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Psalm 35

Psalm 35 (ESV)

35 Of David.

    Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;

fight against those who fight against me!

    Take hold of shield and buckler

and rise for my help!

    Draw the spear and javelin

against my pursuers!

       Say to my soul,

“I am your salvation!”

    Let them be put to shame and dishonor

who seek after my life!

       Let them be turned back and disappointed

who devise evil against me!

    Let them be like chaff before the wind,

with the angel of the Lord driving them away!

    Let their way be dark and slippery,

with the angel of the Lord pursuing them!

    For without cause they hid their net for me;

without cause they dug a pit for my life.

    Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!

       And let the net that he hid ensnare him;

let him fall into it—to his destruction!

    Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord,

exulting in his salvation.

10    All my bones shall say,

“O Lord, who is like you,

       delivering the poor

from him who is too strong for him,

the poor and needy from him who robs him?”

11    Malicious witnesses rise up;

they ask me of things that I do not know.

12    They repay me evil for good;

my soul is bereft.

13    But I, when they were sick—

I wore sackcloth;

I afflicted myself with fasting;

       I prayed with head bowed on my chest.

14        I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;

       as one who laments his mother,

I bowed down in mourning.

15    But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered;

they gathered together against me;

       wretches whom I did not know

tore at me without ceasing;

16    like profane mockers at a feast,

they gnash at me with their teeth.

17    How long, O Lord, will you look on?

Rescue me from their destruction,

my precious life from the lions!

18    I will thank you in the great congregation;

in the mighty throng I will praise you.

19    Let not those rejoice over me

who are wrongfully my foes,

       and let not those wink the eye

who hate me without cause.

20    For they do not speak peace,

but against those who are quiet in the land

they devise words of deceit.

21    They open wide their mouths against me;

they say, “Aha, Aha!

Our eyes have seen it!”

22    You have seen, O Lord; be not silent!

O Lord, be not far from me!

23    Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication,

for my cause, my God and my Lord!

24    Vindicate me, O Lord, my God,

according to your righteousness,

and let them not rejoice over me!

25    Let them not say in their hearts,

“Aha, our heart’s desire!”

       Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”

26    Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether

who rejoice at my calamity!

       Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor

who magnify themselves against me!

27    Let those who delight in my righteousness

shout for joy and be glad

and say evermore,

       “Great is the Lord,

who delights in the welfare of his servant!”

28    Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness

and of your praise all the day long.

When Sean told me and others about the plan to preach on Messianic Psalms I was excited.

It is always a great exercise to dive into the Scriptures and see Christ in the Scriptures.

Of course, then I started studying Psalm 35 and I don’t want to say that I was disappointed to have to preach about Psalm 35 but I did realize I had my work cut out for me.

Some passages of Scripture lend themselves pretty easily to seeing how it is that Christ’s life and work are connected.

Others require a little more work.  This is one of them.

This is also a challenging Psalm because it is what is called an imprecatory Psalm.

Imprecatory is a fancy word that basically means that the Psalmist is calling upon God to defeat or destroy his enemies.

So, I have the double task of preaching Christ and explaining how a Christian is to rightly use a Psalm calling for the destruction of his enemies.

Thankfully, this should only take about two hours so let’s strap in.

The first thing I want you to get your mind around is that when we say that all Scripture points to Christ or that all Psalms are Messianic we need to understand what that means.

There are some famous Psalms like Psalm 2 or Psalm 110 that are clearly Messianic and the authors of the NT cite them as referring to Christ.

There are other Psalms where we need to understand the history of God’s redemptive activity and the nature of Christ’s work to shed some light on passages of Scripture to see how they relate to the work of Christ.

What we need to avoid in any passage, however, is a sort of “Where’s Waldo?” mentality.

If you recall the children’s books with Waldo, you would look for Waldo on every page.  The fun was trying to discover where he was in a mass of other characters.

There’s a real danger in trying so hard to make a character or action a type of Jesus or a metaphor or allegory for Jesus that you destroy the text.

The tapestry and colors of Scripture are much more rich and complex than a children’s book and sometimes we need to meditate on a text to understand how the life of a Saint is built up by a passage like Psalm 35.

The next thing I want to get us to think about is the nature of Godly complaint especially when an Old Testament Saint is calling for the destruction of his enemies.

The first error we need to reject when studying something like Psalm 35 is to conclude that David operated on some sort of “Old Testament ethic” and we operate on some sort of “New Testament ethic.”

Part of understanding the nature of the Scriptures is to properly understand that the Saints in the Old Testament were ultimately saved by the same object of faith and the Law that was a lamp unto their feet is the same lamp for us.

David had the same Savior as we did.

We have the same Law as David did.

We cannot say that David was permitted to call for the destruction and ruin of his enemies because he came along before Jesus and lived in a different time so we have to understand how what we might call “prophetic complaining” works.

