PSALM 59 TALK: DELIVERANCE FROM DISTRESS

PSALM 59 TALK: DELIVERANCE FROM DISTRESS

(A look at the great deliverance God offers to his people who suffer distress caused by God’s enemies)

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INTRODUCTION

A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting the excellent “Saint Patrick Centre” in the Northern Ireland town of Down Patrick and their I went on the Living History Trail – that tells the Story of Saint Patrick from Roman to Saint. I believe the story the exhibition tells of how Patrick became the first great Christian missionary is fairly accurate.

The story goes that at the age of 16 the young Patrick was seized by Irish raiders on the banks of the Clyde River in Scotland and taken back to Ireland as a slave. While he was a slave in Ireland he gave his life to the Lord and after six years was able to escape back to his Scottish homeland. At the age of 30 (around 432 AD) Patrick believed he was called by God in a dream to return to Ireland to take the Christian Gospel to his former captures.

Armed with a copy of the Latin Bible Patrick bravely preached the Gospel in Ireland. A crucial event took place when Patrick disobeyed the Irish kings edict not to light candles on the eve of the first Easter Patrick was there. King Logaire of Tara had decreed that no one was allowed to light any fires until a pagan spring festival had been launched. Patrick chose to honor God in spite of the death threat he faced from the King. King Logaire was so impressed by Patrick’s brave devotion to his God he allowed him to do his missionary work unhindered. Patrick went on to plant over 200 churches and baptize thousands to Christianity.

In the 8th Century a Christian Monk named Dallan Forgail penned the words of what is now a famous Christian hymn called, “Be Thou My Vision” which it is believed Forgail wrote after being inspired by the deeds of St Patrick. The hymn was translated from Irish to English by Mary E. Byrne in 1905 and arranged as a song by Eleanor H. Hull in 1912.

The third verse of that hymn reads:

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;

Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;

Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:

Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my Power.

This verse captures brilliantly the Deliverance all true believers have in Christ. A Deliverance that David spells out very clearly in Psalm 59. I will now seek to open this Psalm in the context of what I believe was the very real distressful situation David faced when he first learnt of King Saul’s threats to kill him.

The Hebrew title for the Psalm reads,

“For the director of music. To the tune of “Do not destroy””. Of David. A miktam. When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him”

From this title we learn three interesting background facts:

  1. This Psalm was the third Psalm to be sung to the tune, “Do not destroy” and I have said before that it probably is a reference to David’s strong commitment to not destroy or kill King Saul, his enemy by his own hands. However it could also mean that David believed that because of the great love and protection of God he could not be destroyed by his enemies.
  1. The Psalm was written by David which many modern liberal or non bible

believing scholars reject. Most of them even deny the existence of David

himself. Interestingly in 1993 a non -Jewish archeological find called “The Tel

Dan inscription” clearly verifies that their once was a great king of Israel named

David. This inscription commemorates the victory of an Aramean king over his

southern neighbors, the king of Israel and the King of The house of David.

  1. The Psalm was written or started to be written on the night or soon after when David

was in his own house in Jerusalem with his wife Michal (a daughter of Saul) and

Saul sent some of his men around to his house to watch over it with the view of

capturing David and killing him in the morning.

The problem with this is the prayer for the Nations in verses 5 and 8, which seems to throw this context into doubt as David’s enemies were from Israel and not other Nations. However I believe that the original poem or Psalm was written by David with the incident recorded in 1 Samuel 19: 11 – 17 in mind and later probably when he became king he did a re-write of the Psalm to broaden the application of the theme of

God’s deliverance to the Nation as they faced the same kind of threats of death David faced when he was under attack by King Saul.

This would explain the expression in verse 11 that reads,

“Or my people will forget”

 Implying that David is King of Israel at the time of writing or doing the final edit of his Psalm. The fact that David revised his poems or Psalm’s does not surprise me for as a poet myself I would be more surprised if David did not revise his poems or songs for this is the more natural way of polishing up your creative works.

We have seen a coupe of instances already where it seems later editors made minor changes to Psalms and the positioning of the Psalms like Psalm 48 which seems to have been written after the time of Solomon but placed in the second collection which seems to have been edited by Solomon or at least compiled and edited under his rule as king.

The theme of God delivering us from the distress caused by our enemies forms the basis of my breakdown of this Psalm:

  1. A PRAYER FOR GOD’S DELIVERANCE (1 – 5)
  1. THE DISTRESS CAUSED BY GOD’S ENEMIES (6 – 13)
  1. A SONG OF PRAISE FOR GOD’S DELIVERANCE (14 – 17)

 

  1. A PRAYER FOR GOD’S DELIVERANCE (1 – 5)

 For each of the three sections of this Psalm I have broken each section down into three sub-sections as well. My breakdown for this first section is:

  1. A PRAYER FOR DELIVERANCE (1 – 2)
  2. DELIVERANCE FROM WHAT? (3 – 4)
  3. A PRAYER FOR NATIONAL DELIVERANCE (5)
  1. A PRAYER FOR DELIVERANCE (1 – 2)

