Prayer against the Godless.

A psalm of David, invoking God’s aid against the ungodly, contrasting the hypocrisy, cunning, and malice of the wicked with the integrity and generosity of the righteous, on whose side he himself serves as example.

IMPRECATIONS UPON THE WICKED. — V. 1. Plead my cause, as in court proceedings, O Lord, with them that strive with me, impleading him for alleged wickedness; fight against them that fight against me, carrying their hatred to the point of making war on him. V. 2. Take hold of shield and buckler, the smaller one being used to protect the head, the larger to shelter the whole body, and stand up for mine help, to defend him against his enemies. V. 3. Draw out also the spear, as a weapon both of defense and of offense, and stop the way against them that persecute me, so that they cannot proceed. Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation, an assurance on the part of God that He would deliver and save His servant, sustaining him in this extremity. V. 4. Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul; let them be turned back, in abject retreat, and brought to confusion that devise my hurt, planning evil against him. The heaping of words signifying the failure of the hopes and undertakings of the wicked shows that David prays for the utter frustration of all their intentions, for their complete overthrow. V. 5. Let them be as chaff before the wind, scattered to the four corners of the earth; and let the Angel of the Lord chase them, Jehovah Himself, in the person of this Angel, thrusting them down and destroying them. V. 6. Let their way be dark and slippery, literally, “darkness and slipperiness,” where they could not even see nor get a good foothold as they fled from their punishment; and let the Angel of the Lord persecute them, pursuing them as He did the Egyptians when He terrified them in the Red Sea. V. 7. For without cause, without provocation on the part of David, while he was entirely innocent, have they hid for me their net in a pit, (which) without cause they have digged for my soul. That was David’s complaint, that his enemies were hunting and pursuing his soul, his life, using every possible means for his destruction. V. 8. Let destruction come upon him at unawares, devastation striking all the enemies of David and Jehovah before they realized their danger; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself; into that very destruction let him fall, destroyed by the very punishment which he had intended for the righteous. This overthrow of the ungodly power would be followed by the joy of triumphant faith. V. 9. And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord, who by His revenge vindicated the cause of the righteous; it shall rejoice in His salvation, in the deliverance from their wiles which he had experienced. V. 10. All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto Thee, his body joining with his soul in praising the Lord, which deliverest the poor, the humble righteous person, from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him? Cp. Ps. 10, 2. Note that a believer may well pray for the destruction of the wicked if he places the execution of the vengeance entirely in God’s hands.

THE HYPOCRISY AND MALICE OF THE WICKED. — V. 11. False witnesses, literally, “witnesses of violence,” did rise up, with unjust accusations; they laid to my charge things that I knew not, of which he knew himself to be innocent. V. 12. They rewarded me evil for good, which he, on his part, was trying to show them, to the spoiling of my soul, to make his soul bereaved, to make him friendless, to isolate him. V. 13. But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth, in sympathetic mourning for their trouble; I humbled my soul with fasting, in making their sorrow his own; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom, for he was bowed forward so far, with his head lowered, that his voice sounded against his own bosom. Thus he had entreated for his enemies in the greatest earnestness and humility. V. 14. I behaved myself as though he, the enemy in distress, had been my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily, in dust and ashes, so that he appeared squalid and dirty, as one that mourneth for his mother, in the very deepest grief. V. 15. But in mine adversity, his halting, lameness, said of any deep distress, they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together, to witness the spectacle of his great trouble; yea, the abjects, contemptible, degraded persons, gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not, people of whom he had till then not even taken notice; they did tear me and ceased not, attacked him with scorn and laughter, and were not silent; v. 16. with hypocritical mockers in feasts, those who love to make sport of a poor sufferer by cracking biting jokes at his expense, they gnashed upon me with their teeth, in a gesture of sneering contempt, probably also with stammering of distorted things. V. 17. Lord, how long wilt Thou look on? namely, without doing something to effect deliverance for him. Rescue my soul from their destruction, my darling, literally, “my only one,” from the lions, from the wild and ravenous people who were treating him so contemptuously. V. 18. I will give Thee thanks in the great congregation, paying his vows of thanksgiving with all the other believers; I will praise Thee among much people, people. of numbers and might. The congregation of believers may seem small and weak in the eyes of the world, but before the Lord and in His might they are invincible.

EARNEST PRAYER FOR RELIEF. — V. 19. Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me, by their false and slanderous accusations; neither let them wink with the eye, in a gesture of cunning and contempt, that hate me without a cause, while he is wholly innocent. V. 20. For they speak not peace, their aim is not to bring quiet and happiness to the country; but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land, against those who really love peace and seek the welfare of the country. V. 21. Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, in a gesture of contempt, and said, Aha, aha! our eye hath seen it, namely, the gratification of their hopes that the believer would be in trouble. V. 22. This Thou hast seen, O Lord, the manner in which the enemies acted. Keep not silence; O Lord, be not far from me! in this great emergency, where He alone could provide help. V. 23. Stir up Thyself, rousing Himself, as though from sleep, making ready for energetic action, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, namely, to establish it as just, to vindicate him, my God and my Lord. V. 24. Judge me, O Lord, my God, according to Thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me. V. 25. Let them not say in their hearts, in their greed to devour, in their desire to destroy, Ah, so would we have it! Let them not say, We have swallowed him up. V. 26. Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together, with all their evil intentions utterly frustrated, that rejoice at mine hurt. Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor that magnify themselves, puffing themselves up, against me. The righteous government of God is the only hope of the pious and the terror of the wicked. V. 27. Let them shout for joy and be glad that favor my righteous cause, or, who delight in my righteousness, glad that he should have his right; yea, let them say continually, Let the Lord be, magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of His servant, delighting in showing him His divine blessings. V. 28. And my tongue shall speak of Thy righteousness, in praising God’s righteous government, and of Thy praise all the day long. God is the Champion of all those who are oppressed among His children, and they, in turn, make it their business to make known the honor of His holy name at all times.