The wicked are estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.
The psalmist describes the wicked character of his adversaries. They possess this from birth; they are not “innocent;” they have an innate nature in them to err, uttering lies of deceit. They are dangerous like a venomous snake that cannot be influenced by any charmer or incantation. How troublesome they are. John the Baptist addressed religious leaders in his time with this concept – a brood of vipers (Matthew 3:7) – for not heeding his message. Jesus Christ did the same to those religious leaders who opposed him and refused to heed his message (John 8:42-46). Their kind still exists today.
LORD, whether the innate evil in people is restrained or open, still it is there in all of its destructiveness. If left unresolved, it will become progressively more destructive in potential or actual expression. Hearing and heeding the truth becomes more and more intentionally done. Give me a nature that delights in hearing and heeding your word. Care for me regarding those who do not and stand in opposition to your word. Amen.
Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
Do you judge the children of man uprightly?
No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
your hands deal out violence on earth.
The psalmist does not connect this psalm to a particular historic event in David’s life. However, the setting becomes apparent as it unfolds. Likely, the adversaries in view in the psalm are those who act wrongfully in the exercise of authority. In David’s case, the person is Saul and his supportive court (Jonathan excepted), e.g., 1 Samuel 18:8-15, 17-29; 19:1-7, 10-17; 20:1-42; 23:14-29; 24:1-22. Thus the psalm describes a godly person abused by those who have the earthly power of governance and use it unjustly. The ESV use of “gods” is not likely the correct way to understand the word used; rather one of two possibilities or a combined thought would be better: 1] an assembly of people bound together, or 2] in silence. The psalmist doubts that these people speak with integrity or treat people with evenness and justice. He understands that in their hearts they diligently devise deceitful acts and by their hands they weigh out violent oppression. No one was ever so treated more than Jesus Christ at the hands of the religious establishment and the governing authorities.
LORD, sadly consistent is this unjust pattern of human governance. You ordained government and human authority for the well-being of mankind. However, being themselves innately sinful, those who rule are prone to become arrogant and unjust in the exercise of their delegated authority. When this happens, your people especially become their targets of abuse and oppression. May such people and their actions not surprise me. Enable me to do right regardless and wait upon your just vengeance and vindication. Amen.
In the title the psalmist cites another historical event in David’s life (found in 1 Samuel 24). The title contains a unique word that means “do not destroy;” it is included in the titles of Psalm 58 and Psalm 59, too. Saul is pursuing David with 3,000 chosen men. Saul comes to a cave where David and his men are hiding. The psalmist makes a strong, double appeal to Elohim to show mercy to him in this troublesome time. He looks to his Providential Creator as his only means and place of refuge. He describes the value of taking refuge in God. Though God “resides in heaven,” he was confident that his God would send out from heaven and save him – removing the evil and misery against him and restoring him to good and happiness. God’s people are always the target of the adversary and his chosen means, but no one has ever known this more intensely than Jesus Christ. In the midst of this, the psalmist desires only one thing – not for or about himself, but for his God – for his rising up in the highest exaltation and in splendor over all the earth. Based on this providential deliverance, David was given pause to reflect on what had taken place – for his remembrance and for the benefit of others. Then he could not contain himself; he broke out in continual celebration and praise of his God. Gratitude for all God is and does should follow all that he has shown himself to be and do in time of need. Nowhere has this been shown more fully than in Jesus Christ. In him, all his people can rely on the Father for the same care, and all glory and praise should be given to him.
LORD, when adversaries and adversities overwhelm me and leave no human means of escape, thank you that I can call upon you for your merciful intervention. The blessed basis for this hope rises above and beyond what you did for David to what you have done for Christ. Though he was sealed and guarded in a burial cave, he could not be contained but was gloriously resurrected and exalted. Nothing can or will destroy your people (Matthew 16:18). This is my confidence, not for my own worth or honor, but for yours alone. Enable me to join the chorus of those offering praise to you regarding your power, covenant loyalty and faithfulness – for others to hear and consider, whether adversaries, associates, or all others. Amen.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
That for which the psalmist summoned of God in his time of need (v.5), he now concludes in praise of God after his deliverance. God has shown mightily his covenant loyalty and his faithfulness in keeping and executing his promises. In David’s case, even Saul, his adversary, admitted the same (1 Samuel 24:16-22). The principle desires of the psalmist were the highest exaltation of his God as his providential caregiver and for his honor to be known throughout the whole earth. Gratitude for all God is and does should follow all that he has shown himself to be and do in time of need. Nowhere has this been shown more fully than in Jesus Christ. In him, all his people can rely on the Father for the same care, and all glory and praise should be given to him.
