The Hebrew title to this psalm reads: A Meditation of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning the words of Cush, a Benjamite. The New King James Version translates the Hebrew word “shiggaion” as meditation, though the word is difficult to translate and is used elsewhere only in Habakkuk 3:1. The specific occasion is not easily connected with an event recorded in the historical books of the Old Testament; it may be a veiled reference to either Shimei’s accusations against David in 2 Samuel 16:5 or to Saul’s slanders against David. More likely this Cush, a Benjamite, was simply another partisan of Saul against David. The psalm contains both David’s cry of anguish and shout of confidence in God’s deliverance.
A. David pleads for deliverance.
1. (1-2) A trust-filled plea.
O LORD my God, in You I put my trust;
Save me from all those who persecute me;
And deliver me,
Lest they tear me like a lion,
Rending me in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
a. In You I put my trust: When David was under attack from Cush the Benjamite, all he could trust was God. Every other support was gone, but he needed no other support.
i. “Nothing is known of Cush; but from Absalom’s rebellion it emerged that Benjamin, Saul’s tribe, held some bitter enemies of David (2 Samuel 16:5ff; 20:1ff).” (Kidner)
ii. “It is easy to understand how the slander described in the psalm could have emerged from the smoldering hostility of this tribe.” (Boice)
iii. Some believe that this Cush was really Saul or Shimei. “Cush has been supposed to be Shimei or Saul himself, and to have been so called because of his swarthy complexion (Cush meaning African) or as a jest, because of his personal beauty.” (Maclaren)
b. And deliver me: Sometimes God’s strength is evident in helping through a trial. Other times it is evident in delivering us from trials. David was persuaded that God wanted to deliver him from this trial.
i. To be slandered is a severe trial. “It appears probable that Cush the Benjamite had accused David to Saul of treasonable conspiracy against his royal authority. This the king would be ready enough to credit, both from his jealousy of David, and from the relation which most probably existed between himself, the son of Kish, and this Cush, or Kish, the Benjamite…. This may be called the SONG OF THE SLANDERED SAINT.” (Spurgeon)
c. Lest they tear me like a lion: David believed there would be grave consequences if he were not delivered from these lion-like enemies.
i. This understanding gave David urgency in prayer. God sometimes allows difficult circumstances, so they will awaken this urgency in us.
ii. “It will be well for us here to remember that this is a description of the danger to which the Psalmist was exposed from slanderous tongues. Verily this is not an overdrawn picture, for the wounds of a sword will heal, but the wounds of the tongue cut deeper than the flesh, and are not soon cured.” (Spurgeon)
iii. David also knew what it was like to overcome a lion. “The metaphor of the lion is common in the psalms attributed to David, and is, at all events, natural in the mouth of a shepherd king, who had taken a lion by the beard.” (Maclaren)
2. (3-5) The plea of innocence.
O LORD my God, if I have done this:
If there is iniquity in my hands,
If I have repaid evil to him who was at peace with me,
Or have plundered my enemy without cause,
Let the enemy pursue me and overtake me;
Yes, let him trample my life to the earth,
And lay my honor in the dust. Selah
a. If there is iniquity in my hands: With these words, David did not claim sinless perfection. Instead, he simply rejected the idea of moral equivalence between himself and his enemies.
i. “Although David expresses himself as perhaps we would not, his words do not mean that he is perfect, only that he is innocent of the crime of which he was charged…. The question is not whether David was morally perfect but whether he was innocent of this particular slander.” (Boice)
ii. “From the Psalm we learn the nature of the charges, which he made against David. They were: that he had appropriated spoils which rightly belonged to the king; that he had returned evil for good; and that he had taken toll for some generosity.” (Morgan)
b. Let the enemy pursue me and overtake me: David knew that his enemies were thirsty for his defeat. He was so confident in his righteousness in comparison to his enemies that he was willing to be given over to their desire if they were in the right.
B. The righteous judgment of God.
1. (6-7) A plea for God’s righteous intervention.
Arise, O LORD, in Your anger;
Lift Yourself up because of the rage of my enemies;
Rise up for me to the judgment You have commanded!
So the congregation of the peoples shall surround You;
For their sakes, therefore, return on high.
a. Arise, O LORD, in Your anger: David believed that God was a being of human-like passions such as anger. David also believed that the passions of God were on his behalf; he believed God was or would be angry for him instead of against him.
i. It is a mistake to believe that God is without passions. Because He is God, we can say that these passions are not exactly like their human counterparts; yet they are certainly somewhat like them. God is not cold, distant, and dispassionate.
ii. Yet it is also a mistake to assume that the passions of God are always with us or support our opinion. Many dangerous fanatics have been wrongly inspired by the mistaken assurance that God was for them when He was not.
b. Lift Yourself up…rise up for me: David believed that God was for him and his cause; yet he did not hold this belief passively. He actively prayed for the accomplishing of what he believed God’s will to be.
c. For their sakes, therefore, return on high: David’s prayer for protection and vindication was not fundamentally selfish. He knew that his fate was vitally connected to the welfare of God’s people. It was in large measure for their sakes, the sake of the congregation.
2. (8-10) David’s defense.
The LORD shall judge the peoples;
Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness,
And according to my integrity within me.
Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end,
But establish the just;
For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.