David was both a private person as well as a prophet and a King when he records this Song of Deliverance.

In a real sense what David has given us, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is a voice to how we might respond to real injustice and attack to ourselves or to others that we know are suffering for righteousness’ sake.

What I want us to come away with is a few things:

First, that God gives us a voice in His Scriptures to come to Him in desperation when our enemies are closing in around us.

Secondly, that God has enemies and, when we’re identified with Him, they are our enemies.

Thirdly, because they are ultimately God’s enemies, we want Him to do the fighting because, quite frankly, He’s a much better warrior than we are.

Fourthly, that it’s not prideful or arrogant to go to God protesting our hurt and sense that we did nothing wrong to be treated in such ways.

Lastly, that the enemies of God are bent on destroying the people that God Himself identifies with and He will have the last word.

With that intro let’s briefly touch on each section before we make some application.

In verses 1-8, David is under extreme duress.

He was a loyal servant of Saul the King but now Saul is bent on destroying him because he views David as a threat to his throne.

David is calling upon the Lord to contend for him.

He wants the Lord to do the fighting for him.

When the people asked for a king from Samuel, one of the things they told Samuel they needed was someone who would lead them in battle.

Samuel saw this as a rejection of his leadership but the Lord reminded Samuel that it was the Lord whom they were rejecting?

Why is that?

Because the Lord not only promised but delivered on the promise to do the hard fighting for the people if they would serve Him in faith.

David believes the Word of God.

He understands that God is the divine King and warrior.

He needs the Lord to be his armor and his shield.

He needs the Lord to use His spear and battle axe to destroy those who seek His life.

He asks the Lord that every schemed hatched to destroy him would turn to ruin and that those who unjustly sought his life would be caught by their own traps.

David employs rich images of military battle and there is some sense in which David needs the Lord to do some real physical battle and to thwart real military plans but a good part of David’s cry is found in verses 11-17.

David is mentally and spiritually pressed down hard by those who are bearing false witness against him.

The men aiding Saul in his conquest knew David and his character.

They knew he was blameless.

David thought they were his friends.

David even befriended them in their time of grief.

He loved them so much that he wept and wore sackcloth because of the calamity that had struck them.

But now they are accusing him of treason.

They are in the company of Saul and helping Saul try to take his life.

They’re sitting around Saul and agreeing with Saul that David is a threat and that he doesn’t deserve to live.

Have you ever been stabbed in the back by a friend?

Have you ever been abandoned by someone you cared for in your time of need only to find that they are part of the company of those who gossip and say all manner of things against you.

David asks the Lord in desperation:  How long can you tolerate this because it seems I cannot continue to bear this crushing load of betrayal?!

David’s third complaint comes in verses 19-21 where he reminds the Lord how his former friends are mocking him.

David seems politically and militarily weak.

They are mocking him with laughter.

Remember it was not David who bragged about slaying tens of thousands but the people.

You can just hear the sycophants around Saul mocking David and laughing that David will soon be dead.

The enemies of God’s anointed are certain they are on the side of victory and rejoice that they will soon defeat him.

And so David complains in tears but also with the confidence to call for the kind of aid that only the Lord can offer.

Lord, you see this going on.

How long will you permit this?

How long will my enemies rejoice over me?

How long will my former friends plunge the dagger of deceit into my back?!

And then it’s as if the Holy Spirit Himself is reaching out with David’s outstretched arms.

The Holy Spirit, groans with David’s Spirit, to call for Divine action!

22    You have seen, O Lord; be not silent!

O Lord, be not far from me!

23    Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication,

for my cause, my God and my Lord!

24    Vindicate me, O Lord, my God,

according to your righteousness,

and let them not rejoice over me!

25    Let them not say in their hearts,

“Aha, our heart’s desire!”

       Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”

26    Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether

who rejoice at my calamity!

       Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor

who magnify themselves against me!

It seems almost like an unholy thing.

We need the Holy Spirit to be speaking with David or we might be too afraid to utter the words.

Look at what they’re doing LORD!

Rouse Yourself!

Put an end to their schemes!

There is a certain confidence that undergirds the whole Psalm.

David, under inspiration, provides a clear picture that he is under oppression and danger that only the Lord can save him from.

Yet, he keeps coming back to a sense that he will soon be praising the Lord.

He knows that he will be vindicated and saved.

Verses 9-10:

    Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord,

exulting in his salvation.

10    All my bones shall say,

“O Lord, who is like you,

       delivering the poor

from him who is too strong for him,

the poor and needy from him who robs him?”

  

Verse 18:

 

18    I will thank you in the great congregation;

in the mighty throng I will praise you.

  

Verse 27-28:

 

27    Let those who delight in my righteousness

shout for joy and be glad

and say evermore,

       “Great is the Lord,

who delights in the welfare of his servant!”

28    Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness

and of your praise all the day long.

