God: Our Safe Space
1 Samuel 19:1–24; Psalm 59:1–5
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #072
November 15, 2016
“Father, we are thankful for the opportunity to have freedom to gather together to study and to proclaim the truth of Your Word, not only here within the walls of this church but everywhere we go. That’s the foundation of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights that nothing shall infringe upon our right to study and to practice that which we believe.
Father, we pray for this nation that we may be restored to a more constitutionally based literal interpretation of the Bill of Rights based on the Founders’ intent. We pray that we will see many wise decisions and good decisions made by this new administration.
Father we are thankful that we have Your Word because it guides and directs us. We know that even when an election may go the way a person might like, that’s not the solution. The political solution is never a permanent solution. Only a transformation internally that has people trusting Christ as Savior and growing spiritually will overhaul their thinking by the Word of God. That’s how things are transformed. That’s the foundation of this nation. It was people who thought and understood the norms and standards of Scripture.
Father, we pray that as we study this evening we will be encouraged in our understanding of how to be thankful to You, how to turn to You in prayer, how to trust You that we may continue to grow and mature spiritually and You will be glorified. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We have been studying in 1 Samuel 19. In that chapter we saw that David is under assault from his father-in-law, Saul. Saul attempts to kill him. This is his fifth attempt to kill David.
That’s the meaning of the superscription at the beginning of Psalm 59, because David wrote the psalm at this particular time. Today as we get into this psalm we’re going to look at it, we’re going to see that biblically speaking God is our safe space.
It's always interesting that in different cultures there are always things that pop up within the culture that give us opportunities to talk about the Lord. That’s exactly what this psalm is talking about. God is our defense. He’s our high place. He’s our tower. He’s our shield. He’s the One who protects us. All those concepts are there.
What we see now with the things that are happening on campuses the last year or two, we see a whole generation of young people, teenagers, college kids, and those up into their thirties … they classify them as “millennials”. They include a lot of people who are middle-aged as well who don’t know how to live in a world where they don’t get their way.
They don’t know how to live in a world where, for example, they don’t get their way. These people have been very, very happy because of the way the president has done many things in the last ten years and now that there’s going to be a change with perhaps a major shift in focus, they just don’t know how to handle that—any more than a lot of conservatives knew how to handle it when things went the other direction. That’s because their stability is in the wrong things.
Our stability isn’t in the Constitution of the United States. Our stability isn’t in a particular interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. Our stability isn’t in the kind of tax code we have. All those things are nice if they’re done the right way, but our stability is in the Lord.
When you have a generation that has never heard anything about God, I believe that’s the generation we have now more than ever before, they are more divorced in a broad sense from Judeo-Christian truth than any previous generation in this country’s history. They’re even more divorced from biblical Christian truth, which focuses on the fact that we live in a fallen world.
I’ve said this many times and I usually quote Thomas Sowell’s book A Conflict of Visions when I do so, [you don’t need to read the whole book but just his preface] where his focus in writing that book was to find out why it was that no matter what the issue was, whether you’re talking about immigration, whether you’re talking about certain aspects related to war like the declaration of war and national defense, whether you’re talking about tax policy, whether you’re talking about abortion and right-to-life issues, or whether you’re talking about medical care and health care and how the government should regulate the health or insurance industries, many very, very different topics, he noticed that the beliefs of the group was largely stable.
He said that if you take a group of 100 people and you say those who believe in the death penalty go over here and those who don’t go to the other side and split the group into two groups and then if you say that those who come into this country illegally should be deported or there should be some major penalty, there may be a few people who change groups but most of those groups will stay the same.
Then if you ask about how many people think we ought to have nationalized healthcare, the groups won’t change. If you talk about abortion, the groups won’t change. There may be one or two people who switch sides but generally the same people stay on the same side. Conservatives are on one side; those who are liberal in the modern sense of the term are on the other side.
He posed the question of what is the belief system, the underlying belief system, the undergirding presupposition that informs how they answer all these other issues in life. He traced it back to a couple of key thinkers and writers in the late 1700s. He uses that as sort of his benchmark.
As he explores what they wrote, he comes to the conclusion that what makes the difference is that those who are conservative believe that basically man is inherently evil and liberals believe that man is inherently good. Everything else flows out of those two presuppositions.
As far as Judaism goes, there are several distinctions. Starting with Reform Judaism, it doesn’t necessarily believe that man is inherently evil nor does Conservative Judaism (Conservative Judaism is not the same as conservative Christianity). In the history of Reform Judaism, it went from Orthodox to just about as far left as you can get. You can believe almost anything and still be a Reform Jew. You don’t have to believe in the Torah or Mosaic Law or any of those things.
