Save and Vindicate
(H) For the director of the choir, with stringed instruments, a Maskil of David when the Ziphites came in and said to Saul, “Is not David hiding among us?” (1) O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your strength. (2) O God, hear my prayer. Listen to the words of my mouth, (3) for strangers have risen up against me. Ruthless men have sought my life.They have not set God before them. (Selah) (4) Behold! God (is) my help. The Lord (is) the sustainer of (my) life. (5) He will recompense evil to my enemies. Annihilate them in your faithfulness. (6) With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you. I will give thanks to your name, Yahweh, for (it is) good, (7) for he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has seen (its desire) upon my enemies.
This psalm opens with two repetitions of the cry, “O God” (vss. 1 & 2). In all, David refers to God six times in these seven verses. So desperate is his situation in fleeing from Saul that all he can do is cry out to God for help.
The word for “soul” or “life” occurs twice (vss. 3 & 4). Though in great peril (vs. 3) after the Ziphites divulged his whereabouts to King Saul (1 Sam. 23:19-29), David expresses his confidence that God will sustain him (vs. 4). His prayer focuses on the “strangers,” the “ruthless men” (vss. 3 & 4) who have become his “enemies” (vss. 5 & 7) as well as the enemies of God (vs. 3).
I. Crying out to God for salvation (1-3)
II. Confidence in God’s protection (4 & 5)
III. Commitment to offering to God a sacrifice of praise (6 & 7)
When God delivers us from our enemies after we seek his protection and vindication, we owe him our gratitude in praise and worship.
Is it possible to reconcile Jesus’ command to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Mt. 5:43) with David’s prayer for God to “annihilate” his foes (vs. 5)? Paul in Romans addressing the theme of revenge helps us determine how we should respond to those who are seeking our destruction. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil...Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom 12:17-19).
Paul sets forth a two-pronged strategy for responding to our enemies. First, we are to make every effort to treat their hatred with grace, never seeking to avenge the wrongs they have done but rather attempting to overcome their evil with good. However, when it comes to praying for our enemies, we are to “leave room for God’s wrath,” knowing that the one who has promised to protect us has also promised to avenge the wrongs that have been done to us.
In asking God to “annihilate” his enemies, David added the phrase, “in your faithfulness” (vs. 5), to qualify his request. In essence, he was saying, “God, be faithful to your servant and to yourself in dealing with my enemies.” Rather than focusing our attention on the wrongs that our enemies have done to us, we are instead to dwell upon God’s faithfulness, expressing gratitude in praise to the one who has promised to deliver us from every trouble and every troublemaker we might face (vss. 6 & 7).