 The words of these first two verses fit beautifully into the context of David’s plight described in 1 Samuel 19: 11 – 17 where David seems trapped and doomed to die in his own home in Jerusalem. This is probably the first incident that inspired a Psalm of David that sprang from his bitter and dangerous experiences caused by his run from the mad and jealous rage of King Saul. Spurgeon makes a fascinating observation about David’s writing of Psalms caused by his painful experiences of being on the run from King Saul,

“Strange that the painful events in David’s life should end in enriching the repertoire of the national minstrelsy. Out of a sour, ungenerous soil spring up the honey bearing flowers of psalmody. Had he never been cruelly hunted by Saul, Israel and the church of God in after ages would have missed this song. The music of the sanctuary is in no small degree indebted to the trials of the saints”.

In the death trap of his own home David cries out to the Lord in prayer with these words:

“Deliver me from my enemies, O God; protect me from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from bloodthirsty men”.

David uses three verbs for his cry for deliverance,

  1. “Deliver me” (vs. 1 and 2)
  2. “Protect me” (vs. 1)

And

  1. “Save me” (vs. 2)

I call these “arrow prayers” as they are short punchy prayers directed to God uttered in the heat of the battles of life. I seek to practice in my prayer life a good time of prayer at the start of the day or at least in the morning when I am starting my day seeking to start my day with God. In this prayer time I pray for others and seek God’s guidance and help for the day ahead.

However as I go through the day I try and practice using “arrow prayers” as difficult situations arise during the day. Sometimes I am only seeking guidance for particular things like the understanding of a difficult bible or theological matter or help working out a problem I come across. Sometimes like David, I have asked for deliverance from a dangerous situation caused by either my own foolishness or by the attack of our great enemy the devil.

I learnt many years ago the famous verses that promise God’s guidance and help in Proverbs 3: 5 and 6. Which I have often claimed in an arrow prayer to God when a difficult situation has come upon me and I needed to know what God wanted me to do,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight”.

Another verse I have used a lot in difficult situations in life is James 1: 5,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him”.

I have proved the truth and value of these verses on many occasions when God has helped me understand or know what to say in a variety of difficult situations.

David faced certain death the night he was trapped in his own home in Jerusalem when Saul’s hand picked men waited outside his house for the morning to come when they could break in and kill him. 1 Samuel 19: 11a says,

“Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning”

David’s description of these men in these first two verse’s fourfold:

  1. “Enemies” (vs. 1)
  2. “Those who rise up against me” (vs.1)
  3. “Evildoers” (vs. 2)
  4. “Bloodthirsty men” (vs.2)

The men outside his house that night represented for David new and powerful enemies David would face for the next eight years of his life. Commenting on the second description of them, “those who rise up against me”, Calvin writes,

“In this expression he alludes not simply to the audacity or fierceness of their assaults, but to the eminent superiority of power which they possessed”.

We too face powerful enemies and are fighting a dangerous and treacherous spiritual war which Paul states clearly in Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

Even though our enemies and our struggle is with a seemingly overwhelming force Paul gives us great words of encouragement in the same passage when he writes in verses 10 and 11,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

The devil has used men and women throughout the ages who could be called, “evildoers” and they have supplied much distress to the people of God. David would have been in much distress the night he was trapped in his home in Jerusalem and he attributes this distress to men who want to kill him making them, “Bloodthirsty men”.

Paul suffered much distress from evildoers throughout his ministry and in 2 Corinthians 11: 23 – 28 he sets down his sufferings for the sake of serving Christ,

“Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches”.

Our Lord suffered greatly at the hands of evildoers who eventually became, “bloodthirsty men” when they sent him to the cross and stood around the cross mocking him.

These first two verses of this Psalm again pick up one of the main theme’s of the first books of Psalms which I have commented on many time in my study of the Psalms and which first came to my notice in Psalm 2: 2,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One”.

David has been anointed King by the prophet Samuel by the time of his night of distress in his own home in Jerusalem but the current King, namely King Saul is still in power and he for filled this prophecy not as some kind of foreign power but a anti God persecution by someone within Israel itself. Later David faced similar persecution from within his own family when his eldest Son, Absalom sought to destroy him.

We will learn soon in this Psalm how God promises to deliver his faithful people from all forms of distress in the next two sections of this Psalm.

  1. DELIVERANCE FROM WHAT? (3 – 4)

David has already started to answer this in his cry for deliverance in verses 1 and 2 when he describes the men who were encamped outside his home waiting for the morning to come when they would kill him in the fourfold description we just looked at of,

  1. “Enemies” (vs. 1)
  2. “Those who rise up against me” (vs.1)
  3. “Evildoers” (vs. 2)
  4. “Bloodthirsty men” (vs.2)

However in verses 3 and 4 he not only describes these men but also spells out the danger they presented to David and in doing so he answers the question of what he is seeking deliverance from. Verse 3 reads like this,

“See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine O Lord”.