There were a number of Jews by the end of the 1700s who couldn’t go all the way to the left with Reform Judaism because they were a little more conservative, so by the early 1800s you had the development of conservative Judaism. Conservative Jews are not conservative like conservative Christians are. They’re just not as liberal as Reform Jews. Then there’s another group of Jews who started in the last thirty or forty years called Reconstruction Judaism and they’re way to the left end of the spectrum. So that’s how to understand Judaism.
By the Judeo-Christian heritage I believe we mean the historic beliefs of Orthodox Judaism and the historic beliefs of biblical Christianity emphasizing the elements of what is taught in the Torah in relationship to government, in relationship to absolute standards of right and wrong, in the role and relationship of government to citizens and freedom, and things of that nature.
Historic Judaism, although it doesn’t have the same view of total depravity that Christians have, they do have a view more consistent with that. They do have a view that believes in inherent evil in man.
That was what informed the thinking of the Founding Fathers. When you get into the views of Marxism, views of socialism, views of Darwinism, everything is just natural and that’s there’s no fall from any kind of grace. In Darwinism all the evil that’s in the world is just a manifestation of the survival of the fittest. It doesn’t at all explain the arrival of the fittest.
In Darwinism under natural selection, the main thing is that all this struggle and fight is good because that’s how you advance is through one group taking power and control over another group. There’s no basis for right or wrong. That’s just the way things are.
When we get into looking at these kinds of distinctions then Christians are going to look at things very, very differently. Our security is not grounded in human institutions. Our security is not grounded in political parties. Our security is not grounded even in education, success, or our career. Our security is grounded in God and God’s plan for the human race and God’s ability to provide and protect us individually no matter what those individual circumstances are.
We have a whole generation who doesn’t understand that. When things don’t go their way, they don’t have the internal mental attitude tools, the spiritual tools to handle disagreement, to handle people who challenge their belief system, which is often formed in the bubble of a university classroom or university philosophy class.
I was very pleased weeks ago that the University of Chicago came out and said there would be no safe space there. A university is a place where you forge ideas in the matrix of debate and discussion and disagreement. That’s how you learn to think. Now we’re seeing this outrage from a lot of young people.
I read an article today that most of the protesters in Portland, Oregon didn’t register to vote, could not vote, and did not vote. Now they’ve been stirred up by outside forces that they don’t really understand or know anything about. A philosopher said many years ago that the only way a finite reference point, something that is limited, something that is finite, can have any meaning is in reference to an infinite reference point.
In other words, none of us can find meaning in our lives apart from some eternal absolute. You take away that eternal absolute and you’re left with the inability to answer life’s questions. What are we here for? What is the meaning of life? What is our purpose? Am I just here to do the best I can and to beat others in competition or am I here for some higher, more significant purpose?
As I talk about the problem of evil and the reality of evil and depravity, that also brings to our attention a major theme of this particular psalm, that is the issue of injustice. So, God provides security for the believer who is living in a fallen world where we expect to see unrighteousness.
If you don’t believe in total depravity, you don’t expect to see unrighteousness. You want things to go well and you expect things to get better and better because we’re improving things. That’s the nature of humanity and that’s where this idea of progressivism comes from, that we can progress toward utopia.
We can improve things, but we’re not going to have major progression because if we just look at history, that doesn’t happen. There’s improvement in certain areas but not in every area. Every civilization usually regresses and falls and is replaced by another one.
We have to understand that as Christians this gives us a great tool if we can work the conversation correctly by asking the right questions to talk to a lot of young people. How can a university provide you with security and safety? How can politics and political position ultimately provide you with security and safety?
The only One who can provide us with security and safety is God. Only God is more powerful than all the details of life. Only God is truly righteous. Only God as truly sovereign is able to bring about genuine justice. It may not be according to what our timetable is, but we’re assured in Scripture that it will take place.
That’s one of the major themes of Psalm 59. God is our security. When I was thinking about this somewhat facetiously I thought about the fact that we’re studying this as a lament psalm. That’s the scholarly term. Using the word “lament’” in this kind of our context isn’t always something that’s part of our everyday language and I wondered how we could bring this back into the vernacular? I’m not sure that a “whining song” is the correct term, but it gets pretty close.
David is in a tough spot and he starts to cry out to the Lord, which sounds pretty close to whining at times, but then he re-orients his thinking to the character of God. That’s what provides stability. Many of us may not quite get to the point where we call it whining, or will admit that it’s whining, but it’s part of our sin nature proclivity so anyone can get that way.
