Do me a favor and please read Psalm 140.
Our psalm today reflects a person, in this case David, who is in the midst of pain and chaos. “Evildoers” surround them, “violence” keeps happening towards him, their “tongues” keep lashing and speaking ill of him, and there simply feels like there is nowhere to turn. So he turns to God. He turns to God for “mercy,” for “deliverance,” and for God to fight this battle for him and safely restore him. But why? Why does David say all these things? What’s going on in his life to where all these bad things are going on?
Well, as with many of the psalms, we just don’t know. And what makes this even more difficult, for me at least, is that I’ve never been in a situation where I was surrounded by evil. I’ve never had violence done against me or felt that the wicked were trying to trip me. I have had “tongues as sharp as a serpent’s” speak ill of me but David’s case seems to be a step-up from what I’ve experienced. I do know that some people have tried to catch me in a snare or hope that I said something to trip me up – possibly most of us have.
Evilness abounds in this life. There are people who are so focused on themselves that all other people are their enemies – so the thing they do, to preserve themselves, is attack anyone and everyone who is not on their side. This could be what was happening to David. It had to be hard being the king. It had to be hard ruling people from all walks of life. And it had to be really hard doing so in a manner that was pleasing to God – because the reality is that while God’s ways are holy, right, and just that doesn’t always sit well with those who want to do their own thing or who are bent on evil. This is where we can pull from the previous psalm (139) to help us along the way as many feel Psalm 139 and 140 work together.
In Psalm 139 we see David petitioning God to slay the wicked for all the bloodthirsty people are surrounding him. They are evil in their work and intentions. They abuse the name of God. And in the end, while we don’t specifically see that David was being attacked he calls on them to get away for any enemy of God is an enemy of David. And this makes sense because any attack on God is also going to be an attack on his people. So as we make our way back to our psalm today we can kind of piece together a setting. David openly worshipped Yahweh (God) and all those opposed to God were probably doing their best to cut him down. Once more, an attack on God also means an attack on God’s people. And an attack on God’s people is a direct attack on God…and THAT’S where we are to draw our focus.
David, not once, looks to fight this battle. Never once does David as for strength to attack his foes, slay his enemies, tear down the walls of his nay-sayers, or even the wisdom to out tongue-lash those against him. What does he do? He seeks God’s work in protection, safety, mercy, and deliverance. And he seeks God to do it all. David realizes his place in this relationship. David realizes that his getting through this tumultuous time is not placed upon his own shoulders. David realizes that he cannot fight this battle, defend himself, remove the jackals that surround him, fill in the pit they have dug, or anything else. Any and all success is going to have to come from God.
So how are you and I to relate?
Times haven’t changed as much as we think they are. Evil is still here, people still try to trip up others, and if you proclaim the Lord as your Savior then that triggers something negative in some people. They may not be as outwardly bad as what they did to David but people still talk harshly about believers. And just like during David’s time we must understand that taking things into our own hands is not the answer – and for some of us (myself included) that’s hard to NOT do. I’m a “take matters into my own account” type of person. Yes, I pray. Yes, I seek God’s will and answers. And yes I ask God to intercede but I do like to just “deal with it” when it comes to bad people. And why? Because it gives us an immediate outcome that we can see. And while I do think there is a time and place to confrontation of sin and evil, it’s not always the case. And in the end? Scripture is pretty consistent with the sharing of the failures of God’s people when they do things on their own. And scripture is ALSO quite consistent with the declaration and request of God to lean upon him in our times of need. It’s kind of the running thread from Genesis to Revelation. My proof? Jesus. Jesus is the very answer to evil, life’s problems, and the issues of us trying to do things on our own and never succeeding.
David’s words are a reminder that evil exists and it’s hell-bent on doing anything and everything against God. He attacks him, he attacks Jesus, he’s working hard against the Holy Spirit, and he’s got his eyes cast upon you and I. And the moment we think we can handle him we’ve already lost. This is why Jesus comes, this is why the Holy Spirit enters once Jesus returned to his throne. We need the sacrifice of Christ to win the ultimate battle of life over death, and we need the Holy Spirit to intercede today and give us the strength to stay focused on goodness, hope, love, mercy, justice, and peace. We simply cannot make it through the gauntlet of evil without our Lord and Savior. And that is where we ultimately find peace as well.