David is speaking about how he is innocent of the charges King Saul has not just accused him of and he now seeks to enforce the penalty for them, namely death.

Saul speaking to his daughter Michal, David’s wife about the help she had given her husband to escape from the clutches of his men says this to her in 1 Samuel 19: 17,

“Why did you deceive me like this and send my enemy away so that he escaped”.

King Saul accused David of betrayal and treachery, very serious crimes that David is completely innocent of. David needs deliverance from the false accusations of King Saul and the consequences of those accusations, namely death and destruction.

David in his own home that night faced certain death at the hands of the henchmen of King Saul. Humanly speaking here and on many occasions over the next eight years David should have been killed but because of his innocent of the trumped up charges laid against him and because of his faithfulness to his Lord God delivered him.

David makes this point even clearer in the next verse, verse 4,

“I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Arise to help me; look on my plight” 

David states in the case of his supposed treachery to his King he is innocent. Yet he makes it clear Saul’s men sought to kill him like he was a dangerous traitor to his God and king. These false charges of treachery caused David much pain and distress as we have seen from many Psalms. One Psalm, Psalm 26 is devoted totally to this subject. The opening words of Psalm 26 read like this,

“Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth”.

Such was the pain of the injustice David felt when Saul viciously tried and sentenced David to death. David was no more than King Saul’s faithful servant and in Psalm 26 he cried out to God’s higher court in heaven for justice and vindication.

As I have already noted Jesus, “God’s great anointed King” was treated just as unfairly as David was and faced death daily throughout his ministry on earth. These false charges led Jesus to the cross where he has won our ultimate deliverance from the penalty of sin, which we actually deserve.

We have also seen that Jesus said in John 15: 18 – 20,

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also”.

Paul was the ultimate proof of this truth as he was called to suffer for his faith in Christ in a unique way as the Lord said to Ananias in Acts 9: 15 – 16,

“Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

We too might have to suffer distress for our faith in Christ at the hands of evildoers as Christians have throughout the ages and still do today in many parts of the world.

I have experienced this form of distress myself on a couple of occasions in my life and it is not a pleasant experience but I do know my faith in Christ was made stronger by my experience.

Peter had much to say to the churches he wrote to about this kind of distress and in 1 Peter 4: 12 – 19 he writes,

“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. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good”.

  1. A PRAYER FOR NATIONAL DELIVERANCE (vs. 5)

David in his later revision of this Psalm then slips in a prayer for his people, Israel who where probably facing similar distress from another nation at the time. This could have been the Philistines early in his reign or a number of other nations like The Ammonites later in his reign.

He prays,

“O Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, rouse yourself to punish all the nations; show no mercy to wicked traitors”.

David, knowing this Psalm is being used in public worship and corporate prayer loads up this verse with a threefold name for God:

1.”O Lord” (or Yahweh)

  1. “God Almighty” (or God of Hosts)
  2. “The God of Israel”

Calvin explains why David used these three special names for God when he writes,

“He addresses God under new titles, calling him Jehovah (or Yahweh), God of Hosts, and God of Israel, the first of which appellations denotes the immensity of his power, and the second the special care which he exerts over the church, and over all his people”.

David is calling on the most high king or God of heaven to act in judgment upon the enemies of God and his people. These enemies he calls “wicked traitors”.

This is David praying yet again another imprecatory prayer (a prayer asking for God’s judgment to come to one’s enemies). Note David is praying that God will do this punishment even David knew that God’s was the true agent of judgment and unless he was specifically called by God to carry out judgment on others he was not allowed to do this.

In the New Testament because of the teaching of Jesus we are to pray for our enemies and also leave the Judgment of God to God alone. As Jesus taught in Matthew 7: 1 – 5,

“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? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”.

However as Christians we do have an obligation to warn others of the great and final judgment of God to come. Jesus actually spoke more about judgment than heaven and even in his model prayer he encourages us to pray for God’s Judgment to come, Matthew 6: 10a,

“Your Kingdom come”

And of course when God’s kingdom comes Jesus will return to conduct the final judgment of God as Jesus declares in Matthew 25: 31 – 33,

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left”.

David in verse 5 of Psalm 59 prayed for God’s judgment to come upon all the nations of the world. This prayer sprang initially from his distressful experience of being trapped by his enemies who are God’s enemies in his house in Jerusalem. However I believe once David became king he did a revision of his original Psalm and widened the pray for God’s judgment to come on all of his enemies in this world or as David calls it the nations.

Again this is the theme of Psalm 2: 2 picked up yet again which predicts the conflict between God and his anointed king David and later God’s Son Jesus,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One”.

The next 3 verses go on to poetically present the final judgment of God as the solution to the distress caused by this great ongoing conflict between God and his faithful followers and those who oppose them.

“Let us break their chains, they say, ‘and throw off their fetters. The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his wrath, saying I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill”.