We just don’t like the way things are going so why doesn’t God straighten things out? What we see here is a particular type of psalm called a lament psalm. There are two kinds. There’s a national or communal lament and then there’s an individual lament. This has elements of both.
It comes out of an individual situation with David. But as he’s expressing his complaint to God of being the victim of injustice even though he’s blameless and innocent, he also is able to extrapolate that to the situation of Israel as a nation that they are, as it were, within the plan of God, blameless.
They haven’t done anything to generate all the jealousy and hostility that the Gentile nations express toward them and so God also needs to defend Israel.
We looked at some of the characteristics that are expressed here, that it’s addressed to God. Second, there’s an introductory petition or cry for aid. Third, there’s a great expression of confidence toward God. Fourth, is an expansion of the basic problem: the lament section. Fifth, there’s a main petition and a specific request of God and it closes with a vow of praise.
Now not all the elements will be there. Those vary but those are basically the characteristics of a lament psalm.
We saw the outline of this psalm that it is basically in the form of a chiasm. A chiasm refers to the letter that looks like “X” in the Greek alphabet and the center of the “X”, the “chi”, are verses 6–8 and 9–10, focusing on the wicked and God in verses 6–8. That is a description of the wicked in contrast to God in verse 8. They’re described as wild dogs in verses 6 and 7 and then the contrast in verse 8 says “But You, O Lord, will laugh at them.”
Then it shifts to an expression of hope in God in verses 9 and the first part of 10. We’ll see that when we get there. I had hopes that we would be able to get through most of this psalm tonight, but I don’t think we will. I don’t want to rush through it. I’m a little bit disappointed in that. These were written to be sung at one sitting, just as most of the epistles were. Of course, you have Romans and 1 Corinthians, which are a little bit longer.
Going through seventeen verses in Psalm 59 is a little bit more of a challenge and there are some difficult things here. So just by way of introduction, which I didn’t get to last time, we need to understand some things about God versus our problems. I’m going to go through about five or six things here.
First of all, when we face adverse circumstances, when we face adversity, we need to understand that adversity can come from a lot of different sources. It can come from people. It can come from your parents. It can come from your children. It can be a result of their volition and their rebellion or it can just be a result of getting older and your parents are older, they may have bad health, they may have financial reverses, things like that, and children need to help them.
It can be problems from your children because they’re rebellious or because they reject what you believe. Maybe you have children that have serious health problems and you need to help them. Their problems may be no fault of their own. They may have other problems, loss of a job, a divorce, or things of that nature, and you have to help them. You may have a good relationship with them and you may not have a good relationship with them.
Government. Government may be your major problem. I know we have people who listen to these Bible classes all over the world. We have people in Africa and Asia and India, countries in the Middle East, people in Russia and Ukraine. Some of them are under oppressive types of government and they have a very difficult time.
In some of those places they are under attack, under assault from governments to limit the overt expression of their Christianity. So government can be a very real, in-your-face enemy. Other places government has just encroached a lot upon religious freedom, especially in the liberal democracies of Europe and in the United States. Hopefully some of those things will change. The government forces people in many different ways.
Sometimes this is through policies that are enforced in human resources that come down from cabinet departments in the White House through bureaucratic decisions. Sometimes it’s legal decisions or judicial decisions. Sometimes it’s just systems.
You go to work in different environments and the company has every right to limit your speech, to limit other things, because it’s a private institution or a private company, not government. Then you have people within those particular bureaucratic structures in the company that limit you. It can be a large company like Exxon or Apple or IBM or it can be just a small company with five or six employees. The way they structure things may not be to your liking.
You may have problems with technology. I don’t think I need to describe that too much. I think everyone here has had a computer crash or a phone crash or all kinds of problems to deal with. There can be all kinds of situations. We look to something to solve those problems. They bring a lot of adversity and difficulty and stress in our lives, but God is the only solution because God gives us the ability to put everything in the right perspective so that we don’t get all wrapped around the axle and bent out of shape.
Speaking of wrapped around the axle, this last Saturday night I spoke at Country Bible Church in Brenham for their 25th Anniversary and I spoke on Psalm 37. Psalm 37 is a great psalm for most of us to memorize. It begins, “do not fret because of evildoers”. That word for fret basically means not to work yourself up into a snit. Don’t work yourself up into a position of anger and worry and resentment and being upset because of evildoers.
