A Psalm of David.

This is another psalm by David, Israel’s great king. We need to remember in dealing with this psalm that David was a king. His was the rule over Israel under God, and the government of Israel all turned around him as the pivotal point. In many ways, Israel’s struggles were his struggles in a very personal way. He could take any war against Israel as a personal war against himself, and he would not be entirely wrong in doing so. But any who fought against him, we cannot forget, were also fighting against God, Who had anointed him and set him upon the throne. Let us keep this in mind as we study what he writes in this psalm.

1. Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me;

David begins this psalm crying out to the LORD in another time of trouble. This time, he cries to the LORD at a time when men are striving with Him. He seeks the LORD’s aid in pleading his cause before them.

Fight against those who fight against me.

He calls upon the LORD to literally take up arms and fight against those who fought against him. This we see the LORD doing many times in the record of David’s life and battles in the Scriptures. It was right for Him to do this, since David was His king, Israel was His country, and it was His place to fight for both as long as they remained faithful and loyal to Him. Yet it is not right for us to think that the LORD fights on our side in the same way in wars our nations may engage in today. Our side may be in the right, but this does not obligate God to fight for us. We live in a time when all nations are joint heirs, joint bodies, and joint partakers in God’s sight, according to Ephesians 3:6. God does not fight for Israel, or the United States, or any other nation today. Yet this should not stop us from seeking Him in times of war, and seeking always to fight on the side of right and justice.

2. Take hold of shield and buckler,

He symbolically pictures the LORD taking up these instruments of war to fight for his cause. Remember, this is a poem, and though God may not use such instruments, this is poetically picturing for us God preparing to fight for David, His servant.

And stand up for my help.

He calls upon God to stand up against his enemies to help him.

3.  Also draw out the spear,

David calls upon God to draw out the spear. This symbolizes weapons of war. Of course, God needs no weapons to fight against His enemies, yet David is using this to picture God fighting against those who are fighting with him.

And stop those who pursue me.

Apparently, David is in flight, and calls upon the LORD to stop those who are pursuing him. David is not willing or able to stop them himself, and so he calls upon God to do this for him, His faithful servant.

Say to my soul,

The LORD was not just speaking to one part of David called his soul, but was speaking to David himself. This is a case where the word “soul” is used for the whole person. It is currently in the hottest part of summer where I live, and I just heard on the news about a few brave souls who came to an event outside in spite of the heat. This news story used the word “souls” for people. We use this word this way today, and the word nephesh was used the same way in the Old Testament. That is how it is used here. David wanted God to say these things to him, and he pictures this poetically by calling himself a “soul.”

“I am your salvation.”

David did not just want the LORD to say these words to him. He wanted the LORD to make this true by actually being his salvation in this desperate circumstance when he is fleeing from his enemies. The LORD would say this to David by making it true, not just by speaking the words.

4.  Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor

David calls upon the LORD to see these who fight against him brought to shame and dishonor. This was not out of some kind of malevolent feelings that David had toward them, but because of them fighting against him in an unrighteous cause, and seeking to take away his life.

Who seek after my life;

In the Hebrew this is again the word nephesh, and should be translated “soul.” These men were seeking David’s life, for that is what it means to seek after someone’s soul…it means to seek his life. Yet this should be translated as soul, and left up to the reader to interpret it as life. It is through not translating the word nephesh as soul every time it occurs that our English translators have hidden much of the truth from us regarding what the Bible really teaches about the soul.

Let those be turned back and brought to confusion

Again, David calls upon God to work against those who were fighting with him and pursuing him.

Who plot my hurt.

Again, his request is made because they were plotting against him. This verse repeats this idea twice in slightly different ways for emphasis, as is often done in Hebrew poetry.

5.  Let them be like chaff before the wind,

David pictures the tables being turned, and his enemies being the ones fleeing like chaff before the wind.

And let the angel of the LORD chase them.

In this verse and verse six are the second and last occurrences of this phrase, “the angel of the LORD,” in the book of Psalms. The first occurrence was in the very last chapter, in Psalm 34:7. As we noted there, this is a phrase that refers to the Messenger of the LORD, and I believe that there can be no doubt but that THE Messenger of the LORD is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. As the visible form of the LORD, He is the One Who works on behalf of the LORD as His Messenger. In Psalm 34, David noted that this Angel protects those who fear Him. Now, David calls upon this Angel to chase those who plot against him. In the end, we know that the Lord Jesus is the Protector of His people, and the defeat of all who fight against them.