Jesus is the great king spoken of here who when he returns to earth a second time will be seen by all as God’s king come from heaven (Zion, my holy hill) and who will rebuke those who oppose God and his people in his wrath or judgment.

So David has prayed for deliverance from his vicious enemies who have camped outside his house and it looks like by morning his life was going to be over. Yet David prays to God for deliverance and later he uses this prayer to pray for the deliverance of his nation, which also suffered from great distress caused by these Nations seeking to destroy them. I close this first section with the first verse of the Hymn inspired by Patrick of Ireland and his brave missionary endeavors to bring the Gospel to that country.

Be thou my Vision, O Lord my heart,

Naught be all-else to me, save that Thou art.

Thou my best thought, by day or by night.

Waking or sleeping. Thy presence my light.

  1. THE DISTRESS CAUSED BY GOD’S ENEMIES (6 – 13)

David now returns to his original composition, which dealt with Saul, and his followers who had David trapped him in his own home in Jerusalem. It is only verse 8, where he later edited God’s reaction to his enemies on that night to include all the enemies of God in this world.

My breakdown of this section is:

  1. THE DISTRESS CAUSED BY VICIOUS ENEMIES (6 – 7)
  2. GOD’S RESPONSE TO HIS ENEMIES (8 – 11)
  3. THE DISTRESS CAUSED BY VICIOUS WORDS (12 – 13)
  1. THE DISTRESS CAUSED BY VICIOUS ENEMIES (6 – 7)

Another unique aspect of this Psalm is the use of two refrains, which was a devise David used in the previous Psalm, Psalm 58 as well. Here we have the first refrain appearing in verse 6 and repeated in verse 14. The second refrain is in verse 9 and is repeated at the end of the Psalm in verse 17.

The first refrain encapsulates twice the theme of David’s distress and what caused it while the second refrain encapsulates theme of God’s deliverance.

So lets now look at the first use of the first refrain which encapsulates the theme of David’s distress and what caused it. Verse 6 reads like this,

“They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city”.

This is a vivid poetic picture of a very distressful situation David faced in his own home when Saul’s men who are portrayed as vicious animals waited outside his home in the dark to strike him down as soon as they could. Leopold adds to this vivid picture by explaining what the dogs of the ancient cities were actually like,

“The Oriental dogs are mongrel curs of a very unsavory sort who serve as the cities scavengers. They keep more or less under cover by day, but at night they rove about through the city to satisfy their greedy appetites”.

Interestingly I have seen dogs like this in a city when I have visited Yangon in Myanmar on one of my many teaching trips to that country. Yangon seems to have many stray dogs that wander around, mainly in the back alleys looking for food scraps. I saw on one occasion a pack of desperate dogs viciously fighting over an over turned garbage bin. I personally find these animals disturbing and I give these vicious animals a wide berth whenever I come across them.

David pictures his enemies twice in this Psalm as a pack of dogs “snarling” or breathing out threats against him as he hid in his home in Jerusalem. This is a picture of great distress.

This was only one of many distressful situations David would experience in his long eight years of being pursued by Saul and his followers. As Christians Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2: 11, that we are:

“Aliens and strangers in the world”

This will mean that sometimes we will not fit into the world around us and this will cause us from time to time to be out of step with those around us which can cause us much distress. Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey warned many of the new Christians in the churches of Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of facing possible distress with these words in Acts 14: 22,

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”.

However Paul taught on many occasions that these hardships or times of distress are nothing compared to the future glory that awaits us in heaven. Paul writes of this in Romans 8: 18,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”.

And, 2 Corinthians 4: 17 – 18,

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.

Where does this distress ultimately come from?

Peter tells his readers the answer to this question and tells us it comes from the Devil and he then tells us how to deal with the Devil and the distress he causes us in 1 Peter 5: 8 – 9,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings”.

Peter is warning us that the Devil is our great enemy and he like Saul and his men were to David is like a wild vicious animal and we must be alert and resist him by standing firm in our faith. In the next two verses Peter gives us further encouraging words in our ongoing battle with the Devil and his followers in:

1 Peter 5: 10 – 11,

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen”.

This is Peter’s encouraging word about the deliverance from distress we will soon look at.

But for now David continues in verse 7 to spell out a further description of his enemy’s vicious activities towards him,

“See what they spew from their mouths – they spew out swords from their lips, and they say, ‘who can hear us?”

We have seen from many other Psalms that David found that “words” were often more damaging than swords or any other human weapons in Psalm 12 David specifically spells out this battle of words he faced with his enemies in verse’s 2 – 4 David says this about the battle of words that he often faced with his enemies,

“Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattery lips speak deception. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue that says,

‘We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips – who is our master?”

Maybe the men outside of David’s house called out vicious words of abuse to David as he hid inside. Even if they were silent the fact is the reason why they were there ready to strike him down was because Saul had falsely accused David of treachery to him and to God. Saul and his followers accused David of being a traitor, a man who could not be trusted and maybe even a man who was a hypocrite. In many ways David’s good character was being attacked by the evil words of Saul and his followers.