We find that same word “evildoers” here in Psalm 59. “Don’t fret because of evildoers or be envious of the workers of iniquity for they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither like the herb.” They may look like they’re doing well right now, but we have to have a long-term perspective on this. When it’s all over with they’re just going to enjoy some material blessing and power for a very short time and then God will bring things right again.
So, we’re not to fret. We’re not to get all worked up about whatever is going on around us. God is the only solution. We have to focus on that. Several things that are brought out about God’s character are emphasized here. One of the things that struck me many, many years ago in reading the Psalms is that the way David faces his problems is he thinks about God’s character.
We think about His attributes. God is sovereign which means that He is ruling and whatever is going on now He must be allowing. Whatever it is, whether it’s small or large, God has allowed this. Therefore, I need to think in terms of how God wants me to respond and how He’s going to use this for His glory.
We think about His righteousness. God is absolute righteousness. That’s the standard of His character. God is going to always operate on the basis of his righteousness and there’s a reason for it. Because God is just He is going to eventually right all the wrongs. We don’t know exactly how all of that is going to happen.
We may have an excellent idea. I’ve certainly been wronged at times and I’ve had some really good ideas on how justice ought to come about. But since God is omniscient by definition, He’s going to have a better idea, so we just have to rest and trust in Him.
God is omnipotent. That’s emphasized in this Psalm that God is all-powerful. Three times there’s a reference to His power. Twice it talks about Him as a strength (verse 9 and verse 17), and in verse 11 He’s going to be referred to as being mighty. The omnipotence of God is emphasized.
His justice is emphasized. That’s a key issue in this psalm because David declares that this is happening to him, that Saul is attacking him, and he hasn’t done anything wrong. There’s neither sin nor iniquity in him. It’s not from any fault of his. Fault here is another word for sin.
David says God needs to intervene and protect him and eventually bring about justice. By the time he gets to the end of the psalm he’s going to praise God because He knows that God will bring about justice. Even though he may not see it, he’s so convinced it will happen that he speaks of it as if it has already occurred.
The third character of God that he focuses on is the sovereignty of God. He recognizes that God is the Yahweh Sabaoth. He is the God of the Armies. Often we think of that in terms of angelic armies, but that’s a limitation we put on that. He’s the God of all the Armies. God is in charge of the Russian army, the German army [which I understand is pathetic these days], the U.S. military, the Chinese army, which is pretty well armed, the North Korean army, and the South Korean army. None of those armies are going to do what they want to do unless God allows them to.
There’s a great trilogy out on World War II by Rick Atkinson. The first volume is called An Army at Dawn. The three volumes together are called The Liberation Trilogy. It’s an award-winning author. He talks in detail about all the logistics and the logistics’ failure. It’s a wonder that we even did anything positive in the attack in North Africa before we went to Sicily because of all the malfunctions. Just incredible. But guess who’s in charge—God.
We defeated the Germans who in many cases had their act together and we didn’t. But God is in charge because God is the God of the Armies. The same thing can be applied to what happened in America during the War of Northern Aggression. God was in charge no matter what.
God is in charge. He’s in charge of the armies, the politics, and the politicians. He rules over the affairs of men. Psalm 59:5, “You, therefore, are Yahweh Elohim Tsabahoth. Elohim Israel. Awake to punish all the nations.”
He calls upon God to bring justice against all the Gentiles, all the nations. There he’s applying what’s going on in his life, extrapolating it to what will happen to Israel. And he says, “Don’t be merciful to any wicked transgressors.”
He talks about God’s mercy, which is a product of His love in action. “God is a God of mercy.” The word that is used primarily here for mercy is the word chesed, which is the Hebrew word for God’s covenant faithful love. He calls upon the God of mercy not to be merciful.
We say, “Oh, isn’t that terrible?” There is a time for no mercy. If you go through Revelation you will see that the angels and the twenty-four elders, the church, which are in Heaven during the Tribulation are constantly praying to God to bring justice to the earth dwellers and the Antichrist and the False Prophet and all of their forces to vindicate the believers. God finally does this by the end of the Tribulation period.
That’s why I chose this verse, Revelation 6:10, to put up here talking about the martyrs who cried with a loud voice to God, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” These are the martyrs who have been martyred during the first part of the Tribulation period. They’re calling upon God to harshly judge the earth.
A technical term for that is called an imprecation or a curse. So you have these imprecations that are brought down upon the enemies of God. Some people say that Christians shouldn’t pray these psalms that call down curses. We’ll talk about that. I think you should, but we need to understand how and why you do it. It’s not done from personal reasons.
