This psalm is titled To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. As with many of David’s psalms, it concerns a crisis that made him cry out to God. It is impossible to connect this psalm to a specific event in David’s life with certainty.
A. The wicked attack.
1. (1-4) Word weapons of the wicked.
Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation;
Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
From the rebellion of the workers of iniquity,
Who sharpen their tongue like a sword,
And bend their bows to shoot their arrows—bitter words,
That they may shoot in secret at the blameless;
Suddenly they shoot at him and do not fear.
a. Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation: This is an interesting turn of phrase. Either David meant that his meditation was vocal so that God could hear his voice, or that God would hear the silent expression of his heart as his voice. Either way, as with many times in the psalms, David cried out to God for help.
i. “He can but pray, but he can pray; and no man is helpless who can look up. However high and closely engirdling may be the walls that men or sorrows build around us, there is always an opening in the dungeon roof, through which heaven is visible and prayers can mount.” (Maclaren)
b. Preserve my life from fear of the enemy: The word fear is commonly translated dread and speaks of something greater than the normal fear of battle. David knew how crippling this kind of dread could be and prayed to be kept from it.
i. “In the second line, note the word dread, which is paralyzing, whereas fear can be sobering and healthy.” (Kidner)
ii. “Every sentence reveals the relentless fury and remorseless subtlety and cruelty of the foes by whom he was surrounded. Conscious of all this he had one fear, and that was that he should be afraid of them.” (Morgan)
iii. “We need to pray as the psalmist does, not so much for the deliverance from enemies as for deliverance from fear of them.” (Morgan)
c. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked: David knew there were dangerous enemies plotting his destruction. He felt powerless to make them stop, so he prayed. The New International Version gives a good sense of this in translating, Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked.
i. “This is the singer’s distress. The warfare is unequal. His foes are not out in the open, but under cover.” (Morgan)
ii. “Their methods cannot afford to be those of honest opposition (‘the open statement of the truth’, 2 Corinthians 4:2; cf. ‘I opposed him to his face’, Galatians 2:11).” (Kidner)
d. Who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows – bitter words: The secret plots against David consisted in words and lies against him, all pushing toward his destruction and death. This was not a case of words merely hurting; this was an active conspiracy to kill.
i. “In the context of this war of lies and innuendo, the ambush will be either the prepared situation which ‘frames’ an innocent man, or the shelter of anonymity from which a rumour can be launched without fear.” (Kidner)
ii. “An open liar is an angel compared with this demon. Vipers and cobras are harmless and amiable creatures compared with such a reptile. The devil himself might blush at being the father of so base an offspring.” (Spurgeon)
e. Suddenly they shoot at him and do not fear: David knew that his enemies fired their bitter words as arrows against him, and when they did, it didn’t bother them in the least. They did not fear either David or God.
i. Psalm 64 emphasizes the devious nature of David’s enemies. They use secret plots. They shoot in secret. They attack suddenly. Especially because David mentions an attack by arrows from a hidden or secret position, his enemies act like the ancient version of snipers.
ii. “The key word in Psalm 64 is suddenly, meaning ‘unexpectedly’ or ‘without warning.’” (Boice)
iii. David knew how dangerous it was in battle if a hidden archer worked as a sniper. If he could see and confront his enemy one-on-one, a warrior such as David liked his chances. The hidden sniper was of great concern, to be put down by an arrow he never saw coming.
iv. David’s enemies didn’t use literal arrows, but they attacked him secretly, anonymously, without the courage to say things to his face. They shot at him like a sniper shoots at a man who has no way to defend himself.
2. (5-6) The secret plotting of an evil matter.
They encourage themselves in an evil matter;
They talk of laying snares secretly;
They say, “Who will see them?”
They devise iniquities:
“We have perfected a shrewd scheme.”
Both the inward thought and the heart of man are deep.
a. They encourage themselves in an evil matter: It would be bad enough that an individual purposed this against David, but it was worse than that. Many people had conspired against him, planning secret traps and snares, unafraid before God or man (Who will see them?).
i. “They foolishly believe that they are not accountable to anyone, as is expressed by their confident question.” (VanGemeren)
ii. They encourage themselves: “Good men are frequently discouraged, and not unfrequently discourage one another, but the children of darkness are wise in their generation and keep their spirits up, and each one has a cheering word to say to his fellow villain.” (Spurgeon)
b. We have perfected a shrewd scheme: They were proud in their evil plotting. They boasted of their sins, showing the dark depth of their thought and heart.
i. They devise iniquities: “They search the devil’s skull for new inventions; who is ready enough to lend them his seven heads to plot and his ten horns to push at good people.” (Trapp)
ii. The inward thought and heart of man are deep: “The Hebrew literally speaks of men’s hearts as being ‘deep,’ the idea being that they are almost bottomless in their supply of evil deeds and cunning.” (Boice)
B. God responds.
1. (7-9) God answers back with His own arrow.
But God shall shoot at them with an arrow;
Suddenly they shall be wounded.
So He will make them stumble over their own tongue;
All who see them shall flee away.
All men shall fear,
And shall declare the work of God;
For they shall wisely consider His doing.
a. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow: The evil men opposing David acted as if they had all the arrows, but David knew that God was his defense, and God was well-armed. God had an arrow of His own, and suddenly they shall be wounded.
i. David’s enemies shot at him like snipers, from hidden and high positions. David’s friend was God, in a higher and more hidden position. They shot their poisonous words at David unexpectedly, without warning [suddenly, Psalm 64:4]. God would shoot back at them unexpectedly, without warning – suddenly. God had them in His sights.
ii. Suddenly they shall be wounded reminds us that often the judgment of God comes upon the wicked unexpectedly, without any warning. They think everything is fine until they are wounded.
iii. “The brevity of God’s countermeasures, after the elaborate scheming of the wicked, tells its own decisive tale.” (Kidner)
b. He will make them stumble over their own tongue: They used their lies and slanders to attack David, but God would find a way to make their own words their ruin. They would trip in the very way they hoped to trap David.
c. All men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God: David was confident that God would use His dealings against these wicked men as a lesson to others. When they saw the evil plotters wounded by God, they would learn.
i. Previously the wicked asked, “Who will see them?” (Psalm 64:5). The answer is, everyone will see them, because God will use them to teach a lesson to all men.
ii. When Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. (Isaiah 26:9b)
iii. “Those who might have been bold in sin shall be made to tremble and to stand in awe of the righteous Judge.” (Spurgeon)
2. (10) Resolution for the righteous.
The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and trust in Him.
And all the upright in heart shall glory.
a. The righteous shall be glad in the LORD: God’s dealing with the wicked would be a lesson to all men, but it would be special joy to the righteous. They had special reason to be glad that God was vindicated and His servant was protected.
i. “As sorrow, sooner or later, will be the portion of Messiah’s enemies, so joy is the high privilege of his friends and disciples.” (Horne)
b. And trust in Him: It would not only bring joy, but also increase faith. God’s faithful answer to prayer would demonstrate that He is worthy of trust, and build the faith of the righteous.
i. “Their observation of providence shall increase their faith; since he who fulfils his threatenings will not forget his promises.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “So the answer of verse 1, to be preserved from panic, is more than answered. The judgment is still future, but joy can break out already. It is a sober joy, with the facts faced at their worst, but also at their overwhelming best.” (Kidner)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org