Most commentators say that the words in the verse that say, “spew from their mouths” are more like the description of water bubbling up from a fountain and Spurgeon with this in mind makes this comment,

“Their malicious speech gushes from them as from a bubbling fountain. The wicked are voluble in slander; their vocabulary of abuse is copious, and detestable as it is abundant. What torrents of wrathful imprecation will they pour on the godly?”

The second expression,

“They spew out swords from their lips”

Denotes both the viciousness and the dangerous harm their words can cause. David was really in both a dangerous and distressful situation.

David then seems to quote just one thing his enemies were saying or probably shouting out at him while he took refuge in his home. David says they were shouting out,

“Who can hear us?”

Maybe these words reveal how arrogant they had become an arrogance that led them to believe they could say what they liked and know one could stop them, not even God himself. This revealed how out of control Saul and his followers had become. They did not care if David was the true “Anointed One” in this situation they had the power and control and David was doomed to suffer death at their hands.

This is an accurate description of the Jewish Leaders of Jesus day and their vicious words to him as we see in a passage like Matthew 26: 62 – 68,

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”

But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”

  1. GOD’S RESPONSE TO HIS ENEMIES (8 – 11)

David then gives us the response of God to the vicious and unjust words of his enemies which is,

“”But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you scoff at all those nations”

This verse which captures God’s response to David’s enemies both within his own country of Israel and from outside of it by the reference to the Nations of the world is very similar to what we read in the key theme verses of books 1 and 2 of the Psalms in Psalm 2: 4,

“The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them”

Which I think is not a coincidence but rather is a concept David has had at the back of his mind as he wrote many Psalms when he faced both the words and actions of his enemies both within Israel and outside of it.

The laughing of God is not suggesting that God is laughing like he has heard a funny joke but rather he is reacting to the sheer stupidity of the actions of small and insignificant human beings putting their fists up at God and challenging him. It is like a tiny ant looking up at an enormous human being and challenging the human being with words of insolence and slander. If I heard a tiny ant with its squeaky little voice shouting insults at me I would both find this amusing and disrespectful and if it kept it up it would make me angry. Maybe I would be so angry I would lift my foot and squash it.

God is far more loving and patient then us as David points out in Psalm 103: 8,

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love”.

And 2 Peter 2: 9,

“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”.

So God’s reaction to his enemies is to give them a chance to turn back to him but even his great patience will run out one day and his wrath and judgment will come upon them.

David captures in his first use of the second refrain what God will do for his faithful followers like David and verse 9 reads,

“O my strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God”.

This refrain appears in the last verse but the words, “I watch for you” is changed to “I sing praise to you” which seems to suggest in verse 9 David is looking with confidence to God for deliverance while in verse 17, he is praising God for his deliverance.

This would mean that even in his house on that dark and distressful night he was looking to God for deliverance. Which God gave him in the form of his wife Micah who helped him escape from the clutches of her father and his men and then put a idol or human like statue in David’s bed to deceive Saul’s men when they burst into David’s house to arrest him.

So David’s faith was that even though he was weak and vulnerable God was his strength. Even though he was in a very dangerous place God would protect him like a mighty fortress. Even though Saul and his followers breathed out threats of hate and spite God loved him and that made all the difference. Spurgeon sums up the teaching of this verse with these words,

“For God is my defense, my high place, my fortress, the place of my resort in the time of my danger. If the foe be too strong for me to cope with him. I will retreat into my castle, where he cannot reach me”.

Paul asks the Thessalonians for prayer for help in preaching the Gospel and giving him and his companions God’s protection in 2 Thessalonians 3: 1- 5,

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance”.

In the next 2 verse’s 10 and 11 David has a prophecy of what will happen to him and his enemies and a request concerning their fate.

  1. A Prophecy
  2. A Prayer Request
  3. A Prophecy (vs. 10)

First lets look at the prophecy that reads like this,

“God will go before me and will let me gloat over those who slander me”.

David is saying that in the future he will see his enemies fall and get what they deserve form God. In the case of King Saul it would take up to eight years for this day to come when Saul hemmed in by his enemies the Philistines would take his own life.

Even before this David would have seen or known about the very dramatic and sad demise of King Saul and his reign over Israel.

David would be vindicated once Saul took his life and he became King of Israel. I’m not sure about this word, “gloat” and prefer the many translations that use the term “triumph over”, like the English standard version that reads,

“God will let me look in triumph on my enemies”.

Again as Christians Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and pray fro them as he says in Matthew 5: 44,

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

One of the greatest enemies of the early church, Saul became probably its greatest advocate and missionary, Paul. I’m sure many early Christians prayed for Paul’s conversion which or course happened on the road to Damascus when he was on his way to beat and imprison many Christians there. Maybe your greatest tormentor or persecutor will become your greatest brother in Christ once he comes to Christ through your prayers and witness.

  1. A Prayer Request (vs. 11)

David then makes strange request concerning the overthrow of his enemies, he prays,

“But do not kill them, O Lord our shield, or my people will forget. In your might make them wander about and bring them down”.