Revelation 16:5 continues that train of thought. He said, “And I heard the angel of the waters saying ‘You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because you have judged these things’ ”. That’s toward the end of the Tribulation. They are praising God because He’s judged these things. “For they have shed the blood of the saints and the prophets”. They deserve these things because they have killed believers. “And You have given them blood to drink.” That is a strong image. “For it is their just due”.
The last two verses in the psalm express a vow of praise and that we should sing with joy in the midst of adversity because God’s grace has given us everything to be joyful about. David says, “But I will sing of Your power. I will sing aloud of your mercy [chesed] in the morning for You have been my defense and my refuge in the day of my trouble.” [That’s a safe space, a refuge] “To you, O my strength for God is my refuge [once again this is a cognate, not of the word refuge, but of the word tower]. God is my defense, my God of mercy.”
This helps us to understand the positive attitude you can have even when everything goes wrong and you lose it all. That’s what happens to the generation in 586 BC in Israel when Nebuchadnezzar defeated them and they were wiped out. Hundreds of thousands were killed, and they were buried in the Valley of Hinnom, just south of the walls of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 5:14, “The elders have ceased gathering at the gate, and the young men from their music.” There is sorrow in the land because the people have been defeated and taken out of the land and so music has ceased. In fact, the Talmud says that when the Sanhedrin was dissolved after the destruction of the Temple, that music vanished.
I want you to think about this. See David is in a crisis. Does his music vanish? No. What was the problem with the generation when the 1st Temple was destroyed? They were in idolatry. They didn’t trust in God. They had completely failed, so when things didn’t go their way, their music disappeared. Their music vanished. It says, “The joy of their heart ceased; Our dance has turned into mourning.”
That can happen to the United States if we turn away from God. We have and if we continue that because people won’t have what it takes on the inside to have the stability to survive. If you’re a believer and God is your security, then you can go through even the loss of everything like Job did and have stability and have joy.
This is expressed in Lamentations 3, in Jeremiah’s prayer where he calls for God to “Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormword and the gall.” It’s not that we don’t experience the sorrow and the heartache of having lost everything because he expressed that. He looks at the burning embers of Jerusalem and his heart sinks. He has that expected, typical, not abnormal reaction just as we do. When someone dies we grieve, but we don’t grieve like those who have no hope.
That’s what we see here in this dynamic. He prays to God to remember his affliction and his roaming, just wandering around asking what he’s going to do. “The wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me.” He’s saying he remembers what happened Nebuchadnezzar destroyed them and the natural reaction of the flesh was to be defeated.
“But this I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.” We don’t stay in the place of loss or the place of hopelessness because of what he recalls in verses 22 and 23, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.”
That’s part of what is going on in the mental attitude of David as he writes this psalm. He’s focusing on the sovereignty of God. He’s focusing on His covenants, His faithfulness, and His chesed love, His loyal love to David, and how He is going to protect and secure David.
We’ll start with the superscript, which you have in your English Bible. If you look at that, you’ll see that I’ve listed it as Psalm 59:0. In the Hebrew text it’s 59:1, so this is actually the first verse in the Hebrew text. It just gives some information about the music because music is important to God.
If you have questions about music and some of you people listening may have questions about music and worship, we had a wonderful speaker at the Chafer Conference in 2013, Scott Aniol. He talked about music. Music is a language. You can have the language of your music such that it contradicts what your words are saying.
I believe that’s what’s happening in contemporary worship music. They have bought into an existential form of music, not a spiritual form of music, and it creates a contradiction. I’m not talking about popular music. I’m talking about when you are expressing doctrine and genuine biblical praise to God it should be structured according to the norms and standards of Scripture and from a Judeo-Christian worldview.
The first thing he gives in instruction is to the Chief Musician. This is the director of music. This would have been one of the top Levites. We know of some of them. The Sons of Korah would have fit into this category. Asaph would have fit into this category. This isn’t a specifically named individual, just to the Chief Musician. This phrase is used fifty-five times at the beginning of the psalms. On the slide you have some of the references listed. It’s found frequently [in the psalms].
Then he says it’s set to a particular tune. If you look in your hymnal sometimes you will see under the title or above the first stanza, the first musical line, and it will identify a specific hymn. Sometimes it’s in a footnote. There are several hymns in your hymnbook that all use the same music. They all use the same hymn tune and it has that same name.
Apparently in David’s day there was a tune called Do Not Destroy. It’s the tune for Psalm 57, 58, and 59. In Psalm 57 it says “To the Chief Musician. Set to ‘Do Not Destroy’. A Michtam of David when” he fled from Saul into the cave. So that hymn is a time when David also fears for his life from Saul.
