Complexities of the Heart
(H) For the director of the choir, a psalm of David. (1) Hear my voice, God, in my complaint. Preserve my life from dread of the enemy. (2) Hide me from the plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers (3) who sharpen their tongues like a sword and bend their bows with bitter words like arrows (4) to shoot from ambush at the blameless, shooting suddenly and without fear. (5) They reinforce each other in their evil purposes. They discuss where to hide their snares saying, “Who will see them?” (6) They devise injustices (saying), “We have crafted a well-devised plot.” Indeed, the inner mind and heart of a man (are) deep, (7) but God shoots an arrow (at them). Suddenly they will be wounded. (8) They will be overthrown, their own tongues turned against them. All who see them will take flight. (9) Then all humanity will fear and declare God’s works and contemplate what he has done. (10) Let the righteous rejoice in Yahweh and take refuge in him. Let all the upright in heart exult.
The first thing we should observe in this psalm are the three synonyms David uses to identify those who oppose him: “enemy” (vs. 1), “wicked” and “evildoers” (vs. 2). Note the two similes he employs to describe the danger they pose: “tongues like a sword” and “bitter words like arrows” (vs. 3). We find one verb in English repeated. First, it is David’s enemies who plan to “shoot” at him suddenly from ambush (vs. 4), and then it is God who “shoots an arrow” at David’s enemies and wounds them in retaliation (vs. 7).
Note also that the same Hebrew word translated both “devise” and “crafted” is found three times in the same verse, emphasizing how David’s enemies plotted against him (vs. 6). We should highlight one further repetition. David’s enemies sharpen their tongues to destroy him with their words (vs. 3), but God turns their own tongues (sharpened words) against them, putting them to rout (vs. 8).
I. Threatened by my enemies (1-6)
II. Taking refuge in God’s protection (7-10)
When threatened by our enemies, we eagerly take refuge in God’s protection.
David’s conclusion regarding human sinfulness, “the inner mind and heart of a man (are) deep” (vs. 6), brings to mind Jeremiah’s famous observation: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it” (Jer. 17:9)? Those who study psychology, delving into the complexities of the human psyche, would readily agree with these biblical assessments. Our inner beings are like a bottomless pit with no end to the probing that can go on. When we seek to understand our motives and drives, our emotions and passions, we inevitably become frustrated with the labyrinth that we find within ourselves.
There is only one answer to Jeremiah’s question about the human heart, “Who can understand it?” Only the God who created us in his image can fully plumb the depths of our inner beings. Only he knows the capacity for evil and the potential for good that both lie hidden within us. Apart from his grace, we can all too easily become monsters who damage and destroy everyone and everything around us just like David’s enemies (vss. 1-6). Yielded to him, we have the potential to fulfill his purpose for our lives, becoming his worshipers, proclaiming his glory and greatness, and showing his love to those around us.
The battle for mastery rages in the heart of every human being. The outcome depends on the choice we make whether to submit ourselves to the one who created us for his glory and delight or to go our own perverse way. Keep in mind the response Yahweh through Jeremiah gave to the question he raised in verse 9: “I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve” (Jer. 17:10).