What is David praying for here and why is he praying this?

I searched through many bible commentators for the answer to these questions and eventually was satisfied with the answer a commentator called Joseph Benson gave with the following words,

“It plainly appears that David, in his prayers against, and predictions concerning his enemies, was not moved by private malice or desire of revenge, but by the respect which he had to God’s honor, and the general good of his people”.

This means that when David was in his house being harassed by his enemies he did not just pray for his enemies demise or slaying by God but rather prayed for God’s judgment to come on them so that they would be brought down and God’s good name would be vindicated. In doing this David wanted the bringing down of his enemies to serve as a warning to his people who might be tempted to act in the same way they did.

Looking ahead as we can in 1 and 2 Samuel we can see that Saul and his son Jonathon (who David loved) did loose their lives, Saul to his own hands. Many of the men outside David’s house that night would have lost their lives as well as God’s judgment came upon them at the hands of the Philistines.

However some of the men who harassed David that night would have been spayed but as the former co – conspirators with Saul against David they would have been treated as outcasts in the new kingdom of Israel under the Kingship of David. These men would then serve as a reminder to the people of Israel of what will happen to you if you choose to turn on God and his anointed king.

  1. THE DISTRESS CAUSED BY VICIOUS WORDS (12 – 13)

In these final two verses of this section we have more information supplied by David about the distress he suffered from his enemies particularly on the night he hid in his own home in Jerusalem. This is when David probably felt the pain of false accusations for the first time as Saul’s jealous hatred for David has been developing up to the night and caused David to be trapped in his own home by some of Saul’s men. The men outside of his home must have made it clear why they were there and David in these next two verses:

  1. Spells out the distress of the vicious words of his enemies (vs. 12)
  2. Spells out what he wants God to do with his enemies (vs. 13)
  1. Spells out the distress of the vicious words of his enemies (vs.12)

Back in verse 7 we looked at what David said about the distress he experienced from the vicious words of his enemies. Now in verse 12 David picks up this idea again and makes it even clearer. He writes,

“For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their of their lips, let them be caught in their pride”.

The old saying is simply not true that says,

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”.

At least David would not agree with this old saying as he spells out clearly that the false charges of treason and disloyalty to his God and king really caused him much distress. He said spoke of words either being vomited out at him or as many commentators say, bubbling out like water from a fountain in verse 7.

If David was not effected by Saul’s malicious and hurtful words David would not have mentioned them both as a prayer to God for help and vindication and as a condemnation that deserved God’s judgment.

David certainly felt the force of the words his enemies had spoken against him and they would have had a powerful effect on the people of Israel as well at the time. Many would have believed their King and now looked down on David as an enemy of the state and as a lying hypocrite to the God who he claimed to serve. In short David’ good reputation would have been damaged by Saul’s vicious words.

David asks God that his enemies face a kind of divine retribution in this life that would come to them as result of their sinful pride. Many people who become proud and full of themselves suffer eventually as a result of that. Roman Caesars like Nero brought about their own downfall by their inflated ego’s making them do terrible things to their people and as result they were assassinated or they were forced to kill themselves like Nero was.

Spurgeon writes,

“Such dreadful language of atheism and insolence deserves a fit return. As they hope to take their victims, so let them be taken themselves, entangled in their own net, arrested in the midst of their boastful security”.

James has much to say about the dangers of miss using our tongues and in James 3: 7 – 11, James has this timely warning,

“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?”

We need to watch what we say as we could be used by the devil to cause harm and distress to others by a careless word spoken in haste and when we feel the pain and distress of hurtful words we need to seek God’s deliverance from its consequences like David did in this Psalm.

  1. Spells out what he wants God to do with his enemies (vs. 13)

David again moves to another imprecatory prayer (a prayer asking for God’s judgment to come to one’s enemies) in verse 13, he writes,

“Consume them in wrath, consume them till they are no more. Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Judah”.

This prayer seems to be a contradiction to the imprecatory prayer request in verse 11 where he asks for his enemies to be spared from death and suffer a period of rejection and exile before there down fall compared to the destruction asked for in this verse. Calvin answers this problem with these words,

“Bu he evidently refers in what he says here to a different point of time, and this removes any apparent inconsistency, for he prays that when they had been set up for a sufficient period as an example they might eventually be devoted to destruction”.

This is what often happens to evil doers, they sometimes suffer a kind of judgment for their evil deeds in this life but however they still will face God’s final judgment at the end of time when Jesus returns to take his faithful followers to heaven and judge those who refuse to acknowledge him and who had continued their rebellion to God.

This is spoken about in Old and New Testament passages, in the teaching of Jesus and in the writings of the apostles of Christ. I have heard on the news of fanatic Muslim terrorists executing non- Muslim believers as though the terrorists believe they are agents of God’s judgment on earth. This is something the New Testament warned us about as being both wrong and an act of a sinful person who is out of step with God. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 4: 5,

“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God”.