Psalm 58 is one of those 73 hymns that David wrote, but not one of the twelve that gives specifics on the historical situation. There it just says, “To the Chief Musician. Set to ‘Do Not Destroy.’ A michtam of David.” It doesn’t give us the situation but where we see that sometimes it gives us the situation. This is a hymn where part of what David is saying in the psalm is “Don’t destroy me God. Defend me and deliver me.”
There’s a hymn with the music to fit that. We don’t know what that was but it was designed to fit with that message. Music conforms to a message, so it’s good for the words of a hymn to be set to music where one echoes the meaning of the other and they fit together. It’s not like back in the late 60s when there was a popular song called The House of the Rising Sun and some of you who may be old enough may remember that back in those days it was popular to sing Amazing Grace to that tune. Talk about a contradiction in messages.
The tune we sing Amazing Grace to today wasn’t the original tune it was set to. It was one that was written later that fit the words in a better way. It’s important to pay attention to these things. There’s some kind of nonsense, a legend, that you will hear that’s not true, that Martin Luther, who loved music and was a great musician, wrote songs in the German vernacular and not Latin. The legend that’s wrong says that he used popular bar tunes and he did not. See, that argument is used, and it’s been bought into and it hasn’t been investigated.
They say, “Well when you talk about contemporary hymns and music, don’t make an issue out of it because Luther used popular bar tunes.” I’ve heard seminary professors say that. Study your music history, people. That is not true. Luther wrote the music. He didn’t take a popular bar tune and use it for A Mighty Fortress is our God. He wrote the words and the music so the music fits the words. We see this exhibited for us in this particular heading.
It’s called a michtam of David. If you look this up in every single Hebrew dictionary it will say it probably refers to some kind of songs, but we don’t know. No one knows what that means. The setting is from 1 Samuel 19 “when Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him”. What you’ll see is that people who have a presupposition that the Bible has error in it and it’s not inerrant, they say David is talking about the nation and in the psalm he’s talking about things that really don’t seem to fit the scenario.
I would reply by saying that you probably haven’t thought carefully about the scenario because you just want to jump to this conclusion, that somehow there’s an error and you just want to jump to this conclusion that this is describing some other situation and the psalm doesn’t fit it. You’re flying off in to your own little make-believe scholarly fantasy world. It’s really sad.
You have people with multiple PhDs doing that. Sometimes I think to get a PhD you have to be able to stretch credulity to a ridiculous point.
The thing we see in the psalm is that David is innocent and blameless. He asserts this by saying, “God, I haven’t sinned. I haven’t transgressed. It’s through no fault of my own. Not only have I done nothing wrong, I’ve done everything right. I trusted You; I claimed promises; I understood what the dynamics were on the field of battle with Goliath. I stood there, trusting You. The battle is the Lord’s. Look what I get for it. I do everything right and everybody hates me.” That’s when you start getting close to whining. “They’re out to kill me. They surround my house.”
David is innocent and blameless, and he is petitioning God, omnipotent God. The word petition reminds us that this is a certain kind of prayer, so you can use this as a pattern for your own prayer life. You can think through circumstances and situations that may apply. He petitions omnipotent God, a faithful, powerful God. He called Him “my strength” in one place and he uses the term “mighty” in two other places. He asks His faithful and covenant love to protect and preserve him from his evil, wicked enemies so he recognizes God has the power to save him and He’s just, so He needs to execute justice.
In the first verse it reads, “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Defend me from those who rise up against me.” We see instantly that this is an example of what we call synonymous parallelism where the first line is echoed in the second line. Deliver is a synonym for defend; enemies is a synonym for “those who rise up against me”.
We see the use of this word natzal, to deliver, twice. We see it at the beginning of verse one and the beginning of verse two. If you are taking notes; if you have your Bible and a pen, I would circle both of those and draw a line connecting them so you’re reminded of this. You could also underline or mark in a slightly different way the word “defend”.
He’s calling upon God to take away his enemies, to rescue him from his enemies, or to save him from his enemies. It’s used 32 other times in the psalms other than the two times in this. It’s a popular word in the lament psalms to call God to deliver me from my circumstances, to rescue me from what appears to be crushing circumstances.
The word defend, which we looked at last time, is the word sagay. It’s in a piel stem, which is intensive. It has that idea of something that is exalted or something that is inaccessibly high. The noun that’s related to it refers to being set in a high tower, in a high place, and in a place of refuge.