LORD, when times of distress come, may I seek your care, not merely for my own sake, but particularly for the honor of your name. When you in your covenant loyalty and faithfulness do come in providence to my aid and rescue me, may I be quick and continual to honor you and make your great and glorious name and acts known to adversaries, to associates, and to all others. “Praise, my soul, the King of heaven, to his feet thy tribute bring; ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like me his praise should sing? Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise the everlasting King. Father-like, he tends and spares us, well our feeble frame he knows; in his hands he gently bears us, rescues us from all our foes: Alleluia! Alleluia! Widely as his mercy flows” (Henry F. Lyte). Amen.
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
The psalmist continues his confession and praise of his Adonai – his Owner and Master. The long “night” of his distress in the cave has ended, and the breaking forth of the “day” of his deliverance has come. He can do no else nor less than compose a song about the Lord to call others to attention regarding all his Master has done for him. If David did this for deliverance from his adversary’s power, how much more did Christ do this in his bodily resurrection from the dead? Christ’s song must be his people’s song now in their times of “darkness” and distress, and it especially is and will ultimately be in the deliverances he gives to them (First Corinthians 15:54-57, Second Corinthians 2:14, Romans 7:24-25, Second Corinthians 1:8-11). Others need to hear of who he is and what he does for his people (Acts 16:25ff).
LORD, thank you for all the times you have turned my times of “darkness” into a glorious sunrise. Whenever I am in such times, cause me to remember and to awake to you in praise for what you will yet do in my life now and ultimately in the resurrection when the darkness will flee away forever. Thank you for the foundation of such a hope in the resurrection and ascension of Christ. “I know a day is never perfect; problems come and go. The Lord has promised to be with me, and I’ve found it so. With Him all things in life have meaning, God is in control! So a song of joy is planted deep within my soul. I will greet the day with singing, I will meet the dawn with joy. I will praise the Lord of Life all day long! I will greet the day with singing, I will meet the dawn with joy, for the Lord has put within my heart a song” (Donna Krieger). May this song bring strength to my life and encouragement to others who see me and hear it. Amen.
They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
The psalmist found very distressing that his adversaries set traps for him and plotted against him. However, to his surprise and comfort, his adversaries fell into their own trap. Historically, when David was “driven” to hide in a cave from Saul where he could easily be caught, the situation turned to David’s advantage and Saul’s embarrassment (1 Samuel 24:1-22). Based on this providential deliverance, David was given pause to reflect on what had taken place – for his remembrance and for the benefit of others. Then he could not contain himself. As carefully as his adversaries had set a trap for him, his God had “doubly” set his deliverance. So David broke out in continual celebration and praise of his God. Even more now, God’s people by the resurrection and ascension of Christ have a substantial reason to pause for reflection and to praise for his providential care.
LORD, what the adversary does can be very distressing, but what you do to deliver your people is abundantly more comforting. When I am distressed, remind me to reflect on what you have done for Christ and then to rest in what you will do for me by your amazing and gracious providence. All the adversary can do to harm, you will more than do to deal with him and to rescue me. Keep my heart singing your praise. “’Tis the grandest theme through the ages rung; ’tis the grandest theme for a mortal tongue; ’tis the grandest theme that the world e’er sung, ‘Our God is able to deliver thee.’ He is able to deliver thee, he is able to deliver thee; though by sin oppressed, go to Him for rest; ‘Our God is able to deliver thee.’ (William A. Ogden).” Amen.
My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
The psalmist reviews why he called upon his God and sought him as his refuge. He was surrounded by fierce enemies as he lay down to sleep. They were overpowering in word and deed. His life was in grave danger. This describes David’s experience in the cave where he was trapped by Saul and his 3,000 chosen warriors. The images of lions and arrows bring to mind imagery of devil, the adversary of God’s people (1 Peter 5:8, Ephesians 6:16). God’s people are always the target of the adversary and his chosen means, but no one has ever known this more intensely than Jesus Christ. In the midst of this, the psalmist desires only one thing – not for or about himself, but for his God – for his rising up in the highest exaltation and in splendor over all the earth. This God has done in Christ by his resurrection, ascension, and glorious enthronement, and so will be the outcome for those who call upon him and take refuge in him (Psalm 2:12c).
LORD, the adversaries are very fierce and stronger than I am. My hope is in you, and for your exaltation and glory do I call upon you and take refuge in you – not because I am worthy, but for the manifestation of your worth and glory over all. Thank you for establishing this in the resurrection, exaltation, and enthronement of Christ. “For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.” Amen.