My defense is of God,
Who saves the upright in heart.
a. The LORD shall judge the peoples; judge me, O LORD: This was the attitude that protected David from presumption. He honestly invited God’s judgment and correction.
i. Therefore, David asked for God’s blessing according to my righteousness, and according to my integrity within me. In effect he prayed, “Lord, to the extent that I am righteous before You, bless me and protect me from my enemies.”
ii. When David longed for justice, it wasn’t that He wanted ultimate and perfect judgment before God; he looked for justice on the earthly level, justice between him and his false accuser.
b. Let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just: This reveals more of the heart of David’s prayer. More than anything, he prayed for God to be just. David did not pray for special favoritism with God; he prayed for God to be just, and he searched his own heart to help put him right before God.
i. David seemed to pray here beyond his own personal needs. “There is a great breadth of vision here, revealing a concern for universal justice which was always the motive behind David’s personal appeals for vindication.” (Kidner)
c. My defense is of God: David knew he was at a significant disadvantage before his enemies and had to rely on the defense that is of God.
i. With his trust in God, David did “Throw off slanders, as Paul did the viper; yea, in a holy scorning… laughs at them.” (Trapp)
3. (11-13) God, the just judge.
God is a just judge,
And God is angry with the wicked every day.
If he does not turn back,
He will sharpen His sword;
He bends His bow and makes it ready.
He also prepares for Himself instruments of death;
He makes His arrows into fiery shafts.
a. God is a just judge: David’s prior appeal to God’s testing of man (Psalm 7:9) made him think of the justice of God. He declared this fundamental principle: God is a just judge.
i. This is a commonly and dangerously rejected truth about God. Many anticipate that they will one day stand before a God of great love, great mercy, great warmth, and great generosity. They never imagine they will stand before a God who is perfectly just and who cannot ignore the crime of sin.
ii. We can say that sin is a crime – that it breaks the good and holy law of God. And while all sins are not equally sinful (some sins are worse than others and will receive a greater condemnation, Matthew 23:14), there are no small sins against a great God.
iii. The justice of God is easy to understand if we simply compare it to what we expect from an earthly judge. We don’t think it is right or good if a human judge excuses crime in the name of compassion; we expect judges to be just. Yet many are absolutely confident that God will be an unjust judge on the Day of Judgment. They are so confident of it that they mistakenly rely on this idea for their salvation. David knew the truth: God is a just judge.
b. He is angry with the wicked every day: Adam Clarke believed a more accurate translation of Psalm 7:11 was, “He is NOT angry every day.” He writes: “The mass of evidence supports the latter reading. The Chaldee first corrupted the text by making the addition, with the wicked, which our translators have followed.”
i. If the original is taken as more correct, “The sense seems to be, that there are daily instances in the world of God’s favour toward his people; as also of his displeasure against the ungodly, who are frequently visited by sore judgments, and taken away in their sins.” (Horne)
c. He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready: David here considered the readiness of God to judge the sinner. David saw the sword sharpened and the bow bent. With God so ready to judge, the sinner should never presume that God will delay His judgment.
i. When God delays judgment out of mercy, many people make a fatal error. They think this mercy means that God is not concerned with justice.
ii. Instead, one should ask: “Why does God hold back the immediate application of justice?” Is it because:
·The sinner is not really guilty?
·The Law is not really clear?
·Mankind, in fact, really deserves such mercy?
·God is not really powerful enough to bring justice?
·God is not really just?
iii. None of these are true. Instead, the sword is sharpened and the bow is bent. The only thing that holds back the immediate judgment of God against the sinner is the undeserved mercy of God, giving the sinner an unknown period of time to repent. Such mercy should never be presumed upon. “Did I say, he will do it? Nay, he hath already done it; his sword is drawn, his bow is bent, and the arrows are prepared and ready to be shot.” (Poole)
iv. The real reason for any apparent delay in God’s judgment is found in the line, if he does not turn back. In His great mercy, God waits for the sinner to turn back, to repent. The apparent delay is an expression of God’s love for the sinner.
d. Instruments of death…arrows into fiery shafts: This powerful poetic imagery communicates the severity of God’s judgment, hopefully providing another incentive to repentance.
i. “The wrath of God may be slow, but it is always sure. In thoughtless security man wantons and whiles away the precious hours; he knows not that every transgression sets a fresh edge on the sword, which is thus continually whetting for his destruction.” (Horne)
C. The resolution of the matter.
1. (14) The wickedness of the wicked.
Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity;
Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood.
a. Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity: This seemingly obvious statement is important. It shows that a wicked heart will show itself in wicked deeds.
i. Those wicked deeds may have the cover of respectability but will nonetheless be filled with iniquity (as was the case with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day).
b. He conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood: This shows the source of sin – from within the sinner. The sinner conceives and gives birth to sin as a mother gives birth to children – from within.
2. (15-16) God deals with the wicked.
He made a pit and dug it out,
And has fallen into the ditch which he made.
His trouble shall return upon his own head,
And his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.
a. Fallen into the ditch which he made: This shows a common method of God’s distribution of justice. He often brings the same calamity on the wicked that they had planned for the righteous.
i. “God is righteous. The way of wickedness cannot prosper. It creates its own destruction. The pit digged is the grave of the man who digs it.” (Morgan)
ii. “This is but the highly metaphorical way of saying that a sinner never does what he means to do, but that at the end of all his plans is disappointment.” (Maclaren)
b. His violent dealing shall come down on his own crown: Two examples of this among many in the Bible are the fate of Haman the enemy of Mordecai and the Jews (Esther 7:7-10), and the enemies of Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6:24).
3. (17) The response of praise.
I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness,
And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
a. I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness: David was wise enough to praise God according to His righteousness and not his own.
i. Though David appealed to God in this psalm on the basis of his comparative goodness, this was not a self-righteous prayer. David knew the difference between his relative righteousness and God’s praiseworthy, perfect righteousness.
b. And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High: David ended this psalm – which began in gloom – on a high note of praise. He could praise, because he took his cause to God and in faith left it there.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com