6.  Let their way be dark and slippery,

Again, he is calling for the LORD to put his enemies to flight, and requesting that the way they flee be dark and slippery, full of frightening darkness and slipperiness to lead to them stumbling and falling as they run in terror from the One Who pursues them.

And let the angel of the LORD pursue them.

Again, it is the Angel of the LORD that David wants to pursue his enemies. He does not desire to do this himself, but asks for the LORD to do this on his behalf.

7.  For without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit,

This is David’s complaint against those who pursue him: that they do this without a cause. It seems from very early in his life David had those who hated him for no reason. First, it was his brothers, who hated him for the LORD’s choice of David over them. Then, it was Saul, who hated David for being the one the LORD chose to replace him. Again and again, being the one the LORD chose made David enemies of those who had no love for the LORD. Who it was who was fighting against David without a cause here, we do not know, but we can be sure that it was not anyone who followed the LORD.

Which they have dug without cause for my life.

They had dug a pit and placed a net over it. This means they had set a trap for David, seeking after his life. Again the word “life” is the word nephesh or soul. They were seeking to trap David and take away his soul, that is, his life.

8.  Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly,

Just as David’s enemy had hoped to see him suddenly fall into this trap and come to his own destruction, David calls upon the LORD to let this enemy’s own destruction come upon him just as unexpectedly. This shows us that one man was at the forefront of this persecution of David. This could have been Saul, for these things certainly could apply to him, but they could also apply to any number of other enemies David had over the years. Since David always seemed to respect Saul, in spite of his enmity against David, because he had been originally anointed by the LORD, it seems unlikely that this psalm is about him, but probably is about some other enemy that David had.

And let his net that he has hidden catch himself;

David calls upon the LORD to let this man’s trap that he had set for David be the means of his own undoing.

Into that very destruction let him fall.

David wishes his punishment to be the very destruction he had planned to bring David into. This would be justice indeed, and a very fitting punishment. This was an appropriate prayer for David to pray in his day, though this would not be a fitting request for us to make in this, the dispensation of grace, when God is not in the business of giving people what they deserve, but only of dispensing grace, that is, love and favor, to the undeserving.

9.  And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD;

If the LORD delivers David in this way and metes out this very fitting punishment upon his enemy, he knows that this will result in him being very joyful in the LORD. David’s soul here speaks of his emotions. He knows the joy that he will have when he sees this deliverance from the hand of His God.

It shall rejoice in His salvation.

His soul, that is, his emotions, shall rejoice in the deliverance and preservation that the LORD has secured for him.

10.  All my bones shall say,

David poetically speaks of his “bones” here, referring to all the members of his body. He means that he will say this to the LORD with all the force of his being behind it.

“LORD, who is like You,

We can echo David in this. Indeed, who is like the LORD? The God Who created the world, the Savior Who died for our sins, the Victor Who rose from the dead, the Giver Who pours His grace out upon us, and the Judge Who will someday rule the world in righteousness. No one else can even come close.

Delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him,

Here, the “poor” are the oppressed. David may or may not have been poor at this time, but he was being oppressed by those who fought against him without a cause. The LORD is able and does deliver all such from those who are too strong for them to deliver themselves, even as David was not able to deliver himself from this enemy.

Yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?”

David repeats this for emphasis. The LORD had done this, and David believes He will do this in the current trouble he is facing.

11.  Fierce witnesses rise up;

David is now pictured as if he were on trial before these men, and they raise up false witnesses against him. This reminds us of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who face many false witnesses as His enemies prepared to send Him to the cross.

They ask me things that I do not know.

These false witnesses are charging David with crimes he did not even know had occurred, yet they were making it look like he had perpetrated them. This reminds us of Absalom, who slandered David to the people of Israel in order to win their hearts. But again, the exact circumstances of which David is speaking we do not know.

12.  They reward me evil for good,

This does not mean that they rewarded David wickedness for righteousness, as we might think of it in English. For the Hebrew word for “evil,” ra’a, does not mean wickedness, but calamity. So good here means good and profitable things, and evil means calamitous and destructive things. David had done good for them, but they had returned the favor by seeking his destruction.

To the sorrow of my soul.

Again, David speaks of his emotions as his soul. His emotions are thrown into bereavement and sorrow because of the treacherous actions of those he had done good things for in the past.