We have this used in passages like Psalm 20:1, “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble.” See that concept of the day of trouble also in this particular psalm. “May the name of the God of Jacob defend you. [It literally means to set you on a high place where you’re protected, the concept of a safe space.] In Psalm 69:29, “But I am poor and sorrowful; Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high [NKJV].” Psalm 91:14, “Because He has set his love upon me, therefore I will deliver him; I will deliver him [set him on high], because he has known My name.” He has understood who I am and “he trusted Me” is the idea here.
We see Psalm 59:1 expanded, “Rescue me from my enemies, O my God; Protect me from those who rise up against me.” We see this emphasis here that the enemies are those that are rising up against him. So that’s a parallel. In verse two we see the enemies explained by two more phrases.
Slides 25, 26
So we have enemies and then we have those who “rise up against me”. They are stirring up trouble but there’s more to it than just troublemakers. In Psalm 59:2 he says, “Deliver me from the workers of iniquity.” There we have the Hebrew term awon, which is usually translated “iniquity”.
That’s one of three words for sin that we find in this particular chapter and it has to do with those who are outworking evil, but it’s in parallel to the term “bloodthirsty men”. On the slide I have the first line “deliver from iniquity (awon)” and then the second line, “Save me parallel to deliver and bloodthirsty men,” which is literally as we see here men of blood.
We have four terms that are used in these first two verses to describe them. They are enemies, they have elevated themselves and have risen up against David, they are workers of iniquity, and they are sinful. They are motivated by their sin nature but more than that they are men of blood, which is an idiom for murderers. He recognizes that these guys have been sent to execute him, to kill them.
This is important for understanding the first part where in the first four verses David is urgently petitioning God to deliver him or to rescue him from these treacherous, violent enemies. It’s an urgent cry for rescue. Remember, if we read 1 Samuel 19, he’s at home with his wife and they realize Saul's goons and his execution squads are surrounding the house. In fact, there might even be some suggestion that there are two groups.
Saul has his spies there who are just surrounding the house and there’s another group and their mission is to kill David or to execute David. That becomes a little clearer in the third verse where David says, “For look …” He’s praying to God and he knows that God knows everything. He’s being anthropomorphic here which means he’s using a human phrase for action to call attention to God to act quickly, to act in haste.
He says, “For look, they lie in wait for my life; the mighty gather against me, not for my transgression nor for my sin, O Lord.” The first thing he’s pointing out here is that his enemies lie in wait outside his house. They lie in wait for his life. They set up an ambush for his life. They’re watching. They’re waiting for him. The verb tense shows he’s describing this as it’s happening.
Another thing that it shows is that this is intentional and premeditated. It’s not just something that is just a spontaneous reaction, a lot like these riots we’re seeing ever since President Trump was elected last Tuesday night. These are not spontaneous. These are not just people erupting in anger. These are the results of quite a few different organizations. Some of these are anarchist organizations. Some are communist organizations. Some of them are funded by Moveon.org and George Soros and other groups fund some of them. Their intention is to create chaos. Their intention is to destabilize the nation. Their intention simply is to cause trouble and destroy the stability of the nation.
We have to understand these things are funded. It’s like what came out in a number of studies in the situation in Ferguson, Missouri last year that most of those who came in as demonstrators were from outside. They were paid, professional agitators. That’s the same thing that’s going on in these places right now.
We need to pray for the stability of our country and that God will bring justice in these situations and shut down what they are doing. That’s the same kind of thing that David is doing in this particular prayer.
As we look at this he describes his enemies as the mighty. Now this word az is a cognate of the same word that is used and translated for the strength of God and its applied in another verse for God. So we see that he’s contrasting the finite might of his enemies with the eternal might, the infinite might: the omnipotence of God. “The mighty gather against me.” They’re mightier than he is. There’s nothing he can do to rescue himself from the situation.
Then he asserts his innocence. He says, it’s “not for my transgression nor for my sin.” These are two other words that are used in the Hebrew to express sin. Pesha has the idea of transgressing a law. It’s usually translated a transgression—someone who has violated a command, someone who is in rebellion. The word sin is the broad word for sin, which is the word chatta’t, which is the broad word for sin, which has the idea of missing the mark. It’s used for sin. It’s used for sin offerings. The root meaning is to miss the mark, to fall short of the goal, to fall short of the standard.
So, they lie in wait. Then he says, “They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine.” Again he asserts his innocence. It’s a picture of the fact that they have runners who are going back to report to Saul on David’s activities and so on. He knows that he is completely under watch by Saul.