And concerning that final day of Judgment and how God wants us to respond to the knowledge of that Peter writes in 2 Peter 3: 10 – 13,

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?

You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells”.

We have seen then in this second section of the Psalm the kind of distress David felt on the night he was corned in his own home in Jerusalem by Saul’s men.

This turned out to be but just one night of eight long years of distress and deliverance for David and his faithfull followers as Saul and his followers pursued them mercilessly. We will see in the final section how David found deliverance from this distress by the love and mercy of God but before we look at that here is another verse of the hymn “Be thou My Vision inspired by the devoted missionary work of Patrick of Ireland,

“Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;

I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;

Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;

Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

  1. A SONG OF PRAISE FOR GOD’S DELIVERANCE (14 – 17)

In this final section I have broken it down in three parts as I have done with each other section of this Psalm. These three parts are:

  1. The frustrated enemies God has delivered him from (14 – 15)
  2. God’s loving deliverance song (16)
  3. God’s loving deliverance praise (17)
  1. The frustrated enemies God has delivered him from (14 – 15)

David returns to the use of his first refrain, which we first read in verse 6 but I feel this time he is using this description of his enemies in a different way. Derek Kidner points this out in these words,

“At its second appearance, the refrain is altered by David’s certainty of triumph”.

David writes,

“They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city. They wander about for food and howl if not satisfied”.

The second poetic picture of David’s enemies is a picture of desperate deceitful men wandering around in the dark like a pack of snarling dogs. I get the impression they are or will be frustrated by their inability to harm David by the words,

“They wander about for food and howl if not satisfied”

We know from the 1 Samuel 19 passage that Saul and his enemies were not satisfied by the death of David because with the help of his wife Micah he slipped harmlessly away in the night from their grasp. I like Spurgeon’s elegant commentary of this verse as he captures so well what this verses are really saying,

“The songster defied his foes and reveled in the thought of their futile search, their malice, their disappointment, their rage, their defeated vigilance, their wasted energy. He laughs to think that the entire city would know how they were deceived, and all Israel would ring with the story of the image and the goat’s hair in the bed. Nothing was more a subject of Oriental merriment than a case in which the crafty are deceived, and nothing more makes a man the object of derision than to be outwitted by a women, as in the instance Saul and his base minions were by Michal. The warrior poet hears in fancy the howl of rage in the council of his foes when they found their victim clean escaped from their hands”.

This long quote captures both the meaning of the verse in the context of the story of David’s escape from his home in Jerusalem recorded in 1 Samuel 19: 11 – 17.

David has spoken about God frustrating the plans of the wicked like Psalm 33: 10,

“The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples”.

In the next verse of that Psalm he speaks of how God’s plans can never be frustrated or thwarted,

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations”.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of this frustrating or thwarting of God’s enemies and the assured success of his plans for this world and his faithful followers in Isaiah 44: 24 – 26,

“This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:

I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself, who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense, who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers”.

Finally in Jesus explanation of the parable of the weeds Jesus speaks of the final end of the wicked and how they will be frustrated in defeat causing them much weeping and gnashing of their teeth which will stand in complete contrast to God’s faithful followers who will shine like the sun, Mathew 13: 40 – 43,

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

  1. God’s loving deliverance song (16)

So David has prayed to God for deliverance from Saul and his men who sought to trap him in his home and then in the morning force their way into the home to kill him. He gave us a vivid picture of his enemies and the distress they caused him that night and now in this final section he turns to the theme of God’s deliverance.

In verse 16 he turns to poetry and music in the form of a great song, he writes,

“But I will sing of your strength in the morning I will sing of your love”,

The title I gave to this Psalm is “Deliverance from Distress” and now David sings boldly about it. Note he says he says he will sing in the morning, which could suggest he said this while, still trapped in his house in the night and looked ahead, by faith, to God’s deliverance the next day.

It really doesn’t matter when he said this, as what he is singing about is simply God’s deliverance from his enemies and the distress they had caused him. David was free from the trap of his home through God’s good providential guidance that came through the help his wife Micah gave him.

However David attributes this help to his God’s Love,

“I will sing of your love”

Like David our salvation or deliverance from sin and its consequences is given to us by his great love as Paul says clearly in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us”.

Like David we do not deserve the deliverance God has given us but because of God’s love he gives it to us. David trusted in God for his deliverance, he asked God for deliverance it and he now sings praises to God about God’s deliverance. This is the constant theme of Paul’s teaching and writings that we find in the New Testament as we see in Ephesians 2: 4 – 9,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

So David acknowledges God’s power and love in delivering him from his enemies. In verse 16 he speaks not only of God’s love but his strength as well. Paul spoke of God’s strength when he felt week by what he called,

“A thorn in my flesh” (2 Corinthians 12: 7)

Which we don’t know what is was but which Paul attributed to Satan as,

“A messenger of Satan to torment me”.

