as we do.

Psalm 73: 24 – 25 (not written by David) speaks of the hope of this new existence to come as well,

“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you”.

 So we too should fix our eyes on Jesus and the new existence he has for us to come, which is so superior to this life. As we face this life’s conflicts and pain we have this hope to come when God will,

“Wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 3.     The final victory over evil by God to come

 The final truth of this passage is what it says about what will happen to the Devil and all who follow him. Verse 8 has a very dramatic picture of their fate,

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

 This concept of the devil and his followers being cast into eternal flames forever appears a number of times in the book of Revelation and the last two verses of the previous chapter speaks of this as well, verses 14 and 15,

“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

 So the battle with the devil and his followers will be finished and peace will reign forever as the picture before verse 8 indicates, verses 6 and 7,

“He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children”.

 So we come to the final victory of God over all who oppose him. The great battle of faith will be over. All those who fix their eyes on Jesus will be with God forever. We should constantly thank God for this great hope we have to come. We like David should use this to encourage us in our daily struggles with sin the world and the devil.

CONCLUSION

 We have now learnt from the New Testament that God calls us all to fight the good fight of faith and like David in Psalm 35 we can call on God to fight for us as we battle with the world, sin and the devil. We also looked at what Paul saw as his weapon against evil in this world namely the very word of God.

Finally we learnt that like David did in Psalm 35 we can praise God in advance for the great hope we have in God in the future when the Lord Jesus returns, Satan and all who follow him are cast into the eternal lake of fire and those who follow Christ will go to live with God forever in heaven.

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven please help us in the fight against this world, sin and the Devil. Just as David prayed long ago so we pray that you will fight for us. Help us to understand and use your word in this battle so that we can see many more people come to knowledge of your dear Son. Thank you for the day that is coming when all evil is done away with and we are one with you in heaven. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen

 

 

 

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