(H) For the director of the choir, a psalm of David. (1) Deliver me, Yahweh, from evil men. Protect me from men of violence (2) who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up wars every day. (3) They sharpen their tongues (to be) like (the tongue of) a serpent. The venom of vipers (is) under their lips. (Selah) (4) Preserve me, Yahweh, from the hands of the wicked. Guard me from violent men who devise (evil ways) to trip my feet. (5) Arrogant men have hidden a trap for me, and with cords they have spread out a net. Along the way they have set snares for me. (Selah)
Several repetitions and groups of synonyms help us make sense of this first segment of the psalm. David uses “evil” twice to describe the men of violence he is facing (vss. 1 & 2). “Devise” occurs twice, describing the way such men prepare themselves to harm the righteous (vss. 2 & 4). Note how the author refers to their body parts: “plotting hearts” (vs. 2), “sharpened tongues” (vs. 3), “venomous lips” (vs. 3), and “violent hands” (vs. 4). He also uses phrases associated with trapping wild animals to describe the plotting of the wicked: “trip my feet” (vs. 4), “have hidden a trap,” “have spread out a net,” and “have set snares for me” (vs. 5).
I. Protect me from those who plot against me. (1-3)
II. Preserve me from those who are seeking to destroy me. (4 & 5)
From the vicious schemes and cruel entrapments of evil men deliver me, Yahweh!
Ever since Cain attacked and murdered Abel (Gen. 4), evildoers have responded with violence to perceived threats represented by those who seek to honor Yahweh with their lives. Why? Among several reasons that come to mind, one stands out: the wicked are shown up by those who live righteously and feel reproached by them. Cain was deeply offended and angered by Yahweh’s acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice and rejection of his own offering. Call it rivalry, jealousy, or envy, Cain’s taking the life of his brother was his perverse way of getting even with God for refusing to give him the approval he earnestly coveted.
David, whose heart beat with a desire for God’s glory, experienced God’s blessing throughout his life. Like Abel, he was constantly forced to deal with those who resented God’s choosing him to be Israel’s anointed king. King Saul’s initial acceptance of David quickly turned into a settled hatred for his rival which led him to do everything he could to eliminate the one who was threatening his position. Others throughout David’s life opposed his rule and sought his downfall, among them his own son, Absalom.
The chief example of one experiencing a similar hatred for righteousness’ sake was the Lord Jesus, himself. Isaiah wrote prophetically: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Is. 53:3). Consider the strategy the Apostle Peter gave to those committed to following the Savior no matter what treatment they might receive: “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:20-23). We do well to take this exhortation to heart and let it guide our behavior when confronted by the wickedness of evil people.