Paul goes on to speak of God’s strength given to him when he was week in the following verses, 8 – 10,

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

So as Christians we might suffer various forms of distress caused by a variety of reasons but we can be assured that even in our weaknesses God’s love is operating in us giving us his strength to make us strong and able to cope.

This is the deliverance from distress God offers us in Christ and this is one of the many things that makes us different to non- believers who if they refuse to acknowledge God and his love and strength twill not experience the help and strength God gives us. One of my favorite songs I love to sing says,

I am weak but thou art strong

Jesus keep me from all wrong

I be satisfied as long

As I walk dear Lord close to thee.

David’s song of praise goes on to say,

“For you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble”

David experienced eight long years of much distress and constant upheaval as he fled from the mad rage and wrath of King Saul and one would say he did not have a safe settled life. However from the night when this time of unsettled life that began around the time of the first draft of this Psalm David confidently claims that God is his “fortress” and “refuge in times of trouble”.

Patrick of Ireland at age 30 left his safe and secure home in Scotland to return to the wild hostile world of his former captives in Ireland to take the message of the gospel to them. Patrick had to face lots of uncertainty and dangers but he too trusted in God as his fortress and refuge and on many occasions like David narrowly escaped death. Patrick probably because of his bitter experience of being a slave in Ireland in his younger days was one of the first Christians to speak out against slavery and he also preached and ministered to women which was also a very radical thing to do and It is said this is one of the reasons he got into so much trouble with the established Roman Catholic church back in Rome. The last verse of the hymn “Be Thou my Vision” which is believed to have been inspired many years later by Patrick’s life and witness reads,

High King of Heaven, my victory won,

May I reach Heaven’s joy, O bright Heaven’s Sun!

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall.

Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

So Patrick like David proved in his life by faith that God is real and does help us “in times of trouble” and is our fortress and refuge in such times. Paul also led a dangerous and difficult life and constantly proved the love and protection that we have in God through Christ. In his letter to the Church in Philippi where Christians of Paul’s day faced constant troubled times owing to the strong non Christian opposition Paul has this advice in Philippians 4: 4 – 7,

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

Paul practiced what he preached and he would have trusted in God as his refuge and strength in many difficult situations he found himself in. He like us today knew and can know “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding”; this is what David is singing about here in Psalm 59 verse 16.

  1. God’s loving deliverance praise (17)

David now returns to the second refrain of his Psalm to close it with a great word of praise to his God, which reads,

“O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you O God, are my fortress, my loving God”.

In the first use of this second refrain back in verse 9, the words “I sing praise to you” are changed to, “I watch for you” which reveals what David is saying here. In the first use he is looking forward to God’s deliverance, looking out for it with faith believing it will happen while in the last verse he is praising God for his deliverance.

David looked to God for strength when he was very weak and voluble and once God helped him he praised God for that help by saying God is his strength. He goes on to say again that God is his “fortress” a term that would mean a lot if you lived in ancient times because the basic protection of any city in the world before the days of the invention of gun powder was your city walls and buildings.

I remember visiting old castles in my trip years ago to the United Kingdom an seeing thee castles or fortresses of pre- gun powder days and realizing how the fortress walls and buildings of those castles offered protection from invading armies. David sees his fortress or castle as being God. In other words human props and aids just cannot protect us in the ferocious spiritual war we are involved in only God can offer us strength and protection in that war. Paul in Ephesians 6: 10 and 11 says,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

Finally David says again that he trusted in his loving God, the God who was and will deliver him from all distress by and through his love. David knew he did not deserve God’s deliverance but he also knew that God out of his unmerited love or grace had and would deliver him. I like Paul’s praise of God for the deliverance we have because of God’s love in Christ in Ephesians 1: 6 – 9,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 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”.

I close with a poem and a prayer,

GOD’S DELIVERANCE

Deliver me Oh God above

Protect me by your power

Deliver me from Satan’s schemes

Be with me every hour.

 

I see how fierce the battle is

I trust in you Oh Lord

But when I fear I cannot win

Revive in me your word.

 

My enemies seem great to me

They growl and prowl around

But you Oh Lord just laugh at them

For they are judgment bound.

 

Refrain:

Oh God you are my strong defense

You’ve saved me by your love.

I look to you to deliver me

Oh mighty God above.

 

The God above will judge this world

Their sins will bring them down

God’s wrath will surely be revealed

In judgment they will drown.

 

People will know God rules this world

When Jesus will return

And those who prowl around this world

Will one day surely burn.

 

But I will sing a song of praise

God’s love has saved my soul

He protects and delivers me

His power makes me whole.

 

Refrain:

Oh God you are my strong defense

You’ve saved me by your love

I’ll praise you for your deliverance

Oh mighty God above.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

Father in heaven I look to you to deliver me from distress, distress caused by my many sins, distress caused by the attacks of Satan and his mighty forces and the distress caused by the sins of others. I pray that I will find in you your love and forgiveness won for us by Jesus on the cross. May I prove your great love and strength in the times when I am weak and need your help, in Jesus name I pray Amen.

 

 

 

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