You see David’s confidence that the Lord saves the poor and needy.

You witness the hope that David knows he will proclaim the salvation of the Lord in the midst of the congregation.

You understand that the whole assembly will praise the Lord, along with David, because the Lord delights in the welfare of his servants.

Salvation from physical and mental and spiritual calamity is pictured here.

There is a profound redemptive undercurrent here as we zoom out into the entire story of Redemption.

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Saul is merely an agent of this present darkness.

Men born into the sin and guilt of their father Adam.

Men enslaved to sin and death.

You see, about 1000 years after this Psalm was penned, the Son of David was born in Bethlehem.

Men, in the seat of Moses, plotted against Him.

They spoke all manner of things against Him.

They said He was a bastard and got His power from the devil.

They produced false witnesses against Him.

The entire world structure was arrayed against Him and declared Him innocent of all charges and, yet, He would be hung on a Cross.

He was despised and rejected by His own.

A friend kissed Him in betrayal.

He was scourged and mocked and carried the instrument of His execution.

Men spit on Him and mocked Him saying “Aha!  Aha!”

“Come down from there Jesus!  You saved others, why can’t You save Yourself?!”

And this Son of David cried out in the Garden and on the Cross.

Deliver me Lord from my enemies.

Let them not mock me.

Let them who know my integrity not say all manner of ill things against me.

If it be possible, Father, take this Cup away from Me!

Do you not see how unjust they are who plot against Me?!

Yet, not my will Father, but Yours be done.

You see, beloved, among the mockers were you and me.

Among those under the power of sin and death were you and me.

It was because we were enslaved to sin and death that we stood in solidarity with all of humanity arrayed to destroy the Son of Man.

It was for this very reason that the Son of God became flesh that He might stand in the place of David.

He came that He might stand in the place of sinful humanity.

And as He finished praying, He knew the answer.

The answer is “No.”

You will not be delivered from the humiliation of the Cross.

And so Christ hung between heaven and earth.

He became Sin as the Father Himself meted the full measure of His wrath against the Son.

“My God, my God why have You forsaken Me?!”

And then He proclaimed:  “It is finished.”

And He bowed His head and He died.

John 12:27-32 (ESV)

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Hell and the power of darkness howled with laughter.

But only for a moment.

You see, as the Son was lifted up, He became Sin for His people.

As He died, the power of sin and death was put to death on the Cross.

The power of sin to destroy and enslave everyone in Christ was cast out.

The ruler of this world was cast out.

All who look up upon the Son of Man crucified for sin are set free.

On the third day He rose again because death could not hold down His indestructible life.

All who are in Christ are united to His life and the power to live for God.

We no longer walk in slavery and darkness.  We are a new creation.

You see, beloved, Christ is indeed our Divine Warrior.

David’s greatest enemy was not Saul but sin and death.

It was our greatest enemy.

The power of the Cross is that the Son of God seemed to be defeated by sin and death but it was the very instrument by which He put its power to death!

The real profound truth of the imprecatory Psalms is that we were all, in a sense, caught up in the judgment of those who are enslaved to the realm of darkness.

The glory of the Gospel is that the judgment of the Psalmist was borne for Christ for those who believe upon Him.

Yet be warned.

For those outside of Christ, the wrath of God still abides.

God hears the cry of His people.

He hears the cry of those, like David, who can proclaim their righteousness in Him.

He hears the cry of the Christian mother who sees her husband murdered by Muslims.

He hears her cries as she and her daughters are ravaged and sold into slavery.

He hears the cries of a Christian couple who have their foster children ripped from their home by the powers of darkness in the name of “protective services”.

He hears the cries of the ministers who labor for the Gospel who receive the scorn and betrayal and gossip of the people he loves.

How long O Lord?!

Vindicate me!

The Christian can weep and mourn over the sorrow that the powers of darkness inflict upon their souls.

The Lord gives us the words to cry in Psalm 35 as we see that the world is still under a Curse.

And yet, that Curse was made in hope by the Lord Himself.

It was made in hope because He bore that Curse for those who were loved by Him before the foundation of the world.

We see the answer to our cries, in part, in Psalm 35 as we know that the Lord is Our Salvation is that He rescues the poor and needy.

He has borne wrath for them and He hears their cry.

And because we are His, we know for certain that the Lord will have the last Word.

The Lord will come again and the dead shall rise.

All those in Christ have received the verdict:  You are mine from the foundation of the world.  You are my beloved.  Enter the wedding feast of the Lamb!

All those who lift up their hands against the Lord and His Christ will be destroyed.

Sin and death will be destroyed forever and every tear will be wiped from our eyes.

The only portion of Psalm 35 that will remain is:

27    Let those who delight in my righteousness

shout for joy and be glad

and say evermore,

       “Great is the Lord,

who delights in the welfare of his servant!”

28    Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness

and of your praise all the day long.

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