We see here that his enemies lie in wait outside his house. Secondly, that they’re characterized as the mighty. Third, that he asserts his complete and total innocence, that he’s done nothing but trust God to gain victory over God’s enemies and Israel’s enemies. So, it’s important to note that David recognizes that he is the victim of envy on the part of Saul and then these lesser ones in the government.
A principle we need to remember is that those who are promoted by God frequently are the object of scorn, derision, libel, and gossip by others. It happens in the Christian community. Someone does well as a pastor and builds his church and is teaching the Word and God blesses him. Then other pastors are jealous. Someone shows they have some intellectual acumen in studying the Scripture and they get shot at by others.
Jealousy is a terrible thing and you see it in the Christian community. It seems to be worse in the cosmic system and you see people who become extremely jealous, especially when it involves money or power. In this case, of course, it’s power because Saul is going to lose the kingdom to David. So, David recognizes that and then he uses these terms for sin.
The word for sin we saw earlier, iniquity, is used in the second stanza. “They run and prepare themselves through no iniquity of mine.” It’s that Hebrew word awon. David asserts he is without sin in this particular situation.
Then he calls upon God to wake up. A couple of things we ought to note here is that this concept of being awake is typically used of the false gods in Scripture. We think of the situation in 1 Kings 17 when Elijah is challenging the priests of Baal, saying, “Call upon Baal and have him bring down fire upon the sacrifice and burn it up. He can’t do it? Maybe he’s not listening and it hasn’t happened or maybe he’s asleep.” What we learn in Scripture is that the God of Israel is a God who neither slumbers nor sleeps.
God does not slumber or sleep as the text says. And David recognized this and so the call to awake might be better translated, “Arouse yourself”. In other words, he’s calling upon God to act now, to urgently intervene in this situation and to rescue him and help him and look at what is going on.
Then he concludes this opening section in Psalm 59:5, “You, therefore, O Lord God of hosts …” This is where he extrapolates from his current circumstances to that of a nation. “O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake [arouse yourself] to punish all the nations; do not be merciful to any wicked transgressors.”
This is what’s called an imprecation or an imprecatory prayer, a call for God to judge and harshly punish those he’s praying about. Sometimes people say, “Well, we shouldn’t do that.” I think we should, but we don’t do it out of personal vengeance or vindictiveness. We do it because the character of God is at stake.
We might pray an imprecatory prayer legitimately when you’re coming into an election cycle, that God would restrain and destroy those who would attack the Constitution and destroy the nation. I think we saw the answer to that kind of prayer in this last election. We call upon God to punish those who are guilty and worthy of wickedness.
Then David says, “Do not be merciful to them.” This is the Hebrew word for grace. Don’t show favor to them. Don’t show kindness to them, Lord. They deserve it. Punish them. Bring judgment upon them.
God may of course say, “No, I have another plan. I’m going to use them for something.” Habakkuk wanted God to punish the Chaldeans and God said, “No, I’m going to use them to punish all the idolaters in Israel first.” Sometimes God has a plan to use the evildoers, but eventually God brought judgment against the Babylonians.
David says, “Do not be merciful to the wicked transgressors.” The word there for transgressors in context is probably traitors. They’re traitors to God’s plan and to God’s purposes.
A couple of things before we close. Should we pray such prayers? I think as long as we do so within the right context. Ultimately we realize that as individuals we long for God to punish evil. We legitimately pray for God to punish evil and to remove it from the world and to set up His Kingdom which is a Kingdom where there is no longer sin.
Now does that strike a chord of recognition? When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He said, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth.” That’s the establishment of a righteous rule and a righteous environment. Jesus said to pray for the Kingdom to come. That was His message at that time. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It was a call for righteous rule to be established on the earth and for injustice to be removed.
That’s been postponed. The Kingdom hasn’t come yet even though liberals have been trying to bring in the Kingdom of God since the late 19th century. They’ll still be doing this in the future under the guise of the Antichrist, but it won’t come until Jesus Christ comes at the Second Coming.
We made it through the first part, which ends with selah, which is a pause in the singing. This first part expresses David’s prayer, his petition for God to urgently intervene and to rescue him from his circumstances. When we come back next week we’ll look at his description, horrible description, of those who were his enemies.
“Father, we thank You for this time to study Your Word this evening and to reflect upon these things and to be reminded that You are our security. You are our protection, our tower of defense, and we need to learn to consistently flee to You because You are the only true safe space. You are our security.
Father, we pray that You would challenge us with what we’ve learned. In Christ’s name. Amen.”